Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Christian Leaders Ought to Speak Plainly

I have been watching Rob Bell make the television rounds this week. Good Morning America used a clip from Justin Taylor's webcam that made him look like he was some guy in his bedroom on a Charlie Sheen-style rant. Intercut with this, of course, was the highest quality HD video of Bell pacing the platform with his dapper dress and fancy headset. Sorry, Justin; you're the Sheen wannabe, and Bell's the superstar!

But on to what I really want to say. In the above video where journalist Martin Bashir (the man who took the world inside Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch) actually asks Bell journalistic and pressing questions, I want to point out a lesson for men like us who have future plans to enter the Ministry. Let us speak with clarity. Let us answer questions without fear of the world's judgment. Let us answer questions in a way that the questioner does not need to ask three or four times the same question until we answer "plainly and without horns."

Bell is an embarrassment, to me, in this video. If he could at least have the temerity to say what he believes, he would get a shred of respect from me, but as it stands, I honestly believe he is embarrassed in the context of his conversation with Bashir that he has a watery view of the afterlife. The fact that he calls discussions of one's eternal destiny and its relationship with our decisions and actions in the here and now "speculative" is a joke. The man wrote a book on the subject, for crying out loud! It is not exactly unreasonable that Martin Bashir should expect the man at the table who wrote a book "on the fate of every person who ever lived" to be able to tell us what, in fact, the fate of every person is.

Instead, all Bashir gets is the same repetitive answer Bell gave to GMA... "I begin with the belief that god, when we shed a tear, god sheds a tear." Cry me a river, God. "Okay; I have been for like, thousands of years, and I'm still crying... When's someone going to hug me!?" When Bashir presses him on God's sovereignty and the suffering in Japan, Bell won't give God credit where God gives Himself credit:
Bashir: Which is true, he’s all but powerful and cares?

Bell: I think it’s a paradox at the heart of the divine, some paradoxes are best left as they are.
Fair enough; the guy's no Jonathan Edwards. Maybe he'll at least explain his own views for Bashir (and the rest of the world). Bashir asks, "Are you a Universalist?" Bell responds by saying, "No, I'm not a universalist... Not that there's anything wrong with that..." (My Seinfeld-inspired paraphrase)
Bell:I would say "are you a universalist?" I would say no. that’s a perspective within the christian stream. there’s been within the christian tradition a number of people who have said given enough time, god will win everybody over.
So it would be okay if he was, but he's not. Okay, fair enough. Then Bashir gets really pointed and specific. This is only a seven minute interview, after all. "So is it irrelevant and is it immaterial about how one responds to Christ in this life in terms of determining one’s eternal destiny? Is that immaterial?"

I count Bashir asking Bell this same question a total of three times. It appears he never receives a satisfactory answer. Watch the video to decide for yourself. It is plain to the average viewer that Bashir wants Bell to get down to brass tacks. "Will we get second chances after death?" Bell will not say yes or no. He simply says in the end, "That's speculation." This is why there are theologians. This is why there are pastors. To answer questions like Bashir is asking. What is the point of going to Seminary and reading 700 books and learning Greek and Hebrew if at the end of the day the answer is, "This is all speculation." Well, Bell, go speculate by yourself. Don't experiment with theology in front of an audience of millions.

The questions Bell is asking are too important for him to treat the pulpit like a test tube. Some may think I'm being too harsh, but consider James when he says that "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Terrifying words for a man like Bell with the audience that he commands. These are terrifying words all of us, really, who have Seminary in our sights.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard people talk about this for the past few weeks and man, what a nightmare. After watching this interview, I have to ask, who is this guy and how does he have any credibility?

    Being a reader of "old school" works exclusively (further reinforced by this type of nonsense), by comparison, this guy has the intellectual capacity of nat when it comes to theology. So who cares if there's another seeker-friendly marauder pretending to know something about what is clearly beyond his grasp?

    His claims about the after-life are ancillary compared to what he is saying about Christ. He's saying that Christ spoke falsely, that there is another way to eternal life besides what God incarnate said with his own human tongue, and that makes him irrelevant.

    If you ask me, his idol, ahem, theology, wreaks of epistemological skepticism, the root of the deepest nonsense on earth.


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