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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  1. Your remarks could not be more astute. It is not doing people a favor to let them continue blindly down the wrong path, when it is a path to certain destruction, and not always a pleasant journey there, either.

    Suffice it to say that I know of several individuals who experimented with several dangerous choices, with varying degrees of long-lasting damage, and the people who yell the loudest that we should encourage that behavior, in the end, are the least compassionate when the results follow, as the night, the day.

    One young friend had an abortion and regrets it to this day.

    One friend was permanently bald from doing acid. Another sustained horrific, sporadic nightmares from previous trips on LSD. If only someone had gotten it across to these guys that life goes on, after the experiments! Thankfully, both of these guys were saved, by the time I met them, but te scars remained.

    My heart broke for a girl who knew, up front, that her relationship with a foreign student was casual and would be broken when he left, but was unprepared for the depth of her feelings for him when the time came for him to leave. She didn’t even have the comfort of Christ . . .

    I wept, inside, for a young man in college who asked to just have us present, at a party, so he wouldn’t fall into sin, and we went, shrugging off the smirks he would have had to endure alone, otherwise.

    But this is apparently not typical. Even though the society in the U.S. purports to be pluralistic, people with a lowered immune system are virtually pushed into a public arena, for instance, with no regard for their health needs!

    Even though the press has loudly gathered supporters for the concept that 2% of the population should be given special rights and privileges, oddly, those same supporters make it clear to me that they are horrified when I speak to people they know are part of that lifestyle and treat them as people, just like everybody else. The truth is that part of their anger is fully justified: there is a lot of hypocrisy out there! Christians say they love people, but have trouble speaking to them and unbelievers say they care and defend them, but won’t have anything to do with them at all.

    No wonder this is a people group filled with fear, not knowing whom they can trust!

    What is good is that you and I can change that, in our little corner of the world, rebuiilding trust in them through our dedication to prayer and kindness.

    After all, the reason sin is sin is that it is abuse. Don’t we handle people who have been abused with kid gloves?

    We don’t stick them in a corner and walk away–that’s more abuse!

    And oh, by the way, if this is so politically incorrect that I just sacrificed my future writing career, do me a favor and please let me know!


  2. Thanks, good read. For the record, I’m sure Rob would agree that Gandhi is indeed (and unfortunately) in hell.

    Can’t wait for the book.


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