Monday, June 03, 2013
Frequently, a third alternative is presented: "Christus Victor," in which Jesus redeems us by overcoming the powers of evil. This "theory" is generally ascribed to the Church Fathers. Unfortunately, I find that often people don't do justice to the richness of patristic atonement theology when they set up "Christus Victor" as an alternative to penal substitution. Defenders of penal substitution are right to point out that in fact substitutionary language is all over the Fathers. Early Christians did not simply believe that Jesus rescued us from evil, but that he offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father and paid the penalty for our sins. This language is there in the early Church, and a "Christus Victor" theology that ignores it is a pale shadow of what the Fathers actually taught.
The use of the term "Christus Victor" to describe a type of atonement theology seems to derive from the English title of the Swedish Lutheran theologian Gustav Aulen's lectures on the subject, delivered at the University of Uppsala in 1930 and published in English the following year by the S.P.C.K., having been translated by A. G. Hebert. (I'm using the 1950 reprint.) Aulen contrasts both the "objective" and "subjective" views of the Atonement with what he calls the "classic" view found in the Fathers and Luther. Briefly, the first two views are contrasted thus:
The "objective" view, which Aulen finds first fully formed in Anselm, though prefigured in the Latin Fathers, holds that Jesus atones for our sins acting as a human being, paying on our behalf the debt we owed to God. This may take the form, as in Anselm, of Jesus paying the debt through His perfect obedience, or it may take the form of Jesus directly being punished for our sins (Aulen doesn't distinguish as sharply between these as I would like).
The "subjective" view, on the other hand, holds that Jesus saves us by his perfect obedience, which serves as an inspiration to us, changing our hearts rather than changing something objective about our relationship to God.
Aulen argues that these two views, while opposites, are two sides of the same coin. They share a number of features that distinguish them from the "classic" view. First of all, according to Aulen they are theories which attempt to explain the atonement through some sort of key idea, whereas the traditional view is a "model" but not a full-blown theory--it has room for a number of different emphases and permutations and allows for more mystery than the two later theories do. The most important feature common to these two theories, however, is that they see Atonement as something Jesus does primarily as a human being, rather than as something Jesus does as God. Atonement, while certainly God's work in the sense that God initiates the chain of events and in the sense that Jesus is 100% divine, is in a formal sense the activity of a perfect, sinless human being. Jesus' divinity allows the human being Jesus to atone for us--in the "objective" view by giving His sacrifice infinite value, and in the subjective view by making Jesus a perfect representation of the Father's love who had no inner alienation from God to content with on his own behalf. But in both theories, Jesus' humanity holds center stage, whereas in the "classic model" the Atonement is above all else the act of God Himself.
(To be continued)
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
And the response of America so far seems to be: "What's a Sikh? Oh, never mind--tell me about the Olympics."
Well, I'm happy to tell anyone who cares (and even those who don't) everything I know about Sikhs (which is much less than I'd like).
Here's a starting point for anyone reading this blog who doesn't know about Sikhism (I beg indulgence from folks who know about Indian religion and know how much I'm simplifying here):
Sikhism is an Indian religion which most scholars would describe as an offshoot of "bhakti" Hinduism. Bhakti, or devotional Hinduism, usually focuses on some particular manifestation of God--often involving myths, images, elaborate temple rituals, etc. The idea is that by focusing on this particular "form" of God (who is ultimately beyond all forms and images) you stir up your emotions and move toward ultimate union with God. So typically in Hinduism you have "bhakti" religion which is highly personal and colorful, involving practices that Christians, Muslims and Jews tend to see as idolatrous, and then you have the philosophers who say that God is beyond form and image and is ultimately the one source of everything in the universe.
But in the late Middle Ages some "bhakti" poets began to say, "Why not just worship the God who is beyond form and image? Why should only the philosophers know this God? Why stop at particular forms and images and incarnations when everyone agrees that these are just symbols of the ultimate Reality?" So various devotional movements developed which promoted personal devotion to the one God recognized in principle by pretty much all Hindus.
Meanwhile, Muslims had conquered much of India, and Sufi Muslim mystics were saying things about God that were very similar--that ultimate devotion to God consists in union with Him in love; that God is beyond all form and image; and so on.
Many of these bhakti poets (and some of the more radical Sufis) began to say that a true lover of God would neither be Hindu nor Muslim. One of the most famous of these devotional poets was Kabir. Another was Nanak. Nanak is considered the founder of Sufism, but poems by both Kabir and Nanak made their way into Sikh Scripture.
Nanak's basic teaching was that God is the ultimate Reality, beyond any form or image, and that human beings (no matter their caste or religion) could reach union with God through love and devotion to His Name. He differed with Islam's harsher teachings about wrath and judgment, as well as Islam's insistence on the Qur'an as God's final revelation and on particular ritual practices such as pilgrimage to Mecca, etc. At the same time, he rejected Hindu ritual practices and the worship of particular "deities" as manifestations of God, and he rejected the caste system with particular vehemence. A basic Sikh practice from then until now is a communal meal to which all are invited, called the "langar."
And this brings me to the practical point of this blog post. I urge anyone who is able to make this next Sunday, August 12, "Visit a Gurdwara day." You can call ahead to let them know you are coming (particularly given last Sunday's events, I suppose some might be a bit nervous if a random non-Sikh shows up), but any gurdwara will welcome visitors even if you don't let them know in advance. And don't forget: free Indian food.
The gurdwara I normally visit, on Lower Huntington Road in Roanoke, Indiana, meets biweekly and they don't appear to be meeting this Sunday. However, there's another one near Illinois Road in Fort Wayne that also meets biweekly, on the Sundays when the one in Roanoke doesn't meet. I'm trying to confirm right now that they do have a service next Sunday.
If you don't live in the Fort Wayne area, you can find a gurdwara easily on the Internet. I think most of them follow pretty much the same practice: they start to gather around 9, but the service is long and isn't usually over till after 1. The meal follows. They are fine with you showing up late--most of the Sikhs will do so as well. And from my experience with one gurdwara and what I've read about Sikhs generally, I think I can guarantee hospitality. Just make sure to take off your shoes and cover your head.
Sikhs do not use any images in worship, though they do revere their Scriptures, which you will find under a kind of canopy in the front of their worship space. They will distribute a kind of sweet paste called "prasad"--I have no problem partaking of it, but other Christians may feel differently about it. The food itself is served in a separate space, in my experience, and is very explicitly offered to any members of the community, not just Sikhs.
I'm sure there are other, perhaps more practical ways to respond to last Sunday's atrocity. But this is at least a place to start.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A specific criticism about Douthat's piece: He makes the claim that the Episcopal Church is experimenting with "blending religions." Now I'm not willing to say that "blending religions" is necessarily bad. Given the difficulties involved in defining religion in the first place, I think that would be a very rash claim. Arguably Christians who incorporated elements of Platonism and Aristotelianism into Christian thought were "blending religions," and I'm not one of the people who thinks that this was entirely bad. I think there's a lot of work to be done by Christians in appropriating the insights of Buddhism, for instance.
But in fact the three incidents noted in the article to which Douthat links (which are the three everyone notes, a bit suspicious if this is really the sort of thing that is happening all over the Episcopal Church) have one obvious thing in common: in all three cases the "blending" was clearly rejected by the Episcopal Church, in a show of the kind of disciplinary authority that people think the Episcopal Church never exercises.
The married clergy couple who wrote prayers to pagan deities (including an explicit rejection of Ezekiel's condemnation of mother-goddess worship) were disciplined and eventually left the priesthood.
The priest who converted to Islam and attempted to continue as an Episcopal priest was disciplined by her bishop, and again, ceased to function as a priest.
The bishop-elect in Northern Michigan who had received "lay ordination" as a Buddhist was not confirmed and thus was never consecrated as bishop. (The election of a bishop has to be confirmed by at least a majority of the dioceses in the Episcopal Church.) This appears (rightly) to have been based less on the mere fact of his Buddhist ties than on the fact that he clearly rejected some central Christian teachings (such as human sinfulness and the need for redemption by Jesus).
It frustrates me endlessly that conservative commentators use these three stories to prove the very point that they refute: that the Episcopal Church has no commitment to orthodox Christianity and no willingness to exercise discipline. I confess to being rather surprised by the outcome of these incidents, particularly the one involving the "Buddhist bishop." But in all three cases the Episcopal Church did what folks like Douthat think it can't do.
Now to the larger point: I see no indication that liberal Christianity is dying. It is certainly dwindling, but it will always have a "market share." Bass may be right that liberalism is suffering from trends that affect everyone, but I think she's wrong that liberalism just happened to start feeling the effects first. Douthat is right in the key claim that if a church simply copies the world, it becomes irrelevant. This point has been made most effectively by Stark and Finke in their book Acts of Faith, which argues that churches that stand in fairly high "tension" with the surrounding culture (and make serious demands of their members) tend to grow.
But in fact, as this Unitarian minister points out, it's quite possible to have a kind of liberalism that doesn't just copy secular culture. When I read Acts of Faith, which falls into the trap of identifying "high-tension" churches with conservative ones and "low-tension" with liberal ones, I asked myself, "But wouldn't a liberal church in, say, East Tennessee be in higher tension with its culture than a conservative, Southern Baptist one? Wouldn't it require more commitment to belong to a pro-gay church in a small Southern town than to belong to a fundamentalist one?"
The bigger question, of course, is whether growth is really the important thing. Stark and Finke are sociologists, and naturally approach things that way. But both Stark himself and many who use his work seem to identify numerical growth with spiritual validity. Douthat seems to be doing that in his op-ed piece.
The paradox is that if Stark and Finke are right, then caring about growth and about "attracting people" is self-defeating. The trap into which liberalism has fallen (and it's becoming increasingly clear, as the "Millennials" come of age, that the megachurch evangelicalism in which they grew up fell into the same trap) is precisely the trap of starting out with the question "how can we grow" instead of the only question worth asking: "what is true"?
From a sociological point of view, what you think is true may matter less than that you believe it (at least in terms of the growth/vibrancy of your movement). But of course, to believe anything at all is to believe that what you believe (and not merely that you believe it) is important. In other words, sociology can't be allowed to have the last word--and Stark and Finke's sociological work itself demonstrates this fact!
It's becoming increasingly clear in our culture, in secular as well as religious arenas, that the stereotypical "everything is OK" version of liberal tolerance is not only internally incoherent but practically unworkable. In many ways I'm worried by the rise of "liberal intolerance," because combined with the existing conservative intolerance it's creating a rather toxic environment in American society. But in certain ways it's a good sign.
As Chesterton said a century ago:
Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “education”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is, logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.” He says, “Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.” This, logically stated, means, “Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.” He says, “Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.” This, clearly expressed, means, “We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”
If there is one thing clear from the sociological work of Stark and Finke and the statistical trends to which Douthat refers, it is that these attempts to avoid talking about what is good have failed. It would be tragic if this admirable body of sociological work became itself (in the hands of triumphant conservatives) an attempt to avoid talking about what is good. Let us not substitute talk of statistical trends and growth patterns and even "high-tension" churches for talk of what is good.
Let us base our hopes for our churches on one thing alone: on our faltering and ridiculous attempts to be faithful to Jesus, or rather in the myriad ways in which Jesus uses our faltering and sinful communities in order to be faithful to us and through us to the whole world.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The most frustrating part of the afternoon question-and-answer period was her discussion of the issue of property fights between the denomination and parishes that wish to leave the Episcopal Church. She has been criticized for allegedly preventing such congregations from purchasing "their" property, preferring (where necessary) to deconsecrate the property and sell it for some other use. She was asked about a recent WSJ op-ed piece on the subject, and criticized it as "more fiction than non-fiction." However, she affirmed that the Episcopal Church does not let property go without deconsecrating it.
The problem I see with this position is that it is proper only to someone claiming to speak for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is the Church as a whole that consecrates or deconsecrates. To suggest that fellow Christians cannot use consecrated property is to suggest that they are no longer part of the true Church.
As far as I could tell, the Presiding Bishop's ecclesiology is one in which the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is made up of diverse, parallel organizations that both cooperate and (at times) compete with each other (she used the example of a healthy ecosystem in which there are many flourishing organisms). And yet, as her stance with regards to the Episcopal Church's property shows, she winds up in practice speaking as if the Episcopal Church simply were the Church. If she really valued the presence of many competing "organisms," why not let the departing parishes go, facilitate their purchase of the property they had been using, and celebrate the resulting diversity?
The basic problem here is that however much a denomination may claim to be only part of the universal Church, denominations don't seem to be able to stop themselves from acting as if they were the Church. And I think the answer is to admit that a denomination is not even a Church in any theological sense.
There are local churches, gathered around a local bishop, and there is the Universal Church.
Everything in between is just administration.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Most of the movies on this disc are of primarily historical interest. The earliest ones were primarily experiments, though an interest in storytelling develops early on. Many of the early films were "actualites"--essentially what we would now call documentaries, though very brief and with a stationary camera. People would set up a camera outside a factory or in a train station and simply film what was going on. (Of course, one has to suspect that pretty soon the filmmakers started manipulating events in order to get more interesting results.)
Slapstick comedy is one of the genres that developed very early. Much of it isn't very interesting, at least to me. The humor often seems heavy-handed.
The three most famous movies on this disc are "The Great Train Robbery" by Edwin Porter from 1903, sometimes called the first Western; "A Voyage to the Moon" (1902) by the Frenchmoviemaker Georges Melies; and "A Girl and Her Trust" (1912) by D. W. Griffith. "Robbery" is historically interesting and somewhat enjoyable. The most talked-about moment in the movie is usually shown at the end, when one of the robbers turns and fires his gun at the camera; this seems to have nothing to do with the story (the robbers have been caught by this point), and as I understand no one really knows when it was originally supposed to be shown. "A Voyage to the Moon" seems to be largely based on Jules Verne. It's the most famous movie by Melies, who began as a stage magician and is best known for his development of special effects. Melies doesn't do a lot for me--I recognize that his technical wizardry was impressive, and that he had a quirky imagination, and I have more respect for what he did than for the bloated CGI that audiences flock to see today. But there doesn't seem to be any heart in his films--they're all trickery and crude spectacle. Historically interesting, but not particularly meaningful on other counts.
Griffith's "A Girl and Her Trust," on the other hand (a revision of a movie called "The Lonedale Operator"), is great melodrama with a plucky heroine who saves a safe from a gang of bandits (largely, in the final climax, by simply hanging on to it as they drive off with it--and her--along the railroad tracks). It has one of the great early chase scenes in the movies, and a lovely final shot of the heroine and her boyfriend sharing a sandwich while riding on the bumper of the train that has rescued her. Watching this movie made me a fan of Griffiths--about whom more to come if I continue this series.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
With said bias in mind:
Jenn's basic argument is that Methodists who pushed for the use of non-alcoholic "wine" in the Eucharist in the late 19th century were doing so based on a coherent theological/philosophical point of view based in "common-sense realism." I'm no expert on commonsense realism, so I won't discuss the more technical historical-philosophical aspect of Jenn's argument. But she captures the American Victorian Protestant ethos brilliantly. The theologians, moral reformers, and authors of household advice manuals whose work she examines all shared the conviction that clear thinking about the world, based on reliable sense impressions and free from undue influence by passion or imagination, was key to personal morality, social welfare, and true religion. They were deeply suspicious of the irrationality and self-indulgence that they identified with Romantic poets on the one hand and with Catholic immigrants on the other. They believed sincerely that "cleanliness is next to godliness" (maybe even identical with it).
The most appropriate symbol for this view of the world was water. Jenn quotes a number of "temperance hymns" which extol the benefits of "pure, cold water" (see p. 62, for instance). Jenn is writing about Methodists, not Mormons, but it may be significant that Mormons (like some early Gnostics) substituted water for the "fruit of the vine" in their version of the Eucharist. Methodists and other mainstream Protestants were too attached to traditional Christianity to follow the Mormon example in this. Indeed, temperance reformers initially did not condemn all alcohol, instead arguing for stricter standards of purity in the production of alcohol and fighting against the distilling trade. Properly produced beer and wine could be consumed healthfully in small quantities (this was John Wesley's view). Hard liquor and the "adulterated" beer and wine often drunk by the lower classes were entirely evil. Benjamin Rush's "temperance thermometer" reflects this early view (p. 21). By the middle of the 19th century, however, temperance advocates had moved on to the condemnation of all alcohol. This brought them into apparent conflict with the Bible, which frequently speaks favorably of wine and seems to mandate its use in the Eucharist. Lacking the claims to additional revelation put forward by the Mormons, how were Methodists and other mainstream American Protestants to handle this apparent conflict? The answer lay in the "two-wine theory," which argued that "pure" wine was in fact non-alcoholic. One of Jenn's most interesting sources (about which I heard a great deal while she was writing the dissertation that eventually became this book) is Frederic R. Lees' Temperance Bible Commentary, which goes through every verse in the Bible discussing wine and argues systematically for the two-wine theory.
The central chapters of the book deal respectively with "Alcohol and Science," "Alcohol and the Overthrow of Reason," "Alcohol, the Ideal Worker, and the Poisoned Chalice," and "Alcohol and the Truth of the Gospel." A further chapter discusses how similar concerns about cleanliness and rationality underlay the move away from the common cup toward small individual cups.
The concluding chapter, beginning "This is the story of how grape juice became holy" (p. 121), is a brilliant summary of the argument of the book as a whole, focusing on the contrast between a contemporary "liturgical" sensibility valuing mystery, ecstasy, and passion and the theological views that motivated the temperance reformers. Jenn is formed by the liturgical tradition within Methodism, and this book is an impressive exercise in getting inside the heads of people with whose assumptions she fundamentally disagrees.
Obviously the book is useful for all grape-juice-using American Protestants (not just Methodists) who want to understand their heritage on this point, as well as for non-American Protestants, American non-Protestants, and even those who are neither American nor Protestant, who may wish to understand the weird practices of this particular tribal family. However, in a society increasingly divided along "culture-war" lines, where people on both sides routinely refuse to see any intellectual validity in the other, the seriousness with which Jenn takes her subjects' ideas may be the greatest significance of the book. (Jenn is not, I'm happy to say, unique in this respect--there are a number of young scholars of American religion who are doing this kind of thing.) It is common to hear liberal intellectuals claim (or more tragically, just assume) that the "great unwashed" of conservative American Protestantism do what they do for fundamentally non-theological reasons, usually because they are being manipulated by millionaires. In the present instance, it is often asserted that the Welch family promoted non-alcoholic Eucharistic "wine" for purely financial considerations. Jenn shows the abundant intellectual roots of Eucharistic grape juice (if juice can have roots), demonstrating that 19th-century American Protestants, right or wrong, had coherent reasons for their views. She also points out that temperance advocates saw themselves as "progressive," interpreting Scripture in the light of science and clearing away the fetid foliage of tradition to make way for the light of common sense and responsible democratic citizenship.
In summary, this book is an engagingly written, often wryly funny work of scholarship that sheds light on some of the basic underlying assumptions of the mainstream 19th-century American Protestant tradition, which continues to shape American society today. For those of us who come from that tradition, the book helps us understand ourselves better. Thanks to Jenn's work, I have a much better understanding of just what it is about my religious heritage that I reject, and why that rejection has brought me where I am today. I stand firmly on the side of mystery and paradox against common sense. And yet when I read this book, I hear the rippling of cool, clear water and I have a better understanding of the moral and spiritual vision that shaped my childhood than I did when I was under its un-enchanting spell.
(Final note: one of the big questions left to be addressed by this book is the role of emotion and even Romanticism in the Wesleyan tradition. Our mutual friend Chris Armstrong of "Grateful to the Dead" tends to emphasize this--he and Jenn have some disagreements on the subject. In my own case, I find that the "Romantic" elements of my heritage are the ones with which I am still most in agreement, while the "common-sense" elements are the ones I am most inclined to reject outright. But this is not a subject that can be addressed adequately within the limits of this review.)
Friday, March 18, 2011
I disagree substantively with Pastor DeYoung on a number of points, with regard both to his interpretation of Bell and to the theological standards he is using to critique Bell. Since his review is very well organized, I will follow his arrangement of topics, noting agreements as well as disagreements with his critiques.
I will start with DeYoung's third "preliminary," which attempts to close some "escape hatches" found in Love Wins.
As you’ll see, the book is a sustained attack on the idea that those who fail to believe in Jesus Christ in this life will suffer eternally for their sins. This is the traditional Christianity he finds “misguided and toxic” (viii). But in one or two places Bell seems more agnostic.
Bell is agnostic not about the claim that all who do not believe in Jesus in this life will suffer eternally (he clearly rejects this), but about the question of whether there will be some who, in spite of God's persistent offer of grace, eternally choose to turn God down. DeYoung continues:
These are strange sentences because they fall in the chapter where Bell argues that God wants everyone to be saved and God gets what God wants. He tells us that “never-ending punishment” does not give God glory, and “God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (108). So it’s unclear where the sudden agnosticism comes from. Is Bell wrestling with himself? Did a friend or editor ask him to throw in a few caveats? Is he simply inconsistent?
The answer is much simpler. Bell is describing a position he regards as a serious theological option, held by "an untold number of serious disciples of Jesus across hundreds of years," not necessarily the position he himself holds. Bell's position is not self-contradictory or dishonest. He is consistent from beginning to end about his "agnosticism" concerning the question of whether some will eternally persist in saying "no" to God. He considers universalism to be a live option within Christian orthodoxy, but he does not consider it to be unquestionably true.
Similarly, at the end Bell argues, rather out of the blue, that we need to trust God in the present, that our choices here and now “matter more than we can begin to imagine” because we can miss out on rewards and celebrations (197). This almost looks like an old-fashioned call to turn to Christ before it’s too late. When you look more carefully, however, you see that Bell is not saying what evangelicals might think.You don't have to look that carefully. DeYoung is proceeding on the assumption that Bell is somehow trying to pretend to be a traditional evangelical. He isn't. DeYoung doesn't want to allow Bell to say that our choices here matter unless Bell says that they matter in the same way DeYoung thinks they do. This is not a fair way to argue. By all means disagree with Bell. Condemn him as a heretic if you think you need to. But don't try to argue that he's being shifty or dishonest when he simply doesn't accept the dichotomies that you wish to impose.
He wants us to make the most of life because “while we may get other opportunities, we won’t get the one right in front of us again” (197). In other words, there are consequences for our actions, in this life and in the next, and we can’t get this moment back; but there will always be more chances. If you don’t live life to the fullest and choose love now, you may initially miss out on some good things in the life to come, but in the end love wins (197–198).
"Love wins" for Bell because God respects human freedom, so if people do choose to reject Christ eternally (something Bell hopes they won't do but recognizes as a possibility) love still wins. This isn't too hard to understand. The fact that DeYoung and other critics are confused by it says a lot for how their theological commitments restrict their ability to understand those who differ from them. If you have a theology that tells you that people who differ on major issues are probably not real Christians and thus are spiritually blind, then you aren't likely to take the trouble to think in the unfamiliar ways necessary to understand them. This is not a personal judgment on the character of Pastor DeYoung or his theological allies, but a judgment on the general tendency of conservative Calvinist theology.
The same problem plagues the next section of DeYoung's review, "Not Your Grandmother's Christianity," in which DeYoung argues that Bell is deeply conflicted about his evangelical heritage, wishing to criticize it while remaining faithful to it. To which I respond: you make this sound like a bad thing! I've noticed that conservative Christians, especially Calvinists, frequently portray any kind of mediating position or any position including tensions or paradoxes as a dishonest compromise, and urge folks occupying such a position to be "honest" and go all the way. After all, it's easy to deal with someone who rejects orthodox Christianity outright. But someone like Bell is annoying because he persists in identifying himself as an evangelical. DeYoung insists that Bell is trying to "evolve out of" his heritage, when Bell would say that he is calling evangelicals to be faithful to the best and truest elements of their heritage while questioning some other elements.
I understand how traditionalist Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox find this kind of language objectionable. But how can any Protestant object to such an approach on principle?
This [Bell's supposed desire to "evolve out of" his evangelical past] presumes, of course, that the Christian faith is not a deposit to guard or a tradition that must not change (2 Tim. 1:14; 2 Thess. 2:15). Much of Bell’s polemic fails if there is a core of apostolic teaching that we are called, not just to embrace as part of our journey, but to protect from deviation and defend against false teaching (Acts 20:29–31).
I agree to some extent with DeYoung here. Bell is prone to rhetoric implying that any drawing of doctrinal lines is wrong and that there is really no such thing as heresy at all. This is an untenable position. However, the point at issue with regard to Love Wins is whether the particular claims made by Bell are at odds with the "core of apostolic teaching." I do not believe that they are. That doesn't mean that I agree with everything Bell says, and I certainly think he is often not the best advocate for his own positions.
I will end my response here for now. I will continue, when I have time, with a response to DeYoung's historical criticisms of Bell (and as a teaser: this is the place where I'm most inclined to agree with DeYoung--Bell's history is often very sloppy).