Bob Lepine serves as a co-host of the FamilyLife Today radio program and as a pastor of Redeemer Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. On the church's blog (which can be accessed from my blog roll on the right side of this post) on March 16, 2011, Mr. Lepine wrote an excellent article about the controversy concerning Rob Bell's latest book.
This is his post:
Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of on-line and, more recently, on air talk about Pastor Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”
Based on the reviews of the book I have read and the interviews I’ve read or seen this week with Rob, I would say that the book is neo-liberal at best and heretical at worst.
I’ll have a little more to say about Love Wins in my message this Sunday. But what I want us to think about here is the role you and I may have played in nudging Rob Bell in the direction he’s going.
Kevin DeYoung, a pastor who has written a helpful critique of Love Wins makes what I think is a very astute observation about where we are as evangelicals at this moment in church history:
“As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism.”
“The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.”
I think Pastor DeYoung is right. As the culture becomes increasingly hostile toward Christianity and a biblical worldview, many younger evangelicals find themselves facing a fork in the road – either they stand for biblical orthodoxy and find themselves marginalized and castigated by the culture, or they soften their positions and find that the culture is friendlier. Because many younger evangelicals want to take the gospel to the culture, they decide that the softer approach is the only way to gain a hearing for their message.
But there is another reason that I think some younger evangelicals shy away from holding on too firmly to biblical truth.
It’s because they’ve seen some of us hold onto truth in a way that was unattractive and unlike Jesus.
They have seen Christians who care more about being right than about caring for people.
They have seen Christians who turn secondary issues into primary issues, getting angry and divisive over things that shouldn’t matter as much as they end up mattering.
They have seen Christians deal harshly with sinners, acting more like the Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery than like Jesus.
They have seen Christians who think too highly of themselves instead of taking on the form of a servant.
They have seen Christians who are dogmatic about issues where godly, committed, Bible believing people disagree.
They have seen Christians turn prejudices and preferences into tests of fellowship and holiness. From hair styles to worship styles, from piercings to politics.
In short, they have seen people committed to a high view of God and truth who are very harsh, stubborn, unloving, ungracious and self-righteous.
And they’ve said to themselves “I love Jesus, but there’s no way I want to be that guy.”
At the same time, they’ve have seen non-Christians who have been kinder, more selfless and more caring. And they have rightly asked themselves in the process “How much does this high regard for truth really matter anyway? Looks to me like it hurts more than it helps.”
It is hard sometimes to find the place where grace and truth come together, with no compromise in either. Jesus was full of grace and truth. He is who we look to –not the TV preacher or the Koran burning pastor or the funeral protesting pastor – as our model for what being His follower should look like.
More than a generation ago, A.W. Tozer commented on a similar slide toward a softening of truth in his day. He said:
“Little by little, evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.”
“Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever”.
It’s true in our day as well. We must stand stubborn around the truth of the gospel and stand firm on God’s Word, while we demonstrate grace and love and care and kindness for all. Let’s make sure we’re not giving younger evangelicals a reason to doubt the gospel because we make it so unattractive.
And when we do, I think there will be fewer Rob Bells leading people in dangerous directions.