Friday, March 18, 2011

My $.02 On A Controversial Book

I'm interested in this huge controversy taking place via the Internet about Rob Bell's (a pastor from Michigan) new book, Love Wins. It's a book that apparently poses radical questions about Christianity and where people will spend eternity.

Let me say straight up, this isn't a book review because I haven't read the book and honestly don't plan to either. There are a lot of new mysteries and Tori Spelling memoirs out there that need my attention. They're not going to read themselves, people.

I'm mostly interested by how this thing has gone viral--from being posted about on a theological news blog (which got something like 250,000 hits over one weekend about it) to CNN to the NY Times to the Washington Post to MSNBC.

Because of my media class, I find it worthy of noting on that front. When I click over to the Huffington Post for the daily Charlie Sheen news (yet another media ethics question) and see something about Rob Bell's book, I take a look.

I'm also interested as a Christian by the quotes I've read from Love Wins and what people, both supporters and critics, are saying about it. The following are a few quotes:

Liberals have striven to make the gospel relevant to “the cultured despisers” of religion. For liberals, the sensibilities of the age trump biblical revelation.

What the first Christians did was look around them and put the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand.

Ordinary believers are waiting for a new comprehensible interpretation of Christianity, which relate to the lives they're living right now.

Let's start by flinging religion into the melting pot and recasting our beliefs in a bold, creative, dynamic style that's thoroughly attuned to our day and age.

[The author] has been led to ask some radical questions about his question can be too radical....

Here's what's fascinating to me--the first two quotes above are about or from Love Wins. The other three quotes are about or from a book written close to 50 years ago called Honest to God by John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich. It caused every bit as big a controversy back in 1963 as this book is causing in 2011.

As usual, it seems like nothing is new. I love this quote from the debate back then surrounding Honest to God:

Where will the ravages end? The Devil and Hell went long ago; the position of the Blessed Virgin has been seriously undermined; God who until last week was invulnerable, is now distinctly on the defensive. What will ultimately be left except a belief in the need for bishops, if only to give evidence in trials about obscenity and to talk to pop singers on television?

Rob Bell's book is already #4 on the NY Times bestseller list this week, and I've seen some of my friends on facebook asking others, "Have you read this book? What do you think? Should I?"

What I'm really thankful for in all this is that my parents, teachers, and pastors have always encouraged me to not just accept what someone tells me about the Bible but to open it up and read it for myself.

I think just like the Honest to God debate melted away in the 1960s, the Love Wins controversy will melt away, too, though unfortunately, now just as then, it will take some people who don't read and understand for themselves away with it.

A minister who was asked where he stood on the Honest to God debate summed it up thusly:

"God is very much greater than a little book like Honest to God [or Love Wins]. Where do I stand? I stand beyond it. I think that beyond all the words lies the Word that dwarfs them all."

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Oh you are tricky, tricky! You had me on those quotes! Very nicely said, Alice. Being from the town from which this controvercy arises (I could bump into Bell in the grocery store!) it feels so... almost spooky! I can almost feel the spiritual warriors hovering above our little town. But your words gave me hope. There is nothing new under the son, and all but timeless Truth will melt away.