Does The Narrow Way Lead To A Big Tent?

Whether or not Rob Bell’s upcoming book Love Wins actually makes a case for universal salvation as the promotional video suggests, it has opened up the conversation about heaven, hell, and who will be saved. For this I am glad. Sadly, his is only one voice in what appears to be a growing number claiming to have discovered what the Bible actually says.

This lust for something new has been with us a long time. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day re-interpreted the Law according to their own traditions, and various groups ever since have done the same thing. Think of the Mormons, interpreting the Bible by the revelation Joseph Smith claimed, or the Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any number of cults.

More recently, the trend has seeped into Evangelical Christianity. Some time in the early twentieth century, a movement started away from all that “fire and brimstone preaching,” replacing it with the social gospel. Eventually the winds shifted again and evangelism surfaced emphasizing that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life unless you reject Him, in which case you’re not going to heaven.

Now decades later, there is yet again startling, good news, “better than we could ever imagine,” which could only be true if all these years no one has been reading the Bible and no preachers have been preaching from it.

If it’s any comfort, false teaching slipped into the Church right from the start. The Apostle Paul warned the young pastors he mentored about this desire to hear “easier” truth or “better” truth or “newer” truth, whatever was more pleasing:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
– 2 Timothy 4:3-4

So today, in the era of tolerance, some asserting to be part of the church have decided God should be tolerant too. He should set aside the claims that there is a requirement such as believing in Jesus for people to find their way into his presence. Which of course means he must also give up any claim as a righteous judge who will one day hold men accountable for their rebellion. These positions, they tell us, are actually in the Bible, and the Church has just misinterpreted them all these years, putting God in a box, limiting his capacity to love liberally and accept all his children, including those who

were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian
The Shack, p. 182

All this fits nicely with our culture. Inclusion seems to be the goal, bringing all “faith communities” into The Big Tent. On the surface it sounds so good, so loving.

Except it actually flies in the face of Truth — the very words of Jesus who out of His love for the people He would die for, warned them in no uncertain terms that there was a divide between sheep and goats, growing branches and ones cut off to be thrown into the fire, between wheat and weeds, grain and chaff, between houses built on sand and ones on rock, between faithful servants and unfaithful, between the wise who stayed alert and the foolish who fell asleep. At one point He spelled it out like this:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.
– Matt 7:13-16a (emphasis mine)

If we take Jesus seriously, what’s the loving thing to do — tell people not to worry, that the Big Tent has plenty of room for them, too? Will this help them find the small gate and narrow way? Or will it deceive them into thinking the narrow way and the broad are going to the same destination?

Published in: on March 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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