not trusting in the elites

I recently read from Eugene Peterson that the ones from whom we will learn of the walk in Christ will generally be the marginalized, interestingly I believe he added artists to the mix. I get his point, though in my life there are at least two noteworthy exceptions to that.  Now we have a book that seems hotter than its subject matter, Rob Bell’s Love Wins. And we, I believe, wisely await its assessment from people more learned and wiser than ourselves. And so far the result is a daunting, even rather perplexing mix, from those who see nearly nothing good in the book, to those who see it basically as good with a flaw or two, along with others some where in between. Add to that one quite learned whose wisdom I highly respect, who may not have the most positive view of the book, but called the controversy over it “a tempest in a teapot.”

As I’m rereading the entire book now, I do so enjoying it more now than the first time. I have to get used to Rob’s writing. Being limited in reading time, I maybe have read only one of his books in the past. And I certainly appreciate the thoughts I’m gathering from those who have studied and read more. And I await more of that. But I too will give my take, certainly influenced by others. In the end the unity we must have will not come from a bunch of people who agree on every point, or have the same perspective. Impossible. And yet we must take in serious consideration the contribution of each person in processing the whole. And I take all the more seriously those who are gifted in their thinking and more learned than I.

But we must be careful, because our learning can get in the way of what God may be doing. This happened over and over again in Jesus’ time. The Jewish religious leaders were more learned–formally speaking–than Jesus himself, and yet they couldn’t see the forest because of the trees, or the trees because of the forest–their view of it–for that matter. Rob Bell does seem a bit loose in his handling of scripture from what I personally thought during my first read, which has been confirmed by some scholars who have reviewed the book. But as a friend reminded me, is their largely accepted exegesis completely foolproof? When I think of how the apostles in the New Testament handled the Hebrew Bible, I have to wonder. It may end up leaving me with more questions than answers, which in itself might not be all bad. Do we really have to answer every question? And have we said more, and drawn more lines than what scripture does itself? But this does not mean we cease working on the exegetical aspect of this, seeking to discern what God’s word teaches.

Rob Bell is not a trained, professional theologian. It does appear that he had a number of people read a draft, whose feedback he found helpful.

In the end many of us will have to agree to disagree both on specifics and maybe on the whole. Some of us will be more positively inclined toward the book, while others will not be so disposed. We try to judge everything in the light of scripture, both in the details as well as in its overall scope, the entire Story given. And we consider carefully what everyone says, noting the differences even among the learned. And we have to make our own judgment, even if it ends up being a judgment of simply not knowing and then dropping the matter altogether. Being open to whatever is good from the book, and the entire exchange. Even if it is simply in our own reappraisal of our understanding of the faith. With counsel to others to remain true to what we do see clearly from scripture. I do plan to do an upcoming final (for now) take on this book. I think what Rob is getting at has some important considerations we need to take as God’s people in mission today. Even if we would not state it or see it precisely in the way Rob seems to see it.

And let us remember, to do all things in love. Love for God in all our being and doing, and love for our neighbor as ourselves–as we carry on in God’s mission in Jesus for the world.

6 comments on “not trusting in the elites

  1. Deb Gossard says:

    Excellent post, Sweets! I shall b reading the book sometime, Sweets.:)

  2. Crowm says:

    I look forward to your review (as I do others). Stackhouse has a great blog on this. Have you seen it?
    It’s also interesting that from what I understand Bell’s theme throughout his books to be, questions aren’t all that bad. The disagreement on Bell and particularly this book has been harsh on both sides.

    • Crowm, We need some evenhandedness on this, to be sure. I don’t even want to listen to some who seem harsh always to me, and who seem to think we need to live in the Reformation. Shame on Luther and Calvin, that is if they, alive today, would reject every aspect of the new perspective. That would be more than sad, just plain downright irresponsible. Though I think both of them, equally brilliant, would learn. And as much as I hate double predestination, I agree with others that Calvin likely would be amiable to it. I think such does influence Rob, like N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope.” But what Rob is saying is not representative of the new perspective, as I understand it. I’m sure you know all of this, but just sharing my thoughts here.

  3. Haven’t read the book and reserve my judgement on the contents. However, I do think that when you command an audience or are positioned with authority, being loose with scripture isn’t just a benign problem – it is an error that can have eternal consequences. A police officer who is mishandling a gun and by his loose handling, inflict harm on others would be held accountable for his negligence.

    Teachers will be judged with greater strictness.

    • I agree, ESI. I can’t even remember well this post now. Not ready to state a settled judgment, though if you and I were in private, we’d have an interesting conversation on this, to be sure. Thanks!

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