I am persevering on this subject today for three major reasons:
1. Rob Bell is exerting a lot of influence on young undiscerning church goers. I was initially dragged into examining the teaching of Rob Bell due to the use of his teaching in my home fellowship and the disturbing understanding of the Gospel that began to "emerge" among many of the impressionable young. The deeper I dug the darker it got (wait until you read the quotes I've got posted today).
2. Though there are worse teachers out there, I get asked the most questions about Rob Bell. Also, Rob tends to be a very gifted communicator who is very adept at cloaking the heretical aspects of his teaching.
3. The reproach he brings on doctrines that people like the reformers were willing to lay down their lives for.
If you think my charges against Rob Bell's teaching are unfounded or over the top then listen to Rob Bell in his own words (with thanks to the guys at "A Thousand Tongues" website for compiling this list).
Rob Bell On Scripture:
“The Bible is a collection of stories that teach us about what it looks like when God is at work through actual people. The Bible has the authority it does only because it contains stories about people interacting with the God who has all authority” (Velvet Elvis p65).
“…it wasn’t until the 300s that what we know as the sixty-six books of the Bible were actually agreed upon as the ‘Bible’. This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is. So when I affirm the Bible as God’s word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true. In affirming the Bible as inspired, I also have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to choose those books.” (Velvet Elvis p68)
[The Bible is a] “human product…rather than the product of divine fiat” (Emergent Mystique, Christianity Today)
Rob Bell On Heaven and Hell:
”When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth. Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” (Velvet Elvis p148)
“Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. Ours or God’s.” (Velvet Elvis p146)
Rob Bell On The Fall:
“I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t sin; that’s obvious. In the book of James it’s written like this: ‘We all stumble in many ways.’ Once again, the greatest truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn’t that it happened, but that it happens.” (Velvet Elvis p139)
Rob Bell On The Exclusivity of Christ:
“I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’, he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God.” (Velvet Elvis p83)
Rob Bell On the Nature of the Atonement:
“So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.” (Velvet Elvis p146)
Rob Bell On the Virgin Birth:
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?
But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” (Velvet Elvis p26)
Rob Bell On Faith:
“Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves….. Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus’ life he gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of how capable they are. He sees what they could be and could do, and when they fall short it provokes him to no end. It isn’t their failure that’s the problem, it’s their greatness. They don’t realize what they are capable of….God has an amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me….God has faith in me.” (Velvet Elvis p133-134)
For further reading I recommend Mark Sohmer's scholarly review of Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis.
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