Love Wins: A review

Tim Challies got his hands on an advanced copy of Rob Bell’s newest offering, “Love Wins,” and has written a review. Many of my suspicions were confirmed. Bell redefined a lot of terms, asked a lot of questions, and provided precious few answers. Above all it appears he remained vague — once again refusing to allow himself to be pinned down as solidly for or against any firm doctrine, although the elements of humanism and new ageism that mark his teachings appear to be evident.

Take the time to read Tim’s review of the book. It is worth it.

Ironic Side Note: Several years ago I watched as a pastor I knew did this same dance. He asked the questions Bell is now asking. He jumped through hoops to make Scripture say something he found more palatable (using many of the arguments Bell is now using). In the end he wound up holding to a full-blown doctrine of universalism. It has been sad to watch. I fear Bell is now leading more people down the same path.

Rob Bell promotes his book “Love Wins”

Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill “Church” in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is preparing to release a new book entitled “Love Wins.” I have long been convinced this man is a false teacher, and a dangerous one at that. And the promotions I’ve seen for his new book just accumulates more evidence in support of that conclusion. Consider his promotional video.

Bell describes an art show at his church where someone submitted a piece of art containing a quote from Gandhi. According to Bell, someone else attached a note to the piece which read, “Reality check: He’s in hell.”

Bell responds with a series of questions that appear to be rhetorical and leading. He does not answer them — but Scripture does.

Bell: “Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?”

Well, we know this for sure: All men are sinners and are deserving of God’s wrath.

  • “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’” — Romans 3:9-12
  • “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” — Romans 3:23

We know that salvation from God’s wrath is available only in the person of Jesus Christ.

  • “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” — Acts 4:12
  • “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.” — John 3:18

Here is what we know of Gandhi: He is included in the statements about all men being sinners. He deserves God’s wrath just as much as anyone else. What we do not know for certain is whether or not he ever repented of his sin, believed the Gospel and turned to Christ in faith for the salvation of his sins. However, I know of no evidence in his writings or teachings to indicate that he ever did. If he did not, then he is, in fact, in hell. This we can know on the authority of Scripture.

Bell: Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?

Yes. When Jesus spoke of salvation in Matthew he said this…

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” — Matthew 7:13-14

Bell: And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe? Or what you say? Or what you do? Or who you know? Or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated? Or baptized? Or take a class? Or be converted? Or born again? How does one become one of these few?

The Bible is not unclear on these things…

  • “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” — Romans 10:8-10
  • “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” — John 3:3-8

Bell: Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message — the center of the Gospel of Jesus — is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God.

That is the primary message of the Gospel — it is what we call the substitutionary atonement and it is the Gospel. And if the idea of Jesus rescuing us from the wrath of God has only been a subtle message then shame on us. We need to shout that warning to the world — Scripture does…

  • “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” — Romans 2:5
  • “…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” — Romans 2:8
  • “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” — Romans 5:9
  • “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” — Revelation 6:15-17

Bell: How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted?

I submit to you the better question: How could a God who overlooks sin ever be considered Holy or just? If some criminal burst into your home and murdered your family before your eyes you would want justice. Suppose that murderer were caught and brought before a judge who said, “I’m a very loving judge. You can go free.” You would be outraged — not only at the crime itself, but at the judge, too.

We need to understand that before God we are all much worse than the murderer described in the scenario above. We are wicked and vile and deserve every ounce of God’s wrath. Bell’s implication is that there is something in us God needs to respect. That is just plain wrong.

Bell: And how could that ever be good news?

The bad news I’ve just described is what makes the good news so good. Knowing our true standing before a Holy God, knowing how much we deserve His wrath and His justice is precisely what makes His grace and mercy so great. The good news is that God, Himself, has become the justifier of sinful men.

Bell: This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith, because they see it as an endless list of inconsistencies and absurdities. And they say, “why would I ever want to be a part of that?”

No, lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith because it is foolishness to unregenerate men.

  • “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” — 1 Corinthians 2:14
  • “So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’” — John 10:24-27 (emphasis mine)

Now, before the Bell defenders come out of the woodwork allow me to preemptively address their objections.

Objection 1: Bell didn’t actually deny hell or actually affirm universalism.

Answer: No he didn’t. What he did was ask a lot of leading and open questions — but instead of directing people’s attention to the concrete answers provided in Scripture, rather than affirming the reason behind Christ’s sacrifice, Bell allows people to draw their own conclusions. That is a remarkably dangerous thing to do. In fact, the earliest example of this sort of question can be found in Scripture. God was quite clear in his instructions to Adam and Eve in the garden. And then there was a question…

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” — Genesis 3:1

Anyone want to defend the serpent in this? Hey, he didn’t actually tell Eve that it was okay, all he did was ask a question. He just started a conversation. The nature of some questions is inherently deceptive. Asking deceptive and leading questions where God has already provided answers is a slippery thing to do. We don’t get to make the Gospel what we want it to be. God has already defined it and it is written down.

Objection 2: The book hasn’t been released yet. You don’t know what it says. All this video is is a promotional tool to get people to read it.

Answer: I have not read the book. But the Gospel is not marketing material. It is not some teaser to be used to sell books. It is the very word of God and it is the means through which God calls sinful men to Himself.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” — Romans 1:16

The correct answers to these questions lead to life — the wrong ones to death. If Bell is eventually going to give the correct answers he is wrong to dangle them in front of a dying world so that he may earn revenue from their purchase.

“You received without paying; give without pay.” — Matthew 10:8

Bell: What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who god is and what God is like.

On this we agree. The converse is also true. What we believe about God exposes what we believe about heaven and hell. And, based on the teachings and writings of Bell so far — which advocate a god that bears little resemblance to the God of Scripture — I suspect he will advocate a “salvation” that bears little resemblance to the Gospel.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Rob Bell update

I recently saw this post at CrossTalkBlog

Rob Bell’s 40,000 something follwers on Twitter were treated to this tweet where Bell calls New Age Interspiritualist author Huston Smith’s book “great.”  See tweet here. Here Huston Smith holds forth on one of the world’s religions. YouTube is filled with Mr. Smith’s praise for Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions and their “truth.” Christianity is just one of many choices, according to Smith.

We can thank Rob Bell for openly admitting what many of us have been warning about for years. He represents a version of Christianity that is, in fact, anti-Christ. While Bell roots around in the books of rank interspiritualists for “truth”, true Christians look to our only and final authority, the unchanging Word of God.

This is just more evidence that the brand of Christianity Bell preaches is not Christianity at all. I continue to pray more and more people will come to realize that.

Nooma “Breathe”: A Review

There is so much objectionable material in Rob Bell’s Nooma, “Breathe,” that it will be quite impossible to adequately deal with everything in this review. He teaches elements of New Ageism, Hinduism, and Universalism and couples it with such a profound misunderstanding of Scripture that I’ll only scratch the surface here.

Bell begins by telling us how many breaths we take a day and how much air (in volume) that represents — it’s a lot. But, because we are distracted by our daily tasks, we never notice it.

He then goes on to tell about Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. He references the passage where God tells Moses to remove his sandals because the ground he is standing on is holy.

“Now Moses has been walking this land for 40 years,” Bell says. “I mean, it isn’t as if the ground all of a sudden became holy. The ground didn’t just change. It’s that Moses becomes aware of it. Which raises the question for us: Are we standing on holy ground all the time?”

noomabreathestampedWell, actually it is exactly as if the ground all of a sudden became holy. You see, the Bible makes it clear over and over again that God and God alone is holy. It is the very presence of God that makes the ground holy under Moses’ feet. The same thing happens when the commander of the army of the Lord appears to Joshua. The commander is a Christophony (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ). And, since Christ is God and therefore holy, his presence makes the ground under Joshua’s feet holy. This is only the first instance in “Breathe” where Bell displays a fundamental misunderstanding of holiness.

He continues to explain that the word “LORD” in the English Bible is translated from YHVH in the Hebrew.

“These letters, in Hebrew, are pronounced ‘Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey’ which is where we get the pronunciation ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Yahveh,’” Bell points out. “There are no vowels in the name YHVH and the ancient Jews did not even say the name because they considered it too holy.”

All of that is true. But one of the hallmarks of a convincing false teacher is his ability to take some truth and incorporate untruth. It’s at this point Bell starts mixing in elements of other religious philosophies.

“In fact,” he continues, “the ancient rabbis believed these letters were… essentially, kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing.

“Is the name of God the sound of breathing?”

Do you see where he’s going with this?

Just wait.

“In Genesis we read how God created man from the dust of the ground and then breathed into him life. When we die we return to dust,” Bell says. “For thousands of years people have understood this physical breath that we all possess to be a picture of a deeper reality. In the Bible the word for breath is the same word for spirit. In the Old Testament it is ‘ruah’ and in the New Testament it’s “pnuema.’”

Just because a word means both “breath” and “spirit” does not mean it means both things in every case. It is not interchangeable. Context determines meaning. Consider the word “building.”

Example 1: That is a tall building.

Example 2: Timmy is building a tower with his blocks.

It’s the same word — different meanings. One is a noun. The other is a verb. It’s an overly simplistic example, I know, but it makes the point — which will become clearer in a moment.

“When God takes the ‘ruah’ you die, but when he sends the ‘ruah’ you have life,” Bell continues. “And the first Christians took hold of this idea then they took it way farther. They actually believed that the Spirit of God resides or can literally dwell, live in a person. One Scripture in Romans 8 says that if the ‘pneuma,’ the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, is living in you, then God will give you life.”

Well, that’s true. “One Scripture in Romans 8” does say that. But it does not mean what Bell is implying that it means. He is equating the “breath of life,” as given to Adam, with the Holy Spirit of God, as it indwells believers in Christ. He seems to be implying that if God has breathed physical life into you (as per his discussion of the “breath of life”) then you have the life Paul speaks of in Romans 8 (which is eternal life).

This just isn’t true.

Consider the passage of Scripture in Romans 8 in context. And remember, this is a letter written specifically to believers in Christ Jesus at the Church in Rome:

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” — Romans 8: 9-11

This passage clearly draws a distinction between believers and non-believers. While it is obvious that every living person has the “ruah” (breath of life), only those who are believers in Christ have the “pneuma” (Holy Spirit) indwelling them. And it is the Holy Spirit that will provide the “life” Paul speaks of in this passage.

Bell’s comments on this passage immediately made me think he was advocating some sort of Universalist message — a thought that was strengthened with Bell’s next comments.

“Another Scripture says that what the Spirit of God does living in you, is it sanctifies,” Bell says. “Now the word ‘sanctify’ it means ‘to purge’ or ‘to clean out.’ What it essentially means is that when you let God in, when you breathe, what happens is you become aware of all the things you need to leave behind, everything you need to let go of…

“Jesus said that what the Spirit of God does, is the Spirit guides us into Truth. I there anything you need guidance in? I mean, maybe what we need is as close as breathing.”

Now, I am convinced that Bell is teaching a synthesis of Christianity and Eastern religions, specifically Hinduism and Transcendental Meditation (which is a practice I’ve condemned before). This whole idea of “breathing in” God is straight from their philosophies. I realize there are many who will deny Bell is advocating any sort of Eastern religion in this Nooma.

Fine. For the sake of argument I will accept he is not advocated such a thing (although I’m convinced he is). Even if that is the case he is still teaching something entirely unbiblical. That we have the ability to “breath in” God at will is contrary to Scripture.

In the third chapter of John Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus the nature of the Holy Spirit. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

We no more have command over the Holy Spirit than we do over the wind.

I suspect Bell would disagree. In “Breathe” he refers to humans as “sacred” and “divine” because of the indwelling of this divine breath. This is the second place Bell demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of holiness. The Bible could not be more clear — God alone is holy. Not us.

“You are a sacred creation of God,” Bell says. The divine breath is flowing through you, and it’s flowing through the person next to you, and it’s flowing through the person next to them. You are on holy ground. And there is a holiness to the people around us.”

This is a common misconception about man — one that is born out of humanism.

Humanism teaches an innate value in man.

Scripture teaches that man is completely undone. Sinful. Wretched.

Humanism teaches an elevated view of man, one that borders on — dare I say it — holiness.

Bell, apparently, agrees with the humanists and even says, “A person doesn’t have to agree with this for it to already be true. God has already given us life.”

Again, he makes no distinction between believers and non-believers. And the Bible is clear that only believers have this life Bell references.

The most quoted passage in the Bible is probably John 3:16. Many people even use that passage to defend an elevated view of man. Since “God so loved the world,” they contend, “there must be something in man worth saving.”

But I recommend reading past the 16th verse.

“Whosoever believes in him is not condemned, but whosoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” — John 3: 18-19

Contradictions between the Bible and Bell abound in this video. Suffice it to say, there is very little in “Breathe” that even remotely resembles biblical Christianity. I’ve long suspected Rob Bell to be a teacher of the philosophies of this age, and “Breathe” is the most convincing evidence to date that supports that suspicion.

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.

Nooma update

As I mentioned before, there have been requests for reviews of other Nooma videos. I have watched “You” and “Breathe” and reviews of these two videos are forthcoming — I promise. In the meantime I thought it might be of interest to note some of the things I’ve learned about Rob Bell whilst I’ve been researching.

hipglasses.jpgApparently Bell seems to disagree with the biblical idea of sin. Certainly sin is not something over which God is angered. Quite the contrary. Bell even went on a speaking tour entitled “The Gods are not Angry” to reassure us that we’re really okay. A review of that tour is available here.

In a previous post I pointed out how Bell has recommended some very questionable reading in the endnotes of his book Velvet Elvis. Well, Ingrid, over at Slice of Laodicea, has discovered another one. Apparently Bell — with no qualification at all — recommends a book by Marcus Borg. This is very important because Marcus Borg is a member of the Jesus Seminar — a group of “biblical scholars” who have taken it upon themselves to reject (on the basis of their popular vote) many of the key doctrines in Scripture. They deny the virgin birth, the vast majority of His miracles, a lot of His teachings, and the resurrection — and Bell has no problem recommending Borg’s book The Heart of Christianity with no qualifications of any kind. One would have to assume Bell has no problem with the contents of the book. What are the contents of the book? Here’s just a sample:

When a Christian seeker asked the Dalai Lama whether she should become a Buddhist, his response, which I paraphrase, was: “No, become more deeply Christian; live more deeply into your own tradition.” Huston Smith makes the same point with the metaphor of digging a well: if what you’re looking for is water, better to dig one well sixty feet deep than to dig six wells ten feet deep. By living more deeply into our own tradition as a sacrament of the sacred, we become more centered in the one to whom the tradition points and in whom we live and move and have our being.

A Christian is one who does this within the framework of the Christian tradition, just as a Jew is one who does this within the framework of the Jewish tradition, a Muslim, within the framework of the Muslim tradition, and so forth. And I cannot believe that God cares which one of these we are. All are paths of relationship and transformation. (223)

Now I base my faith on Scripture and I get the sense from Scripture that Christ’s resurrection is kind of important. But maybe I’m not understanding something. Let’s take a look…

“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

If I’m reading this wrong someone please tell me, but it seems the Christian faith hinges on the resurrection.

Bell, by contrast, recommends books by New Age teachers and Jesus Seminar “scholars.” He admits these people have influenced his beliefs. He doesn’t seem to have a biblical view of sin nor do things like the resurrection seem to matter that much to him (small hint: this is one of the problems I have with the Nooma “You”). His teachings are thick with humanism, universalism, and New Ageism. It’s no wonder he will be participating in an “interspiritual event” with other Emergent leaders, Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama.

I try very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. But the Apostle Paul didn’t seem to mind calling a false teacher a false teacher. And when I hold Bell’s teachings up against Scripture I can only draw one conclusion: This guy is a museum quality false teacher.

Thideology news of the Day


  • arrowsbw.jpgGovernment intrusions into the lives of citizens grow more egregious by the day. The reports of California’s attempts to outlaw homeschooling have been going on for weeks. Now there’s a bill in Tennessee that would essentially do the same thing. It’s just one more example of the collectivist attitude permeating American society whereby we are brainwashed into thinking our children are the general property of the community at large — a more unbiblical notion with regard to the family I just can’t imagine.
  • Government intrusions into the free market (this time subsidizing and mandating the production of ethanol) once again illustrate the law of unintended consequences — the law state bureaucrats have yet to comprehend.
  • The foundational ideal (articulated in the Declaration of Independence) that the only justified authority a government has comes from the consent of the people is all but gone. America is quickly becoming a land “Where the people don’t rule.”

We may have reached the point where the “John Galt Solution” is our only recourse.


The recent review of Rob Bell’s latest Nooma video, “Open,” has drawn a lot of interest. I’ve received requests for more reviews of Nooma videos. I will review others in the near future, but in the mean time allow me to direct your attention to a comprehensive review of Nooma at 9 Marks Ministries. There you will find a very well written assessment of Nooma in three parts:

To learn a little bit more about Bell, himself, you may want to consider the review I did of his book, “Velvet Elvis.” It provides a little more insight into his theology. In addition, I was only recently made aware of one of the endnotes in that book. It reads as follows:

“For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.” –Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 192, endnote 143

This is significant because Ken Wilber is a leader in the New Age movement and a proponent of the synthesis of the world’s religions into one “spiritual truth” — consider his website “Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute.” I am immediately suspicious of any person who professes to be a teacher of Christianity and yet is so influenced by the philosophies of this age.

Plainly put, Rob Bell is dangerous.

Bumper sticker of the Day:


Nooma “Open”: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that he sees a problem with that.

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

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

The “Emergent Church” (Part I)

nooma.jpgMy introduction to the “Emergent Church” came through a DVD series of short sermonettes by Rob Bell. Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the author of the book, “Velvet Elvis,” and the featured speaker in each DVD sermonette available from The first Nooma video I watched was called “Sunday” (pictured at right).

My initial reaction was quite positive. The message was about rejecting empty tradition and ritual and replacing it with an authentic Christianity that is visible through lives lived for Jesus Christ. “Sunday” is summarized on the Nooma website like this: “God doesn’t want the meaningless rituals. God wants our hearts.”

I was impressed. I liked the message. I liked the method for delivering the message. Nooma DVDs are very well done and engaging. I was ready for more.

I watched “Dust” (pictured at left) next. I started out just as impressed with “Dust” as I had been with “Sunday.” For the first two-thirds of Bell’s monologue I was quite impressed with his understanding of Jewish culture in the first century. Not only did he know the background concerning religious study in Jewish culture but he was able to apply that cultural context to Jesus’ relationship with his disciples and thus draw a firm connection between the way God dealt with His chosen people in the Old Testament (Israel) and the way he incorporated His chosen people into that relationship in the New Testament (the Church).

“Dust” draws a parallel between the enormous commitment one made when following a rabbi in religious training and the enormous commitment God expects of Christians to their Lord Jesus Christ. It is a lordship message that is sorely lacking in far too many 21st century churches. He implies that Christianity is more than just another aspect in the life of a Christian. It is our life. Christianity is who we are and we need to live in a manner so as to increasingly reflect the character of our Lord Jesus.

There were several things I liked about Bell’s message. He was challenging Christians to stop playing church and to live their faith. He was demonstrating the importance of knowing the historical context of Scripture and of church history. He uses innovative methods for delivering the gospel. I was making plans for more Nooma DVDs.

Then Bell made a statement that jolted me like the sound of a gunshot.

He was describing the story in Matthew 14 where Peter left the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. When Peter began to focus on the wind and the waves he began to sink. According to Bell Peter didn’t begin to sink because he had lost faith in Jesus, “Jesus was doing fine.” No, Bell contends, Peter sank because he lost faith in himself.


Is Bell saying that it was Peter’s faith in Peter that allowed him to walk on the water in the first place? And it was only when Peter’s faith in Peter waned that he began to sink?

Bell goes on to say that it is appropriate for us to have faith in God but we need to realize that God has faith in us, too. His implication is clear: We have the ability, in and of ourselves, to “be like our rabbi,” Jesus, and to please God.

His message in “Dust” is dripping with humanism.

I immediately began to reference the classic commentaries on the passage from Matthew 14: 25-31. Here is what I found:

Peter walked upon the water, not for diversion or to boast of it, but to go to Jesus; and in that he was thus wonderfully borne up. Special supports are promised, and are to be expected, but only in spiritual pursuits; nor can we ever come to Jesus, unless we are upheld by his power. Christ bade Peter come, not only that he might walk upon the water, and so know his Lord’s power, but that he might know his own weakness. And the Lord often lets his servants have their choice, to humble and prove them, and to show the greatness of his power and grace. When we look off from Christ, and look at the greatness of opposing difficulties, we shall begin to fall; but when we call to him, he will stretch out his arm, and save us. Christ is the great Saviour; those who would be saved, must come to him, and cry to him, for salvation; we are never brought to this, till we find ourselves sinking: the sense of need drives us to him. He rebuked Peter. Could we but believe more, we should suffer less. The weakness of faith, and the prevailing of our doubts, displease our Lord Jesus, for there is no good reason why Christ’s disciples should be of a doubtful mind. Even in a stormy day he is to them a very present help. None but the world’s Creator could multiply the loaves, none but its Governor could tread upon the waters of the sea: the disciples yield to the evidence, and confess their faith. They were suitably affected, and worshipped Christ.

In my mind this is more than a slight difference of opinion with regard to the text. Bell interprets this passage in light of a post-modern, humanistic worldview. It’s a common mistake. Many of us try to build a biblical worldview on a humanistic foundation. When we read Scripture, we have a tendency to think the stories are about us. But they’re not. They are for us, but they are about God. Bell seems to embrace the idea that Scripture is about us. The Mars Hill Bible Church website says this, “Mars Hill began as just an idea, a desire to open a church where the scripture would be taught in a new way, a way that would reach a changing culture.”

A “new way” indeed.

He seems to have found a message in Scripture that generations of believers have failed to see. Bell seems to think (in fact this is a cornerstone of Emergent Church teaching) that since our culture is now post-modern Christianity should conform to the culture in order to reach it. The problem is when we try to conform Christianity to our culture we often compromise the message to the point where it loses all meaning.

Bell doesn’t seem to be merely teaching Scripture in a “new way” but rather he seems to be teaching something new altogether. Which reminded me of a quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century Baptist preacher from England. He said, “I cannot agree with those who say that they have ‘new truth’ to teach. The two words seem to me to contradict each other; that which is new is not true. It is the old that is true, for truth is as old as God himself.”

These discoveries prompted me to begin some serious research on Rob Bell and the “Emergent Church” movement of which he is a part.

In Part II I will discuss some of what I found.

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