The Rob Bell-John Piper controversy coupled with some of my own experiences over the years has me thinking this morning, "Who exactly has the power to say who is in and who is out?" I don't mean in or out of heaven. I mean in or out of the "acceptables"–the sphere of those who can be invited to speak at events, whose books can be quoted from the pulpit without fear, those who can be mentioned as friends without one's reputation suffering for it. Who are the owners that get to order a lockout of a particular individual?
I doubt Rob Bell cares much. I certainly don't from a personal standpoint–and thankfully haven't been "locked out" for the most part. However, some of the most innovative and needed voices out there have been because they said or did something the watchdogs or elite establishment thought was declasse or non-negotiable. They dared to open dialogue and dared to challenge of inappropriate traditions and vintage heresies so deeply embedded in our thinking and way of doing things we are unwilling to listen to their probing. I'm definitely not lobbying for Rob Bell in this whole thing (see my post last week). I am contending for those who are professionally and socially isolated by those who disagree with them–simply for disagreeing with "them" on something that is, most typically, small. Sometimes it's for breaking with tradition. Sometimes it's just raw politics. It's almost never core doctrine. It's usually not doctrine at all. It's just different than what the "them" believe should be said or done. Oh, how the "thems" love to keep the gate!
And then I wonder what God thinks of all of this.
I'm certainly not advocating no one should keep any gate or that we must heed all marginal voices. I'm saying we need to continue to make some space for these voices because we need the apple-cart upset every now and then. We need to reimagine things. We need people to point out our hypocrisies and invigorate healthy debate. We need someone to push on our ecclesiastical pressure points every now and then, if for no other reason than it convicts us more deeply of the beliefs we hold.
We don't need to give jerks a microphone. We don't need to welcome heresy. We do need to have the humility to realize we don't know it all, haven't mastered it all, and that God can do new things in new ways. We also need every soldier in the Lord's army fighting in the battle. Lockouts stop the game and ruin the sport over time. We simply cannot afford them if they can be avoided.
So, to all those still in lockout, don't conform. Listen to those around you humbly and change if you should, but don't conform just to end a lockout.
To those who initiate lockouts…well… consider your ways. Consider that God is a big fan of unity and that He sends prophetic voices when His people need them. Listening is almost always better than lockouts. If you ask me, the Kingdom needs fewer lockouts and complete access to all possible ways to win the great race.
Question: Without naming names, who are the "thems" that lock people out? How did they get to be "thems?" Are there legitimate reasons for a lockout? What are some silly reasons some people get locked out?