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?

Criminal Inconsistency

Charles Spurgeon, in sermon no. 1516:

My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture.

I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God.

I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture.

God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Discernment

From Dane Ortlund’s blog, Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology:

Corinthian factionalism is in our blood today no less than the mid-50’s A.D. ‘I am of Cephas,’ ‘I am of Paul,’ ‘I am of Apollos’–’I am of Wright,’ ‘I am of Piper,’ ‘I am of Barth,’ ‘I am of _______.’ But all things are ours. Learn from them all, filter it through Scripture, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, blend humble love with conviction-fueled courage, and emerge helped. Let’s be mature in our thinking (1 Cor 14:20).