Does unity matter more than theology?

For those of you who don’t know about the Rob Bell controversy let me sum it up for you.

  • Rob Bell releases a promo video for his book ‘Love Wins’.  The promo is implies that he believes everyone ultimately will be saved.
  • The usual suspects respond boldly, but many believe it’s premature.
  • The book is released and the reviews released confirm the fears of the early responders.

Bell is tired of Christians preaching Hell as if God is some cruel judge just waiting to wipe us out.  He believes – based on what he knows about the gospel – that God will ultimately redeem all people to Himself.  The Christian culture has been thrown into a frenzy over this book.  People are freaking out.

Later this week, I promise I’ll dig into what I believe about Hell and why I think it matters,  but honestly, I don’t think the biggest question people currently have about the controversy is whether or not Bell’s position is biblically accurate.

The question I think most people what to know is – what is the big deal?  can’t some guy just write a book?   Is it worth all the hurt and division and public disunity?

Don Miller posted an April Fools’ ‘review’ of ‘Love Wins’, trying to add a lighter tone to all the controversy and hundreds of people responded in encouraging bursts of laugher that finally someone has a little perspective: ‘finally someone can make light of this whole thing!’

I think unity matters more to God than I could ever imagine.  I don’t know that there are a ton of things worth division.  But I know one thing that matters more to Him than anything else, and that’s His glory; His priority is that this world see Him as He truly is.

The controversy over this book isn’t about a tiny nuanced theological detail.  People aren’t speaking out because they have an issue with a single aspect of Bell’s perspective.  They don’t have a problem with some guy giving his perspective on God.  They have an issue with a pastor standing up and proclaiming that the God of the Bible isn’t who He says He is.

I’m sad today and I can’t make a joke out of this whole thing because I think it’s really dangerous to suggest that God can be consumed like a buffet.  I think it’s deadly to imply that we can define God as we want Him to be.  I think it’s tragic to deny the basic right of person-hood to the only living God, the creator of us all.  God is who He is and that doesn’t change just because we don’t like something about Him.

We’re all going to have days when we read the Bible and find things that make us uncomfortable.  Let’s be honest, there’s some crazy stuff in that book.  If God is a real person who is perfect and Holy and we are real people who are fallen and broken, there are going to be moments in this relationship where we brush up against something we don’t like.  And in that moment we each have two options.

1. We can decide that He needs to change. We conclude that the Bible can’t possibly mean what it says; God can’t actually be that way, and can we recreate God so that He fits in line with our world-view.  We can turn the page on the chapter or verse that upsets us and just pretend that whatever He says isn’t really a part of who He is.  Or we can just throw out the Bible altogether and create a god of our own that is completely subjective to each of our individual feelings and thoughts.

2. Or we can believe that we need to change. We can believe that God is who He is, and He defines what’s good and right and true – not us.  We believe that there is actually only one God and He sits high in Heaven and He is real and therefore doesn’t change based on my personal feelings or preferences.

If God agrees with everything you believe, there’s a great possibility you may not be encountering the living God.  If He never challenges you, if He never pushes back on your ideas about people or politics or life, you can’t be reading the same Bible I am.

Theology is the study of knowing God and yes – it matters more than anything.  Not every detail of doctrine is worth dying over and not every thought about God is worth dividing over.  But nothing matters more than knowing God and helping others know God.

My heart is aching to be able to find words that can harness how deeply I long for us to be a generation who seek to encounter a real and living Person in the God of the universe.  After all, isn’t that why He died; so that we might know Him?  God forbid I waste the blood of Christ because my distorted perspective leads me to dislike certain things I find in the depths of the heart of God.  God forbid I scorn the great privilege of knowing Him.

Tomorrow I’ll share with you guys the 5 things I wish we would all do in light of this whole controversy.

4 thoughts on “Does unity matter more than theology?

  1. Hey Fabs,
    Happy Birthday for last week. I love your writing. I also like that you’re dead reasoned about stuff. So here’s my bone – set me straight if I need it. Can’t I sit in the middle of option 1 + 2. Rather than just taking everything in the Bible at face value, can’t we dig a bit deeper, ask some questions (amen Mr Bell) and then perhaps sit back and live with some indecision? I don’t know what I think about Hell. I don’t think the Bible is 100% clear (if it was then we wouldn’t disagree about issues?); and actually doesn’t that make sense? Surely creator, infinite, mysterious God shouldn’t have one of his eternal facets reduced down to some statements in a Holy Book. I don’t think I’m changing God by thinking that and at the same time I have no idea about the Hell situation, because I doubt anyone will be able to know something certainly on that issue until we leave this world. And so, I don’t think I need to be changed into prescribing to a doctrine on this one. I’ll just sit down and enjoy the grey area. And probably not tell people that they’re going to hell just yet.
    Does that make me a liberal that is bound for hell? (Some people will probably think so…)
    T

    1. Thanks! Isn’t it your birthday too?? Ladies and gentleman – meet Timothy James! Tim knew me back when I didn’t believe in all this Jesus stuff and he was certainly a great picture of Christ to me! (thanks Tim!)

      Alright, so here’s what I think. Dig deeper. BIG fan of digging deeper. Ask questions. BIG fan of questions. And where answers are not clear in the Bible, obviously there is room for indecision. I will sit in ambiguity on the numerous issues where Jesus left things ambiguous. But where God intended clarity and offers clarity we should embrace it – regardless of how we feel about it. A simple Bible word study on ‘Hell’ reveals that the Bible has plenty of really clear things to say on the subject.

      The ultimate question is: what do we believe is our authority: Bible or our senses? If our senses are our authority, than Bell is right: until our senses experience the flip side, we won’t know what it’s like. But if it’s the Bible – than we can know with absolute certainty everything the Bible tells us. Jesus didn’t stay silent on the subject of Hell. My question for you would be, when you look at the texts where Jesus explicitly talks about Hell what do you do with that? It seems to me like there are only three options: either Jesus was wrong, the Bible can’t be trusted, or Hell is very real.

      I hope everything is going great with you pal and I really do appreciate your thoughts!!

  2. I have been surprised by the apathy with which some people – many people – have reguarded Rob Bell’s new book. In fact, I’m surprised more people weren’t having a fit over Velvet Elvis. That book paved the way for Bell to say whatever he wants to about the Bible. God’s glory is at stake in this and so is the salvation of souls.

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