Friday, April 15, 2011

This Just In: Everybody's Christian!

I've made a decision. It's a big one (and it's also sarcastic, so don't take it too seriously). Everyone who claims to be a Christian is now a Christian. As long as you use the specific word "Christian," and say that Jesus is important to you, you're in. At least that's what some would like us to think.

A few weeks ago, Rachel Held Evans lamented that she shouldn't have to keep defending her Christian credentials just because she has liberal theological tendencies.
But the problem is that after ten years, I’m getting tired of trying to convince fellow Christians that I am, in fact, a Christian, even though I may vote a little differently than they vote, interpret the Bible differently than they interpret it, engage with science a little differently than they engage with it, and understand sovereignty and choice a little differently than they understand those things.

And I think a lot of other young evangelicals are growing weary of those arguments too. We’re ready to rebuild in communities where a commitment to love and follow Jesus Christ is enough common ground from which to start.
Once again, she laments:
I haven’t lost hope in the future of evangelicalism, but I’ve lost the desire to fight for my place in it. I’m tired of trying to convince other Christians that I am a Christian.
There is a need on the part of Bell's supporters to - not defend themselves - but to remove the need to defend themselves. Rachel Held Evans is understandably tired - exhausted at the thought that she might need to "contend for the faith," as she sees it. Fellow critics like John MacArthur can't possibly be making it easier for her. In his more recent blog posts, MacArthur has been arguing quite vigorously that Bell is not a fellow sheep, but rather, a wolf within the fold.

I've been asking myself a lot of questions after I read Evans' blog entry a few weeks ago, but perhaps the one that seems the most unfair - and at the same time relevant is this one (and it is a bit off topic, but I have to chase this rabbit for a moment): is there something about Arminianism that makes Arminians just more comfortable dancing/flirting with heretical doctrines? I don't mean this glibly or rhetorically. I mean this honestly. But I also mean it very generally, since I can think of many I would call Arminian whom this criticism does not apply to. However, in general, Calvinists tend to fall on the more conservative, old-school side of theological debates. To quote Spurgeon, "Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold men to vital truth."

But why is it that Bell's defenders themselves see this battle really falling along the old lines of the debate over Calvinism/Arminianism (Evans says it's between the New Calvinists and New Evangelicals, but it's really the same old debate). Read my review of Love Wins. See if I have had any interest in making this about election or predestination in my critique of the book. And yet Rachel Held Evans and many others see the whole debate as - ultimately - falling along the age-old lines of the evangelical debate over election and predestination. How interesting.

Allow me to use Bell as an example of the encroaching problem I see. Bell's only ground in claiming orthodoxy and historical pedigree for his views is words. He uses the same words that the old creeds do, and even that the Bible uses. These are words which he has clearly, blatantly, undeniably redefined from the way that they were previously understood through most of Christian history. His dissenters (including Ben Witherington, who is certainly not a Calvinist) have recognized this, while his supporters appear indifferent as to preserving the use of words. For Bell's supporters to remain supporters (and here I include Richard Mouw - a Calvinist), they must be indifferent as to whether historical words are used consistently from one generation to the next. And many of them are, to be sure. They argue that the meaning of words do change from one generation to the next. Certainly. But if someone bites their thumb at you, you won't be offended until you discover what this Shakespearean gesture actually means. The same is true of Biblical words. Hell sounds very unpleasant until you discover what Rob Bell means by it. Suddenly, it becomes a rosier destination for all of God's enemies.

So here we come back around full circle to Evans' complaint, once again. Look carefully at what she says near the end of the quote:
We’re ready to rebuild in communities where a commitment to love and follow Jesus Christ is enough common ground from which to start.
Now here is where we really must protest against Evans. She has requested that the lines be drawn so broadly that there is now room within the church for any and every cult/group out there. Who could argue that the Branch Dividians loved Jesus? Who can deny that Jehovah's Witnesses love Jesus? Who can deny that Mormons love and follow Jesus? If Evans had her way, they would be in the circle. Or look at it another way. If she wants to draw the circle that broadly, then consider what brought her to that place. The Jesus and Bible of Rob Bell and of the Emergents is so ill-defined that the cults now do have a legitimate place at the table. In opening the door wide enough for her own orthodoxy not to be called into question, she has flung open the doors and is letting the flies and the wolves, in.

1 comment:

  1. Your angle here is quite interesting, especially the last few paragraphs.

    Thank you for your post.


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