Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rob Bell: No Hell?

There are, no doubt, quite a few Christians who have no idea who Rob Bell is. Thanks to his new book, Love Wins, and the controversy it's inflamed, that number is dwindling. I've not read the book, yet from what I've seen - given the controversy, there are so many quotes one can almost read the book without reading it - I'm not very impressed. I was almost as not-impressed by say Justin Taylor's and Kevin deYoung's and other's eagerness to get on the heresy declaration bandwagon, and poor biblical defense of doing so ... and lack of nuance/balance in their attacks ... especially given that they hadn't even yet read the book, that I felt tempted to get the book and write my own review. Thankfully, Tim Challies and Marty Duren (especially) have written excellent reviews.

For me, when defense-of-truth Scripture is pulled out of the back pocket in order to defend either machine-gun retaliation or the more subtle rapier-style retaliation and authoritatively slapping derogatory terms like Universalist or Heretic on a person, I am reminded of a couple of verses.

1) 2 Timothy 2:24-25 - "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone ... patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance to a knowledge of the truth ..." (ESV) Now, Rob Bell may or may not be an "opponent" but if he is so perceived as such as many have been quick to do, they have not followed Paul here.  And if he's not such an opponent, then such invectives are less justified given that he is then a true brother though perhaps (in this case certainly) misguided.

2) In tandem with this is the oft over-looked verse of James 3:17 - "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." (ESV)

Open to reason.

Translated from the Greek eupeithes (a hapax in the NT), “in the first century implies goodwill and mutual understanding: it refers not to passive obedience but to an inclination to accept suggestions and conform to them willingly.” (TLNT, Spicq)

So we read in Epictetus (Arrian’s Discourses 3.12.13), in talking about the second of “three fields of study in which the man who is going to be good and excellent must first have been trained” (3.2.1), that “… the object is to be obedient to reason (eupeithes), not to choose or refuse at the wrong time, or the wrong place, or contrary to some other similar propriety.”

In Plutarch (Moralia 26.E) we read: “A moment later his (Agamemnon’s) irritation becomes more acute, and his impulse is to draw his sword with intent to do murder; not rightly, either for honour or expediency. Again later repenting … this time rightly and honourably, because, although he could not altogether eradicate his anger, yet before doing anything irreparable he put it aside and checked it by making it obedient to his reason (eupeithes).”

In James, with the surrounding context the point is that “wisdom is open to reasons that are supplied; it is willing to be convinced, agrees to follow instructions, strives to be conciliatory.” (TLNT, Spicq)

None of this means we all just simply agree or accept any sort of ideas that come along as if we can/should never disagree. At issue is the willingness to set aside dogma long enough to understand what the other person is saying, to listen. Then if they are wrong, they are addressed in the areas they are wrong without regard to undue categorizations, which can create overblown division. We seem to have a hard time giving deference without undue worry of doctrinal compromise. Let’s strive for wisdom.

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