To my knowledge, until now John Piper has not publicly addressed the controversy that erupted over his infamous tweet, “Farewell Rob Bell“, on February 26, 2011. The only thing he has said, via Twitter, is that Michael Krahn’s article was “pretty close.”
In a new interview with Christianity Today‘s Christine Scheller, ranging over a variety of issues like Trayvon Martin and why he doesn’t give more application in his sermons and excommunication, he was asked about what he meant and why he said it.
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You famously tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell” in response to his promotional video for his book Love Wins. Is there a place for theological reconciliation in the body of Christ?
To say yes to that—and you should say yes—would require serious definition. When you say theological reconciliation, you can mean two people with two different theologies working their way through to a common theology. That is their way of being reconciled. That’s what I give most of my energies to. I want to persuade people of what I see in the Bible, and work towards unity in truth. Probably what would be thought when [people] ask that question is: Can two people who maintain their differences in theology then be more reconciled? So, you wouldn’t say farewell; you would say hello. The answer is that it depends on the issues.
I don’t mind addressing the Rob Bell issue. When I watched the video of Rob Bell that was put up on Justin Taylor’s website, which was, I think, a link to his book on hell, my issue there was not primarily his view of hell. It was his cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son. Rob Bell does not admire that. He doesn’t view the Cross that way, as a penal substitution. I consider that the essence of the Cross and my salvation, and the heart of God for me, and that ticked me off royally. I didn’t say all that, so probably everybody thought “Farewell Rob Bell” was kind of like “I don’t like his view of hell, so there.” Well, I don’t like John Stott’s view of hell either, and I never said anything about John Stott. I kept learning from John Stott. I would have sat at John Stott’s feet until the day he died.
There are some views that push people away farther and there are other views that don’t push them away farther. I want to learn from everybody. Francis Schaeffer said our differences in the church are a golden opportunity to show love, and instead of throwing hate bombs over the walls that we’ve got between ourselves, we throw love bombs over. In other words, differences can be an occasion for courtesy, kindness, gentleness, listening, and respect—all of which, the world would then look at and say, “They don’t have theological unity, but they do talk to each other in a certain way.” Now, Paul was pretty hard on certain theological differences and Jesus was really hard on certain differences. And so, there’s a point for “Thus far, no further, farewell.” There are other points where we ought to be cultivating all those courtesies.