Interesting short interview on Luke’s blog of Doug Wilson on Rob Bell vs George MacDonald (mentions reasons why he thinks C.S. Lewis liked him).
After watching that video, I’m still unsure as to why MacDonald is less of a “zeigeist-sniffer” than Bell is. Isn’t the second half of the 19th century considered the heyday of liberal religious universalism?
I commented over at Luke’s blog. Wilson comes across so smug and dismissive maybe he will lead some viewers to want to read MacDonald and Bell for themselves, rather than take his judgement as the last word.
I know! His replies would be hilarious if they weren’t so infuriating! He kept assuring us that it was big time heresy. I thought it was interesting that he accepted MacDonald into heaven via Lewis’ approval because he was a true believer despite his “heresy”, but implied quite strongly that he didn’t feel the same way about Bell!
I agree. He completely contradicted himself when he gave the “pass” to MacDonald but not to Bell.
Doug seems to be attacking Bell’s motives/sincerity with the zeitgeist comment. I don’t think this does him any credit.
Each to his or her own, although it might be a valid point that MacDonald was a just as much beholden to his times as Bell, but Wilson makes a good point that MacDonald didn’t seek to place himself where Bell is attempting to place himself in popular culture, for example their different emphases on holiness.
I find Bell’s eagerness to give pople what their itching ears want to hear both disturbing and annoying. Bell is just as smug and self-assured as Wilson is, and ironically so, given that Bell’s meant to be all about questions and uncertainty. You’d think Bell would be a little less about self-promotion and certainty. But no doubt you’ll level the same charges against me and Wilson.
I don’t think you are smug and self assured. I think you are a downright decent bloke
The thing is, I don’t see where people are getting that impression of Bell. He doesn’t strike me as someone wanting to just give people what they want to hear. He seems to me to be challenging the status quo more than anything. (Albeit not as successfully as he might).
The problem is, he isn’t telling them what they want to hear. He isn’t itching their ears. So he’s a damnable heretic for it, according to them.
If the truth happens to be good news then our motives are challenged. We’d all better stop preaching the gospel.
As someone whose main complaints about Rob Bell are that he is very unfair to his opposition, which leads him into some ridiculous and downright misleading statements, I do think I ought to say on the other side: most people’s ears, in my experience, are not in the least “itching” to hear that they are contributing to hell right now in this life (even with small sins, and even if they’re formally “Christian”), and that if they don’t shape up they’re going to keep contributing to hell in the next life, too, except that mostly who will be suffering then as a result will be themselves instead of other people. And unless they repent of their sins and submit to Christ, their torment absolutely will not ever end, ever.
Rob is very definitely saying that, whatever else you think he’s saying that people’s ears are itching to hear.
(Also, I agree with dirtboy about you being a decent bloke. )
I asked Keith DeRose, Robin & Talbott what they thought of this video.
Hopefully Talbott will reply too, being a GMD expert!
Talbott said he didn’t think Wilson furthered the discussion on Universalism at all and that calling Bell a “zeitgeist sniffer” was condescending, given Bell’s genuine pastoral concern for people. He also reminded me that Bell is concerned by “the pain and suffering that certain theological doctrines, such as that of limited election, have inflicted on millions of people over the years.”
Jason has a good point about itching ears NOT wanting to hear that they are contributing to hell on earth and need to repent. I agree with Bell there and thought he gave a strong presentation on the “hell on earth” concept.
The Heaven chapter bothered me for its emphasis on what I might term “social gospel”, as if we have power to bring heaven to earth by environmental activism. Assumes an awful lot of power and control to bring about so much transformation. . . The idealism amused me as someone from an older generation. Around the time I was annoyed with Bell’s version of “heaven on earth” my husband pointed out that the culprit for the death of the world’s honeybees has been identified as cell phones. We both immediately agreed we’d give up cell phones in a minute without regret for the bees, but we don’t think those of Rob Bell’s generation and younger will go along with it (they would find that more “hell” than heavenly I would guess). Nice to rail against what others are doing that hurts the environment just as long as they don’t have to give up any of their perks.
I propose we ditch the phrase “scratching itchy ears”. First, speculating on our psychological motivation for believing something gets us no closer to discovering if it’s actually true or false. Second, the accusation cuts both ways. From my point of view, ECT scratches the base human desire to inflict pain on our enemies.
Thank you AllanS.
I couldn’t agree more. It has already been pointed out that people are trying to judge motive. Although it has been pointed out, certain people persist in trying to usurp God’s prerogative by attempting to judge men’s hearts. It may be one way of actually avoiding involving themselves in the real argument of the debate because they know their arguments are so weak, or it may be for other reasons. I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that the only people who are made to look bad are those who persist in this shameful approach.
I think that it is valuable as a warning: not to believe something just to please the self vs. sacrificing self interest for God’s Will…
Let’s not forget this very important warning!
I definitely think it’s valuable as a warning, but I also find myself getting really frustrated 90% of the time it’s used!
I think the problem is that the way that I think it’s a valuable warning is when it’s used this way:
“Just because I like it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.” (There should be other reasons to follow/believe something, other than the fact that it sounds good!)
But the way I often find it being employed is this way:
“Because somebody, somewhere, likes it [and I disagree with it], means IT MUST BE WRONG.”
Which God are we to sacrifice ourselves to? It must be the God we judge to be good and find worthy of worship. ie. The God who most deeply pleases us; who scratches our deepest itch.