Last Friday i threw my proverbial pennies out there on the whole Harold Camping “End of the World: don’t bother packing ‘cuz Jesus is coming” parade. In so doing i took a not-so-subtle parenthetical jab at Rob Bell (at the end of the second paragraph, if you really must know). It’s typically not like me to stomp on someone who’s already had enough gut kicking. Especially an issue that’s had more than its fair share of media attention and has put Christians in flood light of irrational thinking.
Rob Bell has done a great deal of good for many years. He has tens of thousands of people who attend his church and follow him online, and hundreds of thousands that read his books and use his video material. i’ve been aware of Bell for many years. Enjoyed his book “Velvet Elvis” (i much preferred Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” which came out years earlier and made the same general point). Nothing revelatory between its covers, yet Bell has a great way of communicating to people. His unique Nooma video study series is very good at opening up discussion about faith and spirituality as it relates to our daily struggle.
Several weeks before his newest book, Love Wins, was released, many Christian leaders made flippant derogatory remarks toward Bell. i actually became angry at many of these responses, because of arrogant remarks from men whom i respected. Especially in light that the book had not yet been released and i was sure that most of these commentaries were done without examining the evidence. i tend to take a “wait and see” approach. Yet such a stir was occurring that the book’s release date was pushed up several weeks. Then a web-streamed live forum with R.B. in New York City was scheduled the night before the release, potentially to quell the onslaught of criticism.
Wanting to give the man the benefit of the doubt, i tuned in to the live stream seeking resolution to the controversy. Nothing of such occurred. Mr. Bell actually side-stepped questions in which he could have directly given an answer to. Was he apprehensive to reveal his real and controversial thoughts or a marketing genius intriguing viewers to snatch up the first copies of Love Wins? As the book released it was evident that his thoughts on H-E-double-hockey-sticks and afterlife were indeed contrary to orthodox Christian teaching and Theology, with a pluralistic universal approach.
In the ensuing flurry of talk show appearances Bell typically skirted answering questions directly. In so doing, on more than one occurrence, i witnessed Bell respond that he was a Pastor not a Theologian. More than his vague stand on Hell and the afterlife, it was these comments of Bell’s that made my brow furrow and my fists clench. It is this type of defensive justification which is deplorable and inexcusable.
A Theologian may not be a Pastor, however, it is imperative that every Pastor is a Theologian. By a definition a Pastor is a Shepherd: to guide, lead, protect, nurture, feed, and instruct his flock. To fulfill each aspect of shepherding people a pastor must have an understanding of Theology and what he or she believes. How else can one be fed correct information, guided to understanding, instructed in correct Doctrine, protected from deceptive aberrance and heresy, and nurtured to spiritual maturity if not for the theologically minded Pastor? Each person who calls themselves Christian should likewise be a student of Theology.
It’s a great tragedy that many pastors do not heed the great responsibility they have. i know i’ve made my share of dumb remarks as a pastor (therefore, the bell does indeed toll for me). i’m not one to throw the baby out with the bath, however Mr. Bell’s slip in the tub may have kicked the infant out the window altogether as far as his potential influence to continue to serve a generation. No matter. i know God has been dealing with these things for millenniums… and He’s not done yet. Redemption is around the corner. i know He’s covered my faulty backside more than once. i am such a fan of grace.
~End clanging ~