What the Continued Crucifying Of Rob Bell Says About Modern Christianity


RobBell

It’s often been said that we Christians eat our own.

This unsettling expression is all-too true, and apparently Rob Bell is on the menu yet again.

For a people whose go-to ideas are love for God and love for others, we Jesus folk are often pretty horrible toward one another, especially to those of us who attain any sort of position in the larger culture.

Oh sure, we’ll root like crazy for them to reach the masses on their way up, but once they do, we’ll as willingly and passionately go about the work of ripping them from their lofty positions; discrediting them, ridiculing them, shaming and shunning them in the process.

In the Church, as in so many other spheres of life, we love to love you when your star is rising, and few in modern times have risen faster or higher.

A decade ago, Rob Bell was a flat-out Christian Rock Star.

He was the guy on the conference speaker circuit, his megachurch Mars Hill Bible Church was a blockbuster, and his thought-provoking short films were staples of every young adult ministry in the country. He was known as a wise, engaging, creative, articulate teacher of the Bible; someone who was speaking about Jesus with a fresh voice that people in and outside of the Church resonated with.

He had a rabid army of fellow believers who hung on every word he uttered, who lapped-up every morsel he tossed them, who cheered him on like a local kid making the Bigs.

For a while, it was a Christian Bubble love fest.

Then something happened.

Rob Bell sinned.

But his offense wasn’t a moral lapse of any kind. It wasn’t an abuse of power or a sexual transgression or some financial misdeed, or any sort of ministry impropriety. (These had been, and continue to be the hallmark of so many Evangelical leaders, so that would be natural to assume).

Rob Bell’s sin, was simply that he didn’t stick to the script.

He deviated. He dared to ask questions. He challenged the status quo. He moved against the grain.

He went rogue and everything went South, (or rather, went to Hell).

The relationship turned toxic when Bell wrote a book called Love Wins, in which he challenged the idea of Hell; a seemingly untouchable, immoveable pillar of the Christian worldview. He asked a ton of really natural questions about reconciling eternal punishment with a loving God, and he examined matters of life and faith that had become foregone conclusions to most believers.

In the now infamous and pivotal volume that caused the Church to break-up with him, Bell didn’t give many answers. He only asked people, to ask the questions. He invited inquisition.

In our modern Evangelical Christian subculture, well that’s simply not something we tolerate, and it wasn’t long before Rob Bell was being crucified by his peers.

Pastors began stepping over one another to speak out against his dangerous teachings.
Bloggers churned out post after post lamenting his tragic, heretical detours.
Conferences stopped booking him, well-known allies began distancing themselves, and before too long Bell was a virtual leper to his own community; the same community that had carried him proudly to prominence just months earlier.

Rob Bell became a dirty word in church circles; a punchline, a pariah.

As so often happens in the modern Church, he was intentionally and mercilessly pushed to the margins of the Christian community, just a few feet from irrelevance. There he would be left to languish for a few months before hopefully dissolving into obscurity.

Only Bell didn’t do what his critics wanted.

He didn’t tearfully repent and beg to get his club membership renewed.
He didn’t fade into oblivion.
He didn’t fall apart or fight back.

As so many of his brethren mercilessly attacked him, he simply turned around, stepped out through the dust-covered doors of the suffocating Christian bubble, and spoke to those who would still listen.

It turns out, there are a lot of people still listening.

Bell’s resurgence has come at the hands of worldwide media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who has given Bell a prominent position on her network, and provided him a new and massive platform; the kind that most Christian leaders, bloggers, and writers would give up houses, kids, and arms for, if they’re honest with themselves.

And this has brought the venom-peddlers out of the woodwork once again. The same Christian people who treated him so horribly, now act like he’s abandoning them.

The condescending critiques of his recent crossover to pop, rival the Nashville pushback against Taylor Swift. Supposed Biblical purists, (you know, the “Love God, Love people”, people), have bent over backwards to take their shots at his motives and his methods. They’ve dissected his interviews as a lawyer parses a legal document looking for loopholes.

Bell’s been maligned for softening the Gospel; for crafting a new age, feel good, bastardized version of Christianity that is theologically neutered and built for mass consumption. He’s been vilified and demonized for perverting the message of Jesus to grow his brand.

Baloney.

Bell’s been doing something braver than most of the pastors overseeing churches in this country would ever do, yet the same thing that so many in their congregations wish they would do.

He’s admitting the real questions that surface in the excavation of deep faith. He’s looking to separate what in this religion is of God and what is of us. He’s asking why we believe what we believe, and asking believers to do the same.

These are somehow unforgivable offenses to the “forgiving people”.

It all illustrates the sad state of the core of Evangelical Christianity in America, and why more and more people outside of it want no part of it.

We’ve lost the ability to welcome diversity of thought. We’ve made the Church a members-only club, defined by the narrowest of doctrines and the most rigid understandings of God and Scripture.

We have two religious menu options when it comes to orthodoxy: Totality or Heresy.

The moment that anyone, however prayerful or thoughtful or earnest they may be, comes to a conclusion other than what we’ve defined as acceptable, they get kicked to the curb. As Christian leaders cling tighter and tighter to a faith tradition that seems less and less culturally relevant, they expel anyone who doesn’t check all the right boxes, who doesn’t say all the right words in all the right ways using all the right Bible verses.

Bell is no fast food, arm-chair theologian, remember.

He’s a Bible geek whose experience with and understanding of the ancient Scriptures was one of the main reasons for his rise in the first place. This wasn’t a guy who skimmed the easy passages that most American pastors recycle as part of a limited Sunday morning, Smooth Jazz Jesus playlist. This wasn’t someone who preached from the cozy confines of the Creation story, or the Psalms, or the Sermon on the Mount.

This was the pastor who launched his megachurch’s first year by working line by line through Leviticus; possibly the most confounding, least user-friendly, most challenging Biblical book to make sense of in our modern culture. Definitely not something a novice would go near.

That’s the heart of the problem here. Rob Bell was and is, a bright, reasonable, thoughtful pastor, whose extensive exploration of the Scriptures, and whose life and ministry have yielded for him lots of questions, and some answers that far too many Christians just don’t want to deal with.

It isn’t as if he suddenly became less knowledgable about the Bible. It’s not as though he unlearned everything he ever knew about ancient Greek and Hebrew language. He didn’t become less intelligent or less creative or less authentic or less hungry for God.

He’s simply reached conclusions that he isn’t supposed to reach, and that really pisses off Church people.

Christian leaders, those in your buildings and outside their walls are more like Rob Bell than you may want them to be. They’re genuinely looking for God, and they aren’t afraid of the difficult questions as they search. They don’t run from the tension between what they read in the Bible and what they experience every day. They’re looking for a sturdy, useable faith that stands up to scrutiny, and a Church that allows space for grey and gives real grace in it.

They’re looking for a faith community that doesn’t dismiss and eliminate and destroy those whose conclusions don’t all line up neatly with the party line. They want to be part of a people who seek and wrestle and coexist, even in the questions.

They’re looking to find Jesus in the way we deal with one another.

I wonder what our response to Rob Bell is teaching them about us.

It’s probably not good.

 

 

 

 

 

613 thoughts on “What the Continued Crucifying Of Rob Bell Says About Modern Christianity

    • There’s something similar going on in Islam in America as well, and can be argued since it’s inception.

      Rabia Al-Adawiya Al-Basri, Muslim Sufi (ascetic), was born between 713 and 717 AD (100 and 108 Hijri) in Basra, Iraq. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid ud-Din Attar, a later Sufi poet, who used earlier sources.

      She was the fourth daughter of her family and therefore named Rabia, meaning “fourth”. Although not born into slavery, her family was poor yet respected in the community.

      According to Farid ud-Din Attar, Rabia’s parents were so poor that there was no oil in house to light a lamp, nor a cloth even to wrap her with.

      She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him this gift of repentance. She taught that sinners must fear the punishment they deserved for their sins, but

      she also offered such sinners far more hope of Paradise than most other ascetics did. For herself, she held to a higher ideal, worshipping God neither from fear of Hell nor from hope of Paradise,

      for she saw such self-interest as unworthy of God’s servants; emotions such as fear and hope were like veils—i.e. hindrances to the vision of God Himself.

      One day, she was seen running through the streets of Basra carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When asked what she was doing, she said,

      “I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of Paradise. They block the way to Allah. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of Allah.”

      This is the subject of “unMosqued” documentary, in which young American muslims are leaving the mosques to separate themselves from the heaven/hell, rewards/punishment dichotomy, simplicity,

      and attempts are made to rectify this trend, here’s the movie:
      http://youtu.be/8RW4k-ZkAIM

      • The
        Old
        Epicurean trilemma (although also attributed to Carneades the Skeptic):

        If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
        If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
        If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?

        • if God gave man right to to rule and make choices on earth only to take the choice away when He does not agree, what does that make him? A dictator?

        • The answer because wants us to experience both good and evil, because we as humans can’t “understand” true good if we have never experienced evil..Knowledge of good and evil and what we a going to do about it..plain and simple..And of course the story of the Garden..maybe we are the ones who got the story messed up in first place..You do realize it a rehashing of a much older story and it NOT told the same way in the bible as other sources

        • Anyone who’d ever seen Time Bandits could tell you that: “I think it’s something to do with free will.”

          Maybe we can appreciate good better after having encountered evil, but I don’t think a loving God would actually want that–it’s just something we can at least take from it. The best answer I’ve come across is that God wants us to be good genuinely, not automatically. Besides, evil is something we bring to the world ourselves, so it’s not too much use blaming God for not stopping it.

      • Thank you for this video. Our church is studying “The Jesus Fatwa”, a DVD series produced by “Living the Questions”. It’s basically Islam 101 for Christians (or anyone who wants to better understand Islamic teachings without fear and judgement that is fostered by American media). Christians need to know that there is an ongoing reformation in Islam just as there is in Christianity.

      • Let’s begin at The Beginning.

        God created us with perfect fellowship with Him in a perfect place, and just wanted it to be a mutual love relationship so gave us one choice.

        We chose to break that perfect fellowship, and so became separated.

        Separation from God is separation from Holy Light, and the consequence of death – and eternal death is Hell. It is further described in scripture. We choose it due to our preference now for sin over our love for Him. Yet He reaches out with Love, becomes one of us and dies for us, and you think you can walk on that and reject it and still restore relationship even though you still love something that separates you from Him? The sin that caused all of that in the first place? WRONG!

        God loves you. If you hate Him there is no right relationship and so you won’t be with Him by your own choice to love darkness – Hell. Don’t complicate it!

        • Do you really believe that God is both so all-knowing, and yet so petty, that He created beings He knew would fall and fail, just so that He could then despise them, and ask them try to break the code to earning his love again, which essentially amounts to a magic prayer? Do you really believe God is that cruel.

          Jesus asks us to be relentlessly forgiving of others, but God Himself holds a grudge until someone “accepts Jesus”? Isn’t Jesus asking us to have more character than God?

          And didn’t God, by creating human beings, create sin too? Why is He angry at humanity? Is it really a “Christian” thing to blame a child for sin, simply upon their birth?

          Can you imagine having a child, who didn’t ask to be born, and then immediately resenting them, saying that you “can’t stand the sight of them” until they said a prayer/apology for being born with whatever you resented them for?

          What kind of parent would you be?

          Would love to hear how you feel about any of those questions, in your words, not religious speak; but honest words.

          I’m not asking to argue with you. I genuinely want to hear your perspective, in light of the comment you posted here.

          • Hard questions to be sure. No such thing as easy believism, that is for sure.

            At what point has one become a heretic or false teacher? I’d read or ask Titus, Peter, John or Paul. They were VERY concerned about it.

            Bell thinks he is so smart that he is smug. May he and all of us repent. He thinks a he can rewrite biblical Christianity and no one would be upset. Sorry Rob

              • « 103:9.7 (1141.5) Faith most willingly carries reason along as far as reason can go and then goes on with wisdom to the full philosophic limit; and then it dares to launch out upon the limitless and never-ending universe journey in the sole company of TRUTH. »
                From thThe Urantia Book

          • Mere human wisdom,Rob Bell sells books and that’s his #1 goal. The same message Satan stated with Adam and Eve,”did god really say”? Are we really shocked when the parable of the sower is actually true?
            The Parable of the Sower
            13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
            Bell is not brave but an idol worshipper and he sees his idol everyday when shaving.

          • This comment is a series of straw men. If you know enough to create these caricatures of the perspective you’re pretending to attack, then you’ve probably already rejected the truth. Which would mean that your request for it would be hypocritical.
            I hope I’m wrong.

        • Mary, I just wanted to encourage you, from a person who has followed Jesus for many years, that I’ve shared many of the questions that Rob Bell and others have raised. Most of these questioners love God and believe his word to be the authority for truth and they don’t diminish the fact that it’s through Jesus blood on the cross alone that we are set free and made whole. The BIG question is, will those who die unrepentant, and shut in outer darkness and/or thrown into the lale of fire have a chance to repent after a time of punishment ? Is God that all consuming fire? Will He judge them justly as in the parable, where the torturers not let them out of jail until they paid the last penny? Peter Hiett, a wonderful theologian brilliantly and compassionately examines these questions and I encourage you to not be afraid to seek Jesus and search out these matters. The bottom line is the question, will Jesus iindeed be the “savior” of the world, “make all things new” and reconcile all things to Hinself”. All things are possible with God and Love NEVER fails.

      • God is All Powerful and All Loving and knows All about it all.

        He knows who will reject Him and who will not. He doesn’t want to lose any who will come to Him so He is waiting patiently through all the hell bound rejecters who hate Him so He will not lose any who want to come to Him. When the last one who will does, then the end will come.

        The All Power means the power over all of the evil and the victory over it in the end. He has the ability to save all who want to love Him more than what separates them from Him – their choice to not stay in the Light – He is the Light.

        The All Power is the total ability to separate all the Light (and those who come to it), from All the Darkness and those who prefer it. He chose to have real relationships with those who love Him – The Holy Light. If you prefer darkness that is your choice. You choose hell, He will show the power He has that is all powerful to complete the separation. All who chose Him will be with Him and there will be No more Darkness there. All who hated the Light – Him – loved Darkness – Hell – more. They made their choice. It is a real relationship. They chose Hell and he let them have their way. The judgment is their own decision. Not believing in that decision He gave does not make it go away. Lying about it does not bring you to choose the Light and escape the Darkness. The teaching is what the Bible warns will happen in the last days – which we are clearly in – that teachers will tell people what they want to hear. (Tickle their ears)

        Rob Bell is a Prime example of an Ear Tickler telling the world and many ‘christians’ what they want to hear. He has chosen a lie of lies – to deny the Darkness exists – this will not bring anyone out of it. They will be in the dark together forever if they do not hear the Truth of the Light and turn to it and away from the darkness – Hell. He and others like him are prophesied about and we are told in the Bible to warn people about them and to expose them for what/who they are – enemies of the Cross of Christ! Rob Bell has made himself one of those enemies. He chose to hate God, His Word, and His people and turn to the darkness. It was his choice. We are just telling the truth about it to hope some will be saved.

        • So God knows those who will reject Him, but He creates them anyway, just so He can hate them and punish them eternally?

          So you’re saying He created a massive number of people who He will allow to suffer forever, simply for a mistake?

          God, in His “limitless” love and knowledge, refuses to forgive the sins of limited and flawed human beings that He created as such?

          Would like to hear how that is a loving God.

          • Free will is that love. Choice and consequences is love. You love your children but must instill consequences. Hell is the most dire of all consequences

            God is love but love is not god

        • Arriving late to the party here, but this comment is just silly. If you actually listen to what Rob Bell says instead of viewing him through media and/or your own preconceived notions, you would quickly learn that the things you as accusing him of saying and teaching are completely inaccurate. He’s an ear tickler? Why? Because he asks well constructed questions. If you listen to him or read his book(s), he often says “this raises a lot of questions, such as…”, or “Jesus may have meant this instead of this, because…” He is rationally working through the mindset that has been widely adopted without question. Asking questions and seeking who God really is and understanding what he really said is a sign of spiritual and mental health. I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything, but to accuse him of being a false prophet and telling the world what they want to hear is laughable. If he was concerned about telling his readers what they want to hear, he would have written the opposite of “Love Wins” and bypassed the incredible amount of ignorance and disposition that has been lobbed at him. And he is an enemy of the cross of Christ? Does such a thing exist? Jesus prayed for forgiveness for the soldiers who drove nails through his body onto a plank of wood. They were not his enemies, but Rob Bell is? Because he asks questions? If asking questions about the validity of what I have been thought about my religion and belief system is a qualification for heretics and enemies of the Cross, then I suppose by that standard it makes me one as well.

          • I have seen his videos and I agre e that there will always be questions left unanswered when it comes to the things I’d God. But I do believe teachers & preachers of the Gospel are held to a higher standard bc of their ability to lead so many astray. I haven’t read Love Wins but if it questions the existence of Hell then it is basically denying the bible and not just some obscure passage but the very words & claims of Jesus himself . That would be a very serious act of heresy on his part and a very sound reason to reject his teachings.

            • The hell that Jesus mostly spoke of was Gehenna, an actually place that had been turned into the town rubbish dump that always burned with fire and brimstone as that purified the rubbish and kept the smell at bay. His warnings about Gehenna hell were to the religious people, his followers, as a warning to the way they were currently living. It was about them now, not others later. Study it out and see. Jesus mentioned Hades hell only a handful of times including that he would have the victory over it and that death and hell would be thrown into the lake of fire after giving up the dead that were in them.

              • Well, that’s not even close to true. When Jesus used Gehenna (yesm a real place) it was illustrative. In fact, in Jewish tradition the Valley of Hinnom came to be a metonym for a place of punishment in the afterlife.

                The point is, while Gehenna was an actual physical place, to say that Jesus’ many references to Gehenna as ONLY a physical place and not a place of afterlife punishment (i.e., Jesus was referring to an actual physical place in his culture, ergo, Hell must not be a thing) is a jump that defies physics and demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the culture through which Jesus was speaking.

        • Amen!! Very well said!! Jesus talked about hell many times because it is real and therefore people should be warned about it out of love and concern for their eternal well being. In the end times people will grow to love & embrace lies and grow to hate and reject truth more & more. Truth tellers are like doctors that say you are dying of a terrible disease. No one wants to think they are sinful, eaten up with pride, ego, hatred and it lust & deserving of hell. Instead of being thankful & joyous that a living God provided the cure and perfection we could not (after the fall) they hate and despise him & ascribe the evil to God instead. The more they cling to the darkness of this material world, the more they hate & fear the light.

      • Johndpay you misunderstand God completely and what this is.
        God is not holding a grudge. We made the choice to be separated from Him and love our sin/evil over Him.

        It can be more easily compared to a child choosing to play with matches and start the house on fire rather than to obey, and there is a fire with only one way out, and the One who knows and made the way out is trying to tell everyone how to get out, and they are saying, “Why can’t we get another way out?” That is ludicrous.

        Jesus said unto him, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father (returns to the Light) but by Me.”

        Why? Because that was the truth. There was only one way out of the burning building of evil we chose. God is just telling us.

        Yes, He knows it is all worth it.

        • “God is not holding a grudge. We made the choice to be separated from Him and love our sin/evil over Him.”

          But, He created us that way? If my 9-year old does something, I’m responsible for him.

          How does God create us, then disown us, even for “love something over Him”. It’s His doing that we exist to begin with, and that we exist with sin.

          I’m just trying to understand how you can all God a loving Father, yet you allow Him to have less patience than an early father, not more.

      • JohnDPay,
        He didn’t create us this way. When He created us, we were without sin. He didn’t create you and I. We are offspring. And He didn’t disown us. We screwed up and we knew there would be consequences for our sin. He simply was a Man of His Word. The incredible and loving thing that He did was to make a way for us to return to right relationship, a way which included the death of His Son.
        When you speak of His knowing that we would be this way and then setting it all in motion and how capricious it all is for Him to reject us is to view it like if you were to build a house on stilts knowing that it would collapse. It seems nonsensical. But we probably don’t understand the concept of His time and His foreknowledge enough to make that judgement. Dim mirrors.

          • John,

            I think it is important to ask real and difficult questions – and not simply settle for the evangelical status quo. Christians need to be critical thinkers as well as people of faith. So thank you for pushing your readers in that direction.

            Having said that. It seems like both sides of this argument are arguing from a anthropocentric perspective – as if the motives and actions of an omnipotent eternal creator are somehow governed by a demand for fairness from the limited understanding of His finite creation. This is beginning the argument from a flawed foundation.

            Creation is theocentric; and all of it (including us) exists for His glory. And His choice of how God chooses to open eyes and hearts and save are all acts of a Sovereign God pursuing his own glory (Eph 1:4-6); which, by the way, are not the capricious acts of a megalomaniac. They the righteous acts of a holy God who is worthy to be praised by all of creation.

            What that means is that our psychology and philosophy must be informed by a robust theology, or we will simply be arguing opinions – and when in comes to opinions about who God is and what He does or should do – there is only One opinion that matters. And it’s not yours or mine.

      • Mary, John,

        et al.

        I was once a rabid Evangelical, then I found out about Dr. Bart Ehrman, around the same time I learned about Rob Bell’s ministry, just after college.

        After years of basically being scared and shamed by my family, later at Moody college, more of the same, just with fancier and bigger words,

        I decided to leave it all behind, become apostate and travel to India at 21 yrs of age.

        I visited gurus (Hindu) and fakirs (Sufis) who catered to Western “spiritual” tourists, then met friends along the way who weren’t so devout, but practiced and possessed the same worldview, values as these Hindu & Muslim mystics.

        In short, I went all the way to India, spent about a year and a half of my life, to become TRULY,

        “BORN AGAIN”.

        It is only in India that I realize what Jesus’ teachings were about.

        It is about LOVE,

        but shed more layers, and close to the core of his teachings is selflessness,

        The core itself is selfishness, or the LOVE of self–but knowing that “self” is ONE.

        Dearest Mary,

        I don’t expect you to get ALL that, but I urge you to dig deeper.

        You don’t have to go to India, all this wisdom is already within our great nation,

        and have been since the 1800s, through personalities like John Muir and Henry D. Thoreau, etc etc…

        The Heaven & Hell dichotomy is one way to understand Jesus’ teachings and the Old Testament in general, but if you are stuck there,

        and stubbornly dig your mental encampment at this very level of superfluousness,

        Then Jesus will be forever diminished in your mind,

        And you will constantly push this diminished version of your Saviour to others,

        never knowing that instead of making God greater, you’ve made God less,

        you’ve brought down God to your human level, imbued God with your own limitations,

        instead

        of attempting to meet him half-way or even further, closer, towards the greater expanse that is…

        GOD.

        Thank you for striving though, just strive deeper, do not be content to lazily wade in the shallow end of the Ocean.

        Yours in Jesus,
        Kristina

      • On December 11, 2014, Cyrrus stated,

        “If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
        If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
        If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?”

        Though I have found myself asking some of these same questions, I don’t claim to know the answers. I hear in my soul “an” answer, “Free Will.” Why?

        In the wake of a Spiritual Awakening in my life (a powerful personal conversion) I began to see The Creator as the essence and substance of Unconditional Love. He is “all-powerful” but will not rescind or overpower the Free Will he gave us. We can change an alter evil through our acceptance of the Unconditional Love God showers down us each day of our lives. Thus we allow the “All Powerful” nature of God to flow through us, out to everyone we meet. That is how he prevents evil. He intended us to be the cups (chalices) that would catch and hold his Unconditional Love for anyone who thirsts. A thirst, unquenched, is the source of evil in the world.

        • Amen
          if God gave man right to to rule and make choices on earth only to take the choice away when He does not agree, what does that make him? A dictator?

      • This is a response to the Rob Bell defense by John Pavlovitz- There is a reason for two camps, one being
        “orthodoxy” and the other being “heresy” and that is when someone willing wanders from the umbrella of orthodoxy, he now ventures away from the Scriptures and into his own thought. That’s where the Jehovahs Witnesses and the Mormons came from. That’s where Rob Bell is gone. And that’s why Paul the Apostle warned Timothy (I Tim 1:18-20) to watch out for Hymenaeus and Alexander who were no longer “holding on to faith and a good conscience”. As smart as he may be, Rob Bell is foolish and in grave territory.

      • Rob Bell’s faux pas wasn’t just his book on Love Wins or his view of hell. He attained his rock star status and liked it, at any point he could’ve chosen to take himself off of the stage and put distance between that status, but he didn’t. As as matter of fact, he’s continuing… There’s so much wrong with his teaching and it’s not unbliblical to ‘mark’ out the one who is teaching heresy. Get over him. He needs to return to His First love. plain and simple.

        • It’s amazing you know so much about Rob. Even personal details about how he loved his rock star status. You must be a personal friend of his. Or is that all just speculation. Assumptions even.

    • I agree with John’s article whole heartedly. Tearing one another to shreds is why people reject the Church not because someone dares to ask a few questions. In my love for God but more importantly in my knowledge of His deep love for me I too have a similar understanding as Rob Bell on so many issues. And further, in my trust of the Holy Spirit to bring us into truth I sit comfortably with the prospect that it’s ok to ask questions, rather than feeling threatened by it. Well done good and faithful servants (Rob and John).

      • And how was that answered, Mary?

        By way of pseudo-epigraphy?

        Riots?

        Bart Ehrman’s newest book, “How Jesus became GOD”

        and Richard Rubenstein’s “When Jesus became GOD”

        read ’em.

        or cognitive dissonance is easier to watch, then this movie:

    • This is a dangerous man… The reason the christian culture has shunned him is simple, he is misleading people and in like fashion, speeding their journey to hell! This isn’t about the person of Rob Bell, ( I really liked him early on and watched him all of the time) it’s about the message. Christ taught and spoke of hell more than any other topic during his ministry here on earth. The existence of Hell is one of the tenants of the faith that cannot be changed….. Read 2nd Peter 2 and tell me if there is no such thing as Hell….. This man Rob Bell is doing awful and terrible damage to people that don’t know Jesus, he is in fact telling them they don’t need a Savior, because God loves everyone and love wins….

      • “…speeding their journey to hell!”

        We can do better than this, Mike.

        Rob has asked rational, legitimate questions and asked people to read Scripture and think and respond. God isn’t a petty human being who can’t handle questions and gets offended by people’s sincere striving, even questions of His own existence (see the Psalms). He loves and draws them to Him even if they are conflicted and doubting.

        The problem with so many Christian’s response to Bell and those like him, is that they want God to be as reactionary, hateful, and fearful as they are in the face of questions.

        I have more faith in God than that.

      • Actually the “Christian Culture” has NOT rejected Rob Bell–that’s why he has a platform. The Christians who have not rejected him have discovered and are anxious to follow a Christianity that comes out of Jesus’ message that was formed within the context of first century Judaism. The fundamentalism that I’m seeing in the comments here arose in the early 20th century. I have been a Christian for almost 70 years and the comments are filled with ideas that I never heard until fundamentalism arose in response to people’s fears about changes that were happening in culture–primarily the rise of feminism and the questioning of white male privilege. Fundamentalism is fear based while the Christianity that I grew up with is based on the love and acceptance of neighbor and a call to work for the common good.

      • Scott,
        For God so loved the world….. cosmos…… All inclusive! He died for everyone…. If there was one person he didn’t die for then he would be a liar.

        The problem AGAIN with Bell is he has it all mixed up! Love does win, but not the way he thinks it does. Jesus died for everyone, it is an all inclusive deal with a catch. All you have to do is realize you are a sinner and in need of a savior and repent of you sins and you will be saved! Red and yellow black and white!

        See the problem is when people think they do not need a savior and can make it on their own merit. Pride and arrogance sends them to hell, Not Jesus…..

        That’s how love wins!

        • “All you have to do is realize you are a sinner and in need of a savior and repent of you sins and you will be saved!”

          Jesus never actually said this, Mike. He said, “no one comes to the father except through him”, but he never specified a formula like you’re suggesting. Jesus never told anyone to “ask him into their hearts” or say a “Sinner’s prayer”. He never gave altar calls. He simply invited them to follow.

          Paul writes that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, but again, Paul is referring to a life lived in the footsteps of Jesus, seeking God’s presence—not a magic prayer to avoid Hell.

          The problem is, Evangelical Christianity has tried to make black and white, was is extremely grey. Your response seems very clear, but it is filled with ambiguities:

          No one knows what “repenting” actually means; just how much God requires.
          Jesus never says that if you “realize you need a Savior” gets you anything.
          Jesus tells people to repent, which only means to turn. He doesn’t say that this turning comes with a salvation award.
          No one knows exactly how one “inherits the Kingdom”.
          No one knows exactly what the difference is between being a disciple of Jesus and praying a salvation prayer.

          Some people are humble enough to admit those things. Arrogance is in thinking you’ve figured out the formula. Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t give one.

          • Totally agree, we can all assume we know the formula, and all the answers but we do not.

            I hope God will forgive my many sins, because I am sure not without them. I also don’t think it is up to us to assume others sins are worse than our own, that is not for us to decide…
            Not sure when some Christians became so judgemental of others, and figured they had all the answers.
            I repent my sins every day, and have accepted Christ as My Saviour, but I am still searching for answers, and know not nearly as much as I would like to, and I like to think that not knowing helps me strive to be a better person, and hopefully someone Jesus is proud of.

        • Car dealers have catches. Time shares have catches.
          The savior of the world doesn’t have a catch.

          I personally don’t truly understand how salvation works. I don’t know where Mother Theresa and Hitler are spending the afterlife. But I look at scripture through the lens of Jesus, so redemption and grace and action of GOD (not humans) is how I piece it all together. And it’s ok for the question to be open-ended. In the end, we don’t determine the salvation of ourselves or others (Thank God- we’re a judgemental lot). Whatever happens in the end is determined by our loving Parent. We should be focusing on how to redeem our world, that’s where Jesus can be found.

      • Those are some very bold and very specific quantitative assessments of Jesus’ message. But are they true?
        By my count[1] (with the help of some BibleWorks magic), there are 1,944 verses in the four gospels that contain Jesus’ words.
        Surprisingly, only about 60 of those verses–or an unwhopping three percent of them—might be construed as either directly or indirectly referring to hell.
        On the other hand, there are more than three times as many verses in the gospels in which Jesus references heaven, eternal life, or his coming kingdom: 192 verses in all, or almost 10%.
        So Jesus did not, in fact, speak more about hell than heaven. But many people who should know better still seem hell-bent on insisting that He did.
        How do they arrive at a conclusion so contrary to the facts? By reading hell into any and every possible passage in the Bible.

      • Mike Windsor, You do a great disservice to the Bible when you say Jesus talked about Hell more than any other topic. Jesus spoke most about the Kingdom, which is all about enemy love, and acceptance of the excluded than any other topic. Do an in depth study of Hell and you will find Jesus referencing Gehenna ( the literal garbage dump outside of Jerusalem) as he is warning 1st century Jews to flee the city or end up being thrown into Gehenna by the Romans who would destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Allow me to give you a few references to go to for insight. Tentmaker website on the topic of Hell, and youtube Q & A with Andre Rabe 7-11-14.

        • Mike Windsor, after reading your response I felt like you were the dangerous man, not because of anything except your tone. At the end of the day my beliefs, Rob Bell’s beliefs or your beliefs for that matter will really matter. Did we love, God and in particular the least of these. My first response to your response of John’s blog was not pretty. I bowed my head and thanked God for his forgiveness, then I blessed you.

    • I grew up in “the church.” I ran far away from it. When Mars Hill started, for the FIRST time in my life, I WANTED to be part of a church body on my own terms. Leviticus=riveting. Rob taught Scripture in ways that made it come alive to me, causing me to want to go deeper in every aspect of my life. God used Rob to challenge my faith. Do I agree with everything Rob says? Absolutely not, and if anyone completely agrees with their pastor, maybe they should look up the definition of what a cult is.

      It has been years since I have lived in Michigan and gone to Mars Hill, but I am deeply grateful to God for many things that have happened in my life and people around me as a result of the teaching there. It’s God’s Good Work that was started, can anyone honestly say they KNOW it is wrong?

      Christianity is at a crossroads right now and is in danger of becoming irrelevant as a religion. Look at Europe right now; that’s where we are headed. Mark 11 and Matthew 21 is where Jesus curses the fig tree. That’s a strong indictment/warning. How many churches today have leaves but no fruit? That’s an uncomfortable question to ask and sit with. I am growing in faith with Jesus, but I’m considering walking away from organized religion. It’s distracting, unloving, judgmental, exclusive. That’s not what Jesus is about, and what Jesus is about is what I want to be about.

      If you don’t like Rob, fine. Regardless of your view, I would ask you to consider something. Did Jesus just hang out with the people who had all the answers, had complete understanding, or never doubted? Maybe Jesus asked questions to both challenge the high church people, and to give voice to the questions in the hearts of the marginalized. If we call ourselves Christians and accept what that really means, we need to understand our life will be uncomfortable and uneasy.

      Your understanding and knowledge may be different than mine, but we may likely have the same interests at heart. How about we put Love before opinion? How about we Love in ways that put Jesus on display for the world to see? How about we work on the beatitudes and living out the sermon on the mount, instead of eating those from within our own flock or outside of it.

    • The things that is so concerning regarding all of this is that the author questions the ability of the Church to question those who state they belong to it. Numerous times in the New Testament, Paul preaches against those trying to move the direction of the church in a “new direction”. If we agree that the Bible is the true unquestioned word of God, then this is a discussion. If the Bible is not the word of God, then there can’t be a discussion about this because all of Rob Bell’s treachings are just opinions, as are the rest of the people arguing against him, or supporting him.
      If we regard the Bible as completely true(as I do) then Rob Bell’s main teaching is that there is no hell has serious issues with it. The first thought that comes to mind is why would we give our lives for the gospel? If reaching the unreached has no point, because they will all eventually see the love of God after a time, why do missionaries give up their lives to take the Gospel to the unreached, like Islam of Africa, or North Korea. Why are missionaries going to countries with Ebola if there is no real dire need for the Gospel? And better yet, why did Jesus command this Gospel, at the account of our lives to go out to the entire world?

      There are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, and some that are controversial, but much of the scriptures are clear. John 14:6 I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. NO ONE comes to the father except through me (emphasis mine). Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

      It seems that the main issue with the article and many of the posters is the way God is characterized in the Bible. I see the argument in the posts that how can we say God is love if he sends people to Hell? I think the main point of scripture is that we cannot determine who God is. He does not answer to us. He is not our creation to define as being just or unjust. A man who had utmost reason to call him unjust, JOB, had his own reasoning thrown back at him. God states in chapters 38-41 about who he his, he is not to be questioned by us. The most relevant of those verses is in Chapter 40: 7 “Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. 8 “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?

      God is love. He is also Justice, Wrath, and Holiness. I do not get to say who God is. He doesn’t change based on your or my interpretation of who he is. He simply is what his word describes.God does what he does, and he is who he is. He gave his son for us, he also told Israelites to kill women and children in the old testament. He is God. His word says that those who do not accept his son are condemed forever. Does he love us? Infinitely, as far as the East is from the West. His great mercy is to be praised forever. The mercy of one who can forgive any sin-from murders to rapists to child molesters- any who come to him.But the God of the bible also hates sin. God describes his hatred for sin throughout the entire Bible, as well as his readiness to forgive those who come to him through his son Jesus Christ, that all who call out the name of the Lord will be saved. Not by our good deeds, but only by our faith in Christ. That by truly believing in him, not intellectually that he existed, but trusting in him to be our savior, can we come to him.

      I was not raised in Church. I was an atheist who God, through his grace, changed my heart to see the love of Christ. I hated Christians, or thought I did, but realized first that most of the people whom I had such a problem with weren’t actually believers. All of them today do not state they believe any longer. I actually never knew the true love of Christ until I experienced in the Church, among believers. The same believers that seem to be so sullied on these posts. I have only seen true love in the Church among the believers of Christ. Is there problems in the Church? Definitely. Any group of people this side of death is going to have problems. Are Christians perfect? No, we are still in the same flesh as before, and though true believers strive for compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, though we often fail and show the fallen side of our nature. But it is not God who has failed, he is steadfast in his love of us.

      In summary, I would say that if we believe the Bible is true, then its not up to man made discussions on whether it makes sense for God to send people to hell forever or not. It is what is in the word that describes who God is, not our own view of right or wrong. We don’t have to like this, but if I believe the word, it is clear. But my hope is that by taking the word to those who don’t know Christ, they will hear, and by hearing, they will find forgiveness of theirs sins through Christ.

    • I read with much interest the article about Rob Bell and the rejection he has suffered by Christian people. Obviously Bell has been rejected. But be assured, he is not being persecuted. He simply stands at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ. According to 2 Tim 3:16-17, the word makes the man of God to be complete and ready for every good work. The process described is: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It just may be that Bell is somewhere between the teaching and the training part of that verse. The church is simply speaking out. Bell is my brother. But if he comes home for dinner, we may have a discussion about what is proper to talk about over our meal in front of the whole family. Prayers for all involved.

    • There may be room for individuals to ask questions, that’s one thing but its quite another thing to reach and teach conclusions that are “not along party lines” and that “allow space for grey”. From what I understand, these doctrinal differences are among the fundamentals of the Christian faith and we are told that the teachers among us will be judged with greater strictness. There is no room for grey when talking about one’s eternal state. I don’t personally follow Rob Bell but from reading the article, I can see why eyebrows are being raised. Its not about doing away with grace, but ensuring that along with grace, truth remains.

    • Thank you. As a pastor I was urged to leave the Reformed Chirch in America (my home denomination) for allowing a book study group to reflect in “If God is Love” by James Mullholland. This book entertained ideas of grace that were contrary to Reformed doctrine — Calvinist’s concentration on who is in and who is out. Whenever I have voiced the idea that God’s love is greater than our religious team, ethnic group or even human species I have experienced an unloving and violent kick back. Yet, I still believe love wins.

      • @@@ Theodore Seeber,

        And St. John Paul II ultimately got it from Church Father Origen (not a Saint).

        But as they say talk is only as good as your walk, and when it came to actually doing the work of love than simply continuing status quo, ie. gold crucifix, fancy red shoes, etc. etc.

        St. Paul XXIII, arguable the best (most good) Pope the Roman Catholic church produced since Pope Gregory the Great.

        The current Pope, we all hope, will be a continuation of St. Paul XXIII, interrupted by two popes, whose focus was more on the party line and consolidation of what power remains of the church, rather than

        leading the church in a new direction, one similar to Rob Bell’s.

        So what you see in the Evangelical world, is similar in the Roman Catholic world, which ironic the Anglicans/Episcopalians have already arrived, so too the Quakers for much longer.

      • There is no pope (or saint) called Paul XXIII, maybe you meant John XXIII. As to who is the holiest I am in no hurry to judge. I am just glad that many popes who governed the Church in my lifetime (and a little before) are considered examples of a Christlike life, and therefore indicated as blessed or saints.

    • The problem with Rob Bell isn’t that he asks questions, it’s that he is a leader in the faith, and those believers who are new/immature, looking to him for guidance/counsel, would likely be subject to unintentionally question theology that is foundational to the Gospel message. For example, Hell is likened to God’s Wrath against sin, it is a place of consequence for sin and we were all destined for it, until Christ stepped in to bear the weight of our sin and save us from sin/death/eternal damnation/Hell. If Rob Bell publicly asks questions and publishes books that question who is in Hell? Is Ghandi in Hell? Is Hell an actual place or state of mind? These are good questions to ask, but for a person who is in a pastoral position, it shows selfishness and a lack of wisdom; only because he publicizes his questioning of key components of the Christian faith. No man is an island, everything a pastor does must be done by considering his/her congregation first and the impact that their decisions will have on their congregation. By posing his questions of Hell publicly, Rob Bell encourages unhealthy questioning of key components of Scripture.

      • Did you think before you spoke? You first said they are good questions to ask but then say he’s encouraging unhealthy questioning? Which is it? You are right about a pastor needing to think of his congregation which is why I’m all for his questions. If he feels like it’s something to be questioned it would be wrong to keep that from the people you’re are leading. Unless you like your pastor keeping things to himself and not giving putting it all out in the table? I’m guessing you do though as so many others do. Oh well.

      • I think it’s clear that Rob is questioning more than the nature of hell. When he asks those questions he’s questioning the entire construct you speak of (God’s wrath needs placating / Jesus is a sacraficial substitution / Believe or go to hell). If he doesn’t believe in that redemptive narrative then it would dishonest for him to teach it.

      • There’s no such thing as unhealthy questioning. The more knowledge that is gain the healthier a person becomes mentally. A person (pastor included) should not water down their ideas (baby food essentially) just because there may be some new to the faith. If all pastors did this, who would feed difficult questions to mature believers to deepen their faith? Unhealthy questions? That sounds like closed minded thought that turns people to agnosticism.

      • If Rob Bell is following the promoting go God, and making ppl think and ask difficult questions, do you not think God is Big enough to help baby Christians? And why can’t us mature Christians be allowed to be taught more than milk? God is not afraid of us questioning Him, I think He relishes the fact that we growing up and starting to think for ourselves. Why did he give us a brain, and say use it and renew your mind? Not to be closed minded at all. God don’t have to be defended and Rob Bell either, he promoting growing in faith. Go for it brother!!

      • Selfishness and lack of Wisdom ? as a former Christian (crucified by the church) and now thankfully free of their nonsense I believe it is far more selfish and foolish to preach a man-made gospel of Hell and judgement. Hate to burst the Christian bible but the bible is a man written collection of books and a translated one at that, there is no Hell, there is no judgement. Christians love to bring out the old Chestnut of “Oh but he is a Just God and cannot let sin go unpunished”…….he didn’t you idiots that’s what Jesus’s mission was. By the way you do realise this was taken care of before creation given God works outside of time. The manifestation of Jesus at that time was just to say what should be said now..stop being such legalistic fools dont you realise I have already done everything that needs to be done…..so sad.

    • Yes! And a large proportion of Christians have been saying these things for years. As an evangelical who had the courage (or insight) to move out of the fold, Rob Bell became an even bigger commodity. But there’s so much scholarship that comes out of major seminaries like Boston University and Claremont that was way ahead of Bell that it’s a little discouraging that it takes all that negative publicity to make a pastor a TV star. If it works, we can all be happy for him, but to perpetuate the idea that evangelicals who consider Bell a heretic are representative of Christianity is fallacious and unChristian. They are just the ones with the loudest voices with the most media attention.

  1. Christianity needs to be built for mass consumption. That’s been the point all along ,hasn’t it? The God of humans is the God of all humans, not some selected, indoctrinated, elite population. Whatever name you give Him, God “is”.

    • Then what do we do with all the phrase “my people” found throughout the Bible that Rob Bell has studied so well? Just asking the question like Rob does!

      • Seems rather cruel for an omniscient being to create creatures only so that he/she/it can torture them forever, no? Rather wasteful, too. Maybe consider that Hell doesn’t exist….and neither does any god.

      • Or Rob read his Bible and discovered that hell is a burning up completely of those who don’t want to be with Jesus, instead of a merciless torturing for ever and ever. His main problem is that he goes with solo scriptura instead of towing the “this is our traditional teaching” party line. The good news is that he is right.

      • Religion was built by man, not God & was certainly built for mass consumption from the very beginning. You were either ‘in’ or ‘out’.

      • In this current age, there are few that will find it. But, God’s plan is eternal and the salvation he has waiting for all is outside of all ages and all times. Hebrews 9:12. However, there is an order and a time for each person. The testimony (of Christ) is given at the proper time. 1 Tim 2:6 Christ is the first fruits (and those in his body in this age) but then all the rest who belong to him when he reappears/returns. 1 Cor 15:22-23. These two verses say it all! As many as who died in Adam will also be raised to life in Christ who is the “last” Adam. Christ is the Lord of ALL PEOPLE whether they believe or not – both the “living” (saved) and the dead “not yet saved”. Romans 14:9. We were ALL (whether we believe or not) made to drink of ONE Spirit. 1 Cor 12:13 is BEAUTIFUL! “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” God bless.

    • No God is not to be built for “mass consumption. God is God. He has created man, not the other way around. Man does not set the rules for God to be accepted by humans. God has created man to have relationship with Him. In that relationship we are allowed to question and discuss issues.
      I think the issue that Rob brings up is an excellent discussion topic for those who have the background and heart to be able to deal with the issue. But I believe those who don’t understand all the depth of the question have made this a circus.

  2. I hadn’t looked into many of the details of this situation, but several of the questions Rob asks are the exact questions I’ve had as long as I can remember. Until the last 1.5 years, I was made too afraid to even allow them to surface in my mind. It’s becoming easier to ask these questions now as I being to understand that God really is love. I might have to take a look at his books when I get done with the current one I’m reading which also brings up many of these same type questions.

    • Ditto. Same journey. Of the things Jesus seems to have come to do was wipe out irrational fear. Being afraid to ask Abba, dad question about life, the nature of reality, the Bible etc., etc seems so irrational to me. Thinking out loud is all part of that. When I first read ‘Love Wins’ I was reminded of Karl Barth’s position on the atonement. God’s love is so infinite there s nothing that can overcome it. His love covers all of humanity and their sin. The labels 30 years ago was neo-orthodox, false teacher, heretic. Sound familiar? I do not know if Barth has the TRUTH but I personally like what he said better than the alternatives I learned in seminary. Jon, I am not afraid any more, I am loved. Blessings.

    • You might find some interest in Frank Schaeffer’s new book Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes In God. It was helpful when I was going through this type of journey.

  3. Rob Bell is a hero to me, and along with you John, and a few other thoughtful pastors who dare to sit in the question, who do not have pat answers for every question, and who don’t require me to “drink the Kool-Aid” as a prerequisite to be a believer in Jesus, my faith has been salvaged. I have journeyed with Rob Bell’s teaching from the Noomas first (sharing them in my bible study group and with friends), to seeing him speak live, and now through his books, which truly resonate with my heart and make me feel understood at my core, and bring me closer to God, and show me how to have more compassionate for everyone. Thanks for writing about him, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Rob Bell.

    • When we see God as infinite Love we are able to ask any questions we need to ask. Way to step out and see what He shares with you!

    • For those of you who are asking the questions, please check out the Living the Questions series. It’s a DVD series that engenders great–and sometimes uncomfortable– conversations about questions that you always wanted to ask, but didn’t dare. There are no “right” answers and it has made it possible for me to continue to be a Christian with integrity. My favorite is “Saving Jesus Redux”. The series is written by two United Methodist pastors and reflects a progressive Christian viewpoint.

  4. Pastor John: So many things you have written resonate with me. I love that you challenge us as Christians to question the status quo, to think outside the box, and to not make God “small” by believing that He is ONLY what we interpret the Scriptures as saying that he is. Your posts have been especially helpful to me regarding the LGBT community. I am the mother of a gay son, and my husband and I have started a support group in our Catholic parish to help parents of LGBT children accept and support their children unconditionally. We have shared several of your posts with our group, because they say what we wish we were eloquent enough to say. We thank God for you and the messages that you share with us.

    • Best wishes to you Patti and your husband for your efforts with your parish, good work Mom! I’ve shared John’s posts as well and parents of gay kids really need this message.

  5. I sat with a client on Monday as we prepared for his testimony. I reminded him that, “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer if it is the truth. I often give the same response to anyone who asks a question that they hope I can answer with a biblical reference. I just tell them to join me in putting it on their list of questions to ask the big guy some day, assuming it will matter at that point or will still be unanswered.

    I like Rob Bell’s teachings but admit I don’t follow all of them nor have I paid a lot of attention to the book fallout. I do fear when a leader only asks questions and doesn’t provide answers, because asking the questions often plants a seed for the person hearing to jump to a ‘logical’ conclusion. FOX News does this a lot with trying to sway the listener without ever really getting around to backing up or resolving factually the headline. It’s often a nasty trick.

    Again, I think the Bible leaves many, many relevant questions unanswered. I am much more comfortable when the questions come from seekers than from leaders, as a general rule. “Who made God?,” or “Why are we finding dinosaur bones?” are fun and good-intentioned questions to which one may not find the answer biblically, and the discussions are good to have. But, I think we should tread lightly if our questions raise doubts as to fundamental biblical principles since it can lead others astray or to ‘stumble’ when we don’t have reasoned answers.

    Just my .02 worth.

  6. Wow, what a wonderful essay on Rob Bell. You’re so right…Rob is not telling us the answers and saying this is so, but rather questioning and making us think for ourselves, instead of just believing what we, as the masses, have been taught by the church. Could it be possible that the church has got some things wrong over the centuries????? Ah, yeah!! Thanks John.

  7. My concern is that some day you will find yourself among the vipers (if you haven’t already!) just like Rob Bell. But I pray that you will continue to extend your message to those of us who need it and enjoy it.

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book. It brought up a lot of good questions, questions that need to be asked. It’s a shame that free-thinking is discouraged in many churches. There is more than one way to translate or interpret many of these passages, there is never, nor will there ever be, one way to interpret the bible. I hope churches start to embrace free thought and study, or else religion will end up becoming obsolete.

  9. Dear John, as a former evangelical minister your piece on Rob Bell struck deeply at my heart. I left evangelicalism a dangerous heretic responsible for many heinous theological crimes. The stress eventually took it’s toll on my health, my marriage and my children. People actually asked me if I wanted to come back to God and informed me they were praying for my salvation. Unfortunately I chose “jihad”. Laying in bed one night staring at the ceiling I asked my wife why I had such difficulty with these folks? She said a most profound statement eventually leading to my health and resignation. “Because you are one”. She was right. I needed to be right. I attached to outcomes as if my life depended on them. I just had a different set of theological stuff. My heart was filled with fruit that was directly opposite of those created by Spirit. Shortly after this realization I resigned and began an odyssey of discovering the God I never knew. Rob seems to have weathered the storm quite well. He seems to know his identity is secure in Christ. God bless the evangelicals and their place in the big picture and today I sincerely mean that.

    • Tim, I too have been in that place. Now at the ripe young age of 40 I am leaving that theatre. It is only because of an 84 year old mentor I can do so with a clean heart and hope for the success of the church I have been a part of. Your last sentence blesses me beyond what you could ever know.

    • Stuart, thank you. I left at 44. First, I forgave myself. Then, I went to anyone I thought I may have offended. In that process people also asked for my forgiveness. Then, the journey began. Leaving evangelicalism or any other religious ‘ism’ is not abandoning Christ, or God. Jesus is not the sum of our beliefs. What “I” believe is all relative. It is simply my perception and/or opinion. This does not mean there is no TRUTH. It simply means not “I” nor evangelicals get to determine what it is. Bless you. Like Rob Bell, you are just fine. God’s love for us wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Things that make you go “hmmmm”. I took his class offered through the Oprah Network. I really enjoy it. I read and listen to everything he puts out because it challenges me. I’m not a baby anymore so i don’t need milk. I’m a man and need meat; something to chew on and digest. Rob’s stuff is just that. I know I won’t agree with everything and that makes me excited! It makes me ask myself why I don’t believe it and then it makes me go and study and figure out why I don’t. I had a chance to talk to him a few times and i remember asking him, “How do you deal with all the criticism and people who just rip you apart?”. He answered, “Well, you can let it destroy you or make you stronger, make you better. It’s your choice.” Wise. Very, very wise.

    • This is why Rob Bell was so instrumental. I want to have thought-provoking sermons instead of the recycled sermons I was used to getting elsewhere. Rob’s sermons left with me post-sermon – for the week, for the month, and even today, because they challenged me to think about them.

    • Much, much easier said than done. It takes a whole lot of thinking through and asking the right questions and getting the answers you need. How it makes anyone stronger I have no idea.

    • When Driscoll gets labeled as a heretic for asking thoughtful questions, you will.

      If Bell ever bullies his staff members and insults gays and women, I’ll also criticize him for that.

      • Got it. So, your problem isn’t Christians eating their own, it’s Christian eating their own when their own just happen to be liberals.

        Driscoll gets no grace for the sins he’s admitted to. Bell gets to toe the line of heresy and that’s cool…

        Rock on!

        • Bell and Driscoll are entirely different pastors with entirely different track records. This piece has nothing to do with Mark Driscoll. You can avoid addressing the blog itself by bringing Driscoll in, but that shows your bias. not mine.

          Take care.

      • Driscoll’s a Fire & Brimstone kinda pastor,

        While Bell is all like think for yourself, interpret and reconcile with your life, and

        be a better person for God.

        If there is to be an article on Driscoll, I hope it isn’t to defend him, but
        to bury him once and for all and his kind.

        Fear mongering, once useful to Dark Age priests, the Pilgrims, the Puritans, begets fear and fear as we all know begets hate, and Hate leads to the Dark Side.

      • So bullying and insulting WOULD lead you to condemn him. Which means your article is a little disingenuous as your problem is not with the treatment per se, but with the treatment when YOU think he hasn’t done anything more than ask questions. But this is NOT the case. Before he even starts the book proper, he has already called the idea that only some will be in heaven while many will be shut out forever with no hope of improvement ‘misguided and toxic.’

        Just to be clear on this. He called the teaching of most other pastors for most of history of the church misguided and toxic. Now, I don’t know your personal take on this, and you’re certainly free to agree with him. But for those who don’t, they are not condemning him for ‘asking questions’ but for actually teaching that there is no eternal punishment and that everyone will be saved whether they accept Christ before death or not.

        If you had objected to the treatment of Mark Driscoll too, I could respect your position. But unless you consider bullying and insulting to be a worse sin for a pastor than ‘leading the sheep astray’ the argument just doesn’t hold water.

        Incidentally, Rob Bell hasn’t been ‘crucified’ and the use of that word is pretty seriously misguided. Many Christians are actually being crucified. The treatment of Rob Bell in many cases was not loving, but it was a long, long way from being crucified.

        • Exactly the point I was making. This isn’t a bemoaning of “Christians eating their own” – it’s the defense of an ideological ally.

          WHICH IS FINE, but have the stones to call it what it is.

          • It’s not about ideological alignment, but unusual cruelty and marginalizing. I believe Bell has been the recipient of harsher treatment than any contemporaries, many of whom have engaged in far more damaging ministry offenses.

    • Let’s not make this about “liberals” and “conservatives.” The problem with Driscoll isn’t that he’s conservative. It’s that he’s a bully. It’s not about his theology, but about his abuses of power.

  11. Excellent article, and illustrates another common problem within Evangelical Christians, the deep-held fanatical belief that their version of the ‘truth’ is THE right version. It is, of course, a colossal arrogance, and what really upsets people about Rob Bell is that he questions favourite theological theories and dares to say that they may be wrong, and Evangelical Christians really hate that sort of thing.

  12. Pingback: Jingle My (Rob) Bells | The Bard Chords

  13. A big reason I left the church was because I hated that I wasn’t allowed to ask questions. I was all but ostracized in my Christian Ministry major in college for going against the grain, and that upset me – until I realized that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t right because that’s how the paradigm has been formed. I’m not ALLOWED to ask questions. I’m required to take for granted. And at that point I realized that if that’s the god these people serve, then screw them. That’s no god I want anything to do with.

    My faith is questionable these days. But there’s a lot of hope in the Episcopal church, where I’ve found a family, even if only as a paid singer in the choir. I’m comfortable there, and that says a lot. I hadn’t been comfortable in a church for a very long time until then.

    I love Rob Bell. I’ve met him. He’s a man of great insight, one who places high emphasis on introspection and examination. It’s a shame that the church shunned him rather than embraced him. And then wonder why there’s such a mass exodus.

  14. Thank you for continually make me think, ask questions and experience God in new ways. My experience with some evangelicals and churches is that there is so much fear. I am a speaker and was invited to speak at a women’s tea last spring. They never talked with me but one week before the event emailed the director of the speakers bureau for which I work and told them not only did they not want me to speak at their event, the didn’t want me within 300 miles of their event. When asking why the director was told they had found out through the internet that I had spoken to at a Unitarian church. Seriously? Where would Jesus be?

  15. I’m still a big fan of Rob. So much so that I’m learning Biblical Greek, and some Hebrew now.

    Origen came to the same conclusion re Hell.

    There’s really no hell in the Gospels the way we now
    understand Hell as eternal damnation.

    Trinity is just continuation of Greek philosophy,
    anthropomorphized, the Source (Forms), Word &
    Power (Action).

    It’s time to return and focus on what Jesus really
    preached, and separate all that from the latter
    theologizing and Plato-izing.

  16. I love the premise of this post. Rob was arguably the most dynamic person asking the harder questions. And people really resounded with his conclusions. he gave voice to the idea of a collective growing and even flexible faith.

    Although I think there’s a certain bit of hyperbole in the backlash you speak of, I think people like Piper’s were assumed as the voice of the church/many, and that wasn’t true. Most of the world really didn’t even care.

    I also wonder if the vast majority are interested in asking those hard questions. That was the allure of Rob. He did what people really didn’t want to actually do. It was easier to listen to him than actually practice with him.

    Keep up the conversation. 🙂

  17. Thanks for your post – you’ve got my interest piqued. I’ll have to read him for myself sometime soon and make up my own mind. Something tells me that even though I may disagree with him significantly I bet he’s got some really interesting things to say that some people just don’t want to hear.

  18. Also Origen (not a saint under the Catholic church precisely for his writings on heaven and hell, but he is considered a church father) did not happen along

    APOCATASTASIS (restoration to the original), it’s been covered before by Greek philosophers, from Aristotle back to the early Stoics.

    • I like that you are siting all of these old texts. it is true that people have wrestled with these concepts as well as others over the centuries and what I appreciated MOST from Love Wins is his opening where he stated that nothing he was bringing up was new. It is a great joy of mine to read these struggles through history and see the struggles I have were had by those before me.

  19. I like his ideas, and thank you for introducing me to them, as the only person I associated with Mars Hill Church is Marc Driscoll, who is toxic. Truthfully, I can’t believe Bell lasted that long at Mars Hill with the like of Driscoll. I’m drawn to less dogmatic people such as Bell (and you and Marcus Borg and Karen Armstrong) than to rigid theology. Quite some time ago, I stopped believing in a hell, at least not the hell that is so often preached about. I believe in a hell that we humans have created for ourselves here on earth riddled with so much hatred, violence, intolerance, disease, starvation. Love does win as Jesus, the Dalai Lama, and others have preached. We need more of this love, not less.

  20. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism (what Harold Bloom calls the uniquely “American Religion” because it originated here in the United States in the late 19th century) are dying. They will most likely be gone within this century. There is a good reason for it too—and the reason they must die. It has abandoned the person, words, and deeds of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus knew that this would happen one day, and He had words for it, which I will paraphrase here, “These people honor me with their lips, but THEIR HEARTS ARE FAR FROM ME.”

    Just like the stock market, Christianity needs a “correction” once in a great while. Although there have been much smaller corrections in between here and there, the last great correction was the Protestant Reformation. I would hypothesize that Christianity is standing (right now this moment) on the threshold of another great correction that will be just as powerful as the Protestant Reformation. It is beginning now, and it is being led by the Holy Spirit of the triune God.

    Such corrections are necessary because the words, thoughts, and actions of men over time inevitably lead to the subversion of Christianity in a direction away from Jesus. The Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical subversion of Christianity has been enormous in its scope, and I could probably write a book about it.

    One of the primary subversions has been first to equate the Bible and the words in it with the person of Jesus Christ himself—and them to elevate the Bible as a graven image that is rendered more honor than Jesus himself—and his thoughts—actions—and deeds. Another major departure is the failure of this religious tradition to recognize that God’s Old Testament covenant with the nation of Israel was just that—a covenant with Israel and Israel alone. That covenant came to an end (especially for Christians) when Jesus arrived on the scene to forge a new covenant with mankind. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism cling so tightly to this old and obsolete covenant because they fear that recognition of its obsolescence will undermine the safety and continued existence of the Bible. If you will recall your religious history, Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism were founded in the late 19th century specifically to protect and save the Bible, particularly the authorized King James Version, and to protect a particular interpretation of the Biblical text. Historically, when you get right down to it, this religious tradition detoured around Jesus to go lapping after salvation of the Bible and one particular way of thinking about it. The Holy Spirit will use the New Reformation to take the Christian faith off its “tater-eatin’ country hick detour” and put it back on the main highway.

    The great correction of Christianity (New Reformation) will take into account many things and reconcile many things. Like I said, the thoughts, words, and deeds of Jesus himself will be at the heart of the change that is now beginning. Put another way, the person of Jesus Christ will be at its center. The love of Jesus and love for each other—and our neighbors—will be emphasized. Legalism, moralism, and the bondage to Old Testament law that the Apostle Paul preached against in Galatians will come to an end. Yes, Jesus said that the law would not pass away until all is fulfilled. (Fundies like to trot that out in their hope that the law will exist forever because it is a weapon they can use to beat their enemies—but never themselves). The fact of the matter is that Jesus fulfilled the law on the cross and in the resurrection. It was already fulfilled 2,000 years ago. The old covenant passed away, and the Old testament law passed away with it. We left the age of religious law and entered the age of love and general faith principles. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jesus intended this to be so. It is so even now.

    Another major change in the works will be the resurrection of the Holy Spirit. The American Religion took the Holy Spirit and buried him (literally deep-sixed him) in late 19th century America. It maintained that the words of the Bible were all that was important in the Christian faith and initiated the notion that all the Holy Spirit does is to make sure a person understands the Bible the right fundie way when he reads it. They tied him up with ropes and buried him. Even the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is much more active in his movements and power on this Earth—that is if we do not shut him out. He has been shut out. The coming great correction will release the Holy Spirit from his man-imposed bondage, cause men to embrace him again, fall at his feet, recognize his power, and follow his lead—as was meant to be. The Great Comforter will truly be in the lead and truly comforting us—as only God’s love can.

    All truth in this universe and this world of ours is God’s truth. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have taken rank ignorance and embraced it as truth—leading men away from Jesus Christ in so doing. The New Reformation will reconcile the facts of science with our understanding of the Holy Trinity in new and meaningful ways. For example, we know for certain (as a fact) that the Earth is more than 5,000 years old. We know for certain that the worldwide flood of Noah never occurred. We know for certain that biological death was present on the Earth 600,000,000 + million years before humans appeared on the Earth. We know for certain that the Big Bang occurred. We know for certain that man-induced global warming is real. These and many more similar things are facts that must be reconciled with our understanding of the Christian faith. All truth, including factual truth, is God’s truth. These inescapable facts will be a major factor in the total destruction of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism—by the leading of the Holy Spirit. You can only show a man a piece of obviously blue paper—and then tell him it is really red—so many times. Soon after that, the man will know it is blue, will conclude that the man who says it is red is crazy, and will walk away shaking his head in disgust. This is the fate that has been ordained for Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. The Holy Spirit has marked them for death—and that death process is already underway.

    Keying off the last paragraph, Biblical inerrantism and absolutism (which is a function of moralism and law in the obsolete Old Testament covenant) will die at the direction of the Holy Spirit. They have been marked for death because they are simply not true. We know for certain that the words of the Bible are not inerrant in the sense that Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals claim. You can go to numerous websites where inter-comparisons of scriptural text plainly show that this is simply not true—no matter how much ridiculousness and bullshit gymnastics the fundies resort to in a vain attempt to put Band-Aids on their folly. As the Holy Spirit pulls the focus of the Christian faith back to Jesus, love, and religious principles (love thy neighbor as thy self), the harsh absolutism that is the hallmark of bondage to the law and the obsolete Old Testament covenant will disappear.

    The Holy Spirit is in the process of correcting the Christin faith in a New Reformation—and He is using people like Rob Bell, John Pavlovitz, April Kelsey, Adrienne Atkins, Rebecca Trotter, Samantha Field, and many others to help lead the way. He is using Eastern Orthodox Christian Frank Schaeffer too—time for the video again—so you can hear the Holy Spirit talk to you through Frank Schaeffer—because the New Reformation ia already underway—and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it:

    • Am I the only one who thinks Frank Shaeffer is just a little nuts, not to mention bitter and angry and disrespectful for his parents and the rest of us Christians. Dangerous to have as neighbors? Really? That’s just nuts. What is he so angry about? His parents? His own mistakes? An ingrown toenail? Couldn’t he be a little more kind? Bitter human being I sure wouldn’t want to have as a friend.

    • Consider this, does anyone know that we are Christians by our love for one another by looking at and listening to Frank Schaeffer? He should re-read his father’s great little book on love being the best apologetic. Instead he spouts his venon on shows like the caustic mocker Rachael Maddow, and she and her type gloat all the way home, and how he parades his venomous hatred for other believers. What a shame and embarrassment to the whole Body of Christ and to Schaeffer’s parents and to the Gospel. If I were his pastor I’d severely rebuke him and if he did not repent I’d kick him out. He’s Orthodox and discredits their whole system. I’m thinking he might be the champion of their own attitudes of superiority and elitism. Makes me sick and sad. He reminds me of a brat that needs a spanking. Maybe that’s where the problem began–he was spoiled and neglected as a child. I have witnesses. Something about such a child bringing his mother shame. Whalah.

      http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Christian-IVP-Classics-ebook/dp/B00CX0FSCA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418284316&sr=8-1&keywords=francis+schaeffer+love

    • My only comment to your three posts is this. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have been (by their own official definition of themselves to the American public) militant, angry, and in-the-face of the public and the other Christian groups they despise ever since the 1890s. The other Christians they despise are nearly the whole rest of Christendom worldwide—which they all or in part define as not even being so-called “true” Christians. This campaign of hatred has gone on incessantly for nearly 125 years—and you have the audacity to accuse me and others of not “loving one another.” That’s rich!!!

      Here is the problem you have to worry about from here going forward. The only reason your fundie religious movement made any strides over the past 40 years was that 1000s of Christians like me kept our mouths shut while your kind proceeded with a national campaign of evil and hatred clothed in a costume of self-righteousness. (See Christmas card and the dog on my blog). The days of being silent and passive about your activities in the rest of Christendom are over. From now on, you are going to have equally militant and strident people in your faces shouting and rebuking back at you. It has already begun, which is why your side is losing so badly on assorted issues right now. If you thought your churches were emptying before, you have not seen anything yet. I think you are upset because you are used to bullying other people with your belief system and are unaccustomed to having all the crap you dish out to others spewed right back into your face.

      Francis Schaeffer was a so-called Christian who ended up being an unwitting cofounder of the Christian reconstructionist and dominionist movements, which are well-known heresies. He may have been a good man in many respects, but he had an evil side—as do all of us. You will recall that many of the ancient kings of Israel were evil. It would not have been wrong for the sons and daughters of those kings to rise up with their voices and undo the evil of their parents, particularly if these children had been full participants in the creation of that evil. All Frank Schaeffer is doing is pointing out the failures of both himself and his parents, and his activities in denouncing the evil that came out of what they created is a very open and public act of repentance, which I suspect is approved of by the Eastern Orthodox Church because Frank frequently appears on religious broadcasts with an Eastern Orthodox priest at his side.

      By the way, the Eastern Orthodox Church claims to have maintained the original and unsullied gospel of Jesus Christ, without any of the historical revisionism that occurred along other lines of Christianity over the past 2,000 years—and it can be demonstrated historically—which is why Frank joined their church. I think you are just jealous and upset at Frank because he is doing so much public damage to your belief system—and he is. There is nothing so powerful as a voice that was once part of a belief system, woke up to the evils of the system, defected from the system, and openly repented by exposing and slamming the evils of the system.

      I was totally pro-Israel at one time too. Then the assistant pastor of our church started going on trips to Israel, disobeyed the Israeli authorities, sneaked behind the walls where tourists are not allowed to go, and observed firsthand how the Israelis are oppressing ordinary Palestinian people just like the Nazis did to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in World War II. Many in the Israeli government have become the evil that killed Jews in Auschwitz. The pastor brought the truth back from numerous visits to Israel and laid it all out in a presentation at our church one Wednesday evening. It was not propaganda he laid out. It was his own personal observations and amazements. There will be no peace in Israel until BOTH sides quit the evil they are doing to each other. Right now, no one on either side wants peace—which is why there is no peace.

      • Ironic that the most hateful and judgmental comments on this site are coming from someone who *supports* Rob Bell.

        Such as 1. “national campaign of evil and hatred clothed in a costume of self-righteousness.”

        And this lovely example of anti-Semitic trolling: “and observed firsthand how the Israelis are oppressing ordinary Palestinian people just like the Nazis did to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in World War II. Many in the Israeli government have become the evil that killed Jews in Auschwitz.” Shame on you. Whatever one wants to say about Israel’s treatment of the Arab Palestinians, it is a fact that their population has increased greatly even in the disputed territories. What happened to the Jewish population under the Nazis, you jackass?

        And in other post, asserting the SBC churches are controlled by “Satan.” And condemning any church that dares to call itself “conservative” or “Bible-believing.” Strangely, you condemn such churches for labeling those who disagree with them as “children of Satan” after you made virtually the same comment about SBC churches.

        Remove the plank from your own eye.

      • Pastor. I will remove the plank from my eye when the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals remove the Log Cabins from their eyes and quit going around shouting that everyone who disagrees with them on a wide range of topics is an apostate enemy of God. Your groups have been the primary accusers of the rest of Christendom and those outside of it for 125 years—and those accusations have been full-court-press, comprehensive, and relentless. I am merely contradicting those depredations.

        You people don’t show up here to have a pleasant conversation with John Pavlovitz. You show up here to denounce what he believes and to try to save him from what you consider to be his religious folly. The other thing I find amazing is that just one or two of you show up initially—then a whole army suddenly shows up. What do you do? Let me guess:

        “Hi. This is Bill. We have some new pastor named Pavlovitz that is spouting a so-called Christian message we disagree with. What should we do?”

        “Thanks for calling Bill. I will activate members of our church’s Fundie Internet Strike Team (FIST) to go to their computers en masse, find his blog, and fight for the truth of our right doctrine.”

        Pastor. If you call me “anti-semitic” just one more time, I can find out who you are, and we are going to court so you can have the opportunity to introduce all of your tangible evidence to prove that. I do not hate Jewish people—never have and never will. I simply told you about my Assistant Pastor’s recent visits to Israel and the information he gathered by himself and came back with on his own. He is not anti-semitic and neither is anyone else in my church.

        Finally, I am not a supporter of Rob Bell. I read his book. However, I do not follow him or his activities—and I almost never think about the man in any context of my life. I just showed up here to watch all of you fundies “come unglued” about the contents of his book—and yes—I knew you would indeed come unglued because the members of your community—by and large—are so hateful and predictable when something you disagree with arises—and I know your history and theological perspectives well.

        Prediction for You: When Pressler and Patterson die (and the old fossils that supported them), Al Mohler will leave the conservative stance he has faked in public for the past 20 years, revert to his original liberal roots, and lead the entire SBC back to being a mainline Christian denomination—and the people in the pews will follow gladly because they are the massive youth that already disagree with much of what you believe—in private often and sometimes openly. The 1979 conservative revolution at the SBC is destined to failure. Mark my word and mark it well.

    • I like the idea of a New Reformation, and my very practical question is: ho w do I find a church like that… one that embraces the Holy Spirit, worships Jesus as God, but does not equate the Bible with God? I live in the Washington, D.C. area and have been looking for a church for so long. If anyone has suggestions, I’d appreciate them!

      • Hi Lisa. I do not live in the Washington D.C. area. Your best bet might be to look for a liberal United Methodist Church in your area. Call up the local United Methodist regional organization (should be in the phone book) and ask them to send you a list of the liberal United Methodist churches in your area. They are usually larger churches where most of their members are highly educated and do not put up with crap like a 5,000-year-old Earth.

        There are also United Church of Christ congregations. Avoid Church of Christ congregations that do not have the word “United” in their name. They tend to be fundie churches. The litmus test is whether they allow music instruments in worship service. If they do not, run away as fast as you can. Here in Tennessee, they are called “Campbellites” (pronounced Camel Lites). You would be miserable there—absolutely miserable.

        Find a church that believes in Jesus and has its ministry centered on the thoughts, words, and actions of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament. You might ask them if they are a “red letter” church—referring to the red words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Litmus Test: Ask them if they love Tony Campolo, his understanding of the Bible, and his ministry. If they say, “Yes,”
        you are getting close to the kind of church you need. Ask them how they feel about the “least of these.” You want a church that believes in social justice because Jesus made it clear that he does too. You want a church that loves the alcoholic bum on Main Street as much as the chief member donor of the church—a church that does not talk about helping the “least of these” but really does it.

        And yes—repentance and salvation by faith through Jesus Christ and God’s grace are important. Just make sure the church is not EATEN UP with a passion for evangelism and does not see its sole purpose as a huge emergency rescue mission to save the world by next Tuesday at noon when Jesus is expected to come. There is far more to the words of Jesus Christ and the church than just evangelism.

        It sounds to me as if you need a church where your sensitivity and gifts for empathizing with and caring others can be put to good use. You would be miserable in a church whose sole purpose is evangelism. The problem with churches that are solely about evangelism is that their worship services are always negative in nature and aimed at making the three unsaved sinners still left in the 300-person congregation feel as guilty as possible so they will answer the altar call. The other 297 people in the congregation who are saved just get their faith, love, and confidence torn down by the weekly diet of guilt and negativism from the pulpit when what they really need is something positive and to be positively built up in the faith. I cannot tell you how many Christians with depression and other mental health problems have been torn all to pieces and have had to seek professional help and medication in a vain attempt to endure the steady diet of negativism and guilt pushed in solely evangelistic churches. Avoid them like the plague.

        What else to avoid at all costs:

        1) Avoid all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches. Satan took over the SBC churches and has owned them as his own personal property ever since 1979. You would be miserable there. Just ask them if they are affiliated with the SBC. If they say “yes”—run away.

        2) Avoid all Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and any other church that identifies itself as “fundamentalist.” If you are a kind and sensitive soul, love other people, and/or suffer from mental health problems, these churches will grind your soul and emotions up like raw meat and throw it to the dogs—in the name of the Lord of course. You might need a mental hospital before they are through with you—certainly anti-depressant medication.

        3) Be extremely careful with congregations that have names such as “Faith Promise Church” or “Glory in the Fields Church.” A pastor friend of mine in Oklahoma says that many of the fundamentalist churches now try to hide the fact that they are fundamentalist by dressing the church building up in false clothes to make it look like something else. This is because they know sensible people avoid fundie churches like the plague—so they trick you just to get you in and start the brainwashing on you without your knowing its happening. Two sure signs (litmus test) that you are in one of these churches is that they have reduced the Christian faith to two things: gay rights and abortion. Also, many of them require you to sign a contract to tithe every month.

        4) Avoid megachurches. They are churches for rich people who, as the Bible says, already have their reward. If their worship service looks like a Broadway show production and you gasp at the size and apparent wealth of the church—you are right—all that money could have been better spent on that man with ragged clothes and holes in his shoes down on Main Street. Someone may say, “Wealthy people need Jesus too.” Not like this. The congregations of these churches tend to be made up of Republicans who believe those Jesus called the “least of these” are worthless slackers who do not want to work—or else they would be rich like them. Run away.

        5) Avoid all churches that refer to themselves as a “Bible-believing” churches. Most Christian denominations and churches believe in the Bible and use it. The difference is that these churches tend to believe that their particular view and understanding of the Bible is the only possible one—and anyone who disagrees with them on any theological point is a child of Satan—and you are likely to get treated like one if you are the person who disagrees. Run away.

        6) Avoid every church that defines itself as having a “conservative congregation.” Just ask them if they have a “conservative congregation.” They will be proud to tell you that they do. If they say, “Yes”—then run away—no matter how nice they might seem. These people think Jesus is a paid up, card-carrying member of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party. They tend to think that any use of tax money to help the “least of these” is evil and that the government has usurped the role of the church in helping people. Many of them have trouble paying their church mortgage and utility bills—and they have extra money to pay for the care of every cancer patient in their neighborhood? Yeah, right?

        7) Avoid churches where Jesus seems to be missing from the worship service and the church. I once attended a liberal Presbyterian Church USA worship service that was little more than a stringed instrument concert and high minded human philosophy spouted here in there. Jesus was missing. Bibles were missing. Hymnals were there but not used. It was just plain weird. This is what you want to avoid on the other end of the religious nutjob spectrum.

      • Very keen observation Joel. Not many see this (yet!). Same with “Earth” vs. THE Earth.

        Notice in Gen 1:1 it says in the beginning God “created” (really “birthed”) THE Heaven’s and “THE” Earth? There is only ONE of these. It’s the “master” (spiritual) copy of which all other versions or “generations” are derived from in Gen 2:4 on. God bless.

    • Man is this very well written. My heart screams YES to nearly all that was said. Dover, you must be greatly persecuted. I, too, am with you that a great correction is coming and is now (?) appearing as the Holy Spirit rises up inside us revealing and taking over the lives of people who will speak the truth. I love the part that you wrote about the age of the Earth and reconciling science with truth. Amen to your words that all truth is God’s truth. I am with you and wrote about this (not so eleqointly!) on my blog at kickedoutofchurch.com. I tried to simply share what I was hearing within as I deeply studied the Word. Science is a mere subset of God himself, but he separated it in the natural realm from himself via the “expanse” or chasm or “veil”. He is in “infinity” and we and science are in the “finite” world. In the world of math, it’s trying to get to zero by dividing by 2. Impossible. But, God will make it possible one day as the veil of the Lord’s body will be fully removed and the two realms will be fully reconciled as one. then, the finite will be merged with the infinite and death will be swallowed up. Amen to your words about how the Bible itself has become an idol as natural minds only see a book instead of the living Word in the hidden realm within. There will be a huge wakening or reformation as you said where God will BURST through this natural realm and reveal the supernatural and spiritual to the natural realm. So many for the first time will see that the “day” in the Bible was not really referring to a literal 24 hour, natural day, but really a specific “age” according to God’s sovereign plan. Man’s natural mind is simply limited to what he can see, feel touch and experience in the natural body. He doesn’t know the things of God as they are foolishness to him. God will reveal so many powerful things such as: There was one master, spiritual “birthed” (created) Heaven and Earth that were named “THE” Heavens and “THE” Earth from Genesis 1:1 in the very beginning. There is also one single, unique (MASTER) Man ALREADY named “Adam” who was birthed in God’s OWN image in Genesis 1:26-27, but there are other versions or “generations” of him that are made in the image of others besides God. Ponder Genesis 1:26-27 (and Gen 5:1-2) closely and study the original Words. Only ONE man (THE Son) get’s “created” or BIRTHED (Bara’) in God’s image but there others called “them” that are created (formed or asah’) in the image of others besides God. Thus, there always was only ONE single, Spiritual MAN birthed in God’s own image. He was hidden from us. But there are other “versions” or copies or “generations” made in the image of “us” (others besides God himself). Same for “The Heavens” and “The Earth”. There is only ONE, true spiritual version (that we can’t yet see) but there are other “formed” versions that we can see. Starting in Genesis 2:4 we begin to see one called or named “Earth” which is a “form” of the one true hidden version. Notice, no “the”? Once one sees all this, we begin to realize how foolish we have been arguing how old things are. The one true Earth could be billions or even TRILLIONS of years old as it has different “generations” or copies of it in different “forms”. Right now, we simply exist in one of the forms that is in darkness and it will be reformed completely when the one true spiritually LIVING version appears who is Jesus Christ. It all reconciles and it is all God’s truth. All truth is him whether it is the true reality of the Spirit in Christ or the current reality of the realm of the shadow under law THAT IS DYING! Dover, you hit it so on the head. This current realm of Earth (our body) and Heavens (soul) are DYING as they are under law (in darkness). Guess what, this did NOT occur when “Adam” sinned. Darkness was ALREADY there in verse 2 of the Bible. God himself made the darkness and darkness is a part of himself.

      There are so many things he tells us directly in his Word that we could see if our minds and hearts are open and we simply think about them. He also reveals them to us in the “image” of this current creation. It is so exciting and refreshing reading such deep truths many of which the Lord has also been sharing with me. It’s all right there in his Word, but we must take the Words themselves and ponder them and listen to what the Spirit is saying inside. Forget the ideas we have been taught and go only with the Word. God is so much bigger than any of us can imagine. He is love and he is all powerful. It is literally impossible for one of his Words to not occur. He is inside of all things, behind all laws, and is the source of all life that exists. Ponder this and think about the silly doctrines we believe that make God so weak, and puny.

    • “One of the primary subversions has been first to equate the Bible and the words in it with the person of Jesus Christ himself—and them to elevate the Bible as a graven image that is rendered more honor than Jesus himself—and his thoughts—actions—and deeds.”

      Where does all of our information about the thoughts, actions and deeds of Jesus come from?

      If you choose to disbelieve the parts of the Bible you don’t like, what basis do you have for believing the parts you do like? As for hell, the primary source for our understanding of it comes directly from the words of Jesus.

      • Joe. If you are a Green Bay Packers fan and Vince Lombardi wrote a book about the Packers, please tell me you do not worship the book so much that you turn down tickets to actually go to a game. It’s all about the game and the Packers—not the book.

        I do not subscribe to the belief that one little error in the Bible means that you cannot believe anything else in it. If you are one of those people who see an error in the Bible and cannot believe anything else in it because of that, your faith is not in Jesus Christ. Your faith is in the “internal consistency” of the Bible. Go find the real Jesus and believe in him. I am not talking about the cheap, domesticated, plastic, fenced-in, and dumbed-down fundie Jesus—I mean the real Jesus.

        Do you behave this way with all of the books you own or just the Bible? For example, if your Dictionary has a small spelling error with one word, do you assume every other word in the dictionary is spelled incorrectly?

    • When I was growing up in a Southern Baptist Convention church, they were all about “not bound to the law”. Has something changed?

  21. I’m so glad you brought this up. I taught for a number of years in a rescue Mission that used the Nooma series (Rob Bell’s video series) and was told not to use any more because of his “non-Christian” beliefs. I found the videos to be not only insightful, but unique in the way they illuminated Christian beliefs. When I took up the “anti-Bell” band-wagon with my colleagues, one who had actually read his book pulled me aside and advised me to read the book and then come to a conclusion. Best advice I ever received from a brother in the Lord. Rob Bell has a lot of good advice and wisdom in his messages. My feeling is that as all of us become deeper in God’s word we will understand why Bell’s words are valuable.

  22. Awesome, awesome, awesomeness! Everytime I read your posts all I can think of is “awesome”. I keep telling myself you can’t comment “awesome” every time. Well forget that, yes I can AWESOME! lol. I am a newer Christian 4/20/2011. I giot saved because of the Christ like love and compasion another Christian showed me. this contradicted my previous idea of how a Christian witnessed. Ever since I have felt slightly like I don’t belong, until I started reading this blog and the community behind its comments. Thank you John and all the wonderful people out there!

  23. “They’re looking for a sturdy, useable faith that stands up to scrutiny, and a Church that allows space for grey and gives real grace in it.” That is such a great sentence. What a great way to capture the people seeking community.

      • So every Christian in media has a problem, then. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have a TV network, radio station, or blog. People use technology and media to do ministry. Not sure what your comment means.

      • Only if a person believes that the Holy Spirit who is God’s very Spirit does not exist in certain places. That is law-based (division, exclusion) thinking. God is one and he is omnipresent and is present everywhere. Can he not use Oprah or anyone to spread the truth?

  24. Yeah, let’s forget all those hateful passages in the Bible that is absolutely integral to Christianity and follow your lord satan on the wide path. Forget that Jesus says we must be on the narrow and difficult path because the wide path (of least opposition, “hey man you aint no sinner”– a line from Keith Green’s No One Believes in Me Anymore) is much more appealing to those of us seeking a way around the cross.

    • The scripture says a straight way and narrow gate—not a difficult way. Your “difficult” consists of all the things you think are forbidden. “Dang!!! I’d really like to have a glass of wine, but Jesus will kick my butt if I do. Golly!!! My life is so difficult now that I am entering the straight gate and narrow way!!! I feel miserable.”

      You forget that Jesus also said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He was referring to the heavy legalistic burden imposed by the scribes and pharisees. One of the chief characteristics of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism is that it insists that the new believer must enter into a state of renewed bondage to the Old Testament law—something the Apostle Paul preached against with great zeal. If the requirements of your fundie faith make your life feel like misery and bondage, you have found some sort of faith other than faith in Jesus Christ.

      Stick around. I think John Pavlovitz and his church can help you to see and find that light burden and light yoke that Jesus was talking about.

      • Where in the world do you get the ideas that evangelicals promote renewed bondage to the OT law and have removed Jesus from the equation? I am an evangelical, and though I don’t think evangelicalism is perfect by any means, I in no way see this to be the reality. The 5 qualifiers of the fundamental (and evangelical) movement are inerrancy of Scripture, the incarnation of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the historicity of miracles. Since 3 of the 5 core beliefs of evangelicalism directly pertain to the person of Christ, Jesus is pretty central to the core mission of evangelicals. I can also attest to the centrality of the person of Jesus in the teachings of every evangelical church I have attended in my life. As far as the assertion that we are bound to Old Testament Law, this is a flat-out falsehood. I and many evangelicals I know believe that, as Paul would teach, civic law and the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was made obsolete upon the establishment of the new covenant in Jesus. That’s why you don’t see too many of us avoiding pork and sacrificing lambs in our everyday life.

      • Christian fundamentalists believe that you first get your butt saved. Then you begin the conscious process of taking every word in the Bible (if it is not already a law) and converting it into a law—wherein the Bible becomes seen as one huge law book. Then you daily start measuring your life against as many of those laws as possible, checking how well you did with your daily dipstick, and trying harder to do better the next day. This is what fundies do, either consciously or unconsciously. They probably call it sanctification, practicing holiness, or some other fancy word.

        The problem here is that this process (so-practiced) is re-entering the bondage to law that Paul warns about in Galatians. Even if you are a Christian (even a good fundie Christian) and you measure yourself against Biblical law like that every day (either casually or intensively)—and you are honest with yourself and what you are really seeing (and that honesty is vital), you are going to see nothing but a depressive pattern of personal failure. The law was not designed to make men holy or to save them. The law was specifically designed to make men GUILTY—to show men that it is impossible to do it and that they need grace through Jesus Christ. Anytime you use the law like this (be you Christian or no Christian), the only harvest you are going to get is guilt. This is why the Apostle Paul calls the law “THE WAY OF DEATH.” It has two parallel meanings. It means the law cannot save you from death in the after world. It also means that if you use the law like this in the present world, you are going to feel so guilty all the time you will wish you were dead—and probably walk around like a zombie.

        I have seen Christians—good fundie Christians—who were emotional wrecks and burned out cinders of human beings from re-engaging with the law in this manner after their salvation. What? You know lots of fundies who have not had that experience? Two things:

        1) Most of them would not admit such personal shortcomings to another fundie.

        2) I have noticed that Christian fundamentalism attracts an inordinately large number of people who, psychologically speaking, are narcissistic assholes (just to be plain about it). These are people who have innate personality characteristics that allow them to selectively blind themselves to the reality about themselves. In other words, they know how to be dishonest with themselves and do it well. These are saved people (maybe) who could compare their own daily behavior to the law (casually or intensively) each day and always think that they are doing just fine—no worries—nothing to correct—because they blind themselves to their failures. There is no way you can measure your behavior (Christian or nonChristian) against the law every day—and do so honestly—without coming away feeling like a guilty failure.

        Christian or no Christian—in both this life and the next—the law is the WAY OF DEATH. You have to let go of the law, give in to the grace, and let the Holy Spirit do his work on you in his time—not your time.

        Just in case you are wondering, I have an affection for New Covenant Theology—and if you just read the above—you probably see one of the reasons why.

  25. Maybe the problem is exalting anyone too soon. That is what the Bible teaches. The Orthodox don’t believe in doing that to anyone until they have been dead and gone for a while, so the fruit of their ministry can be tested over time. I’m more for that than always having to exalt young rock stars.

  26. Fantastic article John. While I’d love to see the current slate of church leaders embrace the questions and start getting real, I think Bell is one of many who are paving a way for the next generation – a generation primed to step through denominational lines and separate tradition from truth.

  27. I was walking our dog in the woods one day in South East London. I happened to be listening to a Rob Bell podcast. When it finished God said to me ‘Ask Rob to pray for Nathan’ – our son (At the time we were going through a very difficult time with him). Of course I dismissed such a ridiculous notion and ignored it. Rob was then at the height of the church lead super hero hype we all love to indulge in. Why on earth would a man in such a position respond to a plea from a very ordinary church punter he has no idea about and has never met? He must get thousands of emails and requests – what on earth would give him any reason to respond to mine? Three weeks later all I kept hearing was ‘Ask Rob to pray for Nathan”. I’ve learnt to listen to repeated nagging – so thats what I did. I asked Rob Bell to pray for my son. Ridiculous. A week later I had a personal email from him agreeing to my request and asking me to keep in touch. The effect that had on our family and on my son is an amazing story. He could have quite easily ignored the request with his busy schedule and super-hero status – and I and everyone else would have completely understood. But he didn’t. He chose to reach out and show Gods love. Why do we so enjoy tearing each other apart? Get off your high horses. For people like me who have very little influence it is excruciating to watch. Thank you so much for writing this blog because there are times when I am thoroughly ashamed to be associated with some people who claim to be followers of Jesus.

  28. I do not read your blog, and do not inhabit the world of American Evangelicalism. Yet I find myself strangely saddened by the nature of your post. Who Rob Bell is and whether he asks questions that seem to undermine certain evangelical dogma’s is not the main issue in my view. What I find strange is the assumption in the title of the Blog that what Rob Bell says is in some way a reflection of the state of modern Christianity. Christianity is a diverse and dynamic faith, of which the American version is a small part, and certainly not representative of the whole. It is this hubris of thinking that what goes on in American evangelicalism is somehow representative that is the real problem here. Humility of thought and a sobering review of imperial thinking and assumptions will go along way to helping us all move closer to Christ. What people say about Rob Bell is a distraction from the real problem encapsulated in the title of this blog.

    • You have some good points. Back in the 1970s, I never quit hearing people from tiny countries around the world say, “I don’t understand why I have to learn about the United States and study it so much. Why aren’t American students required to learn about my country and its culture. It just seems so unbalanced and unfair.”

      I suppose that is a fair question ans sensible question, but it fails to take into account one hugely important and overriding fact. In the overall scope of geopolitics, the affairs of nations, and the overall scope of world history as it is being created now, the United States is the principal player on the world stage and small nations—and I know this is going to hurt (no offense intended)—are marginal to those factors at best.

      Let me give you an example in the religious realm that you are concerned about that might help. A number of Christian fundamentalists believe that the bodily Second Coming of Jesus Christ will only occur only when the world comes to a state of crisis and becomes virtually uninhabitable. These so-called “Christians” live in the United States, and they believe that they can (in their own words) FORCE THE HAND OF GOD.

      They believe that instead of loving one another and our neighbors, all Christians should be working to cause nuclear wars, bring about famines and pestilence, get rid of water sources for growing crops, and so forth—working and praying for the whole world to become a pitiless disaster area so they can force Jesus to come back as soon as possible.

      Of course, these people are “Loony Toons.” The key problem is that they are based in the United States and could someday gain the political power here to actually put their religious nutjob agenda into effect worldwide. Such idiocy is highly unlikely to get its start in Uruguay. This is why the United States has got to be the center of attention on numerous religious issues—because only here are there enough money, power, and influence to make the whole world move in one religious direction or another. Christians need to make sure it moves in the Golden Rule direction and not off the deep end. The starting place is inevitably here in the United States because all of the religious infrastructure necessary to carry out such plans out is here—and it exists in such scope and power nowhere else on the planet—except maybe to some extent in Rome.

  29. Well said on the state of the Christian church critics. As a former pastor’s wife (my husband is now an academic and theology teacher), the pressures in the spotlight were sometimes unbearable – mostly by other leaders and not the congregation. It is grievous the comments people can make probably in an effort to make themselves look good – I even felt the weight of criticism when I pursued commercial modelling as a new career (what pastors’ wife would do that? – oh the scandal 🙂 ). Fortunately those with a mature faith can separate messy, critical imperfect people and a loving unconditional God.

  30. Loving words, Jon. And outside the walls of any church or Church, stand good people who also discovered the truth of hell and other manmade ideals. We don’t attend church anymore because it is exhausting to filter out the mismanaged messages and still be called a believer. We go about our lives living up to the true principles of love and charity. We don’t necessarily care if any other human knows what we do. We know we can be happy with ourselves, glad to make the smallest differences for others, and calm that if God does exist are works are noted and appreciated.

  31. This appear to have turned into some I’m okay your okay we all are going to get beamed up to heaven at the end of the day posting. It might be worth giving the Bible a read and if is saying something contrary to that, then no matter how “inclusive” it is or how much it tickles your ears it is junk.

    Below the link quite humorously describes the current state of Christianity much less condescendingly and divisively.

    http://adam4d.com/mtd/

  32. Many people become fearful and lash out when their beliefs are challenged. They want to consume the low-hanging fruit and find it too difficult to have to come up with their own thoughts and answers. In encouraging people to embrace their doubt and fears, Rob joins others I admire — Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, and Rob’s successor, Kent Dobson. Rather than vilify these folks, let’s celebrate their willingness to move into the mystery of faith.

  33. John-

    “This wasn’t someone who preached from the cozy confines of the Creation story, or the Psalms, or the Sermon on the Mount.”

    The creation story has been one of the most debated and attacked parts of scripture since the Enlightenment, through modernity and now by people like Rob. The Psalms? Filled with disorientation (see the texts about dashing babies against rocks). The Sermon on the Mount? Completely counter to the American gospel.

    None of these are “cozy.”

    • Just making the point that Bell was no “feel good, prosperity Gospel” preacher just doing the easy passages for mass audiences. He was a guy committed to Scripture and to digging deep far beyond what many normally do.

      • Your word “was” is key. If Rob Bell wanted to preach a true gospel, it would look nothing like the one he currently speaks of (which is aligning to contemporary Western thought) rather, it would be counter to it.

  34. Man, I must have messed up, big time. All the while, I though the question, is there a hell, was a single question, not many. All the while, I thought Bell’s answer was no, not that he left the question hanging without an answer. All the while, I thought the Old Testament left the idea of sheol as a shadowy, undeveloped one. All the while, I thought it was Jesus himself who brought hell into the open, revealed it, and elaborated on it. I thought it was Jesus who warned of it quite often, three times in the Sermon on the Mount alone, to say nothing of other times. All the while, I thought Jesus himself descended into hell. So now, if there is no hell, all Bell needs to explain (he’s the teacher, it is for him to explain) is why Jesus kept warning me about a hell that does not exist. I say me, because I am not an object, but a person, whose soul he should not triffle with, any more than he should triffle with his own or yours. Just asking questions in flexible faith is not itself a mark of love or care of souls. Followers should ask all the questions they can think of, but leaders, well, that’s a different vocation, with a different kind of responsibility. We don’t like another revelation of Christ, that we followers are sheep. Face facts, we hate being called sheep more than we hate the claim that there is a hell. Our faith is not flexible enough to accept the designation sheep, nor flexible enough to accept the existence of hell, because all we have to show for either of them is Jesus’ word. Bell, as a teacher, has to accep t the designation shepherd, and there responsibilities and liabilities of a shepherd, which is to account for the sheep in his care.

    • The point, T.R., is that Bell has come to the conclusions he has through the same thoughtful exploration of the faith as any good pastor, and through his own faithful, obedient service to the Church; a Church he clearly loves. To be vilified for his religious convictions by fellow believers, is dangerous.

      I simply think we haven’t left space for pastors to be human, and to allow our beliefs and assumptions to be challenged by those who are honest enough to admit when they deviate from what is expected. I’m just not convinced it’s something we should attack and disown people for. As an 18-year ministry veteran, I’v meet many pastors who think and believe similar to Bell, but that simply keep those beliefs in the closet.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. Appreciate it.

      • Thanks for your reply, and the civility of it. I don’t agree with all the ways Bell has been treated, but the denial of hell is an onramp to denial of the Cross, which is lethal toward eternal life. So I hope it is okay to question Bell, and to hold him to a responsibility for his effects on faith. The vogue Christianity of America is to believe IN Christ without BELIEVING Christ, and to believe in Christ without the WORK of Christ. This lets us mold things to suit ourselves, which means the Word no long is what we are searching. The Word is simply a resource for self exploration, and the same thing could be done from many other inspirational sources, which is precisely the point of Oprah’s promotion of him.

    • T R Halvorson, I have never heard it said better!! I attending Mars Hill from the beginning and had my first born dedicated by Rob. I loved him and his teachings, but they he started leading them astray and I feel like he needs to be called out for that! I live in the community where he preached and we are divided. I agree with you! Thanks for putting it into words for me!

    • T.R. That was so well stated and I share your belief and opinions. I have been a seeker and asker of questions and I do believe there really is a truth and that it is found is God’s word in His Son and the scriptures. He asks us to seek and we shall find. He also warns us of the evil one whose battle is against Christ and who roams looking for those he can devour. Satan’s favorite method was used in Genesis 3.1. Not saying Bell is evil. Just test the question.

  35. If you listen carefully to Rob Bell’s sermons, you will quickly discover that despite the fact that he is extremely intelligent, interesting, passionate, and well-spoken, he is not a Christian believer, but a pantheist. Rob Bell was a wolf in sheep clothing with his slavering maw poked into every evangelical youth group in the country. If only the rest of the heretics in America’s pulpits would get the courage to rip off their sheepskins and flee to Ophrah.

    • Benji, while Bell’s theology may have evolved over time, I certainly believe he has been a Christian, and his video teachings and sermons early in his career reflected that. The fact that millions of Christians came to faith or engaged the Church through his ministry is unquestionable.

      • This is nonsense. While its obvious that anyone can utterly disregard what scripture teaches and claim to be of Christ, that doesn’t make it true. Scripture is full of stern warnings that false teachers will come in the name of Jesus. Bell’s efforts to hide his utter rejection of historic Christianity have deceived many. This game of refusing to go public with what they actually believe was played by the entire emergent crowd in the early days of the movement. Rob Bell still hasn’t come fully clean, he hasn’t had the courage to publish what he actually believes in a straightforward manner, like McLaren did with his God-hating screed. Bell will likely piecemeal out his rejection of Christian orthodoxy a little at a time, milking it slowly to hold onto his audience for as long as he can. But, if you actually drill down into the sermons he preached, you will find pantheism, recast in Christian terms, using post-modern obfuscation.

      • Panenthiesm is outside of Christian orthodoxy, but Bell is not even an panentheist, he is an outright pantheist. Bell disguises his theology by wrapping it in the terms of Christian orthodoxy, however when he drills down he reveals that he is not using the terms as Christians do, but playing post-modern semantic games. Bell believes in Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, which is not the hope of Christians. Christians believe the gospel revealed in scripture, that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins and and they hope and trust that he will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Bell does not. Bell believes the Kingdom of Heaven is sparked by the Oneness inherent in all things and will be realized in the earthly utopia that people decide of all faith traditions will make for themselves, when they recognize the spark within as the wind of “God”.

        • I’m not here to defend all of Bell’s views–just to point out that he is attempting to answer legitimate questions about (what I referred to above as) “our Sunday school theology”. Also, as I understand it, Jurgen Moltmann is proponent of Trinitarian panentheism. I’m not familiar with the details of Moltmann’s view, either, but had, on my own, arrived at that designation (when push comes to shove) to describe my own point of view.

          1. Reality is One
          2. Reality is Intelligent
          3. Reality Appears Manifold

          It seems t me that we participate in the life of the Trinity, here and now…

          http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/additional-essays/one-life-divine/

  36. Really found your summary of how Rob Bell has been treated very helpful. But also very sad. Being in the UK many of those who call themselves evangelical are not necessarily fundamentalist (although some are) and thus more open to alternative viewpoints.

    In my own case my understanding of belief has significantly changed (some of the story is on my blog https://rodtickner.wordpress.com/ – A Reader Reflects) and I have been able to shift my theological position to a more radical understanding today and I found writers such as Rob Bell really helpful.

    I think we have to sometimes accept that we do not know, and thus all we can do is ask the questions. It is more honest. But I also note the previous comment referred to Jesus talking about hell: there is a good discussion on this in Peter’s Enn’s book “The Bible Tells me so” – to paraphrase it the word used related to Gehenna which was a place of burial and some of our ideas of hell actually originate in mediaeval times (I think that was the general drift).

    Thanks for your essay.

  37. I’ve been a Christian for 30 years. My husband and I have been in ministry for 20 of those years. I’ve seen a lot. Here are my findings.

    In regards to pastor’s, I believe the church is in a mess because of several reasons.
    1. The position of pastor is highly exalted above the rest, and we worship them as heroes.
    2. The baby boomer era loves building the American dream and forgot that we need elders that will help the pastor lead the church, not allow him to manipulate it as long as he doesn’t go to far. Those older men sit on the sidelines while the next new young person comes in to lead the church.
    3. The congregation we follow like dumb sheep until we get to the cliff and then we realize what we’ve gotten our self into and then try to run away. We are then marked as a bad sheep for having an opinion that we were told we needed in the first place.
    4. We allow young men to be pastors when they don’t meet the Biblical requirements. They sin, and we wonder what went wrong. The non denomination church is ministering to a culture of dechurched people, and doing more damage to them than had been done to start with.
    5. We spend to much time listening to other people’s opinion on what God says or means by scripture, and less time finding out what scripture says our own self.

  38. TR has said it so clearly. There is responsibility or leaders. If they doubt what they are teaching, they should stop and consider if they are hurting their sheep with the message. Rob Bell has cast too much doubt on the Scriptures which are foundational to the faith revealed to the saints. He has made money doing that. If he wanted to promote these doubts, he should have considered what harm he was doing. When the Nooma series came to our youth group years ago, I observed them and recognized immediately that the message was an intellectual one, not a spiritual one. False teachers need to be exposed. I am glad he has been.

  39. While so many seem to accuse Rob of being on some slippery slope away from faith it seems he has found, for many, the slippery road to faith that they couldn’t find within the church

  40. I would have liked at least one example of said crucifixion. I’d like to be sure that this passionate defense is warranted. (It may indeed be.) It’s fair to challenge his heterodoxical views as Francis Chan did. Some people consider defining something as a sin to be paramount to hate speech. I suspect that it is true that people may have incorrectly labeled him as a heretic and spoken hatefully of him. But it’s not wrong to stop purchasing his materials or inviting him to your conferences if you don’t align with his views. Furthermore, it’s not accurate to say he just asked questions. Though it was in the form of rhetorical question, his position of Christian Universalism was unambiguously clear. In the end, his passion and devotion to Jesus is unmistakable and I believe that he will be saved from the hell that he “questions”.

  41. After not having been inside a church for almost 10 years, I encountered Christ for the first time in a United Methodist congregation in 1970, when I was a senior in high school. I professed my faith and was baptized. A few months later, I felt called to full-time ministry, so I went to a UM college (Southwestern) as a pre-ministerial student, then a UM seminary (Duke), was ordained, and started serving a church as pastor before I was 25. I share this brief biographical sketch to help explain how I began my Christian formation and have remained immersed in the spirit of theological pluralism and vigorous inquiry that was the lifeblood of The United Methodist Church then.

    That’s why one thing I found especially interesting, John, is that the way your description of Rob Bell’s approach to faith is what the UMC once was–the UMC that nurtured my faith and taught me about God’s love and grace. And the way you describe the hateful reaction of evangelical and orthodox churches to Bell’s wide-ranging exploration is what my beloved denomination has become.

    Keith Jenkins
    Retired Member, Texas Annual Conference

  42. Are Rob and his family doing well? Is Christ being preached and lives being changed and transformed because of Rob’s outreach and his new platform? Does Universalism and questioning the existence of Hell, bring people to Christ to live the life that God planned for them? God can use all of us if we will let him.

    • No, Christ is not being preached. Christ is being used like a prop for Rob Bell, an enemy of Christ, to advance false teaching that is contrary to sound doctrine, and opposed to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Bell is a pantheist that has deceived many by disguising his false religion in Christian terms.

      Rob Bell is an incredibly gifted speaker, he brings in fascinating and in depth context to scriptures that he preaches on. He is a very smart and talented man, but he does not preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of your sins. His teaching is from Satan, not from Christ.

  43. When someone takes the word of God and changes it, bible believing Christians won’t take it well. As Christians our first responsibility is to uphold God’s word, speaking against someone who calls themselves a Christian while distorting the word of God is our responsibility.

    • Rob didn’t change “God’s Word”, Sarah. In fact, I’m willing to bet Rob knows the Scriptures better than you, me, or most of the “Bible believing Christians” who don’t take it well. He’s simply reached different conclusions and asked different questions. The Bible is the Bible, and billions of people make decisions on what it does or doesn’t say. There is no authority that has the final word. There are only are individual interactions with it.

      You can say Rob is distorting the Word, but that’s just an opinion. You’re entitled to it, but it isn’t any more truthful or reliable than anyone else’s including Rob Bell’s.

      Thanks for reading.

      • I’m confused John. First you state that you believe that Rob knows the scriptures better than most people. Leading us to believe that he has authority on what he is saying. Then you state that there is no authority that has the final word. Then you state that there are individual interactions with the bible. I’m taking that you mean that each person is responsible for what they believe to be true based upon their own interpretation. So which is it? If you say that Rob has authority with his interpretation, then anyone who disagrees should be wrong, correct? You state that he deviated in your article. How can someone be in the truth and then deviate into truth and still be considered in truth, or was he wrong from the get-go?

        • It’s all of them, Edward.

          Rob Bell has been a student of Scripture. It doesn’t give him “authority” it gives him experience and knowledge of the field of study he’s talking about. So for someone to simply attack him for twisting or perverting Scripture, they certainly should have some level of understanding of the texts, and how exactly they perceive Bell is adjusting them. So all the people shouting “heretic” would do well to make sure they know what he or any other person is saying.

          Beyond that, there is no authority. You, Me, Rob Bell, John Piper, someone who comments here: We can study and read and pray, and guess what, we’re all going to come up with something different. I’m OK with that. I’m not going to destroy someone for their conclusion.

          God is not threatened by these questions, so we shouldn’t be.

    • Sarah. That is very simplistic. You make the mistake of thinking that your way of interpreting and understanding scripture is the only way. Scripture is not as shallow and simplistic as your jellie-bellied pastors have taught you that it is. Rather than switching off your brain as you go in the doorway of your church, try thinking for yourself and questioning what you are being taught. Jesus gave you that brain for a reason. Use it.

    • Have you ever noticed that the Word of God is like a double-edged sword?

      That there can literally be two answers to the same question? Is it possible there is a single true reality still hidden from our view in the spirit who is Christ and a “shadow” version under law we can see that is dying and passing away? Let me give you some examples. Ask yourself these questions and then look at the verses for the answer(s).

      Before you do, please don’t think I am trying to discredit the Word of God. I have spent hundreds of hours studying his Word in quiet solitude and after seeing the below things and many more like it, I am EVEN MORE CONVINCED that God’s Word is 100% perfect, precise and accurate. He can not lie in the smallest amount. Each Word is 100% truth in the original language.

      Now, watch the answers to these questions and maybe you will see the “double” realities? One is true reality and one is not. The false, shadow version under law is passing away.

      Who was searching for Jesus in Mark 1:35 and Luke 4:42-43? Was it Simon and his companions or “the crowds”?

      When did Jesus say the words in Acts 1:4-5? Or were those the words of John the Baptist?

      Did John recognize Jesus or not in John 1:33 and Matthew 3:13-15?

      Did Peter follow Jesus into the courtyard or did he stay at the gate in Mark 14:54 and John 18:-15-16?

      Who did Christ first appear to? Was it Cephas (Peter) or was it Mary Magdeline? Compare Mark 16:9-11 and Luke 24:34 and 1 Cor 15:4-8.

      How many disciples were there after Jesus death? 11 or 12? Compare John 20:24 and Matt 28:16 and Luke 24:9.

      Was the Sun up or not when Mary came to the tomb? Compare John 20:1 and Mark 16:1-2.

      How many times would the rooster have to crow before Peter denied Jesus?
      Compare Matthew 26:34 and Mark 14:30.

      There are many more that I have found, but this one is astonishing.

      How did Peter address Jesus when he was glorified on the mount?

      Compare Mark 9:5 to Luke 9:33 with Matt 17:4. Could there be MUCH more going on in God’s (living) Word than our natural minds can perceive? That is what I hear and have been sharing. SO much more. God bless.

  44. As someone who watches Christians from the outside (who is not Christian, in other words), this is no surprise to me. Not in a judgemental, self-righteous sort of way, just as a matter of fact. In my experience, many Christians are quick to lash out at anything they don’t like, whatever it might be. The reason I chose to comment is that I hope you, as Christians, recognize how nasty the Christian majority can be, and if they’re this aggressive toward their own, I challenge you to imagine how terrible they can be toward others not like them.

    • For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ(2Cor10)

      I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Rom16)

      If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.(1Tim6)

      Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.(Jude)

      But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.(2Pet2)

      I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts20)

      “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Mt7)

      • Benji,

        Please refrain from responding by just throwing a bunch of Bible verses up here. It’s not a conversation, it doesn’t prove any point, and it doesn’t do anything but shut down conversation.

        I could post a hundred Scripture quotes back and make all sorts of things seem “Biblical”. We’re trying to have conversations about important, complex ideas, not to bombard one another with Scripture.

        The heart of the blog post is that having questions and even challenging deeply held beliefs is not a crime, it’s not a sin, and it isn’t a threat to God, though it may be a threat to some Christians.

        If you want to refer to the Bible as you share, please do, but let’s do better than quote wars, please.

      • It is interesting to me that those who go immediately to the false teacher passages never ever consider that they may in fact be the false teachers. In all that you believe is there even a chance that you could be wrong somewhere?

      • It ceasing to be questioning, when it is advocating for false gods, as Bell does when he preaches the god of pantheism.
        According to scripture, idolatry actually does anger God. Consider the Song of Moses, which Israel sang to itself to remind them why God had set his face against them…

        They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols…
        “‘And I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them; they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured by plague and poisonous pestilence;
        I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with the venom of things that crawl in the dust. Outdoors the sword shall bereave, and indoors terror, for young man and woman alike, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs.(Deut32)

        • I’ve heard the word “pantheist” bandied around quite a bit in these comments, but I’ve never seen any evidence to suggest that accurately characterizes his teaching. If you have such evidence, please present it…

      • These are mostly passages about sound doctrine. We can know what sound doctrine is, because it is the doctrine that was once for all delivered to the saints, that has been taught for 2000 years, and memorialized for us in the texts penned by Christ’s Apostles and breathed out God the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promised them to aid them in remembering all he had taught.

        Paul calls us to a spiritual war to contend against ideas contrary to sound doctrine. Pretending sound is mystifyingly unknowable is absurd. Open your Bible and read it. What you believe should accord with what scripture teaches.

    • Right you are JohnnyV. Sometime in the future, when the right religious nutjob takes dictatorial government power in the United States, you and I both will end up in a “religious re-education camp.” Those who refuse to learn the lessons will be exterminated. Go read the writings of Rousas Rushdoony.

  45. Rob Bell asks questions like Satan: “Did God really say…..?” Make no mistake, Bell asks questions in a way that makes them more like statements. The apostle Paul warned us about false teachers so, rejecting his false gospel is to be faithful to Christ. I pray for him…..

    • (should’ve added this but I’m on lunch break and in a hurry) I noticed this article is short on scriptural backing. We must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Why should I believe John Pavlovitz over my own discernment and that of the great teachers I have discerned are much more faithful to the scriptures than Rob Bell? I can think of a myriad of scriptures (to which we must submit) that contradict propositional truth statements found in this article and what Bell has said over the years. This article is intellectually dishonest…..if I was on my pc on my own time, I could point those out but……. Bell thinks of me as a mere “dog” since I believe and promote certain doctrines. gotta go back to work….

  46. I must admit i have been intrigued in the reading the article and the response written. I was in a church (as a youth pastor) where Rob Bell was no longer allowed (including any videos etc.) I did not understand then and i dont understand now. I have never been one to “believe” anyone. I read Gods word, try to hear Gods Spirit living in me, and draw conclusions and then teach.

    To some that would be considered crazy but for me i LOVE to hear how others interpret and teach Gods Word – even if it is different from what i understand. I feel like i am wise enough and secure enough to not get too upset when others disagree with me. I try to set up a time to discuss theological issues once a month with a local seminary professor – just to see if my own “thinking” is getting me off course. I do not hold to any mans teachings BUT i have learned to listen to many and allow Gods presence in me extract the things i need.

    My desire is to KNOW God and his Word to the best of my human ability – but i am always aware of my humanity and sinfulness that i live with daily!

    I am a pastor and pray that each of us would learn to continue to grow, recognizing that we ALL “see through a glass dimly”.

    I have no idea what all Rob Bell has taught and i have not read his books, BUT i am already appreciating that he is getting Christians to have conversations. I just hope the Holy Spirit, in each of us believers, is tugging at our hearts to love each other – correct privately those who get “off track” and love each other deeply.

    • Thanks Michael. Obviously I disagree on many points;), but that’s the point of my blog post. No one owns Truth. We’re all looking for the real, and God is not threatened or angered when we question, even if we get it wrong.

      Peace.

      • “No one owns Truth. We’re all looking for the real, and God is not threatened or angered when we question, even if we get it wrong.”

        Not to be a Jesus-Juker, but a) Jesus does own it because He IS Truth, and b) God is angered when we propagate a false truth. In fact, we will be held accountable for doing so- something about a millstone for people who deceive others.

        • Jesus is Truth.

          You’re not jesus. I’m not. Rob Bell is not. Your favorite pastor is not.

          None of us owns it. We’re all making our best guess on what Jesus’ truth encompasses and means.

          That’s the point.

          Double juked.

      • Of course you disagree with me, but God does own truth, and the Scriptures are truth. If they are not truth in every part (I am not clinging to inerrancy, but inerrancy in the original writings), but they are truth nonetheless.

        The problem with the statement, “No one owns Truth” is that it is a Red Herring. God obviously owns the truth, and God does get it angry if we get it as wrong as Rob Bell is getting it. God has a lot to say about False Teachers and False Prophets in OT and the NT. So if we get it very wrong by asking specific questions as leaders of churches and whole movements such as Rob Bell, God will just leave us all alone and we will not incur his wrath when Jesus specifically talked about how it would better for people that lead His children astray to be tied to a millstone and thrown to the bottom of the sea? Perhaps if we ignorantly asking the wrong questions, God would forgive us, unless we act like Rob Bell and refuse to repent. This is called willful ignorance.

      • I must add a response to your other comment. If Rob Bell is making “his best guess” as to what the Word of God is talking about, then perhaps he should just quit. The Word of God is very easy to interpret I find, it seems that you [John] are making it more difficult than it needs to be.

        I do agree that Jesus is truth, but Scripture must be truth, or we would know nothing about Jesus Christ in the first place unless we read two sentences by Josephus. Therefore, we must be careful when reading it to know where we ought to go because as you mentioned in this blog post, we need a sturdy structure on which to stand, and if a lack of a theological system contradicts what the Scriptures have said, how can we ever know if anything is true.

        Lol. Triple Juked.

      • We all want to worship the text, yet Jesus never wrote one word. We all quote the same apostles that Jesus himself said of them, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me?”. We are 2000 more yrs removed than the apostles. I believe in the Mystery!

    • I always think of better things to say after I post something. It would be wonderful is there was a way to edit these comments. Anyway, considering that the SCriptures were inspired by God (not the kind of inspiration that someone like me would get to write poetry, but more of a supernatural inspiration), how are the Scriptures NOT the word of God? We know that Jesus is THE Word, but what about God’s word with a lower case “w”? After all, Jesus’s words were written after he had died by other people, so if we are going to pick and choose what is right based on how we feel, then why not just discard Christianity and religion altogether? Now, I am not saying that all of the passages are easy to digest in the Bible, but orthodoxy has been successfully defended for 2,000 years by now.

      At least you and Rob Bell aren’t going around calling yourselves “heretics”. If you ever do that or hear anyone else do that, please do me a favor and read the introduction to GK Chesterton’s “Heretics”. 😉

      Double Infinite Juked (which actually is only a Infinite)

  47. Pingback: The Continued Crucifying Of Rob Bell, And What It Says About The State Of Modern Christianity | The Emerging Network

  48. In John MacArthur’s article, Rob Bell is clearly unhappy with Jesus’ teaching about hell. He finds the very idea of hell morally repugnant and believes it is one of the main reasons “why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith.” He scoffs at the idea that divine justice requires endless punishment for unrepentant sinners. In direct opposition to what Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 25:46, Bell insinuates that it would be a gross, cosmic atrocity if the doom of the reprobate is everlasting in the same sense that heaven’s blessings for the redeemed are everlasting.

    Bell’s notion of sin seems to be that its main evil consists in the hurt it causes to the sinner rather than the offense it causes to a righteous and almighty God. His concept of “justice” makes the punishment of sin wholly optional. His idea of mercy falsely holds forth a false promise of automatic leniency and a second chance after death to people already inclined to take divine clemency for granted anyway.

    Rob Bell’s god is clearly no one to be feared.

    That all stands in direct and deliberate contradiction to everything Jesus ever taught about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

    By thus pitting his own ideas against Jesus’ message, Bell makes it inescapably clear that he “advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). He is wrong—seriously wrong—heretically wrong—to question the justice of God and to hold out false hope to unbelievers. He is, as we have seen from the start of this series, a textbook example of the false teacher who secretly introduces destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1).
    That must be said plainly and emphatically.

    Just how serious is Rob Bell’s heresy? It is not merely that he rejects what Jesus taught about hell; Bell rejects the God of Scripture. He deplores the idea of divine vengeance against sin (Romans 12:9). He cannot stand the plain meaning of texts like Hebrews 12:29: “Our God is a consuming fire.” He has no place in his thinking for the biblical description of Christ’s fiery return with armies of angels: “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Bell’s whole message is a flat contradiction of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:5: “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”

    Bell will have none of that. He therefore tries to eliminate the authority and clarity of Scripture so that he can reinvent a god who is more to his liking. It is the sin of all sins; the sin of the serpent. Like Eve’s tempter, Bell is subtly but undeniably fomenting rebellion against the true God. He suggests that he is better—nicer, more kindly, more tolerant, more lenient—than the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture. He therefore sets aside God’s revealed Word and makes his own musings the inviolable standard.

    In effect he wants to assume the role of God for himself. That is not a minor evil; it is epic. It is the original sin of Lucifer.

    • Jeanie, I would suggest that perhaps you have the wrong peers and friends. This life too short and too precious to spend it being criticized for what you believe Seek out some new friends, one who build you up rather than tear you down, and with whom divergent views form harmony rather than dissonance.

      • While this sounds nice: “This life too short and too precious to spend it being criticized for what you believe Seek out some new friends, one who build you up rather than tear you down, and with whom divergent views form harmony rather than dissonance.” The problem with this nice sounding quote is “divergent views” don’t always form harmony. Sometime two truths are mutually exclusive. One is right and one is wrong. This quote here could be applied from one Pharisee to another based on what Jesus said to them. They could use a quote like this to justify their rebellion against the truth he taught that challenged their beliefs. Jesus “criticized” them because their beliefs were mutually exclusive from what was really true.

        • Ken, to start with, I was speaking specifically to Jeanie, not to you or to anyone else. But since you chose to comment on my suggestion to Jeanie, I will respond to you. I spoke of “views,” that is, opinions or beliefs. You twist my words by shifting to the term “truths.” Then you state that “sometimes two truths are mutually exclusive. One is right and one is wrong.” What an odd way to speak about truth. While I might agree that truths may be partial, I fail to see how truth can be wrong.

          Perhaps you will respond that you are distinguishing between “truth” and “Truth.” If that is the case, you should probably put the erroneous truths in quotation marks so your readers will know that you consider them only so-called truth.

          Though you don’t say it in so many words, I suspect that you believe your “truths” are the “right” ones, the ones that Jesus would approve of, and the “truths” of a rebellious old Pharisee like me are the “wrong” ones. Guess what. That means that, in both cases, they are opinions.

      • DrKaj,

        You are absolutely right to correct me. I meant sometimes two views (not truths) that are divergent are mutually exclusive. I presume a view is a belief or an opinion that has some truth (or perceived truth) as an object. So the Pharisees had a view (opinion) that Jesus was not the Messiah nor God and when Jesus said he was God, the Pharisees had a divergent view of His identity that could never form harmony with the truth. The reason for responding to your advice is that what you advised is not always possible and good and right. Your advice sounded to me like it was a universal thing to strive for, to find people with whom your views can (seemingly always) harmonize with theirs. Sometimes that is not possible.

        I am sorry that you felt I was “twisting” your words when in reality I mistakenly used the wrong word. Your response that a truth can’t be wrong to my mistaken use of the word “truth” was actually my point and I am encouraged we agree on that.

        You are also correct that I see Bell’s rejection of the gospel: that God rescues us from His own wrath upon sin as erroneous and a view that has as it object a perceived truth (based on a fallacy) that is contrary to many clear revelations in Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments.

        At some point we need to decide if the Scriptures are authoritative and that their truths will form our views or if we are going to follow the writings and teachings of men who say things that appeal to our views but are clearly contradictory to the Bible. What is clear is that at the very end of Love Wins, Bell was “very clear” that he rejected the view that God rescues us from His own wrath. His view cannot be harmonized with both the Old and New Testaments. There is a dissonance that cannot be removed until the faulty view is repented of. What Bell is doing is rejecting the gift that Jesus is our “passover Lamb”. The blood of the lamb rescues us from God’s judgment we all deserve for even one sin (Gal 3:10, James 2:10). It is Christmas eve as I write this. Jesus is the passover lamb of God (John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:7), born in a stable and revealed himself to Shepherds. I love Him. He rescued me from the wrath of God I deserve because I have sinned and fallen short of His glory. This Christmas we celebrate this very thing. It springs forth our worship that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Bell does not believe this and is the only thing in Love Wins that I remember for which he says he wants to be “very clear”. If we recommend this book to others, without warning them of this view, we are actually promoting dissonance with the Scriptures (and God) vs. harmony.

        If we missed Bell’s clarity on this in the midst of all the questions he asked, we seek forgiveness from Him and set the record straight with those who may have strayed from the gospel because of page 182. God is merciful and gracious for the repentant. The story of the prodigal son is also very clear on that. Praise the Lord. I am in need of his love and mercy and grace.

      • Ken: “…and when Jesus said he was God, the Pharisees had a divergent view of His identity that could never form harmony with the truth.”

        Where in the Gospels did Jesus (not Paul, or Daniel, or Peter, etc. etc.) ever say he was God?

        • Dear QPL, you are already coming from a point of unbelief in the authority of the New Testament as we have it. That is evident by the name you have chosen and by removing some of the Biblical evidence sources from which I could draw.

          That being said, to both show that “just asking questions” is not a benign activity as some seem to think it is, I will start to answer your question with a question:

          Do you believe Isaiah 9:6 is an inspired prophecy predicting the coming Messiah and that Jesus both claimed and allowed himself to be identified as the Messiah (“Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word translated Messiah)?

          For to us a child is born,to us a son is given;and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isa 9:6

          Clearly I am not just asking a question, nor should anyone read my question or yours that way.

          If you also “question Isaiah 9:6” as authoritative, we can’t have a meaningful conversation since we lack the same sources of authority from both the Old and New Testaments.

      • That’s kind of the whole point, Ken.

        Appeal to Authority. Whose authority, Prophecies or Paul’s letters OR Jesus’ own words.

        But my point is that Christians should first consider what Jesus said first before they consider pre- or post- Jesus heresies (whether Fundie Evangelist or Liberal Universalist).

        When asked how to go to heaven, Jesus had a very simple prescription–get rid of things and serve others.

        If Christians can’t even do that first, then salvation or belief-alone are all moot–focusing on pre- and post- Jesus interpretations by others becomes an exercise in futility.

        I don’t know Rob Bell, but my standards as to how Christian he is, is very simple, does he have things and does he serve others. Olsteen gets a big F for me, so do other Evangelicals out there, simply because they have not done what Jesus asked of them.

        Maybe you anti-Bells are correct that he is a false-prophet, but I weigh his teachings against how close he comes to Jesus’ prescription. If Rob Bell is driving around with a BMW, then he’s a false prophet.

        (Did it ever occur to you that lines such as Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, David’s lineage, birth in Jerusalem, etc. etc. were all added purely to harmonize with prophecies? ie. reverse-engineered?)

        Let Jesus’ words stand on their own and base your Christianity off of what wisdom comes from that perspective–this is what Thomas Jefferson did, his book: Life and Morals of Jesus. Let Jesus’ teaching stand on their own, don’t rely on Paul or Isaiah, just Jesus.

        • Dear QPL,

          Jesus did not only tell the rich young ruler to sell all he had, he also told him to obey all of the commandments. The command to sell all he had was so the young man could be “perfect” (Matthew 19:21). After the disciples heard this exchange, they asked who can be saved? Jesus reply:”With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mat 19:26. By quoting one sentence of Jesus out of context from the full conversation, we miss Jesus conclusion – man can’t save himself as it seems you are implying can be done. But God can save him. Jesus was leading his disciples to this conclusion and then you see it in their writings.

          This is Paul’s summary of how to be saved as well. With man it is impossible (Romans 1-3) but God saves (Romans 4-5).

      • Ken,

        The man asked a question, Jesus gave an answer, His disciples asked a question, Jesus gave an answer–two separate questions and two separate answers, Jesus didn’t answer the first question with the last answer.

        The shedding of things was central to John the Baptist’s teachings, it was central to Jesus’ teachings.

        Get rid of things first, is the whole point.

        Again, that’s one interpretation of salvation alone that you’ve espoused, but Jesus lived very deliberately, should be then avoid his lifestyle since salvation alone is so much easier? NO!

        Live deliberately as did Jesus, that’s the surest gospel of all, everything else are interpretations, appeals to various authorities and perspectives.

      • You wrote: “The man asked a question, Jesus gave an answer, His disciples asked a question, Jesus gave an answer–two separate questions and two separate answers, Jesus didn’t answer the first question with the last answer.”

        Actually Jesus did answer the first question with the last answer. Please go back and reread the account carefully. The man asked Jesus two questions that relates to HOW he can be saved. He thinks he can do a “good deed” to be saved (obtain eternal life), then claimed he had loved his neighbor as himself (seriously?). Jesus proved to him that was not true by showing how he related to money. The man thought salvation was possible with man by doing a good deed and Jesus proved to him he was not good enough – so he went away sad.

        Then the disciples asked WHO can be saved (a different question than the man’s HOW question – this is very important to notice) to understand the text. The man asked what good deed can he do and which commandments apply in order to be saved? The man was asking HOW questions regarding salvation (first two questions). Jesus didn’t answer the disciples last question on WHO, he answered the first man’s question on HOW. God must do it, not man – that’s how.

        The bringing in of the New Covenant was God’s work – with God all things are possible, even man obtaining eternal life.

        • Hey Ken,

          How do you interpret Matthew 25:31-46? It certainly appears that here, Jesus is making case for a HOW salvation; that there is some correlation between the life we live and our deservedness for Heaven. He speaks about one’s actions toward the hurting and poor, not simply about accepting Jesus into your heart. What’s your take?

      • Ken,

        The whole ‘salvation-alone’ perspective is apparent in your interpretation–getting rid of things and serving others (with Jesus), is the most literal reading. Go with the most literal reading first, then expand via interpretation.

        Start there, then you can expand into Paul’s interpretation of “salvation”, however you want it to be. But

        the most important is the getting rid of things and serving people portion of the answer.

        Demonstrate that first, then get into salvation-alone, Paul’s easy path to Christianity–hence his writings, writings under his name, and harmonizing via Paul’s Christology and Soteriology, should ALL be suspect.

        Without demonstrating a deliberate life-style (like Jesus’, like John the Baptist’s, like many of the Church Fathers, etc. etc.), you are merely enjoying Paul’s easy version of Christianity–salvation-alone.

        I hope John can blog and expand on this subject, as I feel many Fundamentalist Evangelicals in America put too much weight on Paul’s salvation-alone, and ignore a very specific life-style choice mandated by Jesus.

      • Ken,

        I just want to be clear that there’s room for your salvation-alone perspective,

        BUT Jesus’ life-style mandate should be heeded first, then worry about salvation–

        to flip-flop that would be ludicrous–ie. salvation-alone, while living in luxury. Don’t you agree?

      • Dear John and QPL,

        I think both of you are addressing the same question. Thanks for engaging in a civil manner. I appreciate the dialogue.

        John you asked about Matthew 25. May I chuckle a bit in the irony of the question given there is a clear statement about hell and this whole post started out with Bell. 🙂 In that text:

        Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Mat 25:41

        Those on the left are the goats. Those on the right are the sheep. The former are unsaved and the latter are saved. Scripturally, we all like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53) something has to be done with the sin problem and the rest of Isaiah 53 shows Jesus bore our penalty for our sins. But what about the good deeds of the sheep described here in Matthew 25. That’s the real question. QPL put it this way:

        BUT Jesus’ life-style mandate should be heeded first, then worry about salvation– to flip-flop that would be ludicrous–ie. salvation-alone, while living in luxury. Don’t you agree?

        I think we need to concern ourselves both with the how of salvation and what our lives should look like. The question is how do they relate? I believe what Jesus is saying here is that the truly saved lives will as John put it include caring for the poor and hurting. The distinction is this: the caring for others part in Scripture is an outcome of a New Covenant relationship through Christ with God by the Spirit, not the cause of the relationship. The distinction is key and I believe is the main point of the interaction with the rich young ruler. To believe man-generated good works are the cause of salvation is to reject the New Covenant, the only means of salvation. Man cannot perform enough good deeds to save himself, only God saves… (the point of the interaction with the rich young ruler) and when God saves, by definition of the New Covenant, we are new creatures in Christ and will relate to God and man differently.

        The New Covenant, in contrast with the Old, replaces our heart of stone with a heart of flesh that FEELS and therefore acts with compassion. I believe the whole emerging movement came about in part because the prior generation from which the younger emergents felt the pain and sting of the “law” being pressed upon them missed the meaning and implications of the New Covenant promises in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36. They missed that we can’t obey the law (act the way of the sheep in Matt 25) until we get a new heart and are moved by the Spirit to do so – both of which are promised as part of the New Covenant. This is part and parcel of the New Covenant that those QPL is describing lost site of. They focused solely on justification by grace but not sanctification by grace that is included in the salvation package. There is no splitting them. The works flow from salvation, not precede it. Notice even in this text, how the sheep are described:

        Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world Mat 25:34

        The sheep are first described as being “blessed by [Jesus] Father”. I believe this is always true in a compassionate person.

        The shortest summary of the effects of the New Covenant on the believer is Hebrews 10:14 (which QPL will “question”, but Hebrews 10 includes quotes about the New Covenant from the Old Testament that back up both major parts of the covenant. My comments are in parens:

        by a single offering he has perfected for all time (forgiveness, justification) those who are being sanctified (sanctification, movement toward holiness/generosity/caring for the poor). And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord:I will put my laws on their hearts,and write them on their minds,” (sanctification, the last half of 10:14) then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (justification, 1st half of 10:14) – Heb 10:14-17

        So the works of the sheep in Matthew 25 are a product of God’s covenant with the sheep – to forgive AND change them. The goats have no such covenant with God and are left in the self-centered focus. God has for years been sanctifying me and I see His hand in it. I have a ways to go… Praising Him for his mercy and grace. I don’t for a minute prescribe any generosity in me to my inherent goodness. If there is a good work in me, God is the ultimate source of it (Isaiah 26:12). That is why Jesus said:

        In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Mat 5:16

        Here Jesus is explaining, like he did to the disciples in the interchange with the rich young ruler about salvation itself is that the one who gets credit for “our good works” (that is they are visibly manifest in us on earth) is our Father in heaven, not us. Glory rightly goes only to the source of a thing (Romans 11:36, Revelation 4:11).

        • Ken, I think you’re making huge leap that Jesus never makes in that passage; that the sheep are both saved and living that life because they are saved. Just never says that. He never says that the sheep have already accepted him. He simply says that those who do his will are worthy of his Kingdom; that they are the sheep. Otherwise, the parable/word picture would be simply addressed to the sheep; to the those saved who listen to the shepherd and those who do not.

          If faith was the only thing that mattered, it would have been the only thing he preached. How we live wouldn’t really matter, if this was just a pass/fail salvation equation. If it was all about belief and salvation, when we accepted Christ, we’d get “beamed-up” to Heaven. Instead, we continue to live here.

          It’s a bit silly to think that God is so petty, that he would welcome a person who has prayed a salvation prayer and not lived with goodness toward others, over one who has not prayed the prayer, and lived a life that resembled the one Jesus preached so much on.

          I think there’s a real problem here, but I appreciate your response.

          • John, I am not sure how one could read my reply and see in that “faith is the only thing that matters” and that the sheep “prayed a salvation prayer and not lived with goodness toward others”. My reply was meant to convey the exact opposite – New Covenant relationship with Christ (remember Christ inaugurated the New Covenant) does produce goodness toward others. That was my point.

            The measure of true salvation is what Jesus communicated here.

            You can’t take one parable and pretend it is full revelation. That is why Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind them of “everything I told you”, not just a parable or two. Jesus wanted them and promised they would remember everything including the fact that God the Father should be praised for their good works. We can’t pretend a single parable is going to convey every spiritual truth.

            You are reading into my reply your experience with others who focus on faith without works. I couldn’t be more passionate to the other end of this and my reply I thought was clear on that point.

      • Very good response, Ken.

        And thank you for the dialogue as well.

        I agree with John, and therein lies our difference.

        I don’t believe the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, people like Spinoza & Einstein to people still living in caves or huts still walking around naked, never (or only slightly) interacting with the outside world,

        who have chosen a deliberate life espoused by Jesus (even if they’ve never heard of him, or heard of him yet chose to NOT believe),

        are unSAVEd, or unBLESSed.

        I believe that because they are living deliberately (having chosen a meager lifestyle), and serving others, I believe they are of HEAVEN. And heaven is not only exclusive to Christians.

    • Dear QPL,

      Earlier you said “Christians should first consider what Jesus said first before they consider…”

      I gather from that you trust and believe Jesus words, not just a parable or two that fit your ideas but his words recorded in the Scriptures. Hopefully I am not misinterpreting or reading into it. I am assuming if you believed in a subset of his words you would have indicated that.

      I have been communicating with you on that working assumption, purposely not quoting other sources as much. We all have to start with where we are. Recently you said:

      You do not believe that people who have “heard of him yet chose to NOT believe,
      are unSAVEd”. By quoting the following verse, I am not saying this is the whole of revelation regarding salvation. If I did that, I would be repeating error where we take a slice of what Jesus said instead of the whole, and pretend that slice is all of the revelation on the topic we need ignoring other things he said in its totality:

      Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Jn 6:27-29

      How does someone who hears about Jesus and does not believe in him as Jesus described, get the food that “endures to eternal life”. It is not accident that Jesus goes on to describe Himself right after this as the bread of life:

      “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son AND BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

      Is your reaction to these words of Jesus to not believe them. Unbelievers grumble at these words to which Jesus replies (my comments in parens):

      “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets (Jesus as he always does, validates the authority of the Old Testament), And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Jn 6:43-51

      Do we take offense at this?

      “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jn 6:61-64

      Here we see the consistency of Jesus. With man it is impossible to be saved we saw. He repeats the exact same thought here – “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh IS NO HELP AT ALL.

      With the Spirit giving life, we believe and are changed into the kind of people Jesus describes in the parable of the sheep and the goats because God makes holy those he saves. For those who heard of Him yet chose not to believe, Jesus says:

      I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” Jn 8:24

      The positive side of God-wrought belief is that our sins are paid for at the cross and we are changed by God as outlined in the promises of the New Covenant. The negative side of rejecting Jesus in unbelief is John 8:24 and we are outside of the New Covenant. Remember when Jesus had the last supper with his disciples, the focus was on the New Covenant. That is not an accident. Jesus is consistent in all his words and never desired only a subset of his words would be represented as all that he had to say on a subject. This is why quoting these John verses and saying people can pray a prayer but not change is as unbiblical as saying man can reject Jesus and not believe in him but by the efforts of his flesh alone not die in his own sins. God is holier than offering him a mixed bag of sins and “good works”. Jesus is the Perfect One and my only hope for access to the Father:

      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jn 14:6

  49. this article is shallow and rediculous… Wow! You demeanly refer to “unforgiving Christians” several times. Insinuating they wouldn’t forgive Bell. First of all, Bell never asked for forgiveness, he never said that “Love Wins” went to far, he NEVER recognized that in many eyes he stepped over a huge line. So what is there to forgive? Second, the insinuation that there is no hell completely rewrites theology. This is not a gray area and is not subject to cultural relevance. Without hell, the gospel is a completely different message and Christians who believe in hell take it very seriously. Whether or not a person spends ETERNITY in tortuous fire is a big game changer. If I believe in eternal torture I’m going to do everything I am able to warn people and if a prominent Bible teacher all of a sudden goes soft on that issue, then it is completely appropriate to come out and warn people about this false teaching… Let me say again, it’s a matter of ETERNAL TORTURE. Paul called out Peter publically over being two faced… I think Paul would take this a little more seriously. This article sounds like Bell is a Whiney baby because his friends stopped playing with him. Of course they will stop supporting him over this monumental issue. I would have less respect for them if they would have continued to support him bc that means their eyes were on a man and not God. They had the guts to stand up just like Bell stood up. So stop whining.

    • “If I believe in eternal torture I’m going to do everything I am able to warn people.”

      What if some of us believe bearing witness to God’s love, mercy, and grace is a more effective and more Christ-like way of spreading the gospel message than trying to scare them with the threat of eternal punishment?

      • “What if some of us believe bearing witness to God’s love, mercy, and grace is a more effective and more Christ-like way of spreading the gospel message than trying to scare them with the threat of eternal punishment?”

        Let me answer your question with another question since this seems to be a recurring trend among Emergents. What if you see a person about to drive off of a cliff, and they are oblivious to existence of said cliff and there are no signs to warn them of such a cliff? They must be told of the cliff, but they must also be shown the correct path, which is what you have implied: talking about the love, grace, and mercy of God. It is less about scaring people, and more about making sure that they deviate from the path that they are on before it is too late. If there is no cliff approaching, then what incentive is there to change directions even with the love, grace, and mercy of God? What makes the other path better considering that in their mind there is no cliff up ahead? Sure the other path might be better paved or faster, but many like to go for drives in the country, so the love, grace, and mercy of God is not always enough. Furthermore, how is it unmerciful to let someone know they are about to suffer eternal torture in Hell? It seems like withholding that information is diabolically evil.

  50. Pingback: Kicked to the Curb | Thoughts on Thoughts

  51. I love Rob Bell’s creative design of pastoral ministry, but his way of asking questions without providing his own opinion comes off a purposeful instigation. The question isn’t whether or not Rob Bell’s theological beliefs are odd, because in comparison to the the mass staples of biblical faith, they are… The real question is whether or not Christians are showing him the same amount of grace that they would someone without the same spotlight.

    The reality is that Christians are holding Rob Bell to a higher standard, which in fact is expected if one should call themselves a pastor, let alone be labeled as a Christian rockstar. Do I agree with hate towards a man who has faults like the rest of us? Nope. Would I hold Rob Bell to a higher standard because of his platform and spotlight? The dude deserves grace like the rest, but isn’t exempt from criticism because of it.

  52. The problem many critics had with Bell and his writing style (particularly in “Love Wins”) is that he often used rhetorical questions to propose arguments, leading readers down a certain pattern of thought, framing questions and issues in certain ways in order to illicit his desired response. This is not the same as asking open-ended questions with an open heart. It was clear he was already leaning a certain way, and was making a clear argument. He just happened to use the rhetorical device of contextualized questions to do so.

    So when Bell ‘asked questions’ about a theological point as prevalent in scripture as Hell, something Jesus himself mentioned 46 times, without enough scriptural evidence or contextual exegesis to convince followers that Jesus himself did not believe in Hell, his preaching and leadership as an evangelical pastor should rightfully be questioned. As a collection of followers of Christ, the church has debated this issue for two centuries, and the greatest historical leaders of the faith continue to fall on the side of taking Christ at his word, and accept the fact that eternal ‘fire’ and separation from God is in fact preached by Jesus. So when Bell comes into the conversation somewhat ignorant of two thousand years of previous arguments and discussion, fails to address the holistic concept of hell presented in scripture, and fails to convince the majority of believers to change their minds, its very appropriate that believers should no longer follow him.

    Just my .02

    • And to briefly add, I would be fine with someone honestly asking these types of questions in a bible study, or in church, but not from the pulpit, and not as a ‘teacher’ of scripture. As many have already pointed out, these questions he asks are difficult, but they are answered by scripture.

  53. How stable can a religion be if it both needs to evolve to maintain relevance (in terms of culture and scientific discovery) , but also refuses to evolve but at a indignantly slow pace due to fear losing the foundational principals that are necessary to the basis of Christianity? It seems like a lose/lost situation. Revise doctrine further and further to relate better to the current world, but lose many inherent beliefs, or remain planted in Biblical beliefs and subject yourself to criticisms outside of Christian culture.

    From experiences I’ve had both in and out of the church, along with the years I’ve spent studying this issue, I can’t justify being part of such a stagnant movement. Issues talked about here (i.e. is it acceptable for Rob Bell to inquire about alternative philosophies within Christianity that aren’t widely accepted?) prompt me to think that the most productive and beneficial individuals are those who don’t have to constantly be part of the discussion of “are these outfits modest” “are we allowed to question these statements” “how do we interact with people who live in ways fundamentally against our moral code?”

    It’s a challenging situation, from my altruistic side, I want to encourage those to participate in whatever religion they choose. That is their right and I think it’s cold to discourage that right, but at the same time, it just seems like so many people I know can’t move on to more pressing and important issues because Christianity is so focused on the non-issues that modern culture is challenging. My two cents.

  54. Ahhhh…….the tyranny of post-modern subjectivism. No honest criticism can be hurled toward those who are your favorites, yet all the while casting criticism toward those who dare to question your favorite flavor of the moment.

    Thus, it can’t be that those who are criticizing Bell have any justifications for doing so. That they are to “play nice,” and see what “good” he is doing….all the while feeling justified to question and criticize those asking the questions of Bell.

    Here’s a little Church history for you-the Church has always taken hard lines toward “new” theologies being presented. We even used to have Councils to debate such things. Wonder what would happen if Nicea was held today? Would Arius’s ideas be labeled as someone who wasn’t “sticking to the script” and thus was be defended?

  55. Wow – I don’t know why I’m venturing in here…also, it’s so far down the postings it probably won’t get read – so maybe it’s just for my own purposes…nevertheless: those who’ve actually listened to Rob rather than read some critic’s blog with know a few things:

    -he takes sin very seriously

    -he believes that the lives we live now are vitally important for the kingdom that breaking into our reality and will one day be full established as God intended

    -he believes in a cross that paid for sin

    -he believes in an empty tomb that changed everything, and continues to change everything.

    I actually am someone who reads Love Wins and thinks Rob really believes in hell – as a real place now, and a real place after death – but it’s not the greek mythology-inspired caricature that the church has promoted for too long.

    I’m about done with the shrill voices of American religion who create false categories that fit political agendas and then act like they are Biblical scholars. I just hope that declining attendence and public disinterest will shut down most “churches” and make way for what’s next.

    John – thanks for writing this….very well stated and much appreciated.

  56. As we debate the pros and cons of Rob Bell ministry (and/or defend more conventional views concerning the authority of scripture), the gift of aware presence continues to shine forth from the soul of every human being in the beginning with God!

    “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright ofWhat Is Awareness? heart!” (Psalms 36:7-10).

    As I see it, the upright of heart are those who, like Abraham, are justified by faith—those who trusting in and relying on Christ, truly see His day. Each one of us sees (by virtue of) this light, but few recognize Him as Lord—few recognize in Him their real origin and destiny.

    “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

    “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall live in your presence” (Psalms 140:13).

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/what-is-awareness/

  57. Bell is NOT denounced “because he asked questions.” He is denounced because he promoted and promotes something other than conservative, biblical orthodoxy. In “Love Wins” his cascade of “questions” clearly became rhetorical and point powerfully to his heterodox conclusion that there is no eternal hell. (And that’s not the only place where he’s left the tracks.) And what have conservatives done? They’d not kicked him out of his church, not burned him at the stake, nor anything else of the sort. They strongly and clearly stated their disagreement! GASP. INQUISITION! not. What are we supposed to do? Are we required to agree or shut up?

  58. Rob asked questions in a book…not a pulpit. And why not ask questions from a pulpit. This whole “questions are fine, but we need to protect new believers” is junk…plain and simple. It’s a cop out, so drop it. In case anyone’s noticing most “new church-goers” are simply church hoppers from other locations/denominations. There aren’t many new-believers because the narrow “gospel” that American churches preach is high on judgement, low on new creation, and lacking any sort of creativity of communication. It’s the same, tired “Jesus died so I can go to heaven when I die.” That’s a shrunken distortion of the world-changing, power-challenging message that was being preached in first century palestine.

    • Don’t get me wrong, questions are fine, and we shouldn’t ‘protect’ new believers. But the answers to his questions are clear in scripture, and I’d expect any teacher of the word to answer these questions, not to ask them or to question biblically sound doctrine, like the concept of hell.

      • How can any appeal to scripture resolve the logical and moral problems with a view which portrays an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God…

        …who chooses to create a world which he knows will fall into sin…
        …and who knows that the result of that sin will be:
        …untold generations of natural suffering in a fallen creation
        …untold generations of human suffering throughout history
        …and the eternal, conscious torment of untold numbers of human souls in hell.

        http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/our-sunday-school-theology/

      • Just taking the concept of hell as an example: NT Wright’s Surprised By Hope does a nice job of demonstrating that in fact it’s not clear at all. The Christian clarity on the subject has come from extra-biblical places.

        I think the point John has tried to make a number of times (not to put words in his posts) is that we need to be careful claiming that our opinions represent clear truth while others are obviously in error because we don’t agree.

        I recently met a high profile leader with whom I know I have major theological differences. But I saw what he’s doing and how his love for God is shaping an incredible ministry – so I’m ok to disagree on details.

        There are big things – incarnation, the cross, ressurection…the things that demonstrate God’s plan for new creation. For me, the rest are interesting debate topics.

  59. What you are seeing and reading started in the garden “did God realy say” He is still deseving God people to descredit the work of the cross and bring division!

  60. I have known Rob since he was a small boy. He shared one of his first Nouma (sp?) messages on vhs, no less, I believe when it was just an ‘idea’!. He preached in a small Michigan UP (Upper Peninsula ) church, a message, I will never forget, with all the ‘props’ (a favorite line of Rob’s is “God is the God of props”). I have, on cassette, nearly all, if not all of the Leviticus messages and many more from the early days of Mars Hill. It was Rob who awoke this now 84 year old man to true spirituality and led me to other like-thinkers: Henri Nouwan, Richard Rohr and many more who have deepens my awareness that Love Wins Period. and ‘Everything Belongs’ and both/and not either/or, Avoid Exceptions..all thoughts that leads away from our ego side to our soul side. Thank you, Rob, for being used so signficantly in this old man’s life!Keep pressing on….Be Still and Know that I am God/Be Still and Know that I am/Be Still and Know/ Be Still/Be!

    • Hi Jim, it’s great to have a chance to speak with someone who actually knows Rob. From what you wrote, would it be fair, then, to say that Rob is teaching something like or related to universalism?

      • T,R., a large part of my appreciation for Rob and numerous others, that I mentioned, have been an encouragement for me to stop limiting God and in so doing opens me to believe that the God who so loves the world (John 3:16), as most of us who would be classified as Christians believe, then that love is toward everyone and everything in creation. If that defines Univeralism then I would say yes.

      • For me there is no doubt that the atonement is unlimited. But in universalism, is there still a place of necessity for faith, or are all people saved regardless of faith?

    • Thank you for sharing, Jim–Rob Bell, Henri Nouwan, and Richard Rohr are among the names I share (in my “sympathetic critique of fundamentalism”) as people who have a clue. Others, IMO, are:

      N.T. Wright
      Dallas Willard
      Tim Suttle
      Francois du Toit
      Brian D. McLaren
      Denis O. Lamoureux
      Thomas Keating
      Kevin Hinkle
      Peter Enns
      Marcus Borg
      Francis Bennett

      All very different, to be sure, but all have a clear understanding of the issues at stake.

      http://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/christian-visions/a-sympathetic-critique-of-fundamentalism/

    • That’s such a joy to hear, Jim. I began attending Mars Hill when it first moved into the old Grandville Mall as a young college student attending a local Christian university. One morning, my friends and I ran a little late and had trouble finding seats, so I decided to sit on the floor near the stage. This became a tradition my whole time at the university, and I can’t tell you the joy that came from sitting at the feet of my rabbi.

  61. John
    Your celebration of Rob Bell, or at least a defense of him, is based on far too much assumption. If this “conversation” were face to face, I’d rather spend more time listening to how and why you believe what you do about Rob Bell. And it’d be better because you could hear my friendly tone, not the snotty-blog one 🙂

    First, based upon your response to Sarah earlier today it sounds like you don’t know him personally. That’s dangerous; by giving such clear support of him, your identifying with him at least in some way, which is dangerous. I’m not saying you can’t support him. Just not sure why you’re choosing to defend (at the very least) a mega-church pastor, who (as a leader) asks more questions than gives answers, and tours with Oprah. If you don’t know him, why defend him so thoroughly?
    Second, it sounds as if you’re assuming it was a good thing Rob Bell was a Christian rock star. Or at least you’re ok with it. Defend that. Or say it’s wrong. The fact that anyone has, in your words, “a rabid army of fellow believers who hung on every word he uttered, who lapped-up every morsel he tossed them, who cheered him on like a local kid making the Bigs” should sound an alarm. That’s not how Christians should follow anyone, except Christ.
    And don’t just lump all Christians together. The whole church didn’t love Bell and his writings before ‘Love Wins.’ And not everyone one loves him or hates him now. Point the finger at the people lapping up his words. Not the whole church on a blog.

    I’m assuming you’re defense is for a couple reasons, though probably not limited to these. (And I confess, I’ve read this article and your “About”).
    First, to some degree you enjoy his books, videos, teachings, etc, and adhere to them to some degree. You don’t take a clear stance on him or his teaching, but it sounds like your in some agreement. If so, just be ok with enjoying him and some of his writings. Don’t defend a guy you don’t know.
    Second, you specialize in “rabble-rousing, engineering mayhem, and generally trying to live-out the red letters of Jesus.”
    I don’t know you personally. I read two things on your blog. When rabble-rousing and engineering mayhem come first on a Bio, I think, “there’s a voice I’m gonna stop listening to after this conversation.”
    I’m not saying don’t blog, don’t write, don’t talk or don’t ask hard questions. Keep doing those things. But specialize in rousing conversations that give people hope and certainty as they ask necessary questions about God; engineer objectivity about God and his word; and consider not defending famous Christians you don’t know.

  62. There comes a time for many of us who were raised in the church (and raised with the beliefs we were told we ought to have) that we begin to question those beliefs.

    From my own experience, and the experience I’ve heard of others, there are very few leaders or otherwise in the church (or at least churches we were attending) who would investigate those questions with us.

    The answers we were given were “The Bible says this…” which doesn’t give much to the questioner when at the time they are questioning their belief in the Bible.

    The deeper the questions we would ask, the more we could see the looks on people’s faces of “You’re not supposed to ask that” or “I think they’re falling…” which is, I think, why many in the church seek to condemn what Rob Bell writes and says.

    • Only have time to approve comments, as I have two other jobs and two kids. Like to approve everything quickly so comments are seen, but can’t post long replies currently.

      Next session I have is late tonight. Will try to respond then.

      Thanks!

  63. Evangelical Christianity is a broad category (from highly ceremonial Anglicans to Baptists of various kinds) but which has certain boundaries, the chief which is that Scripture is authoritative and reliable. All teachings of a person claiming to be an Evangelical Christian must be grounded in Scripture.
    I couldn’t begin to list all Bell’s departures from Scriptural teachings. It’s fine he asked questions. That’s no problem at all. However, the way he asked often amounted to a denial of an historic, biblical position. At times he flatly denied Evangelical tenets.
    Bell tried to attract non-churched people to Christ. That’s a great goal. But my suspicion is that he eventually succombed to the temptation to attract non-believers without calling for repentance of sins and entruentrusting oneself to Christ.
    He is welcome to do as he pleases. He is not welcome to do as he pleases and call it Evangelical Christianity when it isn’t. And Evangelical Christian leaders have a biblical responsibility to warn their congregations of his teachings.

  64. thanks, john, for saying what needed to be said. the black and whites are looking more and more like Pharisees every day. the ones Jesus came to challenge. when your beliefs are build out of cards, any wind will blow them over.The thing about the church people is they never have ths guts to say “this is what I believe” They speak as if there is only one way to believe. Ever wonder why there are 4 Gospels boys? Or more than. one prophet?

  65. This article, unfortunately, is inaccurate in data. All opinions and conclusions aside, we have to remember that Rob Bell’s critics existed before the idea that he suddenly went “off script.”

    I was a part of Mars Hill for a large part of a year. It was during the rock star Bell era, if such a thing existed. Sure, I’ll admit it did. Still, I was able to have a handful of conversations in that venue and a few others with Rob. What I saw was a guy who was doing the best he could with what was in front of him,

    I also saw something that concerned me – his questions didn’t have boundaries. Perhaps it’s what made him a rockstar…. but when you eventually run out of good questions, you start asking questions for the sake of asking questions. It’s Bill Clinton under questioning asking, “What does that word mean, anyway?”

    I sense this is what the critics saw before Christendom in general did. And once it became obvious at a general level what was only obvious at a more intimate one, the criticisms suddenly had validation.

    Maybe none of that matters, but again – let’s make sure we have the correct data before we turn him into a new kind of “martyred” rock star.

    • Tony, just because you attended services at Mars Hill, doesn’t exactly make you an expert, but I appreciate your perspective and opinions none the less. I followed his career very closely for quite a while from early on. Of course he had his critics, but no more than any other high profile pastor. What followed Love Wins was a piling-on, and a mob mentality against him in Christian circles, by many who hadn’t even actually read the book. He’s been treated more harshly than almost any well known pastor, and for far less than the moral transgression so many have been guilty of.

      People have mentioned Mark Driscoll in this thread.

      Mark did some really horrible, documented things with his position as a pastor, and John Piper offers only kind words about restoration.
      Rob Bell thoughtfully questions theological beliefs, and John Piper gives him a “Farewell.”

      A small example, but part of the unfair treatment Bell has received, in my opinion, for simply digging deep into faith.

  66. There were two things going on with Rob Bell: you addressed only one in this post, which is his willingness to go off the traditional evangelical script.

    The second, not mentioned in your post, was his extreme authoritarianism with which he ruled his church(es). Dissent and criticism resulted in humiliation and scolding from his pulpit, and people who left the church(es) described the Mars Hill group of churches as becoming more and more like a cult or sect, where the leader reigns supreme. I think this factor was even more important than the one you dealt with in this posting.

  67. How could any reasonable person not question the notion of hell – how is an all-loving forgiving God compatible with eternal hell – the funny thing is about ‘hell’ in bible is that two of its translations – ‘hades’ and ‘tarturus’ refer to the gods that rule over the underworld in greek mythology, then the names were synonymous with the underworlds (Christian evangelicals seem to ignore the fact that Christianity, like pretty much ever religion, is syncretic, and has many elements from Greek mythology, Judaism and paganism mixed in with its stories) the other two translations of hell are ‘gehenna’ – or the valley of hinnom where wicked people would sacrifice children in fire to the god Moloch – so a physical place on earth – then Sheol is a shadow, place for the dead from the OT – none of these indicate what a lot of Christians come to understand hell as – it is an understanding formed through conflating separate verses and ideas, taking things out of context and using John of Patmos’ dream scape and Dante’s hell to make a hell that no loving God, no loving Christian, no loving atheist could send a person to…forever. If Rob Bell wants to challenge the idea of hell, good on him, it needs challenging and if people no longer want to follow him because according to their dogma, he is condoning sin or leading the flock astray, they should quietly and pray fully find another leader, instead of tearing this guy a new ass hole because he is using his brain. Pretty sure the most important part of following Christ is love and forgiveness, so why are we crucifying a man who is made in the image of God and is sincerely seeking his heart? It’s shameful and against the very heart of Christ.

  68. Reblogged this on Faith & Fellowship and commented:
    I wanted to share this because I believe that Rob Bell has indeed asked important questions and has inspired us to also ask important questions. Faith should not and cannot be blind; faith comes through seeking, struggle, and questioning. Rob’s courage can help us all develop a deeper, truer faith – not by giving us all the answers, but by helping us learn to ask the right questions while letting God bring the answers.

  69. You know when you have a relationship with Jesus, all of a sudden you see things differently, love differently, even “judge” (we all do it) differently, but ONLY when you have a relationship with Jesus. I have had the privilege to develop a relationship with Rob, and all of a sudden I see him differently. Have a relationship with someone and you gain a friend, have a relationship with Jesus and all of a sudden you gain salvation/life. Im glad to call Rob Bell my friend.

  70. The reality or unreality of a place called Hell seems to have become a major comment topic here with regard to Rob Bell. One of the most interesting treatises I have ever seen on the subject of Christianity, Jesus, and Hell is presented in a three-part series of blog posts written by Christian thinker, writer and teacher Ms. Rebecca Trotter at her “The Upside Down World” blog. These three posts were prepared as part of an event she dubbed as “Hell Week” on her blog. Just in case you are wondering, Rebecca was raised as a strict Christian fundamentalist. Here is the URL for the first post in the series:

    http://theupsidedownworld.com/hot-topics/hell/

    You can get to the other two posts in the series from there.

  71. The thing I find very interesting about this is the reason that the evangelical church has a problem with Rob, is essentially the same reason the Pharisees and teachers of the law had big problems with Jesus. They both challenged entrenched mainstream views of scripture everyone was so sure of. The powers that be never want the status quo challenged.

  72. I appreciate your comments, John. Rob has always asked the right questions, but when I read his book “Love Wins” I realized immediately that Rob just crossed over the Evangelical line in the sand. The fundamental question is so simple that every atheist, most agnostics, and every free thinking Christian has dealt with it: Is God really good, is God both good and evil, or is God just evil? I believe that an Atheist who rejects the Evangelical God who tortures His erring children for eternity are the only honest ones. How the Evangelical can talk about a loving God with one breath and then threaten the world with eternal Hell in the next is beyond schizophrenia. It’s like telling your wife how much you love her and asking her if she loves you while holding a gun to her head. That’s some kind of love they teach.

    Beware of those claiming as their own historic Christianity and belief in the “word of God” not mentioning that they make all the rules of Biblical interpretation. Within their theological box and fundamentalist mind set Jesus’ words are just added to the historical prophets, rather than an exegesis of them. Jesus is the first known teacher in history that taught God as only good. Until then the voice of the prophets taught a yin yang version of God who acts out of anger, jealousy, and wrath when fed up with his enemies or even his disobedient children. Genocide, murder, and inquisition were part of his arsenal . . . until Jesus came along and told us that God’s love is not determined by how He treats His friend, but by how He treats His enemies. Who do we choose to believe?

    Jesus was so radical that He invited the whole Gentile world into the family of Abraham through something as simple as “trusting Him”. That really made the hierarchy of the church mad. No wonder they killed Him! And no wonder Jesus said, “They hate me and they will hate those who believe in me”. It’s probably a good thing our government doesn’t let it’s religious leaders determine who gets the death penalty. Those who have worked very hard to please God will always hate those who simply love and trust Him for their salvation. To know God is Eternal Life and Jesus was the only one who had seen Him and knew Him good enough to tell us and show us what He is really like. I think I’ll just keep trusting Jesus.

  73. If you want to listen to a feel good message then listening to Rob Bell is what you’re looking for. if you’re looking to hear about the word of God then you are definitely in the wrong place. Most of the reason that he was as successful as he was at Mars Hill was due to his “do whatever makes you happy!” mantra. Don’t worry about going to hell because it’s not true or having to believe most of the things you read in the Bible because it’s just a story. if he wants to be a motivational speaker fine, go for it. He used his position as a church leader to gain influence in the community and then made a lot of profit off of it. There is nothing wrong with making money if it’s done for the right reasons and honestly. He has been misleading people here for years and just looking at how mainstream media is loving this guy is enough to tell me that he is no different than Tony Robbins. Fine speaker if you need a hug but that is it. Oh, and by the way, he promptly just up and left his megachurch with no thought of the people he left behind to go out to California. Not my kind of preacher!

    • …..”do whatever makes yo happy/don’t worry about going to hell/the Bible is just a story”?

      Soooooo…..you never listened to anything Bell ever preached at Mars Hill, did you. If you did, feel free to reference specific sermons and we can sort throught the details as I think I have most of them on file. I’m curious which message(s) you have in mind.

      Bell was successful because he never took an easy way out in dealing with scripture. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean he doesn’t take the Bible very, very seriously.

  74. By questioning Hell, Bell is not just questioning a fiery pit. He is questioning the very nature of God.

    God created hell. He didn’t create it for us, he created for the fallen angels. Some people have said Hell is a product of the middle ages, but this is not true. While Dante and Milton may have ‘reinvented’ it in some ways, they were not the first to speak of it. Jesus talks about hell more than heaven. He portrays God not only as merciful, but as Holy. The whole point of Christ’s death upon the cross was to redeem the lost. The lost who, because of their sin, were destined to Hell. God does not condemn us, we condemn ourselves. Because God is Holy, there must be a redeemer, a sacrifice, an atonement in order for us to have communion with God. It is THE recurrent theme throughout scripture. Men are sinful, we need atonement. God wants to be with us, wants to be our friend, our comfort, our shelter, but our sin has separated us from him.

    God made a covenant with Abraham. He made him promises. He always kept his promises. The Jews didn’t. They botched it up. Again and again. But God always came back. He restored them. Helped them rebuild their nation. The message isn’t that God abandons us when we abandon God. God wants to restore the original relationship he had man. He wants our fellowship. God love us.

    God is Love, however, he is also Just and Holy. Many people have lost sight of what Holiness means. God is not our best friend. He is infinitely more than we can or will ever be. He is omnipotent, but he is constrained by his very character.

    He has to punish sin. Why? Because of his holiness and because it is just. Sin is a crime against God, our creator. Crimes must be punished.

    How safe would you feel if the gov’t. did not punish crimes? Would you be satisfied with a farce of a police force that merely told a murderer, “You shouldn’t kill people. Don’t do it again. Off you go!” Of course not!

    We often say Justice is blind. We say this because Human beings do not have all the knowledge necessary to render an accurate verdict. The accused has the right to defend himself. There are mitigating circumstances and circumstantial evidence because we will never truly know what happened. God is not blind. He sees all, he knows all, He is everywhere. How could a holy and just God not punish the sins we commit?

    God is the one who convicts us of our sin, but he is also the one who provides us with Mercy. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, the perfect atonement for our sin. He is the reason we can have a relationship with God the Father. The Judge, The Holy. The Almighty.

    By denying Hell, you deny God’s very nature. You deny the need for Christ. If there is no punishment, why did Christ die for our sins? What was the point?

    The gospel is the “Good news” precisely because Christ has saved us. If no one goes to Hell, why bother.

    There is no problem with asking questions about Christianity and trying to understand theology, but I think many people have forgotten about the majesty and awesome power of God. God does not exist to please us. To make us happy. To bless us. To make us feel less guilty about our sinful natures. We exist because he made us. He is the creator. We are the creature. Thankfully, he loves us. Thankfully, Christ died for our sins. He spared us the wrath of God. He spared us the just punishment which we all deserve for following our own desires rather than the mind of God.

    The ideas Rob Bell talks of are not new, but they are also not scriptural or logically sound. It is not wrong to ask questions, I sincerely hope Rob Bell can come to the same conclusion that the church fathers did.

    The majesty of God has been lost and replaced with “Buddy Jesus” from Dogma. That is the real problem we face.

  75. Why is it ok for Rob Bell to “question” and “challenge” but if people disagree with him and point out his inaccuracies than you say he is “maligned”, “villified” demonized” and “crucified”. Your terminology shows bias. One could easily invert the language and say it is traditional Christianity that is maligned because they challenge Rob Bell.

    I have on more than one occasion discussed with others Rob Bell’s errors. The core difference is that I do not believe that truth is relative.

    I teach the bible and believe others have a right to challenge me on what I say. They have the right to do the same with Rob Bell.

      • Fair enough. But if I believe someone’s teaching is false then I am by definition calling him a false teacher. Beyond that point taken – it should never descend to vitriol and personal attack.

  76. NOTE FROM JOHN:

    Thanks for all the great feedback, and the generally respectful dialogue.

    Please remember that all comments will be approved as long as they include vulgarity or personal attacks, and make a general attempt at responding to the blog or those commenting on it.

    We don’t have to agree here, but we do have to respond to one another with decency.

    Appreciate all the responses.

    Remember: Never hate someone for what they believe about God. Everyone’s doing their best to sort it out and to live accordingly.

    Peace.

    John

    • Thanks John!
      I have attended two of Rob’s workshops in California, Craft Lab and 2 Days with Rob Bell. I have read his work for years and respected his courage and theological perspective. I gleaned more in two sessions with Rob bell that 4 years of seminary on how to objectivly look at Creation as a whole and strive for the “Reconcilliation of All Things” (Rob Bell). Thanks for your effort in bringing to light the ongoing mudslinging towards the Rob Bell Camp.
      Peace, Joe

  77. Pingback: “The Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell” – My Name is Stephen

  78. …yeah, he does not just question: He came right out and said he was “rediscovering” christianity as an eastern religion. That makes sense, because his tactic of undermining biblical truth, and then leaving question marks in the place of foundational doctrines has been perfect to inject spiritual relativism into the church. Yes, he is excellent to leave the youth asking IF THERE IS ANY absolute spiritual truth at all: a key jelly like foundation that is needed for any eastern religion, so that all that is left to do is to empty your mind. Any small amount of spiritual discernment will lift a red flag when bell speaks, and set him aside in the minds eye: not as one who asks questions in genuine search of truth, but as one who deconstructs truth, piece by piece , not to provide answers, but only to leave nothing in its place except the question: “did God really say”?

    • Eastern religion believes that god balances good with evil and is responsible for both. Sounds much like eternal hell to me. Christ taught that God is only good, that He is life, that in Him is no darkness, no shadow of turning. Punishment is not justice. Justice is restoration.

  79. Hell exists because of free will, which is why evil must at the very least be allowed or our choices wouldn’t hold significance. Hell isn’t a punishment it is simply the alternative choice to God, its for those that don’t choose God. Which is why its eternal separation from God because its for people who who didn’t want God. Since all good things come from God is the reasoning behind why its described as this dark foreboding place because good can’t exist there, not because its a literal “lake of fire”. If you take it literally Then Hell is a lake of fire that somehow manages to be in complete darkness at the same time… It can’t be the equivalent of the surface of the sun and be pitch black so clearly these examples are not being used in a literal sense but simply to describe existence without the possibility of “good” happening. Bottom line is if you believe in free will then evil and Hell must exist, there has to be an alternative choice.

    • Braxton. On this point, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul and his discussions about whether to marry or not—and that marriage is better than being single and always be “burning” with unrequited need for the passion of sex. The flames of Hell may be this same kind of “burning,” meaning that the fires of Hell may be metaphorical rather than actual combustion. For a person who has chosen to reject Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven, it may be that the person gets a glimpse of what God and Heaven are really like and then finds himself relegated to a place where, as you said, God and good have left—and the “burning” is actually a burning mental, emotional, and spiritual passion to have what one now knows for sure they could have had—the glory one got a brief glimpse of—but now knows they can never have. Its like a powerful and never-ending sexual urge that burns stronger, and stronger, and stronger with each passing day—with no way to climax into a state of relief from the urge.

      • But why can they never have it? Why is death the “cut off”? If they are “burning” for heaven why can’t they yet be saved? There are many many verses in the bible that indicate this life is not the only opportunity to be reached by God. For example, the verse about Christ preaching to those in hades…those already dead. What of that?

  80. I must admit, I am unsure of Rob Bell. I have read some of his books including “Love Wins”, and I have to admit the man’s very insightful, and his questions do challenge me, BUT… Just because he is “only asking questions” doesn’t mean he is not leading you down a path he wishes you to follow, to make the same conclusions he has made. In “Love Wins”, he had an agenda. That was to lead you away from coming to the conclusion that hell is real and people really go there for forever. He did this through asking calculated questions that would lead you that direction. There is so much in the scriptures that deal with God’s wrath and his judgement on those that rebel against Him. I felt much of that was overlooked in this book. Yes God is Love, but He is Also Just and Righteous, and Holy and Wrathful, and… All of these character / attributes of God are complete. None of them overshadow the other. But this blog is not a critique of Rob Bells book but rather on how he was crucified by those that praised him. I do believe the way he has been treated is wrong. I myself have been guilty of slandering him and that to my own shame. I appreciate this article as it was well written. For a people who are to be noted for our love, we can be quite vicious sometimes.

  81. Unlike·Comment·Share

    So sad! Wasn’t Jesus ridiculed for a similar situation? One week, “Hosanna”, the next week, “Crucify Him”… led by the religious establishment. Rob’s scripture based teaching one Sunday morning was profoundly instrumental in leading me to the greatest, most significant, frightening and ridiculed, yet faith filled, God trusting, scripture led decision of my life – which reignited my desperately flailing faith, helped me to grasp onto and accept God’s unconditional and unquestionable love, saving grace and purpose for me in spite of my failure… and ultimately worked to restore my marriage and my family. Rob is a good man of God, whom I believe was chosen by God Himself to help carry God’s good news forward to this generation! He is but a man …I do pray for him, that he may remain humble and steadfast to his calling amidst his “fame”, but let’s not crucify him too!

  82. So sad! Wasn’t Jesus ridiculed for a similar situation? One week, “Hosanna”, the next week, “Crucify Him”… led by the religious establishment. Rob’s scripture based teaching one Sunday morning was profoundly instrumental in leading me to the greatest, most significant, frightening and ridiculed, yet faith filled, God trusting, scripture led decision of my life – which reignited my desperately flailing faith, helped me to grasp onto and accept God’s unconditional and unquestionable love, saving grace and purpose for me in spite of my failure… and ultimately worked to restore my marriage and my family. Rob is a good man of God, whom I believe was chosen by God Himself to help carry God’s good news forward to this generation! He is but a man …I do pray for him, that he may remain humble and steadfast to his calling amidst his “fame”, but let’s not crucify him too!

  83. I haven’t read the book. All I know is that a while ago I was consuming everything Rob Bell, and a still small voice spoke about not making any man my Rabbi. I realised that I was interpreting the scripture through Rob Bells eyes and that I needed to view it through the Holy Spirit’s eyes. This was just before the book came out. So I completely agree with you about not condemning him, but at the same time we need not look to man to teach us once we know the true teacher.

  84. I’ve read the book and considered the theology and the question and disagree that the book was simply “fair questioning” or “exploring”. The book had a thesis. “Love Wins”. Rob argued persuasively that Hell is not eternal and essentially dressed up universalism in comfy words. I don’t think Rob Bell should be silenced or marginalized but treated like anyone else and judged by the same standard, the Bible. What does the Bible teach? I disagree with his conclusions.

    I don’t think it is dangerous because the words of Rob Bell will not change the Word of God. If people read his book and read the Bible I don’t think there is any danger. His argument is selective and not exhaustive, sets up straw men and doesn’t take the sum of the verses for their plain meaning. He is free to speculate and since he published those speculations, others responding in the public are free to do so. Just because we all don’t agree does not mean there is a Crucifixion going on. Saying so is a phrase well reserved for the real thing rather than public disagreements, however strong they may be.

    • The Bible doesn’t teach in an eternal hell nor is it a Jewish concept. Hades means “the grave”. There isn’t an underworld where the dead go to be tortured by the devil. This is all pagan nonsense that entered the church as the pagans were converted. The Bible teaches that “the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything”. When Rome became Christian over night the emperor marched his pagan troops through the river and called them “baptized”. You can take the pagan out of their cult, but you can’t take the cult out of the pagan. That takes time, the Holy Spirit, and a little thing we call conversion.

      As far as Rob teaching Universal-ism I don’t believe he has ever said that everyone would be saved. What he has done is talked about the drawing power of grace. A wise woman once said, “When I look at myself it’s hard to believe that I could ever be saved, but when I look at Jesus it’s hard to believe I could ever be lost.” Maybe Rob has found a Christ centered ministry where He spends his time talking about Jesus. Isn’t it the gospel that is the power of God to save? The good news of God’s grace?

  85. I’m all for thinking outside the box but you can’t just warp scripture to satisfy your liking and to appease non -believers. You just can’t.

    • Christians have been warping Scripture for all sorts of reasons since they were written down; to start wars, invade countries, suppress women, perpetuate slavery, etc. The danger, is using that charge against only those we disagree with. That’s a slippery slope. Whenever someone accuses someone else, they’re assuming perfect and correct usage themselves.

  86. I’m curious…how would you evaluated J.Gresham Machen’s analysis in “Christianity vs Liberalism?” He was labeled a heretic and defrocked by the Presbyterian Church for defending traditional orthodoxy. Do you also have a stinging rebuke for churches that are not traditionally evangelical…about their lack of open-mindedness? Just curious.

    • Jeff, if I had followed Machen’s career and writings closely, and had knowledge of the criticism itself I could comment. As I haven’t, I cannot. I will simply say that all people and experiences are separate and individual. There’s little use in bringing up one situation, when opposing someone’s perspective on another. If you have knowledge of both situations, I’m sure you could find a great deal of differences to speak to.

      • John, I encourage you to become familiar with him. I think that you would find it beneficial. Of course all people and experiences are different, my question, though, is do you have any interest in addressing the intolerance of those that are not traditionally evangelical towards those who are? It seems to me that a balanced analyst who is interested in free expression of ideas would equally deplore the greater lack of open-mindedness of the christian left….

      • John. Just in case you are interested—all up to you—Jeff Street is pursuing a clever ruse with you here. J. Gresham Machen was one of a small handful of the initial cofounders of the Christian fundamentalist movement in the United States around the turn of the 19th century. Many people wrongly think Christian fundamentalism was founded in a shack somewhere in Alabama—in a room with the “Dukes of Hazard” playing on the TV in the background. Only later in time did it become synonymous with country backwoods ignorance and people with little education.

        Christian fundamentalism was actually founded in the Great Lakes region and some of the key founders were professors of divinity at major universities. For example, J.G. Machen was a professor at Princeton University, and he wrote several early defenses of Christian fundamentalism (sort of like the founding fathers who wrote the Federalist Papers). Basically, these writings dress Christian fundamentalism up in a fancy tuxedo to make it look appealing to educated and erudite people such as you. John knows that the late Jerry Falwell would never have been able to convert you to the sole possible religious truth, but maybe a Princeton professor can get through your totally lost spiritual condition and save your eternal soul before it is too late. In other words, John is trying to evangelize you, and he thinks he is being very clever in doing it.

        So, by all means, go ahead and read a J.G. Machen paper, just balance it out on the other side of the scales by reading a paper written by a similarly well-educated contemporary opponent of Christian fundamentalism. You might try this famous paper written by an enemy of Machen from the same time period:

        http://baptiststudiesonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/shall-the-fundamentalists-win.pdf

        As the old saying goes, there are always at least two sides to every story—even in the realm of religion. Reading both will achieve that happy state of thinking and honest questioning that you always try to get.

  87. John, your insight, open mindedness and and honesty feed my growing respect for you, one article after another. As the daughter of an intellectual scholar/professor/ minister who saw such closed-minded intolerance first hand, I opine that when the “church” finally stops believing it has to distort the obvious and hide alternate possibilities to defend its narrow, rigid views, deep thinkers may return.

  88. Let’s just say Christ’s body is made up of a lot of folk who are imperfect. We are all too quick to see the speck in the other person’s eye rather than the plank in our own. Let us value each other’s opinion rather than seeking to accuse or disenfranchise another because he or she brings a different perspective. Above all let us focus on the fact that Love wins rather than seeking to ensure the condemnation of others. God is love.

  89. i like Rob Bell a lot and I am very much a let the text be the text. God says who He is and we need to suck it up but from what I know of the scriptures God doesn’t send me to hell. I send me to hell. God has given me all the road markers to not go there in Jesus but I still get the choice. I really hate choice sometimes…wish I could just be a holy robot.

  90. Rob moved in the direction of Liberal/Progressive Christians (which was his right). People rethink their theology and change. There just was no clean public break from Evangelicals. So they did it by unkindly exposing him.

  91. Pingback: A Response to “The Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell” | Jeremy Edgar

  92. This argument assumes that people who are upset with Rob Bell are upset simply because he chooses to ask questions, whereas they could very well be upset because his conclusions are wrong and it’s important to have leaders teaching what is true.

    Now, just like Rob Bell might do, I’m not here to say if he is true or false in his teaching, but only to raise the question is it possible that someone could be upset with Rob Bell for reasons other than he simply asks questions?

    • Sure, but even saying that you’re mad because someone else’s conclusions are “wrong” is a shaky position for a Christian to take.

      I’m sure that’s the mindset of many of his critics though. In their minds they’re genuinely defending Truth as they’ve determined it, just as Rob is claiming to be teaching Truth. For me it comes down to how we respond to those who disagree with us on matters of faith.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Opponents of Rob Bell’s position on hell are not “mad” at him, and I don’t know that anyone has made that case other than the author. He’s free to ask questions all he wants, but he’s also free to be wrong. The author doesn’t seem to allow for that idea- yet I can think of many topics that, were Bell or anyone else to question, would also bring strong, opposing responses, intended to correct incorrect teaching. So if you want to say that what matters is “how we respond to those who disagree with us on matters of faith,” then I’ll say “there are times that a strong rebuke is necessary.”

  93. The truth is, many of Bell’s followers no longer follow the Jesus of the Scripture, but one of their own making.

    Does that sound like a fact, or an opinion?

    Rob Bell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who has deceived many young people into the very hell he denies.

    Let’s stop petting the wolves and direct all of our loving concern to those who have walked into the wide gate.

    • It sounds like your opinion.

      Rob Bell is also responsible for untold numbers of people coming to faith in Jesus, engaging their faith or the first time, reading and studying the Bible, entering into community with The Church.

      This “wolf in sheep’s clothing/false teacher” stuff is just lazy name calling.

      Bell’s ministered to millions of people and still does, and deception is only accurate when someone conceals agenda. Rob’s been upfront with is questions and doubts in ways very few pastor have, and it’s one of the reasons so many vilify him.

      I think we can do better in having conversation about this than this “petting the wolves” stuff.

  94. Here is the problem. What is the Biblical basis for Bell’s belief that ultimately, hell does not wait for sinners?

    If “Love wins”, and wins for all, regardless of whether they are repentant sinners or non-repentant sinners, then, what exactly is my spiritual motivation to remain a Christian? If everyone gets in to heaven because hell doesn’t actually exist, what is the point of having Christ die on the cross? Why do we need a redeemer, if both the redeemed and unredeemed end up in the same place?

    This is what Bell supporters never have an answer to. If Rob Bell is correct, and there is no hell, and everyone is already saved, there is no need to be a Christian. Further, if we are all saved, why does Bell bother trying to evangelize? What purpose does it serve?

    Essentially, what Bell believes about hell makes him completely irrelevant. If Bell can’t actually lead anyone to salvation because we are all saved already, why bother?

    • “what exactly is my spiritual motivation to remain a Christian?”

      Are you suggesting that escaping Hell/going to Heaven is your primary motivation for being a Christian? How sad. I am a Christian because I encountered God’s love, mercy, and grace through Christ, and through fellowship with other believers, I discovered that God blessed me so that I might be a blessing to others. Heaven and Hell have absolutely nothing to do with it. I would follow Christ even if there were no Heaven. If you can’t say that, then you may need to examine whether you have turned your faith into a transaction.

      “If everyone gets in to heaven because hell doesn’t actually exist, what is the point of having Christ die on the cross?

      Has it ever occurred to you that Christ died for all of us….not just for those who believe?

      “Why do we need a redeemer, if both the redeemed and unredeemed end up in the same place?”

      Don’t WE need a Redeemer to live with God eternally…regardless of who else “ends up in the same place”? Just saying that all end up with God in the end because “Love Wins” doesn’t mean we don’t need a Redeemer to get there.

      • “I would follow Christ even if there were no Heaven. If you can’t say that, then you may need to examine whether you have turned your faith into a transaction.”

        Yep. That. Perfect. Thank you. This always strikes me as such an odd question. “Why should we be good if no one goes to hell?” Um…because “we love because God first loved us”? Etc. You know. For love’s sake. Obviously. I always wonder at people’s hearts when they ask this question. It’s like saying if murder was suddenly legal and someone asked : “So why shouldn’t i murder if it isn’t against the law anymore?” Don’t think I would stay friends. 😉

      • They see it as a cheap fire insurance policy. Jesus said, “Follow me.” What they heard was, Escape Hell with cheap fire insurance.”—and the rest of the things Jesus said are just not that important to them.” Sure. They will give them lip service and read the Bible verses—and then ignore them in their daily lives—which are spent mostly in the Old Testament law where they play the daily “Did I Measure up Today” game.

      • John,

        What a post! I left evangelicalism fifteen years ago as a minister with similar labels attached that Rob has. Fortunately I learned just how attached to form I was. My ego was in full bloom. That being said the posts have signaled it is not safe to go home, if I ever really thought I could.

        My vocabulary over the last fifteen has become I do not know, contrasted with I must know (The epistemic certainty of my evangelical family of origin), you may be right (and they may be, I do not know, and no longer need to know), I love you, period.

        Bless you my friend,

        Tim

        Sent from my iPad

  95. The bulk of this article is spent impugning the motives and methods of the Bell critics who question Bell’s motives and methods, and fails to recognize any difference between thoughtful critique and “demonizing”, “vilifying” and (my favorite) “crucifying.” If the author wishes to expand the religious menu options beyond totalism and heresy, perhaps that goal would be better served by writing a different sort of article–one less polarizing and less shrill, and doesn’t descend to the same ad hominem arguments that it complains of.

  96. I think the Apostle Paul would disagree with both Rob Bell and John Pavlovitz

    Rob Bell presents a “contrary” gospel and we do him no good by placating him or trying to find the “good” in the mess of a gospel he presents

    Galatians 1:8-10
    8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

    10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[a] of Christ.

    • I read most of Rob Bell’s book but do not consider myself to be one of his followers. It is not clear to me that he was advocating an alternative gospel—unless you define every word in the New Testament as the gospel. It ain’t. I see two things that you may be missing:

      1) God is in control. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals (Charles Stanley being the worst at this) view God’s word in the scriptures as a fence that limits him. Stanley thinks of God as a vending machine. His words in the Bible limit God and corral him on our behalf. Having him trapped inside this”word fence,” gives believers an opportunity to study him closely, see what his nature consists, and then use that knowledge and his self-imposed limitations as a coin to get him to dispense a blessing. This is absurd. The thing you need to understand Joel is that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not limited by anything—not even their own words in the Bible. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, and wherever they want. That old verse about God “changeth not” refers to his personality state—not his decisions. The Bible has numerous places where God changes his mind. I think all Rob Bell is really positing is that God very well might decide to have mercy on everyone such that no one goes to Hell. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals try to avoid the notion of mercy because their hearts are taught to be rigid and hard. My Southern Baptist high school principal was a primary example. He believed in only a very narrowly and tightly defined mercy wherein maybe 1 person out of every 1000 would be shown mercy—and then only if extreme extenuating circumstances indicated that mercy was DESERVED. God’s mercy in the Bible is nothing like his view of mercy. My principal’s view of mercy was rooted more in the cavalier culture of the Old South than in the Bible.

      2) As for whether Hell exists or not, I am not sure it really matters Joel. Jesus did not come to save us from Hell. He came to save us from our sinful natures and our persistent self-imposed separation from God—to help us to know that we are not God—to reconcile us with God and reconcile all things. If Hell is real and it were to disappear from existence tonight, all mankind would still need that reconciliation and God—who is very persistent—would still be seeking it. He is saving us from ourselves—not from Hell—although if there is a Hell—I suppose you could argue that getting saved from that is an extra perk.

  97. Boy, does this article misrepresent the critics. How do we know whether Rob Bell is “wise” or “hungry for God” or “intelligent?” By what he says and what he does. If a math teacher started saying that 1+1=3, his critics would not just be upset that he didn’t “stick to the script.” They would be concerned that he was teaching something which was simply not true, something which violated his obligations as a teacher. Rather, the critics are concerned with (1) whether the conclusions are compatible with Scripture, and (2) whether the argumentation demonstrates Christian presuppositions along the way. The content of Christian teaching were just arbitrary strings of words that could just as easily have said something else. The whole “script” analogy only makes sense if Christian doctrine is an arbitrary string of words which could just as easily have said something else, and thus we shouldn’t care if someone changes it.

    I say this as someone who read Velvet Elvis and appreciated his observation that the Church should be good news even for those who don’t join it or accept its beliefs. Great observation. But buried amidst a sea of question-begging and conclusion-jumping, false analogies about how trampolines are better than walls, etc. He’s not wise. He’s just eloquent enough to bamboozle.

    • Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals play the 1 +1 =5 game all the time with science. We scientists know that the Earth is more than 5,000 years old. Most of the rest of Christendom does too. We know that 1 + 1 = 2. They insist that 1 + 1 = 5. Like Frank Schaeffer says, facts are irrelevant to them.

  98. The article starts out by saying that we Christians like to eat our own. Pavlovitz says, “our ‘go-to’ ideas are love for God and love for others”, but that we do a horrible job of showing this.

    Yes, many Christians do a horrible job at loving each other well. Especially when it comes to dealing with sin and restoration. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Restoration implies that something is corrupted and in need of healing or obviously… restoration.

    Pavlovitz later in the article says, “Oh sure, we’ll root like crazy for them to reach the masses on their way up, but once they do, we’ll as willingly and passionately go about the work of ripping them from their lofty positions; discrediting them, ridiculing them, shaming and shunning them in the process.”

    Again, I would say that we should attempt to restore brothers and sisters in a spirit of gentleness. It is a blanket statement to say that all Christians do this poorly. Christian leaders should react if Bell is preaching a false gospel, which according to God’s Word would confirm that he is. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” 2 Peter 2: 1-3 says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring destructive heresies, even denying the Master who brought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” Colossians speaks of not being taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 says, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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.”—This leads me to believe that doctrine is very, very important. Believing right and wrong things about God matters. Paul even says in Romans 16: 17-18, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve out Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”

    The previous paragraph also speaks to Pavlovitz saying Bell had a rabid army of fellow believers who hung on every word he uttered. Honestly, that scares me to death. At the end of the day, we follow Jesus. We have teachers and guides, but we always examine things through the lens of scripture. People are flawed.

    Pavlovitz goes on to say, “Rob Bells sin was that he didn’t stick to the script.” If the script is the gospel presented through scripture then I would agree with Pavlovitz completely. Again I would quote 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Timothy 4: 1-5, and Romans 16: 17-18.

    As far as Rob Bell’s view on Hell goes, the Bible gives me no reason to believe that people will not go to Hell. It would be unloving to preach that Hell were not real. Jesus (God in flesh) spoke often about this place. It would be great if Hell weren’t real, but I have no reason to think that way according to Scripture.

    Concerning the paragraph on conferences that no longer will book Bell, I have no problem. After all, if he were preaching a false gospel, why would we want him teaching in front of thousands?

    “Bell’s resurgence has come at the hands of worldwide media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who has given Bell a prominent position on her network, and provided him a new and massive platform; the kind that most Christian leaders, bloggers, and writers would give up houses, kids, and arms for, if they’re honest with themselves.”

    Giving up your kids for a massive platform would be a terrible thing. This would reveal a huge issue with the idol of influence. Also, this is not a good thing. This is a terrible thing. Oprah loves Bell’s view because it fits with what she believes. He is telling her what she wants to hear. She hates the gospel because it calls her out. The gospel calls me out every day. My natural (old man) tendency is to hate the light. But God has given me a new nature, so I love the light even though it hurts and I don’t always understand.

    Pavlovitz goes on to say, “Bell’s been maligned for softening the Gospel; for crafting a new age, feel good, bastardized version of Christianity that is theologically neutered and built for mass consumption. He’s been vilified and demonized for perverting the message of Jesus to grow his brand.”
    I agree completely with Pavlovitz on this.

    “He’s admitting the real questions that surface in the excavation of deep faith. He’s looking to separate what in this religion is of God and what is of us. He’s asking why we believe what we believe, and asking believers to do the same.”

    I think doubt is very healthy. This does not mean that I come out on the other end of doubt with my own ideas for how this thing works. Hopefully it means I come out on the other end with a better understand of why God has said what He has said. Acts 1:16 says, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”—Scripture is of God. He wrote the book.

    “The moment that anyone, however prayerful or thoughtful or earnest they may be, comes to a conclusion other than what we’ve defined as acceptable, they get kicked to the curb. As Christian leaders cling tighter and tighter to a faith tradition that seems less and less culturally relevant, they expel anyone who doesn’t check all the right boxes, who doesn’t say all the right words in all the right ways using all the right Bible verses.”

    The Bible defines what is acceptable. Not us. Like I said earlier, there should be room for believers to ask honest questions and struggle through doubt. I will doubt until the day I die. The church is supposed to look different than the culture. We have done a poor job at this by hiding in our “Christian cocoons” and not engaging the world. But this does not mean that the way Jesus and the disciples did life/discpleship was wrong or doesn’t work anymore. It means that we are the problem. After all, how are we supposed to be a light in a dark place if we look exactly like the world? The church doesn’t bend with culture. Or shouldn’t anyways.

    In one of the final paragraphs, Pavlovist speaks about Bell being a Bible geek. He basically says he knows the Word really well.—My response to this is that there are plenty of people who know the Bible backwards are forwards who are unregenerate. Think about Satan. He has to know the Bible better than anyone to be the best deceiver. He had better have the whole thing memorized if he’s going to lead people astray. Example: Genesis. “Did God actually say…”

    Making disciples is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort. Jesus chose to spend the majority of His time hanging out with just a few dudes. He taught them by example. They watched Him do ministry. They asked Him questions when they were confused. He discipled them perfectly and they still doubted. In fact, they were the first doubters right after His death. Mary, Jesus’ mother, doubted that He was who the angel, Gabriel, said He would be. His brother, James, doubted. They thought He was crazy. Peter denied Him. So, doubt is healthy. But that doesn’t mean we change the Word of God to our liking. We don’t change God and His Word to fit what we think.

    I conclude. According to Scripture, it seems that Bell has abandoned truth for something a little more palatable. It would be way easier to follow what he says than what Jesus says. Denying myself and taking up my cross daily is a really, really hard thing. Sanctification hurts. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    I really do hope that Galatians 6:1 would be true of Christians as a whole for those that are open to rebuke, reproof, and exhortation.

    The end.

    • Not quite “The End.” The mistake you make is to assume that what your Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical pastors (Is the fried chicken ready yet?) taught you at church was indeed “right doctrine.” Most of Christendom, particularly the Roman Catholics people like you so virulently hate, are not convinced that what you believe is “right doctrine” nor are they convinced that you properly understand the words of scripture when you read them. I am not convinced either—and indeed believe that a lot of your so-called “right doctrine” is really “wrong doctrine.” You can call all the rest of Christendom apostate if you like—but that does not make it so in reality because you are speaking from a stance of interpretation and belief—as am I. We are talking about faith here, and that is the nature of all faith as opposed to empirical knowing. One can posit a belief—but never know for sure.

      The old notion of “I know, that I know, that I know” is crap plain and simple in the realm of faith. You may believe. But you can never “know” as long as it is faith. I might have faith that the sun will rise on the Earth tomorrow, but I do not know that. Earth could be destroyed by a huge bolide tonight, and the sun would never rise again over the Earth. It is perhaps unlikely, but it could happen. You just never really know.

  99. What’s better “their” criticism of Rob or your criticism of “them”?

    And

    To what extent, are you confirming your argument through your criticism?

    And

    What if Rob or I asked “is Jesus God?”, would that be open for criticism?

    I am only asking questions, like Rob.

  100. What a joy it was for me to discover “Love Wins”! What a relief it was to have someone write in a book many of the same thoughts and questions I have wrestled with as I love and serve my Lord; someone who could cut away man’s part in all of it and try to get to God and just simply love as Christ lived it. I have read it over and over, marked it up, shared it, had people criticize me for reading it, read it again, and in the end, find myself feeling closer to Christ than before each reading. It is a book that makes me feel so immensely loved and challenges me to audaciously love others.

    • Amen. Very exciting to hear.

      Kathleen Woodman commented: “What a joy it was for me to discover “Love Wins”! What a relief it was to have someone write in a book many of the same thoughts and questions I have wrestled with as I love and serve my Lord; someone who could cut away man’s part in all of it and try to”

  101. Reblogged this on Kicked out of Church and commented:
    Friends, I could not have spoken this powerful truth better myself. I greatly applaud the writer here as I don’t know him or his teachings. My heart screams YES and AMEN! Duane

    • That is awesome.

      Subject: [New comment] The Continued Crucifying Of Rob Bell, And What It Says About The State Of Modern Christianity

      Bob commented: “Thank you Rob for leading me to Christ. Without you I may not have the love and family I have. Love you Bro.”

  102. OMG! I could not agree more with this amazing post! This is very true, especially these very words. “The moment that anyone, however prayerful or thoughtful or earnest they may be, comes to a conclusion other than what we’ve defined as acceptable, they get kicked to the curb”

    This is so true as I have experienced this myself when I was “awoken” from within. You WILL be asked to leave the Church FAST if you start to see something else in God’s Word other than what they tell you that you need to believe. This is changing and WILL keep changing as the true Church appears and the Lord greatly humbles the false Church at the end of this age. God bless and keep searching for him.

    Duane (www.kickedoutofchurch.com)

    • The true church? What?? So God speaking through His word means nothing to you? And if you were asked to leave fast then you were handled poorly. Doubt should be welcomed, but the church doesn’t need to adjust God’s Word to your liking.

      • Ink!!! Wrong!!! You are making the mistake of assuming that you fully understand what God’s word is saying to you. You may be reading scripture and missing the whole point of it—great and small. The scribes and pharisees did. You have too much faith in yourself and those bloated preachers with the TV anchor haircuts, horrible plum-colored suits, and a degree from the Beverly B. Beverly College of the Bible. The rest of Christendom would really prefer that they had gotten a real education at a truly reputable university.

  103. Whatever one thinks of Rob Bell, his own words have clearly shown him to a universalists. And the words of God clearly show Universalism to be a false teaching. We were warned about these things.

    “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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.”
    –2 Timothy 4:2-4

    • And If I be lifted up—I will draw ALL men unto me. I am not saying that I am a universalist, but if you look at the actual verses in the New Testament, the ones that can be used to support universalism are about as prevalent as the ones that support Calvinism. All Jesus needs to save everyone is to ordain on the last day that the Holy Trinity grants mercy to all. You will cry out: “That is not what You said, now send them all to Hell like You said You were going to do!!!”

      Then the Lord will say, “Did I not say in the scriptures that I grant mercy to whomever I wish. Did I not say that I would draw ALL men unto me.”

      Jesus already has all the scripture He needs to grant a blanket pardon if He so chooses.

      I guess the question I would like to ask some related questions:

      “Why are all of you Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals so insistent that there must be a Hell and that you will really be disappointed if God were to grant a blanket pardon of all mankind? What’s the matter? Are you afraid you are not going to get adequate personal revenge on all the people who have disagreed with you and denounced your questionable “right doctrine” over the last 125 years? It sounds to me like you desperately need some people to go to Hell.

      • I am with you Dover because that is what I, too, see in the Word. I have been revealed the scriptures that I think you see too. The reality that is “hell” is really “God’s Holy” refining fire that will purify and refine all of us causing us to repent. Many of us are in hell right now being “salted” and “purified” in the trials and tribulations. All will be “salted” with Fire! Mark 9:49. God’s fire is not destructive like natural fire, it is purifying and refining causing repentance. It’s like “fullers soap”! Malachi 3:2. Study the original word translated as “fire” and see it means to “purify” and make that thing like God himself.

        True faith comes from WITHIN us and it is the very faith of God himself given through his Son Jesus Christ inside us. Jesus is the AUTHOR and PERFECTOR of our faith from the inside outwardly. His life literally consumes our outer natural man through what we call “death” but it is really true LIFE appearing.

        Natural man teaches a natural gospel of the natural outer man speaking of a weak and puny God who is divided and always reacting. Scripture teaches otherwise. Man’s external, natural will and (natural, human) faith play NO part in the true salvation that occurs from WITHIN! (Sorry I am so excited. This is very GOOD STUFF) If he (natural, outer man) disagrees with God, he will get more of the refining and “salting” fire of “life” under law which is called “Hell” until he finally dies enough to allow God’s will to occur along with new birth from within. Those of us who are LUCKY were sent through this HELL in this age while in the natural body. We then believed. All will be sent through the hell via trials and tribulations. All will believe. It’s only a matter of when and what age. 1 Cor 15:22-23 That is God’s will and he WILL do it. 2 Peter 3:7 He does it from inside out via Christ not from “us” on the outside in. “We” on the outside just have to die to see him to live. Rom 9;16, John 1:13, Hebrews 12:2. See, the biggest deception we have been sold is that faith comes from us. It doesn’t. It is the faith of Jesus given inside us even when we are spiritually dead. After all, he is the “author” of our faith is he not? What is an author? Is he not the one who originated and caused the work? Yes! It is actually HIM saving and living through us. We just die with him in order to live. God bless.

  104. Mr. Pavlovitz,

    I’m deeply troubled by Rob Bell. He is deeply intelligent, passionate, eloquent, likeable, and thoughtful. You espouse his biblical scholarship, but any honest listener can discern that he has turned himself into an authority against a biblical/gospel worldview.

    The common response from those who esteem him is that we simply need to love him and all people like Jesus does. Of course that means that we can’t make any negative assessments of him or his teachings. On top of that we can’t question a Muslim or Islamic teachings, that would not be loving according to this community.

    Jesus brings definition to love, and he commended the Ephesians for testing apostles “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” in Revelation 2:3.

    Can you honestly say that you believe that Rob Bell is raising up under biblical/Holy Spirit inspiration and defining God according to his own liking and in blatant contradiction to the scriptures?

  105. What drivel.

    Count me among the staunch critics of Rob Bell and deluded bloggers like this one. (Matt. 15:12, “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?'”)

    1 Thess. 2:11-12, “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

    • The Pharisees thought they had the market cornered on Truth. They were well-versed in the Scriptures. They were confident that they were preserving the faith, defending God, and justified in accusing Jesus of heresy. They also completely missed God in their midst, and received the harshest critiques from Jesus for their hypocrisy and hubris.

      You can have your certainty and your moral high ground, but it’s also pretty shaky ground, if you want to go by The Bible and what we see throughout all four gospels.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • John, as I have followed this thread, I continue to marvel at the humble and loving spirit in which you respond graciously to even your harshest critics. I don’t think I could do so. Thank you.

      • Interesting comment, John. Allow me to slightly alter your own comment (above) and perhaps you will understand the irony of your article and your perspective:

        ‘The pro-Bell bloggers thought they had the market cornered on Truth. They were well-versed in the Scriptures. They were confident that they were preserving the faith, defending God, and justified in accusing the Bell critics of heresy. They also completely missed God in their midst, and received the harshest critiques from Jesus and His truth for their hypocrisy and hubris. You can have your certainty and your moral high ground, bu