I usually try and stay out of any blogging wars, or ongoing debates, which seem to take up a lot of energy and creativity, and which usually end up going nowhere. I find that most bloggers could care less about spending time in these battles, and prefer to continue to just blog away, promoting their views, or those of others that they espouse.

As a blogger, everyone is free to post what they want (within the law of course), and to have their own opinions.

But I want to ask a favor. I would like those who have a real strong opinion on another blogger, writer, book, etc., to have at least engaged in the original source material.

For example, if you are going to have an opinion on say, Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, than you better have read the book yourself, and not simply be regurgitating the words of others. Sure, you could not read the book, and still have an opinion, and it may be a good one, but I think it’s quite ridiculous when someone is critical of another person, yet hasn’t read the book themselves, or taken time to interact with original source material.

Another example is when I hear people talking about Karl Barth, insisting that he is a universalist, but when you ask them if they have ever read anything by Barth, the answer is no. Usually what has happened is that they have read someone, maybe a pastor, who has read another theologian, who has an opinion on Barth. So by that time, this person isn’t even interacting with primary or secondary source material, but rather with a bunch of people who think they know a lot about Barth, but who have never read a lick of Church Dogmatics themselves.

These examples can go on and on. Those who already have Henri Nouwen pegged as some new agey, Buddhist inspired, non-Christian, simply because he was Catholic and influenced by Thomas Merton.

And on and on it goes….please people. You can have opinions, but if you are going to argue and fight tooth and nail over an issue, then please read the original material, and develop your own thoughts, rather than simply parroting the words and writings of others, who possibly haven’t read the original material themselves as well.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, there is a site I frequent pretty often. Not because I agree with anything they say, because I don’t. But rather because I am always interested in other’s perspectives on certain topics, and these three women are very interesting in the agenda they have chosen and the methods by which they organize their blog. The site is Emergent No, and is what is says. An anti-emergent site. They are free to do this and those who are anti-emergent will find plenty of material to fuel their fires.

I am of the opinion that Emergent is an important voice in theological circles, and church life, because they bring up important issues that need to be discussed, but no one is talking about. They are not the saviors, nor do I believe that they think that either. But even movements or reformations that we disagree with can still raise valuable issues. And even though I pastor in a college group, in a presbyterian church, I would consider myself a friend of Emergent, and enjoy the many relationships that I have with those in that community.

Just yesterday, Emergent No posted this blog on Rob Bell.

They quote Rob Bell in an article as saying this:

“What do you do when you can hear the room filling up with thousands of people who are expecting you to give them words from God, and you don’t even know if it is true anymore?”

This quote actually comes from Bell’s book. They basically take this quote to show that Bell is not fit to be a pastor according to the standards of I Timothy 3:2-7.

Did I miss something here. Is Bell breaking one of the requirements of I Timothy 3:2-7 because of this statement? They go on to say this, In case you wondered if I took that out of context from the message Bell is trying to relay:

followed by this quote,

“It’s an appealing picture, though Bell takes it in surprising directions. For one, he suggests that you can doubt a doctrine or two — say, the Virgin Birth of Jesus — and still be a good Christian.”

Okay, so let me get this straight. They take a quote from Rob Bell’s book, which they basically pulled out of an article…and from that, they determine his “fitness” to be a pastor. And to back up their argument, and to prove that their points are not out of context, they quote another snippet from the article, which is the opinion of the writer.

So get this. They come to their view, and are willing to criticize this guy to death, because of an article they read. Doesn’t sound like they read his book at all. If they had, they would have seen that Bell’s statements were referring to a time in his life and ministry when he was really wrestling with his calling, and his theology, but out of that wrestling time came a stronger affirmation of ministry, and of the person of Jesus Christ.

You can not understand the totality of a person, and define them, simply from a one sentence statement that is couched in a book. That sentence hangs on so many other things, and people who read the book, would understand that.

By the way…that statement is written by Bell as he is looking back into the past at his earlier ministry, not a statement referring to some incident that happened last Sunday.

I would hope that all of us would extend the grace to one another to be able to live in the present, rather than hold our pasts against us. Christ seemed to do that with the disciples, and obviously with us.

I think the Church needs more leaders like Rob Bell who are willing to be authentic with those they minister to. That authenticity often leads to a greater and more real affirmation of our faith in Jesus Christ. The other option is that we can pretend like we have no questions, and we move through life like robots, not really living for anything, or having any real belief.