This may shock you, but theologians like to argue. I think it is in our blood or job description. Right between wearing hip clothing and purchasing the latest Apple product, we like to argue about our favorite theological points. Some of us like to argue whether or not God is eternal or everlasting; some argue the ideas of if there is a rapture; and others, as well, argue if you start theology with Genesis 1 or Genesis 3.
And, if you attempt to disagree with a theologian, or argue a different point of theology then be prepared for fill the wrath of the theologian. Such has been the case throughout the Internet, this week, as “controversy” has hit the latest book by Rob Bell, where, according to media reports, argues whether or not a loving God would send someone to hell. This has angered the Calvinist wing of the church, including John Piper and others who took to social networks to criticize the yet-to-be-released book.
In the attempt to be proven right, both sides have taken to social networks and unleashed a flurry that would make a professional wrestler blush. The attacks do not promote the debate, and instead promote a childish representation of the body of Christ.
That is why, I believe, the controversy misses the point, on several points.
First, As pastors and theologians, we are called to proclaim the message and gospel of Christ Jesus. Our words on Sunday morning are not our only proclamation of the Gospel. We proclaim the message at Wal-Mart, in our homes, and in our conversations and discussions of various theological viewpoints. If we cannot disagree with respect and love, then why should someone outside the church come to fellowship with us, or even follow Christ? We paint a horrible picture of Christian love when all we do is fight and bicker over secondary issues of faith.
Even more, it is fun and enjoyable to have theological discussions. My wife and I will have some every now and then. But, let’s be honest for a moment: Our congregations, our people, are not having these conversations. Most, in our pews, could care less if Rob Bell was right or if John Piper was right, they want to know what being a Christian means for their life, and in their response to the world. Yes, there is sin, and there are consequences for sin. However, in our discussions and theology let us not forget that we are called to be the body of Christ among our people, God’s people. We must never lose sight of that, and I believe sometimes it is easy to do that in a way that looks down upon the laity, and makes our “knowledge” primary to any relationship with God, a dangerous position to hold.
We must proclaim love and we must proclaim joy. Yes, we can disagree, but our disagreements should not marked in a ways that would make the world’s arguments, dare I say, civil.
So, in the end, what matters more? Is it more important that Rob Bell or John Piper is right? Or, is it more important that we are a living proclamation of the message of Christ Jesus born, dead, and resurrected, who lives among us through the Holy Spirit?
My prayer is we will all – theologians, pastors, and laity – be a living proclamation in all of our lives.