This really isn't about Rob Bell and his orthodoxy. I simply don't care if he believes in hell, that hell will be full, or that hell will be empty. Seriously don't give a shit. I don't attend his church, buy his books, watch his NOOMA videos, and I don't live in the frozen north, nor would I. What fascinates me about this process, though, is the way communication works in the "body of Christ," which, if I were to pull up an appropriate analogy, resembles the body of Osiris after Set completed the dismemberment and burial of the parts around Egypt. Oh, beloved, there are so many layers to that metaphor...sorry, I felt like Spurgeon there for a second.
For those of you who don't follow Christian MSM, all of the realm is atwitter (ha!) with news of Bell's yet to be released book Love Wins. I wrote a previous post at the request of friends, but I have no intention of reading this book (unless someone gives me a free copy to review). In a brief promo video, Bell makes some provocative statements about what Christians believe about atonement, hell, and God's character. I'm all about taxonomies these days, so let me explain the fracas via categories of evangelical importance.
Well-known Calvinist blogger Justin Taylor was able to assess Bell's universalism (for the non-theists out there, that means everyone gets saved, even if they don't want to) simply by watching the video. He blogged about it, and set the douchey side of the Reformed blogosphere on fire (ha!). Bloggers, including myself, are the lowest form of writing life on the internet. We're merely narcissists or bitter or lack love in our lives, so we pound away on keyboards for catharsis from our miserable lives. That's what I've been told. But the Is Rob Bell a Universalist question didn't remain in the blog world though.
The next category is Christian rockstar, and none other than John Piper, the hack who hangs on Calvin's ballsack (it's the only rhyme I could come up with...) and pens nonsense about Christian hedonism and God killing Jesus and how Calvinism really does make sense (unless you have a vagina or a brain, and the first is related to the overwhelming number of young men who like this shit), tweeted "Farewell Rob Bell." So, I thought, fuck it, if he likes rhymes, I can use them too. Maybe I don't have enough followers on twitter because I don't use rhyming couplets. Anyway, Piper also hadn't read the book, but he felt qualified to speak on Bell's farewell-ness, and I think it was related to Bell no longer being a Christian or orthodox, as if Calvinists are. There's a howler.
Finally, and we're skipping the category of hard working pastor (sorry, friends), we have Christian policy maker or prophit (that's a conflation of pundit and prophet, folks. I can spell, and if you use it, I get credit!). Al Mohler, the SBC luminary responsible for more shitty ethical deliberation than Norman Geisler and J.P. Moreland combined, compared Bell's promo video to a "theological striptease." Sigh. Bell never took his dong out, for the record. I watched the whole thing. Dong-free video. But I think Mohler was using a similar metaphor to the old C.S. Lewis one wherein a strip club is compared to young men sitting stage side while a steak dinner is unveiled. Yeah, I'm sure that's it, as I'm pretty sure most evangelical ethical thinking at the populist level has to pass the Lewis test.
Bell is provocative and smart. He also seems to genuinely care about getting at "the truth." He's also in a long line of Christian thinkers who have tried to do justice to the horns of the altar dilemma here: God's love and God's justice vis-a-vis last things. An Onion-style press release is probably in order in which the mouldering corpse of Origen is set to appear in a NOOMA video to quote from his Origen de Principiis. I dusted my copy off this morning and found this quote, which I think illustrates that Bell is in good company:
But in the meantime, both in those temporal worlds which are seen, as well in those eternal worlds which are invisible, all those beings are arranged, according to a regular plan, in the order and degree of their merits; so that some of them in the first, others in the second, some even in the last times, after having undergone heavier and severer punishments, endured for a lengthened period, and for many ages, so to speak, improved by this stern method of training, and restored at first by the instruction of the angels, and subsequently by the powers of a higher grade, and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal, having traveled through by a kind of training, every single office of the heavenly powers. From which, I think, this will appear to follow as an inference, that every rational nature may, in passing from one order to another, go through each to all, and advance from all to each, while made the subject of varying degrees of proficiency and failure according to its own actions and endeavors, put forth in the enjoyment of its power of freedom of will. de Principiis 2.6.3Silly Origen. The fallen angels can't be saved. Just ask John Piper and Al Mohler. A little theological context is warranted folks, and some historical context wouldn't hurt. Many called Origen a heretic for this view while completely ignoring the ways in which his Neoplatonism undermined Christian doctrines. See, I think the NOOMA video would be amazing if we could just get Origen to debate Piper, but perhaps God in his foreknowledge didn't plan for that. Alas.