The Rob Bell Fiasco: Why We Can’t Have This Conversation

This Rob Bell discussion on universalism is not a new conversation in the history of the church. This discussion has not only been going on for centuries in historic Christianity, it’s been going on within the academic halls of evangelical Christianity as well. The real question is, why such a big fuss? and why has this discussion polarized evangelicalism instead of carrying it further into the Kingdom – God’s Mission in the world?

I have always viewed the differences between Arminian evangelicals with a wider view of God’s mercy (someone like Clark Pinnock) and American Reformed evangelicals (someone like R C Sproul) as an issue of percentages (please read a dry tone of humor here). They believe basically the same things, the percentages are just different. In other words, R C Sproul sees God condemning about 97% of the world’s populations over its history. Clark Pinnock, I’d say would estimate it at about 3%. For me the latter provides more motivation for mission. But fundamentally they believe the same things (just different versions) in relation to hell, universalism, the exclusivity of Christ, and the post-mortem experience.

1.) They both believe in hell. They may disagree about the issue of whether hell is eternal torment versus annihilation, but both sides believe in hell. But let’s be clear that there has always been a legitimate theological discussion within historic Christianity over the nature of hell. In our current day, historic respected Christian pastors/leaders/theologians including evangelical icons like John Stott, Alasdair McGrath, C S Lewis among others have dared to assent to some version of annihilationism in regard to hell. Last I heard, they are still accepted within the family for evangelicals. As for my own life, I choose to avoid either option :) .

2.) They are both exclusivists. Both sides unequivocally say Jesus is the only way! But to say Jesus is the only way does not define what that way looks like, right? In the European medieval period of the church, including the Reformed/Lutheran churches you did not make “a decision.” The singular decision of faith was an American innovation (I would say a good one since I’m an Arminian :) ).  In Medieval Europe faith in Christ looked differently. You were basically born a Christian, baptized as an infant and you were saved through a life of faith/discipleship in the church that centered around the Eucharist and liturgy. As opposed to the individualist cognitive receiving of forgiveness and renewal of the Spirit by a person’s individual personal faith, they received it regularly through the proclamation of the Word and receiving the Eucharist by faith. But everyone still believed in Christ as the exclusive way through faith.

Granted, there has always been a disagreement over whether those outside the church can receive faith in other ways that acquire the merits of Christ’s work for their lives. In this regard we evangelicals are the liberals because we believe a simple decision regardless of one’s communal practices initiate one into restored relationship with God in Christ. But there’s legitimate room for debate as to whether the Holy Spirit is working for all men and women’s salvation outside the church (even in other faiths?). But even for the most liberal inclusivist – he/she still maintains that Jesus Christ is the only way. And even for the most conservative exclusivist, most of us agree God is at work outside the church in non-believers bringing them to Himself.

3.) They Both Believe in Some Form of a Post-Mortem Experience. The idea of a postmortem (after death) opportunity to return to God has always been within the Christian conversation. At one time the post-mortem experience was Christian orthodoxy as Catholicism generally accepted the doctrine of purgatory. Does anyone remember Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the greatest apologetics for Christian discipleship yet? But of course in Dante’s Divine Comedy pergatory after death is all the more reason to get one’s life in order in the present time. And Dante certainly did not skimp on hell. Today, even the most Reformed evangelical believes in the “age of accountability” where a baby dies before having the opportunity to respond to the claims of Christ. Here there is a postmortem encounter with Christ, right? Others, like Pinnock, want to extend this version of postmortem to all those who never had that opportunity. Whichever the case it is, it seems to me both sides of this debate in some way have accepted a version of postmortem in some way.

Then Why Are We Splintering Over Rob Bell?

Yet for some reason, it seems, we cannot have this conversation as the church emerging from evangelicalism in America without calling each other heretics. Frank Turk, in a well written open letter to me, suggests that I take sides in this debate in my blog post here. Not really Frank. For in my piece you refer to, I blame Rob Bell for this inflammatory mess (along with his publisher) because of the excessive bating and provoking all in an obvious attempt to attract attention to his book. This is no way to pastor I say. This is no way to lead. (but it does sell books).  On the other hand, to be even handed, I blame people on the Neo-Reformed side as well, people like Kevin DeYoung. Sorry Kevin, I know you mean well but when you do a 20 page review that largely argues out of an incredibly narrow view of orthodoxy with little to no appreciation for history before the 1920′s,  it comes off as defensive and parochial. For both sides, the tactics reveal a lack of a place to engage this issue productively for the furtherance of the Kingdom beyond our own personal enclaves (or ambitions). And yet discussing this issue is essential in order to be shaped for a posture for Mission that has been lacking amongst the traditional evangelicals, the church I am part of and remain committed to.

Evangelicalism is Cracking!

There is one thing that Kevin DeYoung has said that I find searing and I applaud. I quote:

“As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism. The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors”

As I said previously, and as I have said in my new book The End of Evangelicalism?, evangelicalism is at a tipping point. We are cracking. The emergent conversation started by Brian McLaren et. al. has not produced theological leadership (it seems Love Wins is another case of this).  The herds of disenchanted evangelicals are left to either wander or head for the newer coalitions of the Neo-Reformed. Yet as I’ve said here, this isn’t going to take us into Mission. Based in the impulses in both of these movements, we need an alternative place for the work of theology and mission. Without it – it is questionable whether these much needed conversations can place. Without an alternative coalition (that can bring certain parts of these existing factions together into conversation with the Holiness, Anabaptist Missionals), the aftermath of traditional evangelicalism is going to devolve into defensiveness and fail to produce a missional movement. There’s some of us working toward that end (of nurturing an alternative theological coalition). In the meantime, this for me, is the lesson of the Rob Bell fiasco.

Tell me, where have I got this wrong.

Blessings

_______________

Note For Clarification: To be fair to Kevin DeYoung, he does give a brief historical treatment of the above issues in his blog post. This treatment of history however appears to be a blanket disregard of the diversity within historic Christianity (unless you consider all Catholicism for all its history to be outside Christian orthodoxy). He seems to ignore the diversity on these issues even within the well established trajectory of historic evangelicalism. Am I off or did this seem dismissive seeing history through the narrow lens of post-1920′s evangelicalism?

Posted in End of Evangelicalism?, Neo-Reformed, Rob Bell
42 comments on “The Rob Bell Fiasco: Why We Can’t Have This Conversation
  1. Amen and Amen bruddah!

  2. You all are welcome to join with Mennonites, as I did, who have always held to a third way between reformed and evangelical camps! We at least have a 500 year theological base which informs our praxis in the direction that Bell speaks to in his book.

  3. bryberg4 says:

    Excellent thoughts, David. It has been noted among those I've been in conversation with as well that there seems to be endless debate and discussion, which perhaps takes away from the energy and impetus for living out the mission of the kingdom. Important issues are being discussed – but as you clearly noted – are people really that far away from each other? Are we gaining anything by trying to distances ourselves from those who think just a bit differently than we do (but agree on the core elements)?

    Thanks for the push to keep us living out the hard edges of the gospel in a broken world, which is where following Jesus should lead us.

  4. Incredible clarity in the conversation – thanks David! You were able to outline what my thoughts are without resorting to name calling. I like it, continue. :-)

  5. Ryan Bell says:

    We in the Adventist camp are also surprised at this. We have, since our founding, held to essentially Clark Pinnock’s view (and others, as you’ve said). I plan to read the book on my flight today. Hopefully something good can come of this but I’ve personally been hesitant to contribute to the media frenzy.

  6. jpaparone says:

    This is great, and I'll certainly be sharing it. I would love if you could flesh out (or point somewhere that does) what you mean when you say the emergent conversation has not produced theological leadership. In terms of "an alternative place for the work of theology and mission" – do you see the new monastics playing a role? Thanks!

  7. Zach Hoag says:

    First off, congrats on the Open Letter. Second off, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of DeYoung's review but want to nuance the statement you quoted at the end. Namely, Kevin's well-branded, "Why We're Not Emergent" opinion that there are really only two camps in the entire Christian world – either disenfranchised evangelical young bucks who are sliding down the slope to liberalism (lubricated by Bell and McClaren, mainly) OR unvarnished orthodoxy, give it to me straight, in your face preaching, New Reformed young bucks who are holding it down for Jesus and Scripture – is completely inaccurate. And that's because there is a "growing number" of us younger evangelicals who are listening to you, Scot McKnight, NT Wright, and a host of missional practitioners on what it means to be faithful and orthodox in the middle of post-Christendom shiftings. And so your conclusion – that we need a new coalition – is not only true but vital, and, I would add, urgent. I and my missional community of communities, for one, are ready to sign up. The apparent dichotomy is fading; the crack in evangelicalism is letting light in from another place; and I think it's time to name it and move forward. At any rate bro, let me know how we can become a part of this. We are ready.

  8. roy says:

    Great post! I agree with the comment on the publisher and the way the book has been promoted. C'mon! Really?!? Really, Rob Bell?! I like Rob and his teaching. I lean towards some of his views…

    Last night in our pastoral theology class, we were talking about the lost art of pastoral leadership. Most mentioned how churches want more of a CEO type leader. Most felt a call to return to the sacredness and art of pastoral ministry. I bring this up because you mention that the emergent voice hasn't produced leaders. I feel that.

    Most young leaders are feeling like there is no more need for leadership or authority; like those are bad words or something. But when I read Eugene Peterson or Henri Nouwen or Gregory the Great, I'm inspired to be the type of pastors they are/were. They were artists in their call. They inspire me towards leadership.

  9. Jim says:

    Yeah Zach. Missional church and, say, New Perspective/missional theologies need each other. As it pertains to practice, the missional church has challenged traditional patterns of church life and has set out new, innovative, down-to-earth and incarnational ways of being church. With regard to theory the New Perspective and other missional theologians have challenged the traditional rationalized presentation of evangelical beliefs. The two, now, need each other.

    I think we are just barely beginning to grasp the revolutionary and re-invigorating implications of the shift in outlook for teaching and formation in missional church communities that can come from grassroots engagement/conversation with said coalition; another place to do theology. The missional movement is ready for this. 

  10. Keith Meyer says:

    David! My old roommate from Wheaton days!….YOU NAILED IT!!! And I agree, the whole book push has a sensationalism to it. But the big difference remains…How many of his creatures does God ultimately keep as his own, and what does that have to look like.

    Is God “good” with creating people only to destroy most of them for a very small family (and of course then you need a very narrow salvation door to do that). Or is God “so good” that he creates not to destroy but to have a big family and salvation has to do with something as simple as Hebrews 11:6. You get what you want…not earn…but desire…does your heart’s basic desire (as sinfully twisted as that can be) match up with God’s dream for his creation.

    Faith that pleases God is the kind “that believes he exists and rewards those who seek him.” (this is not about theism or atheism – atheism a modern thing)

    it is practically a paraphrase of Romans 2:7-11…what do you ultimately seek? If you seek God and the world he wants…you get HIM and it…not as a “work” of your own, but as a gift – you are rewarded with what you desire – God himself and everyone else with Him…even those who will be surprised and I think… a bit humbled by HIS BIG HEART.

  11. David Fitch says:

    If anybody's comment hasn't made it to the blog I apologize. I'll have it fixed and it will appear tonite! I think I need to remove this intense debate format. It screws up the comments. Sorry for inconvenience and frustration.

  12. Tim says:

    Excellent post, a lot of wisdom here.

    Lol at the RC Sproul 97%. Then I cried when I realized you weren't really kidding.

    I think the comments on DeYoung are fair. I read through it and addition to it being defensive, I thought it was unfair to what Rob is actually saying/doing. Similar to Velvet Elvis, among the helpful points that Rob makes, perhaps the greatest virtue of a Rob Bell book that so many people read it and this allows for a lot of reference and conversation. With him jumping from talkshow to talkshow, I for one, am grateful that it's him and not another Osteen type.

    Agree also with this is part of the evangelical tipping point. Adding your book to the never-ending book list – congrats, I look forward to it.

  13. steve taylor says:

    David, Good post. I do agree that Mclaren and Bell are poets. Great at describing, but poets don't always make thought leaders.

    However I'd want to gently push back on your notion of "an alternative theological coalition" – perhaps you are using theology differently, but I'd want to push for a movement led by missiologists, not theologians. Mission is the queen of all sciences! and so much of our theology is embedded in Christendom habits – individual, intellectual etc. OK, a few caricatures I admit

    So I'm up for a "an alternative misisological coalition" but ambivalent about a "an alternative theological coalition"

    steve

    • On the point of a new kind of coalition, what you’re suggesting sounded really good on first reading, Steve. But as I thought it over, I think perhaps some push-back is needed on your push back. I wonder if we're not thinking quite radical enough about a new kind of coalition. Sincere as I believe you are in wanting change, isn't suggesting that the answer can be found by having the missiologists in charge still using the same old mental framework of “either/or” … only we are now to select the other polar-opposite alternative of missiology — queen of all sciences — instead of theology?

      Good heavens, can't we get away from the monarchy of this-or-that stuff, and away from the idea of theo-missio-ology as “science,” and find something far more interdisciplinary and intercultural? How about a coalition alternative that is even more representative of the Church as the full Body of Christ, instead of only a singular perspective "leading"?

      For instance, how about a cluster leadership group composed of some participants with more of a theological/theoretician bias, others who are catalysts, some who are practitioners (pastoral, missional, relational, spiritual warfare), others who are mystics — each with a vastly different integration style because of their epistemology? Or — more shockingly and seeming far less likely — coalesce representatives from different movements and theological perspectives — as long as they are all committed to searching for biblical truth AND covenanted to continue together in the process: conservative, evangelical, emerging, missional, progressive, liberal, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Charismatic, Pentecostal, etc. Put 'em all in a virtual or IRL room and let them learn together how to work out a multi-perspective SYSTEMS theology that touches on all things in an interconnected way that is clear where it should be, creative where it could be, communal where we must be, and conundrum where necessary? If they can’t do it, anything even larger is sure to fail based on their model.

      Anyway, I just have to think that building an “alternative coalition” with missiology (or theology, or confessionalism, or any other One Perspective Trumps All Others) as the pre-determined integration point will beget nothing new, nothing contextual, and ultimately, nothing that stretches us toward the Kingdom-oriented Church in the post-Christendom era. If the world really is undergoing a significant paradigm shift at the level of epistemology, values, and worldview, then can we find a new and different structure to reflect the new realities but still live within the old, old story? If we’re going to think out of the box, we simply cannot use the same epistemology of “either/or” that got us into this box … even if it’s the missiologists who lead us.

  14. David Fitch says:

    Steve, I agree with your sentiment, but of course leading the church missiologically has its own set of problems … so let's us converse more on this … Your assertion is a good one … Blessings!

  15. Nithin says:

    thanks for this. I adamentally agree that we need a third approach to all this. Beyond emergent and neo-reformed. Back to the way of Jesus. Hopefully we can be a part of that forge that third way!

  16. steve taylor says:

    Brad, I appreciate the pushback but I'm standing firm. The primacy of missio Dei is surely a nonnegotiable.
    I'd like to explore how the "alternative" could be a equal table that lives out of missio Dei.

    And I'd want to spend some time unpacking "ologists" because I am not assuming that the needed wisdom will come from professionals. So we need tables at which ordinary folk can share alongside the "ologists." But I want to keep waving the flag for the missio, not the theo

    steve

    • Steve, a couple thots: You Kiwis and Ossies are at least a decade to a whole generation ahead of us Americans in dealing with post-modern culture and the results of postmodern philosophy. We should listen closely to you as our elders in this.

      A more equal-access table so the forum is more populist than oligarchist? Truly, that does sound refreshing. These days, I think I "get it" more about why Arthur commissioned The Round Table.

      And as to the "primacy of missio Dei [as] surely a nonnegotiable," well I'd say both yes and no. Yes, if we're not about what God is about, we're just narcissists in orbit: there's lots of activity, and yet we go nowhere. And no, because which "missio Dei" is the truly most comprehensive and integrated theologically, and the most communal and integrative for methodology?

      Which is why I appreciate your wisdom in expecting to spend time up front unpacking all the "ologies" and "ologists". Not all things that sound "missional" are missional. For instance, the Seven Mountains movement uses a lot of vocabulary that makes it appear very missional – regaining influence in the domains of culture, promoting the Kingdom of God – and yet it is actually about recolonizing the world and it refers far more heavily on Old Testament scriptures, basically turning the Church into a new Israel; making the Church the head of the world instead of sojourner servants in the world.

      Okay, I could go on, but have just one last thought. Could you, like, please host this coalition in New Zealand, and perhaps have a session that coincides with the premiere of *The Hobbit-Part 1 or 2*? If I've gotta save my dollars for a decade or less to get there, I for sure want to be the best steward of funds possible!

      • steve taylor says:

        Ok Brad, this is really helpful and I suspect shows my naiety in presuming to speak in what is a North American blog/context. When I use missio I am thinking global mission wisdom, learning from church in Azerbijan in 14th century and Celtic movements and indigenous responses to culture.

        But in US it perhaps is that missio has been captured by missional which has in part been captured by church growth. My apologies.

        My queen of sciences was also a bad eg – I was rifting of theology as claiming to be queen – but it played into monarchy images, which was unhelpful.

        My bad.

        Peace and prayers for you in the US as you have to try and be mission in the midst of "book wars"

        steve

        • thanks steve. i/we need peace and prayers. "books wars" sometimes make me not want to read another theologian the rest of my life. (but then, why am i blogging about it?) ahh … the follies of being fallen.

          and hey … are we on for a pre/post Hobbit event, even if only to go to the Green Dragon for a flagon?

  17. I believe Paul instructed Timothy to watch his theology closely. Bell is clearly outside of orthodoxy in his view of hell, and it is good leadership to say so as Kevin DeYoung did. Bell has once and for all exposed himself as a false teacher and is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sorry if I'm not cool or open minded enough to accept him as a fellow Christian. Paul wasn't exactly tolerant of false teaching in his day either.

  18. Mdizzle says:

    Wait, aren't you selling a book or two as well? Aren't you just riding his coat tails… Or some would say tzit-tzit.

  19. rootedradical says:

    The prospect of an "alternative" theological-missional coalition to provide a new direction for conversations and a re-newed leadership is tantalizing…I'm looking forward to participating!

  20. John teeling says:

    Why Are We Splintering Over Rob Bell?

    It's all about feeling safe in our heads. I wonder if some people get more security from the knowledge of their theology than from the knowledge of their Saviour, Jesus?

    • Knowledge of theology and knowledge of Jesus Christ are one and the same. We are to love God with our mind, heart, soul, and strength. These things can not be separated.

      • John Teeling says:

        Judy,

        From your statement above: I like value and appreciate your desire to guard the truth. By the way, my comment above is more from a desire to attack the gates of Hades than defend the gates of heaven. I love theology and I think theology is important but Jesus is essential. From your response to me above, I have a few questions that would help me understand your perspective: Is knowledge of theology and knowledge of Jesus Christ one and the same? How is it that an arminian evangelicals like Clark Pinnock and American Reformed evangelicals like R C Sproul do not have one and the same theology? Can men amd women have differing theologies yet be one in Christ?

        Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:37

        Is it possible for everyone in Christ to hear Jesus' voice and yet have differing or preferential theologies?

        Thanks for your comment and thanks for helping me understand your perspective. God bless you.

        John

    • Matt Morris says:

      Great comment John! So many close God up in little systematic theology boxes that become the building blocks of their faith…and any questions shake their foundations. But God is bigger and beyond our boxes.

      • John Teeling says:

        Thanks Matt, Above I wrote, "I wonder if some people get more security from the knowledge of their theology than from the knowledge of their Saviour, Jesus?" Let me admit that I was once 'some people' and some days I am someone who depends on what I know more than who I know, Jesus. I agree with you that God is bigger and beyond our boxes of fear and our boxes of control. Thanks again.

        "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."
        1 Corinthians 15:19

  21. By sheer coincidence, this is almost exactly what I said on my blog this morning.

    Except you said it better.

    Thanks for the kindred spirithood. It's nice to meet someone else who's not willing to jump on the reactionary bandwagon.

    (Is that another way of saying that we have a strong reaction to reactionism?)

  22. John Teeling says:

    David,
    I love your blog. You are bridge. Your personality and humor is well suited to being the third party perspective. I really like your God-given talent. I always look forward to seeing what you are up to next and it's always something good. Thanks! – John

  23. @joeljupp says:

    I appreciate your blog post. The internet has been filled with comments, but so far, I think that Bashir's (http://networkedblogs.com/fxXwm) and yours cut through the mix as a more creative response. The strength of this post is that it is honest enough to critique both sides, making this more both/and rather than either/or. My only concern is that maybe this deflates the differences too much (i.e., making them more similar than they really are), but I think the positive contributions of this post out weigh that. Is that a fair concern, or did I miss something?

  24. thomasdoane says:

    Yes: wow. Great post. Really. Your argument manages to be both really well-informed, sophisiticated, and empathetic. I wrote something similar to this tonight, venturing a bit earlier in history to identify the "split in percentages," although I'm afraid I may have come off a bit snarky, because I'm just feeling so exasperated. And yet: really, really invigorated. I am excited. I think its possible Rob Bell just kicked a door open and its not closing. Anyway, if anyone is interested in reading my post, check it out here: http://g0spel0fj0hn.com/2011/03/19/love-wins-by-r

    • I had a chance to skim your post (will return once my system is sufficiently caffeinated), but was immediately intrigued by the apt quotation from Paul Johnson in *A History of Christianity,* where he suggests that an ultimately positive dynamic tension is set up by the "coalition of views and spiritualities" coming from the rational optimist and the pessimist. That does make some sense in creating a constructive paradox between two movements within Christianity that have differing integration points. However, the fact of two factions seems to be yet another indicator of continued either/or thinking, and it seems the global paradigm in ascendancy is more both/and. Can a "new kind of coalition" be built on trying to glue the two back together? Or do we need a different kind of epistemology that doesn't cateer to the split in the first place – something more integrative and paradoxical, yet still with analysis and boundaries?

      So, meanwhile, since I'm deficient on sufficient church history to know, I'm wondering if there is one theologian and/or one coherent movement where that paradox of both human goodness and corruptibility has already been internalized and lived out in a consistent way? Seems to me that might make a better (or at least a different) model for holistic Christian faith and practice than the example being given us by the dance of the two factions – historically and contemporarily.

      Any clues would be appreciated … thanks …

  25. Chris Larson says:

    What is your source for putting words into RC Sproul's mouth about percentages?

  26. Dr. D … I keep coming back to a question about your overall perspective that I can't seem to find an answer on. What am I missing here – - have you answered this already, or if not, could you jot some notes sometime? Here it is:

    You've talked about a "third alternative" and a "new coalition" to bring together people who've been fragmenting off of The Existing Movements/Coalitions. By this third/new alternative/coalition, are you talking about:

    * Some new forum for conversation.
    * A newer selection of theological bits and pieces that creates an approach or systematic that is "in-between" the existing liberal-progressive/conservative-fundamental (and other) kinds of theological splits?
    * Defragging the entire system via a vastly different paradigm?

    Seems to me the first item is just about methodology, the second just about theology, and the third is about epistemology (and the third option automatically changes theological systems and methodological activities, but the others don't really change the paradigm).

    The more I think about the fragmentation and re-formation and re-formulation, I more I wonder whether what you and others calling for "new alternative/coalition" is still just shuffling around pieces to make Some New Configuration (of participants or theological planks) within the Same Old Convention of predominantly "either/or" epistemology. I get it about "new." I don't get it about what is making this a genuine "paradigm shift" and not just a "coalition and communication shift." If we're responding to the existing either-you're-progressive-or-you're-neo-reformed options, aren't we still just some new anti-thesis or synthesis in a Hegelian dialectic … which means we're still either/or, not some other system for gluing all the pieces together?

    Dunno … hope my question is clear. There's just been something amiss and hopefully this is getting closer to what bugs me about all this …

    Thanks, Dr. Fitch.

  27. Ben Stevens says:

    Any thoughts on an apophatic approach to the whole thing? Might be easier for everyone.
    http://www.hauntedbyparadise.com/2011/03/an-apoph

    Ben

  28. Amy Schenkel says:

    One thing I appreciate about the release of this book is that is has forced people in my congregation to think theologically about what they believe. It raises good questions that require serious, grounded, biblical, theological thinking.

    My biggest frustration, however, is how Reformed theology has been misrepresented in many of those conversation (most often on blog posts, written by people outside the Reformed tradition). I, too, am curious about the percentages you used. Maybe I missed something in seminary, but my understanding of the doctrine of election is more about putting the act of saving grace into God's hands (and out of ours), and less about how many people that includes. God could elect to save 97% of people, or 3%, the Bible doesn't really say clearly either way. The point to the theology is that we are saved only by God's grace- not by works, that no one should boast.

    Lets continue the discussion by asking good questions of other theological positions, rather than drawing up our own caricatures.

9 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Rob Bell Fiasco: Why We Can’t Have This Conversation"
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  2. [...] David Fitch has a good post on the debate about Rob Bell’s new book I blame Rob Bell for this inflammatory mess (along with his publisher) because of the excessive [...]

  3. [...] In the sea of twitter name-calling, gloating, and unbelievable self-certainty, I stumbled upon precious few perspectives that appealed for a more open approach.  Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw wrote about Rob and the concept of “salvific generosity” and “salvific stinginess” here.  Mathew Paul Turner insightfully appeals for unity here in a really honest post.  I loved Mason’s perspective of “when everyone’s a heretic, no one is” here.  And David Fitch talks about the end of Evangelicalism here. [...]

  4. [...] David Fitch on Rob Bell…with interesting hints at the possibilities of an “alternative” gospel coalition. [...]

  5. [...] Fitch’s post The Rob Bell Fiasco: Why We Can’t Have This Conversation. Regretfully, I resonate with the evangelical-divide idea. I’m also interested in reading [...]

  6. [...] one may think about Andrew Jones’s response to the early condemnations and Fitch’s own conjecture at this point. My friend David, for instance, was compelled to take another look at Hell and wrote [...]

  7. [...] that is if those of us in transition do a really good job of working out our theology, publicly. There have been calls for “an alternative place for the work of theology and mission,” and this latest tremor [...]

  8. [...] that is if those of us in transition do a really good job of working out our theology, publicly. There have been calls for “an alternative place for the work of theology and mission,” and this latest tremor [...]

  9. [...] talked about the need for something like the Missio Alliance to emerge. As he wrote in this post… As I said previously, and as I have said in my new book The End of Evangelicalism?, [...]

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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