Two of my current reading projects are John Piper's God is the Gospel (reading) and Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis (finished). Piper, of course, is a bright, shining light in the constellation of Reformed Evangelicalism, while Rob Bell is a poster-boy for the up and coming Emergent Church. I am a long-time fan of Piper, having read almost everything he has written. By comparison, I am relatively unfamiliar with Bell, having seen only two or three Nooma videos, listened to only two or three on-line sermons, and read only this book (Bell's first). In general, I am comfortable with (although not completely uncritical of) the Reformed Evangelicalism which is so well-represented by Piper and consider myself aligned with it. At the same time, I am (in general) fairly uncomfortable with (although not completely unsympathetic to) the Emergent Church. I bought Piper's book because I have come to expect good, solid, gospel-centered edifying books from Piper. I bought Bell's book because I want to understand and be thoughtfully engaged with the phenomenon of the Emergent Church. I certainly do not view Piper as a guru. I certainly do not think Rob Bell has horns. Piper is imperfect and Bell is saying some thought-provoking things that the rest of us probably need to sit up and listen to.
With all of that said, in reading these two books almost side-by-side, I have noticed a fundamental difference in the way the two men handle Scripture. And it is worth calling attention to. Bell uses Scripture provacatively and subversively - to create doubt, prompt questions, and stir the tranquil waters of long-held beliefs. Piper uses Scripture persuasively and simply - to define truth, provide answers, and fill long-held biblical terminology (i.e. gospel) with biblical content. Bell sprinkles Scripture throughout his book as he whittles away at legalism, fundamentalism, and egotism. He throws out just enough Scripture to make us uncomfortable and questioning of our own assumptions - which may or may not be biblically founded. Piper saturates his book with Scripture as he relentlessly argues for one basic proposition, namely that God's greatest gift in the gospel is himself. Scripture so pervades Piper's pages that the reader becomes increasingly more and more convinced that what Piper is arguing for is truth.
Note: both books use Scripture. Both books are challenging some of my assumptions. Both books are thought-provoking. Both books are a mixture of truth and error (as all human writings are). But one book has served to strengthen my overall confidence in Scripture more than the other. And my prediction is that one of these books will far out-last the life and usefulness of the other, precisely for this reason: it resonates more deeply with the book which endures forever.