16 Lessons From the ‘Love Wins’ Debate

In retrospect a friend asked me to share a few lessons I saw in the Rob Bell, Love Wins debate so I typed them up and figured I would share them here. I was mainly just an observer, and I compiled this list as I watched the debate unfold. Here are 16 lessons that come to mind:

01: The gospel is eternal, but vulnerable, never to be assumed, and never to be left unguarded (1 Tim 6:20, 2 Tim 1:14).

02: Bloggers have emerged as the church’s frontline defense against popular-level theological error.

03: Academic-bloggers, pastor-bloggers, publisher-bloggers, and blogger-bloggers offer key strengths. We need them all.

04: Social media enables bloggers to piggyback and collaborate, resulting in a rapid response to error.

05: Bloggers can quickly and accurately apply revered theological writings (like those by J.I. Packer and D. A. Carson) to rapidly developing debates.

06: Yet there remain a number of online influencers who ‘enable’ bad doctrine. They may not believe it, but they keep it on the table.

07: Slower moving institutions (like SBTS) play the role of confirming blog findings, providing a platform for a follow-up discussion, and ensuring those findings are scattered broadly.

08: It is entirely appropriate to subject brief promotional videos to theological inspection.

09: Justin Taylor is quick, discerning, and gutsy.

10: In serious and timely theological discussions 92.6% of blog comments fail to advance the discussion.

11: Some will declare a 3-word Tweet definitively ungodly but cannot do the same after reading an entire unorthodox book.

12: Identifying false teachers is no good way to “win friends and influence people.” It forces the question: are we addicted to the approval of man?

13: Bogus theology follows a trajectory, meaning that careful discernment requires past experience with a particular teacher. Less experience can lead to unnecessary caution.

14: Discerning pastors, who are short on time, should be regular readers of a few key blogs, especially Justin and Kevin DeYoung.

15: When serious theological debate happens, the national media will be watching, so speak as a bold defender and a humble evangelist.

16: The theological errors of universalism and inclusivism have been around for a long time and will outlive us all.

What did I miss?

Posted on March 31, 2011, in Discernment, Heresy, Rob Bell. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

  2. I think you could have been a bit critical/cautious at the rate in which controversy on blogs unfold.

    The nice thing about the blogosphere is everybody can weigh in, the not so nice thing: everybody feels the need to weigh in.

    It used to take decades, then years for theological debates to unfold, polarize, crystalize and be resolved, now theological controversy is measured in minutes and not even days. Have people actually been persuaded of the error and convinced through the gospel or have the largely just confirmed to themselves what they believed going into it? I think it takes time for the former to happen and it is the fruit of the many helpful reviews out there (like Kevin DeYoung’s)–but it will take time for the seeds of truth to sprout fruit.

    While we must respond to error, we should be ‘faithful plodders’ rather than reactionary trenders. The real fruit will be over the long haul, does our resistance to this false teaching and our contending for the faith cause sheep to be shepherd out of and away from false doctrine? Are wolves refuted carefully by truth? Or did we essentially let all the side blow off steam rather quickly about whose right and whose wrong?

  3. ” In serious and timely theological discussions 92.6% of blog comments fail to advance the discussion.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Comments threads can be helpful for engagement, hearing feedback, but actually having a serious thought through discussion…not often. Too many “drive by” comments, and people that don’t take the time to read comment properly before replying.

    Thanks for the reflections Tony.

  4. 17: The Twitter phenomenon is captured perfectly by its first four letters.

    18: Evangelicalism has never stooped lower than tweeting.

    19: Marhsall McLuhan was right.

    • Well, I was going to try to come up with something like Tom B’s set, but he beat me to it. My #20 might be, “A certain set of Evangelical Christians find it nearly impossible to admit that anything from John Piper might be less than thoughtful and deep.”

  5. *Marshall, that is.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides

    Here’s my 92.6% contribution value: Nice post.

  7. I agree with all of these except the first. The gospel is not vulnerable.

    A generation’s grasp on the gospel may be vulnerable, but the gospel itself is the most powerful message on the planet.

    • Yeah, I was trying to communicate something of this nature but failed to say it as clearly as you have, Trevin. The gospel is eternal, by that I mean it cannot be erased or forgotten, it always IS and is always powerful. Thanks for the comment (and the link).

    • I agree … this would also mean that we do not need self appointed messiahs to defend the gospel. The gospel will always win out.

    • Although, as one friend points out, we cannot polarize vulnerability and power. They are not mutually exclusive. We need think only of our Lord to see what great power lies in vulnerability. The power and vulnerability of the gospel coexist in the wisdom of God. I think it is wise to acknowledge that the gospel is powerful in its vulnerability.

  8. If they fail to obey Jame 1:19 or Ex 20:16, yes, then they are self-appointed messiahs.

  9. 6: “There remain a number of online influencers who ‘enable’ bad doctrine.”

    Could we flesh this out some? How? Who? ect…

  10. 17. You will never fail to gain the attention, respect and admiration of the secular media by denying: 1. the divinity of Jesus, 2. the existence of Hell, and 3. the exclusivity of salvation to Christ — from within the self-proclaimed Christian community (especially as a popular clergyman).

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