If you are at all in tune with modern trends in theology, you've likely already heard about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lives, which I've heard is the 4th most popular on Amazon. His usual publisher, Zondervan, refused to publish it, which I think was a wise decision.
Theology junky that I am, I have been trying to track information about the Emergent church movements and its main proponents (such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell) for a few years, so this bell rings pretty loudly for me. My introduction to it was McLaren's novel The Last Word and the Word After That, which former Orlando Sentinel religion writer Mark Pinsky gave me from his review pile after he interviewed our family for his book A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed. But I digress. As opposed to the more theologically orthodox Emerging church movement, the Emergent (note the different suffix) church movement is not just a matter of the style of church worship or living missionally (which basically means serving others like Jesus did). I get that part! I am somewhat of a post-modernist at heart, since I love stories, artsy eclectic stuff, beauty, being kind to others, thinking globally, helping the poor, and promoting social justice. It goes beyond that, though, to core theology, such as whether Jesus died as the substitutionary atoning sacrifice so that those who believe in him can escape eternal punishment for sin. Can we handle the Bible message straight up, or does someone somehow need to make it more palatable for our modern ears?
As an evangelical, I am personally alarmed by the inroads that Emergent theology is making in the church at large. I understand that Rob Bell's Nooma videos are quite popular in Bible study groups, his books are widely read and carried in church bookstores (like I said, Love Wins was 4th on Amazon when it came out this week), 50,000 people listen to his weekly podcasts, and he was just interviewed on MSNBC (video embedded below). So we're not talking about a little drop in the bucket, but rather significant infiltration. I don't think most people fully realize what is at stake doctrinally and why it matters. It's like a stealth bomber.
I for one want to make sure that my kids don't get mixed up about what the Bible really says. I also want them to be aware of who is who and what is what in the world of historical and contemporary theology so they can make sense of what they are sure to hear in the years to come.
I wish I had time to research and write my own in-depth analysis of the issues. Thankfully, I don't have to do this since others have already done it. Instead, I'm going to give you several links for articles and one for a video about Rob Bell, his new book, and the Emerging/Emergent church.
One last word. I know that many of my friends, relatives and others who read this will disagree with me somewhat vehemently about this issue. At this point, I'm really not up for a debate. I already hear where you are coming from. I'm just trying to raise the issue and give people food for thought. I've already had several people thank me for posting some of these links on Facebook, which confirms that this is pertinent stuff at the moment.
Without further ado, here goes...
God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins” by Kevin DeYoung One quote: “If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming.”
Love Wins - A Review of Rob Bell's New Book by Tim Challies and Aaron Armstrong
The Rob Bell Debate: A Reader's Digest, with Suggested Resources by Tony Reinke -- lots of links to other articles and reviews
7 minute interview with Martin Bashir
(If you are reading this via Facebook, e-mail or Google Reader, the video might not show up, so click on my original blog post or the YouTube link above.)
Rob Bell: Universalist? by Justin Taylor at www.thegospelcoalition.com
OK, now that I've stepped on everyone's toes, I'll sign off!
Oh, one more thing! If you want to see how I describe the essentials of the Christian gospel, click here:
Grace and truth,