I seem to be harping on Rob Bell lately (see here and here). If you’re tired of it, then be comforted. So am I. But I couldn’t pass up blogging about a bit of juxtaposition that I experienced today.
This morning I read that Bell had finally come out as supporting same-sex marriage. No real surprise there. Everything he’s said lately has been about the evolving nature of Christianity. Christianity needs to follow the culture, which isn’t actually what he says, of course. He says Christianity needs to follow God. I just think it’s funny that the secular culture knows where God is going better than the Church does.
Here’s what Bell said at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco:
I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs—I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.
This is just the world that we’re living in, and we need to affirm people. But Christ said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” So much for affirming people wherever they are.
Bell actually seems to indicate that we can’t really know anything about God. The Huffington Post writes:
When the Very Rev. Jane Shaw attempted to get Bell to take a firm position as to whether Christians “know” the truth in some ultimate sense, Bell veered in a different direction. “I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is that he says, ‘What do you do with the people that aren’t like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that’s hardest to love?’
It is just more questions from Bell. No answers.
Here’s the curious juxtaposition that I promised earlier. Today I also read an NPR article about how the Mormons are rewriting bits of their Scripture to suit the culture. There’s some stuff in their books that has caused them embarrassment, and it’s time to fix it. Now “monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless he declares otherwise.” Also, they’re formally removing their ban on African-Americans serving in the priesthood.
These are positive changes, but they aren’t motivated by eternal truth. They’re motivated by culture. Who knows? In another hundred years maybe even the Mormons will endorse same-sex marriage.
The Mormon religion has a God that develops and changes his mind, and we shouldn’t be surprised because it was created by humans who develop and change their minds. Rob Bell’s God also develops and changes his mind, because Rob Bell’s religion was made up by humans too.
Mormonism and the Protestant Liberalism of Rob Bell are strikingly similar. Both have more to do with American culture than they do with the Jewish Messiah. They might support different sides of the political spectrum, but they are fundamentally bound up in America’s values.
Biblical Christianity, however, is more complicated than affirming people wherever they are. The Church’s relationship to culture has been a sticky thing for the last two thousand years. Often Christians do the wrong thing. We act like hypocrites. We sin. Don’t be surprised. The church has always taught that we are a sinful people. But God doesn’t affirm us in our sin.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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