Sunday, March 06, 2011

Hunting heresy-hunters

Rob Bell, the heresy hunters, and the evangelical culture of fear

Apparently there was quite a kerfuffle this week when word got around that Rob Bell's new (and as yet still unreleased) book Love Wins is, or probably does, or might, support universalism in some way. Apparently it all started when influential blogger Justin Taylor concluded after viewing a two minute promotional video that Bell is a universalist.

This is how legends become entrenched. As Justin Taylor has explained, he also had firsthand knowledge of the book. So, no, it wasn’t based on simply viewing a two-minute video.

But that’s now part of the stock narrative by Justin’s critics.

Well Steve over at Triablogue actually read an advance copy of Love Wins and he can report with some authority that Bell is not a universalist after all, at least not if that means "I believe all people will be saved." So I guess this was all much ado about nothing.

Uh, no. My post began with a block quote from Gregory Boyd. Rauser is misattributing to me what Boyd said.

That shouldn’t be hard to figure out. That’s why the passage was indented, in a different color font, with a hyperlink to the source.

I then proceeded to document Boyd’s ignorance of universalism.

In retrospect Taylor et. al were in fact little more than pawns in a shrewdly designed Harper Collins book promotion. It reminds me of the good old days back in the eighties when Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center were Ozzy Ozbourne's best marketing tool. Now thanks to Taylor's gang everybody in North America is talking about Rob Bell's new book, univeralistic or not.

There is always a dilemma in whether or not to respond to error. You might as well say Paul was little more than a pawn for the Judaizers, or John was little more than a pawn for the Docetists.

If you respond, you may draw more attention to the error–but if you don’t respond, you let the error go unchecked.

This unfortunate little incident will soon be forgotten.

I think that’s highly unlikely.

Rob Bell will sell lots of books. And we'll all move on.

I seriously doubt that. Rather, universalists will use this as an opening. So the debate will probably intensify before it dies down.

But there is a rather sobering lesson here. Evangelicalism continues to be infected by a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality which immediately attempts to strangle, or stamp out, or raze any theological reflection which is deemed as beyond the bounds.

That was Ben Witherington’s allegation as well. Then Witherington had to reedit his post when he himself was found guilty of shooting first, asking questions later.

Presumably this culture of aggression and fear continues because the self-appointed heresy hunters believe they are protecting their evangelical flocks.

And when Rauser has a running series bashing Calvinism, does that reflect the “progressively evangelical” culture of aggression and fear? Does that make him a self-appointed heresy hunter who believes he is protecting his “progressively evangelical, generously orthodox flock”? 


  1. "Does that make him a self-appointed heresy hunter who believes he is protecting his “progressively evangelical, generously orthodox flock”?"


  2. You can do whatever you want as long as you are against Calvinism. Same thing in the political world. You can kill tons of people (Guevara), so long as you're a leftist. You can spout the most vile and hateful rhetoric, so long as you're directing it toward conservatives. Conservatives---theological or political---usually don't have it easy since they are usually not tempted toward the vice of hypocrisy---a liberal virtue.

  3. But Steve, Rob Bell and his ilk need universalism in order to get their homosexual agenda pulled the rest of the way into their big tent version of po-mo "emerg/" Christianity.

    You didn't think it was just about a big nice fluffy God letting all the poor, poor people into heaven did you?

    How quaint!

    In Christ,

  4. It's good to see that someone who teaches systematic and analytical theology at a tertiary level is so competent at analyzing and understanding a basic piece of text. Coz, you know, if he can't spot a blockquote on a blog, what chance does he have of correctly interpreting the Bible?

    That guy's students just don't have a chance.