Books and Covers and Judging Others

Just so you know, the title of this post was supposed to rhyme.  I guess if I have to explain that to you, it’s not really worth mentioning… :)

I had an interesting thought today as I read some articles relating to things happening throughout the country in reaction to a book by pastor Rob Bell.  The book is called Love Wins, and in it Bell writes of how he believes that hell is more of a metaphor for the suffering we experience here on earth, rather than a spiritual realm where those who have offended a holy God with their sinfulness, save for God’s provision for their salvation through Jesus Christ, spend eternity in endless torture. All kinds of reactions have been displayed by many different prominent Christian leaders and writers, including such reactions as:

  • complete dismissal of Bell, such as Kevin DeYoung’s or Justin Taylor’s blog post, or John Piper’s infamous tweet “Farewell, Rob Bell”
  • an understanding, yet disagreeing reaction, such as Al Mohler’s reaction. He commented that “I just felt like on every page he’s trying to say ‘It’s OK…And there’s a sense in which we desperately want to say that. But the question becomes, on what basis can we say that?”
  • a satirical approach that doesn’t want to touch the subject, such as Don Miller’s comical review of the book…but not the actual book. His review was of Love Wins, by Barbara Cartland – a romance novel…
  • an understanding, and potentially agreeable reaction.

This last reaction was the one made by pastor Chad Holtz of a United Methodist church in Henderson, North Carolina (see the MSNBC article here).  Unfortunately for him, he wrote on Facebook his agreeable reaction, and was later fired as the pastor of that church.

Honestly, Love Wins is not very appealing to me – I like to read, and I enjoy books that broach topics of theology, but in the end the Bible has the final say on any matters related to theology, and it is pretty clear on the existence of hell and how people get there.  No, what interested me the most this morning was my reaction to the firing of Holtz from a Methodist church. I was quite surprised to find that I have been judging the Methodist book by the cover.

When I was in high school, the wife of the local Methodist pastor, who happened to teach the youth group of that church, spoke to the youth and taught that there was no such thing as hell.  I was shocked that such a belief existed in the church – it was my first real experience with a doctrine being taught by the church that wasn’t truly Biblical. I developed the belief that all Methodists must believe this way, and that this belief was just one of probably many differences between them and me, a Baptist my entire life.  But when I read that a Methodist church fired Holtz for having this same belief, I came to realize that perhaps this wasn’t as much a Methodist belief as it was a belief of a group of people who can likely be found in every denomination out there.

Do you ever do this? Are you ever shocked to find that you have hidden monsters in the closet of your mind?  Little monsters called pride and prejudices (no relation to the Jane Austen book) and big monsters called hate and judgmentalism?  Or perhaps your monsters go by other names. Either way, it’s always shocking to me – almost amusingly so, if it weren’t such a tragedy that they existed in the first place – that I have gone for so long with these kinds of things lingering in my belief system. May God have mercy on me, and may the Holy Spirit continue to trim away the worldiness that has deep roots grown into the soil of who I am.

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