An Open Letter, from one EBC pastor to a former one…

Hey Robb,

We’ve never actually met, but we have some friends in common through EBC.  You’ve written a book now, and you keep an online blog.  I haven’t read your book (yet, I would like to eventually), but I’ve read your blog a few times when I’ve seen friends link it up on Facebook.  If you were local I’d love to meet up and chat – honestly, I think we’d probably become friends and enjoy each other’s company.  You probably won’t be surprised that we disagree over a number of important theological issues, but I’m not writing to try to start a debate.  Instead, I have another concern: about how you’ve presented your arguments in their tone and in their hermeneutics.  Most recently, you wrote wrote your post “God vs. Rob Bell…” and I just felt compelled to respond to share these two concerns.

I think it’s important to present your argument with the tone and humility that you want to hear from the person you’re disagreeing with… and I don’t think this post reflects what you want to hear from those you’re trying to engage in conversation. I totally understand the frustration you and other must feel because of the trite and overly-simplistic arguments and rebuttals you’ve heard, but if we’re to have this conversation (especially through text, not person-to-person where non-verbals help clarify what we’re saying) then both sides of the conversation need to be humble and stop the shouting.  If I’m going to enter a healthy debate with “Biblical conservatives” and I want them to really hear what I’m going to say and wrestle with my arguments, then I’m just shooting myself in the foot by cussing and typing paragraphs in all caps.

That said, I do respectfully disagree. You’ve heard the arguments, so I’m not going to go down that road. The one thing I will choose to disagree with is when you wrote “The Bible can be easily used to defend both sides of the debate.” I’m not so sure: I’d agree if you take the word “easily” out. Yes, biblical arguments can be made to support both sides.  But the more complicated our hermeneutics need to be to make our case, the more we need to honestly ask ourselves whether or not we’re shaping our hermeneutic to support what we want to hear. Am I seeking God first and foremost? I’m not anti-culture (if anything, I get myself into trouble by embracing the redemption of culture more often than others think I should), so I’m really not writing this from a Christ-Against-Culture perspective. But as we seek to redeem culture, we need to do so while seeking first Christ and his kingdom. I don’t really expect this to be a “debate winner,” but I’m not really looking to be persuasive, just to respectfully throw out a concern (both for myself and for others) to be aware of.

I’ve studied postmodernism and read Rorty and the other pomo linguistic philosophers.  I’m only mentioning that to clarify that I understand those arguments, and there’s a lot of validity in them.  None of us come without biases, but it seems to me that a lot of postmodern Christians seem to use this in support of their interpretation against conservatives without letting that argument cause them to pause long enough to consider how their biases have colored their own interpretation.  There is such thing as authorial intent, right?  If not, then conversation over, and reading Scripture is an exercise in futility because we can just make it mean whatever we want it to mean.

I’ll wrap this up.  I appreciate the conversation you’re trying to have.  I agree that a lot of arguments against homosexuality seem to just throw out a few Bible verses and want to say, “There!  Take that!  It’s a sin.”  I do think those verses mean that, but we need to have more thoughtful, honest, and critical conversations (self-critical first, then critical of the other’s argument).  I apologize if this has come off as harsh or judgmental or anything other than a concerned brother looking to share those concerns and not knowing how else to get them out to you.

Blessings to you through Christ,
Mike McGarry

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