Saturday, April 30, 2011

Interview with Rob Bell and British Evangelical Adrian Warnock

A rather enlightening interview with Rob Bell appeared on the British evangelical program Unbelievable hosted by Justin Brierley on Premier Christian radio. The interview included a chap named Adrian Warnock who represents a more traditional evangelical perspective.

Some very interesting dialogue was generated over the issues most important to Evangelicals. You can watch the entire program here or listen here.

In this excerpt Adrian questions Rob about really being an Evangelical.


Unknown said...

It has been interesting hearing (and seeing) Bell in several of these recent interviews. I have always enjoyed him, even when I didn't agree with him, because I thought he brought a fresh approach to the table. However, I'm not sure that I am feeling his tone in some of these appearances. He comes off very defensive.

Maybe it's just me. Any thoughts?

Randy said...

I agree that he is defensive, but I honestly don't know what other posture he can take at this point. Many evangelicals have been, even before the book, and are attacking him vehemently with charges that he is denying the cross, denigrating Scripture, and dismissing himself as an evangelical. I feel as if Bell wants to discuss these matters according to Scripture and is becoming frustrated because people are offering critique that is misdirected at issues he is not denying and stultifying theological conversation.

He kept mentioning the "stream," that his view is within the stream, and I'd agree that it is within the broader stream of Christian tradition dating back to Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa. We as evangelicals seem to be overly dismissive of the tradition before Augustine's view on hell as eternal conscious torment came to be enthroned as THE traditional view.

Beyond the notion of tradition, Bell seems to be asking for conversation revolving around Scripture and interpreting Scripture properly. It seems as if he is taking a more critically realistic perspective on hermeneutics and epistemology, one that yields to a multiplicity of interpretations within a a defined range dictated by the text of Scripture. Evangelicals seem to allow for range of interpretations on many other issues such as the Supper and baptism, but here they become hegemonic. It is interesting to me that it is in this one area that we've disallowed a range of valid interpretations...does that possibly say something about our motivations here?

One further thought tying the notion of Scripture and tradition together: is it possible that Bell is holding the Protestant principle of "sola scriptura" in higher esteem than other evangelicals? Isn't he the on eschewing the majority tradition to return to the text and search it again deeply? Isn't he the one placing Scripture above tradition by doing so? I don't agree with everything Bell posits in "Love Wins," yet I do want to have a conversation based around exegetical and theological work that may drive us deeper into what Scripture means. If, evangelicals are so confident that they have the correct interpretation of Scripture, why are we so afraid to really, deeply discuss this issue?

Joel Willitts said...

I agree with both comments and Randy particularly I am in sympathy with your hermeneutical reflection.

I don't think Adrian was prepared to debate Rob on the exegetical points. I wish he would have pushed Rob on just the exegetical point. Rob maintains this view of aion that is hardly correct, namely that aion isn't used by biblical writers to express what we mean by forever. Here he shows he's view on the duration of hell not actually on solid footing. Adrian couldn't argue with him on this so he feel back to dogma, "that's not what the tradition has held".

Randy, I would only want to softly push back on you as I have on Rob's insistence that ultimate universalism and post-mordem second chances are within the "stream". I believe this to be over-reaching. It may be true that Christians in history (notably those you mentioned) have held such views, but that is far different than saying that such views were mainstream or even nearly mainstream. In point of fact, there was never a time when these were held widely and were never orthodox positions.

Peter Gurry said...

Randy, I think you're overstating when you ask, "Isn't [Bell] the one eschewing the majority tradition to return to the text and search it again deeply?" First, it is surely not necessary to eschew tradition in order to return to Scripture. Tradition may be critiqued in light of Scripture, but we certainly don't need to eschew tradition as a prerequisite to understanding scripture. But second, one of the main critiques of Bell's book is his poor exegesis. He is simply at his worst when dealing with the meaning of words. He may be deeply concerned to return to Scripture in word. But in practice he's got more homework to do.

pennoyer said...

Sure Rob, "wrestle with the Scriptures" - but in the end let the Scriptures win.

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