Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bell and Lewis

Bell, being provocative
Something struck me today as I was lounging by the pool after a four-hour bike ride. (I mention the bike ride because the fatigue may have affected my clarity of thought.) In Love Wins, Rob Bell builds his apologetic (if that's what he's doing) as follows: "Hey, world, look at how silly and judgmental the church can be. You don't need to believe that.C.S. Lewis in contrast worked a different apologetic: "Hey, world, your views don't make nearly as much as sense as Christianity. You'd be wise to abandon disbelief." 

Lewis, speaking wisely
All of this as a result of a series of questions at Wednesday night class on Love Wins: "What's the difference between C. S. Lewis's and Rob Bell's take on heaven and hell?" Answer: in some ways not much. At least when Bell's at his best, he's leaning on Lewis. "Then why is Bell called a heretic and Lewis not?" Answer: Lewis is wiser and generally better at what he does. But even more, if Lewis was out to offend anyone, it was atheists. He didn't want to inflame divisions about Christian believers. Bell seems to be content with provoking overly conservative Christians. And that will definitely get you the "heresy" label.


Joseph said...

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 1Cor 5:12

While Lewis may have been making a case for Christianity by addressing those outside the fold, Bell is addressing those within the church & the misplaced emphasis of how the concept of heaven & of hell has been abused. I do believe Bell understands this truism: living out one’s religion will be directly proportional to how God is viewed. We will act toward others & the natural world according to how we perceive the God we claim to worship.

Just from the varied theological perspectives held by those in your Wednesday nite class I can detect a very obvious posturing determined by the theological conclusions of those holding them. Some hold their conclusions tightly to their chest as if any contrary idea a personal threat. Others have just as strong convictions, but do not insist theirs is the final word on the subject.

I do agree Bell’s PR approach preceding his book’s release was over-the-top. He does set himself up as a self-styled martyr when he paints the big red target on himself, smug in the resultant label of heretic, provocateur, pot-stirrer, controversy pitchman, carnival barker, etc. However, he did nothing outside of what a good strategist would utilize to garner maximum attention to his cause.

So, he has provoked those within the church. Amen. It is these very topics that actually force us to consider the type of deity behind the concepts being questioned. Such theological examination needs to be encouraged. And Bell has achieved this successfully whether or not the responses are knee-jerk or contemplative.

GCootsona said...

Joseph, I don't think these comments require a specific response (or rejoinder), but I will say I appreciate your boldness. Thanks!