Rob who?

Was it just three months ago that everyone—including me—was talking about Rob Bell and whether he had left the camp?

Since I implicitly placed the blame for Bell’s notoriety on Christian punditry from folks like Tim Challies, I was glad to see this recent post where he acknowledges that he and his fellow pundits were gamed by the publishers.

The long and short is that the marketing plan for this book involved you and me and we played our part.

Well, some of us. I’d say for the vast majority of Christians, Reformed and otherwise, Rob Bell’s book was not even a blip on the radar screen. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was a genuine sensation, although one without any lasting effect. This was manufactured news from its beginning to its very quick end.

Challies reflects on what the pundits did well and did badly, and I’ll leave them to reflect on those things. But he does offer one defense that I think is completely unacceptable, namely that the digital age has laid new responsibilities on leaders that are still being digested.

There are new rules and new responsibilities when it comes to leadership in a digital age—an age in which news travels with unparalleled speed. No one foresaw that John Piper’s quick tweet “Farewell Rob Bell” would prove the catalyst for a great firestorm. Christian leaders need to understand the power of social media and recommit time and again to choosing their words carefully. The books of Proverbs and James and all they have to say about the power of words remain steady guides. (And again, do not read this as a criticism of John Piper)

We’re supposed to excuse leaders because in the past they could count on their loose talk not being broadcast very widely? Are leaders only required to be thoughtful and judicious in public?

And what do you think of this claim?

No one foresaw that John Piper’s quick tweet “Farewell Rob Bell” would prove the catalyst for a great firestorm.

Does this mean it is fine for John Piper to be casually consigning other pastors to outer darkness on the basis of hearsay, and that his only mistake was not correctly anticipating the reaction of the electronic multitude?

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One thought on “Rob who?

  1. I took that quote to be Challies deflecting some of his own guilt or maybe reminding us he wasn’t the only dupe.

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