Monday, November 30, 2009

My Plea To Pastors About Rob Bell (Part 1)

I really do believe that there are far better things to talk about than emergent guru extraordinairre Rob Bell. I just don't understand why he is the sacred cow that postmodern groupies defend to the hilt, and the prominent teacher I get more questions about than everybody else put together. Perhaps it is his contagious and captivating style of communication. Perhaps it is all the smoke and mirrors that comes with the theology he conveys. Perhaps it is his Yoda like ponderings that sound so deep and profound even though we don't quite know what he's talking about. Whatever it is, by persistent questioning (from both sides) and my continual frustration with the confusing world of postmodernism (where wrong is right and right is left), I have been persuaded that further discussion is warranted.

But could Bell really be as bad as his critics suggest? How could a man accused of so much false teaching and heresy sneak under the radar of the wider Christian public? I have certainly been very forthright in my criticism of Rob Bell on this blog. You'd think enough has been said but this week I really got pushed over the edge by the madness that is postmodernism. In the good old days a debate involved contention over opposing views. But in the mad world of postmodernism it seems that the greater problem than disagreement is when the postmodernist agrees with two conflicting views that logically contradict each other.

There were two straws that broke this camel's back in the last week. Firstly, I was made aware of some recent correspondence of a friend of mine concerning Rob Bell. My friend, David, who I treasure as a brother, is an academically trained pastor with a sharp apologetic brain. But to my absolute amazement he wrote these two statements:

1. Bell has, however, “baptized certain prevailing cultural values and call[ed] them good” in silencing the Bible’s challenge to aberrant sexual expression, claiming that God is not angry over our sin, suggesting that Christ’s atonement was only subjectively necessary, and advocating a form of universalism in which all are forgiven though some simply fail to live accordingly.

2. . . . the vast majority of his teaching is orthodox, and it isn't becoming of Christians to malign a brother . . .

Can someone please join the dots on that for me? How exactly does "suggesting that Christ’s atonement was only subjectively necessary and advocating a form of universalism in which all are forgiven" make someone a Christian "brother". If you are a pastor, elder, youth leader, or any other form of active Christian voice - PLEASE, I BEG YOU, PROTECT YOUR SHEEP. Shepherds are called to feed sheep and protect them from wolves. Both of these are violated when the sheep are fed on the doctrine of wolves. The idea of eating the fish and spitting out the bones just doesn't cut it with an undiscerning flock. I don't teach my two year old son how to handle snakes - I teach him to avoid them at all costs. The same should apply to your congregation.

The other straw that broke this camel's back was my "dialogue" with a man called Ron Dawson - a defender of Rob Bell. I will give a more extensive response to Ron in later posts but, for now, my concern lies with his self contradictory statements concerning the Gospel.

I have a video on youtube called Rob Bell Exposed where I respond to some of Bell's false teaching on one of his Nooma videos called Dust. In the comments section for this video Ron wrote:

I think the problem is that you cannot deny Rob's very positive influence on the growth of God's church. Thousands have come to know and love Christ b/c of Noomas. I don't doubt there are holes or mistakes in some of Rob's [theology]. But, when you look at the body of his work. When you look at the fruit of his labor, what do you see? I think the fruit of his work suggests that his is someone who earnestly wants to preach the love and redeeming power of Christ . . . I seriously doubt the thousands of people converted b/c of Nooma are all following some false messiah. Let's be real here. :-)

Since Ron thinks that people can come to Christ by virtue of Bell's gospel I asked him to define the Christian Gospel in his own words. Ron wrote:

God loved us immensely. Came to earth in form of a man (still wholly God, but wholly man), and died a terrible death as a price for all sin. By His power he defeated death and rose again. He offers all who would repent and believe on Him and His resurrection an everlasting life. ~ Also, that He calls us to love Him with mind, heart, body, and soul, and our neighbors as ourselves.

This explanation does have some shortcomings and an element of works (I will elaborate on that in a later post). But what is clear is that Ron and Rob have a fundamental difference concerning the need to repent. Earlier, we heard David concede that Bell is a universalist which explains Bell's failure to preach repentance. Ron, on the other hand, says repentance is necessary.

I then pointed out to Ron that he and Bell clearly preach/believe different gospels and the Apostle Paul says that:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

But since then, Ron has continued in his persistant defence of Bell failing to see that his claims of thousands coming to Christ through Bell's teaching is a self refutation of his own understanding of the Gospel. They believe different gospels on the fundamental point of repentance and Bell's universalist view, that everybody is saved.

Ron Ron Ron, please come out of the postmodern fog and stand for something. If Bell is leading thousands to Christ then renounce your own version of the gospel. Or, conversely, if you have a right understanding then Rob Bell must be a heretic. Which one is it? No hazy postmodern answers allowed.

I also asked Ron to back his assertion that Bell is leading people to Christ by finding one solitary orthodox presentation of the Christian Gospel by Rob Bell in writing, audio, or video. As with all the other Rob Bell defenders that I have requested this information from for the last two years - NOTHING has been forthcoming, not from any of his books, teaching, or sermon archives.

Please hear my plea if you are reading this. This is not small talk here. This concerns the very Gospel by which men must be saved. We cannot afford to get it wrong. Please stay away from anyone who preaches a false gospel - even if they have some good ideas. After all, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day.

Go On To Part 2


Ron Dawson said...

Part 2:
Your blog clearly tends to focus on the wretchedness of mankind and our need to repent or go to hell. There are some nonbelievers who MAY respond to that. But, in all my work in apologetic ministries, the seekers I've ministered to would NOT. I see "turn and burn" preaching doing more harm than good. But, that's just my opinion.

I'm no theologian. I'm a man who's passionate about reaching the lost in ways that are relevant, real, and authentic. Bell is not perfect by any means. I have no doubt he'd be the first to admit that. You are not perfect either. You both come approach communicating the gospel from different angles. You claim his angle is heretical, and that's your prerogative.

However, I would encourage you to stop chastising Bell, Rick Warren, Joel Olsteen, and any other mega-church pastor you disagree with, and instead focus on preaching the gospel the way YOU feel God has lead you to teach it. Focus on YOUR sheep in YOUR church. If your congregation is reading or watching Bell, address THEM and cease the public attacks on other Christian leaders who are indeed do much for the Kingdom. Let GOD deal with Bell if Bell truly is heretical. It is not your job to save the world.

As always, appreciate the discussion. Have to get back to work now.

God bless.

Ron Dawson said...

Part 1:

Wow. Who would've thought I'd be thrust into such an international debate. I'm just a humble filmmaker in the Atlanta, GA area who loves God and has a sincere heart to reach seekers. :-)

First, as I just recently commented on your "Rob Bell is an Enemy of the Gospel" post, I am NOT a "Rob Bell Can do no wrong" fan boy. I concede there are times when he's said something where I've thought, "Hmmm, not so sure about that." But I've thought that about many pastors. I test everyone, and by prayer and wise counsel from fellow saints look to be guided by the Spirit.

I've only seen two of the high profile video responses to Bell's Nooma videos "Bullhorn" and "Dust." In both cases, the ONLY comment in my opinion that is up for controversy is in Dust where Bell says the "faith" Jesus is rebuking Peter for not having is faith in Peter (ie himself). But, that is a small part of that video, and not even what the full video is about.

You want some writing/video by Rob that is Orthodox. Well, I think anything I share you'd disagree with. As I commented on your post with the "You" Nooma excerpt, the one where at the end Rob says, "YOU are the good news," I did not see that comment in the video as heretical. My interpretation of that statement is that WE are the good news by how we live our lives as an illustration of the gospel. Not that WE are equal to Christ.

An excerpt from the Mars Hill statement on theology states, "Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God. God is now reconciling us to each other, ourselves, and creation. The Spirit of God affirms as children of God all those who trust Jesus." Is that unorthodox? Heretical?

I admit I have not read ALL of Rob's works. But I have seen 22 of the 24 Noomas, Everything is Spiritual, have heard Rob on Catalyst's podcast, and heard him speak at the Catalyst conference this past October. Except for maybe a couple of ideas presented in two of the Noomas, I fail to see how his teaching is heretical. Just about everything I've seen him teach points to the person of Jesus and the command to love (which, if I'm not mistaken, is a bigger part of the gospel than anything else). Rob does not point to himself, nor his church. He points to Jesus. I have not read anything by him where he suggests repentance is not necessary. NONE of the Noomas I've seen claim that. Not one. True, they don't focus on the repentance part of the gospel, but neither do the fiction writings of CS Lewis. Neither do the worship songs of bands like Crowder, Fee Band, Mercy Me, etc.

There are many resources available to promote the gospel. They all play a vital role. Your blog is one. The Noomas are one. The music of Chris Tomlin and the kind of bands mentioned above is another. As far I''m concerned, no one has cornered the market on perfect bible interpretation or evangelism. Anyone who believes they know EXACTLY what the Bible truly means is arrogant. (to be continued)

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