Recently, Rob Bell has been in the controversial spotlight for many bloggers regarding the degree of doctrinal validity found in his upcoming book entitled “Love Wins”. As you may know, his commentary on the sharply divisive topic of heaven and hell has ignited a fire within conservative, Evangelical factions. Although I haven’t been privy to his newest text, I can provide great assurance that, from having read Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, while Bell conveys a message that is certainly radical, he provides answers (albeit provocative) to the very questions that we (in conservative denominations) fail to ask ourselves.
It’s dangerous when we stop asking questions.
I can recall so vividly the first time I picked up and scanned through Shane Claiborne’s “Jesus for President”. My immediate reaction, of course, was one of shock and awe. As I perused through the very colorful, illustrated, graphic pages, it literally jumped out at me. However, after taking a second look, I began to, not necessarily question my patriotism or my devotion to country or state, but to question my utmost devotion to Christ and my fulfillment of the duties that He has so lovingly laid before me.
It was then that I started asking questions.
For most students, the college experience is generally characterized as a period of unprecedented growth and maturity. As minds are expanded to retain knowledge that once seemed foreign or distant, those minds are equally as expansive when encountering the spiritual realm. That is to say, the spiritual and mental aren’t that disconnected.
However, as Christians, we subscribe to the notion that there is a supreme difference in “knowing” who God is and “believing” in God’s Divinity. But, what happens internally when questions about “knowing” who God actually is affects the ability for our brain to make way for faith and “believing” in God in our intangible soul?
There, inevitably, lies a meltdown.
See, inasmuch as I may disagree with the doctrine that writers like Bell and Claiborne repudiate, their method of deconstruction of ideas kin to American exceptionalism and spiritual grandiosity should be looked upon favorably. I mean, what happens when the discourse turns cold and church members are no longer engaging the culture? Note: I did say that Christians should engage culture, and not the other way around.
But, seriously, what happens?
I believe that when we become so saturated in the mindset of carrying out empty traditions and rituals simply because that’s “always how it’s been done” we essentially engage the flesh. We physically go through the motions because we want to appear favorably in the eyes of organized authority, rather than desiring to fulfill what Christ has commanded us to do.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Bible is explicit that things like storehouse tithing, communion, and even responding appropriately to authority are ordained by God. Furthermore, when Jesus says that He is “The only way to the Father”, there is no alternative. God, by His Divine, holy nature cannot accept adherence to any other god or prophet; JESUS IS THE WAY.
But, in all of this, when we are called to be “transformed” and not “conformed”, how do we not find ourselves wrestling with what’s presented to us? I mean, in our natural state we don’t even have to attempt to conform; sin is our very nature. And so, if we are to be “transformed”, then it must require a daily shedding of that conformation. We must be able to discern the world in its depravity, God in His righteousness, and how we are to respond with grace and truth (simultaneously) to every evidence of depravity and righteousness.
Why is it that we’re so eager to conform to a preset standard than we are to discover the standard set before us by God?
We must remember that adherence to sound doctrine is one of our utmost callings, and that doctrine that advocates a spiritual, cultural fusion (or rather, confusion) must be cast aside and labeled as false.
However, if the doctrine is sound, but the widows and orphans are neither clothed nor housed, is that really what we want? Our security? Our indifference? Do we really want to relish in our accomplishments when so much of the world lives on less than one US dollar/day? I sure do hope not.
So, my challenge to you as readers, as discerners, and as partners in sharing this wonderful gospel, is to actively engage your faith. That’s not to say that we should support nor encourage false doctrine, but that we should participate in belief expansion; we should be so certain in our beliefs that we’re able to act on them in full confidence that the Lord is shining upon us.