Thursday, February 26, 2015

Change Not

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of, picture by Julie Lyn
Proverbs 24:21-22 (KJV)  My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?

We said we were taking a brief hiatus.  And that's still true.  But later on Monday, there was an article that I just couldn't ignore or postpone commenting on.  Our chosen illustration is a broken cross.  We selected that because it's representative of what the article really shared, despite what it intended by its words.

The article was about some views expressed by Rob Bell, I know most of us have heard the name, but might not know more.  He was the pastor of  one of the Mars Hill  megachurches.  He no longer pastors or even attends a church.  The 21st Century apparently changed his theology.  In 2011, Bell wrote a book denouncing the Biblical view of Hell.  Shortly after the book came out, he resigned from his pastorate.  But it's his more recent conversion to supporting gay marriage that got my attention.  Let's look at part of the article.

"One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness," Bell said. "Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It's central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with."

Bell notes that Christianity is evolving and that many Christians have already opened their hearts to the idea that two people of the same sex would choose to journey together.

The italicized passage is directly from Carol Kuravilla's article in the Huffington Post.  The quote from him is absolutely right.  Our need for God gives us that need for relationship, no matter what our views or sexual orientation may be.  And the Bible says so.  But the Bible also says that some forms of behavior come out of our Old Sin Nature subverting what should be a Godly response.

Just because some of us respond to that need for fellowship in different ways doesn't mean that all responses are right in God's eyes.  But Bell suggests that Christianity is changing in its views on homosexuality.  He further adds that churches that don't accept homosexual marriage are irrelevant. Ms. Kuravilla quotes him further:

"I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,"

In other words, if we know and love homosexuals, we're supposed to condone their sin.  That's a scary thought.  Would he say the same about murder?  Or adultery?  Or theft?  In a different article, he clarifies a bit with “This is a justice issue,” Bell said. “We believe people should not be denied the right to have someone to journey with.”.  He ignores several important issues with that one.  First that marriage is defined by the Bible.  So, if the gay community was really (as was so often stated) interested in legalities, such as a long time partner determining decisions for another partner about life support or hospice care, they could have battled for a different term for that relationship instead of redefining marriage.  Second, no one is denied the right to choose who they journey with or how. That doesn't mean the rest of us have to condone sin.

Bell sites the lack of modern relevance of "letters from 2,000 years ago", obviously ignoring the Old Testament.  Pastors as diverse as Rick Warren and Dr. R. C. Sproul have come out against Bell's rejection of the Word.  So, how about this one:

Malachi 3:6 (KJV)  For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Our understanding of God comes from the very document Bell wants to ignore.  And it says that God doesn't change.  In Malachi, it highlights that God doesn't destroy us immediately because of our sin.  And the reason He doesn't destroy us is because of His love.  The reason some go to eternal destruction isn't by God's will, but by our own decisions to live separate from God.  Our free will takes us there.  Or not.  But that depends on what we choose.  The fact that God's justice is mediated by His love is something we understand by the very documents Bell rejects.

The reality is that God is the standard.  And the Bible is our way of getting to understand that standard.  If we reject Scripture, it's not just silly and stupid, it's dangerous to our spiritual health. One of the foundations of Christianity is that the Bible is inspired by God and our source of understanding Him.  Reject that and we reject Christianity.  Which makes Rob Bell's stance little more than a slippery slope in the wrong direction.  Reject God's thoughts, endorse sin, reject God. A downward spiral repeated over and over again, to an ever increasing degree.

It's easy to get angry at Rob and Kristen Bell for the heresy they teach.  But God's love is so great that He'd prefer none perish.  We need to be like Him -- hate the sin, while still loving the sinner. God is omniscient, so He knows when there's no hope of repentance.  But we don't.  So, to be Christ like, we need to love and pray for people like the Bells, while rejecting their sin.

1 John 4:19-21 (KJV)  We love him, because he first loved us.  If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?  And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Love, pray, guide, then let God do the rest.  Amen?


  1. When you remove hell from the equation you remove the sin consequence, therefore anything goes. So sad that he has traveled so far away, yet there is always hope. As you said we pray and leave the rest up to God.

    I'm with Christ!

  2. To be fair, Rob Bell did not write a book denouncing hell. His book "Love Wins" questions how we think about hell and the concept of hell discussed in the book has a long history of discussion within orthodox Christian theology. Even saying that, the book was more questions than answers, and was designed to make people think rather than provide hard and fast answers to the questions raised.

    As to his discussion of gay marriage, the quote raised above is nothing new from Rob Bell, although in this case it is stripped of much of the context which, in the past, has given it meaning. Bell has often criticized the willingness of Christians to abuse scripture as a way to hide from others by creating a wall, rather than actually building relationships with flesh-and-blood human beings. And it happens in a number of settings: rather than being willing to connect with and engage other people, we spout quotations that deconstruct men and women into ideologies that we can remain emotionally and spiritually detached from.

    I'm not sure the full discussion of the quote raised above, but in raising similar concerns in the past, that has often been his stance.

    It is easy to demonize people that are willing to think about things in ways that make us uncomfortable. Personally, I think Rob Bell is vibrantly pursuing spiritual vitality through looking both at how scripture speaks and what that means for our current context. He raises difficult questions, but so far I have not seen anything from Bell that is outside the scope of Christian orthodoxy, and certainly nothing worth decrying as heresy.

    1. The fairness is in the fact that it's from an interview he did with Oprah previous to this and the other article quoting from the same interview. If the quotes were out of context or inaccurate, there's no record of Bell saying he was in any way misquoted or his statements were taken out of context, either in the original interview or the quotes used from it.

      From everything I've seen of Rob Bell's public statements about hell, I'd say that the only difference between questioning and denouncing hell, in his case, is semantic.