Who knew that three words could have such an impact? Over the past week my Twitter feed has been overrun with posts about the most recent evangelical controversy. And it all stems from this Tweet. Three words.
Farewell Rob Bell. In summary, well known author/pastor/leader John Piper wrote those words, accompanied by a link to a blog post about another well known author/pastor leader, Rob Bell. The link essentially asked whether Bell was a Universalist. Apparently, the blog responded to this video marketing Bell’s new book, “Love Wins,” a book that discusses heaven and hell. The blog author also read a small excerpt from the book.
This all reminds me of an event nine years ago. An event that rocked the African-American faith community. Carlton Pearson, Pentecostal through and through, publicly declared he was a Universalist. The composer of a few of my favorite songs (“In the Arms of Jesus“/”Mother Sherman Story“) was a Universalist. Say it ain’t so. Here’s the one thing I appreciated about African-American leadership at the time. They actually SAT DOWN with Pearson and discussed his new view TOGETHER. What an interesting concept. Nobody tweeted about it (although Twitter wasn’t around then). They didn’t call one another and make a decision on the spot that he was a heretic. They did exactly what Jesus commanded us to do: “If your brother/sister sins, go and show them their fault in private” (Matthew 18:15). What would Social Media Jesus say? Go and tweet about that person without speaking with them directly? Likely not.
I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell preaches. I don’t agree with everything John Piper preaches. But it gives me no right to definitively call them on something without having full knowledge of what they believe. I’d expect more from a leader in Piper’s position. But maybe that’s just it. At times, position gives you the “right” to be dismissive. Sad, but true. I pray that leaders carefully consider what they say before they say it. Sometimes three words can cause more damage than good.