True Grace Waits
Yes, I know, I shamelessly adapted that title from the “True Love Waits” movement within the church. With that in mind I need to begin this post by letting you know that this will have absolutely nothing to do with sex, virginity or purity so you can stop reading now if that is what you are looking for.
Rather, I wanted to talk about Rob Bell, or more particularly his upcoming book What We Talk About When We Talk About God which is being released on March 12th. Some of you may recall that Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, was the author of the controversial book “Love Wins” in which he essentially denied the reality of hell and expressed his belief in universal salvation. To say that the reaction to that assertion did not go down well with most of the evangelical world would be an understatement. As a result it does not surprise me that many, if not most, evangelicals are wary of his next literary effort.
What does surprise me is the number of voices who are already expressing outrage about the book. As far as I can tell, the only basis for this outrage is the YouTube video promoting the book that was released a few weeks ago. I watched the video, which is less than three minutes long, and can see that (a) his audience is people who don’t like the church but still have some sort of belief in God, (b) he spent the majority of the video sharing the process of how he wrote the book; no doubt believing that this was of great interest to us, and (c) eventually he got around to telling is that the book is intended to tell us what God is really like. Sadly, because so much time was spent on insights into the process, there was only 20 seconds or so left to tell us what the book actually would say.
So, let me begin by saying that I have no problem with that fact that many of us believe that Bell was wrong, and dangerously so, in his understanding of salvation in “Love Wins.” I also have no problem in people being wary of what he might be saying in this next book. I am even OK with saying that you hated his last book so much that you will never read another thing he has written.
What bothers me is the chorus of voices that are condemning what he has to say without even knowing what that is. I’ve seen accusations of “error”, “non-truth”, “confusion”, and “gibberish” among others. Some of the other descriptions of this book were not comments I’d want to print on my blog.
What Bell has written will be known after March 12th. I applaud his effort to reach those who are disenchanted by the church. I am also aware that, in reaching such people, part of what we have to do is be sympathetic to their complaints about us while focusing on God. But I also confess that I am wary, even skeptical, about Bell’s theology. I will be comfortable if, after they have read it, many evangelicals will dispute his opinions. Frankly, I suspect Bell will be comfortable with that as well.
So yes, true grace waits. We wait for errors to actually be made before we condemn them. And we condemn errors, not the people who make them. Nothing seems more contrary to the Gospel than the relentless hunt for people to condemn.