So I waited a whole week for the smoke to clear about the Rob Bell hype, and I tried resisting. But the pressures in my neighborhood are far too great for my fingers to sit idly. Here are some things that I wanted to throw out there in relation to Rob Bell.
Like many others, I was amazed by the following:
*The controversy over the contents of a book that the world has yet to read.
**The piping hot tweets of Johnny P.
***The marketing genius of it all - a classic evangelical cocktail bomb.
But there are two thoughts that I want to discuss today.
The first one is short and sweet. I hate Twitter. Twitter is to social commentary what a car is to a drunk leaving a party. A crash happens and people get hurt. (Of course, you can tear apart my logic and question whether that means that I hate cars. So maybe I can't stand the "drunks" who use Twitter). John Piper lost his credibility with me when he got behind the wheel after being intoxicated by the hype.
Second, and mainly, I'm curious about the way that Rob Bell's dissenters have sharply criticized his views. Not so much that he has been criticized, but how. A lot of people are really concerned about whatever he is going to say in this book, and they have gone into orange-alert mode to defend the faith. He is being rebuked.
But is it appropriate to criticize a person like Rob Bell in this way? Has he warranted the kind of serious correction that we find, for instance, in Galatians?
Furthermore, is his line of work the type that needs to invite this level of critical dialogue? I'm not talking about the critical, popular buzz. I'm talking about the fact that heavy-hitting, professional theologians are engaging the situation. The way that I understand the nature of professional theologians (professors at universities) is this: Professors engage in high-level academic research that invites criticism from peers. That's how they mature intellectually. Delivering and receiving criticism is a primary response to work that is produced. A great example is the career of a theologian like Reinhold Niebuhr.
Rob Bell is not a professional theologian. He doesn't teach at a university. The way I understand Rob Bell is that he is a teaching pastor who produces materials to help laypeople (mostly) connect better with God. Creating pastoral dialogue and reflection is a primary response to the kind of work that pastors like him produce. And to that end, pastors are concerned about reaching unity in their churches, and within the Church at large.
But I haven't seen a lot of unity around the hype of a book entitled Love Wins.
Now...is he above criticism or rebuke? Of course not. But has he been criticized too soon? And has he really earned a rebuke? Yet?
And really, my main questions for discussion are...
What deserves a Christian rebuke, and what is the appropriate way for doing it? And/or, what is an appropriate way to criticize pastoral-level writers and speakers?
Can you help me with this?