Bloggers love Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. Whenever either of them do anything whatsoever all we have to do is write a blog post commenting on their latest statement, decision, or action and sit back and watch as the “hits” roll in.
I generally avoid the temptation to wade in to these waters too often as I want Beyond the Pale to be a site focused on ideas and theology that challenges the Christian community in a positive way and not a gossip rag. (Yes, I can say with some pride there has been not one post on Tony Jones here at Beyond the Pale despite the viewership that market offered.)
But when I read R.C. Sproul’s take down of Rob Bell over the latter’s recent appearance with Oprah Winfrey…well…
…it’s a weekend and I have time.
So based on R.C. Sproul’s stinging indictment here are 9 things an evangelical in good standing should never do:
1) Suggest God loves too much
According to R.C. Sproul Rob Bell’s rode to perdition started with the latter’s 2011 book Love Wins where Bell suggested that in the end the love God has for us just may be the final word. Although we make decisions all the time that produce hell for ourselves and those around us, could a God who is love itself condemn a majority of his creation to eternal conscious torment? Bell suggested perhaps not.
Rob Bell says “God is Love”
R.C. Sproul reminds us a good evangelical says, “God is Love, but…”
2) Have too wide of audience outside the church
True evangelicals are not supposed to have visibility of note much outside the evangelical fold. Doing so immediately invokes suspicion. (See Joel Osteen or Rick Warren) When Rob Bell resigned as pastor of Mars Hill Church in 2011 he was was supposed to quietly fade from the evangelical radar.
Instead he did the opposite…
He became bigger, brighter, and more influential than ever.
To succeed after leaving evangelical leaders have declared you a “wolf” and “heretic” exposes the evangelical leadership for the emperor without clothes that it really is.
A big “no-no” for evangelicals…
3) Be seen with Oprah Winfrey
Ok, little secret; Evangelical leaders hate Oprah Winfrey.
(Note: this is not to be confused with much of the evangelical flock that actually love Oprah; further highlighting the disconnect between the two)
See, Oprah is kind, generous, thoughtful and people love her…and this really irritates evangelical leaders because it threatens their role as the gatekeepers for people’s spiritual development and threatens their motto:
“Evangelicalism is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to God, happiness, and fulfillment in life is to attend our churches and read our books”
People have the audacity to bypass the evangelical high priests and listen to Oprah instead of them
Read Sproul’s post. He is not promoting Christ’s Way or teachings. Sproul is instead defending the evangelical fold of which he is a respected “gatekeeper”… …and Oprah is a threat to that gatekeeper position.
4) Suggest in practice that the Bible isn’t the 4th member of the Godhood
Ok, admittedly no evangelical leader will proclaim that the Bible is a member of the Godhood…but that doesn’t mean they won’t make that notion a foundation of evangelicalism in practice.
Evangelical leaders like to intertwine the Word of God (Jesus) with the word of God (Bible) so often and effortlessly that they become one and the same. Suddenly questioning what a man wrote to a church 2000 years ago becomes synonymous with questioning God himself.
R.C. Sproul’s biggest condemnation for Rob Bell is the accusation that he is “hostile” to the Word of God
But because God speaks, because God will not be silenced, because when we push against the Word of God which is an immovable rock, sooner or later we will find ourselves cursing the Word of God, and spitting on it. And that is where Rob Bell has found himself.
I thought Jesus was the immovable rock? Or is it the Bible? See, it’s easier when you just make the Bible part of the Godhood…inerrant…infallible
Then everything will be crystal clear…really!
5) Refer to the epistles as “Letters from 2000 years ago”
By referring to sections of the Bible as “letters from 2000 years ago” Bell committed the evangelical error in #4 of not paying the proper homage to the scriptures. But since they are, in affect, “letters from 2000 years ago” R.C. Sproul had to add the inference that Bell meant they were “irrelevant”.
If you are ever unsure of what you mean theologically, never fear, many evangelical leaders stand ready to tell you, and others, what you really meant.
6) Have a different Biblical interpretation
Evangelicals have pretty much colonized every Biblical verse with an “orthodox” interpretation. Suggest a different interpretation or viewpoint and it matters not if you love God, love people, love Jesus… you are in danger of being a heretic, or worse, Rob Bell!
Often in discussions with evangelicals you will hear the phrase, “But the Bible clearly says…” However the hundreds of different denominations of Christendom might lead us to humbly acknowledge that things are not always as clear as we claim.
7) Still have an evangelical audience after evangelical leaders have declared you a “wolf”
When evangelical leaders proclaim one of their “fallen” a “wolf” that means evangelicals are supposed to stop listening to them. Trouble is evangelicals keep listening to him, buying his books, and attending his sold out talks! It drives evangelical leaders, like R.C. Sproul, crazy!
(Cue: Renting of garments)
I can only guess this is how the Pharissees responded when they saw the Jewish audiences flocking to Jesus. People are drawn to Life…and Rob Bell speaks a lot of Life!
8) Take the teachings of Christ and attempt to make them as meaningful for a 21st century Western culture as they were for a 1st century Middle Eastern culture.
Evangelicals are supposed to remain quiet when making the theological gymnastics necessary for applying certain scripture for today. Head coverings, women speakers, slavery etc. Let’s face it, the Bible was written in a time when people would stone a lady (but not a man) for adultery. Yes, her community was ready to pick up large stones and throw them at her until she was dead.
Jesus comes along and shows a better way forward. One that brings life, redemption, and wholeness rather than judgement, condemnation, and death. Rob Bell is attempting to do the same thing…
…and is getting the same response from the religious community that Jesus did!
9) Be “liked”
Evangelical leaders are not supposed to be “liked”. Lets face it, nobody “likes” John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur. These men are defenders of Truth and hold the scorn they receive as a badge of honor of a job well done.
Rob Bell has an attribute that drives men like this crazy…
…people like him!
And this is unforgivable!
R.C. Sproul has a parting word of warning for Rob Bell at the end of his post. He says:
What Rob Bell thinks of gay marriage, I’m not concerned about. What the Bible says about it, that’s the truth. The immovable, unshakeable truth, that will still be here and still be true when Rob Bell’s body is rotting in his grave, and unless he repents, when his soul is just beginning to suffer the wrath of God for all eternity.
So for R.C. the wrath of God is laid upon a man whose theology is declared to wrong on an issue of Sproul’s interpretation? As my brother often says, “a person’s position on hell tells us much more about the person than of God”.
And that statement pretty much says everything I need to know about Mr. Sproul!