I can’t believe I’m doing this. I can’t believe I’m going to talk about Rob Bell, just like every other freakin’ person in the evangelical world right now. Seriously. And on a BLOG, too! Oh, the humanity! But here I go, wading into the ridiculous fray of potential quadrupling of Google hits, and trolls, and really sweet-tempered “evangelical universalists” persistently nice-ing people to death in the comments section, and whatever other nonsense has been going on in the blogosphere the last couple of weeks.
But really, I’m only going to talk about Rob Bell in a kind of broad, referential way, as a starting point for what I think is another really important discussion for modern evangelical life. (That’s a hint to trolls and argumentative universalists to take a hike, and to cage-stage Calvinists that there’s not gonna be any ammo for you here. Hasta luego, Blog Crazies.)
The question is this: is there a point when we stop referring to someone as a brother or sister in Christ? When? Under what circumstances? Once we’ve reached that point, how universal or extensive, then, do we make that declaration — to whom else do we apply it? What’s the next step in addressing that person? That group? That movement?
So, for the next few days, Lord willing, I’m going to talk about what I think is a good strategy for thinking about and addressing people whose theological positions on certain issues are problematic or borderline unorthodox, without either being a total jerk or turning what ought to be serious doctrinal discussions into sloppy hug-fests where everyone feels good but nobody knows what the devil anyone actually believes about anything or if that even matters.