Rob Bell, Evangelicalism, and The Gospel

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

In light of our recent conversations about evangelicalism (“Kirk Cameron and Six Evangelical Stereotypes”) and the Gospel (“Is the Gospel Relative?”), these items caught my eye recently.

First, on evangelicalism, Rob Bell caused quite a stir the other day when he too expressed his disenchantment with the term “evangelical.” As he told the Boston Globe:

“I take issue with the word to a certain degree, so I make a distinction between a capital E and a small e. I was in the Caribbean in 2004, watching the election returns with a group of friends, and when Fox News, in a state of delirious joy, announced that evangelicals had helped sway the election, I realized this word has really been hijacked. I find the word troubling, because it has come in America to mean politically to the right, almost, at times, anti-intellectual. For many, the word has nothing to do with a spiritual context… I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That’s a beautiful sort of thing.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Rob Bell’s characterization of evangelicalism? Do you think that, in criticizing certain expressions of the modern evangelical movement for being political/ anti-intellectual, some of us have simply become (as Mike said in a comment at the end of my post) “total snobs”? Or are our concerns legitimate? 

For a more scholarly look at the tern “evangelical,” check out this interesting piece from the Centre for Research on Candadian Evangelicalism, shared by Scot McKnight on his Jesus Creed blog. 

Second, on the Gospel, Rob Bell found himself in hot water yet again for the terrible crime of not being able to “tweet” the good news

Critics noted that Bell’s first attempt was more than 140 characters long, and so the pastor made a second attempt that went like this:

"The gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus has brought the unending, limitless, stunning love of God to even us."

Do you think that’s a good summary of the Gospel? Do you think that you could “tweet” the good news? Is it just me, or does the whole exercise seem like a cheap way to test folks like Bell with a trick question?

More importantly, is it really productive to spend so much time arguing over the definitions of the Gospel and evangelicalism when the true test is in how we live our lives? (I realize that in asking the question, I could very well implicate myself!)

For a more comprehensive look at the Gospel and all its forms, check out this interesting piece by Tim Keller from Christianity Today.

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