--because diapers are an assault on the earth--
It is tempting to give that quote, and leave it at that, in regards to this interview by Relevant Magazine of a pastor called Rob Bell. A few months ago, I wrote a bit on some things in one of his books, Velvet Elvis, and those are on the blog, if one is interested.
But for now, I'll focus on this interview. It's not an overly long one, but it does provide some points of interest. (btw, I've looked for the interview at the Relevant Magazine website, and while it does refer to it, I couldn't find it there, and since it is in the current issue, perhaps that's understandable).
For example, let's take this quote, towards the end of it...
...when followers of Jesus can think of nothing better to do with their time than to pick apart and shred to pieces the work of other followers of Jesus who are trying to do something about the world, that's tragic, and I don't owe those people anything.
..with these quotes...
And the church has contributed to that disconnection by preaching horrible messages about being left behind and that this place is going to burn--absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture, which state that we are connected with God, we are connected to the earth, we are connected to each other.
I think you just begin by acknowledging that (America's idea of church) is an absolute total failure. The whole system that says these few people, because of what they said, did, believe, etc., are going to Heaven and everybody else is going to Hell, is deeply flawed and must die.
...and we can see how this is going to go--Bell can rip and tear anyone who disagrees with him to his heart's content, but if anyone dares do the same to him, the whining and the tantrum begin.
Am I being uncharitable in such as assessment? Again, look at the first quote. Bell seems to be saying that simply because he is involved in "trying to do something about the world", then his ideas and his words should not be questioned, at least not overly much. He even goes so far as to say...
When a Christian can find nothing better to do with their time in the face of this much pain and heartbreak, you start realizing that some Christians need to be saved...you have to be totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging is somehow a redemptive use of your time.
Since I'm writing on my own blog here and now, you can correctly conclude that I of course disagree with him, though perhaps I would say that I consider it one way in which I can be of service to God and to others.
Bell assumes that those critical of his ideas are not doing anything else for God or the world, and I find that to be a stretch. By setting up this false dichotomy (I thought such as him didn't like dichotomies and dualisms, btw), Bell tries to make himself look good and his critics look bad, based solely on them being critical of him and his assertion that they are not doing anything for God in the world--perhaps more accurately, because they are not doing anything he would approve of, but considering my own ideas on a few such things, I'm not going to restrict what people can do for God (like blogging) simply based on Bell's likes and dislikes.
Bell's argument is inherently flawed. If he wants to make a list of activities that somehow pale in comparison with "the pain of the world", and if he wishes to include blogging among them, are there not other activities that would be similarly 'unredemptive', to use the negative form of his word? Perhaps, for example, doing a speaking tour? Jumping on a trampoline? Giving an interview to a magazine?
But I doubt that he would include all blogging as being 'unredemptive'; after all, many of his fellows in the EC are quite prolific bloggers. I really doubt he is going to include them in his condemnations.
Bell's position is only tenable if we are to conclude that ideas are not important, that 'doing good' is somehow more important then the ideas behind the good works. But here is a "for example" concerning an idea he expresses in the interview...
The central Hebrew prayer, Deuteronomy 6, says, "Hear O Israel the Lord you God, the Lord is One," so we live with the awareness that all of reality is one. We are connected with all thing everywhere...
Now, how can one take the Shema, and suddenly come to a rather new-agey conclusion that all of reality is one? If the Lord is One, and all or reality is one, is Bell saying that all of reality is God? Or God all of reality? But what even does that mean? Are we suddenly talking about pantheism, or panentheism?
Perhaps some would say I'm making a stretch there, but it's not much of one, if it is at all. Perhaps he misspoke, but if not, then his claim that "all of reality is one", particularly as he bases it on the shema, must be questioned, and seriously. And if Bell takes his ball and goes home because we don't play the game to his liking, let him.
Perhaps the most stupid statement in the whole interview, indeed one of the most stupid I've ever come across, even more so then the diapers one, is this...
There is an absolutely mind-blowing passage in Isaiah 19 where God calls Egypt His son and Assyria His beloved. Egypt and Assyria where the enemies of Israel. Today, that passage would literally be "Taliban My son, Al-Qaeda My beloved".
This is stupid--beyond stupid--because the context is a prophecy about a future time (the phrase "in that day" is used several times in verses 18-25, verse 25 being the one Bell refers to) when Egypt, Israel, and Assyria would be right with God. There are many aspects to those verses, none of which have yet to occur. If you read the chapter before verse 18, you will see that God speaks quite strongly against Egypt, promising and prophecying judgment against it.
To give an idea of just how stupid this is, let's do a substitution just like Bell does. This time, though, we'll say "Nazis My son, KKK My beloved". If he had said that, would anyone be taken him seriously? Taking him to task, yes, and very rightly so, but taking him seriously? But how is saying that any better or worse then what he said? If, for example, one of the big Nazi crimes was anti-semitism (and it was), then both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be guilty of that, too.
For Bell to substitute literal nations for terrorist organizations like Taliban and al-Qaeda is nonsense on a grand scale. Such rhetoric is far more "horrible" and "toxic" then teachings on the rapture, and much more against Scripture.
So, to close, Bell's "all of reality is one" statement is disturbingly new-agey especially when connected to the shema, and I do question him about that, and I don't care if he doesn't like being so questioned or critiqued. I'm not happy with it, it's not biblical. Reality is not 'one', God is not a pantheistic or panenthiestic part of nature, or nature a part of Him. He is transcendant, high above us, all-knowing, all-powerful. He is also eminent, near to us, everywhere at all times. The material world is His creation, not His body. As an artist is separate from his work, so is God separate from His creation. That doesn't devalue it, nor does it mean that He does not love it and love us, but we are not one with the dolphins and the mountains. God has given us a responsibility to use and care for His creation, but as stewards.