The release of Rob Bell's book Love Wins has become an event. Maybe even an Advent. The conversation has touched a nerve in USA and the twittersphere has been twitching with pithy tweets and retweets for over a week.
"Farewell Rob Bell" has probably become the most famous Christian tweet of all time, even though no one really knows what John Piper meant by it. T-shirts will be made. Bumper stickers. The Farewell Rob Bell Bible?
It reminds me of 2004, when it was Don Carson and Brian McLaren. Carson's tapes on the emerging church excited the blogosphere into a frenzy of activity. At the outbreak of that controversy, I found myself heavily involved in defending the emerging church and standing up to critics.
Who had the skinny BACK THEN????
During that time, I stumbled on a guy who I thought had something to say that would add clarity and balance to the kerfuffel. His name was Scot McKnight. And I was right . . . Scot had the skinny and his thoughts were crucial to understanding the argument and finding some sense in it.
Now its 2011. Rob Bell is in the hot seat and Al Mohler about to take the first shot. At Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler and his guests will host a panel discussion this week just to deal with the Love Wins book.
If I had to point to a single blogger who I think could add some clarity and understanding to this conversation on hell, who would it be?
Who has the skinny on this conversation NOW?
I dont think Al Mohler has the skinny. For all his talk on the doctrine of hell under attack by liberalism, universalism, wimpy catholicism, and seeker-sensitivism, there is very little appeal to the Scriptures themselves which is where this debate should be centered.
I am not convinced Rob Bell has the skinny. And if he has, he is not talking.
I don't think Al Mohler's panel-buddies have the skinny either.
Justin Taylor has leveraged the whole conversation with a single blog post, which is really impressive, but I feel his compulsion to label Rob Bell a universalist will prevent some good study of the Scriptures.
Russell Moore has treated the emerging church as more of a cultural taste ("black turtlenecks and gottees") and less of a rigorous resourcing of Scriptural and historical evidence. But he seems quite open to learn and he might turn out to have something to say. But not the skinny.
Denny Burk does not seem aware of the nuances of the hell conversation. In his imagined banter with Rob Bell, he does not differentiate between the terms "eternal life" and "heaven", just as he thoughtlessly blends "judgement" and "hell". If he did that with many emerging church leaders in the room, he would have a serious argument on his hands. And if he is anything like Kevin DeYoung, he probably treat all instances of hell in the New Testamant, including "Tartarus" "Hades" and "Gehenna", as pointing to a single spacial reality in which all unbelievers will be punished forever. I dont think he is very familiar with this conversation or he would not ignore the nuances so easily.
I can think of someone, but I need to say that although this blogger's view of hell, judgement, heaven, and the Kingdom of God is heavily influenced by NT Wright and the New Perspective, as well as years of participation in the emerging church circles, he will not represent everyone and possibly not even Rob Bell. But he carries the conversation in a way that resonates with a lot of us and I am hoping he will be taken seriously.
I think Andrew Perriman has the skinny and is the blogger to watch this week.
You might have read Andrew Perriman on why he thinks Tim Keller gets hell wrong but the post to read is Kevin DeYoung, Rob Bell, and the argument about hell and even better, keep reading the comments where Peter Wilkinson adds some great push-back and good addtions to the thread.
When you are done, you will see his other recent posts on Justin Taylor, the emerging church and the new perspective, and theology in general. But start with the Kevin DeYoung post first, and expect some good thoughts during the week. And then . . . tell me if I was wrong about Andrew Perriman having the skinny.
Previously on TSK: Before you read Love Wins