How Rob Bell’s New Book Shows Us How Little We Love Each Other


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.

8 Comments

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  1. 1
    william

    Justin Tayler’s article was meant as a warning, not condemning the man, but the teaching. Bithy sides of this, have misconstrued it as an attack on a man, instead of a teaching. Universalism is not new, its an old, false teaching. When we correct brothers and sisters in christ, we would do well to remember the words of st. peter:
    1 peter 3:14-17
    But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fearb; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

  2. 2
    Brad

    Hi William,

    I think you misunderstood my article. The focus was on our gravitation to controversy, not Justin’s choice of material or even what he wrote. Peace.
    Brad

  3. 3
    Mark

    This controversy, articles like Justin’s and Kevin’s (sorry, but who *exactly* are these guys? Can someone explain this to an ex-cult member living in Scotland, please?) and the comments on the articles merely illustrate to passive by-standers like me that Rob’s kinda right; it’s all this talk of wrath and hell that put people off the Christian faith.

    I understand the “radical”, “reformed”, “evangelical” proclivity towards wrath; they learned it from Piper who learned it from Calvin.

    However, as someone who’s encountered Jesus and the Father’s love through the Holy Spirit, I don’t really get it; think how much better the world – and Christians – would be if we could get a handle on how deep and wide and long and high the Father’s love is for us, and how much he loves the world as demonstrated by Jesus on the cross.

    Yes, I understand the wrath part.

    But I don’t think that was the point John was trying to make when he said, not “God is wrath”, but “God is love”.

  4. 4
    Brad

    Mark,

    I’m a pretty big Piper fan and a Calvinist, so you’re not going to get a great deal of sympathy from me here as to whether or not Calvinists and Piper are wrong. That said, Piper and Calvin got their views from Scripture, as that is the only reliable source document we have no matter what new idea is cooked up in our generation.

    The apostle John said “God is love” twice in his first letter. He also said “God is light.” The two are inseparable. In consideration of God’s truth, we have to acknowledge everything that Jesus said. Jesus spoke often about love, but he spoke a great deal about hell and sin as well, and our escape from the wrath of God while showing the glory of God was his mission. And we don’t understand the love of God without realizing the Father’s wrath. Is this unpopular? Sure it is. But Christianity has always been unpopular – just like Jesus said it would be.

    Brad

  5. 5
    Brad

    Hi Mark,

    I don’t think Piper and Calvin are/were obsessed with wrath. God is both light and love and you can’t eclipse one attribute in order to magnify the other. Anyway, the thrust of this post wasn’t about Piper, Bell or their respective views of God and hell, but about our odd preoccupation with controversy…and to that end, I’m very loathe to start another. Peace.
    Brad

  6. 6
    Brad

    Hi Anza…

    Welcome. I don’t know what you think the Gospel means when it says that Jesus “will save his people from their sins” if their is no eternal threat. Certainly, I think you overlook huge chunks of Scripture that talks plainly about sin, death and hell, but I also think you missed the point of my article entirely and decided to co-opt my words to vent in a different, unintended direction.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Brad

  7. 7
    Mark

    Wow, Calvin said that? That’s pretty severe, especially when considering that the very object of our faith was put to death for blasphemy.

    Brad, didn’t you say you were a “pretty big fan of Piper and a Calvinist”? Didn’t you say Calvin got his views “from Scripture”? Which Scriptures, I wonder, did he interpret to shore up his opinion?

    Does that mean you believe that Rob Bell – if proven to be a heretic – should be put to death? And if not, are you willing to incur his guilt?

    And yes, I do think this relates to your post; which version of the Gospel are we talking about; Calvin’s as interpreted by, say, Piper?

    This lack of love your post focuses on, is it helped or hindered by the teachings of men like Calvin, as espoused by, say, De Young?

    Do you see the point?

  8. 8
    4granted

    An important step in clarifying your beliefs is to talk about and even defend them. So the fact that the publicity campaign for Rob Bell’s book has provided an impetus for Christians to actually do theology (to figure out what they think about God) is a positive thing. Even if you disagree with Bell, it’s important for Christians to wrestle with what they believe. Another great resource on heaven, what it’s like and who will be there is “Heaven Revealed” by Dr. Paul Enns, released this week by Moody Publishers. I recommend it. Here’s the amazon page: http://dld.bz/P8sz

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