Rob Bell Quotes

This is from Carson T. Clark, and makes for some fun reading:

I know it can be hard to believe that such a perspective exists, but when it comes to Rob Bell I’m neither an ardent supporter nor an impassioned critic. I’m a hardlining moderate as per usual. All of that having been said, here are my Top 10 Favorite Rob Bell quotes:33.I’ve tried to set this up in a “Bellian” manner. I hope his fans will appreciate the nod to both his content and style.


“The problem… is that the phrase ‘personal relationship’ is found nowhere in the Bible.”


“‘Christian’ makes a poor adjective.”


“The really warped thing is when the church is where secrets are kept and not unloaded.”


“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”


“I’ve heard pastors answer, ‘[Heaven] will be unlike anything we can comprehend, like a church service that goes on forever,’ causing some to think, ‘That sounds more like hell.’”


“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.

This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”


“But sometimes those individuals’ rejection of church and the Christian faith they were presented with as the only possible interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus may in fact be a sign of spiritual health. They may be resisting behaviors, interpretations, and attitudes that should be rejected. Perhaps they simply came to the point where they refused to accept the very sorts of things that Jesus would refuse to accept.”


“Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death.”


“Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god, either.”


“The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick.”

"Chris--Yes, that is what John Crowder says. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are "not the ..."

Universalism and “The Devil’s Redemption”
"Even if Adam as literary is the most valid hermeneutic, the problem of sin/evil in ..."

Adam and the Blue Parakeet (RJS)
"It is definitely a Blue Parakeet "Aha!" moment when one recognizes that Genesis 2-3 makes ..."

Adam and the Blue Parakeet (RJS)
"Hi RJS and Scot,I appreciate Scot's view and I was thinking about William Klein's excellent ..."

Adam and the Blue Parakeet (RJS)

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bob

    Kudos. All good.

  • Gotta say, I’m a fan of Bell. He’s like that guy in the classroom that gets in trouble for saying what a lot of other people are thinking.

  • Josh T.

    The second to last quote (under “Reorientation” about a god he and atheists both don’t believe in) sounds like something Rob took directly from NT Wright.

  • Steve Billingsley

    The last quote is a bit ironic. The Nooma videos (many of them are quite good, BTW) – are, among other things, very slick marketing.

  • DRT

    I have thought a lot about the last quote on marketing, and something has always bothered me about this. I think what I believe is that Paul did do sales (gospeling), but not marketing.

  • CGC

    Hi DRT,
    I quess it depends on what you mean by gospeling? I remember when I bought a wedding ring for my finance many years ago, the lady knew I was a preacher and said, “I sell rings and you sell Jesus.” I tried to explain to her that witnessing for Jesus is not the same as advertising and my sharing my testimony about Jesus was not the same thing as trying to “make a sell” for some kind of profit. She did not have a clue what I was talking about! Oh well!

  • CGC

    Oops, just switch “sell” for “sale” 🙂

  • DRT

    Steve Billingsley, that is where I am making the distinction between marketing and sales. Marketing involves dissecting the audience and coming up with targets and populations and offers that are available (the Price, Product, Place and Promotion). I consider the nooma vids to be sales.

  • MatthewS

    “The really warped thing is when the church is where secrets are kept and not unloaded.”

    I’m currently working through “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”. That quote accords well. It’s true for both the leadership and the members at large.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Great to see so many folks in one place who are not afraid of Rob Bell. Beyond giving too much encouragement to the un-elect, I never could see what all the fuss was about.  🙂

    A related thought (as related as my non-sequiturs get). Has anyone seen any bit of literature on God laughing? – serious study or otherwise. I’m quite certain that he has a great sense of humour (just look at us). Wouldn’t it be great to get a glimpse of his collection of funny stories?

  • DRT

    Bev, to be trite, just look here

  • AHH

    Bev, there is a book by Conrad Hyers called “And God Created Laughter: The Bible as Divine Comedy”. I haven’t read it, but Hyers’ book on a mostly unrelated topic, called “The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science”, is very good.

  • Bev Mitchell


    Very good try. I’ll raise you this. Not bad for a snail’s cousin eh?


    Many thanks. I’ll look it up.

  • CGC

    Hi Bev,
    Here is a book deep in laughter and theology. It is called “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by James Martin.

  • Bev Mitchell

    This is great. Next time I go book shopping I’ll come here first!

  • Bev Mitchell

    While we are doing biology, here is another example with theological implications.

    Polydnavirus (Poly DNA virus)

    The deal here is that the female parasitic wasp of a caterpillar carries with it a polydnavirus to infect its host when she lays an egg inside it. The viral DNA is incorporated into the DNA of the host caterpillar where it prevents the caterpillar’s blood cells from encapsulating and killing the parasite. Thus the main immune defense of the caterpillar is taken out of action and the newly hatched parasite larva is free to develop inside the caterpillar. Darwin didn’t know this when he freaked out over what parasites do to caterpillars. This is life on earth. Stories like this, while not funny, are serious cautionary tales for those who want to make a list of bad (sinful) and good (not sinful) features of nature. We probably need a better theology of what “fallen” means. Rob Bell’s emphasis on how we can respond to God’s love is a step in the right direction.

    A large collection of visual data on polydnavirus appears here:

  • Re: Torture comments. And some of those same pastors making the comments believe they’ll be preaching. 😀

  • Isaac Larson

    These are great!

  • Re. #10, the conclusion of “Orthodoxy” by GK Chesterton, “There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”

  • Rob

    DRT #8,
    “Marketing involves dissecting the audience and coming up with targets and populations and offers that are available (the Price, Product, Place and Promotion).”

    This made me think of Paul’s line, “I have become all things to all people so that I might win some.” And when he used the “to the unknown God” bit in Acts. Interesting definition, anyway. Maybe Paul was the master marketer of the Gospel.

  • JoanieD

    Count me in as one of the Rob Bell “fans.”

  • I credit Rob [why does the iPhone always turn “Rob” into “Ron”??] Bell with giving me “ears to hear.” I read “Love Wins” mostly to see how much I disagreed with it. As I listened (audiobook is read by Bell himself and highly recommended) he somehow made it safe, and even brave, to allow myself to think “heretical” thoughts and ask “heretical” questions. At the end I still wasn’t sure I agreed, but sensed that there was more context that I was unaware of. I listened to Velvet Elvis (Awesome) and his “the Gods Aren’t Angry” tour audio (REALLY Awesome). From there I started reading all sorts of “liberals” I used to think I disagreed with. I even started listening to Athiest podcasts because I wanted to understand where they were coming from. The funny thing is, the more I listened and read, the more I allowed myself to “unknow”, the more I began to love people and God.

    Rob Bell made everyone my neighbor and taught me to understand people rather than agree or disagree with them.

    So, yeah… I’m a fan. : )

  • JoanieD

    Nate W writes, “Rob Bell made everyone my neighbor and taught me to understand people rather than agree or disagree with them.”

    I like that, Nate. I like your entire comment.

  • I just blogged about a passage in Rob Bell’s book, “Sex God”. I still really admire him, too. I think God really speaks through him… not that everyone God speaks through is perfect by any means!!! (The Old Testament, especially, is full of imperfect prophets).

  • I heard him say in a sermon once, “There’s been a lot discussion on who wrote Hebrews, and whoever it was, she was smart.”

  • For another great book on God’s mirth, read “Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy, and Fairy Tale” by Frederick Buechner. It’s very short ( right around 100 pages) but overflowing with insight and wisdom.

  • Meri

    Nate, I can relate to your comment. I’ve had a similar experience. Rob Bell and Andrew Marin have both helped me let go of pre-existing ideas (aka mental ruts.). I’m currently reading How (Not) to Read the Bible by Peter Rollins — another guy who things inside out. The Bible is so much more meaningful and relevant to me now that I know I can question its content without losing faith in it, or God.

    I think some of the hoopla about Bell comes out of a “jump on the band wagon” mentality we tend to have, whereby we want to fully agree with the the authors and speakers we like. Bell is great at asking questions, but not so great at giving answers — deliberately so. Bell simply wants us to think about it. And that’s okay.

  • I have not read Bell, but I love the quote under “Blinders”. Really hits the right note there.

  • Meri – Peter Rollins is another “modern prophet” who’s writing has deeply affected me. “Insurrection” is one of the best books I’ve ever read and, I’m convinced, could be one of the most important theological in shaping Christianity within a “post-christian” America. “How (not) to speak of God was mind blowing as well. I read insurrection first, but I’d probably reccommend one read “how (not) to speak of God” first as it will help give a lot of context to Pete’s thoughts in Insurrection.

  • Ann F-R

    Blinders & Paradox — those two are the ones that jump out as hitting the nail on the head, from my POV.

  • Mike M

    @Bev: what does “beyond giving too much encouragement to the unelect” mean? Is that a quote from Jesus? If so, what verse?

  • Bev Mitchell

    Mike M

    You’re right, that probably is a little obscure. Since the great cry against Rob Bell’s wonderfully encouraging little prose poem appeared to come from folks who believe there are many people created by God to ultimately damn, I was just musing that possibly they thought he was giving these poor souls too much encouragement. If I were one who believed like these folk, this would certainly be a concern I would have. 

    Related to this, I was surprised that my favourite Bell quote didn’t make the cut for Carson Clark’s lovely list, vis in paraphrase “We can have as much hell as we want”,  which could be filed under Sad Truth. I was delighted to see my second favourite did make the list: “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

  • An evangelical is someone who, when they leave the room, you have more hope than when they entered. ~Rob Bell

  • David Evans

    “Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god, either.”

    That’s neatly said, but annoying to atheists – of which I am one. When he reveals which god he does believe in, do they discover that they believe in it too? If not, the apparent agreement between him and them is illusory.

  • CGC

    Hi David,
    I have heard it said that atheists often read the Bible more than a lot of Christians. How true that is, I don’t know? But I will say the most vocal atheists in the media or on the media when they quote the Bible or describe the God of Christianity, its the same kind of crude literalism I hear from the fundamentalists. So if you did not like the Rob Bell quote, you might not like this either. But I often distinguish between some of the most loud and angry atheists as “angry theists” versus others who are simply philosophical or intellectual atheists.