If you missed it, this video set off a firestorm of controversy last week. And to be honest about it, I’m really not sure why. I am willing to bet, though, that HarperOne, the book’s publisher, is probably a bit giddy over all the free publicity. Apparently the promotional video, in which Bell asks questions and provides somewhat ambiguous answers regarding heaven, hell, and whether a loving God would send billions of people to live there had prominent Christian leaders labeling him a universalist, bidding him “Farewell”, accusing him of heresy, and the list could go on. Provocative? Absolutely. Did it pique my curiosity? You bet. Do I want to read the book? I’m looking forward to it. And isn’t that the point of the video? To tease and entice me to purchase the book so that I might know the answers to these questions?
I’ve been a little shocked at just how fearful and hateful some people who claim to be Christians have responded on Facebook pages and blog posts discussing or relating to the video. I actually responded to one guy who posted on the Facebook Event page for the upcoming live stream with Rob Bell discussing the book. I think, ultimately, I’m beginning to think that Satan is in the business of fueling the fire that powers the theological discussions and arguments over doctrine. If we spend all our time arguing over pre-millennialism vs. post-millennialism, pre-destination vs. free will, baptism by immersion vs. baptism by sprinkle, etc, etc, when will we have time to love?
Here’s a bit of what I responded to the guy on Facebook with:
Weren’t religious leaders of the time calling Jesus a heretic? Where did Jesus command us to know our doctrine and make sure that everything we say is theologically sound? Book, chapter, verse? I do know that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
A few verses further down in Matthew 23, after Jesus has given these commands, he rips the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites and talks about how they neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness; how they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders; how they preach but do not practice. Isn’t this a recurring theme in the church? Wasn’t Martin Luther thought to be a heretic at one time?
If Jesus commanded me to “Love”, then that’s what I’ll do. In His Name. If my understanding of theology isn’t the same as other more studied Bible teachers and scholars, so be it. But if I practice love, imitating Christ, I’ll take my chances.
I’ve been playing with a service called Storify that let’s you pull together links, pictures, social media, etc. from across the web to tell a story. Look for the next post that provides the “story” behind this post.