In reflecting on the responses to my blog the last four days, I thought it might be helpful for me to share a few of my own reactions. My overwhelming response is gratefulness to God, to our students, various other responders and yes, indeed, to Rob Bell as well for stimulating such a healthy conversation. Part of what made the Reformation such an amazing time in the history of the church is that it brought so many more people to the actual text of Scripture. Today the collapse of Christendom coupled with the rise of the Majority World church is having the same effect. New questions are being posed to the text in fresh ways. If Rob Bell’s Love Wins forces us to become better readers of the Bible in order to articulate a cogent response, then the whole church benefits.
I am also reminded of the ongoing importance of theology in the church today. Serious theological reflection has fallen on hard times in the world of twitter where everything must be reduced to 140 characters, simple slogans, sound bites, etc… In a recent, very helpful article in Christianity Today entitled The Leavers, Drew Dyck explored why young adults in their twenties are leaving the faith at “five to six times the historic rate.” One of the themes Dyck discovered in his interviews with the children of evangelicals who had left the faith is how many young people who had serious questions about Christianity were met with youth leaders, pastors and parents who either did not know the answer or gave them some trite, shallow reply which sounded ridiculously forced and mechanical rather than thoughtful and persuasive. Some parents and pastors even tried to hush up the questions or doubts completely. Young people found that it was wrong to question, they were exhorted to “simply believe.” Is it any wonder that many of those who left the faith departed because Christianity seemed to lack the kind of robust vitality they were searching for? All of this genuine searching coincided with a massive movement across the country to invite kids to youth groups and give them pizza and movies, but was fairly light weight when it came to exploring the great truths of the Christian faith.
These are the days when Christians in the West have to recognize that we have largely propagated a domesticated caricature of Christianity rather than the real thing. We need serious theological reflection, a keen knowledge of the Scripture, a profound engagement with the world, a willingness to really listen to the doubts and questions of those around us, and sacrificial acts of service and witness in every arena of life. The day of entertainment driven, attractional models of Christian witness must give room to deeply missional discipleship models. My favorite blog response was a lay person who wrote in and declared “don’t underestimate the laity.” Brothers and sisters, one of the most profound mistakes we have made is the assumption that we must dumb down to this culture because all they are interested in is simplistic solutions and easy answers. What an insult to this generation! What I have found is a generation crying out for a deeper call to a genuine, robust, Apostolic Christianity. The believing mind and heart must find an expression that is appropriate to the nature of revelation. Think about it.