Come On, Ring Those Bells!

3 03 2011

I’m not hip. (Exhibit A: Using Evie lyrics as a post title.) I’ve never read, heard, or watched Rob Bell preach/speak/perform beat poetry/whatever it is he does. But I am culturally aware enough to have noticed all the recent bickering about who killed who . . . no, wait, that’s Monty Python. I mean, all the recent bickering about Rob Bell’s latest book trailer, which I also have not watched. And I find myself once again back in “the bride is shooting herself in the foot” territory.

Here’s a little crash course in human nature. Let’s call it Opinions 101:

1. Everyone has opinions.
2. Everyone believes his opinions are right, otherwise he wouldn’t hold them.
3. People feel threatened when someone disagrees with their opinions.

1 Corinthians 3 addresses the topic of divisions in the church. Paul calls the Corinthians babies — people who can’t handle solid food, because they’re fleshly and filled with jealousy and strife. Here’s the 2011 version of verses 4-9:

For when one says, “I follow Rob Bell,” and another, “I follow John Piper,” are you not being merely human? What then is Rob Bell? What is John Piper? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. John Piper planted, Rob Bell watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one (!), and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

Paul goes on to warn each builder to take care how he builds, because there’s only one foundation, he says, and that’s Jesus Christ.

And I get this mental image. A huge expanse of Rock — huge enough to form an unshakable foundation for every believer to build upon, and it’s covered with millions of redeemed and equipped builders. But for some reason they aren’t building God’s house. They’ve formed little camps, and they’re building their own kingdoms. Sometimes one guy looks at the wall going up next door, and he says, “Hey! They’re using red bricks. I don’t like red bricks. Reminds me of the whole harlot dressed in scarlet thing.” His buddy says, “You just made a rhyme!” And the first guy says, “Did you hear what I said?!” And the buddy says, “Oh, right. Right. Let’s go tear down their wall.” So they throw stones and insults at the wall next door, and maybe they even go over and poke those guys in the eye, which hurts pretty bad, provoking an equally severe tantrum in response.

Multiply this scenario by eleventy-jillion, and you have a decent picture of the “God’s Building” construction site. Meanwhile, the foundation stands firm, patiently waiting for the whole lot of them to remember who and Whose they are.

To continue our 2011 paraphrase, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether John Piper or Rob Bell or all the other people mentioned in Katdish’s excellent post or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

We have a choice. We can spend our lives ringing those Bells (i.e., defending Apollos) or ringing those Bell’s necks (i.e., defending Paul). Or we can be like the noble Berean believers, who received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. We can quibble with our neighbor over the color of his bricks, or we can build with joyful gratitude on the One Foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones.

Yes, there are essential elements to our faith. Yes, we should defend them. But we should also be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Perhaps discernment is granted first and foremost for the purpose of intercession? We’re all on a journey — none of us yet arrived. Not even the celebrity builders. God has one bride, and He’s promised to make her spotless. He’s building one house, and He’s promised to adorn it with beauty. The Foundation isn’t going anywhere. All we who’ve been rescued from the terror of quick sand and planted on the Rock by grace can live in grateful community or jealous strife. We can keep sucking our baby bottles with a scowl, or meet around Christ’s table (there’s only one) and learn to digest His solid food.

We really do have a choice. Or maybe that’s just my opinion.


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30 responses

3 03 2011
Mary DeMuth

This is the most level headed post on the topic I’ve read, Jeanne. Wow. Well said.

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Mary! I’m honored by your words, and always delighted to see your smiling face. 🙂

3 03 2011
suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

this. is. FANTASTIC. amen and amen.

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Suzannah! And welcome. {I don’t mind shouting one bit, and I’m a huge fan of laughter}

3 03 2011
katdish

Ah, Jeanne. I love your visual of the building of the kingdoms instead of the building of the Kingdom.

I once heard a minister refer to another church as their competition. And that just broke my heart. Because you’re right, and scripture is right. There’s one table, and it’s big enough for all of us.

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, my dear. So delighted to share the table with you. Unless you hog the sweet potato fries. Then we’ll have to talk.

3 03 2011
Nicole

Right on, Pretty Lady. It’s God, God, God. It’s Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit. But then we always tend to make everything about us sadly.

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Yes, yes, yes, it is! Thanks, Nicole. xo

3 03 2011
laura

Oh, dear. I’m out of the loop again. I better go read katdish. Whose not hip?

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

There are just way too many loops, that’s all. But katdish is always worth keeping up with. And so are you. Let’s be un-hip together.

3 03 2011
Madison Richards

Jeanne,

I love your balance. So so true… We should all quit hooplah-ing… 😉

Thanks so much for not being afraid to share your heart on this topic! I appreciate you!

Love,
Madison

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Madison. Yes, we could all stand to calm down a bit. Of course, 9 out of 10 doctors recommend a little appropriately aimed hoopla for mental and circulatory health. As long as we all play nice. 😉

I appreciate you, too! xo

3 03 2011
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

Good words, Jeanne. Very good words.

Just makes you sick, doesn’t it? I can understand where pastors and other church leaders need to be informed…so they know what is going on outside their own church walls…and to be ready to discuss a specific doctrine if questioned. There is nothing wrong with discussing doctrinal issues, but the tone is often abrasive and mean-spirited…both in the original post and comments that follow…and it makes me ill.

I’ve recently deleted many of those blogs from my reader blogroll. I’d rather be out of the loop.

I admit that I did get involved in a blog “hoopla” of sorts earlier today. I simply could not rest until I stood up for a friend who was being viciously misjudged. I tried to play nice. It wasn’t easy.

Much love,
Patricia

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Sweet Patricia,

Discussion is iron sharpening iron, and “slow to speak” doesn’t mean “don’t speak.” There are certainly plenty of times when the right thing to do is to speak the truth in love and to stand up for the oppressed. Knowing you, I have no doubt you chose your words carefully. You’re the antithesis of mean-spirited.

Thanks for your tender heart. You’re always a blessing to me.

Love,
Jeanne

4 03 2011
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

By the way, I can’t get that song out of my head now. I met Evie a couple of years ago when Emily and I interviewed Rebecca St. James. She is/was one of RSJ’s mentors and would sometimes travel with her. We had interviewed RSJ a couple of days before the concert and were backstage when I saw her. I was so excited. Everyone else wanted to talk to RSJ, but I wanted to meet Evie.

3 03 2011
Sally Apokedak

But, Jeanne just because you have never heard Rob Bell doesn’t mean that others haven’t been hearing him for years. Just because you are only now hearing about him doesn’t mean others have been slow to listen and quick to anger. Why would you assume that?

3 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Hi, Sally!

It’s true I haven’t heard Rob Bell, but I have been hearing about him for years. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m assuming that everyone who opposes him is being slow to listen and quick to anger. That wasn’t my intended meaning. What I would assume (now that you mention it) is that plenty of people who disagree with him, and those who agree with him as well, have engaged in productive dialog on multitudes of occasions. Unfortunately, from the perspective of a bystander, this current uproar does not appear to be one of those occasions.

I also don’t assume Rob Bell’s detractors are necessarily misjudging him. If he is drifting into (or firmly planted in) heresy, I hope and pray God will either enlighten him to the fact or send believers he respects to help him find his way out of it. But Rob Bell isn’t really the main point of the post. I’m grieved about division in the church in general and the way we handle it, which, according to 1 Cor. 3, have been serious problems since the first century. As long as we’re occupied with splitting ourselves into camps and then biting and devouring each other, we won’t get much accomplished toward doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

Thanks for your comment! And nice to see you. It’s been a while. 🙂

Love, Jeanne

4 03 2011
Sally Apokedak

Jeanne, thanks for the warm greeting.

It’s good to see you, too.

Still, I’m going to argue with you. 🙂 I trust you will take it well and know that I have no animosity toward you at all. I loved your book, I love your heart. But I still disagree with you. Because you say:

But Rob Bell isn’t really the main point of the post. I’m grieved about division in the church in general and the way we handle it, which, according to 1 Cor. 3, have been serious problems since the first century. As long as we’re occupied with splitting ourselves into camps and then biting and devouring each other, we won’t get much accomplished toward doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

I agree with everything you are saying about division in the church. But I believe that you are wrong to think that when people are denouncing Bell, they are dividing the church.

I think you ought to look at the book trailer and listen to some of his stuff before you decide he’s watering the church. If he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing then the men who denounce him should be applauded for protecting the flock and not accused of tearing the church up and biting and devouring one another.

Watch the video first and then decide which scripture applies–the one about division in the church or the one about false teachers going out of you who were never or you in the first place.

I don’t think I’m biting and devouring a member of the church when I say that Rob Bell is teaching heresy in his book trailer. I am being just to Rob Bell and merciful to the sheep by calling attention to the errors in his teachings. Men are not allowed to say whatever sinful things they want about God. Jesus never said we should sit silently by while men lead people astray, or while wolves tear up the sheep.

Rob Bell says:

Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question, “What is God like?” because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?

God preaches a very different message about himself. God says:

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5)

And God also says:

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30 & 31)

And in Psalm 2 we see that not only will God the Father bend his wrath upon men, but God the Son is also a king and a judge whose wrath is quickly kindled. There is no division between God the Father and God the Son, his Anointed One:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

We can take refuge in him and we will never be condemned by him. If God is for us, who can be against us? There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That’s very good news. But for those who refuse to go to him and take refuge? The wrath of God will fall on them, so, yes, Jesus does save us from God even as he is saving us for God. God loved us while we were yet sinners and sent Christ to die for us. So Jesus is giving us as a gift to God the Father who loves us. But those who are not saved are going to be thrown into hell by God, not by someone else. Jesus did not protect them from God’s wrath the way he protected us from God’s wrath.

Rob Bell says:
This [idea that Jesus rescues you from God] is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, why would I ever want to be a part of that?

Yes, the cross if foolishness to those who are perishing. How can God put God to death to rescue sinners who are his enemies? How can God love his enemies and want to protect them from his own just wrath? Of course this is foolishness to many. The Bible told us that was how it would be. (I Corinthians 1:18) We are not authorized to change the Gospel simply because people think it’s absurd.

When I shout this from the rooftops, I am trying to be merciful and to do justice and to walk humbly with my God. Our churches are full of biblically illiterate people. It is our job to plead with them to not take the word of man but to return to scripture in humble reliance upon the Spirit. The Bible is God’s word and it is this word that the Holy Spirit uses to teach us to know God and to show us how we can glorify God.

Bell’s publisher put out a blurb that says, “Bell argues that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial.” If Bell does not come out and correct this statement, then we are not dividing the church by denouncing him. He’s left the church of his own accord. He has gone out from us. He implies that he has found some fresh good news that the church had been unaware of all these years. I think he’s deceived by Satan.

The idea that we don’t need to be rescued by Christ from the just wrath of God that is coming upon man is unbiblical and diabolical.

I’m sorry for this lengthy comment. I get that you didn’t mean for this to be about Bell and you might think my quoting him here is off-topic. Feel free to delete this if you want. But I don’t think you should say that Bell is watering the church without first hearing what he’s said.

4 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Sally, of course I will not delete your comment. I’m honored you would put so much thought and effort into composing it. Your passion for truth, the integrity of God’s Word, and the purity of the Church are beautiful and needful. Thank you for all your points.

I would never hold up my paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3 as anything more than an attempt at illustrating our human tendency of attaching ourselves to charismatic leaders and following them blindly without testing their words. That’s what I meant for it to communicate.

That said, I’m curious. Based on what you’ve read and know, do you think Rob Bell has ever led anyone to Christ or fostered anyone’s growth? If the answer is “yes” then the analogy may still apply. The chapter does warn the builders to be careful how they build, because their works may be burned up with fire. Not that I’m fighting for the survival of a blog analogy. I didn’t write it because I wanted to convey that I believe RB is watering the church. I have no idea if he is a servant, a servant gone temporarily astray, or a wolf. The little bits you quoted are alarming, but there’s not enough there for someone as uninformed as me to pass judgment. Perhaps the edgy language used by the publisher is less about Bell’s real argument and more about using sensationalism to sell books? It’s all a bit vague — suggesting a position without nailing it down.

I do agree with you that RB should clarify misconceptions, if they are misconceptions. If they aren’t, then I agree with you he is on dangerous theological ground, and it is mercy to confront him and warn others.

Thanks for your passion for truth and your kindness to me. It means a lot to me that you trust my heart even when you disagree with my words.

Love, Jeanne

4 03 2011
heartscape

Jeanne,

As a member of Mars Hill struggling to make sense of this all, I do thank you for your measure of grace and charity. Just because Rob wrote this book does not automatically mean that the other 6,000 of us are on board. In fact, being brought to this crossroads has been a real struggle; I never thought I’d be considering stepping away from a place that has changed me so profoundly and that I’ve loved so deeply.

Thanks for your voice,
Jane

4 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Dear Jane,

Thanks for speaking up. I can only imagine what a struggle this must be. I’m sorry you find yourself in a painful place, and yet, I truly believe God never brings us to a difficult crossroads without good and holy purpose. I pray He uses this time in your life and church to magnify Christ and His word. May He gently restore any who’ve veered off into error, and may He give you peace and wisdom as you consider what you should do. Peace of Christ to you. I will continue to pray.

Love,
Jeanne

4 03 2011
Jeanne Damoff on the Rob Bell Fiasco | Captive to the Word

[…] Read the rest here. […]

4 03 2011
Sally Apokedak

Jeanne, thanks again for your kind reply.

Based on what you’ve read and know, do you think Rob Bell has ever led anyone to Christ or fostered anyone’s growth?

I do believe that’s possible, yes, and I even believe it’s probably.

If I were forced to guess, I would guess that Rob Bell is the opposite of the preachers Paul speaks of in the first chapter of Philippians. Those people had evil motives but preached the gospel. Bell seems to be motivated by a desire to show mercy to the oppressed and not by greed, but I don’t hear the gospel from him (my hearing has been limited so I’m not saying he’s never preached the gospel–just that it doesn’t seem to be prominent).

I think Bell approaches scripture from a man-centric position instead of from a Christ-centric position. I suspect this is why he seems to esteem man more highly than God, and unsaved people more highly than people in the church.

I still think it’s likely that people have gone to the Bible and found truth, after hearing Bell speak. He has a winsomeness about him that is attractive and I do think God has used that for the good of the church. But God may bless one person and bring judgement on another, using the same tool. I think it’s likely that Bell has harmed more people than he’s helped.

5 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks for this balanced response, Sally. I think the most important words you wrote are “God has used” and “God may bless . . . and bring judgment . . . using the same tool.” It really is all about what God is doing, because, like you said, the gospel is Christ-centric, and He is sovereign. If Rob Bell’s motives are pure but misguided, God can certainly turn him around, and He also can (and will) work all these things for the good of His children who are called according to His purpose, even those who may have been “harmed.” Perhaps all this discussion is part of that good?

God is holy, but He isn’t frantic. Likewise we should be sober minded, but not hysterical. It is possible Rob Bell needed to veer far enough off track so the church would recognize his errors and instruct him in the proper way. I can’t say. But I do believe that apart from God’s grace, we’d all stumble and fall. We stand only because He is able to make us stand. Oh, to grace, how great a debtor.

Thanks again for all your input, Sally.

Love, Jeanne

5 03 2011
Debbie

Best I have read on this so far.

@sally – wonderful!

@heartscape – tough spot you may be in hey? If I may make a suggestion…read the letters to the churches in Revelation before you make a prayerful decision. Jesus notes that even though most of those churches were trippin after some crazy stuff He still loved them and was going to discipline them and yet still in the midst of them all there were individual believers who had held fast to Him…consider it prayerfully…

5 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Good word, Debbie! Thank you.

5 03 2011
heartscape

Debbie–
How ironic that you suggested the letters to the churches in Revelation–they will be our Lenten focus this year! I helped write a companion devotional for our members based on the church of Smyrna and have wondered how these seven letters will be taught from the pulpit [we don’t have a “pulpit” but you know what I mean].

Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. Leaning hard into Christ and waiting on the Spirit,

Jane

5 03 2011
Windows and Paper Walls

I don’t know who Rob Bell is (I am SO out of the loop), but I love this so, and am off to share it on FB. Can’t add much else to the great comments here!

Love your writing so much. 🙂

5 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Cathy! You’re cute. And I love your writing, too.

Are we friends on Facebook? We should be.

5 03 2011
Windows and Paper Walls

Just looked you up…1496 friends, is that you? Couldn’t tell by the picture…I’m Cathy Huhn LaGrow. Friend me!

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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