I know it has been a while since I’ve posted, so my apologies. Things have been pretty busy on campus with the end of the school year approaching and our chapter getting ready to head up to Cedar Campus for Chapter FOCUS Week. So it has been difficult to be active on the web.
That being said, there is something that I have thinking a lot about in recent weeks. This issue first cropped up surrounding the release of Rob Bell‘s new book “Love Wins”. Bell has been a pretty controversial figure in both Christian and non-Christian circles, often because of questions that have arisen regarding his theology and methods of teaching. So the fact that people started arguing about this book did not surprise me. What surprised me was how few of those shouting had actually read the book. In fact, several of my fellow seminarians asked me what I thought about the book. I told them honestly that I didn’t have one because I had not read it. The questions kept coming, so I ended up purchasing a copy and reading it on my trip to France back in March.
However, when I returned to campus and tried to engage these fellow students in discussion I was shocked to find that many of them were basing their opinions not on the book, but on the blog posts that had been written about it. Others had judged the book based on the two minute and fifty-eight second promo video that HarperOne created to market it. In fact, when I had inquired about the book at our seminary’s bookstore I was told that they would not be carrying it because of what it teaches. (Nevermind the fact that they carry plenty of copies of Bell’s other works including his Nooma videos as well as his other book, “Velvet Elvis”).
What is so disconcerting about this is not simply the fact that these detractors have chosen willful ignorance over informed engagement about this book, but that this is happening at one of the leading evangelical seminaries in the country. And we wonder why people call evangelicals narrow-minded?
This doctrine of ignorance worries me on a variety of levels. On a theological level I am concerned because one of the things that Scripture tells us is that when we are saved through Christ we become one body, brothers and sisters in God’s family. However, when Christians begin to judge and deride a fellow believer, as some of my classmates have done to Bell, based on second-hand opinions and conjecture they betray the unity of Christ. They have turned upon a fellow sibling. While there might be reason to correct some of Bell’s assertions and challenge his point of view, this should always be done out of a sense of humility and love for our brother or sister in Christ.
On an intellectual level I am worried because of how illogical this posture of willful ignorance is. One of the great criticisms of Christian faith is just how unreasonable and unintelligent it is as a tradition. By refusing to intelligently engage with those with whom we disagree we simply add more ammunition to this charge. Furthermore, there is something to be said for being teachable and open to learning new ideas or refining old ones. When we choose to avoid ideas or arguments that we might disagree with, we close ourselves off to this possibility. I have found that it is when I am most challenged that I have found true reasons for faith. In addition, these moments of disagreement have often been the doorway to true evangelism with those who have intellectual problems or objections to faith.
Finally, on a pastoral level, this doctrine of ignorance hobbles the growth of our congregations. When we model an attitude of narrow-mindedness and fail to engage with the diverse religious and philosophical perspectives that are present in our world we do a disservice to those entrusted to our care. For those believers in the pews, we teach them that it is acceptable to have blind faith and fail to equip them for the real challenges to belief in God which they encounter beyond the walls of our church buildings. To the unconvinced we fail to minister to their deepest questions and objections to faith because we have shut the door to open conversation. We also present a picture of the “mature” Christian as a person who ignores, attacks, or shuts down those with whom he or she disagrees. Such a picture hardly points to the image of Christ, who was never afraid to engage, relate to, speak with, and even debate those with whom he disagreed. May we live up to our calling as Christians by embracing challenges with faith, intelligence, and humility, for this brings glory to God.
So what did I think of “Love Wins”? I’m not going to tell you. Rather, I would encourage you to go out and read it for yourself. My hope is that you will engage with it critically, wrestle with it honestly, and walk away with a much deeper and more reflective faith than you had before. This is what it means to pursue discipleship of the mind and in doing so my hope is that you will overturn the doctrines of ignorance that continue to prevail in our world.