“The Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell”

Some friends and I have been having a debate about Rob Bell on Facebook, and one of these friends posted an article by John Pavlovitz titled, The Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell. I had some thoughts, but Facebook wouldn’t let me comment this long, so I thought I would post those though here:

A very insightful article. It’s a posting that seems to get the state of what is happening to Rob Bell spot on, and a statement that, from what I have read and watched of Rob Bell, gets Rob Bell’s message  spot on. But it’s a posting that does not get Christianity spot on. There are two fundamental ideas wrong with his understanding of Christianity: 1) Christianity is defined just as much by tradition as by scripture & 2) Christian Theology’s foundation is not tradition, nor is it scripture, it is revelation.

1) This posting shows perfectly the problem with Christian Theology that relies only on scripture. Scripture is not easy to interpret. Scripture asks many questions of Christians, many of the questions that Rob Bell echoes. But, when the universal Church was presented with these questions it came up with answers. To deny these answers is to deny the Church that came up with these answers and the God who gave the answers to the Church. Rob Bell is free to ask these questions and to teach different answers to these questions. But when he does that, he must be honest and say that his answers are not the Christian’s answers to the questions.

2) This is because Christian Theology’s foundation is revelation, and the most complete form of that revelation is Jesus Christ. Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ and that is why it is authoritative. Tradition testifies to Jesus Christ and that is why it is authoritative. As the Apostle Paul wrote, we must hold fast to the traditions that have been passed down to us, BY WORD or BY LETTER. Oral tradition is just as important as the written tradition of the Bible.

Once something has been revealed to us as true by God, that settles the matter. For example, in the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, when they were wrestling with who Jesus was and the Person of Christ, they came up with an authoritative creed. That creed is authoritative because it was based in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If one claims that there are issues with the creed, or the creed is not authoritative, they are doing more than just denying the creed, they are denying the Revelation that the creed was based in. Jesus Christ is unchanging. Jesus Christ is the Revelation of God. Jesus Christ is the Truth of God. The Revelation and the Truth of God never change. To claim that they can change is to deny Christ— and that is what Rob Bell is doing.

Rob Bell is denying the truth that has been defined. He is denying the status quo:

“The moment that anyone, however prayerful or thoughtful or earnest they may be, comes to a conclusion other than what we’ve defined as acceptable, they get kicked to the curb. As Christian leaders cling tighter and tighter to a faith tradition that seems less and less culturally relevant, they expel anyone who doesn’t check all the right boxes, who doesn’t say all the right words in all the right ways using all the right Bible verses.”

John Pavlovitz gets what is happening, just right. But he denies that the Church speaks for Christ as Jesus Christ himself promised: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Jesus also promised, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (John 13:20). To deny the teachings that are fundamental to the Church (Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment), he denies that these teachings are from Jesus. And to deny these teachings are from Jesus is to deny Jesus, himself.

Enjoying the Little Things

This is a kid getting a new pair of shoes for Christmas a whole bunch of years ago. I can’t remember the last time I was that grateful. I need to enjoy the little things more. desktop-1416876225

That Moment When

I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but I can say I was up late at night, wondering, pondering, and, chewing over everything I had learned that semester. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got out my laptop and wrote a multi page document explaining why I wanted to be Catholic. I sent it to my only Catholic professor and she told me to send it to a priest. That was the moment when I know the Catholic Church was right about everything.

But explaining it has always been difficult. For those protestants out there, it’s like explaining how you know the Bible is 100% true and without error. It is. There are very good reasons to think this way. But something about it alludes explanation. It’s the same way with the authority of the Church. There are very good reasons to think that, along with the Bible, what the Church teaches is 100% true. But something about it alludes explanation.

Nevertheless, let us explore just a few of the reasons why one might think what the Church teaches is in fact 100% true.

The first reason is the most important. It is what our Lord Jesus Christ said. He said in Luke 10:16: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” He says in John 13:20 “ Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Jesus Christ gave the authority to his twelve disciples to teach in his name. And, yes, he sent all Christians out to teach and to preach the good news, but he gave the twelve a special teaching authority.

We can tell this from the Acts of the Apostles when, St. Peter, speaking of the teaching office Judas left behind by hanging himself, exclaimed, “‘His office let another take.” And his office was chosen by drawing lots, the same way priests in the Old Testament were chosen. In Acts, we see that the Apostles had an office that was given special powers to teach in Jesus’ name and that this office was handed down from person to person.

Pope Clement I

The second reason is that everyone in the early church followed the bishops that were installed by the apostles and there successors. This is what Clement wrote in the first century:

“The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”

This is what Ignatius wrote to the Ephesians in the first or second century:

“Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God.”

Ignatius of Antioch was a followed of St. John the Apostle of Jesus and Clement was the Bishop of Rome from AD 92 until his death. These are not spiritual lightweights. These are the people the Apostles put in charge of Jesus’ Church.

There are many more quotes and many more reasons but this is enough for now. Listen to the Church. She loves you.