Bobby Conway: Contending for the Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
Jude 3, NIV84

Clarke has been sharing quite a bit lately, through posts and comments, about religious pluralism and related topics. (Incidentally, one of my all-time favorite posts by Clarke is this one on particularism and the wideness of God’s mercy.)

Religious pluralism is a difficult and tattered topic. There are lots of recent bestsellers stirring up great controversies, but the song remains the same. There is no end to the number of writers who want to reinvent Jesus and conform Christianity to some type of “fair for all people” standard.

But do we really have that liberty? Would that liberty even make sense?

The Apostle John recorded in John 13:35 that the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another—so why can’t that be the bottom line on the Christian faith?  We should just love each other and everything will work out. You know, love wins. But…there are stern and passionate condemnations throughout the New Testament about not giving away the Gospel and the importance of contending for the faith that was entrusted to us. It all depends upon how we understand ‘love’.

This issue hits close to home for me. A friend from church recently told me how impressed he is with Rob Bell. While I can understand on a secular basis how Rob Bell’s teaching (‘doctrine’) appeals to a wide audience, given the plumb lines of Scripture it seems to me an insidious theological cancer. Our understanding of God is like a 20-year-old Oldsmobile? Really?! This is not a debate between creationists about how to interpret science and the Bible to determine the age of the earth. Nor is it a debate about Calvinism vs. Arminianism, nor whether baptism is a sacrament or an ordinance. It’s much more important than those questions. Why?

Here’s an excellent piece of on-topic teaching from Dr. Bobby Conway that lays out why it is so important to understand the Doctrine of Hell. It’s also a powerful example of why doctrine and theology matter.

About John Paine

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4 responses to “Bobby Conway: Contending for the Faith

  • Marion

    I pray you all will watch or listen to this video by Bobby Conway. He makes so clear the true meaning of God’s love. Love does win but not as Rob Bell wants to interpret love. God’s character and love and grace and mercy are so much bigger than not allowing anyone to suffer. Bobby also poignantly reminds us that our obligation is to reflect God’s love by doing our utmost to ensure everyone has the knowledge and opportunity to choose Jesus.

  • Clarke Morledge

    In a recent interview in 2013 with Oprah WInfrey, Rob Bell was asked what he believed. His response, starting at 3:18, was “that we are going to be fine….I really do.”

    It is fairly easy to be sitting on Oprah’s beautiful porch overlooking the water on her multi-million dollar piece of property and say “that we are all going to be fine.” Would he say the same thing in another setting where the terrors of evil wrought by human sin serve as the backdrop? It appears that Rob has moved on from his ambiguous agnosticism regarding hell described in Love Wins to a more affirmative belief in universalism a few years later.

    The best part of the Q&A session on the Bobby Conway video was the recognition that for all intellectual skepticism regarding the doctrine of hell you will always find some emotional trauma that preceded it. This is really important. If we can help folks work through their emotional trauma first, it will help us to better approach difficult issues like this on an intellectual level.

    • Clarke Morledge

      I should add that not every evangelical critique of Rob Bell’s views have been very good, which unfortunately, only adds fuel to Bell’s fire (pun intended). What I appreciate about Bobby Conway here is that he took the time and energy to really wrestle with Bell’s Love Wins, instead of trying to make a straw man out of Bell’s argument, and then make a critique accessible to your average Christian. Conway in humility is able to recognize some ambiguity in our knowledge of some details of future existence, though he does not go into it that much detail here, but he does effectively tackle the central, core themes as Rob Bell presents them.

      Frankly, though, most scholars who work in this area of theology, while they appreciate Bell’s questions as being valuable and important for discussion, they generally find that Bell’s handling of Scripture is pretty weak, muddled, and unconvincing. So if someone really wants to study a more formidable approach to universalism, you really should not waste your time on Rob Bell. Rob Bell is a Fuller Seminary grad, though I can say from experience that it is possible to go through Fuller Seminary and side-step the meatier theology courses.

      For the best contemporary defense of universalism from someone who knows the Bible well, you would have to read Gregory MacDonald’s (alias Robin Parry) The Evangelical Universalist. I have not read the book, as it is really super deep and I have not had to time for it, but every reviewer that I know says that it makes Rob Bell’s work seem like kindergarten fluff.

      http://growrag.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/rob-bell-robin-parry-and-evangelical-universalism/

      I have heard Robin Parry speak before, and while I do not find his views convincing, to the extent that I understand them at this point, at least he gives you some real substance to work with, as opposed to the deceptively shallow message from Rob Bell, the “Ad man.”

    • John Paine

      Marion and I were driving down the East Coast last Sunday (returning from a family funeral in Lake Placid), and she asked who I would like to listen to that morning. I thought about who might deliver some real teaching, and said, “Why don’t we try Bobby Conway?” The Rob Bell video was one of the first ones on his website, so we gave it a listen (because of your recent posts). Bobby Conway is a product of Southern Evangelical Seminary (which hosts the National Conference on Christian Apologetics each year in Charlotte). I find myself more and more in alignment with their teaching, and have come to respect what Bobby Conway has to say in particular. Just wanted to get it out on a post so people can take note and use his material in their own personal discipleship.

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