Rob Bell is good for us.

While I was mentally formulating a piece on how Rob Bell and the discussion he is creating is good for Christianity (as a sort of flag in the sand function) Jared Wilson beat me to it. And I don’t think I could articulate the reasons why any better than he.

Jared gives five reasons why he is thankful for “popular false teachers” and below are those reasons. Enjoy.

1. They stir doctrine to the surface and compel the church to obey Jude 1:3.

Each week our church recites the Apostles’ Creed, and to counter the sense that this is just pointless doctrine or dry liturgy, I always introduce our recitation with a contemporary example or culturally relevant application, giving a reason for our affirming the credal “rule of thumb.” Last week, I held up a couple of the heterodox teachings of a local cult group, showing how the creed helps us measure these teachings and find them lacking. Dogma is practical, necessary, and false teachers get us sorting that out.

2. They provoke a show of hands.

Thanks to the inevitable picking of sides, we get to see who aligns with heterodox views and who doesn’t.

3. They help us sort out who is willing to trade truth for the zeitgeist.

When the inevitable mudslinging occurs, we get to see who’s more concerned with the truth, popular acceptance be danged, and who thinks the church’s chief concern on doctrinal matters ought to be better appealing to the lost or to disaffected, doubting evangelicals. We’re to be merciful to the naive and doubting, not malleable to them.

4. They help us discover who’s really talking and who’s really sniping.

I think, in fact, we are now discovering in the current Bell-brouhaha who the real flippant dismissers and sideline carpers are, and it’s not the guys writing long, detailed reviews. If you want to see a whole mess of pots yelling “black!” at kettles, check out the comments on some of the emergent or Christian “satire” blogs. A whole lot of insults for Piper, DeYoung, Taylor,, a lot of handwringing about perceived “tone,” and very little, if any, serious engagement with the issues involved. While those mean ol’ YRR bullies are posting on theology, interacting with the teachings and texts, citing historical examples, and flat-out doin’ work, the defenders are just spending a lot of time doing what they claim to decry: insulting and complaining.

5. By identifying themselves, even if unwittingly, as outside orthodoxy, they help make the church stronger.

All of these implications together may affect a pruning of the church, but the strength of the church is not in numbers, but the truth.

You should also visit Jared’s site so I don’t look like a thief without giving credit.

For the Hell of it…

There has been a lot of talk within the Christian social media world about hell the last few days. An author/pastor asks some questions to promote a new book giving the impression that he doesn’t believe in hell and some Bible believing Christians get huffy. I am one of the huffy ones by the way.  (If you have no idea about the situation for which I am speaking, be glad.)

Of all the comments floating about the interwebs my friend and potential Portlander, Jayson Whelpley, rightly reminded me of the importance of good doctrine and solid answers to tough questions.

“I am a fan of the language of post-modernism in that it imparts a humility to the preaching of our message, but there are times where that humility needs to be laid aside and people need to be plainly warned, exhorted or condemned – the subject hell is one of those times. It is far too eternally dangerous to play marketing games with.”

Well said and agreed with. Let’s not be a people that makes light of important issues or simply asks questions for their own sake…


Calling Through Suffering?

Some of you may delete me from your readers for mentioning Rob Bell, but he has an interesting tale of his calling on CNN this morning that speaks at least in some extent to calling.

This week in a class on determining my “ministry” potential we were discussing “calling” which is defined a million ways and wrongly too often (I define calling to be our purpose in life; ministry or not – extending to all seasons not simply a temporary space in life). Bell, in this post of suffering, reveals that his “call” to ministry came following a brain infection.

He saw God using suffering and a “change of plans” to put him on a path to his purpose.

In the days and weeks following the band’s breakup, people I barely knew would stop me out of the blue and say things like, “Have you thought about being a pastor?” Friends I hadn’t talked to in months would contact me and say, “For some reason I think you’re going to be a pastor.”

Me, a pastor? Seriously?

The idea began to get a hold of me and it wouldn’t let go. A calling welled up within me, a direction, something I could give myself to.

Have we responded to hardship or trial in our lives with a view toward a new or refined calling? Does a call have to come after a transition or pain? These are questions worth asking as we determine our purpose and how to live in response to the cross.