Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Farewell Rob Bell:" A "Dastardly" Or Apostle-like Response?

In response to the apparent universalism recently propounded by Rob Bell in the book Love Wins, John Piper responded on Twitter with what is being referred to in evangelical circles as "the Tweet heard 'round the world," writing simply: "Farewell Rob Bell." Doug Pagitt, a friend of Rob Bell, responded to Piper with the following video:

A transcript of the portion relevant to this blogpost follows:
...John Piper, who's a pastor at a church here in the Twin Cities, wrote a Tweet, and he said in his Tweet: "Farewell Rob Bell," in reference to this book and to this video.

Now, what was John doing there? Here's what I think: I think he was sending a message; I think he was sending a message-- not to Rob, because there's nothing for which he could say to Rob "farewell" about: they don't run in the same networks, they're not in the same groups; he can't kick him out of ANYTHING-- what was John saying? I think he was saying to his followers-- I think he was saying to the people in HIS network-- I think he was saying to the young 'reformers' that listen to his opinion: "If you listen to Rob Bell-- if you believe Rob Bell-- it will be farewell to YOU." I think he was saying: "Anyone who listens to Rob-- you will be OUTSIDE to me. I will say 'FAREWELL' to you."

So I think he was sending a message, and I think it's a DASTARDLY one. I think there's something really, really wrong about sending a message: "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU."

Now, I haven't asked John about this-- maybe he wants to respond-- but I think that's what he was up to: I think that's what was going on...
I disagree with Pagitt's overall assessment of Piper's "farewell" to Bell based on the Apostle Paul's words to the Galatian church as well as Paul's words to Timothy. I would also argue that, on closer inspection, Pagitt does not mean what he says.

First, I don't know that Piper was primarily thinking about his "followers" rather than about Rob Bell. Though Piper cannot "kick [Bell] out of ANYTHING," it seems to be the case that Piper believes Bell to have strayed far enough away from the gospel as to have fallen into heresy, and so the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 would be applicable:

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (ESV)

Piper's "farewell" may have been a lament that Bell has demonstrated himself to be in an "accursed" state.

Second, even if Piper was primarily thinking about his own "followers," and he was trying to deliver a warning to those individuals over whose thinking God has granted him some degree of influence, such an activity seems more 'apostle-like' than "DASTARDLY." The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his pupil, not to give heed to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1; see 1 Tim 3:14-4:7); it is certain that if Timothy had rejected such an admonition, and had instead given heed to such things, he would have been "OUTSIDE" to Paul.

Finally, notice the message that Pagitt declares to be "DASTARDLY:" "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU." If that message is inherently "DASTARDLY," does that mean that there is no book, idea, or belief about which Pagitt would issue a statement like the one we read above in Galatians 1:8-9? What word would Pagitt have us give to someone who embraces an Arian view of Christ or a neo-Nazi view of race relations? Practically speaking, I can't imagine that every issue of theology and social justice is really up for constant open debate in Pagitt's clique. What Pagitt really believes is not that the message-- "If you listen to that book, if you listen to those ideas, if you believe THAT, then it will be 'farewell' to YOU"-- is inherently "DASTARDLY;" instead, he thinks that the issue over which Piper has drawn a line is not that important. But to admit this would shift the question away from whether Piper's statement was itself "DASTARDLY" to a question that Pagitt is both unwilling and unequipped to answer: namely, whether Bell is a universalist and whether universalism is really a heresy.

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