It’s not that long ago that John Piper felt confident in excluding Rob Bell from the evangelical playground with his infamous tweet. Many others piped in (no pun intended) to declare that Rob was now confirmed as a heretic. I presume he had been on the slide for a long time: that sort of behaviour is likely to get you kicked out of the playground. He had been a very naughty boy in suggesting that God might be a bit more gracious than some Calvinists had hoped for.
At the time I had many an internet debate with my charismatic conversation partners about whether Pastor Piper had been too quick to make such a statement and I was surprised at how few understood my concern at the use of the ‘H’ word against someone to whom we find disagreement with.
Well now John MacArthur has raised his voice in support of the idea that we can exclude others from the playground by declaring that Pentecostals and charismatics are in fact worse than Rob Bell and other so called liberals and should be considered in league with the devil: or at least in swing with him.
At the time of Bellgate I was a little dismayed at how few key leaders spoke in defence of Rob’s right to raise legitimate questions about how we understand the grace of God. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, it seemed to me obvious that exclusion was not helpful.
Now, some of the voices that tried to defend John Piper’s tweet waving goodbye to Rob are becoming louder in reaction to their own rejection from the fold by John Macarthur. It doesn’t seem quite so comfortable now does it?
Let me declare my hand by saying that I became a Christian in a Pentecostal church and spent many years as part of a charismatic stream. I am, for sure, nearer to Rob Bell’s thinking than most charismatics would want to admit but I have not rejected all of my pentecostal heritage. As such I completely disagree with Pastor MacAthur’s cessationist theology.
Having said this my argument is not with him or his gang of strange fire reformed baptists. My concern is with those who remained silent when Rob was being thrown out of the fold and who are now complaining because they are being given the same treatment.
It seems that the use of the ‘H’ word is easier to live with when it used against others.