When will we ever learn….?

When will we ever learn….? February 27, 2011

Here we go again.  The self-appointed evangelical inquisitors are already attacking Rob Bell on the basis of a book not yet published.  If accounts (e.g., at Christianity Today’s web site) are correct, critic Justin Taylor read some chapters of the book.  However, to the best of my knowledge, he has not produced any direct quote from them that justifies the claim that Rob Bell has now adopted universalism.  Apparently, according to the CT report, John Piper has twittered a “goodbye” to Bell–implying that he does not consider him an evangelical and maybe not a Christian.  (Clarification should be forthcoming…I hope!)

It seems evangelicals just lurch from one controversy to another.  One has not even died down yet when the same controversialists start up another one.  Is this all they have to do? 

I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of it.  A few years ago on of them (not named above) invented a quote and attributed it to me in an article he disseminated to the Baptist Press.  It appeared in Southern Baptist state newspapers.  I challenged him to produce the source of it and he could not.  I asked for a retraction and he refused.

Another self-appointed evangelical inquisitor, heresy-hunter, claimed in print, in a book, that I believe, with some postliberals, that the Bible is history-like but not historical.  I asked him to produce the source.  He could not.  At least he apologized and the book was withdrawn by the publisher.

Several self-appointed evangelical heresy-hunters have publicly listed me among the open theists.  I have never espoused open theism.  When I attempted to ask them about it, they did not even do me the courtesy of answering my letters.

The people I’m referring to are all part of the same network–publishing with the same publishers, meeting together, producing materials together, etc.  Is there a conspiracy?  Well, perhaps not a highly organized one, but certainly there is a network of neo-fundamentalist heresy-hunters out there who get their jollies out of jumping on everyone they suspect possibly guilty of some heterodox opinion.  They reward each other for it. 

When will someone with real influence across the evangelical movement stand up and say “Stop!”?  At the very least–hold the fire until the book is published.  You can’t judge a book by one or two chapters and you can’t judge a theologian by one book without at least having a conversation with him (if that’s possible).

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