The World Is Watching

Recently there has been a bit of controversy over a new book by the pastor, and writer, Rob Bell. In writing a book about heaven and hell, talking of Gandhi and damnation, Bell has managed to get people worked into a bit of a tizzy.

What saddens me about this whole issue is not that people disagree and not even that they are angry, it’s that they disagree in such a disrespectful, and Jr-highish way. Some examples:

@John Piper: Farewell Rob Bell (he then linked to Justin Taylor’s blog article  Rob Bell: Universalist?)

@HarrisJosh: There’s nothing loving about preaching a false gospel. This breaks my heart. Praying for Rob Bell. (linking to same article)

@between2worlds (Justin Taylor’s blog)  Universalist?:  John Piper once wisely wrote, “Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches…

@CindyCook12345 :Rob Bell, Rob Bell, so glad u took off ur sheeps clothing and glad I threw ur book in the trash years ago!

The spectrum of religious- more specifically Christian- belief is as diverse and varied as landscape or music tastes. We have baptist, Catholics, Methodists, Nazarenes, Anglicans, Reformed, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, and so on and so forth. According to a Christianity Today study, there are 38,000 christian denominations in the world. 38,000! You know why there are that many? Because there are 38,000 different ways that people see God, and 38,000 ways God has met with his people.

Back to the Bell twitter-tizzy

Because there are so many different denominations, I understand that there are disputes and debates over theology. That’s an inevitable reality of life in the Christian world. Kevin DeYoung cited that it was Biblically okay for Piper to call out Bell via Twitter (or call him out publicly…not using the steps to reconciliation in Matthew 18). I wont argue that. Bell made his video public, and so he should be willing to receive public criticism…but criticism is different that public damnation over an issue which is at best, debatable.

Really, its no secret that Christianity has an image problem in the West. To quote the man who’s being included in a video started this whole issue, Ghandi, he one said that “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  We, as Christians, are on display and people often do not like what they see. People are watching to see how we treat one another, and as a result, will make judgments as to whether or not this Christ business is worth their effort or their time.

It’s a common proverb that when you start dating a new person, you should look to see how they treat their family, because how they treat their mom and their dad, their sister or their brother, will inevitably be how they treat you.

People use this proverb to measure Christians, as well.

So what makes me sad is not the disagreement between to very intelligent people (those will happen until the end of time), rather my disappointment comes from denominational divisiveness… And our divisiveness is keeping us from living out John 13:

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We are to live out a life of love, and this must first happen among family (all Christians, and all denominations). After all, the world is watching, and they will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love…not our brash, and pointed tweets.


10 thoughts on “The World Is Watching

  1. Hey Michael! You said in your blog:” but criticism is different that public damnation over an issue which is at best, debatable.” What issue is debatable? Universalism? He’ll? Love? Just wanted to clarify before I comment further.

    • Thanks for asking! I can see how my comment could be interpreted a few ways.

      My comment was on who goes to Hell and the method of judgment…for instance- We wesleyans believe in free will, while more reformed/Calvinistic tend to believe in predestination. I believe Hell is literal, and is a place…but nobody can claim all knowledge of the details on the subject. I definitely do not believe in universalism, but i believe God’s grace, in the end, will surprise us all…just like those who think they are safe, will be surprised as well (Matt 7:22-23).

      I hope this make sense?

      • I find it absolutely fascinating that all of the vitrol is being spewed before we even know what’s in the book. Perhaps Bell is picking this fight from a marketing perspective. His video and introductions don’t make any theological statements – they just ask some pointed questions. (And, in my opinion, the questions are correct.)The controversy is going to make this book an instant best-seller. We’ll wait and see whether answers he gives are as incorrect (if that’s determinable) as those who already claim they are say.

  2. Great thoughts! I think that because of the manufactured sacred/secular split that the church has imposed on the rest of creation we often forget that we aren’t just running ‘Christian’ blogs but are participants in the world’s stage. This kind of in-fighting done via blogs and twitter is immature, and only benefits our collective enemy.

  3. I agree with your comments Mike, and I can honestly say that all those people throwing out accusations and judgments at Rob Bell likely have not even read the book and are basing their judgments on an advertisement for the forthcoming book. Of course the publishers are probably loving all this attention it will/is building all kinds of hype for the product. Regardless I am ashamed of many of the Christians responses to a short introductory video. This is indeed a controversial topic, and will continue to be. All I can say is thank God I am not the judge, I do believe that He is in fact the only one capable of judging fairly and yes we may in fact be surprised in the end. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to live as Christ lived, in love towards all, even those who we disagree with.

  4. Pingback: The Year’s Top Posts | Michael Palmer

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