On This Week's Rob Bell Flap
The Internet has been a-buzz this week about Rob Bell and gay marriage and "skirting the edge of heresy," and so forth — but I've been too dizzy to type anything at the computer.
If I'd been well, I would've said something, I'm sure. Not that it would have been worth much.
But, I'm finally getting around to typing something on my iPad.
A great deal has been written about the following off-the-cuff remark that Bell made in a Question and Answer session in an Episcopal Church. In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said,
I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.
I strongly suspect he has made similar statements before, but this time it was recorded and transcribed — so now people have reacted. Since he has come out with a new book, and is on a book tour, we have once again entered the silly season.
Everything he says is going to be over-analyzed, denounced, commended, and whatever.
Here is what I think: Rob Bell's opinion is Rob Bell's opinion. It need not be mine or yours — and I don't imagine he intends for it to necessarily be mine or yours. I am more than happy to hear his opinion. There are many other people whose opinion I listen to and respect. But, I don't always agree with them either.
I would not take Rob Bell's opinion as the last word on anything — and I don't recommend that you do either. I mean no disrespect.
Was Love Wins the last word on Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person That Ever Lived? No. And, it doesn't read like it was intended to be the last word. It reads like a book that is raising questions and concerns that we all need to consider. It reads like a book that is attempting to show the relevance of traditional Christian concepts to the contemporary world. It is clearly an exercise in stirring the pot. It is not an attempt to give us pat answers. In response to this, Francis Chan came out with a book that attempted to nail back down the pat answers — only to arrive at an answer that made even its author nauseous (but only when he thinks about it).
Is Bell's new book the last word on the doctrine of God? No — and, of course, not. And, it is not intended to be such. He is stirring the pot. He is trying to show the relevance of the concept of God for our contemporary postmodern world. He's trying (as a preacher once said) to say a good word for Jesus. If you want to have a better understanding of the concept of God, you need to do a lot more reading. Really, this should go without saying — but apparently it doesn’t. (See, for example, this review: What Rob Bell Talks About At the Areopagus by Derek Rishmawy.)
On the subject of gay marriage, I have already stated why I think perceptions are changing, and why I still find the Side B (other people say: traditional) case compelling, and the misgivings I have about the Side B view. I have posted videos that model Christian dialog and disagreement on this issue. And, I have indicated what I think people on opposite sides of the issue could agree upon. I don't see how anything that Rob Bell said (absolutely no disrespect intended) changes anything.
But, just for the record, folks: the secular legal case in favor of gay marriage is quite compelling. Since the courts are concerned with ensuring equal protection under the law, and since the issue — in that context — is why recognitions and rights and privileges given to committed heterosexual couples are denied to committed homosexual couples, fighting this looks to me like a losing battle. The conservative side would have to clearly demonstrate a compelling state interest in not extending those same rights to same gender couples. Thus far, no one has been able to do that.
You can like it or not, but the fact is that "the ship has sailed" and we are entering a new world. And, yes, we are going to have to meet people where they are — just as we have always had to.
There — I've already said more about this than I intended to!
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