My initial guess was that the Bell/Piper controversy was simply one in a series of skirmishes between the older academics who labored to pull evangelicalism up from the fever swamps of fundamentalism versus the emerging church celebrities who believe they are saving us from extinction. That has pretty much borne out by what I have inadvertently picked up in content while absorbing the clothing and namedropping these two and indeed, the many sides have put forward.
My initial notes say that First Things will generally side with Piper but have some stern warnings; Sojourners will want to side with Bell but will have something doctrinal they can't swallow, and be reduced to complaining about Bell's critics instead. Rather like my tweet on the Gandhi dilemma. I haven't checked, but I still think that's exactly how it will play out.
This will play out again, on different topics. I am a touch surprised that universalism should be prominent just now. But missionaries we have supported for years have gradually come to something like that position, and the sister of a friend, also once a missionary, now has a website touting her universalist beliefs. So this may be one of the common heresies of our age. It's a common enough secularist belief, but it's been rare in the church until the 18-19th C, and had only a few efflorescences since then.
Other representatives of the two tribes may be more prominent in other disputes, but it will play like this again:
E(merging)C(hurch): We're just raising questions.
R(eformed) S(talwarts): No, those are accusations disguised as questions.
EC: This generation thinks it's crucial to question and dialogue.
RS: We think your questions have no merit. Ask different ones.
EC: You're rejecting these ideas without considering them.
RS: Am not.
EC Are too.
And both are right, of course. Piper tweets "farewell." Even if Bell's book is strongly universalist and thus heretical, does Piper dismissively say "farewell" to the Lutherans over homosexuality, or the Seventh-Day Adventists over their anti-Catholic teaching? Why is Bell's heresy more worthy of quick dismissal? And as for Bell, 90 seconds of that video was more than revealing. What an arrogant prick.
But I know too much now, and other cultural pieces come in. When I saw "Mars Hill" alongside Bell's name it contaminated my objectivity. I have been generally positive to the Mars Hill side of the EC, but worried that this need for relevance would become need for hipness. Similarly, I saw that Piper was that guy who wrote books for IVP in the 80's about reclaiming traditional sexual roles. Again, an idea I have some general approval of, but one that bid fair to value appearances of tradition enough to often overlook their shallowness. And absolutely, one prone to disregard whatever negative impressions he might create, so long as he got you to hear what the truth is.
Next up: All the EC and EC-sympathetic people will express their outrage that Piper could treat Rob Bell - Rob Bell, an important figure in our tribe because he's hip and his church is big - so dismissively. And frankly, almost no heresy would be too much for them to back down from that insistence that he be treated specially. Meanwhile, all the Reformed Stalwarts and going to keep pounding the same doctrinal issues, in greater and greater detail, with less and less overall perspective, to prove to those EC folks that they are just wrong, just like they always predicted they would be. All of 'em. They're all the same.