Posted by: minnow | April 2, 2011

What We Believe Matters

A friend I have referenced before on this blog (He writes under the name Clothman.) posted this panel discussion along with several other commentaries and interviews about Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  I linked the panel discussion not because I agree with any of their conclusions but rather because I think they are conservative voices who together present an accurate picture of the traditional evangelical party line (in case you are interested).  They are confident of their interpretations of scripture, firm in their belief in God, and unapologetic in both their position on hell and their criticism of Rob Bell.

Each of the men on the panel, Al Mohler, Denny Burk, Russell Moore, and Justin Taylor, maintain or contribute to various blogs.  Justin Taylor, the most prolific by far, has written 115 posts for his Between Two Worlds blog between February 26 when he first focused on Rob Bell’s book and when I started this post.  That post received over 1500 comments.  17 posts since then and now, deal with Rob Bell and or his book and got another 1400 plus comments while 97 non-Bell specific posts generated an additional 1465 comments.  One of the non-Bell related posts, a satire about the Apostle Paul being chastised for sounding too angry, received 172 comments.  (It is only a “feeling” but it seems to poke back at some of the criticism aimed toward those in the anti-Bell camp).  Another post, a video in which David Platt asks: Do We Really Believe What We Are Saying?, received 133 comments.  (Seems like an interesting question but I have not read the post).  Russell Moore joined the fray a bit late posting his first Love Wins related blog on March 15 when Bell’s book actually became available.  It produced 78 comments.  One Bell post since got 33 comments.  And, his 5 non-Bell related posts got 73 total comments.  Denny Burk, who blogs at Denny Burk: A Commentary on Theology, Politics and Culture, has written 38 posts between his first one about Bell’s book, Love Wins, titled “Rob Bell Outs Himself” and the start of this post.  It received 219 comments.  (The title he chose comes across just a tad bit inflammatory given a different hot button issue for conservative evangelicals).  Half of his 38 posts since then and now deal specifically with Bell and generated 654 comments.  The other half received 68 comments, thus far.  Al Molher writes as well but does not allow comments.  Since March 8 when his first post appeared he has written 3 hell or Bell related posts.

Just to give this post perspective, I have written two prior blogs related to the Rob Bell controversy.  I am not as prolific as any of these men nor do I come anywhere near their statistics or influence.  That is not to say Bell does not have support from bloggers who are more prolific and have a wider audience than I have.  He does, but a blog war is not the point.

So what is the point?  First, Bell’s book stirred the religious pot.  It ruffled feathers, created conversation, and became the center of yet another Church controversy.  Some ask if it is worth all the “bad” press.  Others choose to simply ignore the whole row.  The rest seems mostly to have picked sides and dug in.  This response concerns a few voices in both camps as well as some who continue to try to bridge the growing gap.  My end-times prognosticator friends may actually be nodding their heads right about now as they think to themselves, “this division is simply one more piece of evidence that the end is near.”  I, on the other hand, am not ready to go there, just yet.

The ugliest cries in this conversations demand loyalty to a cause.  They mostly want to be seen as correct in their theology (thinking) and their practice (behavior).  Their regard for the lost or the marginalized is of less concern than how they are perceived–whether within their own circles or by the world.  In this respect the two extreme sadly have a lot in common.  At the same time, I have little hope for the bridge-building center.  While the less extreme opinions are not as concerned about their own reputations and spheres of influence as the extremes, they still admit their differences with one another are most likely irreconcilable.  The Church, much like during the Reformation, appears to be, as another blogger put it, in the middle of a divorce.

In this age of instant access to information, the Church must be careful about how we air our differences. Personally, I believe truth never needs to be forced even when it is initially resisted. How we live, how we walk out what we believe, matters more than the words we preach.  Mostly I believe it matters to the here and now, the people around us and the people halfway around the world.  But I also believe it matters a great deal to God.

I understand the passion behind the voices heard in this controversy.  I share some of their passion.  And, to the cries of, “What does it matter if we do or don’t believe in hell?” I can only say, Genesis tells us we were created in His image.  I believe this to be true.  And I believe, we emulate the God or gods in which we put our faith.  If the God we worship is vengeful then we become okay with vengeance.  If we believe, as the Calvinists do, that God has predestined only a few to be saved and the rest to be tortured in Hell–forever–then we become okay with not caring about the plight of the other.  On the other hand, if we believe God is compassionate then we become willing to love.  And, if we believe Jesus died for all of us, then the other begins to matter just as much as the few.



  1. […] literal interpretation of an eternal place of torment.  You can find some of those here, here, and here. My most recent post to reference hell was in June of 2013 and can be found here. The point is, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: