Don’t worry, the P.I blog hasn’t gone cold permanently. Between my philosophy class this semester (philosophy of science…heady stuff!), coaching the wrestling team, teaching, preparing for my daughter’s birth, and Crossfit, I’m finding little time to blog. I’m not giving up on the blog, just posting less frequently (waaaaayyy less) for the time being.
So, what’s on tap for today’s post? Let’s talk about Mr. Rob Bell. Or rather, some of the conversations surrounding his writings.
Lately I’ve been privy to some conversations surrounding his new book. Th
ere are lots of people questioning some of the things in his book (there are always people questioning his stuff), and invariably, someone (actually, many people) respond like so:
“He’s just asking questions. Leave him alone!”
“He’s got opinions and he’s making people think. He’s helping people figure out what they believe, and that can’t be bad. Beg off!”
“Why are you being so mean and divisive? Stop the judgmental spirit.”
“He’s just starting a conversation. He’s on a journey and shouldn’t be put down for that.”
I’ll be the first to admit that some of the critique of Bell is quite shrill and over the top. But much of it isn’t. Much of it is a serious attempt at evaluating his beliefs for truth and fidelity to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. If he is advocating false beliefs and/or is leading people to depart from the truth that has stood the test of time, that is a legitimate concern.
I have no doubt that some of the Bell defenders who use the tactics above are sincere, but they are very naive.
There are two types of asking questions–one, to get information or to inquire, and two, to make a point (aka “socratic questioning”). Bell’s a savy guy; most of his questions are of the second type, and therefore deserve to not be treated as mere “innocent conversation starters.”
Melinda Penner of Stand To Reason puts it well:
Even if someone is asking questions, the type of questions they ask in order to frame the debate tells us a great deal about their view and how they would answer the questions they pose. Bell tries to sidestep disagreement by saying he’s only asked questions, but he’s equivocating. There are different kinds of questions. Some are meant to elicit information; others are Socratic to get people to think and also to advance ideas. Bell’s questions are the Socratic type, but he acts as thought their the first type. He’s told us through those questions a lot about what he thinks.
Tim Challies adds:
Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.
Pay special attention to the kind of questions he asks. That’ll tell you a lot about his beliefs.
I really do have to shake my head at some of his defenders. If he’s on a journey, it’s a veerrrry suggestive one.
Folks, if he is to be a player on the stage of ideas–and….he is, whether he acknolwedges it or not–his words deserve the same treatment as everyone else’s.
In other words: he’s a big boy. His words, whether in question form or direct statement, get evaluated and assessed. He does not get a pass.
The question of whether he is teaching false ideas or leading people astray is, of course, another question for another time. I just tire of the same old “stop being mean and judgmental! You’re being divisive!” response to sincere attempts at evaluating his ideas. Ideas have consequences–and so do questions.
So: y’all just need to cut that out.