Rob Bell’s “interspirituality”

Rob Bell participated in the “Seeds of Compassion Interspiritual Day” yesterday in Seattle. He was a part of a panel of “religious leaders” from a variety of different religions including Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama. A Little Leaven has a report on the proceedings at the event (complete with video clips). Take note of Bell’s demeanor and statements as the “Christian Representative.” At no time does he make a distinction between Christianity and the other “great world religions.” At no time does he single out Christ as the only savior of mankind. At no time does he acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. Instead, he rambles on in pluralistic platitudes and spiritualistic philosophies.

He is lauded as a great spiritual leader and seems to enjoy the applause he receives from the audience. Contrast how he “represents Christ” in this instance to how the Apostle Paul represented Christ in a similar setting in Athens (from Acts chapter 17).

While Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] to join him in Athens he was greatly distressed to see the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

So already we see Paul did not beat around the bush with feel-good rhetoric that was pleasing to the ears of everyone the way Bell seemed to do. The content of Paul’s message seems to draw a contrast between the gospel and the popular beliefs of Athens because they dispute his claims and say he is advocating foreign gods. But they engaged Paul further.

Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

The door opens up for Paul. He is kind of like the new star in a group of people who spend all their time thinking about and discussing ideas. He has an opportunity to really make a name for himself here. If he is just careful to show the proper respect for their ideas and takes pains to not offend anyone he could be a somebody in a group of the world’s most renowned thinkers. But he blows that opportunity and bulls ahead with offensive teaching and said:

“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”

Paul goes on to draw a stark contrast between the gods of the world and the one true God. He tells them of God’s justice, of their need to repent, and of the resurrection. He doesn’t sugar coat the truth for the sake of his own popularity. Nor is he afraid of offending anyone. And their response was predictable.

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered…

Poor Paul. Didn’t he know they might make fun? Yeah, he did. And he just didn’t care. A believer in Christ is first and foremost concerned with pleasing God. Not men. But look what else happened in Athens.

…but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed.

I wonder how many people were compelled to become followers of Christ because of Rob Bell’s testimony at the interspiritual day in Seattle. The whole day was organized around the idea that one religion is just as good as the next and he, apparently, did not dispute the idea. But Paul once wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.”

I think that says it all.

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.

3 Responses to Rob Bell’s “interspirituality”

  1. Great post! There is much to consider and be challenged by.

  2. Mary Bayer Johnson says:

    I would LOVE to hear you debate this guy! If you check out his website, no where does he mention Jesus!

  3. Pingback: Adapting to the culture… or not. « Thideology™

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