The title** for today’s post (coincidentally we are studying 1st John in Sunday School class) could actually apply to any of a number of emergent “high priests” who preach their version of the “Word of God” by denying or questioning the very authority of… The Word of God. (See a short description of gnosticism at the end, but I will not go into a long detailed account of it here). For many emergents, their argument is: “the Bible is just ink on paper, or just a book with letters in it. The real Word is Jesus. So stop idolizing that book, and worship the real Word.” I have mentioned this argument before, and it is yet a small example of the silly way in which emergents make their case today. They go round and round with circular arguments to answer the simplest of questions, which leads them to make re-assuring statements such as:
nothing can be certain… everything now is open to debate… “Christianity must be Re-Imagined”…we are Christ-followers, not Christians…. “it is my goal to destroy Christianity as a world religion”…. “we need a fusion of the sacred and the secular” ….”Christian fundamentalists are the new enemy of this century”… “We discover practices for our own faith in an encounter with someone of another faith”…”a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam”… “Emergent doesn’t have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter”…. “thinking about Jesus’ return is a ploy by Satan to get us distracted.”…
(*For the answers as to who said these quotes, see the end of my post)
“the Bible is a product of human work, not divine fiat”. That’s from Rob Bell.
Who is Rob Bell? He is the teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church (not to be confused with Mark Driscoll’s church). He is author of such books as the very popular Velvet Elvis, and the creator of a popular series of videos geared especially for youth, called NOOMA. I’m sorry to say that he is popular with youth, because they are some of the most impressionable people around, easily influenced and eager to go for whatever is hip and cool. Right, dude? Seriously, he actually speaks in a way that is very hip and attractive to youth, very casual in his approach. That’s not bad in itself; kids like listening to someone who sounds hip and cool; rather, it is the content of many of his videos, books, and sermons that is very concerning to me, hence my little profile in the form of some of his more provocative quotes. (For those who tend to go around to different blogs and attack everyone who criticizes his teachings, please don’t waste too much time with the same old arguments I have heard from you time and time again, unless of course you decide to finally use scripture to rebut what I say. That would be refreshing!)
I have profiled Brian McLaren and Tony Jones recently. Now it’s Rob Bell’s turn. I have never met him personally, he seems like he would be a nice guy to sit around with and have a chat, and I have no hatred or even dislike for Rob Bell, neither do I dislike the others. However, I have an obligation as a Christian to point out false teaching, as commanded in the scriptures, including this one:
Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Titus 1:9-13 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. . . . Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith
1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
It would be a stretch for anyone to imply that passages like this, and even more, do not command us to be on guard and expose false teachings and teachers. That is another lesson, and if you want to review a thorough lesson on the subject of judging false teachers, go to the permanent page on my blog titled “Judge Not” by brother Yomi Adegboye, a faithful contender for the faith.
I am doing this to help anyone not familiar with these emergent leaders, so they can understand some of the basic teachings or theology that comes from them. Yes, this is not a comprehensive piece- I know. But believe me, if I said one or two two of these comments myself in front of my dad, that would be enough for him; I would be in hot water, because he knew the scriptures, and he would have told me directly that I was dead wrong. I’ll leave it up to you to judge here from his very own words, whether Rob Bell should be welcome in your church, your youth group, or any Christian university.
ROB BELL IN HIS OWN WORDS:
ON THE SUBJECT OF 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, despair, loneliness, 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. I want to do what I can to resist hell coming ot earth.” Velvet Elvis, p. 148 (So to Rob Bell, hell is not literal; it is here on earth)
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. (emphasis mine). Velvet Elvis, p. 146
ON THE VIRGIN BIRTH:
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists 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
ON THE BIBLE:
“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, p. 65 (All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Tim. 3:16)
“…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, p. 68
“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. We all make choices to live outside of how God created us to live. We have all come up short.” – Velvet Elvis, p. 139 (Here is at least one place: Paul said that amongst all sinners that Christ came to the world to die for, he is the chief sinner! 1 Timothy 1:15)
ON THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST:
“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, p. 146 (Perhaps doing something like… repent!)
WHOSE FAITH SHOULD WE PUT OUR TRUST IN, ROB?
“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, p. 133 (What? God has faith in me???)
- 2 Timothy 2:23-25 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
FINALLY, ON THE WORD OF GOD AGAIN:
The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not. Velvet Elvis p. 32 (Here we read one of Rob’s attempts to undermine the authority of the scriptures. Velvet Elvis, p. 32
My translation: You can’t trust the Bible, it’s just words, you see? We can’t put God in a box! Every man’s translation to himself!
My question to Rob: if we can’t trust the words, do we instead trust smooth talking modern day enlightened gnostics like you? I think not. I’ll trust the Bible, thanks anyway!)
For one of the more thorough reviews of Rob Bell, go to Bob Dewaay’s blog, Truth Matters.
*Answers to the Mystery Quotes:
“Christianity must be Re-Imagined” Brian McLaren
“it is my goal to destroy Christianity as a world religion” Erwin McManus (Christian Examiner, telephone interview
“we need a fusion of the sacred and the secular” Brian McLaren (Finding Our Way Again, p. 4-5)
“Christian fundamentalists are the new enemy of this century” Rick Warren (Philadelphia Enquirer, 1/8/2006)
“We discover practices for our own faith in an encounter with someone of another faith” Brian McLaren (Finding Our Way Again)
“a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam” Tony Campolo (Speaking My Mind, p. 149)
“Emergent doesn’t have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter” Tony Jones (from his own blog commentary, 11/21/2005)
“thinking about Jesus’ return is a ploy by Satan to get us distracted.”… Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life, pp. 285, 286)
** Gnosticism: This was the most dangerous heresy that plagued the early church in the first 3 centuries. Gnostics essentially asserted that matter was inherently bad, and that spirit was good. They also denied the full humanity of Jesus, although attributing some form of deity to him. And they especially claimed some type of higher or secret knowledge, known only to a select few, the enlightened ones, so to speak.