Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I have gotten a few comments on Facebook for posting the free preview to Rob Bell's new nooma, she. I encourage you to watch it here - it is only up for another 24 hours. The comments I have received have been words of caution to me slipping away from Biblical orthodoxy. So here is a version of one response i wrote.

Despite others' thoughts and concerns I do not feel as though I have slipped outside of orthodoxy. I still believe in the authority of scripture and in the 2 foundational Creeds of our faith (the Apostles and Nicaean). My orthodoxy is perhaps a bit more generous and open than others but I am still a Bible believing orthodox follower of Jesus - the way the truth and the life.

As for the concern that Rob Bell is declaring God not to be Father, he does not say that God is not Father. Bell says, "God is not male or female rather Spirit" - quoting Jesus in John 4:24. god being Spirit is as orthodox as you get. this is an historic and orthodox theological statement. Also Rob's emphasis on God's motherly characteristics are take right from scripture, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isa.(49:15) And in fact he says that these references are metaphor and cannot be taken literally. So Rob is therefore NOT saying God is female. He is saying that God is beyond male and female - again, that God is Spirit.

If you someone who thinks God is male that is not orthodox!!!!! Yes the primary image given to us in scripture is Father and ought not be discarded for the sake of political correctness or personal discomfort with the metaphor. I call God Father regularly and believe it to be true. But I cannot deny the motherly images in scripture that enhance, deepen and further enlighten my understanding of who God is as understood through scripture. It is a mysterious both/and, an orthoparadoxy. I want to allow the dual images of God to stand in tension with one another and not disregard one or the other just b/c it seems "liberal" or on the other hand "conservative" or makes me uncomfortable. It drives me to worship, honor and serve God all the more.

Now a caution to all of us who tend to critique the theology of others with whom we disagree . It is one thing to disagree with someone's theology it is another thing to slander a person whom you do not know personally- which the Bible clearly says is a sin. Many people's assessment of Rob is uninformed and not at all accurate. Particularly the claim that he has disregarded the Bible and it's authority. I have sat under Rob's teaching virtually and personally and in my assessment Rob bases everything he does on the Bible. He may not interpret it the same way some would but he is searching the scripture nonetheless. We must be careful not to make broad sweeping assumptions about people and their theology. Many believe that Rob has a moral influence theory of the work and ministry of Christ yet his entire tour "the gods aren't angry" was a presentation in defense of justification through faith and not works. I saw it heard it with my own ears. Yes there was new stuff but still within orthodoxy! The God's aren't angry because Jesus has taken the punishment we deserve.

In our enthusiasm for the truth we must speak it in LOVE; be careful to not alienate and dis-unify the body of Christ which is the primary way that the world will know God (John 17). May we be filled with grace in our fervor to preserve the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


David Williams said...

Interesting little video. There are no words in any human tongue that can fully encompass the nature of God's care for us...but for some reason, using feminine language really cheeses people off. A pity, because as both you and Bell point out, there's real scriptural precedent for it.

Thanks for sharing it!

suzannah said...

i thought the video was beautiful, biblical and true--thanks for posting it. maybe i'm naive, but it didn't strike me as being the least bit controversial.

there is so much reactionism in the church--i recommended the shaping of things to come to a college friend, and he all but called me a heretic. it is so hard to have a conversation if people want to name-call. it's heartbreaking.

glad to read about your mission trip, too. it sounds like an incredible experience, and how great that kyra could share it with you.


Anonymous said...

Read the early church fathers, and it'll not just be stretched....it'll explode! (Sorry, just had to throw that shameless plug in there. Still, it's true. Much of what RB said goes back to early patristic apophaticism from the Latin and Greek churches, and feminine imagery for God is really strong in the Syriac church of Ephrem Syrus. On the ba... Read Moresis of Ephrem, some have even said that the person of the Holy Spirit should be spoken of primarily as She rather than He.)

-Matt Bell