Here’s a recap of the events that led to Rob Bell appearing as a trending topic on Twitter. My thoughts on the whole thing after the break.
Rob Bell releases a video on vimeo:
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Timemagazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.
Some revisions are made to some blogs to give Rob Bell the benefit of the doubt, and prayers are offered through blogs and tweets that it’s all a misunderstanding.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey publishes a blog post on ChristianityToday.com regarding the blog and Twitter “Backlash” brought about by Rob Bell’s video and the description from HarperCollins.
Discussion continues on Twitter and various blogs throughout the night on the issue of Universalism and the Church but “Rob Bell” is eventually no longer a trending topic on Twitter in the US (chances are that he’ll be back on the top trends as more people watch his video and read all the blog posts).
I think that Scott McKnight’s from Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s post sums up my thoughts on the whole thing nicely:
I’ve not seen anything like it. And, yes, the quickness of social media have made this such a big issue … today … and in a week it will all be gone. Justin Taylor once generated almost 100 comments by quoting a blurb of mine that was on the back of IVP’s book by Tom Wright on Justification.
Justin may be right about what Rob believes, but if he is wrong then he owes Rob Bell a huge apology. I want to wait to see what Rob Bell says, read it for myself, and see what I think of it. Rob is tapping into what I think is the biggest issue facing evangelicalism today, and this fury shows that it just might be that big of an issue.
The publicity approach of HarperOne worked perfectly. They got huge publicity for a book. They intended to provoke — and they did it well. I think it is wiser to wait to see the real thing than to rely on publicity’s provocations. Justin bit, and so did many of his readers.
Frankly, John Piper’s flippant dismissal of Rob Bell is unworthy of someone of Piper’s stature. The way to disagree with someone of Rob Bell’s influence is not a tweet of dismissal but a private letter or a phone call. Flippancy should have no part in judging a Christian leader’s theology, character or status.
We are warned in the Bible not to judge others before self-examination (Matthew 7:1-6). Jesus required someone with out sin to carry out the sentencing of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11). James 3:1 says that teachers will be judged more strictly, but it doesn’t say that it is our place to do so. Hebrews 10:20 states explicitly that it is God’s place alone to judge his people.
I think Christians too often want to jump to the worst conclusion and start an argument that they think they can win. It’s ok to engage in healthy debate but to quote @Donovan1969:
Many people interpret the Bible with their own self interests in mind. Debate is great when accompanied by understanding.
I am not defending Rob Bell because what I have seen and read seems to point towards a Universalist world view. I also choose not to join the mob who have already dismissed Rob Bell because the book is not even released yet and I have not read it. Regardless of Rob Bell’s book to be released next month, I will stand firm on the Truth that Jesus Christ, The Messiah is the only way to eternal life in the presence of YAHWEH.