In part 1, I talked about how skeptics and atheists often complain when I (or another apologist) make the comment that such-and-so Christian is wrong. The skeptic usually says it means I have found “True Christianity™” and every other Christian who disagrees is going to go to hell.
In part 2, I discussed degrees of wrong, using a traffic light as a guide. Green light is 99% of Christianity; just denominations hashing out some differences of procedure. Yellow light redefines core doctrines. Red light denies core doctrines and is strongly associated with a central figure who receives his own divine revelations.
Paul talks about agreeing to disagree, to welcome everyone and to not make the work of God void over what we should eat and drink. So can we ever fight for the faith?
Answer: It depends on the situation.
In Green Light situations, there is no reason to fight. My own denomination (Grace Brethren) has split twice in the last 30 years. In the mid-80s, Grace College and Ashland College split over the classic Calvinism (Ashland) versus Arminianism (Grace) battle. In the early 90s, a Grace professor split over who to welcome into churches.
These aren’t worthwhile fights, but I know they happen anyway and will continue to happen until Christ returns. We should just let these green light situations be, and live as peaceably as possible with them as it depends on us (Rom 12:18).
Yellow Light and Red light situations are totally different. Rob Bell is a clear Yellow Light. And the most dangerous kind of Yellow Light — he has enough good stuff to go along with the bad that it lends a lot of credibility when he begins to drift. He’s got the spoonful of sugar that makes the bitter poison much easier to swallow, but the bitter poison is still lethal.
In this situation, we need to stand firm and explain why Bell is redefining much of what it means to be a Christian. The type of love typified by God is a tough, parental love that sometimes necessitates disciplinary action. It is not the liberal, watered-down, anything-goes, “tolerant” sort of love that lets us live (and even worship!) as we choose and God will still forgive all. He’s not our nonjudgmental best friend that we go the bar to drink with. God is God, and the Righteous Judge who will punish our sins against him.
Bell is leading people to a hell that he says doesn’t exist because he is teaching us that God will forgive all things — even the Unforgivable Sin of denying God’s work in the world or crediting it to someone/thing else.
And that’s just Love Wins. He redefines or mashes up many more doctrines in Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith.
A bona fide red light situation, such as Harold Camping’s Family Radio, should be addressed expeditiously. Camping and his Family Radio movement deny the presence of the Holy Spirit within the universal church and have twice incorrectly fixed the date of the end of the world. This error needs to be addressed, and Camping called to repentance.
I hope that this series of posts have cleared up what True Christianity™ is, and is not. God has promised to preserve his church on earth, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. So whether we identify as Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, Grace Brethren, or Anglican, we should welcome each other with open arms in our churches and celebrate our differences rather than be divided by them.
When redefinition occurs, we should point it out.
When denial occurs, we should repudiate it.
Above all, we should join with Jesus in prayer that we be one, as he and the Father are One.