Sunday, November 27, 2011

C. S. Lewis & Rob Bell: evangelicals getting selective on doctrines depending on the recency and the race of a perceived threat?

I recently read this and decided to link to a few things from elsewhere. C. Michael Patton raises the simple and obvious point that Lewis is a dead lay Anglican author of popular and academic fiction while Rob Bell is a living American pastor.  I've written elsewhere here about how Lewis and Bonhoeffer are easily assimilated into contemporary American evangelicalism, despite their like of American evangelical bona fides, because they managed to do what evangelicals haven't done all that well--namely writing popular yet literary fiction and conspicuously opposing the Nazis at a time when a lot of evangelical Americans were still going to make arguments against racial desegregation or women voting.

Now I'll get to what I consider a definitive take on Lewis and Bell in terms of Bell and Piper.  But first I want to take several lengthy digressions on to D. G. Hart's observations about the Gospel Coalition and race.  Bear with me.  I did say I wouldn't be writing a whole lot for a while but I didn't say I wouldn't copy, paste, and link a bit this week, did I?

What is remarkable in this reaction to MacDonald is, first, the assumption that the white church has a sound doctrine of the Trinity. Unless I missed something, the Gospel Coalition is a wart to the Matterhorn (thank you Henry Lewis) of the Trinity Broadcast Network and the larger Pentecostal and charismatic world which consists of Americans of European descent as much as blacks. In other words, the black church has no corner of heresy and the Gospel Coalition has a lot of work to do if it is going to labor winsomely and heroically for a reformation in the white church.

Here’s a piece of advice to Justin: take this post down before someone who cares about social justice, racism, and the rights of native Americans — at least those outside the genteel and rosy Coalition circles — sees it. (Or at least change the graphics since I am not sure native Americans are supposed to look so European.) 
["this" seems to refer to this ... ]

The juxtaposition of the post about Squanto and this one about slavery were indeed vexing if not arresting. In the case of a Turkey-stuffed happy ending for Squanto and the Pilgrims, Taylor and the Co-Allies who read him were willing to overlook the enormities of Europeans’ treatment of native Americans, slavery (based on abduction), and death of a native-American village. But in the case of the nineteenth-century U.S. slavery, the Co-Allies cannot prevent the knowledge of white Americans’ treatment of African-American slaves from tarnishing these evangelicals’ reading of Holy Writ. I would have thought that the same stomach that could overlook Squato’s difficult life (not to mention his native American relatives’ lives for centuries to come) might also understand that the biblical references to slavery were part of narrative that resulted in an even happier ending — namely, the redemption of the world through Christ.

In other words, the sensitivity to questions of race and ethnicity at the Gospel Coaltion — if Taylor’s blog is any indication — appears to be selective bordering on arbitrary.

[and the referenced post is here ... ]

And now, finally, here's a reference to Drew G. I. Hart's comments about the Piper/Bell situation

Many evangelical bloggers have just finished chiming in on Rob Bell’s new book. While there have been a couple nuanced positions, overall most have fallen into two camps; conservative modernist evangelicals (especially reformed conservatives) and postmodern missional evangelicals (especially emerging church leaders). What I and others realized was that this internet and blogosphere battle that was unfolding really was not about theological and doctrinal difference (even while those tensions do exist), but rather the real underlying issue was a matter of control, influence, and power.

... Of course these Evangelical 3.0′s have learned from their predecessors that you must at least grab a token black for your entourage or program (however the 2.0’s actually did a better job at pulling in tokens), often this GED effort of token representation is not even being done at many of their gatherings and events.

Sure, I know there's all sorts of ways to differ with Hart's observations but I'm having fun here so I'm rolling with things as Hart puts them.  Lewis gets a pass because a dead lay Anglican author isn't a threat to contemporary white evangelical Protestant American establishments.  Rob Bell's Mars Hill is a threat because it could attract the white urban hipsters who will form the future establishment that Piper might prefer would fall into the orbit of that other Mars Hill that isn't in Michigan.  As Driscoll has so often said it, "You get the young men you get everything.  ... you don't get the young men you get nothing." 

Let's just clear things up a bit and throw in the polemical observation that perhaps what Driscoll and others should be saying is that if you get the white young men you get everything.  You get the guys who are going to "go upstream" and "influence culture" and they will, in turn, get the white women and make white babies and influence the culture for ... Jesus?  Well ... uh ... certainly I hope that is what the real goal is going to be but that doesn't mean that if things are really all about Jesus they have to be all about nabbing the white boys and "engaging culture" in strictly white urban hipster terms. 

That Driscoll even takes a wait-and-see approach with Jakes can be taken as an indication of the domain of his concern.  He's ripped publicly on Joel Osteen.  He's taken down The Shack and declared William Young a promulgator of heresy.  He chucklingly referred to Ed Young Jr's sermons on sex as overdoing sex (despite Driscoll recycling the same sex and marriage sermons every two years since the y2k bug scare). Yet he's put on kid gloves for Jakes.  Is it just the white megachurch pastors who deserve to get "called out" on their stunts or their shaky theology?  We'll see, maybe.  Given Driscoll's turnaround on Schuller I can't even be certain that he'll even play hardball with Jakes when the actual event in the Elephant Room takes place, not that I anticipate that ultimately mattering in the end anyway.   

It's the weekend and I've got some time to post some things that have been on my mind for a few weeks.


chris e said...

I agree with the general thrust of the post, but not with most of the specific arguments linked :-)

I think it does play to evangelicals need for intellectual validation to emphasize their connections to CS Lewis (and Chesterton and others who were rather less savoury overall).

I do think Lewis and Bell are different - if only because of their different trajectories and different backgrounds.

I don't think that Bell and Keller's positions on hell areremotely close - though I agree that a lot of the Chicken-Littlism is driven by power structures on the margins of the new Reformed movement.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I was working on this post in the run-up to eye surgery so I was kind of lazy in just linking and pasting excerpts. Perhaps I should have clarified that not everything i linked to is something I entirely agree with. :)

I can write for short periods this week, to go by how things are going so far, but it's tricky to sustain my writerly momentum when one of my pupils is the size of a nickle. :) So lately I've had to take shortcuts like links and pasting, or in posting things I've already written and had in the hopper for a while.