Nooma “You”: A Review

Rob Bell’s 15th Nooma video, entitled “You,” is highlighted on the back cover of the dvd this way:

“Some of the central claims of the Christian faith are the source of many discussions and heated debates. But are we always debating the right things? Maybe some of our discussions would change significantly if we had more insight into the actual circumstances that surrounded the first people of the Christian movement — if we had a better understanding of the things they did in the context of the world they lived in. Maybe some of the claims of the Christian faith that we typically perceive to be unique aren’t really that special at all.”

You may ask yourself, what claims of the Christian faith does Bell not consider unique to Christianity? The belief in a loving God? The doctrine of God’s sovereignty? Other religions make these claims, maybe this is what Bell means.

No, no.

The thing that Bell thinks we “typically perceive to be unique” and that he says isn’t “really that special at all” is the resurrection of Christ.

The resurrection.

Very early in the video Bell tells the viewer about the ancient Roman and Persian gods Mithra and Attis. There are writings that claim these gods were born of a virgin, died to redeem their people, and rose from the dead.

“In the first century, to claim that your god had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, well, it just wasn’t that unique,” Bell says. “The claims of these first Christians weren’t really anything new. Everybody’s god had risen from the dead. What makes yours so special?”

At this point the accompanying discussion booklet asks the questions:

  1. Have you ever thought about what makes your faith special?
  2. Do you believe that the act of Jesus rising from the dead is what makes the Christian faith unique?

That apparent implication is that the resurrection is NOT what makes Christianity unique. In fact, Bell continues to explain that what DOES make Christianity unique is humbly serving in a “universe-wide movement” to restore a world that is “broken and desperately in need of repair.”

Bell says the first Christians viewed this restoration as having nothing to do with leaving this world. “It was all about the restoration, the renewing and the reclaiming of this world.”

The distinguishing feature of Christianity, according to Bell, is a Christian’s method of making the world better. The followers of Mithra and Attis were usually Roman soldiers, politicians and people with great influence and power. They wanted to change the world through military power and political coercion. What made Christians different, Bell says, is the “gospel they were living had nothing to do with using political force to force people to live according to your laws. For them, this gospel was about serving the world, especially those on the underside of the Empire. For them, it was about serving, not ruling.”

A focus on restoring this world is typical of New Age beliefs, which, as I’ve pointed out before, have had quite an influence on Bell’s teachings. But even beyond that, Bell’s claim that Christianity is all about restoring this world just isn’t biblical.

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” — John 18:36

Jesus even made a point of telling his disciples about the promise of leaving this world.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” — John 14: 1-3

Bell’s claim that the early Christians were not concerned with leaving this world just isn’t true. Many of the early believers were consumed with leaving this world. They actually fell into error because they neglected their charge to make disciples and instead kept an eye on the sky for Christ’s return.

Bell says the distinguishing mark of Christianity is humble servant-hood, but many religions teach humility and servant-hood. In his assessment about what makes Christianity different Bell is just plain wrong. But my biggest problem with this Nooma is Bell’s initial statement about other religious claims that mirror the life of Christ. He never makes a distinction between Mithra, Attis, and Jesus. He allows the viewer to leave still thinking there is no difference in the historicity of these three.

It is true that there are ancient writings that claim Mithra and Attis had lives very similar to Christ. What Bell fails to point out is that while Mithra and Attis were worshipped before Christ was born the claims of their virgin births and resurrections weren’t until well after Christ had lived and died and risen again. Prior to Christ the stories of Mithra and Attis were very different from Christ and more like the typical Greek and Roman mythological figures of ancient literature. The stories of Mithra and Attis rising from the dead were, in all likelihood, fashioned after the actual events of Jesus’ life. Bell fails to point out that Mithra and Attis are not real and takes no time to point out that Christ’s resurrection is an historical fact and that it is THE central doctrine that makes Christianity different from any other man-made religion.

Consider how seriously Paul regarded the resurrection…

“And if Christ is has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. for if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” — 1 Corinthians, 15: 14-19

I could not disagree more strongly with Bell on this point. The resurrection IS what makes Christianity unique. Christ is very, very real. Mithra and Attis are not. I find it extremely hard to believe that a Christian teacher of any kind would address this topic and not take the time to make sure his listeners understood the reality of the resurrection. Bell’s failure to do so casts some serious doubt as to the orthodoxy of his teaching.

With each additional look at Bell’s teachings I become more and more convinced he is simply a false teacher.

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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.

86 Responses to Nooma “You”: A Review

  1. bdl says:

    Are you sure Rob is questioning uniqueness of the resurrection? Are you sure enough to call him a “false teacher”? Also, what is your definition of a “false teacher”? Seems to be a bit of an extreme label.

  2. Chip says:

    The implication is quite clear. Bell points out there are things about the Christian faith that we think are unique but aren’t “really that special at all.” The only tenant of the faith he addresses is the resurrection. It is true that he does not come right out and actually deny the uniqueness of the resurrection but that is typical of the slippery rhetoric in his teachings. He is so consistently vague that one can only conclude it is deliberate.

    As for calling him a false teacher: I did not draw that conclusion on the basis of this Nooma video alone. It is on the basis of a lot of research into his teachings that I am convinced Bell is a false teacher. His teachings are so filled with elements of humanism, universalism and New Age beliefs as to be something entirely different from the gospel message of the Bible.

    If you think I’m being unfair with Bell I recommend you go to the “Thideology Classics” in my links list and read my essays on the Emergent Church. My first impressions of Bell were quite positive. It was only after I went deeper into his material that I realized he is preaching a gospel completely different from the one proclaimed in Scripture.

    I appreciate your comments.

  3. Micah Clack says:

    My Church small group just finished watching and discussing the “You” video by Rob Bell. I was immediately struck and awed by the fact Rob Bell minimized the resurrection when stating other religions at the time had an already established Resurrection and Virgin Birth Myth. I found it compelling I had never heard of this in all my studies of the Bible. While watching the video I thought to myself; either Rob Bell is full of it or there is a major conspiracy in the Christian Church to keep this fact hidden from believers. Whether it was true or not, he was and is irresponsible to leave this issue open ended.

    Thankfully, our small group leader had prepared for the discussion and did some research. In his research he came across your blog, which I am now happily aware of. We decided that the resurrection and Grace of God is what sets our religion apart.

    We had a great discussion about the question raised in the video; what makes our faith special? What does set a Christian apart from followers of other religions? What makes me different and how do I show that difference to non-believers.

    I am convinced we show our difference when we live constantly and presently in the Grace of God, which is the resurrection. We are different than the people of the world who pretend to have it all together, and I am a witness to the Resurrection when I do not hide behind mask’s but show others around me that I am broken and a sinner and a liar and an adulterer and a thief and prideful and greedy, but it is God who wipes this away. Because he loves me so much I am unable to stay the same, and even though I stumble, it is again and again because of the resurrection that I am saved both in this Kingdom and the next.

  4. Rafael says:

    You think to be able, or better . . . have the permission – from whom??, just God knows – to label the product of other person with: “Contains false teaching . . . bla bla bla . . . . Soli Deo Gloria”.
    Dou you really think the world needs your protection? New people, new format, same contents . . .

  5. Chip says:

    Rafael,

    Not only do we have permission to watch out for false teachers we have the responsibility to do so. Jude 1 tells us to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. 1 John 4 tells us to try the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets are gone out into the world. How do we do this? By holding up any teaching to Scripture.

    Any criticism you see here of Rob Bell’s teaching is not based upon my own opinion but rather upon holding his teaching up against the clear teaching of Scripture. And, in too many cases, Bell’s teaching just doesn’t measure up. In fact, he is even contradictory in many instances.

    Anyone who stands up and claims to teach on behalf of biblical Christianity is open to the scrutiny of Scripture. You should be very wary of any teacher who does not want to be scrutinized by Scripture.

    Do I think the world needs my protection? No. But, as a believer in Christ, I have a responsibility before my Lord to stand up for the integrity of Scripture and to contend earnestly for the faith He delivered to us — according to Scripture.

    As for Nooma being “New people, new format, same contents…” I’d suggest you look again. The contents of many Nooma videos are not representative of historical, biblical Christianity.

  6. Greg Luecht says:

    I agree with Chip about what makes Christianity unique, The Resurrection; but asserting The Resurrection as a historical fact? Besides the absurdity of proving a present reality (God indwelling us, The Holy Spirit) with what amounts to a historical claim (taken by itself); that which makes God real is a FAITH relationship with God through The Holy Spirit (for those with faith), and a Christian’s Kingdom lifestyle on Earth (divine love displayed to the World). It is the living God that validates scripture, not the other way around.

  7. Jason says:

    I wnat to say that I hate the arguing and labeling and the proving that my opinion is better than someone elses opinion. Yea Rob has some offbeat opinions sometimes but so does everybody and he challenges people to criticize him he recognizes he doesnt have it nailed down. For all the people who love to piss and moan about him it seems funny how much they read and watch and listen to his teachings, if his teachings are so false people should just not pay attention to him. Also what about the good that has come out of his teachings people dont pay any attention to that aspect all they like to do is whine about how his teachings are wrong.

  8. Frank says:

    Jason,

    Your comments make it sound as though you think theology and doctrine is nothing more than a debate between differing opinions — as though the truth cannot be known. That is absolutely false. The truth CAN be known by rightly dividing the Word of God. You describe some of Rob Bell’s opinions as “off beat.” What do you mean by “off beat?” Wrong? Because if you think it’s okay some of his view are wrong merely because other’s have views that are wrong then you are treading on some seriously dangerous ground. We are not to measure ourselves against ourselves. That’s the kind of flawed logic that leads to the current feel-good church message of “I’m okay, you’re okay.” No we are to measure ourselves against God and His Word.

    As I read this review I see Rob Bell being held up against Scripture, NOT against the opinions of anyone else — and he doesn’t measure up very well. And the fact a lot of people listen to him is no vindication of his teachings. Scripture even points out that LOTS of people will be deceived by the fancy words of false teachers. The only way to determine the authenticity of a spiritual teacher is to hold his teachings up to Scripture — which is exactly what this review has done.

    Finally, you asked “what about the good that has come from his teachings?” My question is this: what good? If someone thinks they are saved as a result of the message of Rob Bell then I fear they have been horribly deceived and may not realize it until they are called to account before the very throne of God. Good coming from Rob Bell’s teaching? Hardly.

  9. Elliott says:

    Hi!

    I am researching the Nooma videos and Rob Bell as well. I am going to read a lot more on your site, but was wondering, just from other things I have read, that Rob brings a lot of different views into his videos to get people to talk about the topics and “open the door” so to say.

    I have also read that this is his method of not providing the answer, but giving the question and some thought provoking ideas to get people to really read the bible and understand it deeper.

    What are your views about this?

    Thanks and God bless!

  10. Chip says:

    Elliott,

    I have no problem with addressing difficult problems nor with “opening the door” to discussion. Discussing the harder elements of Scripture is a very beneficial thing. It’s how we learn. I don’t think the modern church does enough of this. When I teach I often ask difficult questions and avoid providing the answer until it has been thoroughly discussed. It is not Bell’s method of teaching that bothers me. It is his message.

    He has often said that we should “embrace mystery.” It is one of the characteristics of the Emergent Church movement — of which Bell is a part. This practice of “embracing mystery” often manifests itself in the denial of biblical truth. Emergents frequently take a difficult passage from Scripture, claim it has a multitude of possible meanings, and then declare them all “okay” because we can’t possibly know the truth of it.

    My disagreements with Bell stem from the fact that he frequently assigns ambiguity to passages in Scripture that are anything but ambiguous. The fact is there ARE things we can know for certain from Scripture. God did not provide Scripture to confuse us but to inform us. So when I see Bell raise doubts as to the authenticity of the resurrection — which is exactly what he does in “You” — I call him on it.

    It’s not merely a matter of teaching method — it is the denial of a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith.

    I hope this answers your question.

  11. Elliott says:

    Chip,

    Thanks for the explanation of the points. I have been debating on buying the Nooma series as a way for my wife and I to discuss the Word more and to get deeper in our faith together.

    I have only seen a couple of the videos and they have been thought provoking to me. I wasn’t aware of the emergency church movement so I am going to look more into what they believe and such.

    Thanks for a great site full of info, I’ve got lots to read!

  12. Tom says:

    Excuse me, but I just ran the 1 minute and sixteen second version of Rob Bell’s “You” on you tube and he said and I quote: “the Gospel is the good news that God has not given up on the world. That the tomb is empty and a giant resurrection is underway and that you and I can be a part of it, and this has a deeply personal dimension to it! Jesus is saving me, saving me from my sins and my mistakes, from my pride and from my indifference to the suffering of the world, from my cynicism and from my despair……” “The brokenness of the world around me is true of my own soul, so He is rescuing me moment by moment, day by day. God wants to put it all back together, you and I deep inside so He starts with our awareness……” well you get the picture. It seems to me you are putting words in Rob Bells mouth that I just don’t see there.

    Don’t the scriptures say: “The kingdom of God is at hand”? And, “Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save it.” ?? I am quite sure that Rob Bell’s intention is not to rewrite the scriptures as you imply or that he is the last word on anything. For me, He spurs me to look into the scriptures and see exactly what the context was and how that affects me today. I also use other reference materials like William Barclay, who also waxes a bit whimsical from time to time to show the wonder, mystery and awesomeness of God.

    It seems as though it is you who want to have the last word on things eternal!!!

  13. Vicky says:

    I agree with the poster above that you are misrepresenting what Bell is saying.
    I’ve seen many of these videos, in my mainstream church, and they provide wonderful conversation starters.
    Discussing ALL the ways that Christianity is different and ALL of what it offers to us is certainly not false teaching.
    And as far as resurrected god tales, this actually was nothing new in the 1st century AD. Forget Mithras, how about Dionysis/Dion, or the whole Ra/Osiris thing. Many tales of resurrected ‘gods’ pre-date Christ by millennium. Check your history book before you decide on the “facts”.

  14. Michael says:

    Hey Chip

    Thank you for the professional website.
    Not sure if you want to post this, but here is my personal opinion after watching the series with my Bible Study group.

    Firstly, Rob encourages me to think & question what many Christians would consider the ‘norm’. I am a theologian, which simply means I spent a dedicated part of my life to studying and debating the topic of ‘God’ in a Christian environment.
    So 3 Years of study, and a further 2 years practical after that…. and Rob has been able to reveal topics & discussions I have never heard before.

    He seems to offer a very intellectual, yet down to earth interpretation of the Bible.
    So I guess I’m keen to learn more about his church etc, and I’ll have a look around your website to see what I can find.

  15. John says:

    Hi, I too have been pondering Rob Bell’s message. I must look at both sides of the coin in doing this. This Emerging/Emergent Church Movement is doing a lot of good for the relevancy of the church in today’s culture, but as you are noting here, it is opening the door to a lot of free-thinking that leads to making up our own truth. I’m on my second Rob Bell book now and slowly watching the videos. I must appreciate Rob’s candid approach to scripture and the quality of the film product he is putting out in his Nooma videos. I have run across various things in what I have encountered with him so far that have made me stop and raise an eyebrow. Typically, however, after careful thought and research, I have found him to either be trying to make a point beyond the literal words he is saying, or to be correct in a fairly gray sort of way. Case in point, the points about the Resurrection he makes. Guess what? Research Mithra and Attis (both pre-dating Christ) and you find that indeed, Mithra was also born of a virgin birth, and Attis died and was resurrected every spring. I think that perhaps Rob’s spreading these two facts a little too thin to make such a substantial point with them. If this is true, I think that this is perhaps a bit irresponsible of him as a pastor and a teacher, but he is in fact telling the truth. I cannot comment further on the video, because I have not seen this particular one, but what in fact makes the resurrection of Christ unique is that Christ took our place with His death, and His resurrection embodied our own resurrection from the dead with him. This is what makes us Christians.

  16. Chip says:

    John,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d like to respond to a couple of your statements.

    First, you claim the emergent church is doing a lot of good for the relevancy of the church in today’s culture. I should point out the Church was never called to be “culturally relevant.” We are called to be godly. We are called to conform to Scripture NOT conform Scripture to our culture. A biblical worldview, a biblical church is the most relevant thing there is regardless of the culture. Culture changes. It always has and it always will. God does not. Scripture does not. I think you will find, if you look closely, that the emergent church is more influenced by culture than it influences culture. Seeking “relevance” will lead to compromise, and we are never to compromise on the integrity of Scripture.

    Second, you may appreciate Bell’s candid approach and the quality of his film production, but neither of these things is a measure of biblical accuracy. You can be candid in saying the wrong things just as easily as you can the right things. Hollywood produces the finest quality films you will ever find, but that does not mean there is any redeeming quality to the message contained therein.

    Finally, you admit to seeing/reading things of Bell’s that have made you “raise an eyebrow.” I’ve had a lot of people admit that to me. But then, many of them make apologies and excuses for the eyebrow-raising content. They try to tell me that Bell didn’t really mean what he said. Or, I just didn’t hear him correctly. Or, I just didn’t think it through.

    I’ve said over and over again that my first impression of Bell was positive. And the first time he said something that made me raise my eyebrow I looked at it again and again, hoping I was “just not hearing him correctly.” But when it comes right down to it, Bell teaches many, many things that don’t quite mesh with Scripture. Now, I think a lot of people try to explain these things away because they really WANT to like Bell. He’s hip. He’s cool. He’s very, very popular. So are a lot of things of this world — it doesn’t mean God has blessed them.

    No, when I look at the work of Rob Bell as a whole, there’s just too much evidence there that convinces me he is not teaching biblical doctrine.

    You may disagree with me. A lot of people do. But I would encourage you to take all of Bell’s eyebrow-raising statements and hold them up against Scripture.

    I found the two to be at odds. And when I find that, I will side with Scripture every time.

    • Matt says:

      Wow – I’m very late to the debate, but I can’t not reply to this, when the opportunity is still open.

      Chip, you say, “Seeking “relevance” will lead to compromise”.

      I am astounded!!

      I can only assume that these words mean something completely different to you than they do to me. To me, I can tell you for sure that if God had never become “relevant” to me, I wouldn’t know him today. In fact, it is ONLY God’s relevance that matters. I.e. if he weren’t relevant, no one would need to care! (don’t misunderstand me: he is relevant in a myriad of ways, but he IS – critically – “relevant”.)

      If – as it appears from scanning many of your comments on this page – you think that the precise truth of the bible (the accuracy of which is vigorously debated even amongst main stream Christian scholars!) is more important than helping people to relate to Christ’s relevance in their lives by the power of our own testimony, then I think it’s a mighty good thing that you seem to have been chosen to teach Christians and not reach those yet unintroduced! ;o)

      I mean no personal offence, and I whole-heartedly agree that biblical truth is critical to our journey, but I equally applaud those such as Rob Bell who are willing to confess openly that in all honesty, we have more questions than answers; so we’re pointing the way for others to make up their own minds. This is valid teaching too!

      It seems to me that there’s a lack of understanding of personalities across the Church that too often leads to disagreement and denunciation, causing a divide that needn’t be there, and that directly contravenes our mandate to be united with fellow believers.

      I don’t know whether you know the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as a tool to help understand personality differences/strengths/weaknesses, but I would reckon you might be a ??TJ (rational and structured type of person) and Rob might be an ENFP (unstructured and intuitively led by human impact and emotion). Such differences in God’s own creative handiwork are precious; even when not familiar or even comprehensible to us, the diversity is a reflection of his own complex splendour!

      Too many people, particularly in the “modern” (i.e. pre post-modern) world value rationalism over aesthetics, and yet we have a God who created both, and the types of people that understand and “prefer” each; and I believe he equally values beauty and logic (evident in all creation that reflects his glory).

      I would love to see more Christians practice the biblical model demonstrated by the one who commands us to FOLLOW: mercy over justice.

      I know we have to address issues of wolves dressed as sheep and reject false doctrines, but so far I’ve seen nothing of the sort from Rob’s work (several nooma, two full vids, a couple of books, and a seminar). I don’t think he’s The Best Thing Since Jesus or anything. I just welcome his discussion.

      Too many people that I dearly dearly love are rejecting a relationship with Jesus before even meeting him because people like yourself put themselves on a pedestal, claiming to rightly divide scripture, when it’s quite clear to many other different-minded-but-God-serving people that you just have a different perspective, and others claim to rightly divide it with different results. If the right division is the most important thing, what hope have we got?!

      Thank God for relationship with him!! :oD

      If we have even THE WHOLE TRUTH but do not have God’s love overflowing us, we are nothing (St Paul says). So let’s make sure we take the overflowing supernatural love into people’s lives with relevance, which I see Rob Bell doing, and let’s discuss doctrine and truth only in the context of such love.

      If we cannot accept that our perspectives are subjective and guaranteed to be at least partially flawed, we cannot find the humility that we need to let the Love flow.

      If we can accept that our perspectives are subjective and we are certainly flawed in many ways in which we see the world, including God’s truth, then we have a fighting chance…

      • Andrew says:

        Matt:
        I wasn’t aware that inerrancy was under debate among mainstream scholars. The words aren’t that hard to understand. Generations of people haven’t had trouble understanding words, their meanings, and what it means for their lives. The message of the gospel is timeless. Without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, we don’t stand a chance of the gospel not being foolishness to us. There is a world of difference between a level of cultural appropriateness in that the bible is written in a language that makes sense to us (as opposed to King James) and rewriting the message of the bible.

        The bible has the power to convict someone of their need for Jesus. People may relate to the witness statements of others, but my testimony is not the gospel. We should never get away from the cross, and why Jesus had to die for our sins.

        Rob’s assistant pastor at Mars Hill is a man who believes that the spriit blows in the sails of all religions – effectively preaching universalism. Bell would not be paired with someone whose theology was a million miles away from his own. He also wouldn’t invite the likes of McLaren to his pulpit if he wasn’t comfortable with his message that it is ok to leave people as muslims or hindus and not convert them to being Christians. I can tell you that I haven’t attended a church that would tolerate a preacher who held to that position. They might get to preach it one week, but they’d be on the welfare queues the next.

  17. Kim says:

    Our young adult group will view “You” tomorrow. After I watch this DVD I will weigh in my assessment of the material. I have already used several Nooma DVDs to great benefit in small groups. Discussions have been lively and relevant. Rob Bell provokes fresh thought. He shakes the dust off the Bible and strikes at the heart of the central message of Jesus. It concerns me that several current thinkers on the American scene have come under scrutiny by self-proclaimed theological watchdogs who label them so glibly ‘false teachers’. I have examined their teachings, watched their videos and read their books. Their so-called “deviant teachings” are no more than necessary departures from a deadening Fundamentalism from which I fled years ago in order to maintain my Christian faith. I have perused websites committed to “orthodoxy”. To my chagrin I found them pulsing with partial quotations, misinformation, character assassination and outright slander against brothers and sisters in Christ. I sense something resembling the spirit that motivated the Pharisees to denounce Jesus as a blasphemer and demon-possessed. Seldom did I discover rational discourse or a balanced and fair portrayal. I get weary of the slam-dunk judgments dished out.

    My question is this: Does it matter what makes Christianity unique? If other religions promote a dying and rising god, then Bell is correct: a resurrected Lord is not an unheard of commodity in the world of Jesus. Does Bell anywhere deny the resurrection of Jesus or its saving efficacy? I think not. Does he state that the other gods really resurrected and are of equal worth to the world? I doubt it. Isn’t it true that God loves and wills to save the world and that Christians have been enrolled in this Mission of God? I think that is Rob Bell’s point, but I will wait until I view “You” tomorrow.

  18. Chip says:

    Kim,

    A few thoughts:

    1) You said Bell “shakes the dust of the Bible and strikes at the heart of the central message of Christ.” My question to you is this: What do you consider the “central message of Christ.” Because I’ve watched the majority of his Nooma videos, I’ve seen his “tour” videos, I’ve read his books and I’ve yet to see him hit on the “central message of Christ.”

    2) I can only assume that you include me among the “self-proclaimed theological watchdogs” who glibly label Bell a false teacher. I’d merely like to remind you of the biblical admonition of every believer to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the Saints.” It is part of the job of every Christian to guard the orthodoxy of biblical teaching. We do this by holding anyone’s teaching up against Scripture. This is what I’ve done with Bell. If you think I’ve made a mistake in how I’ve compared his teaching to Scripture then I encourage you to be specific and point it out. Where have I used “partial quotations?” Where have I used “misinformation,” “character assassination,” or “outright slander?” And if you think I’ve not been fair and balanced then I recommend you read my four-part series on the Emergent Church.

    3) Your question to me was this: Does it matter what makes Christianity unique? My answer to you is this: absolutely Yes! The fact of the matter is this: there is only one way to heaven, and that is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus DID actually raise from the dead. Mithra and Attis are false gods. They never existed. To reject the things that make Christ unique is to lend credibility to false religion. To neglect the things that make Christianity unique is to allow it to be listed among the “worlds’ great religions” as just one of the many possible ways to heaven. It astounds me that anyone who claims to be a believer in Christ could flippantly dismiss the things that make Christ unique. Paul certainly did not do that. Neither was he shy about calling false teachers what they were.

    Finally, you claim deviant teachings like Bell’s are “necessary departures” from “deadening Fundamentalism.” I could not disagree more. “New” “fresh” ideas like Bell’s are what deadened Christianity in the first place. It was a departure from the core orthodoxy of Christianity in an effort to pursue “relevant teaching” and “more seeker-sensitive” approaches that left our pulpits with a dead, lifeless, and worldly message.

    I sincerely appreciate your comments and would encourage you to hold Bell (and me) accountable to Scripture. Anyone who honestly desires to teach God’s Word will not mind biblical scrutiny of their teachings. I don’t mind at all.

    I wonder if Rob Bell does.

  19. Kim says:

    Chip,
    Thanks for your comments and questions. I viewed the DVD “You” today. Our group held a discussion around some of the questions in the booklet. This moved several to deepen their faith and express their commitment to Jesus Christ. We experienced an exciting and engaging conversation following this episode.

    After viewing “You” it is apparent to me that you have misunderstood and misrepresented Bell. I have to concur with Tom’s and Vicky’s comments above. It seems that you are on a hairpin trigger such that you miss Bell’s points. You read into them commitments that simply are not there. Bell’s point is that the confession of Jesus’ resurrection, though believed quite literally by Christians, was not a unique viewpoint in the first centuries of the Church. Bell did not say or imply that Mithras or Attis did, in fact, resurrect; only that Pagans accepted those beliefs and were therefore similar in their confessions to Christians.

    Bell pointed to a simple a matter of historical investigation: other religions also believed in dying and rising gods. Do you not believe that, Chip? Perhaps you failed to catch that point. He never stated that Christians base their faith in Jesus’ resurrection on a falsehood. If he denies the resurrection of Jesus, please show me where. He assumed the truth of the confession, “Jesus is alive”. He proceeded throughout this episode on the basis that Jesus is present with us. Perhaps you missed that too. He pointed out that belief in a dying rising god was not unique in the ancient world.

    On a confessional level Christians proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord” in a world that confessed, “Caesar is Lord”. That is also accurate. So what was the difference? There are many differences, but good gosh, Chip, in a twelve-minute video Bell could only share a few. He focused on the caring community Jesus energized which worked especially among the marginalized, the poor and the underside of society. Even Pagans remarked about how “those Christian love one another”. Celsus disliked Christians and castigated them calling Christianity a religion for “women, slaves and children”.

    Bell is correct. The original disciples did not conceive of Christianity as an escape from this world. Certainly, the first Christians understood their salvation as deliverance from the distorted values that plague the world. Salvation in Christ is an escape from the binding power of Satan. The values of the kingdom of God do not derive from this world, but they are operative in this world. That is what I heard Bell advocating.

    This is not false doctrine, Chip. Bell did not deny the resurrection but asserted that the uniqueness of Christianity was more evident in the empowerment that comes through the Christ in the community. Christ does not make converts through military force. His Lordship of service runs directly counter to the lordship of Caesar. Bell made that point indirectly but powerfully.

    I am afraid that you have slandered a brother in Christ and for that, I hold you biblically accountable.

    I have watched a good many of the DVDs in the Nooma series. The central point is quite clear and consistent: God has come to us in Jesus in a saving way. In every episode I have watched, Bell focuses on Jesus, his words, his teachings, and his manner of being with us and for us. It is similar to what I have seen as the coherent core of Paul’s writings: the triumph of the grace of God revealed in Jesus.

    Fundamentalism has not breathed life into the church, Chip. The movement began in the USA as a defense of the faith against what it perceived as destructive biblical criticism generating from continental Europe. However, over time it morphed into a mean-spirited Pharisaical movement that equated Biblical Orthodoxy with a rigid doctrine of scripture. It embraced Dispensationalism and turned it into a kind of new orthodoxy. It read the Bible “Americanly” instead of reading America biblically. It has insisted on pulling everything though the narrow knothole of its own limited experience.

    You wrote: “Fresh ideas like Bells are what deadened Christianity in the first place.” Perhaps that is true for you but not for me. My Christianity is not deadened at all. It is alive and white hot. I have found Bell’s sermons life-giving, accurate to scripture, and relevant to practice.

    I have encountered many Christians who have been wounded and in some cases had their faith destroyed by the “…good that men do” in the name of their Fundamental Christianity. It has not born good fruit but has followed the way of the scribes and Pharisees, so inimical to Jesus.

    You wrote: “Focus on restoring the world is typical New Age belief”. I suppose you are implying that Bell takes his cue from New Age teachers and gurus. I wonder about that. Using a similar language does not mean you hold the same commitments. The word “Lord” in the first century was used by pagans and Christians alike. Christians adopted the language of the world around them, but meant something wholly different (see such terms as “ecclesia”, “agape”, “headship”, “slave” “freedom”, even “Messiah”. I think you have unfairly implied that Bell wears a New Age label. That kind of rhetoric holds powerful emotive sway among a certain sort of Christian who grooves on dividing brothers and sisters. That is wrong, Chip.

    You wrote: “Bells claim that Christianity is all about restoring the world just isn’t biblical”. I am afraid that you are wrong again. God loves the world and wishes to save the world. That is John 3:16. Paul wrote that the “whole creation” is the object of God’s saving work. Christians are agents proclaiming this salvation in Christ. We do so through word and deed as Jesus taught us. The English word “Salvation” derives from the Latin “Salus” meaning “healing” and “health”. Salvation means healing, restoration to wholeness, deliverance from threatening powers of destruction. This is what God is doing in the world and what Jesus calls us to proclaim and exemplify in our personal and communal life. That is what I hear Rob Bell trying to get across.

    Have you written Bell and shared your concerns with him? He may be able to answer better for himself. If he denies the resurrection I would concur with you, he has dropped off the table and we can consider him heterodox. If he proclaims that there are many ways to God, Jesus being only one, then I would run from him. If he states clearly that Jesus is a mere human teacher, not the Lord and Son of God, then let us denounce him together as a deceiver and false teacher. If he advocates, we save ourselves and Jesus is not central then we shall say together, “this is not of God”. However, I am afraid, dear brother, that you have connected the wrong dots. Bearing false witness against a brother is a serious charge and spreads dissension on Christ’s Body. Chip, you may wish to reconsider your stand on Bell.

  20. Chip says:

    Kim,

    Again, I appreciate your taking the time to comment. Allow me to respond by first addressing your closing comment that I may “wish to reconsider” my stand on Bell. If you look through my website you will find many reviews of Bell’s work. I’ve watched a great many of his Noomas. I’ve watched the DVD from his “Everything’s Spiritual” tour, and I’ve read Velvet Elvis. You should know that each and every time I approach something of Bell’s I approach it from the standpoint of “reconsidering” my stand. Every single time I’ve hoped he would, for once, abandon the ambiguity that marks so much of his teaching and just speak plainly. Unfortunately, each and every time the content of his message has served only to confirm the suspicions created in his previous work. Elements of humanism, universalism, and new ageism are prevalent in so much of it.

    Furthermore, the more I watch and read of Bell, the more I am convinced that he is vague on purpose — so that his defenders may honestly ask of themselves and others, “Did Rob really say that?” “Are you sure that is what he meant?” It is sly and it’s deceptive.

    If you pay close attention to my comments you will see that I do not accuse Bell of actually denying the resurrection (if he does not believe it, he would never actually say it, for that would betray his true colors to so many who follow him). I point out that his dancing around the issue is typical of the slippery rhetoric so prevalent in much of his teaching. It is easy to conclude that his ambiguity is deliberate. It makes it difficult to condemn his teaching as false based solely on a single Nooma, or book, or tour presentation. But, taken together one can begin to see a pattern of teaching that is contrary to Scripture. I won’t list all of Bell’s questionable content in this response — it would take up too much space. But they are all easily found on my website — The “Emergent Church” parts 1, 2, 3, and 4; Emergent’s Incomplete Gospel; and my reviews of “Velvet Elvis,” and several “Noomas” outline this clearly.

    I will mention one thing specifically, however. In everything I’ve seen of Bell’s I’ve waited for him to deal with the issue of Christ’s atonement. The one place where he actually uses words like “sin,” “hell,” and “repentance,” he does so disparagingly. In his Nooma “Bullhorn” he actually makes a case that sharing these aspects of Scripture are counter-productive to drawing people to Christ.

    You have claimed I am wrong for denying that Christianity is all about restoring this world, and you cite John 3:16 as a proof-text of my error. In this passage, Jesus is sharing with Nicodemus about salvation. John 3:16 is an explanation of the benefits God grants to those who believe in Christ. But the phrase, “for God so loved the world” in no way indicates an intention on God’s part to redeem all of creation. It indicates God’s love for members of every tribe and nation — Jews and Gentiles alike. But, please, don’t stop reading at verse 16. Keep reading through verse 18 where it says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

    Contrast the words of Jesus with the words of Bell in Velvet Elvis:

    “So this is reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. All things, everywhere.

    “This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.”

    This is not the only time Bell has made a statement implying that we are all okay. He has done it in a number of places.

    The fact of the matter — according to the Scripture passage I just quoted — is this: all of mankind is NOT okay. Those who have not believed on Christ are condemned. And the “gospel” message as presented by Rob Bell (so far) isn’t going to make men aware of their precarious standing before a Holy God nor of His provision for their salvation.

    Finally, you shared that after watching the Nooma, “You,” many in your group were “moved” to “deepen their faith and express their commitment to Jesus Christ.” And that you, “experienced an exciting and engaging conversation” following the viewing.

    I was not there. I can’t comment specifically on what happened in your group. I sincerely hope people were moved to a deeper faith in Jesus. I would like to remind you, however, of two things:

    1. A lot of people profess a faith in Jesus. But only the Jesus of Scripture is the real Jesus (doctrine does matter). Many who believe in a “Jesus” of false teaching will likely find themselves numbered among those Jesus referred to in Matthew 7:22-23: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
    2. Just because there is excitement and engaging conversation about a topic does not mean it is biblically accurate. 2 Timothy 4: 3-4 says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

    I imagine those teachers will be engaging and exciting and will draw crowds. It doesn’t make them sound.

    Again, thanks for commenting. And please understand, I am in no way making a judgment about your faith or the faith of those in your group who watched and enjoyed “You.” I would merely recommend that you carefully hold anyone’s teachings about God up against Scripture — as Scripture alone is the authority on such matters.

  21. Kim says:

    Chip, I copied these quotes in Rob Bell’s own words:

    “Well, I affirm orthodox Christian faith. I affirm the Nicene Creed. I don’t think I’m doing anything terribly new. Central to authentic, historic Christian faith has been the searching and struggling and doubting… the people who are considered the heroes of the Bible have deep, kind of ache-of-the-soul questions before God.”

    “It has been a gradual realization that at the center of the Christian church for thousands of years has been this risen Christ who invites people to trust him; trust him with life, trust him with death, trust him with sin, trust him with future, trust him with hope, trust him with every day. And that this risen Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views.” Source: Beliefnet interview

    No time to cooment further, Kim

  22. Kim says:

    Typing Error: I meant “comment” not “cooment”. Chip, I still think you miss Bell’s point and read into his words commitments that simply are not there. Such has happened to me too in my ministry by certain personalities whio would do well in the period of the Inquisitions (Have you ever read a little book entitled, “Antagonists in the Church”?)

    Not everything left unclear signals a departure from “Biblical Truth.” If you find Bell unclear on a point, it would show more wisdom to say, “I find him unclear on this point” than to make the pontifical pronouncement: “He is a false teacher”. Otherwise, you appear like Michael Moore in his Fahrenheit 911 movie arrogating to himself the ability of sensing what George W. Bush was thinking. When you or many with similar websites make these blanket judgments I become suspicious of what motivates you. What motivated the Pharisees in their opposition to Jesus? The Love of God? Commitment to Biblical truth? Defense of their own interpretation of the faith?

    Jesus frustrated his critics by offering evasive answers to their questions. He refused to answer some of their questions and chose to remain silent. He retorted, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” leaving them scratching their heads. He asked his critics penetrating questions and left them to figure it out for themselves. He refused to answer their questions unless they answer his first. He cloaked his teachings in stories that left the hearers wondering how to interpret his words. Even his disciples once asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus uttered words that they misconstrued like, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They twisted his words to mean that he threatened to destroy the Temple. They used that accusation against him in his trial.

    Many “Christian” detractors labeled even the Apostle Paul as a false teacher. They released rumor that he taught “Let us sin so grace can abound”. Some spread the report that Paul actively taught Jews to not circumcise their children or keep the law of Moses. It was not true, but they took his words that way and unjustly slammed him. The writer of 2 Peter stated that some of Paul’s words were hard to understand which caused many to twist his words to their own destruction.

    My point is this: If you find some of Bell’s thoughts unclear and difficult to grasp, better put them on a shelf and investigate before labeling him a false teachers. He is a brother in Christ as are you and me. Labeling him a false teacher, if not true, would make you guilty of “biting and devouring one another” in the Body, would it not. It may demonstrate more humility to admit that you find him hazy on unclear on this or that point. Then you can proceed to research what he may have meant. He stated himself that he believes in the resurrection of Jesus and ascribes to the Nicene Creed.

    This is what I sense is happening to some Christian leaders. Fragments of their messages (spoken or written) become the flash points for a “gotcha”.

    Slander and false witness are serious sins. Defending the church against error is a necessary task, but there are more helpful and Christian ways to do so.

  23. Andrew says:

    I have watched “you” with my wife a couple of times. Both of us came to it with a genuinely open mind towards Rob, and both have a fairly long christian background. We came away from the dvd not really knowing what he was wanting to convey. it took a second close watching and about half an hour of discussion to come to any sense of it.

    Having read velvet elvis, listening to some of his sermons, his ambiguity does seem deliberate. if rob has genuine insights that raise the stakes in terms of how we read the bible, or how orthodox christianity has gone off course he should lay his cards on the table. all i see is smoke and mirrors. he goes so far in velvet elvis as to say that to believe you can “read the bible for what it says” as toxic. Granted, the bible does need to be read in context so you don’t take an invidiaul verse out of context, but Rob seems to be encouraging his disciples to rely on his insights rather than their own mind and the words on the paper in the bible

  24. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    The Children of God cult following Moses David Berg (A.K.A. The Family of God) claim to “read the Bible for what it says.” I would say the literalism of their interpretation is toxic. Celebrated Charismatic teachers like Kenneth Copeland and Fred Price claim to “read the Bible for what it says” (you know, “God said it, I believe it and that settles it”…sort of bumper sticker theology). I find their interpretation toxic. How many Bible prophecy seminars and clear “Biblical” portrayals of the end times have people attended all claiming to “read the Bible for what is says?” Is it possible that is what Rob Bell refers to when he talks about toxic readings of scripture? Is Rob Bell attacking orthodox Christianity? Or is he doing what Jesus did with the Pharisees when Jesus lifted the veil a little and show that their attitudes and strict traditions obscured the message of the Bible. “You cross land and sea to make a single convert. When you do he becomes twice the child of Hell.” He told them, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. I don’t find Bell taking a Christian doctrine and shooting it down. If he slams a doctrine, calls it false, dismisses it as untrue, then show me where. I see him giving space for genuine questions to emerge. I appreciate the respect he offers for human searching. I did not find the DVD “You” difficult to understand. Bell called for Christians to express genuine love for one another and for the world that God loves. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

  25. Chip says:

    Kim,

    I agree, not everything left unclear signals a departure from biblical truth. However, when a “Bible teacher” deliberately leaves as unclear a topic on which the Bible speaks very clearly it makes me wonder why?

    Why teach ambiguously on the resurrection when the Bible is crystal clear on it’s meaning and importance?

    Why teach in a fashion that leaves a listener to “make up his own mind” or “decide for himself” the meaning of a Scripture that God clearly defines? It seems that is an open door for people to draw unbiblical conclusions unnecessarily. It’s irresponsible at best and deliberately deceptive at worst.

    You have once again advised me to state that I find Bell “unclear” on topics rather than call him a false teacher. Please reread my posts. I never presume to know what Bell thinks, nor do I make “pontifical pronouncements” based on his ambiguity. I take what he has actually said or written (and I’m assuming he means what he says) and I hold it up against clear Scriptural teaching. You presented me with some quotes you copied in Bell’s own words. Allow me to do the same (once again):

    “I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t sin; that’s obvious. In the book of James it’s written like this: ‘We all stumble in many ways.’ Once again, the greatest truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened, but that it happens.” – Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, p. 139

    My goodness, Kim, he could not be more wrong. I’m fairly certain Bell has read the Bible, but this statement certainly confirms that he did not understand it. That we are “first and foremost” sinners is evident in every book of the Bible. It’s everywhere.

    “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” — Psalm 51:5

    “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” — Ephesians 2:2

    The very next verse (Eph. 2:3) describes us as “by nature children of wrath.”

    Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”

    Genesis 8:21 says, “…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

    Psalm 14:2-3 says, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

    Job 15:14 says, “What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

    Jeremiah 17:9 says, “…the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…”

    Ecclesiastes 9:3 says, “…the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts through their lives.”

    Romans 3:23 — “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

    Romans 5:12 — “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”

    Romans 5:19 — “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”

    To miss the doctrine of original sin and the fall is to miss the gospel entirely. The whole gospel is about this one thing: we are dead in our trespasses and sin. We can’t do a single thing to improve our position. We are in need of grace. We are in need of a mediator. Christ is that mediator. His righteousness is imputed to us. THAT is the gospel.

    I’ll give you another quote from Bell that demonstrates how he does not understand this concept.

    “What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

    “But what if, as you study the origin of the word ‘virgin’ you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” -Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, p. 26

    He goes on to explain how this would not be a very big deal. It’s just one little doctrinal “spring” on the trampoline of life. We’d still be able to jump. To Bell it’s just not that important.

    Scripture disagrees. The virgin birth is a VITAL doctrine. If all of mankind is corrupted by sin — as I’ve confirmed with the Scripture above — then we need a mediator who is not corrupted by the fall. If Christ was born of a man then he had a sin nature for which he would be held accountable. He would be completely unable to stand as our mediator before God. The entire gospel message is for naught if Christ is not born of a virgin.

    Here is more Bell: “When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth. Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” – Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, p.148

    When the Bible speaks of hell it speaks of the place of eternal judgment NOT the difficulties of this life. Is Bell denying the doctrine of hell? Who knows — he’s being very vague again. Is it deliberate?

    In one of your responses you provided a quote from Bell where he affirms the Nicene Creed. My response is this: Big deal.

    Bell has already demonstrated that he redefines terminology to suit his own views. Words like “sin,” “hell,” and “resurrection” he calls into question. The Nicene Creed uses these kinds of words — and those who wrote it agreed on their meaning. Bell may say he affirms the historical Christian creed, but who is to say how he is defining the terms?

    Finally, you compared Bell to Christ. You pointed out that Jesus spoke in parables that were frustrating to his critics. He evaded their questions. You said that even his disciples questioned him on this. Allow me, once again, to consult Scripture…

    “And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” — Mark 4:10-12

    According to Jesus, He taught in parables so that some would understand and others would not. THAT is a prerogative of God, NOT man. We are to teach the Word of God clearly and plainly. The Holy Spirit will do the convicting. God will do the drawing.

    Your comments have challenged me to consider Rob Bell and his teaching once again. But, after a fresh round of reading and watching Bell, I am more convinced than ever that I am not the one who is misunderstanding Rob Bell.

  26. Kim says:

    Chip,
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I contend that you again have misunderstood Bells point. However many scriptures you quote to prove that human beings are sinners misses the point of Bell’s statement. He stated clearly enough that human beings are sinners, but that truth is not the first and foremost truth about human beings. The first mention the Bible makes about human beings is that God made us in God’s image. The foremost truth the Bible teaches about human beings is that we are beloved of God, objects of his love. Again, John 3:16. That is Bell’s point and a refreshing one too. His point is not obscure or subtle. I suppose how you hear him differently than me has to do with the lens through which you filter his words. Again, you took his little comment as a tripwire to launch into multiple proof texts. Why not understand what he is saying in context.

    I did not compare Bell to Jesus to place him on the same level. Perhaps you misunderstand me too. How absurd. I merely pointed out that the teaching methods that allow ambiguity for more thought was practiced by Jesus (and many rabbis), perhaps by Bell too. The point of Jesus’ parables was to obscure some points in order to evoke more discussion and thought. Only those with faith and character could get the point. To the other it remains hidden. The disciples approaching Jesus in the house to learn more means that Jesus’ method was effective. He told them in a personal encounter more than he broadcast to the multitudes. In a way, Bells Nooma has evoked a lot of discussion, this blog being a case in point.

    Concerning the Virgin Birth, let me assure you (so I don’t fall under your suspicion and censure, too) that I believe in the literal virginal conception of Jesus. Let me point out that the doctrine appears in only two Gospels and nowhere else in the New Testament. It made its way into the Apostle’s and the Nicene Creed. However, I do not see it as an essential doctrine. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that sin is biologically transmitted (as you seem to affirm) or that sin is transmitted trans-generationally through sexual intercourse. That teaching derives not from the Bible but from Augustine’s peculiar take on Original Sin. The Early Church never concluded that Jesus was sinless because he was conceived virginally. The Virginal Conception of Jesus never appears in any of the evangelistic sermons recorded in the book of Acts nor is it mentioned in any New Testament letter. The Gospel of Mark opens with the words, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” having omitted any mention of the birth or childhood of Jesus. Paul did not include the virginal conception as part of the gospel he preached. Many early Christians believed in Jesus as Messiah and Lord who did not know of the virginal conception.

    Bell does not deny the doctrine. He affirms it. However, he allows space to question it. I think he helpfully avoids laying Christian teaching on folks in a authoritarian manner. I find that inviting. Perhaps he trusts the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ instead of bludgeoning them with proof texts and shooting out Bible verses like machine gun bullets. I appreciate his approach.

    I would have to say with him that if we gained proof positive that Jesus was not virginally conceived it would in no way detract from my faith in Jesus as Son of God, Lord and Savior. Of course, the doctrine is outside the realm of scientific proof altogether. No New Testament writer attempted to prove Jesus’ virginal conception. No one preached the virginal conception as an essential for faith.

    You are correct about the Nicene Creed, one can bend the words to suit one’s fancy. That is what I see many doing to Bells words in “You”.

  27. Kim says:

    Chip, you quote Bell as saying, “This doesn’t mean we don’t sin. That’s obvious. In the book of James, it is written. “We all stumble in many ways”. Once again the great truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened, but that t happens.”

    Then you proceeded to quote scriptures as though Bell had denied the fact of sin in human life. Actually he affirmed it. It appears that you ignore his point entirely and spin his words to mean the opposite of what he actually affirmed. He acknowledged that sin is obvious and supported it with a scripture to illustrate it further. Then he stated that each one of us continues the disobedience and rebellion as is recorded of our first parents. Sin didn’t just happen back then…it happens. We all sin. Why is it you missed a point so obvious and clear? Are you deliberately trying to misunderstand Bell? As to the point that we are sinners is not the “first and foremost truth” of human beings, I addressed that in my post above. However, even the Campus Crusade witnessing tract, The Four Spiritual Laws, does not with our sinfulness but with the great truth: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That is what I understand Bell to be saying.

  28. Andrew says:

    Kim
    What do you make of Rob brushing over the fact that the roman myths of virgin birth and resurrection being developed AFTER the christian era began. It was genuinely interesting hearing those myths in the DVD, but for me it undermined the specialness of the virgin birth and resurrection in the christian faith. it would have strengthened our faith if rob had given the whole story rather than a partial story. to me, that would be an instance of Rob being deliberately ambiguous, with the end result of sowing seeds of doubt.

    his comparing the reasons people chose christian rather than roman faith systems seems to be devoid of Jesus – it is a moral system that is better rather than Jesus being better, no matter what. to me, the picture he paints of first century christianity of sharing and harmony feels like a hippy utopia rather than the reality of the problems and disunity that the epistles show, and how the first generation of christians weren’t fully “together” in how they related to one another or the wider community

  29. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    Thanks for your response to my post. Bell shared that other religions also asserted that they have virgin births and rising and dying gods. This predated Christianity in some cases if not in the case of Attis and Mithras. Miraculous births have been stock of pagan religions predating Christianity. Some were fertility gods and died and rose each year according to the seasons of winter and spring fitting natural patterns of death and fruitfulness.

    Justin Martyr in the second Century addressed this phenomena in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew:

    “Be well assured, then, Trypho,” I continued, “that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the Devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah’s days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by Jupiter’s intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that the Devil has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses?”

    That other religions purported that their gods also shared miraculous characteristics of birth and resurrection did not throw the Early Christians at all. Thy held to their confession in Jesus Christ because they were convinced it was true. It was not the “uniqueness” that they argued about. In their preaching, they simply witnessed that Jesus lived, did good things (for God was with him), met a terrible death of Roman crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, but God raised him from the dead. In their evangelistic sermons (according to Acts), they never mentioned the virginal conception. They presented no “proofs”; only their transformed lifestyles. They never debated the relative merits of the “uniqueness” of Jesus against the claims of other religions. It was not part of their arsenal of ways to reach out to the pagans. They simply witnessed to the story.

    That was all I intended when I wrote in my first post in which I questioned the importance of debating the “uniqueness”. Chip took me wrong thinking I was challenging the veracity of Jesus. My point was simply to say that Christianity is not predicated on an argument for its uniqueness.

    Andrew, I live in a country that has only two percent Christian. The dominant religion here is Buddhism and Daoism. No one is that interested in the “uniqueness” of Jesus. We may discuss the distinctive beliefs of Christian and the distinctive beliefs of the Daoists or Buddhists. Each religion has its uniqueness, but I offer my witness to Jesus with respect for their faith. What wins people to faith in Jesus is not feverish arguments of Jesus’ uniqueness but the role Christ plays in the life of our Christian community of faith. (Rob Bells’ point exactly!) This past Sunday one woman, a former Buddhist now Christian, viewed the DVD “You” and testified that what attracted her to Jesus was the way Christians demonstrated a difference in their lifestyles. She saw they were different. She put her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was baptized. It wasn’t the teaching of the virginal conception but that Christ was alive and present in the community. Now go watch “You” again and listen with different ears.
    Blessings abundant to you, Andrew.

  30. Chip says:

    Kim,

    I completely understand that Bell stated clearly that we all sin. My contention is that Bell either does not understand or deliberately misrepresents original sin — the fact that we ARE, in fact, “first and foremost” sinners. The Scripture verses I quoted were to show that sin is bound up in our hearts, that it is our very nature. Bell’s statements, “This doesn’t mean we don’t sin,” and “Once again the great truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened, but that it happens,” while conceding the existence of sin, disregard it’s origin and scope.

    He seems to be saying the fact that Adam and Eve sinned is secondary to the fact that we all continue to sin today. I think the Bible teaches exactly the opposite. We all sin today because we have a sinful nature as a direct result of Adam and Eve sinning. Sin entered into the world because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12).

    This is the point of much of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees when He calls them “whitewashed tombs.” On the outside (their actions) they appear to be righteous but on the inside (their very nature) they are dead, corrupt, and rotten.

    A simple way to state this principle is this: We aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.

    This is the doctrine of original sin and the fall that Bell seems to be missing. And it is a vital doctrine. It is a misunderstanding of THIS doctrine that can lead to future misunderstandings. For example: you said, “The first mention the Bible makes about human beings is that God made us in God’s image.”

    God made Adam and Eve in his image. When they sinned they corrupted what God had declared very good. Every person SINCE Adam and Eve is not in the image of God in the way Adam and Eve were. We are born a corrupt and distorted version of what God created in Adam and Eve.

    You further state: “The foremost truth the Bible teaches about human beings is that we are beloved of God, objects of his love. Again, John 3:16”

    Now, if you mean to say that every person who comes to faith in Christ is an object of God’s love, then you are correct. However, if you mean to say that every person who ever lived or ever will live is an object of God’s love you are mistaken. Fourteen times in the first 50 Psalms alone, we are told that God “hates” the sinner. In the Bible, God’s wrath rests both on the sin (Romans 1:18) and on the sinner (John 3:36). God even described his differing attitude toward Jacob and Esau this way, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    This all seems harsh to us at first, but when properly understood, in light of the fall, we see a couple of things:

    1. All of us are deserving of God’s righteous anger and judgment.
    2. We finally begin to understand just how great is the grace of our Lord.

    These truths can become distorted when one does not grasp the full impact of the fall. This is one of my primary problems with Bell.

    Concerning the virgin birth: You point out that the virgin birth appears in ONLY two Gospels. My question is this: How many times does Scripture need to say something before you regard it as authoritative? Five? Ten? What’s the magic number? I happen to think once is enough.

    Now, I am familiar with Augustine’s teaching on the subject. And, while I don’t subscribe to a definite “biological” transmission of sin, Scripture is clear that our sinful nature is an inheritance from Adam through all of humanity. With that in mind I would like to review just one of the “only” two instances of the virgin birth recorded in Scripture.

    Luke 1:35 says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

    Now, I am sure you are aware of how to treat the word “therefore” in Scripture. But, for the benefit of anyone else reading who may not know, I’ll point it out.

    Any time you have the word “therefore” in Scripture it connects the information that preceded it with the information that follows. In this case, it connects the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary with the fact that her child was holy. Read another way you can say Mary’s child was holy because the Holy Spirit came upon her.

    Scripture does not explicitly state there is a direct biological transfer of the sinful nature. However, every person ever born of man has had it. In this case God chose to use the virgin birth as His chosen means to interrupt the unbroken line of descent from Adam and this break in the line is how God achieved a savior who was fully human but without the sinful nature the rest of us possess.

    The problem, then, of Bell so easily casting aside the doctrine of the virgin birth in light of the hypothetical proof to the contrary is this: It would mean the Bible is in error. For the first time in history a stated fact of Scripture would be proven false. I consider that a much bigger deal than Bell does.

    I know, you still think I’m misunderstanding Bell. But allow me to leave you with this thought:

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon, an able handler of Scripture and a preacher of some note, once said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

    The danger of Rob Bell isn’t that he is so blatantly wrong as to be obvious. It is in the fact that he so convincingly masks “almost right” false teachings as to make them difficult to detect and powerfully deceptive.

  31. Kim says:

    Chip,
    I am afraid that you are “almost right”. Does that make you a false teacher, too? Bell did not address the problem of Original Sin in his single sentence. You read whatever Bell says through a thick and distorted lens. The term “original sin” nowhere appears in the Bible. The Church coined that phrase much later.

    In his quote, Bell nowhere denied that Adam and Eve sinned and that consequences followed from that Fall. He merely pointed out in a single sentence that we also sin. Sin is not just something that occurred back then with the rebellion of our first parents, sin continues to happen. That is Bell’s point that most intelligent reader could pick up, unless they willfully want to slam the guy.

    Interestingly enough, nowhere in the whole Old Testament does it mention Adam’s sin as the cause of all other sins. Paul connected Genesis 3 with our present sin nature. Bell nowhere denied that point. I am certain that Bell has read all the texts you quoted in typical Fundamentalist fashion. You failed to listen to him discerningly to catch his meaning but you quote, and quote and quote having missed the point altogether. I am sure the readers of this blog can see your style of communication.

    Bell did not deny the virginal conception of Jesus. If he denied it show me where. I did not deny the virginal conception either. I affirmed it (I hope you read that part of my post). I merely pointed out that there were Christians who had not heard of it and it did not appear in any of the evangelistic preaching in the book of Acts. No New Testament letter listed it as an essential doctrine that everyone must know in order to be saved.

    Chip, are you saying that God does not love all sinners? You sound as though you are a strict Calvinist double-predestinarian. Are you? Do you believe that God only loves a few Christians but hates everyone else? Is that your take on biblical Christianity and all other views are false teachings? Is that your spin on the fundamentals of the faith? Do you agree or disagree with the first statement of the Four Spiritual Laws of Campus Crusade: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. ? or would your witness go something like this, “God may love you (I don’t know) and has a wonderful plan for your life, or God may hate you (I don’t know) and have a horrible plan for your life.” I am personally thankful that Jesus Christ set me free from that sort of loopy picture of God.

    God is angry with sin and injustice, indeed. A truly loving God cannot but be angered by the cruelty and violence, injustice and hate that plagues human beings. However, God’s unfathomable love sent Jesus into the world to save us guilty sinners. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. Indeed. God’s wrath is God’s holy love burning against sin. Sin is everything that is self-destructive and community destroying. It is everything that offends God and makes diminishes life. We are created to live for the glory and pleasure of God. Sin is what makes us fall short. Sin is the word we use to describe our state of alienation from God. Sins are the self-destructive and community destroying actions and attitudes that flow from that state of estrangement.

    However, God saves us because loves us. He wills to save all people, although some may remain rebels to the end. Christ is the Savior of all humankind, especially those who believe. It is not God’s will than any perish but that all come to repentance. Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. God has shut up all in disobedience so that he may have mercy upon all. God loves every man and woman, boy and girl whom God has made.

    When I share my faith I can say with confidence to the person, “God loves you”. Can you do that Chip when you witness to people?

    Andrew, please attend carefully to Chip’s answers here. I think he is about to reveal his peculiar understanding of orthodoxy.

  32. Andrew says:

    Kim
    The view I have of Rob hasn’t been driven by this site, and by chip. I heard of him first when mentioned by Mark Driscoll in a sermon on the emergent movement, read velvet elvis, and listened to a few of his sermons. my mistrust of Rob comes mostly from his evasiveness.
    He and his followers may claim to be misunderstood, but his communication methods are vague, and are readily open to misinterpretation. I did come to his material with a genuinely open mind, and did give him the benefit of the doubt. If he had insights that had substance, I’d have run with them, but all i personally found was vagueness and postmodernism. the more i read his material, the less comfortable i was with it. the seeds of doubt are sown. people are told that you can’t read the bible and know what God intended for you to know, so you’re reliant on your leaders to interpret it for you (as is still the case for Roman Catholics).
    I came to that conclusion long before i came to this site.
    I do acknowledge that i don’t have the theological training or the inclination to defend all my concerns about Rob, but do know that enough of his writing and teaching rings alarm bells for me to prefer to find my teaching from more orthodox sources.

    All the best.

  33. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    I hear you and I appreciate your irenic spirit. I guess it is different strokes for different folks. You seem like a nice enough fellow. My bleat, as a Christian, is that attaching the label “false teacher” to a brother or sister in Christ is slanderous, especially if all the evidence against him or her is that you find their sermons vague. As I can see from this blog, one’s expectations have a lot to do with how one hears another. The template one lays upon the speaker determines how one hears and perceives their message.

    For me, I find Bell’s Nooma series stimulating and provocative. He calls for intelligent faith. After all, “theology is faith seeking understanding” (Anselm). The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with your mind, heart, soul and strength.” Once I shed the need to practice the sacrifice of the intellect in order to believe and to serve God my life was more full and free. Christ liberated my mind and heart to know that God encourages questioning and probing. The Bible is full of such wrestling with the issues of life. Have you ever read Ecclesiastes or Job?

    Bell offers me something different that the mental massage that lays the truth on like shellac. I do not find Bell vague or unclear in the points he is trying to make. Of course, by God’s grace, I received adequate theological training for which I am grateful. I find Chip’s attempts to educate me by quoting multiple proof texts amusing.

    Most of the complaint Chip makes against Bell is that he did not do a systematic teaching in his twelve-minute episodes. Repeatedly Chip has acknowledged that Bell does not deny the doctrines, he just does not develop a thought the way Chip demands he should to be “orthodox”. In every case Bell affirms what Chip implies (but then will flip flop), but Chip disbelieves him. (That whole round about the Nicene Creed is a case in point!) Bell meets with Chip’s disapproval and censure regardless of his statements that he affirms the doctrines in question. Then Chip labels him “false teacher” assuming that he deliberately obscures the truth for the purpose of…what? Of deceiving the elect? Chip complains that Bell fails to develop the doctrine of Original Sin in a twelve-minute discussion starter. This blog appears to foster an exercise in how to miss an obvious point when ones mind is made up and set like concrete. It reminds me of the scribes and Pharisees who opposed Jesus. They twisted his words.

    Bell’s series have elicited deep discussions among young adults in my context of ministry, which have made Christ real and present. Some folks, I suppose, prefer solid granite monuments to truth, but such does not touch the heart; they stand immobile, airless and lifeless. Whatever style of theology you choose to embrace really does not concern me. I just think it is better to be a little more reticent to dub someone a “false teacher” when they are not. The Bible contains some harsh words directed against those who slander a brother or sister. Some people think they exercise the “gift of discerning of spirits” when they simply have a plain old crass suspicious mind. Some forms of Christianity foster that outlook. I know. I have been there myself. Blessings to you Andrew. Always serve Christ with a fervent spirit. God loves you and nothing can separate you from God’s love.

  34. Chip says:

    Kim,

    Bell did not “merely point out in a single sentence that we also sin.” He placed a priority on one event over the other when he said, “…the GREATEST truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened but that it happens.” Remember, this comes after his statement “I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.”

    This is where I provided biblical evidence (in more than one place) in support of the idea that we ARE, in fact, sinners “first and foremost.”

    Which begs a question (and this is asked in all sincerity, not as patronizing): You seem to have a fondness for pointing out what Scripture does NOT say but when I point out what Scripture DOES say you dismiss it as meaningless “proof-texts” and condescend to me in feigned amusement. Why do you so casually dismiss what is clearly STATED in Scripture in favor of speculating on things NOT stated in Scripture? This seems very similar to the “Emergent Church” practice of “embracing mystery” whereby we just accept that none of us can know much of anything for certain.

    Is that your stance?

    Because if it is, then we have less common ground than I originally thought.

    Which brings me to your statement: “Interestingly enough, nowhere in the whole Old Testament does it mention Adam’s sin as the cause of all other sins.” You seem to be making some sort of declarative statement about the fall based on the absence of explicit statements in the Old Testament. So, it’s not in the Old Testament. But the concept IS in the New Testament (I’ve already quoted some of those passages). So, again I ask, how many times does Scripture have to declare something before you consider it authoritative?

    And, yes, I am aware that the term “original sin” nowhere appears in the Bible. Neither does the term “trinity.” There are a number of doctrinal terms that have been coined to succinctly describe comprehensive topics in Scripture. “Original sin” and “trinity” are not in Scripture but the concepts most definitely are.

    Another of your statements: “No New Testament letter listed it (the virgin birth) as an essential doctrine that everyone must know in order to be saved.”

    I never said it is an essential doctrine everyone must know in order to be saved. What I have said is that the virgin birth is described in Scripture as an historical fact with deep theological implications. To suggest that Christianity would not be impacted were the virgin birth proven false is absurd. It would undermine both Christ’s atonement and the integrity of Scripture.

    Now, with regard to God’s love toward man:

    You said, “God is angry with sin and injustice, indeed. A truly loving God cannot but be angered by the cruelty and violence, injustice and hate that plagues human beings.”

    You characterize this as though we are mere victims of sin and not complicit in perpetuating it. I do see that you used the term “guilty” in front of “sinners” but you seem to be advocating the view of “God hates sin but loves the sinner.”

    Would that accurately describe your view?

    Finally, you asked a lot of questions of me — Do I think God does not love all sinners? Am I a Calvinist? Do I believe that God only loves a few Christians but hates everyone else?

    I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll answer your questions concerning my view of God, sin, and salvation, and my view of Calvinism, etc. if you will first address my comments about God’s hatred toward some sinners. You just jumped right past all of the Scripture that openly states God hates sinners.

    Do you deny God hates some sinners? If so, how do you reconcile that belief with Scripture to the contrary?

  35. Kim says:

    Oh Chip, what am I going to do with you? You have continued the trend of misunderstanding Bell and me. Is that deliberate or do you truly have problem understanding a simple point? I have a friend who has ADD. He has difficulty following a line of reasoning. It helps to have a mental dexterity to grasp the meaning of words in sentences and sentences in paragraphs. It helps to grasp idioms, too.

    Chip, have you ever learned a foreign language? Working cross-culturally really helps understand how idioms function. Failure to grasp idioms may cause an interpreter to utter absurdities in his or her interpretation. It can lead to the construal of an almost demonic view of God. Jesus encountered this with those who willed to stone a woman who committed adultery to death. They were, of course, correct biblically but missed God’s love entirely. Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees over the Sabbath demonstrated the difference in Jesus’ interpretation of the Sabbath and that of the strict Sabbatarians who were his opponents.

    Take for example the pathetic case of Rev. Fred Phelps and his “God hates Fags” program. Of course, he thinks he is being biblical. However, he is quite a far distance from Jesus Christ in spirit and method.

    On the matter of how many times the scriptures must say something for it to be true…Paul wrote about people who were baptized on behalf of the dead (1 Corinthians 15). The Mormons developed that into a doctrine of proxy baptism for the dead based on that one New Testament text. I do not believe that or practice that. Do you?

    It may help if you read my posts slowly to see that I state clearly that we are sinners. I included the term “guilty” sinners because we are complicit in sin. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I never inferred that we are merely innocent victims of sin. From where did you get that idea?

    We are guilty sinners complicit in sin, Rob Bell’s point exactly. The greatest truth about the story of Adam and Eve is not that it happened (back then) but that it happens (in the here and now). His meaning is clear enough to the average reader: we all commit acts of sin.

    Nowhere did I “dismiss” your barrage of rapid-fire scripture proofs. I love all those scriptures. What I disagree with is your use of the terms “First and foremost”. That is the point that you wished to take Rob Bell (and me, I suppose), to task. I explained my point about that in the posts above.

    Nevertheless, for sake of review, my explanation goes like this: God made us in God’s image. That truth precedes the entrance of sin into the world. God has loved us from all eternity for “God is love”. That is the foremost truth, the nature of God who loves us. If you take issue with my (and Rob Bell’s) use of “first and foremost”, then that is a matter of semantics and emphasis. We are disagreeing on how to say something. If you think God’s wrath is more fundamental than God’s love, then you have a different view of God than that of the one who so loved the world of guilty sinners that he sent his Son to save us.

    Chip, I have acknowledged that we are guilty sinners complicit in sin. However, God out of love has saved me, sinner though I am. I am a sinner saved by the love and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. None of your “scripture proofs” contradicts that. They stated the truth that I believe: I am a sinner. However, God loves me and God loves you. God, in his unfathomable love saved me, and I suppose God saved you. I merited none of this, but it is by grace that God saved me.

    The Apostle Paul, sinner though he was (a blasphemer and a persecutor of Christians), experienced the love of God. That is what led him to write to eloquently, “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God loves sinners. God loves us before we love him. God knows us before we know him. The Elder wrote, “We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 God willed to reconcile sinners to himself prior to our love of God. Again, the Elder wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

    “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9. I guess you can say, God hates the sin but loves the sinner. I am a sinner and must pray as Jesus taught me, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

    The Bible was written in human language, but when speaking of Divine things, we err if we equate Divine love and hate as synonymous with the human love or hate. Analogous yes, synonymous, no. We should be aware that God’s love and hate transcend the human emotions of the same. We err should we construe God’s “hatred” of sinners as something that precludes God’s love. On a human level, love and hate are polar opposites. Not so with God.

    Notice how Jesus taught his disciples to “hate father, mother, sister, brother…and ones own life.” Yet we also know that God wills us to love and honor our parents, brothers and sisters. We are to love our neighbor as we do “our self”. Is that a contradiction? Hate self…love self? No. Not if we have some sense of nuances in meaning and how language works. One must attend to how Bible writers used language. Idioms matter.

    In the Hebrew way of speaking of God’s reaction to sinners and sin, God “hates” those who walk in open rebellion and who live in ways offensive to God. Hate can take the meaning of disregarding them, withholding blessings from them, allowing them to fall prey to their enemies, and even punishing them overtly. God can favor one party over another thus in the Hebrew idiom God “hates” one and “loves” the other. It is a matter of Hebraic idiom.

    Yet the Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that God loves sinners and has acted decisively in Jesus Christ to reconcile sinners to himself. Every soul reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is a sinner who has benefitted from God’s grace. God demonstrated Divine love in this act of reconciling us.

    Jesus brings into focus the character and purpose of God in ways that the Old Testament only saw dimly and incompletely. What appears on the surface as a contradiction (God’s love/ God’s hate) is not contradictory in reality. We call that a paradox. God stands opposed to sin in all its forms. Yet God loves sinner. God never took his love away from David, though God hated David’s sin. God pardoned him because God loved him.

    The Holy God will not countenance sin. Yet, according to the Gospel, God has acted to reveal a great mystery. “And [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”. Ephesians 1:9-10.

    This mystery was not known in the past, according to the Apostle. Paul wrote, “…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1:26-27

    God’s will was not perfectly disclosed (or revealed) until Christ came. Prophets hinted at it. They saw it as something distant, as through a glass, darkly. However, what was shadowy came into clarity and focus when Christ revealed God’s great plan to reconcile the world. The Gospel message that we preach and to which we are called as Christ’s ambassadors, is “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) We serve as ambassador of Christ “as though God were making his appeal through us”. Christ commissions us to call people, not to the God who hates them, but to the God who loves them, who is the Heavenly Father, the one who made them and wills to fellowship with them. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3)

    God saves us because God loves us.

    Chip, I have answered you questions. I am not asking you for your view on Calvinism. I am quite familiar with it since I have attended three Reformed Seminaries. I asked you to answer these questions:

    1) Are you saying that God does not love all sinners?
    2) You sound as though you are a strict Calvinist double-predestinarian. Are you?
    3) Do you believe that God only loves a few Christians but hates everyone else?
    4) Do you agree or disagree with the first statement of the Four Spiritual Laws of Campus Crusade: “God
    loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”?
    5) Is God’s essential nature Love?
    6) Did God love me before I became a Christian?

    I will await your answer.
    P.S. My amusement with you was not feigned.
    P.P.S. Does God hate slander?

  36. Andrew says:

    Kim
    I listen to sermons fairly widely. vagueness is not a problem in of itself, but was the first thing that made me start thinking about the substance that lay beneath the waffle. to me, rob’s vagueness is consistent, and undermines the reader’s ability to have confidence in the bible or doctrine and that is not a good thing. readers may need to have an open mind, and the ability to concede that things are not good the way they are. i just see Rob as sowing doubt.

    many who have more theological education than me have written and spoken against Bell and the emergent church. that being said, i am still responsible for having adequate discernment for my own soul, and for what i recommend to my home group. what Rob presents in velvet elvis (where he had more space to elaborate than in the nooma presentations) seemed postmodern, and lacking in a clear direction. there was some good in velvet elvis (I did enjoy the chapter on healing), but on the whole it did not present to me a clear case as to why we needed to be upending centuries of theology and doctrine, to reinvent the wheel.

    I’ve been a christian for over 25 years (I started young), and have done a grand tour through many denominations, so have gained an appreciation that no one denomination will have everything that i agree with. I do know that I don’t have everything together, but it does seem to me that God would have the bible written in such a way that readers who are seeking God would be able to know what God wanted them to. I realise that it is possible to read the bible in a way that you take it out of proportion, but a systematic reading of the bible seeing how the overall picture fits on certain issues, would lead you to know what God wanted you to get.

    i’m not naturally irenic, but have had to develop it in discussing things with the proponents of the emergent movement to try and see what they have to offer. with all honesty, i’ve not yet been told of an area of practise or doctrine that is so off key taht a luther-like reformation II is required for christianity.

    All the best.
    Andrew

  37. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    You sound like you have developed an irenic spirit, gentle and peace loving. I honor that. Everyone has to think for himself or herself. John Wesley said, “Think yourself and let think. Do not be a fiery persecuting enthusiast.” I never mind honest discussions that respect the other person’s point of view. I serve as a pastor of an international church where most every denomination is represented from all over the globe. This congregation is a microcosm of world Christianity. What unites us as believers is our faith in Jesus Christ. Such a community is a crucible for learning how to get along with people who differ from you. Besides, only 2% of the population is Christian. This draws us to one another for fellowship and mutual encouragement. Many of the issues debated in the American context just do not make much sense here.

    We use Rob Bell’s series with our young adult group. We experience his discussion starters quite differently than you do. We process his work within a group of Christians and non-Christians. Young adult reared as Buddhists or Daoists watch how Christians dialog and act towards one another. They honor honesty and resist authoritarian moves to force a viewpoint on raw authority. Jesus draws them to faith. That was what Fenny witnessed (previous post). It was the difference she perceived in Christians that won her heart to Christ.

    Our group has deep and revealing conversations about faith. This group faces difficult challenges to faith as we live in a midst of a pagan nation with Daoist temples on many street corners packed with idol gods. Sometimes parents threaten to disown their children if they seek Christian baptism. However, over time through demonstrating filial piety and maintaining a commitment to Jesus Christ, their parents see Christ in them. Recently, Franklin Graham held a festival of preaching here. Many people accepted Christ including the parents of one of our members, who is herself a recent convert. It is exciting to see the Holy Spirit at work among people who have not known Christ and are not in a “Christianized” culture.

    Anyway, thanks for your post. If Rob Bell does not work for you or your group, there is no problem with me. Nevertheless, I still maintain that there is a vast difference in being cautious and declaring someone a “false teacher.” I am familiar with real false teachers having had many brushes with them in the past. Their teachings and their lifestyles bear bad fruit, as Jesus said they would. That is a whole ‘nother story.

    Blessings abundant to you, Andrew. I wish you well in your ministry.

  38. Kim says:

    Oh, Andrew,
    I was not clear about your last sentence in your post. I think there was a typo. Can you clarify your point?

  39. Chip says:

    Kim,

    Before addressing your specific questions I’d like to ask: Why do you respond with such condescension?

    — “It helps to have mental dexterity…”

    — It may help if I read your posts “more slowly.”

    — You are “amused” by me.

    Is it because you’ve “attended three Reformed Seminaries” and have an “adequate theological education?”

    Look, Kim, theological education is a fine thing (I am a big proponent of it) but it does not automatically mean one can’t be mistaken. And it certainly doesn’t entitle one to speak down to others. I once had the opportunity to meet a member of the Jesus Seminar. The man held a Ph.D. and knew more about the Bible than I will probably ever learn but that didn’t make him correct in his view of the historicity of the Bible. He was also as lost as he could be.

    As for me…

    I have studied foreign languages — even got pretty good in German for a while. I’ve worked cross-culturally and I understand idioms — since you asked.

    Granted, it is sometimes difficult to grasp one’s tone in written communication, but it certainly seems as though you are being extremely condescending. Is it intentional? I hope not, but, if it continues, I’ll bring our discussion to a close. While I enjoy good debate I do not enjoy arguments. Civility in discussion is appreciated. Now…

    1. You still have not answered how many times Scripture needs to speak in order to be authoritative. You merely took one verse, described how Mormons misconstrue it, and asked me if I agree with the Mormons. I still await your answer.

    2. You said: “I never inferred that we are merely innocent victims of sin. From where did you get that idea?” From your previous post. You said: “God is angry with sin and injustice, indeed. A truly loving God cannot but be angered by the cruelty and violence, injustice and hate that plagues human beings.” I pointed out that this characterization made it appear as though you viewed us as mere victims of the “plague” of sin and not complicit. I further pointed out that you DID use the word “guilty” in front of sinner, which is why I asked for a clarification of your view. I specifically asked, “Would that accurately describe your view?” Surely you are aware that there are those who view sin as a plague that infects mankind and that we are mere victims of it. I merely wanted to better understand your position (in light of your statements) so as to know how to respond.

    3. You did dismiss my “proof texts.” Dismiss is defined this way — to put out of one’s mind, cease further consideration of, refuse to consider seriously. You acknowledged that I had cited numerous Scripture passages but did not address their content. You just restated, once again, that I’d misunderstood Bell and your belief that he is right in stating that we are sinners but “that truth is not the first and foremost truth about human beings.” One of those “proof texts,” Jeremiah 17:9 seems to contradict both you and Bell on that point when it says, “…the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” To say “above all things” is another way of saying, “first and foremost.” Since deceit is a characteristic of sin and Scripture declares THIS characteristic to be the first and foremost characteristic of the heart, I conclude that we are, in fact, first and foremost sinners.

    4. We are in agreement in terms of salvation by grace — we merited none of it. In fact, I am in complete agreement with much of your statement. I will highlight where I disagree in my answers to your specific questions.

    QUESTION 1: “Are you saying that God does not love all sinners?”
    ANSWER: God certainly does not love all sinners in the same way. The best place to start is with God’s attitude toward sin and sinners. “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” — Psalm 5:5. This passage clearly states God’s hatred is directed not only to the sin but also to the sinner. This is not idiomatic. God demonstrates his hatred for sin and sinners in his wrath — His eternal punishment of sinners in hell. As you have pointed out, all of us are sinners and deserve His wrath. But God exhibits His love toward us by staying His hand of judgment. This is an expression of God’s love toward even the non-elect for they benefit from a temporary reprieve. But it is not equal to the love God extends to the elect, which is eternal life. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God REMAINS on him.” God temporarily withholds his judgment, however, his wrath (the expression of his hatred toward evildoers) remains on them so that, in time, He will judge them. They are not loved in the same fashion as those who believe on Christ Jesus.

    QUESTION 2: “You sound as though you are a strict Calvinist double-predestinarian. Are you?”
    ANSWER: I am a Calvinist, if by Calvinist you mean believing in the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. I am not a double-predestinarian, if you mean God picks group A for heaven and then picks group B for hell. My view is this: God certainly does elect some for salvation. Scripture declares that His love was on them from the foundation of the world. But the others God allows to exercise their free will (which is bound to their sinful nature) to continue to reject Him. He does not pick them for hell; they do that on their own. The phrase “double-predestination” is neither helpful nor accurate because it neglects the differences between election and reprobation. Everyone who ends up in heaven will be there because God chose them as the objects of His grace. Everyone who ends up in hell will be there because they remained at enmity with God through their own choice.

    QUESTION 3: “Do you believe that God only loves a few Christians but hates everyone else?”
    ANSWER: See answer to question 1.

    QUESTION 4: “Do you agree with the first statement of the Four Spiritual Laws of Campus Crusade: ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?’”
    ANSWER: I have no problem telling someone to whom I am witnessing that God loves them. Some portion of God’s love is upon them (see answer to question 1) but we have no way of knowing whether they are elect of God.

    Spurgeon addressed a similar topic in the following quote: “Another says, ‘I want to know about the rest of the people. May I go out and tell them – Jesus Christ died for every one of you? May I say – there is life for every one of you?’ No; you may not. You may say – there is life for every man that comes. But if you say there is life for one of those who do not believe, you utter a dangerous lie. If you tell them Jesus Christ was punished for their sins, and yet they will be lost, you tell a willful falsehood. To think that God could punish Christ and then punish them – I wonder at your daring to have the impudence to say so!”

    I find myself in agreement with him.

    As for “…and has a wonderful plan for your life.” No, I don’t tell people that. We are all selfish by nature and that kind of witness plays to that selfishness. Besides, we have no way of knowing God’s plan for anyone. Pharaoh was raised up so that he could be brought down as a demonstration of God’s power. That was God’s plan for Pharaoh. The man at the pool of Siloam was crippled for years. He was there so that Christ’s authority could be displayed when He healed the man. That was God’s plan for his life. When God sent Ananias to Saul he told Ananias, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” God had a plan for Paul’s life, too, but it included much suffering. God certainly has a plan for each of us. But that plan is designed for God’s glory and it may or may not be something we regard as “wonderful.” In fact, to make such a statement to a non-believer can be misleading because they will likely (again being selfish by nature) understand such a statement to mean they will have prosperity, fame, wealth, or whatever “thing” appeals to them most. This is why the health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it preachers do so well. They appeal to man’s selfishness and preach a gospel designed to fulfill man’s desires.

    QUESTION 5: “Is God’s essential nature Love?”
    ANSWER: Love is certainly a component of God’s nature. But there are many, many others. There is God’s knowledge, His Supremacy, Sovereignty, Immutability, Holiness, Faithfulness, Patience, Grace, Mercy, Wrath, and Justice. To claim God is any more one of these than another is to draw an incomplete picture of God. It is the very reason we have people making such unbiblical statements like, “Well, God wouldn’t send anyone to hell because God is love and a loving God wouldn’t do that.” Such a statement completely ignores the holiness and justice of God. Yes, it is because of God’s incredible love that He sent His Son to die in our place. But it was His holiness and justice that made such a sacrifice necessary.

    Pressed to name one of those attributes as the primary attribute of God I would say it is “Holiness.” For it is in God’s Holiness that all other attributes are found.

    QUESTION 6: “Did God love me before I became a Christian?”
    ANSWER: Clearly He did. In fact, it is precisely because God loved you that you became a Christian.

    Your final Question to me was, “Does God hate slander?”
    My answer: Yep.

    Now, I realize you regard my comments towards Rob Bell’s teaching as “slander,” so I’ll go ahead and address that. Slander is defined as “to hurt the reputation of by malicious utterance containing a false or injurious representation; to accuse unjustly.”

    I have not accused Bell unjustly. I’ve held his teaching up against Scripture. In so doing I have found his teaching to be inconsistent with that contained in Scripture and I’ve pointed it out. This is an essential function of Christians — to earnestly “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the Saints.” You are most welcome to disagree with my assessment — you aren’t the first. But I’ve also had a number of people regard my reviews as extremely helpful.

    Your comments have made me reconsider Bell and his teaching — I appreciate that. However, you haven’t convinced me that Bell is not teaching falsehoods in this case. Clearly I haven’t convinced you that he is. We are likely at an impasse.

  40. Kim says:

    Chip, I apologize for sounding condescending. Forgive me. As you pointed out, tone of voice and facial expressions are not communicated well through writing on a blog. I wrote about my theological education, to assure you that there is no need to explain Calvinism to me, not to communicate spiritual one-up-manship.

    I have spoken and written with many Fundamentalists who seem unable to follow a logical train of thought. My Fundamentalist friend in the congregation here can never get what someone is saying if it does not fit the template of his narrow worldview. He is, admittedly ADD. Yet he is remarkably plagued with a suspicious mind about most everything that does not generate from the “Sword of the Lord” or Broadman press. His method of communication is to quote a scripture (or inflict a barrage of scriptures) to prove his point having missed entirely the point of the person talking or the author we are reading. This is off-putting. His Christianity is narrow-minded and individualistically focused. It is also very American. He comes from a tradition of setting the pastor and people in an adversarial relationship. His view of Christ does not draw me. It repels. It does not adorn the Gospel of Christ. (sort of like the guy in the “Bullhorn” Nooma). He passes judgments on those with whom he disagrees. He gets angry easy and has trouble controlling his emotions when he sniffs something “liberal” coming on. I accept this fellow as a brother in Christ, but one whose understanding of God still depends largely upon manipulating people’s fear. Such strategies work with only a few people already trained in that ethos. I like the guy, but we disagree about most everything. However, this is an international church.

    As to the question about how many scripture passages it takes to establish a doctrine: Establishing a central dogma of the faith from the Bible is not a mathematical equation, Chip. I think you know that. The question itself is trivial. One must attend to the weight the canon makes of a teaching. One must compare scripture with scripture to establish if this is indeed something that is binding on one’s conscience and that the church should teach. A wise interpreter places each text in its historical, literary and theological contexts.

    I did not dismiss the texts you wrote. Those texts just do not communicate “first and foremost” to me as they do to you. We interpret the phrase “first and foremost” differently. That is the reason I concluded that, “it is a semantic problem.” I would say, ‘God loves me, but I am a sinner’. You might say, ‘I am a sinner, but God loves me.” I do not view this as the difference between heresy and true doctrine, as you seem to do. Otherwise, you would not have made such a big fuss about Rob Bell’s little statement. It is one of emphasis, not substance. My Fundamentalist friend often reacts similarly to you. I suppose it is a learned reaction.

    My example of the proxy “baptism for the dead” is one case in point. Is proxy baptism an established doctrine of the church? It has its proof text! I think not. There are many other examples in scriptures where the writers uttered sentences that stand at enmity with other teaching of the Bible. In Ecclesiastes the “Preacher” declares, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) This text is used by large bodies of Christians who teach annihilationist (Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and others). They have their text, Chip…and others like them. However, I do not ascribe to their hermeneutics.

    One text from a lament Psalm pronounces a blessing on anyone who dashes in the head of a Babylonian child (Psalm 137). Is that a blessing coming from the heart of God? I think not.

    My point about idioms in that in speaking about God’s hate one must grasp that Divine hate is not the same as human hate. God can love a sinner (I say all “sinners”) and yet hate them at the same time. Did God hate you as a sinner whose ‘heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things?’ I would say, yes. Did God simultaneously love you because God made you in his image and you are an object of Divine love? I would also answer. yes. Did God hate you first and then flip flop to love you? I would answer, no. The Love of God reigns preeminent and comes to expression in God absorbing the Divine Judgment on himself in the Son. The cross of Jesus reveals God’s mind about us. Jesus did not die on the cross to change God’s mind, but to express it fully.

    God’s essential nature is love, Chip. Other attributes, including holiness, are all expressions of that unfathomable love. The Justice of God is God’s love distributed. The Holiness of God is the purity and perfection of Divine Love. The Faithfulness of God is God’s unchanging love holding to the covenants. We err to pit Divine love and justice against each other in the Divine life, Chip. God is no schizophrenic. Would you say that God’s “Hate” is part of the Divine nature and stands inimical to love? If you do, you may be more Manichean than Christian. That God “hates” is the human way of expressing God’s opposition and repudiation of everything unloving, destructive, and dehumanizing. Christ came not only to forgive sins but also to liberate us from the destructive power of sin, death and the devil.

    The polar relationship between love and hate as human emotions does not apply to God. In God’s love, they are united. That is hard for someone who thinks in a binary way to grasp. Of course, the Trinity is not a doctrine that yields to pedestrian thought. “Please explain the Trinity to me but do it while I am shaving.”

    I believe in God’s wrath, Chip, but again, the wrath of God is not human wrath. It flows out of the Divine nature of Holy Love. God’s wrath is God’s Holy Love burning against sin. Sin is rebellion, sin is falsehood and lies, sin is injustice, sloth and denial of responsibility, sin is that which dehumanizes us and in which we participate. Sin is everything that is self-destructive and community destroying. Sin is un-faith, despair, and un-love. That is why the Apostle could write: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10. And again, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”1 John 4:7-8

    You answered my questions to my satisfaction. I am relieved to know that you do not hold to the false teaching that God made so many people just to go to hell because he hates them while loving a few elect souls. In your first few posts it seemed like that was where you were coming from. What a demonic doctrine of God!

    I hope I have answered your questions.

    Please answer these: Does God both love and hate you at the same time? Or is there a flip-flop in the Divine behavior towards you? (i.e. Once God hated you but then God loved you) Which is more important to you, God’s hate or God’s love?

    As you stated, we are at an impasse about Rob Bell. You have slandered a brother in Christ even if many people found your slander helpful. It may keep them bound in their fearful little worlds and affirm their suspicion of anything different a bit longer. You have not “contended for the faith once delivered to the saints” but have settled for a Fundamentalist version of Christianity and imposed it on people who may have heard a liberating word. God hates slander, but loves the slanderer.

  41. Chip says:

    Kim,

    I appreciate your response. As for sounding condescending: We are both clearly passionate about God’s Word. It is easy to allow passion to come off as condescension in a discussion such as the one we’ve had. I have a tendency to do it myself if I’m not careful.

    I disagree with you on the primary attribute of God. I think Scripture attests to His holiness as being the primary attribute (if a “primary” attribute is to be found). In every case where man encounters God it is His holiness that presents itself. In Isaiah’s vision the seraphim flew around saying “holy, holy, holy” is the Lord. When God’s name is given a description it is His “holy” name. When Moses stood before the burning bush and Joshua before the commander of the army of the Lord (a Christophony) they removed their shoes because God’s presence made the ground holy.

    It is God’s holiness that so completely sets Him apart from His creation. Only God is Holy. It is the sum total of his character. It is His very nature.

    This does not, in any way, diminish God’s other attributes. In fact, it is because His holiness is primary, that all other attributes are as remarkable as they are. God’s love is so remarkable because it is a “holy” love. Likewise His justice, mercy, and grace.

    On to your question: “Does God both love you and hate you at the same time? Or is there a flip-flop in the Divine behavior towards you?”

    First and foremost, God does not change. He does not flip-flop. So, as for the second part of your question, there is no flip-flop on God’s part.

    I think Scripture is clear in that the elect have been loved of God from the foundation of the world. It is because He has so loved us that we come to Christ in the first place. Salvation is ALL of God.

    Let me say, however, this strays into another topic entirely. And, I’m sure you are aware that it is a topic that has been discussed and debated for centuries — and will continue to be discussed and debated.

    As for Rob Bell. I will continue to contend that I have not slandered him. If he is, in fact, a brother (which none of us can know for certain) I believe he has shown himself to be deceived. In which case he is sharing his own deception with others. I merely want to hold the brother accountable to Scripture and allow others to see the comparison between the two.

  42. Andrew says:

    Hi people

    I wanted to chime in with my appreciation as to the tone of this discussion – it is far more civil than those i have observed on facebook, and is a credit to you both.

    Regarding how christians should respond to other christians when they believe one is in error. I heard a podcast yesterday that resonated with me, and I thought I would add it to the discussion for what it is worth. It was a message given by the anglican dean of sydney cathedral (philip jensen) last year in defense of why he would not be attending the anglican lambeth conference. he’s a solid guy with his theology, and from the talks of his i have heard, fairly likeable.
    [audio src="http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/images/uploads/mp3/Lambeth/Phillip%20Jensen.mp3" /]

    A summary was that teachers are called to a very high office, and should exercise caution in how they affirm or deny theology, and that there is a time and place for discussion, and a time to separate from them. The level of the response is dependent on the nature of the offense and whether there is any move to repentance.

    Reading Kim’s reply to me on how Rob’s material works in her completely non-christian culture – Rob’s working from first principles and without assuming much in terms of theological background may have merit. however, the theological premises that he comes to aren’t overly useful, and some would say are not in line with christian orthodoxy. He could be just as relevant in his nooma talks, but stick closer to the bible. It is almost a victory of style over substance.

    In Australia (and probably most of the west), we are post-christian in that there is a cultural memory of christianity. It is not normally founded on anything more than a simplistic idea that jesus loves everyone, and preached universal tolerance. In that culture, Rob’s ambiguity gives people the room to think that Jesus is not the only way, or that the bible is not something that can be relied upon as a source of truth.

    All the best, and long may the discussions continue…

  43. Kim says:

    Chip and Andrew,
    We are far apart in our views of God. Language gets in the way. I, too appreciate the temper of the conversation. Again, I apologize to Chip for sounding condescending. Chip, please forgive me. You are correct; in my passion for the truth of God’s word, I can become caustic in my comments. (Didn’t Paul retort that he wished the Judaizers would “go all the way and castrate themselves”? Hmmm) However, I mean some things in fun just to have a chuckle together. I can see you are a gracious soul with me and it makes a difference when in a hot debate of substance.

    I still disagree with you about your assessment of Rob Bell as a “false teacher”. As you pointed out, we meet an impasse on that point. We can disagree amicably. I do not label him a “false teacher”, especially by the criteria set on this website. I agree more with Andrew’s way of expressing caution. If one finds Bell unclear of even deficient, or if he does not develop a thought in a series of discussion starters to your satisfaction, I would rather you say, “This is where I find him vague”, or “I find this insufficiently developed on this point.” At any rate, that is more my style…except when I have had a bad day.
    Whereas to you, Chip, “Holiness” is the first and foremost attribute of God, “Love” fills that role for me. Can we really make a hierarchy of attributes of God that one is more fundamental than another is?
    What, after all, is holiness? “Holy” is the term we use to describes what makes God, God, in distinction to everything else. “Holy” means “wholly other”. It is the term we use when employing the insufficient tools of human language to express what is infinitely overwhelming and incapable of exhaustive description. God is mystery. What we know of God is what chooses to reveal to us about God’s self. Whenever there was an epiphany, the person trembled, fell as one dead and had an immediate sense of one’s impurity and finitude. That is the human response to the numinous experience of Tremendum Fascinatum. (Rudolph Otto’s The Idea of the Holy). One is simultaneously drawn in fascination and repelled in fear. I have never had such an experience myself, but the biblical witness testifies to a few revelatory incidents that occurred this way. The person dreaded that their life was at threat in the presence of the Divine.
    The Church Fathers developed the concept of God’s “Holiness” Via Negativa, by showing the inadequacy of human speech to convey all that we mean. Love, however, they developed Via Eminentia showing how whatever we know and experience of love is infinitely superior in the being of God. Chip, when you united the two concepts as “Holy Love”, we are on the same page. What God revealed in Jesus Christ is God’s love.
    Hate and Wrath are not attributes of God. “Hate” and “Wrath” are the terms we employ to express God’s Holy Love burning against sin. It is God’s reaction to everything we call sin. Wrath does not rule out love. You are correct, Chip; there is no flip-flop in God. God does not hate for a while and then change his mind and start loving us. God does not vacillate like that. (Though, biblically speaking, our sin grieves God’s heart)
    However, you skirted my question. “Did God hate you at one time (sinner that you were/are) and love you at another?” My answer would be “yes”. Correctly understood, God hated me as a sinner in a Divine way, a way that is an expression of Divine love. God is not split inside (as we human beings often are ambivalent). His love and hate do not militate against each other. In the Divine life, love and hate unite. It is God’s will for us to respond to the love of God. God saves us from wrath through Jesus Christ. We are “accepted in the Beloved.” God first and foremost loves us. That is what we come to know about God in Jesus Christ. John 3:16 again.
    I have appreciated the exchanges and the energy you put into your answers Chip. I also appreciate Andrew who represents to me a conscientious Christian leader who is cautious to evaluate materials he chooses to use in the edification of those to whom he feels responsible. I honor that.
    I certainly hear you, Andrew, when you wrote about ministry in a post-Christian society. It is tough doing the mission of God in those burned over zones like France, the UK, the USA and Australia. I certainly do not ascribe to the view that the Gospel should be reduced to “God loves you and please practice universal toleration.” I do not see Bell arguing that either.
    How one hears Bell depends upon the nature of the community that uses his Nooma series. How do they process his messages? What kind of discussion follows? They are not complete expositions of Christian doctrine and should not be expected to fill that role.
    I can tell you that as a person who was battered by the God-talk in oppressive Christian groups, I have found Bell’s message a breath of fresh air from the bombastic Bible thrashing inflicted on me. I miraculously still had an appetite left for God through all the loopy thundering about “holiness” to which I was treated. My experience just about squashed the life and joy out of me, out of Christianity. Angry men with red faces pounding the pulpit gives me pause when I hear them hurl out a word like, “Holiness”, devoid of love, stripped of compassion. “Be ye holy as I am holy” is a beautiful text, but has been put to demonic use as a means of social control. The Lucan Jesus uses the same cadence but expresses it more in keeping with its meaning, “Be ye compassionate as you Father is compassionate”. There is a way to use the Bible’s same words with entirely different meaning in spirit and tone. Theology to me (to use Frederick Buechner’s words) “begins with a lump in the throat.” It is a personal pilgrimage out of bondage into Christ’s freedom.
    Blessings, I consider you both blog pals.

  44. Kim says:

    Correction: First sentence in post above, I meant to write: “We are NOT far apart in our views of God.” Egad! stupid mistake that spell check didn’t catch. It is the opposite of my meaning. Also, sorry that my paragrpaphs did not seperate like they did on my word text.

  45. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    I wanted to respond to your last post. I like the clever line you wrote, “It is almost a victory of style over substance”. I hope to include that in my arsenal of powerful sentences for future use. I enjoy a good turn of phrase.

    However, we do not experience Rob Bell’s Nooma series here as a triumph of style over substance. His series is not attempting to do systematic theology so we do not press the episodes into unnatural molds. Our young adult group uses them as Bell intended them, as discussion starters.

    I am not sure of your meaning in the sentence you wrote which reads, “Rob’s working from first principles without assuming any theological background may have merit, however, the theological premises he comes to aren’t overly useful, and some would say not in line with Christian orthodoxy.” I do not understand what the first half of that sentence means. Could you elaborate?

    It is true that “…some would say not in line with Christian orthodoxy”. Chip is such a one who asserts that idea to the point of labeling a brother in Christ a “false teacher”. I have taken him to task about that and still assert that it is slander. He may attach that label to Bell with good motives, but he is mistaken. (“The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful”.)

    If I disagree with someone for the reasons Chip offered on this blog, I would exercise far more restraint in my pronouncements about them. Yet Chip insists that he knows Bell’s work sufficiently to consign him to the condemnation of a false teacher. Some people define orthodoxy in very narrow terms. So yes, “some” would say that about Bell. There are people with their placards and bullhorns protesting in front of wherever Bell speaks. Great Christian witnesses, that.

    I pointed out to Chip that Bell confesses the Nicene Creed. Chip replies “Big Deal”. Chip pointed out correctly that people can bend the words of the Creed to mean many different things. That fact is a common bromide. He has yet to show that Bell denies any essential doctrine of the faith. He wants Bell to elaborate on the doctrine of Original Sin in a brief video. He baselessly accuses him either not knowing about it or of deliberately avoiding it. I doubt either one it the case. Interestingly, the offending passage Chip quoted to me to prove Bell’s heterodoxy clearly affirmed Bell’s belief that we all sin. I think Chip is guilty of nit picking through words. Paul warned Timothy about a false teacher who “…has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions.” 1 Timothy 6:3. Of course, Chip has his mind made up about Bell despite evidence to the contrary.

    Another example, Bell clearly affirms the resurrection of Jesus in the “You” Nooma as well as in other places. After sharing that other religions also held some similar beliefs about resurrected gods (knowledge which should be in any 01 Bible Introduction course in seminary) Bell went on to affirm that Christ is alive empowering a the community of faith to do God’s mission in the world. Chip missed the point altogether.

    In another place Bell stated, “…at the center of the Christian Church for years has been this risen Christ who invites people to trust him, trust him with life, trust him with death, trust him with sin, trust him with future, trust him with hope, trust him every day. And this Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views.” Jerry Falwell, John R. Rice or Charles Stanley could have written that. I quoted that to Chip. It is a clear confession by Bell of his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Chip ignored it to launch instead into a conversation about the offending words “first and foremost”.

    Chip still believes Bell hazy on the resurrection and nothing Bell could say will reverse Chip’s judgment on that. Chip appears either unable or unwilling to grant that Bell believes in the resurrection.

    Chip, I ask you to respond to a question: Bell stated “…at the center of the Christian Church for years has been this risen Christ who invites people to trust him, trust him with life, trust him with death, trust him with sin, trust him with future, trust him with hope, trust him every day. And this Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views.” What do those words mean if not a clear affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

  46. Chip says:

    Kim,

    You quoted Rob Bell, “…at the center of the Christian Church for years has been this risen Christ who invites people to trust him, trust him with life, trust him with death, trust him with sin, trust him with future, trust him with hope, trust him every day. And this Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views,” and then asked, “what do those words mean if not a clear affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

    My answer: I can’t be sure what Bell means by these words. There are those who believe in a “resurrection” of Jesus — but it is a figurative “resurrection.” They contend that after Jesus’ death on the cross he was subsequently “resurrected” in the teachings and lives of His disciples and followers. But these same people deny a bodily resurrection. Is that Bell’s stance? We can’t be sure, he doesn’t say. Remember, he never differentiated between the resurrections of Mithra and Attis, and the resurrection of Christ. He never pointed out one to be actual and the others to be false. So, does he consider Christ’s resurrection to be figurative and only superior to those of Mithra and Attis based on the behavior of his followers’ methods of teaching and living? Because that is the whole point of this Nooma — that the primary difference between Christ and these other, false, gods is in a Christian’s method of humble service. In Bell’s words, “It was all about the restoration, the renewing and the reclaiming of this world.” And THAT is a statement that contradicts Scripture. Christ’s sacrifice was NOT about restoring this world — as I pointed out in my review.

    However, just for the sake of argument, let’s give Bell the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he does affirm an actual, bodily resurrection of Christ (and he may — we just don’t know). His statement is still broad enough to be practically meaningless. It is a statement that could be affirmed by Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Baptists — all groups that claim the name “Christian” but whose theologies are mutually exclusive. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a version of Christ not found in Scripture — but they could agree with Bell. Catholics and Baptists believe in two completely different methods of salvation — but they could both agree with Bell.

    You keep insisting that I have labeled Bell a false teacher on the basis of his ambiguity in this video alone. I keep trying to correct you — my assessment of Bell is based on an examination of his cumulative work. This video is just one more, small piece of evidence to support my overall conclusion.

    You (and many other Bell defenders) keep pointing out that he can’t provide a complete systematic theology in a 10-minute video. Perhaps, but I’ve seen others communicate more solid, biblical truth — without a hint of ambiguity — in less time. Besides, he’s produced more than 20 of these things and has written two books. That’s more than enough time and space to be clear on biblical teaching.

    You also said, “Chip still believes Bell hazy on the resurrection and nothing Bell could say will reverse Chip’s judgment on that. Chip appears either unable or unwilling to grant that Bell believes in the resurrection.”

    Hogwash. Were he to come right out and say he believed in the actual, physical, bodily resurrection of Christ I would take him at his word. I’ve even left open the possibility that he DOES believe it. What I have said is that I find it extremely peculiar that a person professing to be a Christian and teaching on the subject of the resurrection did not take the opportunity to hammer the point home that THIS is THE thing that makes Christianity different from all other religions. Such an affirmation would have taken less than 20 seconds of his 10-minute video. Instead, he spent his time telling us the thing that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is the way we live our lives.

    Instead of nailing down a doctrine the Apostle Paul considered essential to the Christian faith, Bell leaves room for all sorts of “interpretations.” It’s fine to ask questions as a “discussion starter” but if you leave the door open for people to draw unbiblical conclusions (and Bell certainly does this) then you are participating in the perpetuation of false teaching — whether intended or not.

    I’ll use the quote from Bell that began this particular exchange. Bell said, “And this Christ transcends dogma and theological systems and denominations and world views.”

    What does that mean? Does it mean that accurate depictions of Christ can be found in all theological systems and denominations and worldviews? One could certainly draw that conclusion from Bell’s statement. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. If you come away thinking that, you have embraced a false teaching — and Bell contributed to it. If Bell believes such a thing then he is a flat-out false teacher. If he doesn’t believe that and yet doesn’t recognize the danger in uttering such a statement he is unfit to be teaching. If he doesn’t believe it, recognizes the danger in such a statement, and says it anyway (y’know, to spark discussion) then he is completely irresponsible.

    I don’t know which of those is the case. What I do know is that the content of his teaching contains a multitude of similar falsehoods — to the point I can’t recommend his work to anyone seeking to learn more about the God of the Bible.

    Finally, we’ve already agreed that we’ve reached an impasse with regard to Bell. It seems apparent neither of us is likely to be swayed by the other. I’m content to let the discussion drop.

  47. Kim says:

    I am content to let the discussion drop, too Chip. Thanks for the engaging conversation. Bell’s work has ministered in our congregation and continues to do so. One cannot make his printed work, interviews and videos answer the questions you have the way you want to hear them answered. I asked you in my first post if you asked Rob Bell what he believes. That would be more Christian than denouncing him as a false teacher based on your uncertainty. It would also be the biblical way to proceed. Failure to do that means that you prefer to make a judgment based on your uncertainty. You have slandered Bell and brought charges against an elder without knowing for sure. BTW I did not state that you made that judgment based on one video tape alone. You answered that question early and I took you at your word. I can see how you argue and I do not find it either charitable or convincing. Maybe your blog fans do.

  48. glenn mason says:

    I appreciate that Rob Bell is not to everyone’s tastes but when he says in “You” the tomb is empty he is plainly affirming the bodily resurrection. His point in “You” is that over the first and second centuries claims of a risen god were made elsewhere too and that it was God at work in the lives of Christians that was the proof of the resurrection. This is not radical and needs to be said. Bell says it well. If you are offended by “you” it seems to be that it is because you are looking to be. Rob Bell loves Jesus – shouldn’t we be careful before throwing stones at one of the Master’s children? And as you judge you shall be judged. May the love and grace of Jesus be with you Chip.

  49. Andrew says:

    Glenn
    I think you are putting motives on others that are not there. As I’ve already said, I came to Bell with a genuinely open mind. I was offended by his ambiguity, and that if a new christian listened to that DVD they would not come away with the appreciation that the resurrection was bodily and credible rather than the myths of the surrounding cultures.
    The proof was in that many saw jesus after he rose. people can be deluded, but that at the time of the writing of the new testament, there were still many alive who saw jesus alive was a serious point of evidence. Putting it onto us to be the proof of jesus’ resurrection makes us overly important.
    We owe it to Rob’s disciples to not let them keep on believing that his gospel is the same as orthodox christianity.

  50. glenn mason says:

    Andrew, I absolutely agree with you about the importance of the evidence of the then living witnesses. I suspect though that for the majority of non-christians the love and lives of believers are more significant than arguments you and I find powerful. And I do think that the witness of our lives is incredibly important without wishing to suggest salvation is other than by grace alone.

    I personally am not offended by ambiguity (as a general comment) and would note that Jesus in teaaching by parables was more than merely ambiguous. The possibility that a new christian would get the wrong idea, without more, is not a compelling point in the context of the post which started this discussion which called Bell a false teacher. Being ambiguous and far from complete on occasion does not make him that.

    I am not American (and presume Andrew that you are) and may be missing the cultural significance for you of being an orthodox christian. I would hope that we would both agree that being devout followers of Jesus as he is revealed in scripture is more significant than orthodoxy which has and will change over time.

    What I do appreciate about the post that began this and the discussion that followed is the serious minded approach to examing the issues. I have benefitted from this and thank the original writer and you for it. Must dash.

  51. Andrew says:

    I’m Australian – culturally similar to Americans, but generally less overweight 🙂
    I’m not sure how widely you’ve read on Bell, but there are some people who are more educated than me who have looked at his material and found it lacking – not a style thing but fundamentally in its theology.
    This article might be useful
    http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue104.htm

    My comment on orthodox christianity is to compare the older style of bible believing christianity with what is sweeping across the west – emergent christianity. this movement is very post-modern and relativist, and seems to be the liberal theology of our day:
    http://www.theopedia.com/Emerging_Church

    All the best

  52. Chip says:

    Glenn,

    My problems with Bell are more than a matter of “taste.” I have deep theological differences with him based on more than the content of this one Nooma video. If you read my series on the Emergent Church you will find that my initial reaction to Bell was quite positive. It was only after careful examination of several things he has written and produced that I became more and more convinced that he is a false teacher.

    You state that Bell “loves Jesus.” I agree. Except the more I learn of his theology the more I become convinced the “Jesus” he loves is the one he invented in his mind and not the one revealed in Scripture.

    Calling out a false teacher is not something I take lightly. It is serious business. And I was very careful in my study of him before coming to my conclusions.

    You cite Scripture in writing “…as you judge you shall be judged.” The standard by which I have judged Bell is Scripture. If you want to judge what I’ve written by Scripture I welcome it. Because if I say something contrary to Scripture I will gladly repent.

    Finally, I am not “looking” to be offended by Bell. I could make a similar claim about Bell’s supporters in the reverse. His departures from Scripture are so obvious in some cases that it makes me wonder — do his supporters miss it because they don’t want to? Have they become so enamored with his personality that they refuse to consider that he might actually be teaching contrary to the Word of God?

  53. glenn says:

    Andrew,

    Australia? Is that somewhere near New Zealand?

    I had a look at the webpages you gave links for. I have not considered them in depth so will not waste your time with comment.

    The use of the post-modern label does not advance matters (unless of course it has a well recognised meaning in this context which I have missed). For my part a lite version of post-modernism has some merits. That is to say I would defend a position that says

    1. Absolute objective knowledge is only available to God.
    2. While our views are subjective they are based on sufficient revelation for us to be confident of what we believe.
    3. Scripture is the word of God and is reliable but also sometimes hard to understand (according to St Peter at least)
    4. What we know leaves us seeing though a glass darkly but confident one day we will know fully.
    5. Theological differences outside of the fundamentals (very much including the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection) need to be approached with humility and with a desire to maintain unity.

    In the end we do not know enough and are not smart enough to go further. He who thinks he knows doesn’t and gets puffed up besides. You and I could not do what Jesus does in Matt 19:8 but there it is him saying a scriptural command was only given becuase of the hardness of men’s hearts and showing us the better way. No matter how good our hermeneutic there is a lot to hold lightly to.

    Chip: I will get back to you. I am reliably informed I should be in the garden.

  54. glenn says:

    Dear Chip,

    I would not regard myself as a supporter of Bell. I found Velvet Elvis unreadable but the Nooma series brilliant if sometimes a little uneven. I came across your website while looking at using “You” in a homegroup study and took issue with your allegation that he is a false teacher.

    The sting of the false teacher allegation is the implicit reference to 2 Peter 2. It suggests Bell is someone who is deliberately introducing falsehood for selfish motives. It is an allegation that he is in bad faith. You are nowhere close to making that case. If all you are saying is that you think he gets some things wrong and regard scripture and scholarship as being with you, the use of the term false teacher is improper, in my opinion.

    You say to me that Bell has invented the Jesus he loves. This is a claim that the Jesus Bell presents is sufficiently at odds with the bible to mean that his errors are not capable of being understood as differences of emphasis and interpretation. And again you are nowhere on justifying anything like that. To dismiss someone’s faith like this is a very bold step and one that you have presented yourself as reluctant to take previously (you said to Kim “If he is in fact a brother (which none of us can know for certain) I believe he has shown himself to be deceived in which case he is sharing his deception with others” – which makes my point about the inadequacy of your evidence to call him a false teacher). But to say that Bell has invented the Jesus he believes in necessarily implies that he has not confessed that Jesus is Lord and is so outside the faith. You are on dangerous ground.

    I see more in the gospels than I did 20 years ago. Was I inventing Jesus then or am I now? The answer (I hope and pray) is that I have grown in my faith and matured as a person and that my faith in and knowledge of Jesus has grown as well. To say that someone who sees things differently than you has invented the Jesus they love is conceited and wrong unless you are both unquestionably correct and acting in love. I see no evidence for the former and have my doubts about the latter.

    You have said

    “When I see Bell raise doubts as to the authenticity of the resurrection which is exactly what he does in “You” I call him on it.”

    “If you pay close attention to my comments you will see that I do not accuse Bell of denying the resurrection”

    “However, just for the sake of argument, let’s give Bell the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that he does affirm an actual bodily resurrection of Christ (and he may – we just don’t know).”

    As I have pointed out in “You” he says the tomb is empty so I am content on this and no more to say that whatever points he was making elsewhere he does affirm Christ’s bodily resurrection (I watched “You” again after reading your review and saw nothing in it to cause me to doubt its consistency with the bodily resurrection). Your views, however, are more troubling. You overlook the obvious affirmation and consider that Bell denies the resurrection: the “for the sake of argument” and “benefit of the doubt” in the above quote admits of no other reasonable conclusion. The “we just don’t know” in it shows you are using “affirm” as meaning “personally believes” rather than “endorses publicly” as we do know what Bell has said and written. So your attitude shown above is one of believing the worst about Bell. Hence my doubts about whether the impulse you are acting from in making these comments is mixed with love.

    As for Bell not being to your taste you routinely inveigh against his ambiguity. This is a matter of style and taste. Bell chooses to engage with his audience in this way. It is tremendously effective: look at us arguing away. Bell does not tell people what to think in the way that you believe a teacher should. This is not something to get exercised about surely.

    A lot of the dispute you have with Bell seem to be either imagined on your part (the resurrection non-disagreement) or the sort of thing beautifully dealt with by Paul in Rom 14.22 where he said of disputes over eating and drinking “whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God” (here I would include the original sin exchange you had with Kim).

    Romans concludes with a warning against those who cause divisions. There is that danger in dialogues like this. It is also a good way to mark yourself out as someone with an unhealthy interest in controversy. Taking heed of those warnings I depart from this foray into the blogsphere (save for reading any reply). God bless and, disagreements and concerns notwithstanding, thanks.

  55. Andrew says:

    Hi Glenn

    Australia is the bigger cousin to NZ – a bit to the west of it – from your comment I’m guessing you’re also a kiwi.
    For me, calling something postmodern is useful in that the relativism implicit in that philosophical framework is what Bell seems to be peddling.

    Your point on holding lightly to many things is akin to the open hand and closed hand that Mark Driscoll frequently talks about. It is good to know what is in each though. Bell seems to question too much, and not answer enough of those questions. There are distinctives of the christian faith that bell glosses over. I think you are raking up trouble where none is intended in calling chip a divider when if you looked at what Bell is proposing it isn’t the traditional view of christianity. if there is one who has divided and walked away, it’s him. i came to his material with an open mind, and found it deliberately vague and obscure. Not in a way that encouraged belief and faith, but in a way that subverted faith. I don’t think i’ve got the corner on truth, and no preacher i listen to does either, but i reckon that based on what bell puts out there he’s a long way off the mark.

  56. Andrew says:

    Glenn
    If you have the time to listen to a podcast deconstructing “You” (coincidentally the only nooma I’ve personally watched and own) – have a look here

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2009/07/deconstructing-rob-bells-false-gospel.html

    The guy doing it is a lutheran. someone who believes in the law and gospel and both being applied well.

  57. Chip says:

    Glenn,

    One does not have to deliberately introduce falsehood for selfish motives to be a false teacher. I don’t know what motivates Rob Bell. He may be motivated by money, or vanity or both. He may actually believe what he’s teaching. I don’t know. But his motives don’t change the content of his teaching — it’s just as false either way. And one who teaches false doctrine is a false teacher.

    My motives for pointing this out are these:

    — If Rob Bell is a genuine believer in Christ I pray he sees where he has departed from Scripture, repents, and begins to teach sound doctrine.

    — If Rob Bell is not a believer, I pray those believers who are currently being deceived by his false teaching will see him for what he is and seek teachers who teach the truth.

    — In either case, my desire is to glorify God by earnestly contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

    I maintain that my disagreements with Bell go far beyond the less essential doctrines. The kinds of things you reference in Romans 14:22. And just as an aside: the discussion I had with Kim over original sin does not fall into the non-essential category. Man’s sinful nature and what it takes to be delivered from it go to the very heart of Christianity.

    Romans does include warnings about those who cause divisions. But nowhere does Scripture advocate unity with lies. In fact, Scripture tells us to be “of the same mind, having the same love,” and to be “united in spirit, and intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).

    We are to be unified in the truth, for those who subscribe to false teachings and false Christs are outside the camp of Christ. Their teachings should be rejected outright, lest they infect the church. That’s why, in addition to warnings about unity inside the church, Scripture provides ample warnings about false teachers.

    Yes, my comments may appear to be “divisive.” But doctrine divides. It divides

    — The tares from the wheat
    — The goats from the sheep
    — The wolves from the flock
    — Hirelings from shepherds
    — False “gospels” from the one true Gospel
    — False christs from Jesus Christ
    — Darkness from light
    — The wide gate from the narrow gate

    John MacArthur said it this way, “People say, ‘Oh doctrine divides…doctrine divides.’ I say, ‘Amen, preach it, doctrine divides.’ You know what it does? It confronts error. It separates true from false. It makes judgments. Today’s climate, however, of unity in the priority of relationships, that’s not tolerable.”

    Martin Luther said, “It is better to be divided by truth than united by error.”

    I don’t mind dividing truth from error.

    Never forget, there are scores of people who claim to be Christians in the world — are we to be “unified” with them all? Are we to put aside doctrine for fear of being divisive?

    Mormons claim to be Christians. Are we to be unified with them?

    What about Jehovah’s Witnesses?

    What about any number of cults that claim the name of Christ? Are we to view them all as legitimate merely because they say they believe in Christ? Or should we hold what they teach up against the light of Scripture and test whether or not what they say is consistent with the Word of God?

    Now, you say you found “Velvet Elvis” unreadable. I wonder if it’s because it was poorly written or if you disagreed with the doctrine contained therein. How much error are we to tolerate? Yet, you continue to defend bits and pieces of Bell’s Noomas apart from his entire body of work.

    I continue to point out that it is his cumulative work that is so disturbing. Sure, I can isolate individual comments of Bell’s and read them as orthodox. That’s what makes him so dangerous — mixing error in with some truth.

    In closing, let me provide you with several links that provide a broader view of Bell’s beliefs.

    This link shows some of the disturbing comments Bell made at the “Seeds of Compassion” conference:
    http://www.alittleleaven.com/2008/04/rob-bells-comme.html

    This one demonstrates his New Age spiritualist side:
    http://www.alittleleaven.com/2008/11/rob-bell-promotes-spiritual-practice-of-lectio-divina.html

    This one shows the teaching of a woman named Phyllis Tickle from the pulpit of Bell’s church. Would you allow this to be taught in your church?
    http://www.alittleleaven.com/2009/05/whats-being-taught-at-rob-bell.html

    This last one is a little more on Phyllis Tickle and her belief that Scripture is insufficient:
    http://www.alittleleaven.com/2008/12/emergent-rebellion-against-sola-scriptura.html

    I truly appreciate your comments, Glenn, and am glad to discuss theology any time. But the more I learn of Bell the more I am convinced he is a false teacher.

    I stand by the statement.

  58. Chip says:

    Kim has had two posts deleted. She would likely claim that it is because I can’t deal with open and honest discussion and won’t allow an opposing view to be displayed. The lengthy discussion with Kim which remains on display above certainly disproves that idea.

    No, Kim’s posts were deleted because they were condescending.

    Kim, you were warned about the condescension before. I won’t allow it toward anyone on my blog. I’ve deleted many comments from a number of people who can’t seem to be civil to one another when commenting here. You are no exception.

  59. Andrew says:

    I find it curious how people who follow emergent teachers get very touchy when the theology of their leaders is questioned. almost a conspiracy theory paranoia that everyone else is out to get their teacher, and is being unfair to them. The impression I keep on getting every time I listen to a sermon from Bell or one of his cohort is that ambiguity is embraced in everything. And thus it is hard to pin down what they truly believe, making it easy to say that others misconstrue them.

    If someone said similar things about one of my favourite preachers, I’d weigh it up, and see if there was merit in it. I like Driscoll. Some people find his manner of speech offensive from the pulpit. I am not sure if this was more when he was younger and angrier, but that’s not central to his message and preaching. If on examination, his preaching wasn’t in line with the bible, or if his teaching was ambiguous enough that it could lead people away from obvious truths, I’d seek out other teachers.
    I like Piper, but at times he is a bit theoretical, even though he has a deep passion for Jesus. I haven’t heard people attack him for his theology.

    Some of us who have genuinely come to the emergents with open and receptive minds have become opposed to it based on what has been observed rather than preconceived. while there are things we will never know this side of eternity, there is much which we can know and is expounded in the bible, but the emergents such as bell seem to be bent on muddying the water rather than giving clarity and certainty.

    Bell is a fantastic communicator. He knows his stuff, but it is a pity that his gospel message isn’t on target.

    All the best

  60. Chip says:

    Andrew,

    I couldn’t agree more. Bell’s fans seem to take it quite personally when someone critiques him. They’ve accused me of “trying to get” Bell. But the standards by which I’ve reviewed Bell’s teachings are the same standards I review the teachings of any pastor — including my own.

    The difference is my pastor welcomes it when someone holds him accountable to Scripture. He realizes he is not the final authority — Scripture is.

    I have to wonder about a person who stands to teach Scripture and yet does not want to be held up to the scrutiny of Scripture.

  61. Andrew says:

    I’ve noticed similar paranoia in an islamic forum where I lurk. Everyone is also, apparently, out to get them as well, and nothing valid comes from any external critics.
    Like you say, for a christian preacher, the bible and conformance with that must be the ultimate touchstone, and nobody is above it.

    the only time that I’ve gone hmmmm about a preacher was when a baptist preacher (not a calvinist) called the concept of limited atonement a theology straight from the pit of hell. I’m not sure I’d have used that strong a point to divide between calvinism and arminianism, as both have valid points and both can cite the bible as their basis.

  62. Kim says:

    Chip,
    The truth is, you have not contacted Rob Bell to inquire about his views of the resurrection, the Trinity, etc. and you have denied written evidence to the contrary. You have not produced a single text wherein he denied any tenant of the faith. Yet you continue to label a brother in Christ a false teacher. That is slander based on your suspicions supported by neither facts nor evidence. You dislike his style the same way I dislike your and you dislike mine. You produced no evidence of any overt false teaching coming from Bell. What you cavil about is that he seems vague to you. Fine. I do not find him that way. I think you know in your heart that he affirm the resurrection and the Trinity. Talk about touchy. Good gosh. You deleted my posts to Glenn. I am not touchy about “my teacher”. Bell is not my teacher. I am protective of a brother in Christ maligned on dubious arguments. I would accept anyone’s honest questions. I accept that Christians do not agree on everything. Christians who raise questions, pose inquiries, and seek further clarification cause me no problem. However, Chip, you show no such spirit of inquiry. You label and brand…and delete. Now, please, before you press the delete button, answer me this. Did Rob Bell ever, in any of his videos deny that Jesus is raised from the dead and alive today? If so where? Did he in any of his videos affirm the resurrection as a central teaching of the church? Would you agree that if he did not deny but it affirmed it then that may be evidence that he believes it? I suppose this will be deleted too, but I’ll wait to see.

  63. Andrew says:

    Question: how would one go about refuting the work of a teacher who is dead if we have to contact them? Are dead heretics let off the hook?

    Rob would know well the objections that are raised about his work. He would have ample space either on his own pulpit or his books, or in a magazine interview to clarify and refute the points.

    How about this for a short comment on Bell’s gospel:
    http://www.extremetheology.com/2009/05/rob-bells-convoluted-gospel-isnt-the-biblical-gospel.html

  64. Andrew says:

    Kim: i don’t know if you’ve encountered 9marks before, but they’re pretty solid theologically.
    This review of velvet elvis might be worth a skim
    http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID598014|CIID2249688,00.html

  65. kim says:

    Glenn, I have to say that I am with you on your post of September 6. I think your issue with Chip is the same as mine. He reads into Bell what is just not there.

    However, on the other hand I thoroughly enjoyed Velvet Elvis except that the print font was too small.

    Contrary to Chip’s and Andrew’s take on the issues, I am not touchy about holding any teacher accountable to scripture. My ire does show when someone accuses a brither falsely. I hold myself accountable to scripture and I hold others accountable. I become vexed when logic breaks down and Chip asserts his viewpoint in the face of evidence to the contrary. I appreciate that he left an earlier post up in which he clearly did just that.

  66. kim says:

    Andrew, Thanks for the websites. I appreciated Bell’s words “The story is about God’s intentions to bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and the story begins here with shalom—shalom between each other and with our Maker and with the earth. The story line is that God intends to bring about a new creation, this place, this new heaven and earth here. And that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, essentially, of the future; this great Resurrection has rushed into the present.” That is the Gospel I also proclaim. It is the basic thrust of the New Testament.

  67. kim says:

    Andrew, I cannot access the review of Velvet Elvis. The site will not come up for me. Let me ask you a question. Would you characterie the websites you offer as Fundamentalist?

  68. kim says:

    Andrew, Check out this website:
    http://tomelenbaas.org/blog/tag/rob-bell/

    This pastor also calls a spade a spade when it comes to slander.

  69. Kim says:

    Andrew, Google Mars Hill, Rob Bell and click on Theology. There you can find a clear statement of the doctrines of the Rob Bell’s congregation. I am sure he ascribes to their beliefs since he was part of the framers of their “narrative theology”. The text is lengthy but here is a salient portion:

    “We believe these longings found their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, mysteriously God having become flesh. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted and set captives free, proclaiming a new arrival of the kingdom of God, bringing about a new exodus, and restoring our fractured world. He and his message were rejected by many as he confronted the oppressive nature of the religious elite and the empire of Rome. Yet his path of suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection has brought hope to all creation.Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and humans. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God. God is now reconciling us to each other, ourselves, and creation. ”

    Andrew, could you not ascribe to that theological confession? Is it in any way heterodox? I mean, what is in it that is not to like?

  70. kim says:

    Andrew, Of course one cannot ask a dead heretic to clarify his or her viewpoints. That was a silly question, don’t you think? One can ask a living brother in Christ to clarify his beliefs before labeling him a false teacher. In Rob Bell’s case, labeling him a false teacher while neglecting to inquire further would constitute slander. There is plenty of evidence of Bell’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In fact, there seems to be more in his body of work than there is in the book of James. Yet I believe that James also believed in the resurrection of Jesus. He just didn’t mention it…nor did the writers of 1, 2, 3 John and Jude.

  71. Andrew says:

    ok – i have better things i need to be doing today (got uni assignments due) but will reply to keep the dicussion going: will cite rob from velvet elvis.

    p 18 – the trampoline. who gets to decide which springs are essential and which are not?
    p 20 – christianity as a “way”. I thought it was all about relationship, and that we live a “way” in response to what God did for us.
    p 21 – “jesus at one point claimed to be “the way the truth and the life”. Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions” To me it does rather sound like Jesus was making an absolute truth claim about following him being the only way, not one way, or a “best” way.
    p 26 – the whole virgin birth thing. Bell does affirm belief in it, but says that “if it all falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring then it wasn’t that strong after all”. who is the judge of what springs are core, and which can be taken out? That is core to the controversy on this section, not Bell doing a “what if” on Larry.
    p 32 – Bell waxes lyrical about the benefits of doubt and mystery – ignoring that a plain reading of the bible does allow us to know with certainty some things of the character of God. Not everything to be sure, but some things can be known.
    p 53-54 on being able to read the bible and understand it being a toxic viewpoint. ignores the action of the Holy Spirit in quickening our hearts and opening our eyes.
    p 76 – beyond being their friend and making them feel warm and fuzzy about “spirituality” Bell owed it to those people to preach Jesus as that is the thing that they need above all else.

    I found the chapter on healing to be helpful – I do concede that.

    p133- peter could walk on water not because he had faith in himself but because he had faith in Jesus.

    p146 (the main issue that I was scanning through the book to find) – that hell is full of forgiven people. If it is only our sins that keep us from God and separate us from Him, then why are those forgiven people in Hell?

    Anyhow – better get back to my essays.
    God bless you guys.

  72. kim says:

    Andrew,
    Thanks for your reply and the points about which you raise questions. If I read and listen to him correctly, I would say that Bell intends his style of writing and speaking to evoke such discussion. Whereas I cannot channel Bell’s thoughts, I can use the questions you raised to reflect.

    p. 18, each person and each Christian community may make such judgments on what is core and what is peripheral. Protestants do not have an infallible teaching office or a papacy to arbitrate these matters. Specific teaching on the sentence, “He descended into Hell” varies in different parts of the church worldwide. That sentence appears in some versions of the Apostles Creed. Other versions omit it. If your church uses the Apostle’s Creed, does it include or exclude that sentence? On what basis? Some churches have made Dispensationalism and pre-tribulation rapture and pre-millennialism a chief tenant of faith and fellowship. Others view that whole template a distraction and even heresy. Who decides? Bell’s point is clear; there are teachings that are peripheral and some central. In one of his Nooma DVDs, he stated that the Resurrection of Jesus was a central teaching of Christianity.

    P.20. Christianity is both a way and a relationship. “Way” appears in the Bible as Christians were known as “followers of the way”. The word “Relationship” never appears in the Bible but is implied in many ways. As religious/sociological phenomenon, Christianity is a diverse religion, not simply reducible to statements of fundamental doctrines.

    P.21. I have to agree with Bell. Jesus referred to himself as the way, truth and life, not to a religious phenomenon called ‘Christianity’. There are versions of Christianity inimical to the life pattern taught and lived by Jesus. Many call him Lord but not all follow his way.

    P.26 and 32 I think I answered that in the entrance to p.18 above. Bell indeed affirms the Virgin Birth and leaves room to question it. I appreciate that. It is unfortunate that Chip deleted my post as condescending. I was testy, but nothing like the anti-Rob Bell Fundamentalist websites that I visited. In my deleted post, speaking of these kinds of websites, I wrote, “They almost invariably derive from Fundamentalist vanguards and self-proclaimed watchdogs against theological error. They stand like solid stone monuments to truth, unbending, inflexible, dead, loveless, and lacking any familiarity of the imaginative universe of language, communication and meaning.” I was not being condescending, only provocative. Chip took me the wrong way.

    P.53-54 How does Bell ignore the work of the Spirit? It is evident that many people read the Bible in toxic ways. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Earl Paulk and others like them. Acknowledging that some abuse the Bible is not to ignore the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t get your point, Andrew?

    p.76 I don’t get you there. I have watched and listened to many Rob Bell DVDs and find him very Christo-Centric. Perhaps you bring to your reading a different lens than I do.

    p.133 The text doesn’t state wherein lay Peter’s faith does it. He did cry out, “Lord save me” and Jesus did. Rob may have taken too much liberty, but it is a strange text.

    p.144 Bell is certainly not alone in his view that Jesus died for everyone and not a limited few. God wills for all to repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. Not all will. Many reject Christ’s offer of salvation and forgiveness. If any end up in Hell it is not because God does not love them and will their salvation. C.S. Lewis’ little parable of Heaven and Hell in The Great Divorce makes a similar point.

  73. Kim says:

    Andrew, another part of my deleted post were these sentences: “Websites abound on the internet castigating Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, and C.S. Lewis. They accuse them of everything from conspiracy theories to accusations about New Ageism. If I did not know better, I would think they were the pronouncements of semi-literates.” The kind of websites to which I refer is illustrated an advertisement which appeared on one of them. It read, “Finally a real Christian radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, liberalism, purpose-drivenism, emergent non-sense and the sissy girly Opra-fied spirituality that is being passed off as Christianity.” I suppose I should be kinder to these people and prevent my being deleted. However, I find their version of Christianity ugly and repellant.

  74. Chip says:

    Kim,

    I have provided ample examples of where Bell departs from orthodox biblical teaching. They are in my posts on the emergent church and in my reviews of Velvet Elvis and the Nooma videos. I can’t help it if you are unwilling or unable to see them — many others see his errors quite clearly.

    Slander is a “malicious, false and defamatory” statement about a person. My comments about Bell are neither malicious nor false. In most cases I let him speak for himself through direct quotes in his material. And the reason I do it is to provide a warning to those in the church who are considering using his material — with the hope of preventing the spread of false teaching in the church. People who read my reviews are free to do with them as they will. Many people have written to thank me for giving them pause to more seriously consider what Bell teaches. Others (like yourself) disregard my warnings and go right ahead using his material. It’s up to the reader.

    As for answering any more of your specific questions about Bell I say this: You and I have covered this ground before. My thoughts about Bell are clearly outlined in my posts and in my comments to you and others. Feel free to reread them. I have no intention of going through it all over again.

    As for contacting Bell personally, there is no reason nor biblical basis for doing so. In the first place I suspect I would never get him on the phone. And, if I did, I’m sure he would dismiss my thoughts as easily as you have. He’s the “Elvis of the emergent church”(the words of emergent types, not me) and I’m just some guy from rural America. He sells out arenas in his bus tours and I teach a Sunday School class of 25 and supply preach occasionally. I wouldn’t get far in trying to get him to renounce his teaching.

    However, I’ve already warned many people away from his dangerous ideas. False teaching must be addresses and this is a far more effective way than trying to contact him.

    Bell’s defenders have contacted me several times to get me to stop “criticizing” Bell. They have thrown at me Matthew 7 (“Do not judge…”) and Matthew 18 (“Go to your brother in private…”). If you think these passages apply here then I invite you to read Bob DeWaay’s excellent commentary on those passages (along with the ones on false teachers).

    Here’s your link:

    http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue94.htm

    Regardless of what you think, I appreciate you participating in the discussion here. However, as previously noted, you and I are at an impasse. We disagree and that should probably be the end of it. Feel free to discuss things with Glenn or Andrew or anyone else who comments. As long as you don’t use your comments to make disparaging remarks about me or others they won’t be deleted.

  75. Kim says:

    Thanks for the invitation to continue Chip. I cannot heed the warnings on Bell on this website nor on websites that reflect similar convictions. I do not heed the warnings because they are off base and untrue. They reflect a theologically insular world, one that I identify as Fundamentalist. You, along with some others have made unfounded claims that Rob Bell denies things he does not deny. If he denies them kindly show me where. I have pointed out places where he affirms the very doctrines you claim he minimalizes or denies. Your arguments fail to show in any convincing evidence that he leads the sheep astray in doctrine or in lifestyle.

    I have sat studied and sat under the ministry of genuine real false teachers. The spirit and atmosphere is very different from that of Rob Bell. The doctrines these false teachers espouse and the lifestyles they exemplify are ruinous to the flock. I work on a group for “survivors” of this sort of religious abuse. To label a good brother and servant of the Lord a false teacher would indeed be slander if the charge were untrue. I have no problem labeling a false teacher as such when it is true. If you cannot call Bell, I suggest you write him at least before making such a judgment, other wise you may be guilty of bearing false witness against your brother.

    Check out the website of Mars Hill Church. Google Mars Hill Rob Bell. Click on “theology”. That is their congregational statement of faith. Rob Bell began this congregation. He is the architect of the statement of faith. What do you find objectionable about it?

    The materials we use in our congregation from Rob Bell’s ministry have been helpful and enlightening in our congregation. They are Christ centered and lead towards Christian conversion. I do not live in America or Australia. I minister in a place where Christianity is only a small minority.

    Chip, I have reread your posts and the errors your sense in Bell. I understand your motive for pure doctrine. I know what your saying, but find your evidence lacking and unconvincing. Rob Bell believes in the resurrection and has stated so often. The living presence of Jesus is core to his discipleship and that comes across in almost every Nooma DVD. He ascribes to the virgin birth, the universal sinfulness of all humanity and Jesus as the only savior and Lord. I believe you are not willing to acknowledge that there is ample evidence that he ascribes to these doctrines. It all comes down to the lens through which you view him. For me, he makes Jesus come alive. Those in my ministry find the same. That is why I can hardly your charge of false teacher appropriate or accurate. Bell chooses not to use the standard jargon, but his message is clear. Jesus brings life that is real and abundant life, life lived in fellowship with the God revealed in Jesus.

  76. Andrew says:

    Kim
    Bell’s point on atonement for me doesn’t revolve around whether Jesus came for everyone, or only the elect, but his text saying that there are forgiven people in hell genuinely confused me. if it is our sin that separates us from God, and we only enter into heaven as our sins are forgiven, then by what measure are those forgiven people in hell kept out? God punishes for sinfulness.

    We each have a line drawn as to who we will or will not listen to. For you, Bell is ok. Would you put yourself under McLaren’s teaching? Just trying to sound out where you stand

  77. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    Have you ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce? Lewis’ point is that forgiveness is for everyone but not all will choose to be reconciled to God. Some will be successful rebels to the very end. It is not because God does not will their repentance and acknowledgement of the truth. God does. However, they resist God’s love successfully. Love does not force itself to destroy the tender plant of human freedom.

    In another of his books, The Problem of Pain, Lewis closes his chapter on “Hell” with these words: “In the long run, objectors to the doctrine of hell must answer this question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins, and at all costs to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty, and offering every miraculous help? But, he has done so – in the life and death of his Son. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, that is what he does.”
    Bell takes a similar position. God’s extends forgiveness but they choose to resist God’s reconciliation and love. God loves them and offers reconciliation through Christ. However, they choose against reconciliation. That is what he means by “forgiven people in Hell”. Just as there many people I forgive who choose to remain enemies. I bear them no ill will. The door stands open.
    People express themselves in a number of ways in conventions of literary and oral genre. One thing I discover about Fundamentalists, their “lack of familiarity with the imaginative universe” (to borrow a phrase by anthropologists Clifford Geertz “The Interpretation of Culture”). Sensitivity to the way writers and speakers get their points across helps one interpret what someone is trying to communicate. If you drain out all poetry and pleasure in speech, you have bare doctrines, dry, flavorless and lifeless as stones. How often the Scribes and Pharisees missed Jesus’ point by literalizing his figures of speech. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” “How can a man be born when he is old?’ “How can you destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days?” One must try to understand the intention and meaning of a saying. The failure of many to get Rob Bells point may stem from a similar inability to think intuitively. For example, in “You” the whole premise was that Christ is alive and active in a community of love and service. The bare confession is not the same as living as the followers of Jesus, alive and active in the community. How some missed Bell’s point is beyond me. I got it right off the bat.
    Bell reflects nothing novel here. Of course, a five point Calvinist double-predestinarian will not swallow Bell easily. Fortunately, that is a marginal sect among us Christians.
    Any doctrine of the Atonement that implies that what Christ did is insufficient to cover for the sins of everyone surely impugns the depth of the love of God in Christ. If you prefer a doctrine that holds God likes to create creatures to go to Hell, that God enjoys their torments, that God made them for this very purpose and they are ontologically different from the redeemed, then I cannot help you. Some Christians gleefully ascribe to that view. I am not one of them. I wonder if they have ever encountered God in Christ…or is their faith essentially quoting and harmonizing Bible verses to bolster that binary thinking with little sensitivity to literary genre.
    I enjoy reading Brain McLaren. What I understand of his teaching has come from reading a number of his books. I have also read one co-authored with Tony Campolo. I do not depend on the internet for my research, as much of it is misinformation.
    If anyone is in Hell, it is because he or she successfully militated against God will that “all people repent and come to a knowledge of the truth.” Some may do just that. I have no certain knowledge of them and I cannot assign anyone to that state. I leave all those judgments to God, as I am sure you also do. Bell does the same.

  78. Andrew says:

    I’m not a double predestination person, but i know that as a person who was dead in my sins prior to God saving me, that as a dead person, I can’t choose. I don’t know why God chose to save some and doesn’t save others. I know that if there has to be a choosing, it makes sense that an all just and righteous God is the one doing the choosing. That, to me, is the only consistent way I can rationalise how babies and the intellectually infirm are able to be saved- that God chooses, not us.

    Bell doesn’t argue that people in hell were able to be saved – everyone is able to be saved, but only God knows who will be. we should preach the good news to everyone, as we don’t know who will respond and be stirred by the spirit and who wont. Bell says that people in hell are forgiven – not potentially forgiven. What is it that keeps people out of hell?

  79. Kim says:

    Andrew,
    Whoever is saved is saved because God wants them saved. God invites all. The scriptures indicate that God’s will is that all come to repentance and to know the truth. The door is open to all. All were dead in sin and therefore Christ. Those who resist the Holy Spirit and turn away from God’s call are lost. I do not know how else to say it. I believe God loves even those in Hell. That is Bell’s point, too. It is hard to miss. Do you believe inhabitants of Hell are there because God does not love them and wishes to create beings and send them to such a place?

    If that is your take, fine. However, it militates against the view of God revealed in the Crucified Jew who prayed even for his enemies, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they do.” The Father did not respond, “No son, I hate them and choose them to go to a place of torment. They have no hope. Intercede for them no more.”

    What keeps people out of Hell? God’s forgiving love expressed in the one who gave himself for us. What places them there? Total resistance to God’s forgiving love. That is the best way I can put it.

  80. kim says:

    Andrew,
    Is there a just and rational way to say that eight year old Hindu or Buddhist children are in Hell? Do you believe they are in Hell, Andrew? Your point about “rational and just way” to understand the choosing of God seems to indicate that God chooses all children for salvation. I think so too. To believe that God made millions of creatures who, due to no fault of their own, and because the One who made them does not love them, they will spend eternity in a place of excruciating fiery torment violates anything rational or just. Such may describe a demon and not the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. People can resist the light and do so as John 3:16-17 indicate. The fault lay in people not in the limits to the love of God, unless , of course, God’s love is fickle like human love. Then we could not say with Peter, “God shows no favoritism.”

    You are right, Bell did not say “potentially forgiven”. I believe God really forgives them as he forgives us all. It may be helpful to try not press language for exactness to fit your template. Thats is aproblem of biblical hermeneutics, isn’t it?

  81. alan says:

    I recently watched You and search to see how people were responding to it. This site sums it up and I appreciate the discussion.

    I have reviewed Bell’s work over the years and have many problems with it. I find no justification to call him a false teacher (I don’t know his heart and he sure is not getting rich from this.) But it is easy for me to say that he is not the best teacher out there. He has some very bad examples out there — the worst of which are Rhythm, Dust and Bullhorn. I know what he is getting at, but the communication is very sloppy, vague and jaded. But frankly I find that he makes some good points in each — somewhere buried in some very bad ones.

    My assessment of Bell is that, first, he loves to provoke the exact discussion as is seen on this board. In velvet elvis is supposes what if the virgin birth was untrue. He knew that was a nuclear comment.

    Secondly, he believes that Christians in general are over educated and under-worked. The go to church on Sunday and forget the teachings of justice and mercy. He believes the good news of Jesus should actually BE good news to the world. I like his angle here.

    Third, he is less enamored with precise theology than a message of “go impact the world for Christ.” That part has me scratching my head.

    But back to the subject, this You video — I was well aware that many other mythologies and false religions might have had accounts like those TRUE EVENTS of Jesus. Of course they would!! Isaiah was written long before any of them” Behold a virgin will conceive and bear a son…and he will be called Emanuel.” Then Isaiah 53 for the suffering servant who would die and come back to life to see his offspring. anyone think that satan can’t read the Bible? It does not bother me in the slightest if these myths existed before Christ — the account was unique in Isaiah and it was fulfilled.

    Secondly, the point is that the details of the virgin birth and resurrection were believed based on the witness of the followers of Christ. As Bell points out at the first of the video — they actually saw these events. They shared their testimony with others — and the fruits of their faith is what led others to believe. THIS is what Bell always talks about. Look in your own life: did you come to faith by losing an argument or by someone’s generous love poured out upon you or their solid witness to the truth.

    I am not willing to pronounce the most condemning of labels on Bell. But I wont say he is a great teacher either. But in THIS video — You — I dont find any problems. In fact, I hear Bell declare the risen Lord! What more do you want? Thanks to those on this blog for sharing your faith.

  82. alan says:

    One last thought from my consideration of the emergent church over the years: this is a bad label. There does not seem to be a tenant of faith across these. I have real problems with McLaren and others, but it is unfair to try people on labels that we set. I have read before that Bell does not accept the label of Emergent.

    And then one particular issue is the frequent complaint that this group “embraces mystery” — which is a way to say that they do not have it or need to have it all figured out. That is a problem for systematic folks who somehow think they will. So each side thinks the other is wrong. I love clear theology, admittedly but there is that quote…”Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” I cannot say that my mind can completely get around our Giant, Pursuing – yet should be feared, all Righteous, but so Gracious God. Creator, Savior, Friend and Father. It is all true and all truly too much to take in.

    To summarize the point: better to directly challenge someone like Bell specifically, rather than lump him in a loose label — then take shots at those in the label. Please put me on trial as myself, not a member of my neighborhood, church, employer or US citizen.

  83. Dawesi says:

    Perhaps Rob Bell is coming from a perspective you refuse to acknowledge because it invalidates your justification of your own systematized theology (something Jesus constantly warned against creating or adhering to)

    I think this article oversimplifies what the message of the video ignoring the full context of the video by quoting single parts; just as many do in sermons every week. You need to criticise the paradigm of the video, not one section as it is a complex weave of thoughts, and not one thought should be teased out by itself.

    Either way, it’s good to see that you’re talking about the good points rather than feeding the devils work of only talking about your perceived negative points. This is why I love organised religion, it’s a bunch of vultures crucifying one another to obtain unity.

    So what in the video did he say that was good? 99.99% of the rest of the video in other words?

  84. Chip says:

    Dawesi,

    I don’t have a problem with Bell’s perspective because “it invalidates” my “own systematized theology” — I have a problem with Bell’s perspective because it is clearly contrary to Scripture. And, I don’t think I ignored the full context of his message. His premise is that the resurrection is not unique to Christianity. This premise IS the context of his video.

    Bell uses this premise to argue that what ought to set Christians apart is their involvement in a “universe-wide” movement to restore the world. Yet we can see thousands of people involved in caring efforts to restore the world who haven’t the first notion as to who Jesus is. Remember, Paul said all of our good works are as “filthy rags.”

    Clearly, Christians ought to be marked by love and compassion for their fellow man. But that compassion should drive them to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not just make their world a better place to go to hell from.

    “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” — 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

    Scripture declares the Gospel is of FIRST importance. An indispensable element of the Gospel is the resurrection. Bell downplays the resurrection as of near non-importance opting instead to focus on meeting temporal needs to the exclusion of eternal ones. Sorry, but this is no small matter.

    Finally, this conclusion is not reached by taking one or two statements in Bell’s video out of context. This is the full import of his message. Because his premise is flawed from the beginning, I figure this video is 99.99% bad. There may be .01% that is good, but we’d have to dig deep to find it.

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