Rob Bell has a released a YouTube video advertising a new book he has coming out about the love of God. The book also supposedly clarifies Rob’s views of hell and as to whether or not he is in fact a universalist. Naturally, the blogosphere has erupted in the wake of the video’s release as blog titans Justin Taylor, Phil Johnson, Tim Challies, Kevin DeYoung have weighed in on the recent video, and admittedly, things don’t look good for Mr. Bell’s pursuit of Christian orthodoxy. As the quotes and excerpts of the book begin to surface, they are reinforcing earlier concerns about Rob Bell’s views on sin and hell as they are being painstakingly analyzed and dissected across the Internet .
But more disturbing than what we know of Rob’s book, is how Christians are flocking to the controversy. Traffic is spiking and Christians are tearing each other apart in comment threads. Watch bloggers are salivating at the chance to drudge up old news as the controversy is rekindled and as Justin, Kevin and Tim attempt to more reasonably sift through Rob’s new book and video even their comment threads are melting down.
Take just a moment to look at Justin Taylor’s post on the video that now exceeds 1,000 comments. Personally, I’ve been reading Justin’s blog for years and I’ve never seen a comment count for one of his posts reach 500 let alone 1000. And knowing Justin, I’m sure even he’s surprised by the reaction to his fairly tame response. In fact, it is very rare to see any of his posts break 100 comments – even when an equally controversial subject is discussed on his blog.
But real concerns emerge when just a quick perusal of Justin’s and Phil’s metas unveil the ugliness. Each shows you just how little regard these Christian commenters (to be charitable?) have for each other. There is little respect and love and even less patience. And though there are plenty of opinions to be found, and many are even well thought out, there is a ton of vitriol and anger – and the anger often isn’t being directed at Bell’s theology, but other commenters.
In the throes of this faux controversy (as Bell really hasn’t been hiding his universalism all that well over the years) theology isn’t really being discussed here. War is being waged and a few clever watch bloggers are trying seize upon the buzz that Justin originally generated – attempting to attract a myriad of new readers on the back of the controversy by inviting them to start new fights in their own comment threads.
So whether you think Rob Bell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing or somehow misunderstood, a larger battle has already been lost across the blogosphere. As thousands of Christians flock to the Internet controversy to tear each other apart in the name of Christian love, rightly dividing truth and out of a supposed “true concern” for the foolish, errant, lost, etc., Rob Bell sells more books to friend and foe. And not insignificantly, bloggers glean even more traffic and their readers tear each other to shreds over a pastor whose views hasn’t been much of a mystery for several years.
The Gospel is clear that we should warn, protect the Truth and rebuke in love. But as the Christian blogosphere has devolved (despite great efforts by Tim, Kevin and Justin to bring a more reasonable and sincere voice to it) the fires of controversy burn. And there is no question that souls are being harmed for the sake of more traffic – and supposedly for the Gospel as well.