Rob Bell Has Rebuked Us All! (Or, Why I Closed This Blog)

Derek Ouellette —  July 20, 2012 — 28 Comments

Last month I abruptly closed this blog. I’m sorry for that. For being selfish. At the time it was heart-wrenching. Like the time I had to break up with a long time girlfriend. There’s so much history. So much time and energy invested. To end it seemed so, well, wrong. But I knew it had to happen. And it did. Because soon afterward I met a young woman who in short order would be my wife. How history would be different today if I held on to my emotional attachment.

Closing down Covenant of Love was like that. Now, a month later, as a spectator to the latest “Christian” internet controversy, I’m glad I did.  And I’m ready to give you an explanation. There will be one last post on this site come the end of August. That post will be to let you know where I blog. So closing this site will be in three parts:

  1. The announcement: “Covenant of Love: Now Closed”
  2. The explanation: “Rob Bell Has Rebuked Us All (Or, Why I Closed This Blog)
  3. The follow up: “Derek Now Blogs At…”

Today, we’re in stage #2.

I awoke this morning to an article at Her.meneutics (the Christianity Today blog for women) titled, “Sex! Outrage! The Internet! Doug Wilson, Rachel Held Evans, and The Gospel Coalition” by Caryn Rivadeneira. What ensued was two solid hours of web-surfing. (I haven’t done that in ages! Good thing I’m off today!) I followed the Reese’s Pieces from one on-fire blog to another climaxing in a new video by Rob Bell (completely off topic).

Unless you’ve been living in an e-cave somewhere, you’re aware of the controversy I’m referring to. It come up in my FB news feed a couple of days ago and made me feel indignant toward Doug Wilson. The second post I saw was by Scot McKnight petitioning the TGC to take down the article. I knew in my gut that Rachel Held Evans would be jumping around this one like an Aztec priest on the eve of a human sacrifice, but nothing came up in my feed. I’m been busy and things around here have been pretty quiet for a change. Nice.

For those who don’t know, here’s the gist. (Skip to the heading,“Finally” if you know the gist already or don’t have time):

Jared Wilson who blogs in The Gospel Coalition community published an article intended to explore why our culture seems to indulge in works like 50 Shades of Grey. In doing so he made the unfortunate decision to publish an except from an old book by Doug Wilson that contains this highly inflammable line:

A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

(Note to Jared: That was not wise. Whatever was intended by that phrase, the word choice was just not wise.)

125 ferocious comments later…

Next, Rachel Held Evans writes an article titled The Gospel Coalition, Sex and Subordination in which she focused most of her article on rape. As she’s venting her husband tells her:

Remember,” he said, “rape isn’t really about sex. Rape is about power. This all goes back to what you’ve been saying from the beginning, Rachel. This is about power, not sex. So focus your post on that.

She agrees stating that this conversation, her conversation with Jared and Doug, is about rape and power:

For all of our debating about gender roles and church leadership, motherhood and singleness, sex and housework, women working in the home and women working outside of the home, this conversation isn’t actually about any of those things. It’s not about sex. It’s not about church leadership. It’s not about roles. It’s not about the Bible.

It’s about power.

She follows this up with a call for everyone to “get angry.”

585 hooting comments later…

Next, as I said, Scot McKnight started a petition for The Gospel Coalition to take the article down (here).

154 hallelujah comments later…

Next, Jared Wilson wrote a follow-up post called “Shades of Outrage.” In that article Jared quotes a reader who commented on the previous article, Bekah:

This entire conversation exposes what has become a serious issue for a vast majority of our society; there is a general inability/unwillingness to read beyond the most popular and/or polarizing definition of a word.

Comments not opened for discussion.

Next, Rebekah, Doug Wilson’s daughter, wrote an article responding to Evans. Rebekah’s article doesn’t address Evan’s arguments as much as it addresses her assumptions, some mishandling and her overall approach. For example, she wrote:

To take an instance at random, she [Evans] maintains that Douglas Wilson, “blamed egaliatarianism for the presence of rape and sexual violence in the world.” I hate to say it because I don’t want to hurt the Furiously-Righteous’ feelings, but the only thing more fat-headed than saying that egalitarianism is the cause of rape, would be to say that’s what Doug Wilson was maintaining in that excerpt. If you can’t follow an argument, do yourself a favor and refrain from loudly commenting on it.

183 laughing comments later…

Next, Doug Wilson wrote an article responding to Evans. Three actually. (Here, here and here.) In the first article Wilson explains his position and then counters Evans. He quotes Evans article where she seems to condone rape fantasies as long as they are mutually agreed upon by spouses. Wilson writes,

So [Rachel’s] problem is not the language I used about penetration or conquest, but rather who is in charge of the whole thing. The objectors have wanted to slander me by pretending that I put the man in charge of it, but I most emphatically do not. What I actually do… is to say that God is in charge of it… It also means that I believe that mutually-agreed-upon rape games in marriage are out. Mutual consent is necessary in godly marital sex (1 Cor. 7:4), but mutual consent is not the final authority. Mutual consent is required by God, but mutual consent is not God. God is the final authority, and He says that the marriage bed should be honored by all, the bed undefiled (Heb. 13:4).

A strong approach of Evans’ is to appeal to mutuality over against hierarchy. Wilson puts her in check with “mutual consent is not our final authority.. God is the final authority.” So it is Wilson who takes a stronger stance against rape fantasies than Evans. Wilson won’t even allow it when it is mutually consented upon.

But I believe that if a man and a woman both vote for degrading the woman, the decision to do so is still evil.

Hence, mutual consent is not the arbitrator. Tables turned.

18 low key comments later…

Next, Doug’s daughter has a follow up post:

Well clearly, if her [Evans] accusations were true, the biggest victims of Dad’s evil misogynist ways would be me, my sister, and my mom. And to be honest, her tactics make it very hard for a man to go after her – she’s very good at flipping things around and making him look like a bully.

43 rather charming comments later…

Finally,

… and this brings us back to where we began, Caryn Rivadeneira at Her.meneutics. There she writes,

Diversity of thought, of opinion, of points of view can be healthy within the Christian theological framework. I’m not sure that we should—even if disagree with the content or form of the messages—be inundating The Gospel Coalition (TGC) with petitions demanding the removal the post. In the same way, I don’t believe those who disagree with Evans (and believe you me, there are many!) should be petitioning Thomas Nelson asking them to stop publication of her upcoming book…

Shutting each other down or shutting each other up should never be the goal among Christians. If we are going to love one other, we need to challenge and sharpen one another with a spirit above the Internet rage, a spirit of mercy that assumes the best intentions of even those who offend or outrage us. That assumes that other Christians are only trying to live out the gospel as they see it, to speak as they’ve been called to. With a spirit of charity, we must recognize that poor word choices don’t a vicious-oppressor-of-women make; just as honest objections to those poor word choices don’t deserve threats of physical violence. We must challenge and confront with a spirit of grace that understands that we are all broken, all wounded, all getting so much of this life just plain wrong. After all, we’re all naughty by nature (original sin, anyone?), whether we’re down with egalitarian sex or not.

 

Why I Shut Down This Blog

I’m no “friend” of The Gospel Coalition. I disagree with their theology on a great deal of points. I don’t like how they have attempted to co-op the Gospel, I disagree with their Calvinism and their Complementarianism. But most of all, I don’t like how they attack, often preemptively, other brothers and sisters in Christ whom they disagree with. The shiniest example being Justin Taylor against Rob Bell.

But here’s the thing, the other side is no better. No more Christian. No more grace filled. No more tolerant. No more understanding. No more empathetic. No more reasonable. This is not to say they are not those things. It’s comparative. It’s to say, they’re just the same. Reading the high profile articles in this controversy, as telling as they are in themselves, have nothing on the comments. There you see both sides in all their full bloom ugliness.

I’m almost done by ebook on posconservativism. One of the points that distinguishes us (postconservatives) from them (conservatives like TGC) is our attitude. Have I gotten that wrong? Or have I simply mistaken some to be postconservtive who are really just, and nothing more, progressive.

I don’t even recognize the Gospel in the Christian blogosphere anymore. And that’s why I’ve closed this blog. I’ve been a contributor. I’m done. The Gospel isn’t about tearing down, but building up. The Gospel isn’t about a Church divided, but a Church united in Christ. The Gospel isn’t about attacking each other, but about finding ways to exhort, correct if need by, and unite with one another.

The Christian blogosphere is a disgrace to Jesus and the Gospel. We are a laughing stock to the world. And we are all to blame. I am. You are. We need to stop passing the buck to the people we disagree with. We need to stop point our weapons at each other start finding creative ways to overcome our differences so that we can shine the Gospel into this enormous online world.

After the Love Wins controversy Rob Bell bowed out. He dropped off the radar for awhile. Then, in true posconservative spirit, he releases a new video. (He may have his conservative interlockers in mind, but in fact, this is a loving rebuke to us all. A plea.)

 

Life has a way of beating that wonder and awe out of you, doesn’t it?… and it’s as if this ever so thin layer of hardness begins to build around your heart… you roll your eyes more frequently. You’re a bit more cynical and jaded and skeptical. You pull back, you retreat. ‘Why would I stick my neck out if I’m going to get shot at like that again.’ And so ever so gradually, with your arms folded over your chest, you become one, more, spectator. I don’t believe this is what God intended for us…”

When Jesus talks about what we would say are the criteria, or results or proof or whatever you call it, what Jesus says is, his followers, his people, the ones who are open to the new things that God is doing in the world, the ones who said yes to him and trust him, he says you’ll know them by your fruit.

I don’t care what “just cause” people on both sides of these tense debates think they’re battle for, no fruit is to be had.

Jesus calls us and confronts us to leave behind all of the reasons we have to be jaded and bitter and cynical because, let’s be honest, what you look for, you will find in this world. He calls us to leave behind all of our reasons for folding our arms over our chest and becoming one more spectator, and he says, ‘come follow me, move beyond all of that.’

So may you rediscover this life-like sense of discovery and anticipation. May you be open to the new thing that God is doing right here, right now. And may you be wide-eyed and filled with wonder and awe.

Brothers and sisters, that’s why I’m moving on. That’s why I’m creating a blog around “inform.inspire.imagine.” That’s why I want to find new, creative ways to pass along my ideas, without tearing down another person. I want to exhort without attacking. I want to teach without ad hominem. I want to see people grow. And I want my place to be a place that contributes to a positive image of God’s Kingdom online.

When I fire it up, I hope you’ll subscribe. But more than that, I hope you’ll join me. Help me, be a contributor to a positive image of Christ online.

If there’s one petition we need to get out there, it’s a petition to all of the Christian bloggers out there and all of the Christian tweeters out there and all of the Christian Facebook users, Googlers, Mac lovers, Youtubers out there: Together we need to actively, intentionally, contribute to a positive image of the Kingdom of God online.

Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Jon Sellers

    Excellent call to live out the gospel online as well as elsewhere.
    Thank you.

  • http://360church.net Marc Madrigal

    Looking forward to your new blog when it arrives. I wonder what it would look like to be informative over repetitive, inspirational over confrontational, imaginative over narrow-minded. Inevitably some will still disagree, but you could respond with startling grace.

  • http://www.mjkimpan.com michael j. kimpan

    excellent thoughts. read some similar sentiments in the wake of yesterday’s hullabaloo from tarl hutchens here :: http://wp.me/s2vblU-right

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Thanks for the link! Good article.

  • http://hiddenirony.wordpress.com James

    Great post, Derek – and good for further explanation into why you’re closing down the blog. I admit I do get sucked into these things – heck, I ended up getting into a bit of a personal e-mail exchange with Jared this time. When I do, I try (often failingly) to be loving in what I say and how I say it. I can forget this, of course, but usually at some point I remember and get myself a bit more on track.

    I do think I sometimes get a bit of perverse pleasure from these kind of shinanigans (something I just kind of realized now), and I need to repend of that. At the same time, I find this stuff really stressful too – when life gets stressful, reading Christian blogs, facebook posts, etc., is one of the first things to go in my attempt to destress – and I’m seeing now how really bad that is – reading Christians should be edifying, not stir me up into a ball of stress, frustration and anger.

    I look forward to your future blog, and hope it lives up to your vision of what the online Christian presence should be like.

    Blessings,
    James

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      We are all learning James. You and I know this best. I’d appreciate your prayers re: you last statement. I too hope it lives up to that vision. Just as important, I would love every other Christian to strive for it as well. After all, it’s more His vision – the Lord’s ideal of his Presence and Body on earth – than mine. I just want to find a way to reflect God’s plan for his church online.

      Peace.

  • Heather Goodman

    Yes – thank you :) I think that you accurately pinned it – once the warcry was sounded, no one was interested in learning from anyone else. There were good points that were ponderworthy on both sides of that discussion, and I wonder how many people heard them. I want to add that I love the delineation between progressive and post-conservative, too.

    I also wonder this, too – how much does these blog wars really come down to one person’s blog against the others’ but whoever quotes the people commenting? Hundreds and hundreds of comments later, the commentators comments only push the blog ratings up, but does anyone recycle those LONG discussions back into blog posts the next day to really gain from what hundreds of people have had to say on the matter? Or do their voices just all get lost, and it really comes down to the great blogger vs. the great blogger? I think I know the answer to my own question. If the bloggers call off the attack and find some point of mutual respect, the comments die down. If the bloggers press ahead with the attack, the comments keep aflying. And meanwhile, their comments seem to not affect the main dialogue whatsoever. It’s a farce, and it’s as manipulative as the mainstream media.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Heather, when my e-booklet is available on postconservativism, I’ll be sure to get it to you. Thanks for the comment.

    • http://mobileintensiveprayerunit.blogspot.com Praying Medic

      Thanks for steering me to the discussion, Heather. That’s one of the things I love about you.

      (Hi Jon!)

      PM

    • http://mobileintensiveprayerunit.blogspot.com Praying Medic

      Thanks for steering me to the discussion, Heather. That’s one of the things I love about you.

      (Hi Jon!)

      PM

  • http://www.plumblinenaz.org JoAnn Bastien

    very well written! (and thanks for the debriefing. I was getting tired of reading all those blogs.) :)

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Any time!

  • http://www.charliedean2.com Charles Dean

    Derek,
    Thanks for your thoughts…
    I’ve struggled with this same tension in my blog. I’ve told friends – that all I have to do to see a spike in traffic is name the right names – and yet, when I’ve dipped my toe in that water, I end up feeling like I need to take a shower afterwards! Thanks for being principled.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Great analogy!

  • Matt C

    Thanks for the timely reminder Derek. I’ve always tried (not always with success!) to keep in mind the comment of John Wesley’s main ‘arch-rival’ George Whitfield. When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.” Sometimes its easy to forget who our enemy is (and even more so that we should love them too).

    I’m still trying to work out if this applies to Driscoll though ;)

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Haha… I hear you Matt. I really commend Whitfield who, in many ways, was more gracious to Wesley than Wesley was to him (and I love Wesley!).

      This is the challenge we need to find a way to strive you meet. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

    Good reminder, Derek. A word of moderation though. I completely support your disapproval of both warring “sides” in this latest storm. I support your choice to exhibit more grace…as we all ought. I welcome your conscience if I stray into ad hominem and gratuitous slash-and-burn rhetoric. But I suspect you will one day again come against a topic–and I don’t know what that topic will be–where you are justifiably outraged by something that’s flying around. I hope you will feel free, even within your own discipline, to express that outrage. Grace usually sounds like a still, small voice, but there are times when a two-by-four upside my head was the right and gracious response. Part of wisdom is recognizing and acting on that (rare) time when it does come.

    I, too, look forward to your book and your new blog.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Dan, you’re word of moderation sounds more like a word of justification. You’ve suggested that I’ve pleaded for grace because this isn’t an “outrage” issue for me. As if I’ve taken the high ground because this issue doesn’t burn me.

      Your wrong.

      This issue burns me. It burned me up a few days ago when I first read about it. What I’m calling for is this:

      “If there’s one petition we need to get out there, it’s a petition to all of the Christian bloggers out there and all of the Christian tweeters out there and all of the Christian Facebook users, Googlers, Mac lovers, Youtubers out there: Together we need to actively, intentionally, contribute to a positive image of the Kingdom of God online.”

      I pray that when I come across issues that outrage me in the future, that I remember that the way I act – even online – reflects my Lord.

      The only word of moderation needed is the one I’ve posted in this article. There has been no moderation in this entire charade we call “the Christian blogosphere” illustrated in the events of this debate.

      What fires me up the most right now (my “outrage”) are how the gazillions of Christians (and I’ve been apart of it) continue to act. “The Christian blogosphere is a disgrace to Jesus and the Gospel. We are a laughing stock to the world. And we are all to blame. I am. You are.” (I said).

      And my response to this outrage is not to attack anybody. But to look at myself and at the landscape and to call the Church back to its Christ-reflecting mission in the online world.

      That is my challenge Dan, even in my outrage. Join me!

      • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

        Fair enough, Derek. I certainly agree that what little I have read of the outrage du jour has ill represented the Kingdom of Jesus…but I knew that was going to happen when I saw the first couple posts, so I largely ignored the whole storm…highlighted a couple blog posts I appreciated, but (you may or may not have noticed) didn’t consider writing my own to be worth the effort. I’m certainly not justifying their behavior, nor am I suggesting (not sure where you got that) that I think you didn’t care.

        I think you know that the “positive image of the Kingdom of God online” is always gonna be a minority, just like it is offline. We can be part of the solution instead of the problem…I think you try to be and I know I try to be…but just like they don’t “get it” in the churches we attend, they aren’t mostly gonna get it in the blogosphere either. Pearls before swine and all that…

        My challenge to you is that (1) your post sounds like you’re taking a vow to stop slamming other Christians online, even as you slam them for slamming each other; and (2) however valid your choice is, there still will be times that you get pissed off where it’s perfectly valid to express it vigorously. Just choose your words, and your battles, carefully. As some wag once said, “always” and “never” are words you should always remember never to use…

        • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

          Dan,

          Re: 1) Your first “challenge” (don’t see how it’s a challenge, sounds more like a statement) is invalid because a) the state of the “Christian” blogosphere is well noted and b) I’ve included myself and c) I was not pointing to “some” Christians online. (The current example was just that, an example to reinforce the well known state of things).

          Re: 2) a) don’t remember using the word “never”, but more importantly, b) Plan to fail and you will.

          I’m sorry you feel the way you do…
          Peace out.

  • Brady

    I applaud you…. Well done!

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Brady!

  • http://www.straightplow.com Seth Roach

    Derek, I really enjoyed this post. It was helpful and I too want to only encourage saints to know and express their Lord more fully, that is the only solution to all these problems I can see. Also, the video by Rob Bell was refreshing and a reminder to remain child-like. Sometimes I think how to restart, clear the heart out fully and start a fresh. At times this happens in part in my life but as life continues it seems to be more of a challenge. Thankfully I am in His hands and don’t have to carry myself.
    Looking forward to keep up with your new blog.

  • http://thespeakeasy.info Philip Scriber

    Hi Derek! I’ve been out visiting blogs that have impressed Mike Morrell and me over the past few years and letting them know about this new project. Came to yours to see that you’re in the process of shutting it down and starting something new. My condolences for the reasons why, and best wishes for your intended goals. And apologies for posting this here, but I just got an undeliverable message error when I tried to email you.

    Mike Morrell and I really appreciated your blog, and think you’d be an excellent candidate for our Speakeasy Blogger Network whenever your new project starts. Do you like to review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books? Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You only get books when you request them, and it’s free to join. Sign up here, if you’d like: http://thespeakeasy.info

    You’re not on any contact lists, I promise; if you don’t respond, that’s it, and the invitation is open as long as you’re actively blogging. Hope you join us!

  • Pingback: Charlie Dean » On the Interwebs (7.23.12)

  • http://www.regansravings.blogspot.com Regan Clem

    Well said. Maybe I’ll stop blogging. Been tempted to. Haven’t written in three weeks. Technically, I have stopped.

    I look forward to your book.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      No! Don’t do that. Blog more. Blog two or three times a week… And help me show the world what a blog by a disciple of King Jesus is supposed to look like!

  • http://mobileintensiveprayerunit.blogspot.com Praying Medic

    Derek – nice post. I appreciate your perspective and agree completely.

    One of the things that has been impressed upon me lately about the Christian blogosphere is a lack of willingness to highlight what God is doing through others. There is a tendency for bloggers to be self-promoters.

    There are exceptions here and there, where brothers and sisters point to what someone else is doing right and hold them up as a positive example, but these instances are rare. More often, we tend to criticize others and their views or actions. Even when we do post positively about someone else, it often serves only to give us another post, another pile of comments and a little better standing in the blog rankings. There seems to be a lot of selfishness in the hearts of bloggers, even when we’re at our best.

    One thing I’ve noticed among the people I respect is a willingness to consistently and sincerely point to what God is doing through others, instead of what He’s doing through them. These men and women never seek their own promotion.

    Paul wrote, “love does not seek it’s own”. His observation was that those who are being matured and perfected in love, do not parade themselves before the world seeking acclaim, but in humility, point to others.

    As a blogger, I know too well the struggle with vanity, envy and self- promotion. I think most of the division and discord in the Christian blogosphere is a product of immature people, who need a bit more time to mature in love.

    This is my first time to your blog, I’ll connect with you at your new location when it’s up and running and add it to my Blogroll. (Sorry about the double-comment above)

    PM