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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

  1. Just a question here. I would like to know why the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical posters are coming here to John’s blog to make comments? Is your purpose to save John Pavlovitz from his sins.? Is your purpose to denounce John Pavlovitz and Rob Bell as false teachers of a false gospel so no one will endanger their souls by visiting this blog in the future? Is your purpose to prevent readers of the blog from believing false things—by countering what you regard as falsehoods—with your truthful retorts?

    My purpose in visiting this blog is five-fold:

    1) Denounce Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism as belief systems by pointing out their weaknesses, excesses, and folly—while lifting up the rest of Christendom here in the United States and around the world.

    2) Support the national process already underway of emptying the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches so their beliefs systems can no longer harm and destroy the spiritual lives of the people who become mired down and ensnared there.

    3) Prevent general spiritual searchers and questioners from becoming Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals—and joining their churches.

    4) Prevent Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals from taking control of government bodies at all levels (Federal, State, and Local) and using the obtained power of government to impose their belief system on people who do not subscribe to it and prevent them from dictating modes of required public and private behavior to people who do not subscribe to them.

    5) Not care one flip about being internally contradictive, inconsistent, incongruent, or downright strange in what I have to say because I do not go to blogs to debate, form a consistent storyline, or any other such crap. I visit blogs to state my opinions, inform the public, and influence people who lie outside of the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical realms. If a rare Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical sees some truth in what I have to say and it influences them for the better—and makes them defect to better spiritual territory—then fine. My thoughts and opinions are not designed to change the hearts and minds of hardcore Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals—because I learned long ago that their hearts are too cold and hard to ever change. Talking to them and reasoning with them is like talking to a fencepost—not because they are right in what they believe—but because they are deluded, blind, and stubborn in their blindness. They have become the people Jesus bristled at in Matthew 23.

    I have been at this work virtually every day for about 15 years from one end of the Internet to the other and all over the nation—and under a number of different “handle names” and my own name. During that time, I have caused enormous damage and disruption to the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical movements at the personal level with individual people and with people collectively. Some of my most successful work has been in political advocacy roles that helped to achieve the following results:

    A) The defeat of intelligent design creationism in the Federal District Court in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2005—and the electoral defeat of the fundie school board members who tried to impose their peculiar faith by law on Dover school children in their science classes.

    B) Helped in achieving the electoral defeat of the anti-evolution “fundie” faction on the Kansas State Board of Education—preventing them from imposing their religious beliefs on Kansas science students in public schools.

    C) Worked with local Texas activists and organizations to unravel the plans of the Texas State Board of Education to inject Christian fundamentalism into the science curriculum of Texas public schools and to prevent the introduction of false history and social studies concepts and ideas into the social science classes of Texas students—and kept Christian homeschool-textbook-like crap out of Texas public school textbooks.

    D) Strongly influenced a local public school superintendent into cutting a deal with the ACLU and Federal District Court wherein the public school system agreed to cease and desist from a long-standing and wide range of fundie religious activities during school hours—thus ending those activities forever under the threat of a judicial contempt of court order that would put administrators and teachers in jail if they ever allowed a local Southern Baptist Convention megachurch or any other entity to insert such fundie activities into the local schools again.

    E) All sorts of other things here and there to undermine Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical influence in American society at large.

    FINAL POINT: I strongly support and adhere to a Jesus-centered Christian faith rather than a Bible-centered Christian faith—as Jesus and the Holy Spirit lead me to understand it.

    My gift off the Holy Spirit is the power of spiritual discernment and prophecy—and the Holy Spirit has led me to understand that He is angry at the activities of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism over the past 125 years (and particularly over the past 40 years), especially in allowing a portion of his universal church to go whoring after and be bedded down like a cheap harlot by crooked Republican politicians who hate those Jesus called “the least of these.” There is also great unhappiness that these same crooked politicians took over the Southern Baptist Convention and made her GOP Whore No. 1.

    My previous three prophecies came true just as they were foretold to me. In those prophecies the GOP/fundie bundles of sticks were broken across the knee of Jesus like breaking kindling. Each time the bundle of sticks was shattered into a million splinters, and the splinters fell into a random pile on the ground.

    The most recent 2014 prophecy was different, and I do not understand it. In this prophecy, Jesus broke the GOP/fundie bundle of sticks across his knee again, and the bundle again shattered into a million splinters. This time the splinters fell to the ground at random once again—but something unexpected started happening. Individual splinters started catching on fire here and there—and they were totally consumed by the fire. I have no idea what this means. Only the passage of time will tell.

    Outside of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, I support the ministries of most other Christian denominations here in the United States and around the world. In my old Southern Baptist Convention church, I used to sit in my pew and listen to the pastor rail viciously against the Roman Catholic Church and call it a worldwide system of religious evil. Actually, the Roman Catholic Church does a great deal of good in this world on behalf of Jesus. I may not agree with all that she does or believes—but I do believe Jesus Christ approves of the Roman Catholic Church as much as any other church.

    • Because there was an emergency meeting convened by their pastor instructing them to troll in the name of Jesus.

      • Right. There WAS an emergency meeting. I see this all the time on-line. They troll for Christian fundamentalism as an “ism”—not Jesus. They might talk Jesus, read Jesus, or even preach Jesus—but they are often just going through the motions and paying lip service. Their real God is the Bible and their peculiar late 19th century belief system. The scriptures say “there is one name that is above every name.” It is talking about Jesus. Every fundie I have ever presented this to says the same thing—consistently:

        “No!!! That’s wrong!!! There is one name that is above every other name, and that name is “Bible,”

        Silly gooses!!!

    • I am an open-minded Christian fundamentalist conservative evangelical (yes, we do exist).
      I agree, we should not bash other Christians, reprimanding them for sin issues is helpful, but ungraciously tearing them down is wrong.

      • Harry Truman quote:

        The title comes from an incident that took place during the 1948 Presidential election campaign. In Bremerton, Washington, Truman delivered a speech attacking the Republicans. During the speech a supporter yelled out “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”. Truman replied, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”

      • P.S. There is no such thing as an open-minded Christian fundamentalist-conservative evangelical—not in my experience—and I have had dealings with numerous ones in real life and on-line.

  2. Well, at the end of the day, it boils down to power, isn’t it?

    Think of the people who are so against Rob Bell, either they are pastors (men of power, or want power) and so called “Christians” (who because of personality flaws feel the need to bully others into their will).

    So the words hell and heretic and blasphemy are all words used to censor someone– in the Dark Ages, censorship came by way of torture, execution, excommunication, etc.

    Well since Christianity does not possess the same power as say when Luther or Calvin were trying to control the Protestant movement, or say when the Church newly sanctioned by Constantine were trying to consolidate its dogma,

    All that is left of the Christian groups is the power of excommunication, and public ridicule.

    Just keep in mind that without the fear of Hell, lesser Christians lose that power to bully and censor. This is the reason, they are fighting tooth and nail for Hell,

    they need Hell, they want Hell, otherwise they are without Power.

    They refuse to conceptualize the Love that Jesus spoke of.

    They are blinded by Satan.

  3. I liked your article, but Mars Hill did not kick him out. He was the main reason most of us were going there and we lost a huge number of people after he left. He moved to California because he was offered to host a show, I presume the one that led to his deal with Oprah.

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  5. Galatians 1: 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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[b] of Christ.

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  7. Emily, this is not a “theory” as you called it but a doctrine of faith, more specifically, it is called the doctrine of justification by faith. Ref: http://www.gotquestions.org/justification-by-faith.html

    I also mentioned the Romans Road which is a series of Bible versus, mainly from the book of Romans, whereby the steps of self realization become evident.

    Romans Road:

    Romans 3:23 – we are all sinners, no exceptions, and we all need salvation, not just love; remember that the 10 commandments are not a list of rules to keep but a “standard” which will be used to measure your righteousness, of which no one will be good enough by their own accord, a single lie makes you a liar etc.

    Romans 5:8 -9 – God demonstrated His love towards us while we were yet sinners (God’s love is not dependent upon our condition but His love alone), we don’t have to clean up to get saved either, we come as we are – sanctification comes after salvation; justification (verse 9)

    Romans 6:23 – the wages of our sin is death (spiritual death – hell) but the gift of God is eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ (remember that all sin is not confessed away but that all throughout the OT the only thing that was payment for sin was innocent blood (animal sacrifices which only took the place of the real sacrifice, Jesus Christ) (ex. Adam and Eve – God kills two innocent animals and uses their hides to make them coverings)

    At this point in this process the person who is being talked to should know that they are already condemned with no hope of ever gaining a chance at entering heaven because they don’t have what it takes to pay (not just confess) for their own sins, only after this is achieved can the true Gospel be given with the correct response by the sinner.

    Romans 10:9-10
    9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

    10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    So then how does this all work? By acknowledging that Jesus himself was the payment for all your sins, by his death, burial, and resurrection (God’s stamp of approval, authority)

    This is where justification takes place – you, by your own free will, recognize that you have made a mess of your life and don’t have the ability to live it like it should be lived and in wanting to have peace, victory, and the things of God in your life, you give your sins to Jesus and He then imparts his righteousness onto you, God now sees you not as a sinner but completely righteous, just like Jesus.

    that’s grace….getting something you don’t deserve absolutely and completely free

    Romans 10:13
    13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Rev. 3:20
    20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

    An invitation to a one on one relationship with Jesus himself. Note that he does not enter without you opening the door as it is completely your decision to do so.

    A sinners prayer is said that in which you recognize that you are a sinner, fully deserving of hell, that you are repentant of your sins and no longer want to be as you once were. You state that you believe that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried and rose again on the third day. You ask God to forgive you and that Jesus himself would come into your heart to change you. You thank God for his mercy and his grace and love.

    What God asks for in return, since this is a relationship, is that you show him love by obeying his commandments. John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. Note: those that are born again are not immune from practicing sin and its effects, as they still have free choice, but should strive to practice love more perfectly as a sign of their love towards God and Jesus. Some get it better than others.

    Ref: Ephesians 2:8-9
    8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

    9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Just in case anyone says it is done by works of man alone…

    There are many great references online that support this process. Google is your friend.

    • Emily. You can do what Edward says—or you can join a church like the United Methodist Church or Roman Catholic Church or Episcopal Church, or Church of England if you live in the UK—and go through their in-church confirmation processes. A nice nonevangelical Lutheran Church might work well too. Maybe you could join the Eastern Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, or Russian Orthodox Church and go through their confirmation processes.

      Edward thinks there is only one way to do this. Christian fundamentalism showed up for the first time in the late 1800s in the United States. For the previous 1,800 years of human existence after the resurrection of Jesus, there were no “true” Christians anywhere on the planet. Everyone was lost and did not know how to get to heaven—as if getting to heaven were the goal. Then a small group of unhappy men who did not like German theology got together in the Great Lakes region of the United States and defined the real Christian faith for the first time in 1,800 years. From that moment forward, everyone had to do exactly as they prescribed in order to get to heaven. Imagine that Emily. Jesus abandoned his church for 1,800 years—90 percent of the time that has elapsed since 33 A.D.—and Edward found it again. Wow!!!!!

      • Edward, Emily, dover, et al…

        Romans is a great letter to those Paul didn’t know directly, how the Romans received Paul’s Christology, we’ll never truly know, but the Latin Church won a few centuries after that letter to the Romans, and Paul’s doctrine became the norm.

        As for Ephesians, it is not one of Paul’s.

        But it should be very suspicious to note that the justifications for this salvation process comes from Paul’s or forgeries of Paul.

        Why can’t we go straight to the Gospels, and what Jesus himself stated to his disciples, why cannot his words by our guide here?

        There’s only 1 place in the Gospel where Jesus was asked how one goes to heaven,

        And his response was very clear, you go to heaven by letting go of things and serving others.

        It’s a tough road. When Jesus instructed his disciples to go and spread his message throughout Galilee, he had only one instruction, to leave everything behind, not have things.

        So the point being, any discussion of the salvation process has to include Jesus’ own instructions and then weigh that out with Paul’s simplification by belief alone, and then realize that Paul wasn’t even a disciple, so one has to wonder what Jesus’ disciples actually preached.

        Look around you, if you have too much, chances are you are not going to heaven.

  8. John P.- Thank you so much for this article. It has made a real difference in my life.

    Several years ago, when Love Wins came out, I read a whole lot of material condemning it, so I decided to ignore it and Rob Bell.

    Two years ago, I moved and encountered a church, The Sanctuary in Denver, CO, with an incredible message- God is always better than you thought and the Love of Jesus is deeper than you know.

    Pastor Peter Hiett teaches that God loves everybody eternally and has been preaching this for decades. For two years I searched for others with the same message and found none until I found your article and then downloaded Love Wins and read it the same day. Rob Bell and Peter Hiett seem to be substantially congruent, I would note that they are both Fuller graduates.

    Like Rob Bell, Peter Hiett has “suffered for his sins”. After becoming bolder in his preaching, he was dismissed from his Senior Pastor position at the church he had lead to become one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in the country.

    So I find it very interesting that teaching the possibility that God is what He says He is led to a similar outcome for both Rob and Peter.

    I have already now read a second Rob Bell book and look forward to the TV show and more reading. I will also put your blog on my list of favorites.

    Hopefully this message that God Loves All can become a movement rather than just a man (or two).

    Thanks again!

  9. Rob Bell isn’t a heretic because he “went off script”. He is a heretic because his teachings are false and he is leading people to hell. It is not wrong to call false teachers out. The Bible tells us to do so. Also, saying that Rob has some correct statements and therefore we shouldn’t label him a heretic is incorrect as well. We see Biblical evidence that Satan uses partial truth to deceive. We should call them as they are and Rob Bell is a heretic.

    • And how do you know who the false teacher is? Or the heretic? Or the blasphemer? You are playing the Arbitrary game, one that has been played before in the fall of the Roman empire, and throughout the Dark Ages.

      • Question Paul’s Letters…
        So then if all we have to do is sell our stuff to get to heaven? Seems too simplistic. Then why did Jesus even have to come down to earth to tell us that? Would not just a prophet have done that job? There are plenty of people then and now that have almost nothing. What is the mark of delineation? You make a great point but aren’t you forgetting the initial reason that we as humans lost fellowship with God in the first place? Sin? If sin is so trivial why did God do all that he did in the OT? What about the commission that Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 18:16-20? No doubt that Jesus taught his disciples how to treat others in a way that was so revolutionary that it stood out. And that’s great that he did that, and something that we should do as well. But if that’s all it is, why do we even need the OT then?

      • Edward,

        Those questions are the point, brother. Sin is the material.

        Paul and his contingent of non-Jewish Christians, created the NT,

        Jesus and his Jewish disciples were content within the OT, they just didn’t like the Pharisees and Sadducees, didn’t mention the Essenes, but more than likely John & Jesus were connected to the Essenes.

        Jesus’ beef with the Pharisees was in their rigidity in application of Jewish laws, John & Jesus’ anti-materialistic outlook came from the corruption of the Sadducees as well as the rest of the Jews still in Judea (most didn’t return after the fall of the 1st Temple).

        Your questions are great and I hope others chime in to answer them. My personal beef with Christians (and I am one) is simple and in your quote below:

        “So then if all we have to do is sell our stuff to get to heaven? Seems too simplistic.”

        If it is indeed so SIMPLE, why is this the hardest mandate (from Jesus himself) for Christians to follow?

        It’s not the simple act of getting rid of stuff, BUT of what happens to you when you do get rid of your stuff, and serve people–humility, introspection, love, surrender, etc.

    • Jared

      The challenge I see and I thought (although I am forgetting the point) is that when we disagree we need to love each other and disagreement does not necessitate calling people false teachers, apostates or heretics. As is clear from the posts one man or woman’s heretic is another’s hero and leader to Christ. It is not a zero sum universe. I hope God smiles at all His “little heretics” (He could make that call) running around doing the best they can. Bless you in your journey.

  10. The problem is not Rob Bell “asking the questions” it is him giving the answers. He is selling books and videos touting an answer that is not Christian. He presents himself as a teacher not a seeker. It is interesting how so many people, including the poster of the article say they have not read much of Bell or know what he teaches yet they are sure he is a wronged Christian. I would say he falls under Peter’s admonition 2 Peter 2:1-22 ESV 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. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.

    • How do we know you are not the one spouting false words? What’s the standard and what’s process of comparison?

      Arbitrary?

  11. I find this article interesting. Especially since there were plenty of people who were cautioning about this man from early on. People who listened intently & dissected his teachings & the whole teen videos he put out – our church was one such church and after getting them and reviewing them we decided not to use them as we saw the glaring problems with them. The greater ‘church’, not familiar with their Bibles, did indeed follow him like rabid people (from the article). Those who were familiar with their Bibles though saw the problems – we were shunned then as we are now being again in articles like these. Heresy is nothing new, nor is it a thing of the past as Rob Bell proves by his teaching, couched as intellectual & though provoking (which by the way I liken to the type of Satans ‘intellectual & thought provoking questioning of Jesus – for Satan also questioned the veracity of Gods Word). Great job making him sound like an innocent victim of actual Christians though. Funny thing is, a Christian doesn’t believe the things he does, yet in todays lukewarm (at best) brand of Christendom, Rob Bell is seen as a sound teacher. What has happened to discernment? What has happen to people using Gods Word as the standard instead of how man pleasing someone is? People should read in their Bibles how wolves were called out and perhaps try obeying Gods Word in doing that instead of giving them an applause. Bell & Oprah are well matched & I’ve no doubt they will have resounding success in their new ventures – the World will eat it up and call it good! The wheat are being separated from the chaff and those who stand by Gods Word will be shunned and the false church is leading the charge against the sheep.

  12. I have to disagree. The bible is the foundation for many Christians. There are major tenets of the faith that are not up for debate. The trinity for example. It is kind of silly to criticize people for standing up for their beliefs and the teachings of the bible.

    Jesus talks about Hell far more than Heaven in the bible. He doesn’t talk about it like it’s not a real place. You have to reject a lot of scripture to arrive at Rob Bell’s position. Any time anyone in the church begins to teach heresy, and honestly that is what it is, that person has to be identified as a false teacher. I’m not saying don’t love Rob Bell. I’m not even saying I’m 100% sure he is not saved. I am saying that I wouldn’t want him teaching in any church I attended.

    • Do you remember how that Trinity debate was won, thus becoming dogma?

      Surely not by virtue of reason, the Cappadocian three, came up with the reasoning, borrowed from Greek philosophers, but

      their rationalization came only after mob justice, assassinations, intrigue, politicking with Byzantine rulers and their wives. So the Trinity is still questionable.

      As for Hell, read Jesus’ descriptions again, and try to mend that with the process or salvation and permanence/eternity.

      And ask if Jesus’ Hell fits Paul’s notion or if it fits more with Jewish notions.

    • You mean that for many Christians, their “unique understanding” of the Bible (or the one their fat-bellied preacher drops on their platter) is the foundation for their faith. One person’s understanding of the Bible vs. another person’s understanding of the Bible is always up for debate for people who like to debate. It is not what the Bible says. It is what “you think” it says after you filter the words through your brain.

      As I have said before, I am not a Rob Bell follower or supporter, but in response to your comment: You have to “selectively ignore a lot of scripture” to ignore all that Rob Bell has to say. Just sayin’.

  13. Pingback: Rob Bell Isn’t Being Crucified By Anyone! Perhaps evangelicals didn’t reject him. He rejected us!

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  15. excellent excellent article. just yesterday somebody asked me about this – i’m not so good with words, but this is exactly how i feel and think about it. well done – thank you !!

  16. Pingback: Church History, Modern Day Councils, and Why it is Still Okay to Call Rob Bell a Heretic | Millennial Christianity

  17. Okay. Those 478 comments have been a good overall discussion on Rob Bell and related matters. It is Christmas time, and I have Christmas-related things to do—so I am out of here.

    On behalf of the entire mainline Christian community here at home and around the world—including our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Russian Orthodox Church—and all of the bruised and abused evangelical church groups such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other former Southern Baptist Convention groups, I would like to leave all of you Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals with two important video thoughts to ponder.

    One is from one of the greatest Christians who ever lived–a man the modern Religious Right and their rabid fundie church supporters would crucify on magazine pages and in the religious broadcast media if he were alive today. His name was Charles Dickens—and he knew people like most of you well—and he wrote books about the cold-hearted results of your indifference to the plight of your fellow man. The other video has a message about the future of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism in the United States:

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Reblogged this on zoned-out-for-Jesus and commented:
    Brilliant. I’ve been watching Rob Bell sermons for a while now and I have come to all of the same conclusions he has not by his teaching but because we both ask questions. If we can’t ask questions in church about what God is really saying to His people, then let’s not even bother going to church. If He is a good Father, then ask away. His intriguing and confounding answers are good substance for sermons. Rob Bell presents this. Let’s support each other in the church and let the Father “take out” those who are truly sheep in wolves clothes. He just told us to avoid them not to murder them. If Rob Bell was truly a villain (which he is not), then we should just ignore him and not give him the attention.

    • Nick, see reply on December 15 at 10:08. It is a great oversimplification to say that Bell is merely asking questions. In Love Wins he teaches on subjects as core as the gospel and has stated with emphasis that he wants to be “very clear” about his view.

  19. There needs to be more Bells and not Olsteens, instead of being concerned about Rob Bell’s rise in popularity, we should be all concerned of “pastors” like Olsteen.

  20. You say: “Jesus tells people to repent, which only means to turn. He doesn’t say that this turning comes with a salvation award.”

    Mark says: “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

    Is there no correspondence between salvation and remission of sins?

    μετάνοια metanoia – meta = change; noia = mind, thought

    Repentance means to change our minds about what the Law reveals, that we are sinners, and about what the Gospel reveals, that God for Jesus’ sake forgives sin.

    True, those formulaic, man-made procedures are not taught in Scripture, but neither is the agnostic, designer religion you described.

  21. Sadly enough, all this talk of godlessness and theological deviations from Christ is largely academical, and at best philosophy. Christianity, that is the one that Christ founded by His precious blood, is a spiritual matter – devoid of flesh and blood. It is not a mental process, neither is it a political movement. Christianity is not a school of thought neither is it a club even as this writer dared to suggest.

    Christianity, that is the Christ Christianity, even the body of Christ, is all about Christ and about His finished work on Calvary. We that know Him call it the mystery of godliness. It is not a mental process like atheism and the likes of it, neither is it a religious matter such as Islam, Buddhism, etc. The Christ Christianity is not essentially about what we practice, it is much more about who we are.

    The Christ Christianity is life – and unquestionably the only life available to mankind. Whoever does not have Christ is dead even while still living. This is the mystery of Christianity and of our Christ. Those that are truly in Christ are no longer of this world even though they still dwell here in the flesh. Those that are truly in Christ are as pilgrims on earth – they are the ambassadors of Christ on earth – and they have little or no business with the pleasures and pursuits of this life. This is true Christianity in the first place.

    The writer of this article has done well – but only to the extent that he has helped us to understand the inner workings of the mind of any man or woman who seeks to question the unquestionable. Yes, when a man or woman begins to question the words and commandments of the One Who created him or her, that man or that woman is involved in much spiritual and mental turmoil. And when these mental and spiritual traumas are expressed in words, they tend to create a “new thing”. And no doubt the world is after new things.

    When believing folks suddenly begin to walk in unbelief, we are bound to witness reactions, both spiritual and physical. Spiritual, because God will begin to deal with that man or woman beyond what any physical eye can see. Physical because those who truly love Christ and His appearing will openly react to the sudden deviation from the truth. More often than not, the reaction of most believing folks to such unexpected manifestations of ungodliness is to try to protect their faith, and in so doing they often slip into criticism. And there is nothing that the world enjoys as to see Christians fighting one another in the public arena!

    The truth about this matter is that folks who have found God in the past, trusted in Him, allowed themselves to be extensively used by Him – and who suddenly questions what they had believed, are often welcomed by the world with open arms. It is like a man or woman returning to his or her old vomit. That man or that woman had vomited the world and all its filth and had embraced Christ. It is therefore a thing of great excitement when such folks return to the world – to their vomits!

    The world in their best of intellectual and scientific wisdom cannot access God. If they can then they would not have crucified Jesus Christ Who is the Author of wisdom and all knowledge – even the very prince of Life. If the wisdom of the world is anything to be trusted, then Christ would have been with us up till today even in the flesh. But out of their fleshly wisdom the world killed the Author of life, and in His place chose death and destruction. And in the midst of this death and destruction men and women of this life struggle to find “happiness” and “joy” in perishable things. The world without Christ is a world at war with itself.

    Therefore, true believers in Christ must not be surprised when one of us is deceived by satan to question those very things that hitherto kept him or her alive spiritually. We must be aware that the world would open their arms to welcome a falling Christian with pump and pageantry. Because he or she has returned to their fold. And he must have returned with something they cannot understand – he or she must have returned with “more ideas” about God and about existence.Yes, that erring man or woman must have returned with answers to many questions that man cannot answer without God.

    For those of us who criticize fallen Christians, my advise is that they should allow God to finish His work in that man or in that woman. No living can fight for our God. God knows how and when to perfect His work in the life of any man or woman. Our duty as those who still walk with God is to continue in prayer- not only for the world in general, but particularly for those who were among us but whom satan and the prince of this world have stolen from us. I believe I have the mind of Christ.

    • “I believe I have the mind of Christ.”

      I irony here is that everyone else purporting themselves as spokesman for Jesus and God believe the same.

      Starting with Paul, all the way to Rev. Sharpton, to Rob Bell, to Olsteen today.

      The main caveat should be when someone thinks they know Christ, beware!

      When Jesus said to get rid of your stuff and serve others, and you meet one of his self-appointed spokesman driving a BMW or enjoying luxurious living, chances are he doesn’t “have the mind of Christ”.

  22. Pingback: Sorry Rob, It’s Not Personal | Stephen McAlpine

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