I just read an article against Rob Bell by a Pastor Kevin Shrum regarding Bell's upcoming book - Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I have a few things to say and comment on.
I think Shrum unfairly mislabels Pastor Bell as a Universalist and then tries to morph him into this supposed Universalist monster as the basis for his argument to shun him and his ideas. This, as well as to cut off all dialogue and understanding, to build a wall against his sharing with us all the message of Jesus and God's love towards creation.
Worship of a book can be idolatry. Indeed from a distance my perception of Islam is that it worships the words of the Koran. It is to me an idol. I have met few Muslims and have never gotten into a discussion with them about their religion. So in a way if I assume their worship of the words of Mohammed alledged to be the words of God/Allah is idolatry, that is a really big assumption on my part?
I read parts of the Koran and couldn't make heads or tails of it. After I gave the book away, I found out that it was supposed to be read out loud. I also have recently read that the King James Version of the bible was also written with the intent that it be read aloud. That modern translations of the bible block richness of language as well as meaning and connotations of verbal and oral history. If the literature that is the bible is now meant only to be read and not spoken, it is a great cultural loss to us all I fear.
Indeed the Reformation was formed out of the magic creativity of the human mind but more importantly out of machinery, the printing press. The signifigance of that invention and blood spilled in those days about over who understood the words of the bible better than your own translation or perception of such, the energy of anger, of that blood spilling and fire burning enthusiam still exists in the fundamamentalist quarters of Christiandom to this day IMHO.
In my youth and before the ultimate failure of Vatican II, my personal life was peppered with the left over resentment and hatred of that printing press revolution and the wars over words, that centuries old religion power struggle. Yes, words can kill and generations later the collateral damage of mere words, or the worship of such, can still be felt in some quarters.
In my search for spirituality and tainted by the Roman paganism of my youth and that name brand of Christianity, I have found many things and many words and many thoughts that suggest to me that the Jewish holy man Jesus is believable in some of his alledged teachings. I say alledged because scholars over at the Jesus Seminar have among other groups analysed the imperfections of the man made document called the NT – New Testament. Science, linguistics, historic research can shed new light on what I think some think is a perfect object worthy of worship – an idol so to speak - aka the bible.
Anyway, I ran into this article condemning a fellow Christian Rob Bell to some sort of shunned place though in fact I think some wish him a place in hell. My dear fellow Christians, hell is upon this earth and the fundamentalist business of saving souls by cracking men over their heads for not conforming to an imperfect book is like so medieval and archaic. The truth will make you free. Seek and you shall find etc.
I only just became aware of this Rob Bell fellow through the blogosphere and his unique approach to reaching out to humanity beyond his immediate circle at Mars Hill. I found Rob's You Tube on Resurrection and I loved the energy. For the first time in years I could connect with the concepts of the NT and that guy Jesus, and fully imagine that anything he said or did was, or could be, relevant in this modern age.
These rants in the fundamentalist blogosphere about Rob Bell are spilling over to people like me. I want to buy his book now. Free publicity like that some people have to pay for.
I did some research and came to the conclusion that Bell has a brilliant gift to take the rawness of Christianity and commmunicate it to others. His style is modern which is why I think some are jealous of him. He is no rock star but his style is definitely M-TV.
As far as I know Pastor Rob Bell is still a literalist fundamentalist Christian. While some of it works for me in some of his video ministry, it is still just at some level a hook to bring people into his mega-temple. Business is business. Consumers have to be made to want to consume. Etc. Competition is tough these days.
While most atheists are purported to be anti-God, they are in fact in my opinion just anti-religion and based on past and bad experiences of such. The Christian faith is fighting for market share in a dwindling or dying market. I think Pastor Bell is reaching out to some lost sheep. Pastor Shrum seems to be cutting off his own nose to try and smite Rob Bell's success. Pastor Shrum is, to paraphase the famous Ronald Reagan adage, breaking the eleventh commandment of Christian fundamentalism and speaking ill of a fellow fundamamentalist. Naughty. Naughty. He should know better.
Getting back to Pastor Bell:
I have read of many so-called heretical beliefs in the past of Christianity. They have been killed off, murdered off literally, and swept into the dust of history. But seemingly they, the logic of these questioning beliefs, from reading the bible, they keep resurrecting themselves. Shrum starts his critique of Rob Bell accusing him of Universalism, which I don't honestly completely understand, as if that is enough to throw the first rock so to speak at a dissenter, a “heretic”, amidst their own fundamentalist ranks.Don’t you realize that the beach of universalism on which you’re stepping has been tried before and that, just as before, a tidal-wave of biblical truth and historical/theological consensus will sweep you away? You will become a footnote in the history of the church as just another well-intentioned ‘theologian’ who tried to spit into God’s powerful whirlwind of truth. Rob, I’ve never met you, but please, get off the beach before your stellar career is swept away.”
I have watched the hypocrisy of religion parasiting itself onto our government in my lifetime with its limited world views and cash grabs for “charity”. I have also seen the decline of morality in this nation and in particular the government at a rate to equal the march backward in time toward a Christian theocracy which I think is what fundamentalists want.
Looking at the fundamentalism of the Iranians and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I fear a rule by people who worship words in books and claim to be the same as God almighty which is blasphemy in my point of view.
Did “family values” make honest men of Wall Street bankers? I don't think so. Quite the opposite I think. There is something wrong with any fundamentalism . It lacks heart and soul too. It is do as I say and not as I do little sheeple.
Well anyway the thing in this article against Rob Bell that inspired me to write this is below:
But, Rob, I have more questions. If universalism is true, I’m going for the best of what both worlds have to offer – eat, drink, and be merry in this life for tomorrow I will die, and when I do die I get heaven no matter what happened this side of eternity. And what’s my reward? I get away with it! Fantastic! Again, please don’t tell me that I should still follow Jesus in this life because it will make my life better. Are you kidding! I’m a ‘stinkin’ sinner’ who is already uninterested in and struggling with changing my ways, so if I don’t have to and I can still get heaven and if thumbing my self-important finger in God’s face has no eternal consequences, this is awesome and I for one am all about it...I am reminded of Jesus' parable about the workers in the vineyard and the same wages paid to those who toil all day or for just one hour. When confronted by dissatisfaction from the day long workers, the owner of the vineyard invokes the golden rule of buisness – he who has the gold makes the rules.
Where do these self-hating, word worshipping fundamentalists get off telling people what God can dole out in terms of salvation? Who are they to say that they are the only 100% kosher Christians on the block?
“God rules the world!” Not you. God saves whomever he wants to. No matter what your so-called rule book says.
Bell in an interview denies being so-called Emergent. What I have learned from e-mails and internet articles about the Emergent church movement, is that it is in theory trying to get above the heavy gravity of the poorly translated inspired word of God. That if a congregation is to remain a vital part of any community in this secular godless global world, it needs to reach beyond those poorly man translated words to the heart of matter, to the heart of Jesus and his message of universal love of creator to its creation – all of his, her creation, not just a chosen few in the bible belt.
Let me be prophetic here too Kevin. Christianity must change or die. The global reality is indeed secular and godless and it is a drug that destroys humanity and men's souls. That if you cannot get to the heart of Jesus' message of love, understand and plant its seeds, then all is truly lost in this world and the next.