Monday, February 28, 2011

Rob Bell and the power of words

For starters, let me say that while I think it is unwarranted to judge a book by its cover (in this case Love Wins by Rob Bell) it is necessary and expected for leaders to speak against false doctrine.  Since I took a leap and blogged about all the goings on over Rob Bell's upcoming book I thought I would share some thoughtful commentary I read today on the issue. Something I didn't think through before posting previously is the power of words.  Whether those words come in the form of a question or a declarative statement, there is great power in words.

What troubles me is the idea that asking questions regarding doctrine points to heretical views.  Does asking a question make someone a heretic?  Well, no,  but that is not all that we have here.  With Bell we have a skilled speaker and writer putting forth a series of questions that carries implications...heretical implications.  While Bell doesn't say anything heretical as a declaration, the questions he asks and the order he asks them in is enough to lead someone easily to those conclusions.  There is no way of knowing what he actually believes regarding these doctrines without reading the book but that doesn't get him off the hook for being careless with words.  Compounding the problem is the fact that he is such a gifted speaker and it is unlikely that he was careless.  It is much more likely that it was deliberate.
The commentary I'm referring to comes from the blog of Kevin DeYoung.  Here is a small clip:
 "And he is saying something. Don’t think for a second the questions don’t communicate something. These are not “let’s explore together and see what the Bible says about these hard issues” kind of questions. Everyone agrees Bell is a remarkable communicator. He is not unaware of the effect of these three minutes. Words mean something and words do something. Whether the sentences end in question marks or not, these force of these sentences is to undermine—nay, to ridicule—the reality of eternal conscious punishment, the wrath of the God, and penal substitutionary atonement."
Click over and read the rest.  He asks some very good questions.

In conclusion, I don't think that asking questions can reveal if someone is a heretic but one should be very careful how they use words, questions or otherwise.  Especially if that person is in a position of leadership.  otherwise the example he sets is one of carelessness with words and purposeful provocation, neither of which should be emulated.

So for all those who booted me from their feed reader and blogroll or prayed and worried that I E-merged into a heretical superhighway, I apologize for being so quick to speak and not recognizing the power of words in my previous post.

1 comment:

  1. I watched the video and thought the same thing. It wasn't necessarily the questions he asks, but the tone in which he asks them. A sense of ridicule toward traditional, biblical, views of eternity is clear in his expression. Now, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it is possible that these are NOT the conclusions he comes to in the book, they are simply a strategy to pique people's interest in his book, but he certainly, at least, implies the answers to these questions in the tone he asks them. We'll have to wait and see I guess...


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