Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bell & Whistles

By George W. Sarris

I was saddened to learn of Rob Bell's decision to affirm Gay marriage.

It was particularly disheartening for me because I believe in God’s never-ending love for all. Bell came out as a sort-of-spokesman for that view with his book, Love Wins. His support for Gay marriage, however, adds fuel to the idea that all who hope for an ultimate restoration of God’s entire creation are "liberal" and don't base their beliefs on the true teaching of Scripture or find support for it in the historic teachings of the Christian Church.
I don’t fault Bell for his desire to promote more love . . . more fidelity . . . more monogamy . . . and more people who are committed to each other. Those are clearly Biblical themes that should resonate with all those who call themselves Christians.
I don’t fault Bell for questioning the “teaching of the elders” in his desire to awaken a lethargic Church to its true mission of reaching out to needy people with the message of God’s love for all. That is a message that Jesus communicated to those in authority in His day who arrogantly boasted of how they alone knew what God really wanted. Jesus told them to “go and learn what this means – I desire mercy, not sacrifice!” 
I don’t fault Bell for suggesting that many in the Evangelical subculture are judgmental and insensitive to the needs of those who are struggling with their sexuality or pursuing a homosexual lifestyle. We are not called to condemn “sinners.” It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
I do fault Bell for deciding to base his decisions on what he sees as the trends of contemporary culture, instead of on Scripture.
Culture is Always Short-Sighted
Solomon wisely cautioned – Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.
I went to college in the late Sixties – during the height of the “hip” culture. Drug use existed before the Sixties, and so had promiscuous sex. But, they were always considered wrong . . . certainly by the Church, but also by the culture at large.
Then, something happened. A Harvard associated psychologist told us that drug use was good. His drug of choice – LSD – would expand our minds. It would open up new windows of wonder. We needed to tune-in, turn-on, and drop-out.  Then, true meaning and true fulfillment would come to the planet.
I knew many who experimented with drugs, only later realizing that fooling around with your brain is not really a good idea. I knew others whose productive lives were destroyed in their quest for the promised meaning and fulfillment.
The contemporary culture back then also told us that what the world really needed was love . . . sweet love. The old morality tied you down with a spouse you may not “love” anymore. It was outdated. It was stifling. Instead, it was good to be free to love . . . whoever . . . and whenever. One of the problems, of course, was that free-love produces babies. When many of the “lovers” learned of the upcoming blessed event, they got up and took off. And, many of the “loved ones” found their return ticket to freedom in abortion.
The Christian Church has never sanctioned homosexuality. It has been around throughout history, but it has always been seen as unnatural . . . something clearly outside of God’s design.
Until now! Now, we are being told it is good.
Compassion and Affirmation
Rob Bell cares – I trust sincerely – for those who are being ostracized unfairly and hypocritically by many in the evangelical church. He also believes God is “pulling us ahead into greater and greater affirmation and acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters . . . “
Jesus sincerely cared for the woman caught in adultery. The hypocritical religious leaders who brought her to Him did not care for her . . . although they undoubtedly had a measure of compassion for the man who was “caught in the very act” with her but was not brought forward!  He rebuked the hypocrites and affirmed the woman. But, He did not affirm her action!
Jesus knew that she misunderstood – and certainly needed to know – true love. But, He also knew that the lifestyle she had chosen would lead to devastation. His words, in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, were “Go, and sin no more.”
The Warning Whistle
Rob Bell has made a practice of questioning the status quo. There is nothing wrong with that. It is easy to assume that what has been passed down to us as Scriptural really is – without taking the time and putting forth the effort to make sure.
But, Bell is not basing his views on Scripture. That is not where he goes to find answers. And, that is where a warning whistle blares loudly in my mind when I read or hear what he says.
Contrary to what many people think, Bell only flirted with the idea of ultimate restoration in Love Wins, and in fact specifically denied that he actually held it. He correctly saw flaws in the belief in Hell that had been passed down to him through the “tradition of the elders,” but he did not have confidence enough in Scripture to really check it out and come to a settled conclusion based on its teachings.
He’s doing the same thing with Gay marriage. He sees some legitimate flaws in the way the evangelical world is addressing the issue of homosexuality, but he does not have enough confidence in Scripture to check it out carefully and formulate his ideas based on what it actually teaches.
Many of Bell’s observations about Evangelicalism today are correct. It is often superficial in its approach to culture. It is often judgmental and insensitive to the needs of those outside its ranks. It is often unwilling to allow others to sincerely question its teachings in their pursuit of truth.
But, the correct way to address the problems is not by affirming what God condemns. It is by doing what Jesus did – going back to the true teaching of Scripture to see what it really says.
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