Good Will Hunting and the Rob Bell Controversy: Using our ‘brilliance’ to tear others apart

I’ve read a lot of great responses regarding what the Rob Bell controversy teaches us about the current state of “Christian-Christian” relationships in America.  None is better than this post by one of my favorite former students, 20-something blogger, and friend Mike Friesen. He reminds us that sometimes Hollywood echoes the truth of “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1Cor 8:1) better than the, so-called, “people of God.”  Enjoy!


How we treat Rob Bell and Brian McLaren

by Mike Friesen

My favorite movie is Good Will Hunting. I feel like I relate to the main character Will a lot (Matt Damon). There are times where I feel damaged from my past, though I know, I find healing and hope every day. My sister tells me I can get myself out of any situation because 1. I’m fairly smart 2. I’m Charismatic and 3. I can argue and debate with unreal persuasion. Much, like Damon’s character in the movie. I also see immense wisdom in the movie. Wisdom, that I see dying to be poured into my own failures and transgressions. Wisdom about aspirations and dreams. Wisdom on relationships and how we relate to others.

Damon finds himself in trouble for assault and battery, and, instead of going to prison, he gets hooked up with this deal, where he is allowed to study math and see a counselor. Damon, not loving the idea of the counselor, bounces from one to the next, by telling one he is Gay and making moves on him, the other by pretending to be hypnotized and breaking out in the song afternoon delight. Finally, he arrives at the office of Sean (Robin Williams), a guy with a rough upbringing like his, and who is also very brilliant.

When Will first encounters Sean, he tears apart a painting Sean created symbolizing the loneliness he felt with the death of his wife. Will critiqued the symbolism and art technique and was able to pinpoint Sean’s weakness. The next scene is a scene in the park for their next meeting: (Note – clip is rated ‘R’ for strong language.)


When I think about the current Hellgate scandal we find ourselves in with Rob Bell, and, in other books written by Brian McLaren, we act on this similar youthful immaturity and insecurity that Damon does. He was able to systematically destroy Sean’s painting, and, when we approach Bell and McLaren, we systematically destroy them with our “proof-text” theology and modern orthodox understanding.

Do we see these works of art by Bell and McLaren and tear their lives apart?

Just because we read their books, does that mean we can tear apart their humanity?

Just because we disagree, do we know how much they or do not love God?

One of the most beautiful Truth’s of being a Christian is this simple phrase, Imago Dei. It means that we are all made in the image of God. So how would Jesus treat Rob Bell and Brian McLaren? Would he tear their lives apart because of their theology (even if it were wrong)? Or, would he love them regardless? Trusting that God is doing a good work in them, being all the more patient and kind with them while this work is being carried out unto completion?

I’m not saying don’t disagree with it. I’m saying use discernment. But know, that they are a face of God, and when we tear them apart, being human, they feel that pain. Be careful about how you throw around the “H” word (heretic), knowing that the modern-day implications of that word, are very hurtful, towards people who believe they are seeking Jesus and following God’s will for their lives. We all have a humanity, Rob Bell and Brian McLaren included.


(Used by permission.) You can follow Mike at his blog or on Twitter @mike__friesen. You’ll be glad you did.

5 Replies to “Good Will Hunting and the Rob Bell Controversy: Using our ‘brilliance’ to tear others apart”

  1. Good stuff. Our Pastor spoke about division in the church and working out differences this past Sunday. (based on Phil 4). He mentioned this controversy toward the end of his message, expressing his sadness at the way some of those in The Church (worldwide) have responded.
    When I hear about disagreements, I am always reminded of Jesus' response to the woman accused of adultery. He prevented her stoning when he challenged the crowd on their own sin. And then he very gently told her to "Go and sin no more."
    There has to be a way for us to communicate our disagreements and concerns, be they about behavior or theology, in a way that is reflective of the example set by the One we serve. I pray we learn to do this.

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