In the wake of the controversy he stirred up over Rob Bell’s upcoming book Love Wins, Justin Taylor appears to be feeling some conviction over his recent criticism of Rob’s book. Today, Justin is asking questions (sort of) and then deferring his defense to fellow Gospel Coalition contributor Kevin DeYoung.
In a very brief post today, Justin implied two simple questions:
Should Justin have gone to Rob Bell personally before posting?
And/Or: Should Justin have remained silent until Rob’s book was published?
Now in answer to the first question I would have say: No, I don’t think Justin erred by responding to Rob Bell publicly and I think he “was in his rights” to respond to the controversy. The excerpts from Love Wins have been released publicly from the publisher and if these excerpts give enough to formulate a conclusion about Rob’s latest thinking on hell, sin and salvation, then I see no harm done in responding publicly. After all, Rob Bell released his promotional video publicly and released excerpts of his book to public figures he knew would generate buzz over the Internet. So clearly Rob wants a very public discussion about his book before its release and now he’s getting one.
As to the second question, I think Justin should have remained silent. I think both Kevin and Justin should have seen the biblical wisdom in holding off responding to Rob Bell’s book until they had a chance to read all of it. What has ensued from their posts was a firestorm of controversy that might prove to be completely unnecessary and even damaging – not only to their reputations but the souls of their readers.
At this point, both Mr. Young and Mr. Taylor are trapped in their statements until Rob’s book is released. Should Rob have used a clever bit of marketing to draw some unwarranted criticism to generate buzz, they will have given the appearance of rushing to judgment and being snared by the simple proverb:
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
A far more reasonable approach to Rob’s book would have been for Justin and Kevin to wait, to exercise patience and to then to have responded after the book was released. Now that their comments are public domain, they sit captive until Love Wins has been fully released and digested.
Update: Well, after all the angst and buzz, here are some excerpts of the book and it looks like Justin and Kevin were right after all – though I still don’t regret calling for patience and more self-control. Anyway, on to excerpts of Mr. Bell’s book, Love Wins:
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (ibid)
“God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it… The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever” (p. 101).
“This is especially crucial in light of how many continue to use the sacrificial metaphor in our modern world. There’s nothing wrong with talking and singing about how the ‘Blood will never lose its power’ and ‘Nothing but the blood will save us.’ Those are powerful metaphors. But we don’t live any longer in a culture in which people offer animal sacrifices to the gods. People did live that way for thousands of years, and there are pockets of primitive cultures around the world that do continue to understand sin, guilt, and atonement in those ways. But most of us don’t” (p. 129).
“Many people have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God. Let’s be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God” (p. 182).