Monday, November 21, 2011

Defending — not apologizing for — the faith once given

C Michael Patton explains why, even given C.S. Lewis's departures from what is considered normative evangelical theology, we are inclined to approve of him but not Rob Bell:
.... Here comes the question I got Tuesday night a the Credo House “Coffee and Theology” study: “So why do we love C.S. Lewis but hate Rob Bell?”

This is the great question I hope to answer briefly.

First of all, no one hates Rob Bell (or at least, no one should). But, speaking for myself, I am very comfortable handing out C.S. Lewis books by the dozens, while I don’t keep a stock of Bell’s books on hand. There is not a book that Lewis wrote that I don’t encourage people to read and grow from. Even A Grief Observed, where Lewis attempts to retain his faith in God while questioning everything in the middle of a crucible of doubt and pain, is one of my favorite books to give to people who are hurting. But I doubt I would ever recommend one of Bell’s works to establish someone in the faith. In fact, I might only recommend them for people to see “the other side.” Let me put it this way (and I must be very careful here): While I fully embrace and endorse the ministry of C.S. Lewis, I do not endorse or embrace the ministry of Rob Bell.

You see, while C.S. Lewis has a great deal of theological foibles, his ministry is defined by a defense of the essence of the Gospel. The essence of who Christ is and what he did are ardently defended by Lewis, saturating every page of his books. His purpose was clear: to defend the reality of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All other things set aside, this is what you leave with every time you read Lewis. The problematic areas are peripheral, not central. One has to look hard to find the departures from traditional Protestant Christianity. They are not the subjects of his works and do not form the titles of his books.

However, with Rob Bell, the essence of who Christ is and what he did seems to be secondary. ....[more]