Some time commentator and bear-poker, Drew, is about to have his hopes dashed as his favorite progressive/emergent/universalist, Rob Bell, is now emerging as a Neo-Marcionite Gnostic.
Drew, in a post from last year, noted,
…at least to a degree, Rob is not going to shy away completely from robust Christian themes…
Christian themes should include the entire Canon (both Old and New). Indeed, without the Jewish Scriptures, we do not have a foundation for the New Testament, nor for Christian ethics, doctrine, and witness. I think Drew would agree with me on this.
But Rob Bell has recently turn from Christian themes to something else:
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,” he said.
There are a few issues here. As you know, I believe in inclusion, not because of some notion of “Jesus was inclusive” or “the wrong side of history” but because of Scripture and Theology. Another issue is proof-texting. I hate proof-texting because it demeans the value of Scripture and spits at the intelligence of the dialogue partners. If the latter is what Bell is getting it, I can completely agree. We cannot simply afford to throw bible verses out as lines in the sand. It doesn’t make sense, creates logical fallacies (or, in this case, a phallacy), and establishes anti-intellectualism as a doctrine.
But, is that really what Rob Bell is getting at?
I think he doesn’t understand nor care to understand either the Old Testament nor Paul’s letters (which include and expound upon the Jewish Scriptures). I think he sees Scripture not as part of the message of Christ, but as a hinderance to the “divine life” Jesus promised (which is more Bellian than Christian).1
Further, Rob Bell seems to suggest the Church is pulling culture down, forgetting that this is not a race (either to the top or the bottom) but that the Church must stand a part from culture. We are the voice of the loyal opposition. We do not let dictates of culture become the voice of the Body of Christ.
There was once a time when the Church challenged society — slavery, gender equality, science. Now, people expect the Church to be complicit with society. If this is your view – regardless of how you feel about particular issues, the you must ask yourself: Are you a Christian?
Are we supposed to let the moral impulses of society shape the Church or, do we allow the progressive revelation of the Church lead us in shaping society (in a non-theocratic way)?
If Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not, then the Church is the Kingdom, and society is not. We cannot judge, nor bend, the Church by society’s expectations. This has never worked well.
If the Church expects to formulate doctrine, ethics, and vision, we must do so based on something besides the ever changing moral dictates of society. If Rob Bell wants to throw away Scripture and rely on his own revelation or feelings (or, dare I say experience (in a non-Outler definition)), then let him, but he is not Christian in any orthodox sense of the word. He is simply someone who uses a Je$us and a Christianity to do what he will.
We, speaking as a United Methodist, will never move forward if we do not learn to rely not upon our own experience (which is what Rob Bell is trying to use) but upon concrete foundational documents. If we build our ethical houses of feelings and subjective views, then it will come tumbling down, destroyed by sheer stupidity.
- This is ironic because the communities producing the New Testament are related. The Jesus of Paul directly influenced the Jesus of Mark, leading the Jesus of the other Gospels and Revelation. Even the Jesus of Thomas is somewhat twinned with the Jesus of the Synoptics. However, the Jesus we have a part from the canon is often a Jesus of ethereal reality, arriving hundreds of years later and in direct opposition to the canonical Jesus. ↩