The Updated Christian Canon

I saw a tweet the other day from Peter Rollins, and it really caught my eye:

Regardless of what you think about Rob Bell, his new book, or women, it’s hard to deny the statement has a ring of truth to it. Since Bell’s video trailer for his upcoming book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived hit the internet, the author/pastor has received almost as much hate as the McLobster. Now I’m not a huge fan of Bell’s books (though his Nooma videos are pretty good), but all this venom came as a bit of a surprise to me. It probably shouldn’t have, though. It seems like every time a controversial Christian book starts getting press, the Christian community that disagrees with it erupts with anger and hate mail. Is it just because, as Christians, when we disagree with people we feel that God also disagrees with them? I think there may be more to it than that.

The Christian community is expanding the Biblical canon.

I don’t think this is happening as a conscious effort, but but it is still true in a sense. I’ve heard jokes about how there’s the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the C.S. Lewis Testament; and there’s a level of truth to that. I’m not saying that Mere Christianity should legitimately be considered God-breathed Scripture, but sometimes books like that are treated this way.

I know I’m guilty of this. There are a few authors – C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, J.I. Packer (okay, I haven’t read any Packer, but his name just goes so well with the others) – who I could pick up and read without ever really questioning what it is I’m reading. I think in some cases, there’s this subtle belief going on that if it’s published by a Christian publisher and carried at your local Family Christian bookstore, then it has to be safe. When you actually verbalize that thought process, it’s clearly wrong, but I think it’s a thought process that has been left safely un-verbalized.

So what does this have to do with people hating on Rob Bell?

If someone is publishing something under the “Christian literature” umbrella and is presenting a controversial viewpoint, it’s all of a sudden a big deal if we think this controversial – or even outright heretical – book is being added to a list that is only supposed to contain the safe, theologically sound books of the Third Testament. The Biblical canon is being soiled by wrong teaching.

I’m not here to argue whether Bell is right or wrong, misguided or subversive. I’m here to say he’s just a guy wrestling with a really difficult issue. The doctrine of Hell is scary. Deep down, I’m not sure anyone really wants to believe it exists. So he’s trying to come to grips with this disturbing idea, and this book is his attempt to deal with that. He’s not adding to the Bible; he’s writing a book. He’s a human being, and he has the same ability to be wrong as John Piper, Eugene Peterson, and the Dalai Lama.

Who are your favorite Christian authors? Do you think we read Christian literature as Scripture sometimes?

Also, in case you haven’t seen the video trailer yet, here it is:

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2 thoughts on “The Updated Christian Canon

  1. Hey Taylor, just stumbled upon your blog. Great points! Just because Rob might hold a different viewpoint or ask questions I think I already know the answers to doesn’t make him the devil. I think the big problem most people have is that they believe he’s contradicting scripture, and saying that the Bible is a flawed, human book. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be too interested in what Rob has to say either… But of course the book isn’t out yet, and I’m not going to base an opinion off of someone else’s opinion. I plan on reading the book for myself.

  2. Good points. People tend to judge Rob (and plenty of other controversial authors) before ever reading them. I’m not going to decide on what his main point is before reading this book, because he tends to make a claim that sounds huge and scary and then do a lot of backpedaling. So we’ll see.

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