Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why love does win!

I simply can’t get beyond theology that is held so tightly that it’s incapable of allowing for a differing opinion of the biblical text.

I am not suggesting that someone needs to practice a differing perspective, but that is entirely different. When we fail in our humility toward other humans, we also fail in our humility before God. When we absolutely believe that we hold the one correct interpretation of the biblical text, we fail to hold humility deeply, and we ultimately become poorer reflections of the risen Christ.


Anonymous said...

It would be helpful to have some examples to further explain your posting.

randy buist said...

I could go in so many directions with a response to your question. Here are some beginning thoughts.

The prophet Micah writes in response to the question, "What does the Lord require of you?' He goes on to write, "Do justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament are clear that we should be slow to judgement, and we are always to live lives of humility before God as well as toward other people. I am increasingly believing that humility is overlooked by those who follow Jesus, and when we fail to live with humility, we simply fail to love our neighbor and love God no matter how 'right' our position may be.

As for a concrete example, I've had the opportunity to study at world-class seminaries by nearly all standards of the Christian academy. I've also had the opportunity to travel and meet people in quite a few countries of this vast world.

For us in America in 2011 to believe that our version of Christianity is 'the correct version' when billions of Christians have lived before us from every part of this world, we are deceiving ourselves.

The current controversy surrounding Rob Bell has me both intrigued and disappointed. Rob isn't against anything within the biblical text. Rather, he is challenging the interpretations of heaven and hell that have become our current understanding in much of the North American church over the past century.

Conservatives fear that without a definitive choice for or against Jesus Christ, we won't have a compelling story. Without hell, we can't scare people into following Jesus.

Sadly, I believe most of these people miss most of the message of Jesus Christ. While I thing saying a sinners prayer and verbally claiming Jesus Christ as Lord has value, this is not the end nor the primary message of Jesus Christ.

Time and time again Jesus declares that the 'kingdom of God' or the 'kingdom of heaven' is at hand. He was declaring that with his arrival, something fundamentally changed within the universe. With his birth, life, death, and resurrection, something dramatic changed.

randy buist said...

While the kingdom is not yet a full reality in this world, justice and mercy often do win. Goodness and kindness, faith, and hope, and love win!

If we can't say that love wins because we fear the 'universal' label that critics have pinned on Rob Bell, then we are really about getting to heaven when we die. If we can't declare the kingdom as a present reality for this life, we have no good news to share except a gospel that will swoop us up for another time and another place.

In addition, the critics fail to recognize the breath and depth of the Christian faith over the ages. Many church leaders over the past two thousand years have asked similar questions as Rob is asking. Rob is simply the first somewhat-evangelical pastor with a big name in the year 2011 to ask these questions.

C.S. Lewis asked these questions. Only we prefer not to read those particular writings. N.T. Wright, a leading voice in the Anglican Church in England, asks these questions. John Stott, another leading theologian in England over the past several decades has asked these questions. Musa Duba, a regarded professor at the University of Botswana, also asks these questions. BUT, it's Rob who gets the heat because he's a white American male who went to Wheaton. Thus, he gets no pass.

If we're honest with church history and theology outside the conservative evangelical churches of America, we have so many people who have lived faithfully while asking these questions. Yet, the church didn't fall apart in Africa, India, or elsewhere that these questions have risen. IF we believe that God ultimately wins, Rob's little book in 2011 doesn't change the reality that the kingdom is at hand.

If we choose a gospel that gets us to heaven but is threatened by a book such as Rob's we don't really have much to share with a broken and hurting world that needs to hear the gospel and be led into the kingdom.

On the other hand, if we really believe that challenging powers of this world, bringing peace, feeding the poor, clothing orphans, and giving shelter to widow is our calling as followers of Jesus precisely because it is the way we are to live, then we have something that brings hope. Then, and only then, does love win!

These thoughts have become pronounced over the past two years as I've held, fed, and become friends with thirty-two orphan friends in Kenya, all of whom I know by name. All of life changed, and the gospel became about real life issues rather than theological ideas to be discussed.

The arguments against Rob, or against women serving in leadership roles in the church for that matter, will never give shelter, cloth, feed, or save.

Even if the critics are 'right,' being correct never wins nor does is last. The Apostle Paul reminds us that 'knowledge will pass away... love wins."

Anonymous said...

You are right, love does win, but that does not change the fact that striving for excellence in theology is also important.
I don't think that Rob 'gets no pass' while others do, so much as people are more aware of Rob - he is contemporary and influential so people are aware of what he is saying - it's current. I appreciate your call to action and service, but I still think examining Rob's theology and teaching is important.

randy buist said...

As for Rob and a free pass, almost all of his critics are coming from evangelical America. It's actually very interesting to me that the reformed voices, apart from the extremes, are supportive of the book.

Why? Because mainline reformed thinkers recognize the broader history of the Christian church than the narrow American evangelical theology of the past hundred years.

Many of Rob's greatest critics won't recognize catholics, orthodox, or Rob Bell supporters as Christians. Their views are narrow.

In addition, they almost always prefer systematic theology over biblical theology. As a result, presuppositions of biblical 'truths' are held in greater regard than a life orientation towards the kingdom of God.