It's always risky business when you start questioning people's motives. But when there's money and livelihood's on the line, it's naive to ignore them.
In the affluent West the gospel is embroiled in big business. People pay thousands of dollars to attend seminary for a high quality education, expecting some kind of employment at the end. There are churches who can offer these graduates very reasonable salaries, provided the graduates tick the right boxes. There is an array of Christian publishing companies, looking for big sellers. There is an array of Christian authors, looking to grant these publishing companies their wishes. And behind (or in front of) it all is the gospel -- or in reality an array of interpretations of the gospel. And without these interpretations, thousands of people would either be unemployed or in a different line of work.
I don't necessarily lament this reality. I am a Bible college student, after all.
But I wonder, I just wonder, how much gospel debating and defending is merely towing the party line so that one can stay in a job, or maintain prospects of a job.
I know I said I wouldn't talk about it again, but the Rob Bell fiasco presents an interesting case study.
Of course on the one side you have Bell, earning enormous sums of money out of all of this. On the other side, you have a collection of Christian men deriding the book, lamenting the perceived false teaching, and slapping each other on the back for doing so. "The gospel is at stake" is something you might expect both sides to be saying. Of course that's true, but it's not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Rob Bell and his opponents earn money from the particular gospel interpretation that they hold to. If one of Bell's opponents became convinced by Bell's arguments, he would probably very quickly find himself out of a job, or at least disinvited from the next Together For the Gospel conference. The life he once lived would have to change quite drastically, I would say. This is more than defense of the gospel alone; this is defense of livelihood also.
Brian McLaren raised this point very briefly in a video I watched about a year ago. At the beginning of a discussion on inerrancy, he remarked that a lot of people present in the room there and then would be out of a job if they didn't sign up to the word. Can faithful, honest dialogue really happen in a situation like the one we're in?
A lecturer once told me that he is too evangelical for some colleges and not evangelical enough for others. What does one do in this case? When doctrine is conjoined with paychecks, what should you do when your particular interpretation of certain doctrines means you either do or don't get paid?
I don't have the answers. I probably don't even have the right questions. But to ignore money in all of this -- as appears to be the case in most of what I've read -- is un-Christlike. He had quite a bit to say about the gospel's relationship with mammon and our relationship with mammon, none of which makes for comfortable listening in this day and age.