Thursday, March 3, 2011

Get Twitter, Bash Christians!

As a 21st century Christian, I just want to say how grateful I am for modern technology and all it does for us. Oh, how I love my iPhone! Just ask my wife. The other night we went out for dinner and when we got to the restaurant I realized I’d left my iPhone home on the charger. We joked about the trauma it was going to cause me, but it was no easy thing, you know. It was the first time we’ve been apart in over 20 months. Do you remember the first time you left your child in someone else’s care? Yeah, like that. I’m always plugged in, just a few moments away from checking email or reading or posting Facebook status updates. You name it, there’s a lot I can do with that iPhone, including getting myself a Twitter account and bashing other Christians with it, if I decide to.

Yes, we should be truly grateful, for about the time all the old ways we Christians had for bashing other Christians were getting stale and boring, along came Facebook and Twitter to take us to new heights. See, we’ve always been good at beating up our fellow believers, but let’s face it, the old technology, if you even want to call it that, didn’t make it very easy. If you had a pulpit you could attack people from it, but that excluded most folks. The rest of us had to resort to spreading gossip one person at a time, hoping others would join in and help us get the word out that someone had a suspect theological view or was slipping in some area of his walk with God. That, or we could write an open letter, I guess, but that could take weeks, months even, to effectively question another’s theology or character, and if you were a nobody they might not find out your views anyway. I mean, who cares about an open letter from, well, from Chuck Roberts, for instance?

Thankfully, those days are over, which made it so much easier for Justin Taylor last Saturday when he wanted to get the word out about Rob Bell’s new book being full of heresy. By the end of the day it was a top ten trending topic on Twitter. That just wouldn’t have been possible in the old days. Personally, I can’t understand why Rob Bell didn’t tweet something back at Justin Taylor (and all the other Christian leaders who soon jumped on the Taylor bandwagon) unless somehow in all this heresy Bell’s gotten himself mixed up in he’s gotten the goofy idea that Jesus doesn’t like that sort of thing.

By now I’m sure you see through my tongue-in-cheek portrayal of my gratitude for the technology that makes a mess like this possible. Really, I’ve just been sad about it since I first read of it on Sunday morning. Sad, because it’s no way to treat another person, Christian or non-Christian. Sad, because the news of it is everywhere—including the world to read about Christians bashing other Christians.

I want to be clear that, while I am no theologian, I do care about good theology. I believe it’s important to determine what’s true and to teach it, live by it. Theology affects every detail of our lives, so yes, it’s extremely important. I just believe love is even more important, more important than being right. I think Someone Else believed that, too.

Since what we believe about God matters so much, bad theology certainly needs to be confronted. But not in an unloving way. Not through Twitter. Try sending one of those old-fashioned letters first. You know, the old technology. If Rob Bell is teaching universalism, the idea that everyone gets into heaven, no matter what they believe or how they’ve lived, then I’ve got a problem with that. Is that what his new book is teaching? Who really knows? His book hasn’t been released yet. Justin Taylor just read a few advance chapters and rushed to his Twitter account to out Bell as a universalist. It reminds me of a time a man confronted me about a book I was taking an adult Sunday school class through, saying, “I’ve read the first chapter and the last chapter and skimmed the rest of the book and I don’t agree with a word that man says.” But at least that was said in a private conversation and not blasted to the world.

I want to be clear about another thing. I appreciate Justin Taylor and the Gospel Coalition. I appreciate Taylor’s leadership in putting together the ESV Study Bible, which I love. I am a frequent reader of the Gospel Coalition blog. I’m pretty certain I’m closer in my theology to Justin Taylor and the Gospel Coalition than to Rob Bell. Yet I am often troubled by what seems to be the arrogant mindset of so many in the Reformed movement. There’s so often an air of “we are the beacons of truth. Thank God for us, but it sure does get tiring dealing with all these theological midgets.”

Why is it that so many in Reformed circles seem so mean-spirited? I’m surprised by so many in the movement who write great tomes about Jesus and Paul and issues like forgiveness and yet feel free to say brutal things about another believer in a public forum. How does a good man like John Piper end up reTweeting the link to Justin Taylor’s blog on Saturday along with the words, “Farewell Rob Bell”?

Some apparently interpreted Piper’s words as meaning, “Rob Bell, you’re dead to me.” I think (I could be wrong) he was saying, “you’ve left the faith, so farewell, Rob Bell.” Interesting, because if I’m right it means Piper once considered Bell to be part of the faith, which, I would think, now leaves him open to criticism from others in the Reformed movement who considered Rob Bell to be gone from true Christianity a long time ago. The same way so many Reformers savaged Piper a few years ago for having the audacity to invite the likes of Rick Warren to speak at his conference. It also surprised me that Mark Driscoll joined the fray on Saturday. The same Mark Driscoll who once complained about the way John MacArthur took him to task in a magazine when he said he would have been willing to fly to Los Angeles at his own expense to hear MacArthur’s concerns privately. To be fair, Driscoll didn’t exactly bash Bell. But he did Tweet the link to Justin Taylor’s blog post with the words “Rob Bell Universalist?” That effectively helped spread the word to Driscoll’s many followers, giving them the opportunity to join the pile-on of Bell.

Again, do I think bad theology should be confronted? Yes! Quietly. With love as the guiding motive, not “being right.”

Still, it makes me long for the old days when we used to sit around the youth group bonfire and sing “and they’ll know we are Christians by our truth, by our truth, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our truth.”

Or was that “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”?


Dara Jones said...

well said, brother!

chris said...

Very good, Chuck. It's not important that I agree, but the fact that you're speaking the truth in love is.

Chuck Roberts said...

Thank you both for reading. I appreciate your encouraging words.

Hey, together we're figuring this writing thing out!