At the end of last week a firestorm was being waged in the Christian spheres of the internet. At the center of this firestorm was Rob Bell and in particular his new book that is talking about hell. Despite the book not being out yet people were jumping to the conclusions that Rob Bell was a Universalist. Now admittedly I’ve never read Rob Bell (although all this criticism kind of makes me want to in order to know what the fuss is about) but I have seen a few of his Nooma videos, which I think are well done and they are challenging and make you reflect.
However, I’m not really here to talk about Rob Bell specifically. It is more how this whole thing has been handled that really irritates me. Christians judging others before they know all the facts and too easily dismissing that person is not the way to communicate. This way of handling disagreement is exemplified in John Piper’s Twitter post of “Farewell, Rob Bell”. Now let me be clear here, if Rob Bell is a Universalist, I disagree with him completely. However, in the next breath I can easily say I would understand where his heart and desire is, misguided as it may be. It would be hard to dismiss him that easily, after all God’s own heart is that having all be saved would be the reality of things.
Sometimes I think we view people who disagree with us theologically or politically as human pinatas. If we hit them with our arguments, our disdain, and open condemnation then they’ll break open and out will come God’s favor for sticking it to them and maintaining what we believe to be the right way. Where in these situations is the grace and the love? Does disagreeing with a person necessitate a lack of love and grace? I certainly don’t think so.
I understand that Rob Bell is a Christian teacher and that if he is a Universalist his teaching may cause some people to go away from Biblical truth. We have to be careful though, because I’m pretty sure that stringing people up so that we can take shots at them because we disagree with them is pretty bad teaching too, particularly before we even know all the facts. We forget sometimes that our example teaches just as much if not more than our formal theology teaching. What good is teaching on the love of God and Jesus’ death for our sins if we act in a way that shows no grace and love for those who disagree with us?
It is easy to jump on the bash Rob Bell or other person who doesn’t quite fit our theological leaning. It is okay to disagree with them, but we have to make sure that in our disagreement we don’t react in such a way that is just as sinful (if not moreso depending on the subject). Instead of spiritual growth and development all this way of acting and reacting does is leave a lot of broken pieces on the ground from hitting other people with our sticks.