Greg Boyd: “…hell (which, by the way, Rob does emphatically believe in)…”
Greg Boyd: Despite my Open Theist Views, I strongly doubt that I deny God’s sovereignty, omniscience, or Scripture’s fidelity.
Sometimes when a theological debate dusts up on the interwebs, one side will defend the accused by noting that the writer under suspicion does not think of himself as espousing the view for which they are being accused. For example, see the Federal Vision debate in the PCA, the Rob Bell debate alluded to above, and the rest of over two thousand years of church history. Perhaps the suspect’s views could lead to that heterodox position, so goes the argument, but our friend over here does not himself hold to that view, so of course he’s not guilty of said heresy. (Similar to this is pleading that you actually do believe in the doctrine under question, you just mean something very, very different than what everyone else means by it.)
A few thoughts on this line of argumentation.
Heretics never wear name tags clearly describing their views for orthodox Presbyterians (besides bloggers, the last white blood cells of the Church) to pounce on. False teachers are great guys with good manners, impeccable credentials (“but Arminius was trained at Geneva!”), and they carefully obey the 10 Commandments of Niceness. Their teaching always has a ring of truth to it, otherwise nobody would be attracted to their ideas, and we wouldn’t call them false teachers (“teacher” implies “students” who listen to you) but
Charlie Sheen crazy apostates. So simply arguing that so-and-so doesn’t recognize himself in those heretical options doesn’t guarantee a clean bill of orthodoxy.
Further, is this really how subjective we’ve become? If I write a book (or a blog post) arguing for position X, and then my final sentence is that I don’t hold to position X, what does that say about me? Does writing books or making statements have no objective value if I deny them? Now I’m not saying “recant.” Recanting is acknowledging that yes I did write this idea, but now I’m changing my mind, and I suppose every author or human ought to be allowed this mulligan of words. If I write extensively for a position, and a wide range of reaction to what I’ve written says that I hold view X, at some point my objective writing will trump my subjective interpretation of my words, if only in the mind of the reading public.
Now, I suppose one option here is that an author really, truly does not hold to view X, even though his reading audience swears that he does. The final option here is that I am a poor communicator. I am either a poor communicator in my writing, or I am a poor communicator by writing to the wrong audience (they just don’t get me!). Either way, the author should either refine his craft, ignore his audience, or find a new line of employment.
I’m sure you can read between the lines, but I’m not trying to weigh in on the Rob Bell fracas. Universalism is clearly false teaching, but I’m not completely sure if it is heterodoxy or heresy. (I try to be consistent with what I think is the view of church history, that heresy strikes at one of the cardinal doctrines taught in the Ecumenical Creeds. Universalism surely redefines “He will come to judge the quick and the dead,” but I’m not sure if it is heresy like “Jesus is not divine” is heresy. Thoughts or feedback on this distinction?) I was taught not to respond to a book until I’ve read it, and I have not (and probably will not) read Bell’s latest. But whether it was Boyd in 2001 or Bell in 2011, or any other teacher that has caused a fracas with their writing, part of being a writer or teacher is communicating clearly enough to your audience so that they don’t misunderstand your view. (In an ecclesiastical context, surely this is a requirement for the office of elder as well: “able to teach,” 1 Timothy 3:2.)