Is Rob Bell This or That?

Is Rob Bell This or That? December 3, 2014

So, Rob Bell has a TV show coming out on December 21. This is the most long-awaited show in the history of Christendom. Ever since he moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Laguna Beach, California, from churchland to Hollywood, we’ve been waiting for his show. His first show — a drama — was shelved. His second show has been worked and reworked since it was filmed last summer. And now it’s coming out.

Also, he’s got a new book out.

So what do you supposed is the evangelical reaction to the amazing success of one of its own? To disown him, of course!

First, Books and Culture, a journal I used to hold in high esteem, published a totally lame “satire” of an editorial board meeting about Rob’s new book. It meant to be funny, but all it did was smell like sour grapes.

Then Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a journalist whom I still admire, published an article called, “What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell?” She writes,

Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

Exchanging his evangelical bona fides for the blessing of Oprah may yet prove to be his most unforgivable sin, at least in some circles. Which is not to say that Bell cares very much what anyone says these days.

Since when do you hand in your evangelical membership card when you do business with a television star?

What’s odd about this for me is how quickly evangelicals embrace Christian athletes, movie stars, and singers. If you’re a rock star and you love Jesus, prepare to be on the cover of Christian magazines. And don’t prepare for people to ask if you’re a universalist, because no one will.

But if you’re a former pastor, prepare to be loathed. Maybe it’s professional jealousy, because surely it’s not theology. No way. If that were the case, then Books and Culture would have written satires mocking John Piper and T.D. Jakes long ago.

If you’d rather read something by someone who understands what evangelicalism is really supposed to be, check out this post from Danielle Shroyer:

If Oprah calls you up and invites you to share your thoughts on your faith, what kind of a moron would you have to be to say no? Would evangelicals really rather someone NOT be talking about God? Is it really that dire? Is Rob Bell so bad, so different from you, that silence is the better option? Because that’s what evangelicals currently have with broader culture: silence. Crickets. The vast majority of America has tuned them out. What kind of special prize do evangelicals think they are getting by not connecting with the very people they say they want to reach?

As for me, I welcome Rob’s success. A rising tide lifts all boats. And maybe he’ll catalyze a conversation about meaning, truth, God, and scripture that will ripple out and touch all of us who care about such things.

You can find all of Tony’s books HERE, and you can sign up to be the first to know about his next book, Did God Kill Jesus? HERE.

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  • Maybe he’ll have you as his guest!

  • Teer Hardy

    I wonder if there are even behind the scenes conversations among evangelical leaders to discredit folks like Rob Bell who step out of line from their baseline groups. Could be a conspiracy theory but might also hold water.

    • “behind the scenes conversations among evangelical leaders to discredit folks” = praying for those folks

    • There is, but it’s hardly behind the scenes. They do their excommunications right out in public.

  • kyle

    THANK YOU! thank you. Thank You. THANK you. thank YOU.

    I can’t say thank you enough.

  • Scott Paeth

    Well you know, he’s not *our* kind of evangelical, and may mislead people with badwrongtheology.

  • tylerclark

    I’m not a fan of Oprah or her pop-theology, so I’ll admit that Rob Bell’s connection w/ her bugs me. (Oprah likes stupid things, Oprah likes Rob Bell, therefore … ) Admittedly, that’s a pretty weak criticism, and it says more about me than Rob.

    I read the beginning of his new book over the weekend. (My mom is reading it, thanks to Oprah.) It’s incredibly accessible to people who are exhausted by religion but looking for God/god/whatever. The faithful followers won’t love it, but it’s not for them. I plan to read the rest of it.

  • yes, yes. double yes. loved the way you put it in your FB feed “people seem to be freaking out about rob bell. again.” i’m a huge fan of his style, his writing, his scholarship (though why doesn’t he ever give us his original sources? i think ray vanderlaan is a big one but why can’t *we* read the stuff? anyway. tangent. but yes. this is right.

  • PS i think any pastor in the world who is any good can *completely* understand why/how it is possible that a man who built a church of 10K people is now not attending an organized church. Duh.

    • Tom LeGrand

      Yes. Or even a pastor who worked with a 100-member church, just for different reasons (perhaps).

  • karlkroger

    Thanks for this. I was disappointed by both RNS articles unnecessarily stirring evangelicals into a frenzy.

  • Tony… You put this to words perfectly bro. Thanks for bring common sense to the Bell party.

  • Orton1227

    At this point, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is this: if I’m doing my best to follow Jesus, it will seriously piss people off in the church, especially pastors…especially celebrity pastors.

    • How do you best follow Jesus?

      • Orton1227

        That’s kind of like asking “what is love?”, right? There are broad ways to describe it (love God & love others), but ultimately it comes down to how you understand it and specifically in the current context you find yourself in.

        • The current context I find myself in is that the world is round; therefore, there is no super-scary underworld realm of Zeus’ brother Hades (or Loki’s daughter Hell.)

          Jesus believes the earth is flat with a mythical underworld under our feet. So I’m having difficulty following somebody who sells that absolutely disproven fear, and who does it with such hatred for life on this earth.

          • Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.
          • John 12:25 anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life
          • Matthew 10:28 Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
          • Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

          Robert J. Schadewald (1987) The Flat-Earth Bible. The Bulletin of the Tychonian Society. #44.

          • Orton1227

            Yeah, I know many Jewish scholars, even those who believe Jesus was just a man, have written about the literary devices in that culture where “hate” was used to create a dichotomy to prove a point. So in Luke 14, his point is if you come to me to be my disciple, you must choose that above everything else. Apparently that was a common rabbinical argument in that day anayway.

            Now, honestly, I’m even considering what I think of the Bible…if Jesus’ words are even reliable, or just misremembered by the author, or re-interpreted by the author.

            I’m currently finding myself frustrated with all of life. I’m finding there aren’t any “hard” answers to the basic questions: what is reality, is there a God, do I exist, why are we here, etc. And since I was raised evangelical, I operate from that foundation for sanity sake.

            All I know is that what the Gospels generally agree on about who Jesus was, what he did, what he said, is generally spot on with my experience – i.e. care for others, love those who are not loved, take care of your family…those principles I have experienced are the things that matter and bring me joy. Although it could be that religion broke my brain…or science. Or the clash of the two.

            • cypher20

              From my study there really shouldn’t be a clash between science and God. God created the Universe, therefore it reflects Him. I mean, if you want to learn about a painter, you study his paintings right? The creation says something about the creator. It’s the same with God. Now, the Enemy tries to twist things, to perpetuate the lie that science disproves God but this simply isn’t the case. Especially, in physics you are seeing ever more and more that scientists are having a hard time avoiding God. Check out William Lane Craig and the Kalam Cosmological Argument, or check out Reasons to Believe. There are a lot of good sources out there to show that science proves God.

          • Where does the Bible mention some “mythical underworld” or that Jesus believed the earth was flat?

            I guess it is possible that I missed where Jesus told his followers about a “super-scary underworld realm” or that he believed the earth was flat. If you have actual quotes from Jesus on these two claims I’d be interested in your citations?

            The Luke 14:26 and John 12:25 references for “hate” when you actually look up the Greek word being used means “to love less.” So as you rely on the word “hate” which creates an emotional response of animosity, the word being used is by extension a comparison of what is loved more vs. what is loved less.

            As far as “fear” in Luke 12:5 and Matt. 12:5. You have to look at the context of the verse. Luke 12:4 and Matt. 10:28(a) “fear not…” and Luke 12:7 and Matt. 10:31 “fear not therefore:…” In context, the verse says not to fear that which can only destroy the temporal but fear what affects the eternal. But don’t even “fear” God who affects the eternal as you are of esteemed value.

            Not to mention that this post is about Rob Bell, for a better understanding of what Bell believes about Hell you should check out his book, “Love Wins.” As it raises a lot of questions about the possible differences between what Jesus believed about “hell” and present day individuals like you and me believe about it.

            • The mythical underworld realm of Zeus’ brother Hades is mentioned throughout the Bible, including by Jesus, as is the Greek mythological hellish prison for the Titans, Tartarus.

              These underworld realms are predicated on a flat-earth cosmology, and the Bible’s flat-earth cosmology is well documented here:

              Robert J. Schadewald (1987) The Flat-Earth Bible. The Bulletin of the Tychonian Society. #44.

              As far as fear, it means what it means. I’m weary of an appeal to “context” being used to explain away the plain meaning of morally reprehensible, embarrassing, conflicting, and contradictory passages. When you say “context,” this is what I hear:

              • I enjoy the citation of Robert Schadewald (1987) The Flat-Earth Bible but where are these references in the Bible. Surely, he would cite where Jesus and the Bible is referencing these things, does he not?

                You’re right the word used in the bible means what it means. to love less. The word and meaning you use has a different meaning to us as English speakers than the meaning of the word used in the Greek.

                The appeal to context was to explicitly show where you’ve cherry picked a verse to mean what you wanted it to mean rather than look at the entire passage to derive what the intended meaning is. Look at the Matt. 10:28 verse you cited. You used only the second part of the verse and failed to include the beginning of the verse. So, yes, I will appeal to context when someone like you wants to cherry pick.

                Not to mention you have not shown the passages you’ve cited to be “morally reprehensible, embarrassing, conflicting, or contradictory.” This is simply your opinion and interpretation of the passages. So again, the appeal to understanding “context” rather than one’s opinionated statements is necessary. But thanks for the misuse of a somewhat humorous video.

                • There are dozens of Bible passages that demonstrate a flat-earth cosmology in the Bible. I’m not going to hold your hand in your study.

                  Frankly, I hate being lied to. I checked the concordance on your definition of “hate.”

                  hate in Luke 14:26
                  Strong’s Concordance 3404. miseó
                  Original Word: μισέω
                  Definition: hatred; to detest, especially to persecute; by extension, to love less:–hate(-ful).

                  I never quite trust Strong’s, being a Christian source, so I confirmed the definition here:

                  μισέω hatred

                  Yep, it’s hatred, as we understand the word. You lied.

                  Here’s your sign.

                  • Wait a second, you claimed that Jesus believed in a flat-Earth cosmology. Now you’re saying there are dozens of Bible passages that reference flat-Earth cosmology. How many of these “dozens of passages” came from Jesus’ words to support your claim?

                    Perhaps you should do better about supporting your claims when questioned. Personally, I have heard the arguments used to suggest the Bible teaches a flat-Earth cosmology. Quite frankly, I find the arguments being used to support that interpretation rudimentary and not very convincing. However, your claim was that Jesus believed in a flat-Earth cosmology not that there are “dozens of Bible passages that do this. If you want to continue with your unsupported claim of what Jesus believed regarding the cosmology of the Earth/Universe feel free. Otherwise stop using your argument from silence and supporting your argument with “dozens of passages” and “I don’t want to hold your hand in your study.” As this makes it sound like you have no idea what you are talking about and it is rather indignant for you to assume I need your assistance.

                    As far as having lied to you. Ha!

                    It says something when you don’t trust a source that has a proven reliability such as Strong’s. You should note in the definition you cut and pasted that it says, “by extension, to love less” which is exactly what I stated the word means. So how exactly does this mean I lied to you?

                    Can you tell the difference between the below sentences?:

                    1) “I hate baseball”


                    2) “I hate baseball more than football.”

                    If you couldn’t: One is the proper form of “hate” and the other is the comparative form. In (1) I detest baseball and in (2) I like baseball less than I like football. I wonder if you will now notice that the passages you referenced use the comparison form rather than the proper form?

                    • Hades, of which Jesus speaks, is an underworld realm based on a flat-earth cosmology. You’d do well to try some basic reading comprehension.

                      You falsely tried to make “hate” into something
                      more mild and acceptable, by misquoting (not in full) a concordance; it’s called lying by omission. Now you double down on your deception. Jesus’ “hate” means what it means.

                    • So wait, is lying by omission like when someone only takes part of a Bible passage out of context to mean something other than what it actually means? I mean, kind of like what you cherry picked with Luke 12:5 and Matt. 10:28(b) here:


                      For those interested in learning what those verses say in context and to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and not Mr. Leibowitz’s version read you can read Luke 12:4-7 and Matt. 10:26:33.

                      Or is lying by omission more like when you say according to wiktionary μισέω means hatred when in reality wiktionary says that μῖσος means hatred and that μισέω is etymologically derived from μῖσος ?

                      Or yet, is lying by omission when someone like you uses the use of term hades according to Greek mythology and extend the Biblical Greek being used to suggest the Bible is referring to the same “underworld” as Greek mythology but fail to provide a shred of evidence outside the same word being used for both? I figured since you like wiktionary so much:

                      ᾍδης • (Hāídēs) (genitive ᾍδου) m, first declension

                      1) Hades, the Greek god of the underworld
                      2) Hades, the realm of the dead
                      3) the grave, death
                      4) Hell

                      I’m not seeing how the usage of ᾍδης (Hades) in the Bible supports your argument that Jesus believed in flat-Earth cosmology. You must be trying to connect meanings (1) and (2) and completely ignoring (3) and (4). It’s seems you might do well learning some rudimentary reading comprehension: I hear Dr. Suess has a few good books out there!

                      As far as “falsely” trying to make hate into something more mild: Sorry, you missed the point again. We aren’t even talking about the word hate but μισέω . Which you, yourself, placed in bold face only the part of the definition you take the word to mean. The reason I “omitted” the part you put in bold type was because it was non-pertinent information. The cited references you made do not use the word μισέω in the proper form (which is what you bold faced). But rather, It uses the word, by extension (i.e., comparison) between two subjects.

                      In Luke the comparison is between the love a person possesses to be a disciple of Jesus vs. the love they possess for family and success. What the passage is saying is that a person cannot be a disciple of Jesus if they love something more than being a disciple of Jesus. Your version would mean that Jesus is telling his disciples to hate others. this would contradict where Jesus says that loving God and loving others are the greatest of the commandments.

                      As far as “doubling down.” Outside of this committing the fallacy of loaded language, as I’m sure you think it makes your argument more convincing: And I take it to mean that you believe that I’m just soo desperate and I have to “double down” to try and win back what I’ve lost…How naive!

                      But you are exactly right, Jesus’ “hate” means what it means. However, Jesus’ “hate” does not mean what you’ve tried so unconvincingly to make it mean in your comments.

                    • There you go again, using “context” as a magic abracadabra word to get what you want out of the Bible, instead of what it actually says.

                    • You do understand the irony of your statement right?

                      Context is what we use in reading comprehension to understand the message of the author. Which means that “context” allows us to understand what the Bible actually says and can not be used as an “abracadabra word” to “get what you want” out its message.

                      Of course you’ve based your understanding of “what the Bible says” off of a wooden literalism of English translations rather than a hermeneutical approach and studying the meaning/context of the original language and text.

                      The fact that your above statement has taken the definition of “context,” out of context only goes to show you are truly stretching, I can only imagine you are doing this to feel as though you’ve won some sort of argument. It’s sad that you would are holding to your misconceptions rather than facing the truth.

                    • You, as a true believer (Hoffer, 1951) cannot look at the Bible honestly and thus, will never admit any bad in it.

                      You use a deceptive practice which you call “context,” not in its academic meaning, but as a rationalization to make anything in the bible that appears bad to magically appear good by appealing to other verses elsewhere.

                      You also were caught giving weak definitions of words that could put the bible in bad light, another deceptive practice.

                    • I enjoy how you completely changed your reply above from:

                      I never took anything out of context. You, who thinks the Bible is all rainbow ponies farting skittles, uses deceptive definitions and a loose definition of context, which essentially means, this verse means what I want it to mean. I don’t engage in either of your deceptive practices.

                      But I’ll respond to both. First the original that is block quoted.

                      It’s always fun to see someone who holds such a stereotypical view of Christians. No I do not think the Bible is all rainbow ponies farting skittles. And no, I have not used deceptive definitions nor a loose definition of context. It is you who has tried to make a verse from the bible mean what you want it to mean rather than what it actually means.

                      And in responding to the changed comment which you heavily edited:

                      Of course I can look at the Bible honestly, I’m a rational being with the ability to reason critically. As far as admitting of the Bible having any bad in it, you will need to clarify, as your comment is vague and a generalization that covers the entire Bible and not specifics that can be discussed.

                      I’m sorry, but the wishful thinking version of the word “context” you believe I’m using is just plain false. I’m using the academic meaning–which is spelled out in my previous comment–in case you didn’t read the full comment. I wonder how long it will take you to realize that when you make the following comment:

                      …but as a rationalization to make anything in the bible that appears bad to magically appear good…

                      It shows that you don’t have proof that what the Bible says is “bad” but that sayings in the Bible only “appear bad” (when translated into the English language). It makes sense you would say this, as this whole time you’ve been attempting to make what the Bible says “appear bad” rather than understand the meaning of the verses/passages. It’s for this reason that you HAVE taken it out of context.

                      Sorry, but I’ve not used weak definitions of words. I’ve used accurate definitions for the words discussed. You should also notice that you again say “words that could put the bible in bad light” rather than saying “words that put the bible in bad light.” Much like the “appear bad,” it again shows that you care more about finding verses in the Bible to make it look bad rather than understanding what the verse actually means.

                      It’s extremely ironic that you keep trying to blame me for doing the exact things you are doing. It seems we have more a case of the Psychologists Fallacy being committed by you than actual evidence of your claims against me.

                    • You mis-defined a word, and I caught you, showed how you lied, and you’re too much a coward to even own up to it. If you live up to stereotypes, then so be it. No, you haven’t taken anything out of context now (since you haven’t quoted anything) but that is what you Christians do constantly, in the name of “context” which actually means harmonizing everything to your liking. Your view of “context” is not academic, it’s meant to make the bible into what you believe it should be according to your dogma.

                      No, I have not taken anything out of context. I’ve just interpreted it plainly, and that doesn’t suit your dogma.

                      Hate means hate. Deal with it.

                    • You really don’t seem to get it, do you? You’ve come here with your dogma and tried to make the Bible say what you want it to say by attempting to make it “appear bad” or to “put the Bible in a bad light” and you have failed exceedingly to accomplish this goal.

                      Even if we accept your “hate is hate” you are burdened to show that “hating” something or someone is wrong/bad. I hope you don’t forget that not long ago you said that you “hate being lied to.” If “hate” is so wrong/bad and being lied to is presumably wrong/bad (in that someone like you could “hate” it) which is worse? The hate or the being lied to?

                      It would also beg the question: Is it wrong/bad to “hate” murderers, rapists, or child molesters? Or even when someone says something to the effect of, “I hate kids and have no desire to have children of my own,” does this “hatred” make them a bad person or is it wrong for them to dislike kids so much?

                      It’s clear that your argument is tied to the emotional connotation around the word “hate.” Yet, you have not provided a shred of evidence to support your original claim of the Bible teaching something that in your book is so detestable as the word “hate.”

                    • Hate is hate. You really don’t seem to get that. So give us another 5 paragraph song and dance trying to avoid the obvious.

                    • Oh brother! [slaps forehead] My 3 year old has raised better arguments than you. “Hate is hate” that’s like someone thinking it’s profound that 1=1.

                      Care to share why you believe translating the Greek word used in the Bible into the English word “hate” makes the verse “appear bad” or that it “put’s the Bible in a bad light?”

                    • Hate means hate. You just can’t wrap your head around the plain, simple meaning because it clashes with your rainbow pony dogma. Lewis Carroll observed your kind of maneuvering when he wrote:”‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'”

                      Care to share why hating life, and even family, is so doubleplusgood?

                      Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

                      John 12:25 anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life

                    • Rather than you dodging the questions I ask you or continuing to attempt to shift the burden of proof back to me. Why don’t we try this:

                      Put the Luke 14:26 verse into your own words. What do you understand the verse to be saying?

                    • Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

                      The passage means what it means. You tried to pull the scam that hate didn’t mean hate. But, in fact, in both a concordance and Wiktionary, hate does in fact mean hate.

                    • The saddest part is that you are being serious right now. You can’t even take a simple verse and put it into your own words when asked. You repeat your mantra…hmm, it means what it means, hmm…

                      I just wonder how long it will take you to realize that the passage meaning what the passage means does not make it mean what you keep saying it means on here. It’s quite humorous listen to you use such ignorant arguments.

                    • You think Jesus is a moral guide, yet he’s a poor one. Hating life and hating family are not good moral precepts. You somehow think that magically everything in the Bible has to be good. It’s not.

                      The saddest part is you accept evil things like hating family and life as good, but when pressed about it, stoop to lying about the definition of the word hate when Jesus says to hate.

                    • You really are this dense aren’t you? Keep holding on to your misconceptions and straw man arguments. It’s obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about.

                      The verse means what it means. And you clearly don’t know what it means.

                    • “Hate” does no mean the watered-down definition you tried to pass it off as meaning. You got caught in your dishonesty, and now you’re having a temper-tantrum.

                    • Um, sure. I’m throwing a temper-tantrum.

                      Hate in the English language might mean exactly what you want it to mean Humpty Dumpty. But the word used in the Greek New Testament doesn’t mean what you keep trying to make it mean. You should really do some more studying of the Greek language and the context of verses where the Greek words are used before you make your arguments. You’re really starting to look foolish.

                    • You should really try to be honest sometime. Jesus meant “hate,” not your attempt at watering it down.

                    • OK, Humpty Dumpty. Show that Jesus meant “hate” in the same way that you are currently using the term to mean? Show that the way miseó is being used in the context of the Greek language means exactly the same as the English word “hate” that you are so heavily relying upon?

                      Perhaps you’ll realize that miseó in the context of Luke 14:26 is not being used in the proper form or as a command but that it is being used as a comparison between two subjects. And when miseó is used as a comparison it means that it takes on, in the Greek, the “by extension” meaning of the words definition.

                      But feel free to keep your head in the sand!

                    • Still trying to say hate doesn’t actually mean hate? LOL

                    • Nope, just saying that “miseó” in the context of Luke 14:26 doesn’t mean “hate” as you are claiming it means. You still haven’t shown that it does. Keep dodging the question and refusing to defend your position. You look like a complete fool in doing so.

                    • Miseo means hate. Your appeal to “context,” per usual with true believers in a magical text, is not an honest one.

                    • I’m sorry, we aren’t arguing over the word “hate” I know you keep trying to make it that. We are arguing over the Greek word:

                      Strong’s Concordance 3404. miseó
                      Original Word: μισέω
                      Definition: hatred; to detest, especially to persecute; by extension, to love less:–hate(-ful).

                      Now, I’ve stated that in the context of the verse we find the Greek word miseó is being used “by extension.” This would mean we could render the verse in Luke as follows:

                      “…unless you [love less] your father or mother or…[than Jesus], you cannot be [Jesus’] disciple.”

                      I understand why you want to focus on only one word in the verse and only the part of the definition that fits your dogma. But unless you can show in the context of the verse that it means exactly what you say it means Humpty Dumpty, you have failed yet again.

                    • You can’t even keep your lies straight.

                      Kyle, today: I’m sorry, we aren’t arguing over the word “hate”…

                      Kyle, 2 days ago: The Luke 14:26 and John 12:25 references for “hate” when you actually look up the Greek word being used means “to love less.” So as you rely on the word “hate” which creates an emotional response of animosity, the word being used is by extension a comparison of what is loved more vs. what is loved less.

                    • You do understand that what I said today:

                      I’m sorry, we aren’t arguing over the word “hate” I know you keep trying to make it that. We are arguing over the Greek word:

                      Agrees with what I said 2 days ago:

                      The Luke 14:26 and John 12:25 references for “hate” when you actually look up the Greek word being used means “to love less.” So as you rely on the word “hate” which creates an emotional response of animosity, the word being used is by extension a comparison of what is loved more vs. what is loved less.

                      I know you intentionally omitted the second part of my comment today. But you realize that both comments are saying the same thing, right?

                    • I could sit here all day watching you chase your tail, trying to get out of the plain meaning of the Greek word for hate.

                    • That’s good to know, as I could continue sitting here all day laughing at how ridiculously ignorant you are.

                    • Back atcha, moron.

                    • The “I’m rubber your glue defense,” classic! Perhaps you don’t want to lean too far Humpty Dumpty, you might fall of the ledge.

                    • It’s your religion that demands you deliberately retard your intellect. It shows.

                      Luke 18:17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

                      Lest you wonder that he’s speaking of anything other than intellect:

                      Matt. 11:25 At that time Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

                      Yeah, you believe nonsense, and Paul even rubs your nose in the type of person who accepts it.

                      1 Cor. 1:18-26 For the message about the cross is nonsense…the nonsense of our preaching…Not many of you were wise by human standards…

                      “Knowing there is some relationship with the word cretin, what if the people of Antioch, at first, called the disciples CRETINS (retards, idiots)?”

                    • There is nothing to suggest that my belief in God demands me to deliberately retard my intellect. It’s your false presumption that it does this.

                      Luke 18:17 – where does it mention anything pertaining to intelligence?

                      Matt 11:25 – what has been hidden from the wise and learned, yet revealed to little children?

                      1 Corinthians 1: 18 (ESV) – “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Hmm…what was it you said about lying by omission. Seems that the second part of verse 18 is pertinent information to have quoted.

                    • Jesus is asking for your child-like Santa Claus Eligible gullibility, so you can swallow that nonsense. To do that is to deliberately retard your intellect. Jesus makes it very clear he hates intelligence, and so does Paul. It make you easier prey for the confidence game of believing stupid stuff like human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism will save you from the scary underworld realm of Zeus’ brother Hades.

                      Preying on credulity and naivete is a halmark of the confidence game.

                      • Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
                      • Ephesians 3:12 confidence through faith
                      • 1 Timothy 3:13 increased confidence in their faith

                    • You seem like the type of fellow that knows what they’re talking about. I’ll trust what you have to say.

                      Wow, surprisingly I’m not that naive. Hmm, kinda defeats your whole argument I guess.

                    • You believe in a book with talking snakes, unicorns, and the notion that human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism can somehow do something good for you. You’re that naive.

                    • What makes your comment so funny, is that you are naive enough to believe that you understand what I believe and that your appeals to ridicule are accurately representing what I believe.

                      So I’m sorry, if I nix your whole comment as pure hogwash.

                    • So you don’t believe the Bible as true? Or are you just playing clever little games per your usual?

                    • Wait, I thought I had to retard my intellect. If I’m such a moron how could [I] be playing clever little games per [my] usual?

                      What I don’t believe are the appeals to ridicule you’ve used to describe what you say I believe. I don’t understand how you don’t get that?

                    • You have to ask me? Are you too ignorant to figure it out yourself?

                    • You apparently don’t comprehend sarcasm.

                    • It’s the Greek word for hate. You still can’t quite grasp the obvious.

                    • Éros and Philia are both Greek words for the English word love. According to your logic, grasping the obvious would mean that in Greek these words are interchangeable. I mean, they are both the Greek word for love, right?

                      And love means love. So Éros means Philia.

                    • Keep trying to dodge that hate means hate. Nice red herring there too, troll.

                    • How is this a red herring? It’s a demonstration of your pathetic logic in saying things like:

                      “Hate means hate.” “It means what it means.” and “It’s the Greek word for hate.”

                      I’m pointing out that a word in Greek can be translated into an English word and yet not mean exactly the same thing as the English word. It shows that your comment: “It’s the Greek word for hate,” to be misleading and ignorant.

                    • The concordance says hate means hate. Keep raging against reality, moron. LOL

                    • Yeah, and the concordance also states the the Greek word, by extension (that is comparison) means “to love less.”

                      In Luke 14:26 when the Greek word is used it is being used as a comparison. You should really learn to read.

                    • Oops, don’t forget that hate part. It doesn’t say “in comparison,” does it? Maybe you saw an optical illusion?

                    • Now when you say: It doesn’t say ‘in comparison,’ does it?” Are you referring to the verse in Luke or the definition?

                    • What were you referring to?

                    • I referenced both the definition and the verse. So which are you referring to? Or do you need me to explain both to you again?

                    • You don’t explain, you obfuscate in the name of your dogma.

                    • And what should I say of your dogma?

                      It’s hilarious that you want to blame and accuse me for your failure to understand the simple statements I’ve made.

                    • I don’t have a dogma. Want to try again? That was hilarious.

                    • So you don’t have:

                      A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true:

                      I mean, even if you consider yourself your own “authority” you still have a dogma. But it’s clear that you use a lot of others work with the video’s and quotes you’ve used and adhere to others dogma as well.

                      And if you want to claim that you don’t have any set of principles, then you are but a leaf in the wind tumbling aimlessly.

                    • You are good at twisting definitions.

                      dog·ma : a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted, a belief or set of beliefs that is taught by a religious organization

                      > if you want to claim that you don’t have any set of principles

                      Never said that, liar.

                    • You’re really foolish. Sorry, I didn’t cite which dictionary I used. It was the Oxford English.

                      Are you serious? You never said that you don’t have a dogma? Liar, you said it right here:

                      The fact that I substituted the definition of dogma doesn’t make me a liar. It points out your idiocy. Not to mention that your dogma fits with the first definition you provide from Merriam-Webster: a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by members of a group without being questioned or doubted. If you don’t think you fit in this definition again, you have plainly retarded your intellect.

                    • Go ahead, Kyle, take another piss on the bible.

                      But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matt 5:22

                      You obviously don’t believe that garbage. I’ll follow your good example of disbelief, if you don’t mind.

                      P.S. your equivocation between general “principles” and religious authoritarian “dogma” only demonstrates how fast and loose you play with words.

                    • How wonderful, you demonstrate that your business here is simply to justify your disbelief. As it’s been clear for a while that it’s not for intellectual discourse.

                      You have demonstrated that you only want to paint the Bible and Christianity in a bad light. You’ve done this by misusing verses from the Bible, insulting others beliefs, using straw man arguments (make up what others believe based off of what you think they believe and not what thy actually believe), using personal attacks, lying, not defending your position but attempting to attack your opponents, and using appeals to ridicule. This is just to name a few of the remorseful things you’ve done so far.

                      But feel free to wallow in your ignorance.

                    • How wonderful, you still piss on the Bible’s prohibition of calling people a fool. So I’ll continue to follow your good example; obviously, the Bible means as little to you as it does to me.

                    • Had I unjustifiably or flippantly out of dislike/anger called you a fool; you would have a case for me being liable. Since I’ve spoken the truth with evidence and reason it’s not a matter of me being liable but you not liking the truth about yourself when you hear it. Perhaps you should learn what the Bible teaches in Matthew 5:22 rather than your own interpretation that you want to try and use against others when things don’t go the way you expect them to.

                      All I hear from you now is: [rubs eyes] Wah, Wah, Wah, [rubs eyes].

                    • Oh right, right, “unjustifiably or flippantly” are exceptions. LOL! You are the best entertainment I’ve had this week!

                      I’m starting to think that you are an atheist who is deliberately acting like a absolute nincompoop to discredit the christian religion. At any rate, keep it up!

                    • I know thinking is not your strong suit but you should attempt to do it before you speak. Because you can’t take back stupid after it comes out.

                      Keep trying to discredit your opposition because that makes their arguments invalid right? Oh, no, wait; that just means you’ve committed an ad hominem logical fallacy.

                      It’s good to know that you continue to show that you are not here for intellectual discourse but your own entertainment. Quite the fool you are. Of course, if I am an atheist who is deliberately trying to discredit Christianity, what does that say about atheists moral precepts?

                      You seem to think that it’s morally acceptable for an atheist to intentionally lie and deceive others to discredit their beliefs. Hmm…to me that would not be a good moral precept. But hey, I’m not the one who believes it would be okay to do.

                    • Keep trying to backpedal out of your disregard for Jesus’ teachings about anger and calling people fools. Maybe you’re just angry and bitter that you’re going to hell for it.

                    • Where have I “backpedaled?” Do you even know what that word means?

                      I haven’t changed my opinion or reversed my comments. I haven’t “disregarded Jesus’ teachings” I’ve disregard yours, which you’ve misused Jesus’ to make a personal attack with.

                      Sorry to keep catching you lying your ass off, but I am not angry or bitter by your comments that you believe I’m going to hell for pointing out the facts. You just keep digging your self deeper and deeper don’t you?

                    • Why are you so angry and bitter?

                    • Um, you do realize that is simply how you want to read my comments [as though I’m angry and bitter]. But since I’m not angry or bitter, when you ask the question, it makes you look ridiculous.

                      You dug your grave deep enough a long time ago, but yet, here you are still digging. I wonder how long it will take for you to realize this?

                    • Still bitter and angry?

                    • Nope, as how can I still be something that I never was to begin with. The fact that you keep asking and think that I am is making you a laughingstock.

                      I see you like asking loaded questions though. Keep up the logical fallacies, it’s making you look oh so intelligent!

                    • So when Christians ask non-believers why they are “bitter and angry,” is that a loaded question…makes Christians a laughinstock….a logical fallacy…oh so stupid?

                    • Nope.

                      It’s a loaded question because you asked if I was “still bitter or angry?”

                      You see, when you used the word still it implied that at some point in the past that I was angry and bitter. However, the previous two times you commented/asked if/why I was angry and bitter, I responded that I was not angry nor bitter. To which you persisted in your asking the same question and expecting a different result.

                      I really have to spell everything out for you, don’t I? You can’t even tell the difference between asking “Why are you bitter and angry?” and asking “[Why are you] still bitter and angry?”

                    • Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

                    • And what hypocrisy would that be? You seem to like to say things without evidence or reason. You really must clarify where you are coming from in order to be taken seriously!

                    • “Taken seriously” from a guy who believes in unicorns, talking snakes, human sacrifice, and ritual cannibalism. Now that’s rich.

                    • Still saying things without evidence or reason I see. You must be trying to provoke me to anger? I apologize that it won’t work.

                      It’s only you who thinks I believe in those things. You are simultaneously committing 2 logical fallacies. A straw man and an appeal to ridicule. So yes, you are not being taken seriously because of your comments.

                      I’m wondering if you are done yet? Or if you’re just a glutton for embarrassing yourself?

                    • You don’t believe the Bible?

                    • No, I don’t agree with your skewed theology of what you believe the Bible says.

                      You continually tell others what you think they believe without evidence or reason of what they actually believe.

                      You haven’t shown anything you’ve claimed or accused others of as being true. When questioned you don’t defend your claims or accusations but simply make more baseless claims and false accusations. Then when someone calls you out on them, you turn to personal attacks and more logical fallacies. Unlike you believe, you can’t dig yourself out of a hole, you just keep digging the hole deeper.

                    • You obviously are ashamed to admit there are unicorns (among other ridiculous things) in the bible, mentioned several times.

                    • You’ve made a claim without citing a verse and you expect people to what? Just believe you?

                      I did a word search for “unicorn” on Bible Gateway and it yielded zero results for almost all English translations. The Hebrew word being used properly means “ox.” But we can rest assured that even the versions that translate the Hebrew word into the English word “unicorn” are not referring to the mythical creature that you are implying.

                    • You are such a poor liar, it’s hilarious.

                      > yielded zero results

                      8 must be the new zero. LOL! A couple examples:

                      Psalm 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.

                      Job 39:10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow?

                      There are several more such references. Too bad you don’t read the Bible. If you did, you might have the slightest clue what it contains.

                      And rest assured, an ox doesn’t have “the horn,” you bald-faced liar.

                    • You don’t read very well, do you? As I said:

                      yielded zero results for almost all English translations.


                      But we can rest assure that even the versions that translate the Hebrew word into the English word “unicorn” are not referring to the mythical creature that you are implying.

                      But keep lying by omission, I mean we aren’t using a recorded medium or anything? One where we can go back and look at exactly what was said!

                      You must have looked it up in the KJV? As that is 1 of 6 English Bibles to use the word “unicorn.” Of course there are an additional 40 English translations that don’t use the word “unicorn.” So my apologies if I don’t use 1 of the 6 (out of 46) that translates the Hebrew word to unicorn only 8 times in the Old Testament.

                      Looking at Psalm 92:10 the Psalmist says “But my horn…” Which human beings don’t have a “horn” either. Therefore, the verse is using an idiom or a figure of speech. In looking at other English translations and the Hebrew word, it’s most likely figuratively referring to “strength” as opposed to a literal “horn.”

                      Do you get some sort of pleasure from being shown wrong repeatedly? At least you’re trying to show evidence and reason for your claims.

                    • You’re ever the word weasel. Typical christian.

                    • What exactly makes me the epitome of the word weasel? Demonstrating that you keep making baseless claims and false accusations? Or is it showing you wrong over and over again?

                      Maybe, just maybe, if you didn’t hold so strongly to your anti-Christian dogma and misconceptions of Christians (and their beliefs) you’d learn something?

                    • Mark

                      There are versions of the New Testament which do not use the translation you do, which do not include the word hate. Your point, however, is moot; since it is impossible to know for certain exactly what Jesus said. Unfortunately, there were no journalists following him around.

                    • The Gospels are pious fictions anyway. Pure literary make-believe.

                      I shall use the word “fiction” rather than “myth” to refer to the study, contained in this book, of the fictional aspects of the four canonical Gospels.

                      I write as literary critic, not as debunker. The Gospels are, it must be said with gratitude, works of art, the supreme fictions in our culture. Literary artists use their imaginations to produce poetry and fiction, works open to the methods of literary criticism.


                      To put it another way, we cannot know what the dying words of Jesus were, or even whether he uttered any. It is not that we have too little information, but that we have too much. Each narrative implicitly argues that the others are fictional. In this case at least, it is inappropriate to ask of the Gospels what “actually” happened; they may pretend to be telling us, but the effort remains a pretense, a fiction.

                      ~Randel Helms (1988) Gospel Fictions. Prometheus Books.

                  • Mark

                    If you’re so weary, you could fix that by visiting something other than Christian blog sites. Like maybe the entertainment channel.

                    • If you didn’t have a 2000 year reputation for sticking your nose in other peoples’ business, I might do that.

                      CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

            • Tony Prost

              “what Jesus believed about “hell” and present day individuals like you and me believe about it.”

              Is it right to talk about what Jesus “believed”, as if he were a creature requiring faith in things unseen?

              • What exactly is your question asking?

                • Tony Prost

                  what does it mean to say Jesus “believed” anything, natural or supernatural? He is supposed to be God. Does God believe things?

                  • I see, you’re trying to ask a very philosophical question.

                    Does God believe things? I’d answer yes, in fact, He knows what is true and what is false. So, to say that Jesus “believed” something would mean that he only accepts that which he knows is true (being God and all).

                    • Tony Prost

                      But normal human beings “believe” things they do not and cannot know. That is what belief means. If you know it, you don’t believe it. You can say you know Jesus is the son of God, but that is a misuse of the word “know”.

                    • If you know it, you don’t believe it.

                      How exactly does that work?

                      I know your name is Tony, but I don’t believe your name is Tony?

          • Mark

            Hi brother! I don’t think you’re having any “difficulty” at all – because you make no pretense of trying to follow Jesus. I think you’re just trolling again, and have thrown the same old turd in a different punch bowl this time. And I keep wondering why. Why waste your time reading all these different blogs that you then waste your time lobbing grenades at?

            • Jesus isn’t worth following. Do you really really believe in a mythical underworld from which to be “saved?”

              • Mark

                No, I don’t. And neither does Rob Bell, about whom this blog was written. I’m not looking to be saved. I’m an agnostic, universalist Jesus follower.

                • I suppose you’ve made a decent rainbow pony version of Jesus to follow, but you have to ignore the following:

                  1. Jesus was primarily concerned with a fantasy afterlife and avoiding a fantasy underworld.

                  2. He wasn’t very much of a humanist most of the time. Cursing, bad tempered, instructing men it’s better to cut off your balls, don’t get married, don’t enjoy life. He was a pious delugional asshole who hated normal life, thinking it worthy of a drowning and/or a roasting.

                  Luke 17:26-29 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.”

                  3. Jesus (and Paul too) spoke against the only Jewish author in the Bible worth following, the teacher of Ecclesiastes, who essentially was Epicurean. And with its Pharisaical additions removed, it really becomes a beautiful poem, as Paul Haupt shows.

                  Paul Haupt (1905) The Book of Ecclesiastes: A New Metrical Translation with an introduction and explanatory notes. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press.

                  Jesus is a strident moron. I’ll reject him and live this “Biblical” way.

                  A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. (Ecclesiastes 2:24) nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live (3:12) there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad (8:15) Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. (3:19)

                  • Mark

                    Man, what a hater you are! And more full of processed food than a horse! There are many, many people who don’t see Jesus as being “primarily concerned with…afterlife.” And I don’t see the mean, bad tempered person you do. He supposedly attended at least one wedding (where there is no mention of him upbraiding the guests for drinking the wine), and he was kind to the poor and marginalized, by all accounts.

                    You are certainly entitled to your views, and I would agree with you that some are not entirely baseless. But you have taken your Jesus hating way over the top. I’m starting to feel sorry for you, like you’re some kind of Scrooge. Have you had a lot of Christians at your door, telling you you’re doomed to Hell or something?

                    • Typical progressive, more strident than a fundagelical.

                    • Brad

                      Leibowitz, any idiot is capable of understanding that the surrounding circumstances give meaning to things. That’s how any investigation of any phenomenon or event is conducted. That’s what context is. It’s necessary for identifying the meaning of any word or statement. It’s what people do when they listen, or read. It’s magical, I know, but you can do it, too.

                      We process words and units within systems of reference. When I say “hi”, there isn’t any mystical, floating-above-our-heads dictionary that spells out the meaning of the word “hi”. Although, one of your autistic god-fathers, Bertrand Russell, was doggedly ignorant enough to actually think he could disregard this and reduce the world to atomic symbols – only to recant his stupidity later on. Any word in any vocabulary has a relation to something else. Sorry, but there isn’t an absolute, non-contextual use of the word “hate” or any other word or symbol.

                      You also may not think the burden of proof is on you to know “leprechology” to prove to Christians that leprechauns don’t exist, but you kind of have to know what a leprechaun is, (e.g., the story of the leprechaun you’re defeating) to claim “it” doesn’t exist. That means you have to spend some time studying the meaning of the story itself to declare the story is contradictory or morally evil. And when you do that, you end up with things like context. Your sentences make some kind of sense, because you believe in some kind of context… You just stop at the point you have deemed to be magic.

                      I, myself, am a religious person, but if you want to discredit Christianity, you have better options than this non-sense.

                      But my guess is that you are a early 20 something troll, practicing your remarks, only to see what kind of clever derogatory vocabulary you can accumulate over time.

                    • You have better options than the nonsense you believe. And yes, it is nonsense. I suppose that’s just what the intellectually challenged crave.

                      1Cor. 1:18-26 For the message about the cross is nonsense…the nonsense of our preaching…Not many of you were wise by human standards…

                      > non-contextual use

                      LOL! The magic word “context” once again used as a talisman against considering the horrors of the Bible. Here’s your sign:

                    • Brad

                      Your brilliance has me speechless.

        • Jeff Preuss

          What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me.


  • Critics play to their own gallery and become blind to their own selective interpretations, appearing to think that they are miraculously free of hermaneutical bias.

    e.g. A classic example of jawdroppingly unconscious arrogance and judgmentalism:

    “I don’t think Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell and co are reading the Bible through a Jesus lens, as much as they are reading Jesus through a selective, progressive postmodern lens, and then reading the rest of the Bible through that. The end result, ironically, is that while the Jesus we find in the Gospels fits well with the rest of the scriptures – as you might expect, given that he inspired them – neither the Jesus of the Gospels, nor the Bible, fit particularly well with the pastiche of Jesus that the Red Letter guys want to promote. When all is said and done, the biblical Jesus cannot be squeezed thorough the fine mesh of the progressive Jesus tea-strainer. Given the choice, we’re probably better off with the biblical one.”


    Meanwhile Rob Bell keeps on trying to find ways to communicate godly truth to our C21st apathetic entertainment culture, rather than snipe across the fine tuning of minor theological distinctions at fellow believers.

    Power to his elbow.

  • Aaron Strietzel

    Great post. Couldn’t agree more and thanks for sharing!

  • Pat68

    “If you’re a rock star and you love Jesus, prepare to be on the cover of Christian magazines.”

    Just as long as you meet with evangelicals’ definition of Christian. George Bush? Yes. Jimmy Carter? No. Kirk Cameron? Yes. Bono? Hmm, maybe. You get the gist.

  • Al Cruise

    Hmmmm . These people questioning Rob Bell, what do they believe? That donkeys can talk? That a person can camp out in the belly of a fish for 3 days? and their asking what happened to Rob Bell.

  • Frank6548

    Bell invalidates himself with his fallacious theology.

  • Oprah and Joel Osteen have been buddy-buddy often but no one is taking away his Evangelical card. I think it isn’t Oprah or fame, it’s that he no longer cares about having an Evangelical card; he won’t play the dogma game and recite the party lines anymore. He clearly thinks for himself and Evangelicals don’t like that at all.

    • Tom LeGrand

      I’m not so sure about that. A lot of Evangelicals, particularly in the Neo-Calvinist camp, will take Osteen to task.

      • Al Cruise

        Yea…Neo-Calvinists like Mark Driscoll.

        • Tom LeGrand

          Well, they DID, anyway…

        • Agni Ashwin


    • Wolf

      I tend to agree with the tone of this article, but Osteen NEEDS to be taken to task for his prosperity gospel drivel.

  • Adam Lorenz

    Well put. Thank you Tony.

    Love or hate Rob, he provides evangelicals time and again the chance to engage in conversations with people who want nothing to do with them or the faith. But instead of graciously navigating that, the steeple envy flares up and people turn on one another. Which is so deflating, discouraging, and heartbreaking.

    Yet, I will continue to hope for the ‘ripple’ to come my way.

  • toddh

    A little aside – but I can’t believe that B&C deleted my comment on their “satirical” review. Basically I said that the author should read some Moltmann, because that’s likely where Bell got his zimzum from, and then go back and do a real review that takes it’s source seriously, instead of trying to carelessly dismiss it through poor satire. And it got deleted!!! WTF.

    • Agni Ashwin

      Careful. Reading Moltmann on Tuesday might lead to reading Scholem on Friday.

  • Tim McCoy

    When Rob became an evangelical minister he swore himself to epistemic certainty. Certainty is a cornerstone of evangelicals is it not? When he questioned and God forbid doubted he broke the sacred oath and it is then the duty of some of the faithful to kill him, metaphorically of course in the name of Jesus and love. The world has much greater doubt and questions than Rob. As evangelicals go after Rob the irrelevance of the church simply grows. Oprah is a rich, classy lady who seems quite sincere and nice. Jesus, remember him, who he hung out with and the theological firestorms he ignited. My evangelical brothers and sisters please do not allow your certainty to lead to violence. You are not defending the faith simply your certainty.

  • Actually I think there could be a great spiritual testimony that comes from refusing to be a part of a celebrity cargo cult.
    It could be a profession of weakness as in I don’t need to be personally tempted to see myself as an expert.
    It could be about recognising that there is no way you wont become a barrier to peoples thinking about and experiencing God for themselves.
    Power and privelege are not always justified by the ends and certainly not by good intentions. Refusing certain positions of authority shouldn’t be considered by default some kind of stupid…. not if you are intent on building something other than just another church (empire).

  • Thanks for this post, Tony. I have followed Rob for many years and am continually challenged by him to think harder and deeper. What’s wrong with that? I fear that the critical evangelical camp are not interested in thinking as it might lead them to a realization that they have been wrong about some things. Then they would face the problem of whether or not truth changes. Such a realization challenges everything, which many of us have already discovered.

    • Frank6548

      I’ve thought quite a bit about what he says. He is categorically wrong in many things.

  • It’s strange that Bell is so polarizing/controversial to so many – to me, he’s just popularizing what others have already said in greater depth. Nothing wrong with that. And being undogmatic and asking probing questions of evangelicals is necessary work – but honestly, the “Eat, Pray, Love” crowd needs to be challenged too, not mollycoddled. People who seriously consider books like “The Secret” have a layer of spiritual narcissism which shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not really sure where Bell stands with regard to that sort of saccharine woo, but Oprahism has its own form of unchallenged dogma.

    I don’t want to be too hard on Bell, as I think he’s had a net positive effect so far. Actually, I was listening to the Liturgist Podcast (great podcast) and the host, Science Mike, was attributing alot to Bell for the revitalization of his own faith. So maybe I’m tone deaf to alot of what Bell is doing. It may just be an issue of style. I just hope in questioning old assumptions (work that needs to be done), he doesn’t just become the Deepak Chopra of Christianity.

    I’d be disappointed if he ended up mouthing inoffensive truisms/guru aphorisms which are going to be summarily dismissed by the intended audience – the audience of mainstream evangelicals. Again, I’m not saying he’s reached that point yet – he still has good things to say and is still pretty relevant to internecine Christian debates. But I’d say he can do a lot more in a conversation with the larger evangelical culture from within than from without. I’m not one of those people who subscribes to Oprah’s “kingmaker” status. Oprah’s vision of spirituality can, in some ways, be just as much of a straitjacket as conservative religion.

  • Nimblewill

    Maybe it’s simply because he’s called christianity’s most beloved doctrine into question. You don’t question the reality of ETC without being banished to hell by those who need it.

  • Philokalia12 .

    I find it interesting how progressives say the same things about evangelicals that they claim evangelicals say about culture and about progressives. Both grossly generalize and spew “holy (sometimes holier) venom” at each other. The superiority wars are ALL very unChristlike, folks.

  • I think this is awesome! “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” -Philippians 1:18

  • cypher20

    I think the problem is Bell is no longer preaching the Gospel and it is all these people positing other motives of his critics that come across as petty. I would love for a true Christ follower to get a platform like Rob’s, but there’s no way Oprah would ever do that. She would consider a true Christ follower too “bigoted” or “homophobic” or “hateful” or some such nonsense. So, no, I’m not excited about Bell getting an even larger platform to lead even more people astray. The fact that he is a former pastor makes things worse because it adds an air of authenticity to his completely false gospel. He is engaging in what these verses describe and is likely to only do harm to the cause of Christ:

    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Tim. 4:3-4

    P.S. What I find hilarious about all this is according the last facts I was aware of, evangelicals are a growing Christian denomination, not a shrinking one. Meanwhile, more “tolerant” denominations are losing members. Why have the the world-lite when you can just have the world after all? People keep saying that evangelicals are somehow a dying breed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, not outside the halls of the media elite.

    • Agni Ashwin

      “I would love for a true Christ follower to get a platform like Rob’s, but there’s no way Oprah would ever do that.”

      T.D. Jakes is not a true Christ follower?

      • cypher20

        Can’t say for certain as I’m not overly familiar with Bishop Jakes. Doing some cursory Google searching, I see he at least takes a Biblical stance on homosexuality, so he already has one up over Bell there. Regardless, it doesn’t really change the fact that Bell is a false teacher who is no longer preaching the Gospel. If Bishop Jakes is, well, then at least somebody on Oprah’s channel is. Although, continuing my cursory Google search it does not appear Bishop Jakes has a show of his own, simply that he’s been a guest several times. If I’m correct in that, my original post stands largely untouched.

  • Agni Ashwin

    So long, Tony Jones.

  • Which is not to say that Bell cares very much what anyone says these days.

    Well, from from what I was taught growing up, this is (in a person who has already gone through the hard work of assimilating the criticisms of peers) a good sign. It’s of a kin with breaking with a beloved teacher to learn and teach something truly new; at that point, those who cling even to well-worn and tested dogmas are in the way, and though not probably maleficent in intent, are an impediment to productive exploration. (Most teachers worth their salt understand this, too; there is nothing more tragic than a good teacher who feels slighted by a student who moves beyond their lessons.)

    For context, I’m an (from as far back as I can remember and cognitively assert any coherent metaphysical position) atheist. A good friend of my life partner–who is also an atheist but has a background in institutional Christianity before it became possible for her to articulate her atheism socially–loaned us Velvet Elvis as a prelude to inviting us to a Rob Bell presentation, in his role as the IvCF advisor at the university we attended. I personally was impressed with Rob Bell’s attempts in the text to point out things that he had learned from other traditions; there was a section where he talks about the wisdom of questioning the practice of loaning money at interest, and alternatives specifically that exist in extant Muslim traditions to get things done with capital without charging interest, such as an alternative community-centric approach to funding house building, repairs, and renovations. As a person who strongly believes in (re-)capturing the value of all the traditions available to human beings, I deeply appreciated the curiosity into foreign practices, but also the willingness to discuss and question received wisdom and interpretations, to struggle with it.

    And for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed in this regard by his talk. I will say he made a (common, easily avoided) error in trying to using the episteme of science to justify wishy-washy metaphysical concepts (in this case, the extratemporality of the Christian concept of God)–don’t, do not, bring the science, unless you know exactly what you are talking about should be a rule of thumb among pastors–but that easily forgiven error aside, was every bit as interesting as his writing in Velvet Elvis, specifically in trying to point out the wisdom (not necessarily knowledge) that proceeds from the Hebrew text of Genesis due to its poetic structure as mapped on to contemporary categories.

    So, at the least, for what it’s worth from my pagan, atheistic viewpoint, is the answer to the question of what Bell is or is not, is that, simply,

    He is one of the good ones.

    A spot assessment, certainly, only bolstered by his latter questioning of sacred (and yet, profane) cows like the necessity of hell to the narrative of Christianity, and his not giving TOO much of a damn what his critics think after he passed out of the shadow of received wisdom and asked truly hard questions about his own tradition and its baggage.

    Let it be a message, for what it’s worth, that the only people who reach people like me with anything like the message the gospels seem to charge pastors with, are people who, like Bell, are able to articulate the wisdom they see in the tradition they believe the way he does because they take the risk of being open to other ways enough to recognize the intrinsic value in them.

  • Angel Annihilation

    It’s not about theology? Really? Am I the only one that remembers him getting torn to pieces on msnbc, by an atheist news anchor on his theology? Is always been his theology not his success. I wish him well but I’ve never considered him an evangelical.

  • brana32752

    Biblical debate aside (nothing uglier than “Christians” arguing with
    each other over who is right) can I just point out that Laguna Beach is
    nowhere near Hollywood? Geez people, look at a map, LB is a wonderful
    community down in Orange County know for its artists and friendly
    people, and (gasp) plenty of good Christian people live there. I live a few miles from the actual Hollywood and guess what? Yep, Christians here too!

    Debate Rob Bell all you want, this jaded preacher’s kid isn’t interested in
    that discussion. But stop making assumptions about his character based
    on the fact that he chooses to live near the Pacific ocean halfway between
    LA and San Diego.