If you haven’t seen for yourself what has the Christian subculture all stirred up, watch this…
So Rob Bell’s upcoming book may or may not suggest that there’s no Hell. Or nobody is in Hell. Or they won’t be. Or not for long. We don’t know. The book comes out March 20 something. But his publisher (HarperOne) says that Rob is (among other things)… “arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.”
But this post isn’t about Rob Bell… or Hell. To the point then.
Culture shifts. It swings like a pendulum. I often find myself looking at the pendulum of cultural ideology with a mix of fascination for the psychology of it all (like watching people you don’t know in the airport) and concern for souls (like watching a family member get on a plane to fly somewhere far away… maybe for a long time). I carry a mix of modern-age cultural realism and heart-ache-inducing care for souls. Always there. Watching culture swing.
Watching Rob Bell, whom this post isn’t about, I was reminded again… and then again by the Twitter explosion last Saturday… and again and again by a dozen and a half bloggers in rapid response…
One thing this current parabolic shift in Christian evangelical sub-culture has embraced that we can be sure of is… we can’t be sure of anything.
I don’t mean to use hyperbole. We might embrace mystery. Wonder. We might say we just seek Jesus. Or we want to live like Him. But we don’t really want anyone to tell us what that means.
Relevant Magazine (giving voice to the twenty-something generation at the intersection of Christian faith and real life) just published their list of “50 ideas that changed everything.” Number 19? Yep. “Nothing says FAITH like DOUBT.” Then they sucker-punched me in my email inbox with this excellent article about “Why Doubt isn’t a Dirty Word.”
One of the many blogs that was sent to me on the whole “Hell” debate, which this post isn’t about, was from thirty-something faith-life observer and Christian sub-culture Pocket-Guide author Jason Boyett, whose latest book is titled “O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling.” (Which, by the way, I think you should buy for the cover art alone. Genius.)
In the Christian realm of conversation “relativism” is frowned upon, even by those of us who have grown up steeped in post-millennial stew. We know enough to reject “relative truth.” Right? I mean… right? I think the postmillennial babies that are now emerging (some pun intended) in the life of the Church as young adults believe that there are some things that are just unshakably true… if they are pressed. But we aren’t supposed to press, as far as I can tell.
The truth is, doubt is cool right now.
In fact, doubt is seen as a sign of true humility, honest faith, open-mindedness, reasonableness, approachability. Questions are hip. The guy this post isn’t focusing on asked 25 of them in his two and a half minute video above. But that’s OK. Questions make people think. It’s just that while questions foster exploration of the possibilities, clear statements made with conviction don’t leave that kind of creative space. Conviction communicates faith in absolutes. And absolutes are exclusive because they rule out other options. And if you’re reading this right now, and that leaves a bad taste in your mouth… exclusive, absolute, clear-cut conviction… I’m asking the question today: why is that?
Somehow, conviction has become equated with haughty self-righteousness and narrow-minded mean-spiritedness, pride, vulgar stubborn offensive… conviction is a lesser value.
My heart breaks.
Who will write the book, “My Faith is Strong, and I Know in Whom I Believe”? What has happened to the William Wallaces, crying “FREEDOM!” against the odds? Is it no longer admirable to take a stand for a belief, or is it only admirable to take a stand for somebody else? I know, that’s a false dichotomy. But it has some teeth.
I think the next generation Church would readily embrace the poor and broken and marginalized in our communities – take a stand for LOVE – and that is commendable. New passion to be Jesus-with-skin-on in a way our parents often weren’t. In a way I haven’t been. God bless those who LOVE in Jesus name.
But will this generation also take a stand for TRUTH? Is it admirable anymore to hold to ideals even when those ideals may be unpopular, or uncomfortable?
If someone you love is on a self-destructive path, what is the most loving thing to do? Comfort does not equal compassion. the Bible isn’t clear about everything. But many, many things are ringing with clarity and urgency. There is a life and death reality that follows every soul, every heartbeat. Even among the hostile and the apathetic.
Church! For Christ’s sake – decide what you believe! Stand for it. Live it out. Doubt is acceptable as a process – a pathway to further understanding. But I don’t believe it is a virtue as a perpetual excuse to substitute personal experience for higher ideals.
Doubt may be the new faith, but I have greater respect for those who can humbly, respectfully, but unflinchingly demonstrate that they believe something to their core, and they are willing to rise or fall on that conviction.
Now to the passionate, to the men and women of conviction, the the truth-tellers and safeguards of Biblical inerrancy… please love people. It is rare to see someone stand for the Word with an iron will and the patience to engage in respectful discussion. We have a responsibility to be Christ-like, which is impossible. So I ask the Holy Spirit to keep shaping me, that I can be a man of great conviction and great humility.
There is this huge part of me that wants to tell you what I think about Rob Bell. I know his book isn’t even out yet. Certainly the world will be in a better place to have that discussion freely after four hundred bazillion of us buy his book on March twenty something. Congratulations HarperOne. There’s this part of me that wants to talk about hell – about the hundreds of references to this place of darkness and pain and fire spoken of in plain language in the Bible from cover to cover – and laced through Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom like a stubborn thread… making people uncomfortable.
But this post isn’t about Rob Bell… or Hell.
It’s about the value of CONVICTION. And the necessity of HUMILITY.
UPDATE: A reader reminded me of the connection to another post that touches on the topic of speaking with conviction. If you’re curious, and you want a good laugh, check out this VIDEO and a few thoughts that follow… >> i believe, like, you know? :: in defense of the declarative voice
“this post isn’t about rob bell… or hell :: conviction and humility” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.