Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My thought on Rob Bell and the dangers of dogma

As you probably know, Rob Bell has been sturing up quite a controversy in regards to his book "Love Wins". I want to start by saying that I haven't read the book, but I have read most of his other books, so I am familiar with his style, and I have heard several interviews with Rob about his latest.

If you don't know anything of this controversy, a great place to start is this video:

I love Rob Bell. Not necessarily for his specific theology, but rather for his approach to theology. Rob is a prober, and questioner, and a thinker. As Greg Boyd puts it, "First, Rob is first and foremost a poet/artist/dramatist who has a fantastic gift for communicating in ways that inspire creativity and provoke thought. Rob is far more comfortable (and far better at) questioning established beliefs and creatively hinting at possible answers than he is at constructing a logically rigorous case defending a definitive conclusion. I enthusiastically recommend Love Wins because of the way it empowers readers to question old perspectives and consider new ones."

I have a sneaking suspicion that our christian beliefs all too often turn into law. We want to grab truths and hold onto them, make them our own, memorize them then spout them off when called upon. At the core of it, our truths become our identity.

What we know, how we know it, and who we tell about it, especially in the segments of the church in which evangelism is is emphasized, becomes the currency of our identity. Our christian doctrine comes to define us. Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Charismatic, Evangelical. Even when we stand united and wear the name Christian as a badge of honor, it is typically against something. Atheist, Jew, Muslim.

When our identity is attacked, we revolt. If somebody calls you fat, or ugly, or says your breathe smells like arse, you typically don't react favorably, and these are only passing things of appearance. How much more do we react when the truths that we've built our lives upon on attacked. Our truths must be defended, lest we falter. Our truths must be staked out and guard, lest the things that establish us as "in" and them as "out" fail, lest the things that make us special and unique whither away. It is a scary thing seeing a wave come crashing down on your sand castle home, so we build up our walls and defend, and fight, but ultimately will lose to the tide.

So when Rob Bell attacked the very foundation of our identity, that we are special, we've received the invitation, we're "in", and by correlation that they aren't special or chosen or "in", we begin to fret a bit. If they are actually in too, what does that make us? Less in? Less special? Is our truth less true that we had hoped? We panic. Some write nasty twitter posts and blog about how Rob is misled. Our grasp on our truth begins to fade as our truths are questioned, and we don't like that.

Our identity is wrapped up in the truths we hold onto, and I hope, in that, you see a problem.

The Truth is not a fact or belief. The Truth is a person. And only in that person can we find the Truth.

The very instance we try to take the truth out of that person, to hold it in our own hands, to view it through our own lens, to apply it in a way that we see fit, then the truth is no longer True. It becomes a dogma. It becomes the fickle sand on which we build our faltering homes.

But that was never His intent. We were never supposed to eat from that tree, issues of right and wrong, and of truth or lie, were never meant to be our questions to answer. They were never even our questions to ponder. Our only concern was to be a child to the Father, to be a branch on his vine, to be fully dependent on Him who is the Truth.

But then the tree, the apple, and the fall. We inherited the system of knowledge or right and wrong, the system of identity in "truth" and not in him is the Truth. We received all the faults listed above. So when a man like Rob Bell taps into the idea that the Truth is also Love, and ponders what this Lover did on the cross and what the actually means for the world, and begins to look into this Lover's heart for answers rather than to our dogma, we come at him, pitchfork in hand.

Does Rob Bell have all the answers? No, but you see, that's not the point. It never was, and never will be again. The point is not the answers that we can extract and pin to the wall, but the journey into the heart of Love and Truth.

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