Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Rob Bell and the Federal Vision Have In Common

First, a newly released video of Rob Bell. Near the very beginning of the video, Bell says, "No, no, no, no. I've been misunderstood. That's slander; that's not true. No, no, no, that's totally missing what I'm saying." Moments later, Sally Quinn says, "What do you want most out of this?" and Bell responds, " be understood."

Now, a gentle segue. Rich Lusk, in a response to Michael Horton, makes the following complaint:
I believe Horton has misrepresented and misunderstood me. Caricaturing and even slandering advocates of the so-called “Federal Vision” is nothing new, of course. It’s become something of an internet hobby for some. Horton had an opportunity to give fair and helpful criticism, but unfortunately he missed it.
While I may be accused of engaging in an internet hobby by pointing this out, I can't help but notice that both Bell and the FV feel that they are not understood by their critics. This is a constant refrain from the FV, "You don't understand us, nobody understands us. You won't understand us until you become one of us." This complaint has also circulated regarding Guy Waters' book on the Federal Vision. Bell's complaint follows this same structure.

Now, my argument is not: Rob Bell and FV both feel misunderstood, therefore they are both incorrect. Rather, my argument is that they are both poor communicators if, in fact, they are being this widely misunderstood. As an example of what I'm saying, look at Michael Horton's systematic theology The Christian Faith. There has been a great deal of enthusiasm about this book, and there is surely some negative criticism of Horton's method or conclusions. But one thing you do not hear Horton complaining about is, "I've been misunderstood. Why won't anyone just please hear what I'm really saying?"

With regard to this discussion, the difference between Bell/FV and Horton is clarity. Clarity is unacceptable if your positions straddle the lines of orthodoxy/heterodoxy (I mean this relative to one's own communion; I don't mean to say that FV or Bell are heretics, per se). In the case of FV, the claim has been made against them that they are out of step with the standards of the PCA (and other Reformed denominations). In Bell's case, he has to protect himself against claims that he is now outside of evangelicalism. Michael Horton's systematic theology, on the other hand (to the best of my limited knowledge) has nothing to hide. He can be as clear as day if he wants because there are no arguments in the book that anyone would claim put him out of step with the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards.

Can the same be said for those who are being "misunderstood"?


  1. Adam, those are very good questions.

    This is something of what I had in mind when I wrote this:

  2. The ninth commandment is now the last refuge of the scoundrel/heretic.


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