First, to understand this post, you must read THIS - It is Ben Witherington's post on Rob Bell's speaking tour. (You'll need a few minutes). Read the comments too.
Amongst lots of thoughts on reading that Blog, I have this one:
When we were at University, everyone I know read people like Stott, Packer, Carson and Wright and others like them to learn and explore difficult things from the Bible. If we needed to know what the Ancient Jewish traditions were, it was scholars we turned to -- people whose academic 'runs were on the board'. We 'listened' to them debate. And if we didn't read them, we talked and listed to those who had read and digested these guys. The scholars may not have been particularly creative writers or outstanding speakers. But they spoke the truth with some level of authority. They wrote the proverbial book on these subjects. And they showed all their 'working out' in endless footnotes and bibliographies.
Now, more and more people are turning to Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren and others to educate us about theology and 1st century Jewish history and how they relate to the interpretation of Scripture and culture.
I know that popular speakers have always made clear what the academics have said. We all went to Katoomba Conventions and loved it. We all had good pastors teaching us the Scriptures faithfully within community and in creative ways that we could understand.
At least three things have changed:
- We are getting to be impatient readers -- They've all read Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis, but try handing a student today John Stott's The Cross of Christ. Too much theology for some.
- A distrust of authority -- Academics get it wrong all the time. If they can get it wrong, then it doesn't matter whether a person is proven to know their subject. Especially if they 'connect' with young people and 'connect' with culture.
- The invention of iPod and iTunes, togther with the 2 minutes it takes to download any old junk.
Am I right? And have we taken a turn for the worse? And is there any hope?
I'm not sure. All I know is that Ben Witherington III sat waiting in a packed house ready to watch Rob Bell speak about the history of Judaism and its impact on Christianity.
Methinks it should have been the other way around.