Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rob Bell is an Enemy of the Gospel

Rob Bell really makes me so mad! How can he merchandise so much heresy and humanism and package it as Christianity? There are people who may say "you shouldn't criticize a brother". To which I say - if he preaches another gospel he is not my brother (Galatians 1:8-9). There are "shepherds" who say "don't be critical, just focus on preaching the truth yourself". To which I respond that Shepherds have two primary jobs - 1. to feed the sheep and 2. to protect them from wolves. The prominence of Rob Bell's teaching in "Christian circles" is a good barometer of how many church leaders are failing on both counts.

False teaching continues to thrive amidst the deafening silence of the modern seeker sensitive pastors. But their failure to warn against wolves is only part of the story. If their flocks were well fed on the truth of God's Word then they could spot a false gospel against the plumline of biblical truth. Heretics like Rob Bell thrive in a climate of severe biblical illiteracy and sissy boy seeker sensitive pastors who can't even say boo to a big bad wolf (or in this case a wolf with trendy glasses).

Watch this video for yourself and see how Bell redefines the gospel. Pay close attention to how much Rob Bell focuses on the character and nature of God, man's depravity, judgment, eternal life, eternal punishment, Christ's atoning work on the cross, and our need to repent and trust in Christ . . .

So Rob, eleven minutes of trying to sprout Yoda like wisdom without any mention of God's Holiness, man's depravity, judgment, eternity, hell, the atonement, or our need to repent from sin and trust the wonderful Savior. And then to top it all off you say that "you are the gospel".

Rob Bell, you are an enemy of the True Gospel. The beautiful Gospel about wretched hell deserving sinners being reconciled to a Holy and Just God Who demonstrated His immense love in dying in the place of sinners. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21). How dare you trample over these beautiful Scriptural truths and change the wonderful message about forgiveness of sin, salvation from wrath, imputed righteousness, and eternal life into belittling the exclusivity of Christ and massaging people's self esteem.

Preacher, if you love Christ then be zealous for His Gospel and warn the sheep to stay away from wolves by branding heretics like Rob Bell. Brothers and sisters, warn others with vigilance, preach the true Gospel, and plead with your local Christian bookstores to remove this post-modern poison off their bookshelves. Here is a presentation I did in my old home church exposing Rob Bell (for those of you who haven't already seen it!) . . .

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive (Romans 16:17-18).

Coming Monday - Paul Washer preaches the true Gospel in Denmark!


Heath The Blogless said...

Now as someone who knows the Gospel and has been saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I had trouble trying to follow what Rob Bell was on about. I would hate for someone who didn't know anything about Christianity to see that. How confused would they be.

Furthermore "you are the Gospel" Where do the bible say that. Has Rob Bell ever read Paul's letters. The one chosen by God personally to bring the gospel to the gentiles, He did not think himself worthy at all he didn't go around saying look at me, look at me what a great guy I am. He said that he is wretched and that they only goodness in him comes from God.

Harper said...

"If anyone comes to you preaching another gospel, let him be accursed"....

Anonymous said...

You might like this:

Ron Dawson said...

Okay. Now I understand where you're coming from. After watching this Nooma (which I own), and seeing your response, I get it. Then looking at your counter of deaths on your blog, makes it all clear. You feel strongly that teaching hell and damnation is the best way to win souls. That we must scare people into salvation.

Maybe it's because I'm one of those "sissy boy" seeker friendly apologetic types you referred to another blog post that I am turned off by this style. I know you mean well, but I just don't get it. How can you watch this Nooma and say it's evidence of hereticism? Maybe because I'm a filmmaker I get where he's going. He is NOT saying "we" are the Gospel, as in WE are equal with Christ. He's saying "WE" are the Gospel in that we are to be living, breathing proof of the love and resurrection of Christ. How we live our lives will be the most illustrative example of the actual words of the Bible. Most people who don't know Christ will come to Him by how we show His love to others. NOT by yelling at them via a Bullhorn that they're going to burn in hell for all eternity if they don't repent. True. But it will be lost on deaf ears. As I bet most of the writing on this blog will be to the people who really need to understand, know, and believe in Christ.

In the little bit I've read on your blog, you have more articles about what other people do wrong. More articles about God's judgment. More articles about how messed up Rob Bell and other "sissy boy seeker friendly" types are like. You have more of these posts than posts on love. On caring for your fellow man. I guess that's one way to communicate the gospel. It would be nice if you had a nice balance of article about actually loving people. Hmmm? What a novel idea.

You say you've reached out to Rob Bell and can't get an audience with him. I wouldn't reply to you either if you were in the habit of posting caricatures of me with a clown nose and makeup on my face.

Anyway, I know we'll agree to disagree on a number of things. I hope you post this comment. And I hope those who read it will consider what I've written.

God bless.

Ron Dawson said...

First, I want to say I thank and respect you for posting my previous comment. I honestly half expected not to see it here. Thanks for airing both sides of this discussion.

I wanted to address the first commenter, Heath the Blogless. Noomas are designed to be fuels for discussion, not entire sermons in and among themselves. This particular Nooma is not meant to encapsulate the entire Gospel message. It is to offer a question: why should anyone follow this Christ? He starts by setting the historical stage of the time. That in Jesus' day, there were other beliefs that talked about "saviors" being raised from the dead. So, why should we follow this Christ? This Nooma posits the idea the 1) we are a people needing saving 2) Christ is the Good News and 3) we can also be the Good News in how we lead and live our lives.

You say you'd hate a non-christian to see this. Yet the truth is undeniable. Tens of thousands of souls have either 1) come to Christ or 2) have had their walk with Christ strengthened as a result of the Nooma film series. They offer a forum for those pre-disposed NOT to believe, to take heed and listen.

This world is dying of spiritual starvation. Like a real person deprived of food for long periods of time, if you stuff a four-course meal down their throat, their stomachs are likely to explode and they'll die.

Seeker-sensitive teachings like Nooma (and others criticized on this blog) offer the life saving message of Christ to a dying world in a manner that keeps them alive. The smell the sweet aroma (which are those believers around them offering a genuine, love-filled relationship.). They sip some soup (coming to church with a believing friend. Attending an Alpha course, etc.) The take in more and more. And when the Holy Spirit deems it's time, they embrace Christ. They may still have questions, but they make that leap and continue in their walk with those who LOVED them into the kingdom.

The evidence is all around you. I see ministries like those by Rob Bell, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren winning thousands of souls. However, I see ministries like this blog 1) causing in-fighting in the church, and 2) repelling the very people who actually DO need to hear what this blog has to say.

As 1 Thessolonians commands, we SHOULD test everything and avoid evil. Yes, Rob, Rick, Bill, and even Camera B. should all be tested. But, you have to accept the fact that not all people respond to the Gospel the same way. I believe stuffing it down peoples throats, or scaring them into salvation is a less effective method. IMHO.

I also believe that using terms like "sissy" to describe other well-respected leaders in the Christian community, and/or making "clown" caricatures of them is immature and childish and no good can come of it. It casts us all in a bad light and gives those on the outside more reason to reject the Gospel.

God bless.

Apeleutheros said...

Mr. Dawson, the problem with the seeker sensitive movement is simply that it uses things like humanism, psychology, philosophy, and statistics to substitute the Word of God and the super natural work of the Holy Spirit which is necessary (and often painful)in the heart of a believer.

Now I won't go all polemic on you and say we have to flog people with the reality of hell and scare them into belief, but I will say that those things are a reality and they need to be proclaimed. I was once a meth manufacturer converted powerfully through the reading of God's Word. Upon my conversion although I was given an initial sense of God's love for me, I was then overcome with terrible fear when the Holy Spirit brought to me the realization that I was gonna go to hell if I did not repent and believe. After my heart was quickened, my eyes were opened, and for the first time I saw what was really in my heart (evil), and I saw the demonic activity at work in and around me. It scared me to death but this fear was necessary because I would have not obeyed His voice otherwise. I ran to Him because I saw my NEED for Him.

The Holy Spirit didn't hug me with some humanistic emotion, He didn't make me feel accepted, or comfortable, He didn't entertain me. He did what was necessary to save me from myself, and it was very painful and ugly.

I think the human perception of love and God's true and eternal love are two entirely different things. I think there's a growing lack of discernment between the two and there are those like Rob Bell who are there trying to fudge the line.

As Bonhoeffer once said:

“Human love has little regard for the truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Ron Dawson said...


We may just agree to disagree on the best way to communicate the gospel. The seeker sensitive ministries I've participated in (Alpha included) do no substitute the word of God. But yes, they do sometimes present it in a way that's entertaining. Or at least approachable by nonbelievers Jesus taught using parables b/c in his day, that was one of the best ways to help get his message across.

I wholeheartedly believe the reality of hell, etc, need to be proclaimed. But if you proclaim it without love. Or if you proclaim it to people who don't believe it in the first place. You do them more harm than good. Jesus did talk about hell, etc. But when I read the bible, it seems to me that the people he won over, he won over with love, not with fear of hell. He didn't tell the woman at the well you're going to hell b/c you're sleeping around. He didn't tell the woman about to be stoned you're going to hell unless you repent. He just said, "sin no more." In each of those cases he showed love, kindness, and grace. Even the sermon on the mount was not about fire and brimstone.

Apeleutheros said...

Im sorry but do you read your bible? Jesus did not speak in parables to get a point across. Jesus spoke in parables because He knew the Jews wouldnt get it and they would crucify Him, which was God's will that He may ultimately save His people. (Read Matt 13:10-17, Isaiah 6:9-10)

It was done out of the necessity that the will of the Father may be accomplished. He had to die, that we may live. He spoke in parables that the Jews would NOT understand and HE said so Himself.

Ron Dawson said...

Apeleutheros, First, yes, I do read the Bible.

Second, given Matt 13:10-17, I'll concede your point about the parables. But, when you look at his entire ministry while on this earth, I dare say it was not Jesus' mission to keep everyone but the disciples in the dark about his message. But even if it was, that is NOT the mission for us today. We are not prophesied to explain the gospel in a way that listeners can't hear or see. We are called to spread the good news to all the world, and to make disciples of them. And whether you like it or not, the world does NOT want to hear it. So, if I can use a piece of entertainment (whether or story, a film clip, a song, whatever) that illustrates a point of the gospel that makes it plain for others to understand, that's a good thing.

Are the fiction writings of C.S. Lewis heretical just b/c they are not literal? Is the music of Chris Tomlin, Fee Band, Mercy Me, Third Day, David Crowder, and other such groups ineffective b/c none of it talks about judgment and hell? All of these are ways of reaching a world pre-disposed to reject God. But if you can win their trust. if you can enter into a genuine relationship. You then win their ear. Once you have their ear, and respect, you have set the stage for them to accept and believe the the real judgment of God.

Your personal conversion testimony sounds very powerful. Thanks be to God for how He came to and affected your life. But my friend and brother, you have to understand that not all people will come to Christ the same way. I would say, given your background, you HAD to come to Christ in the way you did. But, 1 Cor 2:14 tells us that men not of the spirit cannot understand the spirit. That it is foolishness to them. So, if you come at someone telling them to turn or burn, 1) if they don't already believe in God, they won't believe your warning anyway, and 2) all you do is drum up the very natural and human reaction to put up guards and take a stance of defense. You're setting yourself up to fail.

RE: methods used by Seeker-friendly movements to communicate the gospel. Truth is truth, whether you call it humanistic, psychology, philosophy, or what have you. The Bible is entirely true, but not ALL truths are in the Bible. As long as the methods one uses do not contradict the word of God, if it brings someone closer to Christ, I'm all for using it. And the tens of thousands of non-believers coming into the church b/c of ministries like Alpha is proof positive they work.

Apeleutheros said...

...I have good reasons to be leery of Rob Bell. I consider his teachings to be dangerous. I will confess I've recently broke fellowship with a college age group because they (against my advice) were showing Rob Bell videos along with the materials from other emergent leaders. I consider the Nooma video "Dust" to be, in a nut shell, a message on self-esteem, and self-esteem is just another word for pride. It is pride wearing a new spiffy outfit (made sheep's wool perhaps). I found his presentation "Everything is Spiritual" to be christianized Pan-en-theism, if not Pantheism, and Bull-horn guy contradicts every godly prophet who has ever walked the face of the earth, from Noah to John. I don't want to spend the time and energy sifting through all of Bell's work. I have enough to do, and a hard enough time doing it. I think the errors are fairly obvious (although obvious in an ambiguous sort of way). I must say though, that everytime I hear someone quote him, even before they say it was Rob Bell they had quoted, I am thinking "That's humanism".

Again I would refer back to that scripture in Jude, and we will see that we need to seek and put all our faith in Christ alone, present our lives a living sacrifice that we may be able to discern what must be done when the time comes to witness to an individual. I wouldn't walk up to a brokenhearted, depressed old woman in a nursing home and tell her, "Look you are totally depraved and evil and you need to turn from your wickedness or burn in hell forever!", but I also wont walk up to one of my old drug dealer friends with a smile and say: "You know Jesus loves you and has a great plan for you life" as they are selling a 1/2 gram of dope to a high school student.

In Christ,

Shaun Little

Apeleutheros said...

Perhaps my opening sentence on that last comment came more from the arrogance of my flesh than from the Spirit. I believe you do read your bible, and I do see that you want to bring across the point that not all come to God in the same way. I totally agree with you on that and there's a verse in Jude I have often quoted to both support and argue when either side of the coin becomes overly emphasized or neglected:

"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a distinction: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." - Jude 1:21-23 NKJV

I would underline the part of the passage that states "making a distinction". Unfortunately many translations have miss interpreted or poorly rendered the passage (In fact The NIV omits it entirely), but the word used is also very close to the word for discernment or discerning. I personally think it would be better translated "discerning the difference". Jude is saying that there is a distinction to be made in our ministry of the Gospel; that we are to discern whom it is necessary to reach out to in love and mercy, and to whom it is necessary to save through fear. Do not forget "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom".

When I was in my sins I would often mock Christians because I thought the type of Christianity prevalent in America was limp wristed and candy coated. I remember how sugary sweet I thought they were and it seemed so phony. Their entertainment, their programs, their white picket fence smiles made me want to get sick. There was no power in it to save me, because I was a stubborn hard hearted young man who actually needed a good shaking (or to be taken behind the old wood shed), not a smile and/or comforting words. I sneered at that kinda stuff. It wasn't until God intervened in my life Himself and showed me both His love for me and His hatred for my sin that I was saved. I didn't see the fluffy Santa Claus Jesus of American Evangelicalism anymore, I was made to see a God who is: sovereign, powerful, genuinely grieved and angry with sin, but yet still loving and unwilling to remove His mercy, for the hope that some may come to the truth. I saw a righteous Father, both severe and merciful. Though that statement seems paradoxical He is the living solution which reconciles what we cannot reason in our minds...cont.

Apeleutheros said...

PS - Hey my last two comments got mixed up in there order. The 1st one is actually the 2nd part and the 2nd was the 1st. Kinda messes with the context a bit :)


Ron Dawson said...

Thanks so much for your reply. I think we are more in line with one another than this discourse might infer. :) And I would also concede that on the spectrum of seeker-sensitivity to turn and burn preaching, Bell is about as far to the left as one could go--w/o totally crossing over, IMHO. I think to label him a heretic is far fetched at best, arrogant at worst. His teaching continually points to the person of Jesus. But, let's all agree to disagree about Bell. I would even admit there have been times when words he's said has stopped me and made me think, "Hmmm? Not so sure about that." So, I definitely don't want to come across as a "Rob Bell can do no wrong" fanboy. But, I test everybody I listen to, and make prayerful judgments based on how I feel the Spirit leads me. No one has cornered the market on perfect Bible interpretation as far as I'm concerned.

And like you, my schedule is pretty busy, so I won't take up too much more time, accept to say I've appreciated how you've shared your heart. Would love to meet you 1-on-1 some time.

God bless,

Random said...

[Part II]

think we all have "gifts" given to us by God. Some can be preaching, some can be serving in other ways, but I also think there are great minds that can serve God. C.S. Lewis is one such example. If Lewis had not turned his brilliant intellect towards the study of God he, first might not have been saved, and second, we would have been deprived of the writings one of the great intellectual theologians of the last century.

I, myself, have done a lot of leaning on my own understanding and made some really bad choices. But I've also made choices, after carefully praying, that have turned out well and some that haven't. It's really hard to discern God's judgment on our decisions at times.

It's my take that we have choices (free will), but God has a plan and He knows what we will do. I will avoid discussing the differences between God's Sovereign Will and God's Permissive will because while they are crucially important, that is a parallel set of topic that could be talked about exhaustively. For the sake of brevity, I'll also avoid the topic of election -- at least for now.

Many also cite:
Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

But earlier in Isaiah 64 (v5), the Bible states:
"You come to the help of those who gladly do right and remember your ways."

Does this scripture mean that there are people who choose to do something -- in this case, "do right and remember your ways" -- is this a case of God working in them or are they doing this on their own and God is helping out folks who are "doing right."

In circling back around to the Nooma video, I had the same initial reaction to the video. Peter lacked faith in Christ, but I think that Bell may have been getting at why Peter even consider getting out of the boat as much as what held him aloft.

In these Nooma videos, Bell has a soft theological approach. These videos are meant to be conversation starters and not necessarily the end-all/be-all to the discussions.

In the video, Bell sets up a context. He tells the story of how the best-of-the-best of the Rabbi's students get selected to carry on the rabbi's teachings. (He also states that Rabbi's have differences of opinions on the scriptures, but that's a tangent I'm not going into now.)

Bell states that the disciples are selected by Christ while they are fishing. They are asked to drop their nets and follow Him -- which they do. Bell continues interpreting Christ's actions and the soon to be disciples actions as Christ stating follow me and you can do what I do. (Because they've heard about Christ's teachings and miracles.)

Bell continues on to say that these disciples went on, following the Great Commission, to change the course of history. Now, you could say that the only thing the disciples did was through the power of the Holy Spirit, but that brings us around to the question of free will. The disciples had a choice -- act on the urgings of the Holy Spirit (and risk their very lives) or to deny it (and live). They chose to act. They made a decision to follow the Holy Spirit.

Yes, does Bell overstate his case. Yes. Does he over-reach on what our role is on our own, outside of the Holy Spirit? Yes, mostly. But critiquing only this part of Bell's argument, you are looking at one specific point and not the over-arching point which is we are called to act on our faith. Maybe Bell should have said that Peter lacked the will to believe in what the Holy Spirit could do? But he didn't say that. So, yes, he did over-reach in his interpretation.

Random said...

[Note: This will be a 3 part response due to character limitations in this blog system]

First, I know I'm coming to this "debate sort of late, but I felt that I had to join. And I also wanted to thanks Ron Dawson and apeleutheros for their civil tones.

Second, let me state that I am not a member of Rob Bell's church, nor have I attended it. I have watched several Nooma videos and listened to many of his sermons. In other words, I don't consider myself a Rob Bell apologist, just a brother in Christ, trying to find His way (not my own way -- with the exception of the times I'm terribly misguided and selfish which is way too much).

This argument will loop in and around several larger issues, but I will get to the point, I promise. I spent a lot of time with this over the past few years. It's how I have to approach the scriptures. I have to ask my questions and find the Truths I need to know.

Mr. Buettel's rebuttal to Rob Bell's interpretation of Peter walking on the water in the Nooma video Dust stating that nowhere in the Bible commentaries he can find does it say that Peter has faith in himself. I would agree with your interpretation, but I would say that something got Peter to step out into the water. Faith (in Christ) is what held him up, but something urged him out.

Paul states in Romans 7:18 that that there is no good in him. Why does God decide to use man to carry out the task of spreading His Word? And where is free will in all this? Do we only have the free will to answer God's calling on us and nothing else? That could work. God could move us, through the Holy Spirit, to action and we would have the choice to say yes to that. Or no. But it would be the Holy Spirit acting in us. So, either we are puppets of the Holy Spirit or we have free will. Whether God believes in us or not, if we have free will, we have an action that is our own -- an action outside God's or else we don't have free will. In the choice to be led by the Holy Spirit, we make a choice -- our choice to follow God's urgings or our own. I have to acknowledge that God knows that about us and designed us with that free will.

Some will say that the only good things we do come from God. So, when we do good, we are doing divine actions. But why did God choose to create us and to then in the face of all our failings, give us this charge to spread His Word? And how does free will enter into this equation? So, when we do bad things, it is our own action, but when we do good, it is God working through us?

Proverbs 3:5 In all your ways, acknowledge Him and lean not on your own understanding and He shall make your paths straight.

This passage is a source for much wisdom, but it tends to be a catch-all for those that want to critique other's actions.

What does this passage really mean? That we shouldn't think or discern? I don't think so and most people, I think, would agree. In Beuttell's rebuttal, he uses his intellect to dissect and interpret Bell's message.


Random said...

[Part III]

In James, it says:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I think the crux of Bell's lesson is really summed up when he asks:
"What if we can be the kind of people who lived like Jesus lived? The kind of people who take action?"

Bell ends the video with these lines:
"May you believe in God, but may you come to believe that God believes in you. May you have faith in Jesus and may you come to believe that Jesus has faith in you -- that you can be like Him, a person of love, compassion and truth. A person of forgiveness and peace. Of grace and joy and hope. And may you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi, Jesus."

If you took out these parts of these lines "but may you come to believe that God believes in you" and "and may you come to believe that Jesus has faith in you" I don't think anyone would have objections. There are many calls for us to be Christ-like in the Bible, but I think the issue with Bell's points is that it could be interpreted that we are "Christ-replacements." That would be a total wrong direction to go in.

I think if you look at the core teachings of Bell, you will see that he adheres to an acceptable doctrine. Does he over reach at times? Yes.

I'll get to my two final points. Some will go to the extreme, in my opinion, and call Bell a heretic. I think this is harsh judgement. Can't Bell just be wrong? Can't he have just missed the point? Some denominations believe that baptism is obligatory for salvation. Do we go around calling all those that denomination heretics? I doubt it. Can't Bell just be wrong on this account or misinterpreting this scripture?

One of the issues I have against a campaign like this is that it wastes so much time that be could be devoted toward positive goals of carrying forth Christ's mission. When we, as Christians, devote so much energy to tearing each other down, it's no wonder the world finds who we are and what we stand for unappealing at times. In a recent book title UnChristian, the authors cite that Christianity has a bad rap in the world because from those outside the faith, we are defined more by what we are against than what we are for. We are defined as haters and bigots and being close minded.

I once made a joke that sometimes it seems that if the Romans were around today, they wouldn't need lions to feed Christians to, they just throw Christians to other Christians and that would do the job.

Do we ave a responsibility to discern false teaching from proper teaching? Yes. Certainly, it is a serious charge to spread false doctrine on purpose. But who's really to say that Bell is wrong and if he is wrong, is it a game breaker? And should we stop the bus and duke it out? If you look at the core of his ministry, he is teaching the proper doctrine, in my opinion.

Lastly, and this loops back to my point about where to direct your energy, but we are directed to be at peace with our Christian brethren multiple times in the Bible.

Romans 14:19
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

I am not an apologist for Rob Bell. Or, at least, I'm not trying to be. I just don't see the point in tearing down someone who has, for all intents and purposes, selected a life to minister to those that need Christ in their lives. If his theology is soft, trust God to lead people to the Truth within it. I can see it. Don't you think others can?

I guess, for me, it comes down to know what I need to know about God's Truth and being able to see the hard ideas that Bell is trying to get across in his soft approach.