Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Rob Bell & The Slippery Slope of Compromise

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

Last week I briefly touched on the latest news about Rob Bell in my blog post available hereRob Bell has voiced his clear support for Same-Sex Marriage and has caused quite a stir throughout the Christian and secular media. Rob stated his view in this way (Note: This is his direct response when asked about his views on Same-Sex Marriage):

"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs -- I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are."

What should we think about Rob's latest statement? I think we shouldn't be surprised. Ed Stetzer summed it up well with his tweet:

You see, anyone who has observed the way that Rob Bell has been going for a while could see this coming. Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins which questioned the existence of Hell - a basic doctrinal belief held to by the early church fathers and Christians throughout the ages. In undermining this doctrinal belief, Rob effectively walked away from Biblical Christianity - Rob started to walk along the path of compromise, choosing to promote a culturally relevant and 'trendy' gospel instead of one deeply rooted in biblical truth.

And that's the thing with compromise - compromise usually leads to further compromise. It becomes a snowball effect. What was once a theological absolute becomes questionable. Spiritual truths are thrown out the window in the hope of tailoring the Christian message to better reach the lost.

Martin Luther addressed such an approach in his sermon "Knowledge of God’s Will and Its Fruit":

"The world at the present time is sagaciously discussing how to quell the controversy and strife over doctrine and faith, and how to effect a compromise between the Church and the Papacy. Let the learned, the wise, it is said, bishops, emperor and princes, arbitrate. Each side can easily yield something, and it is better to concede some things which can be construed according to individual interpretation, than that so much persecution, bloodshed, war, and terrible, endless dissension and destruction be permitted.

Here is lack of understanding, for understanding proves by the Word that such patchwork is not according to God’s will, but that doctrine, faith and worship must be preserved pure and unadulterated; there must be no mingling with human nonsense, human opinions or wisdom.

The Scriptures give us this rule: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)."

We need to obey God and follow what He says on every matter, taking seriously His Word and its teachings - just like Martin Luther did when he nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the chapel all those years ago. It is not okay to compromise biblical truth because of our own human opinion on any given issue. In the end, God is the only one who is wise, the only one who truly has a handle on each and every issue. We might think we have a great idea, a progressive way to think about the world in which we live, a new revelation in understanding the scriptures. But the bible is clear on such thinking. 1 Corinthians 3:19 says:

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight."

We - as Christian thinkers - need to be careful as we think. It's fine to wrestle, challenge and struggle through the scriptures as we come to a greater understanding of scripture and in turn, our loving Saviour Jesus Christ - I love this process and do it on a daily basis. However it is not fine to pick and chose from the scriptures, accepting and promoting the bits about love and grace and neglecting the less palatable parts about sin and judgement. That is compromised truth. As John MacArthur says:

"Compromised truth has no hope of rescuing the eternal souls of men and women." 

That is what is at stake here: the eternal souls of men and women. Our family members, our friends and our neighbours - those we love and treasure. That is why Rob Bell's stance is deeply concerning. That is why there has been such coverage in both secular and Christian media.

I'm reminded as I finish of what Timothy wrote concerning such teaching in his book 2 Timothy in chapter 4 verses 3 & 4:

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

I pray that Rob Bell is not going to continue on this path of undermining biblical truth. After all, whilst he doesn't pastor a church any more he does 'pastor' hundreds of thousands of people through his Nooma DVD series, through his own books, blog posts and newspaper articles. He has influence. His words have weight. He is leading people whether he likes to admit it or not, and he needs to take that responsibility seriously. The bible is very clear in warning people in leadership and teaching positions about the dangers of leading people astray. I'm praying for you Rob and I hope that others will be too.


  1. Great blog Joel...
    I think that this debate is forcing something: we all must come out and draw the line! Where do I stand...? Where does our church stand...? This debate is forcing everyone of us to think, go back to Scripture, wrestle with Truth verses Wishful Thinking... and then come out declaring our true colours. It is a separation time... sheep from goats, wheat from tares. I will rather roll back the compromise as far away as possible from the edge even if I am not liked... Where did all this slippery slope start...? We need to go back there, repent and look for that narrow path again.

    1. I loved hearing your thoughts here jdaveh. You're right: we need to either stand for the truth of the Word of God (regardless of the cost), or else continue on the path of compromise, ultimately leading people away from truth. It's time to draw the line and make a stand!

  2. I loved hearing your thoughts here jdaveh. You're right: we need to either stand for the truth of the Word of God (regardless of the cost), or else continue on the path of compromise, ultimately leading people away from truth. It's time to draw the line and make a stand!