Rob Bell, Oprah, and N. T. Wright. Yeah, you heard me.

Just yesterday on The Revangelical Blog, Brandan Robertson posted on Rob Bell teaming up with Oprah. Apparently, she sees Bell as a spiritual mentor of sorts along with a number of others that strike a nerve with her.

Predictably, the internet equivalent of a switchboard is lighting up like the bombing of Dunkirk–and if I had more energy right now, I’d think of a better mixed similie.

I still, for the life of me, cannot understand why Bell attracts so much “energy” from fellow Christians when we each have so much of a mess in our own backyards to haul away daily.

Disagreement? Sure. But the feeding frenzy anytime he crosses and uncrosses his legs leaves me scratching my head. The trigger, no doubt–at least on the surface–is worry that he is “dangerous” and might “influence” unsuspecting people, but I can think of many greater, more insidious, dangers (like materialism in the American church) that hardly garner a glance.

Perhaps its the conservative Christian reflex to think that we should not in any way be in “league” with people with whom we differ (Bell’s theology surely differs strongly from Oprah’s).

Or perhaps at work at some level is jealousy that Bell’s often mocked

tendency

to

write

one

word

paragraphs

attracts more readers over a long weekend than it takes many other, even accomplished, Christian writers years to come close to.

Whatever. Maybe some don’t know what to do unless they’re fightin’ for Jesus.

Anyway, to my point. I don’t have a problem at all with what Bell is doing here, and it has nothing to do with whether I agree or disagree with him on how expresses his faith. N.T. Wright can help me explain why.

In chapter 2 of Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, Wright tells the story of a “hidden spring.”It goes on for a few pages, but here’s the gist. The western world has been ruled by a dictator who paved over the springs of water with thick concrete, thus forcing the people to drink from his complex system of pipes. That worked for a while until people started pining for the distant memory of bubbling springs and fresh water.

Then, in time, without warning, the springs burst through the concrete in a sudden explosion.

Wright’s dictator is materialist philosophy, and the water “is what we call today ‘spirituality,’ the hidden spring that bubbles up within human hearts and human societies.” (p. 18)

Wright continues,

The official guardians of the old water system (many of whom work in the media and in politics, and some of whom, naturally enough, work in churches) are of course horrified to see the volcano of “spirituality” that has erupted in recent years. All this “New Age” myticism, the Tarot cards, crystals, horoscopes, and so on; all this fundamentalism, with militant Christians, militant Sikhs, militant muslims, and many others bombing each otherwith God in their side. Surely, say the guardians of the official water system, all this is terribly unhealthy? Surely it will lead us back to superstition, to the old chaotic, polluted, and irrational water supply? They have a point. But they must face a question in response: Does the fault not lie with those who wanted to pave over the springs with concrete in the first place (pp. 19-20)

“The hidden spring” of spirituality is the second feature of human life which, I suggest, functions as an echo of a voice; as a signpost pointing away from the bleak landscape of modern secularism and toward the possibility that we humans are made for more than this. (p. 20; the “first feature” is the topic of chapter 1, the cry for justice)

I think what Bell is doing is helping unstop the springs, and I’m glad he’s doing it. Those who lose sleep over the damage he’s causing may, even in the name of Christ, be more in league with the dictator than they may realize. As many have noted: American fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have more in common with modernity than many may be able, or willing, to see.

But why Bell? Why not someone with “better theology” (some might ask) for such a time as this? Because the tools of evangelical theological fine-tuning are not suited for excavating concrete. Plus, Bell is a truly gifted communicator who doesn’t use in-house lingo. He knows how to market his ideas, i.e., to get people to listen.

Test and discern, yes. But with some humility, being ever willing to turn that searching gaze inward.

Don’t assume God is not in this because you disagree.

  • Dan

    Also, if the Oprah endorsement gets a few people with no previous interest in Christianity to check out Bell and perhaps move on to other Christian writers, is this such a bad thing?

    • Karen

      I agree. A significant percentage of Americans are growing up with NO exposure to church culture except what they see/read in the media, which unfortunately leads them to believe that Christians would not be welcoming or loving toward them. If Rob Bell changes that misconception, such that even a small number of people would consider attending a church service or event, or at the very least change their views concerning Christianity, isn’t that positive? Is there only one path to Jesus?

      • christibowman

        “such that even a small number of people would consider attending a church service or event, or at the very least change their views concerning Christianity” <~ why is this important you Karen? My children are growing up with NO exposure to Christian culture & I couldn't be more thrilled with my decision.

        • Curator

          Why wouldn’t it be? Think about it, if a person believes that something will really positively affect you and your family, make their lives happier and better in general, and in the end save all your immortal souls, isn’t it nice that they care enough to hope that something would help bring you closer to that?

          It’s why I like most of the people that come door to door, and that sorta stuff, even though I believe differently, It is nice knowing that people actually CARE about your well being, especially in a world were caring about issues, but not about individuals has become the new “thing”… the world needs more caring and love in it, nomatter who its from, and if a person is actually following the teachings/philosophy of Jesus Christ, thats what they will bring to the table, those who bring only hate however, are not following Christs teachings, clearly.

          • christibowman

            Karen ends her comment by implying that she thinks there may be other paths to Jesus… That is what confused me. If Karen thinks this then why capitalize the “NO” in the exposure sentence as if gasping at the thought. The double speak gets under my skin.

          • Curator

            If that is your issue with her statement, your first comment on the subject doesn’t seem to communicate that at all…

    • Sandy Anderson

      According to Paul in the book of Philippians IF it is not out an out heresy than what does it matter? If someone gets to know Jesus Christ because of Rob Bell, and some of the other folks what does it matter? Even if their motives are a false motive. God can use the drug addict down the street who is dying from HIV and while he may not be a Christian God can use that person to raise up a Christian. We really need to stop the divisions within over things that really do not matter UNLESS It is out and out heresy. In essentials unity but in all else liberty.
      Philippians 1:12-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      The Gospel Is Preached
      12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my [d]imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death

  • pennerm

    i basically agree. i see bell a little like francis schaeffer of yester-year (tho in function only – theologically they are miles apart): a populist w/ a pseudo-intellectual vision of Xian faith (but little real academic substance), who nonetheless calls peeps to re-examine faith in important ways – to “unstop the springs” as you put it. there is w/ bell – as w/ schaeffer – an important utility in what he does that is only loosely connected to who he is.

    • labreuer

      This charge of ‘pseudo-intellectual’ against Schaeffer is something which fascinates me. I just got through reading James Barr’s The Scope and Authority of the Bible, in which he makes this accusation. I wonder: how is Schaeffer’s being pseudo-intellectual bad? We’re warned against idolizing the wisdom of man, so certainly some kind of rejection of intellectualism is Godly? (I’m not an anti-intellectual though; we are called to love God with our minds as well as our hearts.)

      • Dan

        Depends on what you mean by the wisdom of man. Learning for the sake of learning doesn’t necessarily have to qualify in the biblical sense.

        • labreuer

          I think the bad kind of learning is learning that is tantamount to running away from God. See:

          [lots of terrible behavior] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. [...] always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

          Learning that comes from abiding in Jesus, as a branch in a vine, is good. I think there is a kind of learning that eats of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and it leads to pain, suffering, and death.

      • pennerm

        its mostly posing as an intellectual thats irresponsible & reprehensible & perhaps falls short of loving God wholly in the way you endorse. & there is a huge difference btwn being intellectually responsible & “the wisdom of the world/’men’.” i shd think st paul, e.g., was thoroughly intellectual & intellectually responsible w/out being worldly-wise.

        • labreuer

          But how did Schaeffer “pose as an intellectual”? His L’Abri seemed like a sanctuary for people who were lost. Instead of generalities, can you point to something specific that Schaeffer did which was bad, in the vein of being a “pseudo-intellectual”? What is the “real academic substance” that, if he had, would have better glorified God?

          • pennerm

            he could have read some primary sources, for one thing. can u name a book he wrote that was not populist? or where he did any serious academic research? essentially his career was made on oversimplification, and then selling those oversimplifications to people who could not tell the difference.

          • labreuer

            So it’s the nature of models of things that they are simpler than the thing being described. The question arises: is the model useful? That’s what I would ask of Schaeffer’s work. Of course it won’t be useful for all purposes, but nothing is. Do you have some specific examples in mind for said “oversimplification”?

            I don’t know of any non-populist (if by that you mean non-academic, non-footnoted) books of Schaeffer’s. I do recall his True Spirituality, pointing out that the Apostle Paul was convicted in Romans 7 of the last of the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not covet. I found this emphasis fascinating, given that the only way you can not covet is to want what God wants for yourself.

          • DMH

            If I remember right… and it was long ago, Schaeffer thought of himself as an evangelist (thus the popular writing). It was others who tried to make him into something he wasn’t.

  • http://restoringpangea.com/ Nathan Smith

    Thanks Pete – I couldn’t be afraid of these two even if I tried.

  • Susan_G1

    Does everything work for good to those who love God? This is often hard theological medicine to swallow, but here we have the equivalent of a spoonful of sugar! Someone who wants to bring people to God is going to get quite an audience. I am happy.

    Pete, your mixed similes and metaphors are beginning to remind me of Dan Brown. Keep honing that skill; it’s great!

  • labreuer

    Here’s a question I’d love to ask Calvinists and cessationists in general:

    Does God just not want a richer relationship with him than I can obtain by memorizing the Bible and meditating on it?

    • Rick

      I hear what you are saying, but I think the response from that camp would be that you are then underestimating the richness that can come by meditating on Scripture (since it is God-breathed).

      • labreuer

        Yep, and I would ask them to read Deut 30:11-14, Not in Heaven, then Rom 9:30-10:13.

  • http://proecclesia.net/ Garet Robinson

    “Predictably, the internet equivalent of a switchboard is lighting up like the bombing of Dunkirk”

    How about – “Predictably, the Internet equivalent of a switchboard lighting up like Clark Griswald’s house a month before Christmas.”

    I’m here all week…

  • J.L. Schafer

    The only reason why Oprah is so foolishly turning to Rob Bell is that she hasn’t yet discovered Peter Enns.

  • Don Bryant

    Good post. I concur. Bell simply speaks from the “Christ in Culture” paradigm Richard Niebuhr writes of. He pulls off the lid of our “image of God spirituality” (broken though it is) and lets the springs flow. Quite frankly, if I wanted to introduce a jaded, secularized young person (I’m 64) to a conversation that would lead to Christ, I would be comfortable letting Rob Bell lead the way before I follow up with my rather traditional EE outline. I think he has studied hard about how not to turn evangelism into an argument but a moment that the unbeliever can connect with the spiritual being he really is, perhaps even surprising himself. This is a skill. Sure, I have questions and concerns. But there is something going on with Bell that I find winsome and valuable.

  • http://pauldouglaswalker.blogspot.ca/ Paul Walker

    When I think of the whole debacle with Rob Bell today I often grieved, and not in the way the fundamentalists are.

    I grieved that the ‘practitioners of certainty’ are functioning in the role of the accuser. (Bell is this… or that)

    I am grieved that Rob Bell is now a four letter word in conversations with fellow Christians.

    Is that what we do to people we disagree with? Leave them for dead? Hunt them down as ‘heretics’ for the rest of their lives?

    Pete Enns thanks for the encouragement to “Test and discern… But with some humility, being ever willing to turn that searching gaze inward.
    Don’t assume God is not in this because you disagree.”
    Amen!

    • joshuabogart

      “I grieved that the ‘practitioners of certainty’ are functioning in the role of the accuser. (Bell is this… or that)”

      Couldn’t have said it any better.

    • WBC

      Away, now, with Skeptics and Academics from the company of us Christians; let us have men who will assert, men twice as inflexible as very Stoics! Take the Apostle Paul–how often does he call for that ‘full assurance’ which is, simply, an assertion of conscience, of the highest degree of certainty and conviction. . . .Nothing is more familiar or characteristic among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. Why, the Holy Spirit is given to Christians from heaven in order that He may glorify Christ and in them confess Him even unto death–and is this not assertion, to die for what you confess and assert? . . . Why then do you–you!–assert that you find no satisfaction in assertions, and that you prefer an undogmatic temper to any other? . . . Leave us free to make assertions, to be devoted to assertions and to delight in them, while you stick to your Skeptics and Academics till Christ calls you too. The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic, and it is not doubts or mere opinions that He has written in our hearts, but assertions more sure and certain than life itself and all experience.

      -Martin Luther to Erasmus in Bondage of the Will
      1525

      Your “post-evangical” love for uncertainty and doubt is not new. In fact, it’s ‘pre-modern’, dating back to Erasmus and beyond. Nothing new under the sun.

  • CalledtoQuestion

    Sounds like the beginning of a funny joke…”Rob Bell, Oprah and N.T.Wright walk into a bar…”. What a mix.
    I have never been able to read Rob Bell, not because of what he discusses, but because I just cant get around his writing style.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com/ Grayson Pope

    “Disagreement? Sure. But the feeding frenzy anytime he crosses and uncrosses his legs leaves me scratching my head.”

    Surely the controversy is taken too far at times, but when someone publishes heresy like Bell did with Love Wins, that has to be called what it is.

    • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

      So why isn’t Lewis ‘the great divorce’ not banned from Christian bookstores yet?

      • David MacKenzie

        Maybe because Lewis actually called what he wrote fiction.

        • Bill610

          Well, there’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”…and then there’s “Mere Christianity”. Not found in the same section of the library!

          • David MacKenzie

            I wouldn’t compare the book “Mere Christianity” to the (far more speculative by design) “The Great Divorce”.

          • Bill610

            Fair enough. I didn’t want the impression out there that Lewis only wrote fiction. When you said “what he wrote” I thought you were encompassing his writing in full. But given your last comment, I’m sure that wasn’t your intent. Thanks for the clarification!

        • Aaron Lengel

          Does Lewis state in any of his other writings his non-fiction view?

    • Dan Arnold

      I’m curious, what heresy did you find in Love Wins and in what council was it condemned?

      • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

        Yes! That is my question too.

    • LorenHaas

      Papal bull?

      • LorenHaas

        Wait, what happened to the commenters name? It used to be there. Who said you could remove your name after it was posted? It was Somebody Pope! Ruined my best double entendre!

        • Dan Arnold

          LorenHaas, I’ve seen this happen when a commenter tries to delete a Disqus comment that others have already interacted with.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      I must say that I thought Bell’s Love Wins was quite refreshing. I am not crazy about his writing style and he is more vague than I would like, but I loved that book.

  • Rick

    “Or perhaps at work at some level is jealousy that Bell’s often mocked

    tendency

    to

    write

    one

    word

    paragraphs”
    That was funny.

  • Dan Edelen

    More simple than Wright’s convoluted illustration is a much more simple one that better aligns with the Bible: “If you lie down with dogs, you get their fleas.”

    Nowhere in the Bible is the Wright illustration supported or used to excuse those who purposefully abandon orthodoxy.

    Do people actually still READ the Bible? The writers are constantly warning against listening to people who warp the Gospel. There’s no tolerance for letting the unorthodox “stimulate the conversation.” Ever. We’re told to reject bad teaching and never endorse it.

    In Revelation, Jesus Himself tells the churches He hates false teachings. Period. Why then should we entertain false teaching and then excuse it by saying, “Well, maybe it might help jumpstart talking about Jesus”? Why not just talk about Jesus straight up and without any mixed-in lies?

    Really, what the heck is wrong with Christians that we can tolerate that junk and call it helpful?

    • Katherine Harms

      In other words, fewer words, the Bible is our God-given guide for faith and life. I don’t know why so few Christians read it, but Barna group may have part of the explanation: very few people who self-identify as Christians consider the Bible to be authoritative. A much larger percentage of self-identified Christians actually believe that we learn new “truth” in each generation. The bottom line is that despite a lot of people wearing the label, most of them are using the wide ramp to the freeway. Not too many are seeking out the narrow gate and the rocky uphill path Jesus walked on.

    • Craig Vick

      How would you respond to the woman who believed she would find healing if she could just touch Jesus’ garments?

    • Dean

      Dan, have you read any NT Wright? I’m guessing you have not. He addresses the problem you raise, which is, what does it mean for the Bible to be authoritative? There is a short essay online, I think you should read it. I find it odd for Christian Protestants to go on and on about “orthodoxy”. There is recording on Youtube you should check out between Matt Slick (that’s his real name) and Robert Sungenis, who is a Catholic apologist, where Matt Slick gets humiliated. Sungenis asks him, where does Matt Slick gets the authority to dictate what is orthodox? Matt Slick said, from Jesus Christ. Apparently Jesus imparted it to him directly.

      I think before anyone puts on their heresy hunter badge that they really need to ask the question that NT Wright asks in the essay I referenced above which is if so-called orthodox Christian doctrine is as clear as everyone says it is, (1) why have Christians been arguing about it for 2000 years and (2) why did God give us the Bible in the form that he did? I believe the answer the second question is dispositive. If God wanted doctrine to have primacy, then as NT Wright says, he gave us exactly the wrong kind of biblical text. He should have given us a 20 page treatise. The only answer I can come up with is that the Bible has something for everyone, and not in the sense that it’s a free for all, but in the sense that its power lies in its ability to speak to people from all places, in all times, in different cultures, and in wildly different circumstances in life. Apparently American Evangelicals thought it was written just for them, how convenient!

      I think I understand what’s really going on here, and I can only conclude it comes from a deep insecurity that a lot of Christians have, which is, if someone else believes something different than I do, then could it be that I’m the one who’s got it wrong? I actually think coming to that realization is a healthy thing, not a dangerous one, and I think the response to that should be self-reflection and dialogue, which is just the opposite of how many Christians react to folks like Rob Bell.

      • Dan Edelen

        Dean,
        Yes, I have read NT Wright. Honestly, I do not understand the preoccupation many Evangelicals have with him. I’ve found his work pedantic. His writings are certainly not of the caliber of many older writers.

        As to the rest of your comment (and the comment of far too many people here), too many Christians today know what the Bible says yet they then come out in public in an effort to show themselves as hip and culturally sensitive and ask: “Did God really say…?” And they gather acolytes for themselves because doubt is the new faith, and questioning everything makes one look “deep.”

        Problem is, “Did God really say…?” is the oldest lie in the book, literally. And nothing should bother real Christians more than people who pronounce themselves as Christians yet go around asking that question all the time.

        To those people tossing out that question casually, my only response is this: Yes, God DID really say that. Now stop sinning, lest something worse happen to you.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          Dan, I cannot speak for others, but I did not replace the understandings of the Bible that had been handed down to me because it was hip. I did so because I saw that they were built on mistaken preconceptions.
          I am not afraid to ask the question, ‘Did God really say…’ If we never question our beliefs, they are not our beliefs; they are someone else’s.

        • Dean

          The reason many of us are questioning the status quo is not because it is hip or makes us look “deep”, it’s because as I investigated further some of these “orthodox” Evangelical Christian doctrines, especially as propounded by American Evangelicals, they started to make less and less sense. What we believe today is very different than what the early church believed. American Evangelicals believe a form of Christianity handed down by St. Augustine, who was heavily influenced by Manicheaism and Neo-Platonism. As a result, those influences show up in almost every Christian doctrine that that the American church purports to be “orthodox” Christianity. I understand that might be uncomfortable for you to accept, but as a by-product of the Reformation, it seems oddly inconsistent to be so flippant about it.

      • WBC

        When Jesus’ disciples asked Him why His teaching came in the form that it did, His answer was strikingly different from ‘the only answer you can come up with’:

        “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled…”
        -Matt 13

        • Dean

          WBC, I’m in total agreement with what Jesus says here. American Evangelical Christianity, while championing its own “excelptionalism”, bears almost no resemblance in doctrine or practice to the primitive Christians to which Jesus was speaking.

          • WBC

            So is your point, then, that the Bible’s doctrine is opposed to American Evangelical Christianity? It seemed that your point was that the Bible’s doctrine is “not as clear as everyone says it is,” and due to this lack of clarity has “something for everyone.”

          • Dean

            I see your misunderstanding. No, just because I think there are other ways to read the bible other than stilted literalism, that does not mean I think it’s a free for all. But American Evangelicals are hypocrites. So we don’t even need to go there, their own doctrine condemns them, they just never want to apply it to themselves.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “Orthodoxy” does not equate to biblical. If you gave the Bible to 20 people who knew nothing about Christianity, had them read it, and asked them to summarize the main points, I would practically guarantee none of them would mention the Trinity or original sin.

      • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

        Excellent point Andrew Dowling!

      • Dan Edelen

        Andrew,
        The point of your point is so fine I am unable to figure out what you mean. Please expand.

        • Andrew Dowling

          ? I’m not sure what is misunderstood. Those points I mentioned are considered by most Christians to be orthodox, correct? But they are taught and widely known due to interpretations of the Bible made well after the conclusion of the 1st century . . .they are not apparent from reading the Bible; they require certain presuppositions to be held while reading the text; presuppositions developed over time, in some instances a very long period of time.

          • Dan Edelen

            At issue with the authors/teachers/gurus in question is not the finer points of Christian theological orthodoxy. It’s the fact they can’t get the major points right. This isn’t a case of filtering the stream to ensure its purity for drinking. It’s asking if what is being consumed is even water.

    • Bryan

      For all of the discussion on “orthodox” vs. “unorthodox”, I cannot seem to locate these terms in the Bible.

  • Josh Flood

    Thank you for this post. I appreciate your view and exhortation.

  • B.R. Wells

    In many ways this makes it easier to identify false teachers. On the Oprah list? Check.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I know Bell is no theological heavyweight, or at least it does not come through in his books I have read. But I think he is a positive influence on believers and non-believers.

  • Kristina Skepton

    Jesus was all about freedom! Thank you for being free enough to consider the value of someone’s work which may or may not fit with your ideas.
    Kristina Skepton
    Founder, SeeingGod Ministries
    http://www.Facebook.com/SeeingGod

  • Bev Mitchell

    Pete,
    Thanks for this. I actually like Bell’s writing style and strongly agree with Don Bryant (I’m older than him) that “Love Wins” has the potential to be an entry point for many to Christian faith. We so easily forget that our faith is a relationship on a journey.

    As for books likely to be very controversial, I can’t believe no one has yet mentioned Greg Boyd’s latest “Benefit of the Doubt”, as it fits beautifully into this conversation. (I know, you were waiting for me to bring it up :-) A central theme of Boyd’s book is the difference between faith seen as a contract and faith seen as a covenant. This is one of the central issues that lead to so much controversy over Bell’s contributions.

  • James

    I was thinking of Opra lately and some of her new-agey friends, also her own experience growing up born again. No, we shouldn’t take sides with the secularists who tries to cap the ‘spirituality’ well. It flows too close to springs of living water.

  • http://angelsr4u.com/ Kacee

    Every time I read something regarding Bell and the resulting outcry, I can only think this: What would Jesus think? I believe He would want each one of us to seek Him out and begin to know Him, learn from Him, and love Him. If we truly wish for others to develop a longing and intimacy for this incredible Being called Christ, then why not rejoice when He is being extolled? I dare everyone to begin with the simple premise that He will reveal Himself (Galatians 1:12), and perhaps Bell is helping to bring people to His door of revelation. We should all help in our own sincere, imperfect way. But just begin. And leave the condemnation at the door.

    • Zelda F Williams

      The Church which is the Body of CHRIST has always been under attack. From within, those who profess a belief in GOD, but has not had a heart change, and from without, i.e. the secular world. There is a standard of truth within The Church that must be protected, because these are the very word’s of The Almighty. The Apostle John said: I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 1Jn 2:21 NASB

      We need to earnestly contend for the faith, which means to fight for it, because people have crept into the Church not loyal to The KING. Jude 3

      Rob Bell doesn’t chooses not to believe in hell, how is it that a lie is of the truth? The Apostle Paul spoke about people such as Bell, who by the way can repent as we all have and will continue to do:

      “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.

      Act 20:28-31 NASB

      • Al Cruise

        Maybe that verse is warning about the right wing fundamentalists.

  • Dan Edelen

    For those advocating that it’s a good idea for lost people to immerse themselves in aberrant teachings as a means for jumpstarting the conversation, where is this mentality advocated in the Scriptures? I certainly don’t see the apostles recommending it, quite the contrary.

    • http://www.wix.com/kendallland/iamkendal/ Kendall

      Did not Jesus consistently use aberrance to jump start or redirect a conversation? In context, he was a provocateur to what the general consensus consider sacred. And it wasn’t just “teaching,” Jesus lived it out – his orthopraxy was, if anything, immersed in aberrance.

      • Dan Edelen

        Kendall, the problem with using Jesus’ “aberrance” as an example is that He wasn’t aberrant; everything else around Him was. By conflating “aberrances,” you’re committing the same kind of grave errors these authors/teachers/gurus commit. The difference with these folks are that they are just plain wrong, and some people are advocating accepting them in their wrongness and letting that be OK. Jesus would never accept that wrongness; instead, He would say, “…but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

    • KA Crosby

      Paul in Athens?

  • Bryan

    Materialism is a great point! I live near Notre Dame stadium and after watching the Sooners manhandle them, the local news reported that the local economy brings in approximately $18 million dollars on game day. I think that most of our financial woes could be assisted by others rather than relying on the US government to solve our problems. However, radical individualism says, “I have a right to my own money” whereas living as a community demands that we have concern for all; it goes without saying that materialism really is a much bigger problem than Rob Bell.

    • Guest

      When the Bible declares “Thou shalt not steal,” it means I have a right to my own money, and you don’t, Bryan. People gotta stop using Jesus to justify outright robbery.

      • Bryan

        I am not justifying outright robbery. What I am indicating is that you are part of a society first and an individual second. You do not enter into society solely as an individual. Therefore, if you follow my analogy, if there is such a large surplus of money to be spent on a football game, then why can’t some of this excess go to help the poor? This does not mean that “all” your money should be given away to your own detriment. It only means that people should be far more prized than a recreational activity.

        • Guest

          Agreed, but compassion must be voluntary. If someone steals from me to help a poor person, someone is a thief. Personally I give lots of money away and never go to football games, but that is MY voluntary choice. Why is that so hard for people to grasp?

          • Bryan

            I have never indicated that money should be stolen from anyone. I am only reflecting on a recreational past time, which, in the grand scheme of things, does not amount to a higher value than people yet vast sums of money are plugged into this. A critique on capitalism goes far beyond the scope of this blog but there are those who say, “This money is mine. Why should I be taxed more just because I am rich?” This is, in MacIntyrean terms, an individual first. This is a fiction because it took a society for him/her to earn his/her money. This person does not live in isolation.

            People assume that they are somehow owed this money because they are more intelligent, attractive, business savvy, etc. Those who do not currently have or never will possess these attributes no matter how hard they try, should not be relegated to a life of poverty. Ultimately, our economic system needs to change. Good chat.

          • Andrew Dowling

            There is no society that’s ever existed in the history of mankind that didn’t force individuals to share their bounties, rather it be through income taxation or sharing of the harvest. That’s part of the social contract living on Earth with other people. You don’t create wealth on your own; you use services provided by other public and private entities to make a living.

            Get used to it or go live on an island a la “Cast Away”

          • beau_quilter

            Unless you are are evading the IRS, you are already giving your money to pay for the upkeep of roads you may never drive, the education of children you do not know, the policing and fire protection of neighborhoods you may never visit, and the list goes on. (Even if you are evading the IRS, you’re supporting these systems through sales taxes).

            We have long recognized as a nation, that educating all children makes a healthier nation for everyone; is it such a great leap to decide that feeding all our children leads to a healthier nation?

  • rvs

    I enjoyed this point: “the tools of evangelical theological fine-tuning are not suited for excavating concrete.”

  • http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/ Russ Slater

    Thanks Peter. I always appreciate your candor and honesty. Rob was my pastor for a very long time and so I know the inside-and-outside of him and find many people as mistaken in their thoughts as I had been in one sense or another. Which doesn’t mean that Rob is sinless… there are plenty of examples of his personal failures too… just as there is for any of us thrust in a rapidly expanding ministry. But Rob’s ministry is between him and God – even as our ministries are between us and God. As such, I would prefer to use all the open doors Rob provides and learn to “see” those seekers outside the church as clearly as he does, using their language, and ideas.
    Mostly, Rob was upset at Christianity’s lack of compassion and grace in its dogmas and doctrines. He prefers to err on the side of grace and not on the side of law. All his doctrines are pointed that way. Which doesn’t mean I accept them willy-nilly but am responsible to discern and determine how to read God’s Word in light of our postmodern societies arising rapidly world-wide. If we can get this right, and lined our faith up with our actions and speech, politics and economics, earthcare and compassion for the poor, then I think Christianity can show itself to be a lot less hypocritical than it is now in the public media. And deservedly so.
    I would also like to caution not to get caught up in “Rob-speak”… from my last statement above you can see the destruction that can result when we begin swinging-away (to use a good baseball metaphor) at everything in front of us. Rob is built for that. In fact, he loves fight and controversy. But my ideal is not Rob in this manner or fashion, but in Jesus who spoke truth, was controversial himself, but didn’t live for the controversy He created. Jesus lived for God, for his message, and for humanity. We all have our gifts and I would simply caution not to take Rob’s “vernacular mode of communication” and make it the primary Christian model.
    There are many more models – and many a lot healthier for us to emulate. But whenever I get too “near” to Rob I find myself in this co-opted “enabler” diecast which doesn’t personally work for me. Nor my head. Nor my heart. It’s distracting and can be personally offsetting. Simply learn to be ourselves and not so idol-oriented. Let’s plan on being worthy vessels of use and let God take care of which vessels He uses.Otherwise, plan on a lot more doors opening up for the opportunity to bring God’s “Imago Dei” into His ‘Missio Dei’ through our lives. And be thankful for the headaches and heartaches we won’t have to be dealing with in the media spotlight.
    Peace,
    Russ

  • lynnie

    “Orthodoxy” does not equate to biblical. If you gave the Bible to 20 people who knew nothing about Christianity, had them read it, and asked them to summarize the main points, I would practically guarantee none of them would mention the Trinity or original sin.”

    I wonder how many of them would read it and decide that the bible teaches that Adam nursed at the breast of his hairy primate momma…..

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