Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2019

On Issuing a “Farewell” to Those With Whom You Disagree

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

There’s a classic Negro spiritual, In That Great Gettin’ Up Morning. My parents owned a copy of the song covered by a group of white guys (not the version by the Gaither Vocal Band) and for some reason it got lodged in my brain Sunday morning while getting ready to leave for worship.

The song urges the listener to do what they can now in order to “fare well” at the sound of the trumpet ushering in the judgement of God. The chorus lyric (which is common to the GVB version) is “In that great gettin-up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well…”

At the same moment, my brain flashed back to the now iconic statement by John Piper to Rob Bell, “Farewell, Rob Bell;.” Piper’s pronouncement that Bell had officially left the fold of Evangelicalism (something Bell might agree with) and more importantly, left the fold of saved believers (something God might have told Piper that he didn’t tell everyone else.)

Piper’s statement was totally dismissive. It was the type of thing you say (more positively) to someone you don’t expect to see again; perhaps even someone who has died; but the context carried with it the tone of, “Get out of my life;” or “I never want to see you again.”

Despite this, the words themselves are actually a blessing. ‘Farewell’ is clearly a shortened ‘fare thee well,’ as vocabulary.com notes: “A farewell is also an expression of good wishes at a parting. If you’re leaving a job after being there a long time, your co-workers might throw you a farewell party.”

When someone in our lives announces that they are embarking on a bizarre career path or making an ill-advised investment, we might say, “Well…good luck with that.” We’re being equally dismissive, but the words themselves at least have a positive ring.

So are we really wishing the person the best of luck? Probably not insofar as it connects with the issue at the center of the interjection.

Nearly a year later, Christianity Today pressed Bell for a response to the many reactions his Tweet brought:

…my issue there was not primarily his view of hell. It was his cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son. Rob Bell does not admire that. He doesn’t view the Cross that way, as a penal substitution. I consider that the essence of the Cross and my salvation, and the heart of God for me, and that ticked me off royally. I didn’t say all that, so probably everybody thought “Farewell Rob Bell” was kind of like “I don’t like his view of hell, so there.” Well, I don’t like John Stott’s view of hell either, and I never said anything about John Stott. I kept learning from John Stott. I would have sat at John Stott’s feet until the day he died.

In another article which responded to Piper, Justin Taylor wrote that, “it is better for those teaching false doctrine to put their cards on the table (a la Brian McLaren) rather than remaining studiously ambiguous in terminology.”  

Was it right for Piper to condemn Bell? He certainly wasn’t alone, but there was such an unbelievable degree of snark in the remark (that rhymes!) that it is now part of Piper’s legacy, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing…

…Seven years later, in March 2018, Piper’s remark was not forgotten:


I tried to locate a version of the song which comes close to remember, but this is the best I could find.

 

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