Nooma “Open”: A Review

Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the producer of a series of videos he calls “Noomas.” In these videos he appears to be teaching Scripture, but a closer look reveals his message is anything but biblical (you can read about some of his earlier Nooma videos here, here, here, here, and here).

His latest offering is entitled “Open” and is fat with New Age teachings. He has tinkered with New Ageism before, but in “Open” Bell is a little more… um… open with his beliefs.

A tenant of New Ageism is the belief that we are “co-creators” with God. Bell embraces this notion in “Open,” though he tries to mask it in feigned respect for the Bible. He uses the account of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane and the biblical account of creation in Genesis (what Bell calls the “creation poem”) to lend credibility to his attempt to combine New Age teachings with Christianity. He asks why Jesus prays for “the cup of crucifixion” to pass from him and then answers it this way:

“…Jesus took very seriously the creation poem Genesis, that the Bible begins with. And in this creation poem God creates, but God creates things that are capable of creating more, and so God creates trees but then gives trees the ability to create more. God creates animals and plants and fish but then empowers them to create more. And then God creates people, and gives them the ability to create more. So everything in creation is essentially unfinished, God leaves the world unfinished, and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.”

He then goes on to say that when Jesus prayed in the garden he was, “tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.”

This sort of spiritual teaching is nothing new — but it is anything but biblical. This is the kind of stuff the New Age writers produce. Just consider the following articles by prominent New Age writers…

Some have already tried to attach Christ to the New Age movement — Bell is not the first. But it is remarkably disturbing that Bell has managed to achieve a level of credibility with certain circles of evangelical Christians and this makes him extremely dangerous. The content of his Nooma “Open” (a full transcript can be viewed here) coupled with the New Age and humanist messages contained in previous Noomas, build a pretty strong case that this man is not a biblical teacher but, rather, a full-blown false teacher who is adept at tickling the ear.

And even if he is capable of sufficiently hiding his message in his “teachings” then, at the very least, we should take him at his word when he betrays his true nature in an interview. In a recent interview with Christianity Today magazine Bell said he was, “…discovering the Bible as a human product rather than the product of divine fiat.”

Not that he sees a problem with that.

“The Bible is still in the center for us,” Bell said, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

I pray that orthodox believers will begin to recognize this man for the false teacher he is and stand guard against his blended brand of “Christianity” so that it never has an influence in Christ’s Church.

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

7 Responses to Nooma “Open”: A Review

  1. Tyler says:

    Hey Chip…

    I share with you in the disdain for this video. I too disagreed with it in a post I did a couple weeks ago. You talk about this coming out of a New Age thing but I think this is more coming out of Open Theism, which is something I don’t agree with either. Bell hasn’t come out and said it but I think he agrees with a lot of the tenants of Open Theism. I guess I don’t see the New Age thing as much as Open Theism. I also don’t think it is fair to call it unBiblical. There are verses that can be used to validate something like this, but I just think it is a skewed view. He is using the Bible and is most often a great teacher from the Word, but clearly he views here at skewed.

  2. Chip says:

    Tyler,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree that there are elements of Open Theism in Bell’s teaching — a concept I view as unbiblical as well (I’ve even commented “Against Open Theism” before on this site). In the case of this Nooma, however, I believe the predominant heresy is the New Age co-creatorship. In either case, the false teaching stems from a man-centered view of Scripture rather than a God-centered view of Scripture. And that is the main problem I find with Bell and the Emergent Church movement.

    I would disagree with you on one point. I think it is completely fair and appropriate to call it “unbiblical.” I understand there are verses that can be used to support Bell’s teaching, but that is also true of a whole host of false teachings. Taken out of context the Bible can be used to support just about anything — but that doesn’t make those things biblical. I apply the term “biblical” to concepts supported by a proper understanding of Scripture. And Bell’s teachings don’t meet that criteria.

    Again, thanks for commenting.

  3. Phil says:

    Please define a “proper understanding of Scripture,” the criteria that does meet this standard and where you find it. I’m wildly interested!

  4. Chip says:

    Phil,

    A proper understanding of Scripture comes from two things: 1) guidance of the Holy Spirit and 2) utilizing an appropriate method of Bible interpretation.

    The first one is the most important. Scripture tells us again and again that God’s Word is foolishness to the worldly man. An unregenerate person CAN’T understand Scripture. God alone can give us the proper understanding of His Word. Just one example of this is in Luke 24:45 where Jesus is speaking with His disciples and then “he opened their minds to understand the Scripture,” Read the entire chapter in context at the following link — http://www.esvstudybible.org/search?q=Luke+24

    The second point, while not as important as the first, is still essential for proper understanding of Scripture. Many of the errors people fall into are because of a lack of proper biblical interpretation. The very first example of this I can think of is a phrase you may have heard before, “TO ME that passage means…” Let’s be clear. The Bible does not have multiple meanings. It has one meaning. It may have multiple applications — but it will always have just one meaning. The best way to uncover the actual meaning of Scripture is to employ what is commonly known as the historical-grammatical method. For a good overview of this method go to the following link — http://www.carm.org/bible/interpret.htm

    The historical-grammatical method puts the Bible in the proper context, without which the actual meaning is almost impossible to discern.

    I hope this helps.

  5. brad says:

    i dont think open would classify as false docterine.

    i see no false docterine in it. he doesnt talk about us being “co-creaters”

    he talks about how creation is unfinished and left in the hands of man and if thats not the case please reveal unto me the truth? i mean when God told Adam and Eve to go and replentish the earth wasnt that God leaving creation in the hands of man?

    also how you hit on how Bell addresses Gen. 1 as the creation poem. if you know anything about the hebrew writings you know thats what it is and that would be why bell makes statements like embracing the mystrey instead of conquering it.

    one will never be able to conquer the mystrey that is the word until the day when we no longer know in part but in full

    i dont agree with everything bell teaches at the same time no two people are going to agree 100% on everything scriptures have to teach and with that said if no two people agee on everything that would lead us to the realization thats theres false docterine somewheres down in each and everyone of us.

  6. mike says:

    so- you have a proper understanding of scripture, and Rob Bell does not ? you are correct, and most other people are wrong. You said ” taken out of context the Bible can be used to support just about anything” I have not seen Rob Bell’s videos, but I will check them out.

    respectfully, Mike

    • Chip says:

      Mike,

      I’ve never claimed to have Scripture completely figured out. In fact, I know that I do not. That’s why I continue to study it — so that I may correct my own errors and conform more completely to God’s Word. If I’m wrong somewhere I invite you to show me — with this caveat: You must show me in Scripture where I’ve erred. It is the same standard I apply to Bell and I have not problem with that standard being applied to me.

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