Monday, March 21, 2011

Theology: The Right Way to Critique Rob Bell

Image from www.johnmarkreynolds.com
There's sure been a lot of noise on the blogosphere this last week over Rob Bell's new book Love Wins. As those of you who follow this blog know, I've done my own part to contribute to that noise. My contribution has been in defense of Bell too. Not in defense of his positions, with which I don't agree, but defense of his validity against the accusations otherwise.

But I'm not in Bell's camp, if by that you mean I accept his theological position. I think good, honest critiques of Bell are called for. Not because he threatens to chop down the cross, as some seem to fear, but because we're all trying to get a bit closer to God.

John Mark Reynolds, over at First Things, wrote a post critiquing Rob Bell. And it's good. Here's a bit of what he says:

No means no, sometimes forever, and God is a great enough lover to know it.

I have never experienced greater pain than hearing “no” from someone I loved. Friends have heard “no” from spouses and that “no” never changed. Remarriage made reconciliation impossible, forever impossible, and these friends had to go on with life.

The hardest “no” I ever heard plunged me into depression and pain. There was no happy ending to that particular story, there could be no happy ending to that particular story. Love, however, found a way to heal me. The particular pain left scars, but the scars attracted pity. Pity gave me hope and hope led me to a new love.

Old loves have to die in the face of a “no” so that new loves can be born.

We only have analogies to understand the love of God. In his new book dealing with the after life, Rob Bell suggests that the best story of love is one that never gives up . . . that never takes “no” as “no,” but this is quite wrong. The best lover allows the beloved to go and knows that sometimes “no” is forever. 
You can read the rest of his article here.

No cries of heresy, no alarmism over the end of the Gospel, no false dilemmas.

Just good, reasonable, kind discussion of love. He meets Bell on his terms, shows where he's lacking, and does it with charity and grace. Moreover, his critique of Bell's book is larger than just the book, it's a lesson people can take away with them. It's a lesson that could transform a life.

Thanks John Mark Reynolds.