The following was contributed by a PLNU alumnus following Rob Bell’s visit to PLNU and his appearance at Pastor’s Day hosted at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene. I encourage everyone concerned, especially alums of PLNU, to write the leadership at PLNU- write to the university president, with copies to the board of trustees, spiritual development director, chapel director, and dean of theology, regarding all the aberrant theology being taught there, and the undiscerning choices of speakers. I recommend that you also archive this report to serve as a good summary of Rob Bell for reference.
(By a PLNU Alumnus)
I am a PLNU alumnus, therefore I have very valid reasons to speak about the university and my concerns. There is a lot to be concerned about. I have listened to many, many sermons by Rob Bell, read his books and viewed most of his DVDs. His messages are not based on biblical Christianity.
Assessment Of Rob Bell’s Weekend With The Pastors
I heard Rob Bell speak this weekend at the chapel service, at the Pastor’s Luncheon and at the Writer’s Symposium. He was true to his unbiblical beliefs at every talk. I heard him compare what Jesus did on the cross (when He, the perfect, sinless sacrifice, gave himself for our sins) to what ordinary people do when we pour ourselves out for our passions. I listened to him discuss ego-centric, tribal-centric, global-centric philosophy at the luncheon for Nazarene pastors and wondered how many of those nodding, affirming pastors knew that this was a reference to the Buddhist philosophy of Ken Wilber who believes that Christianity is fourth on a continuum of nine stages of spiritual development and will soon be replaced by more “enlightened” methods of spirituality? Ken Wilber is one of Rob Bell’s favorite authors. I listened at the Writer’s Symposium as Bell said that this planet is not going to burn (see 2 Pet. 3:10). He also said excitedly that in the next 10 years, the church will rush to the ancient mystics, and I wondered, “How about a rush to the Word of God?” The ancient mystics gathered many of their practices from Buddhism and Hinduism. They were not rooted and grounded in the words and practices of Jesus, the Apostles or the early church, but they are heroes to Rob Bell.
I firmly believe that Bell’s teachings contribute greatly to what is wrong in our churches and universities today. I think he believes and teaches a false gospel, which I’ve described below. I’ve also included some quotes by Rob Bell at the end. Please read the quotes, taking into account that in all of my studies and hours of listening to him in his own words, I have never read about or heard him say anything regarding the need for repentance of sins or that Jesus died in our place to take the punishment for our sins.
Even in Bell’s church’s statement of belief, there is no mention of Christ’s substitutionary atonement or of heaven or hell. One sentence says, “God created us to be relational as well and marked us with an identity as his image bearers and a missional calling to serve, care for, and cultivate the earth,” yet there is no call in the statement to evangelize the lost. Having read the New Testament, I don’t think the Apostles viewed caring for the earth as their primary calling. There is no mention of this theme that we find throughout the New Testament: “(A)nd He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24)
A Simplified Version of the New “Gospel”
The new “gospel” below, which I believe accounts for Rob Bell’s theology, explains virtually every concern in the letter we sent about the new provost including the promotion and teaching of open theism, process theology, monastic mystic practices, Darwinian evolution, the tolerance of homosexuality and the maximization of social justice concerns, environmentalism and pacifism versus the minimization of the biblical gospel’s emphasis on sin, the atonement of Christ on the cross, repentance, forgiveness and eternal life either with God in heaven or apart from God in hell.
The theology of this false gospel is based on the theories of Buddhist philosophers, Ken Wilber, the worldviews of Stanley Grenz, Wolfhart Pannenberg, LeRon Shults and in German theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s “theology of hope”, developed from the philosophy of Friedrich Hegel, Karl Barth and Rudolph Bultman.
In this “gospel”, the universe is a part of God (panentheism) or is God (pantheism) and is continually evolving into better forms. God, who contains the universe and everything in it, also evolves and stands in the future pulling everything toward Himself. He is immanently involved in the present world creating and causing it to move toward the future world. As all things (both physical and spiritual) evolve, the universe will continue to improve until a sort of utopia is finally achieved. Humans further this evolution toward God and this utopia by doing two things:
1. Good works – helping to eradicate poverty and suffering, working to restore the environment, calling for an end to war, etc.
2. Engaging in contemplative, mystical experiences that “connect” one to God in higher ways than the intellect will allow.
Thus, everyone who adheres to these practices achieves salvation by working together to help the world and everything in it evolve. In this theology, Scripture does not convey a fixed meaning determined by Holy Spirit-inspired authors. Instead, spiritual experiences become the true source of meaning for individuals and groups of people. Therefore, God’s commands are no longer universally binding. Christ was crucified not because he was the sacrifice for our sins but because the world rejected His message of love. According to this view, the resurrection is merely a view of history with a hopeful future. Hell and heaven are not experienced in the hereafter but are part of the human condition in this life. There is no need for repentance of sins and no future judgment. Christ may be the best way to God, but He is not the only way. Everyone will eventually be saved and live together on this present earth in peace and unity.
Ken Wilber And Marcus Borg Endorsed by Rob Bell
Velvet Elvis, p. 192: “For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. Rob Bell.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber — I really do think this book is about everything. You can’t help but discuss this book.
Ken Wilber: Buddhist
Mark Driscoll wrote a great article called “Navigating the Emergent Church Highway.” (If you read Blue Like Jazz, Mark Driscoll is Donald Miller’s “cussing pastor”. I think he is right on in his thoughts about this movement, though.) In the article he writes, “To learn more about Wilber I contacted author Peter Jones of TruthXChange (the author of One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference), who is perhaps the leading Christian expert on paganism and the new spirituality. In a personal e-mail, he told me, “The arch pagan philosopher is Ken Wilber.”
Jones went on to say that Ken Wilber is a practicing Mahayana Buddhist who believes that reality is ultimately a non-dual union of emptiness and form. He speaks of “unitary non-dual (monistic) consciousness,” what some call “the dharma of non-dual enlightenment,” he is a promoter of the Perennial Philosophy (…a name for the religion of esoteric paganism) and the “great chain of being.” Wilber promotes yoga, Zen, Kabbalah, [and] tantric Yoga (Hindu sex techniques). His think tank, Integral Institute, includes such luminaries as Deepak Chopra, Michael Murphy (of Esalen and a key figure in the Human Potential movement), Jon Kabat-Zin, Buddhist healer and professor of medicine at UMass, [and] Francisco Varela, a Chilean biologist and Tibetan Buddhist.”
Jones went on to explain that according to Wilber in A Theory of Everything, Christianity is fourth among the nine levels of human evolutionary spiritual consciousness and will be outgrown and replaced with more enlightened understandings of God and the world, such as green egalitarianism, ultimately culminating in the integration of varying religions and ideologies into a global utopia of a sort—all without Jesus.
Also in Velvet Elvis, Bell endorses Marcus Borg, a fellow of the Jesus Seminar who has said of Jesus: “We’re making him a Buddha-like figure, not just another philosopher but a really big one,” and “I find it literally incredible that the God of the whole universe has chosen to be known by one religious tradition.”
Borg is also against the atonement and the doctrine of the cross.
Rob Bell’s Mysticism
On March 19, 2006, Bell invited a Dominican sister to speak at his church. He said as he introduced her, “I have a friend who has taught me so much about resting in the presence of God.” During the service, Bell and the sister led the congregation in various meditative exercises. The sister who spoke at Mars Hill during that service is from the Dominican Center at Marywood in Michigan where a wide variety of contemplative/mystical practices are used and taught. One of the practices at the Center is Reiki. The belief behind Reiki is that everything in the universe is united together through energy. In Japan, the word reiki is the standard term for the occult (or ghost energy). It is ghost energy because when Reiki is practiced, spirit guides are reached. William Lee Rand, the head of the International Center for Reiki Training, states:
“There are higher sources of help you can call on. Angels, beings of light and Reiki spirit guides as well as your own enlightened self are available to help you…. The more you can open to the true nature of Reiki which is to have an unselfish heart centered desire to help others, then the more the Reiki spirit guides can help you.”
Conclusion: Here is The Biblical Gospel Compared To Rob Bell’s Version
In the biblical Gospel, God interacts with His creation, but it is not part of Him. He is fully independent of and separate from it. He existed before time and is not trapped within it or limited by it. The Bible tells us the world is not getting better; it is getting worse due to the fall of man. This planet will pass away and be replaced by a new earth. The horrible consequences of sin, which separate us from God, are played out in the here and now as well as in the hereafter. Sin must come under God’s judgment, which either falls upon Christ who is God and who was the perfect, sinless sacrifice in our place, or it will fall on unredeemed humans who refuse to repent and believe the gospel. God raised Jesus from the dead to show His power over death and sin and as proof to all men that Jesus will judge the world, making them accountable. Through the death of Jesus on the cross and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God provides those who repent and believe, Christians, with a new nature that follows His commands joyfully. Christians study God’s Word, the Bible, attempting to understand the meaning the Author of the Bible wished to convey and to apply it to their lives. Good works are a by-product of salvation, but they do not in any way contribute to it. Those who repent and believe will spend eternity with God, but those who don’t will suffer future judgment apart from God in hell. (Isaiah 46:9, 10; 1 Cor. 15:1-5; Acts 17, 31-32; Matt. 7:13-14; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 1 Cor. 15:21-26, 54-55; Col. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; Psalm 119:89-91; Psalm 115:3; John 18:36; John 14:1-3)
Addendum: Some Rob Bell Quotes
“Well, for our community, this [living an environmentally conscious life] isn’t rooted in the fact that it’s gaining steam in popular culture. It’s always been rooted in the very nature of God. The central Hebrew prayer, Deuteronomy 6, says, “Hear O Israel the Lord your God, the Lord is One’, so we live with awareness that all of reality is one. We are connected with all things everywhere, and I would argue that in the last couple hundred years, disconnection has been the dominant way people have understood reality. And the Church has contributed to that disconnection by preaching horrible messages about being left behind and that this place is going to burn-–absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture, which state that we are connected to God, we are connected to the earth, we are connected to each other. When any of those connections fracture, the whole thing starts to fall apart. Your relationship with God is tied into your relationship with the soil. Go back to Genesis.” –Rob Bell (Relevant Magazine, “Rob Bell Tells it like it is,” January/February edition, 2008)
Interviewer: “Let me ask you, do you believe in a literal hell that is defined simply as eternal separation from God?”
Rob Bell: “I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.” http://seeingclearly.wordpress.com/2007/07/22/rob-bell-and-hell-ooze-interview/
“This is not just the same old message with new methods,” Rob says. “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life…. “(The Bible is a) human product…rather than the product of divine fiat.”—Rob Bell, “The Emergent Mystique”, Christianity Today
“It’s interesting how many traditions (pause) When you read the great enlightened ones; meditation, centering prayer, reflection—in every tradition you can find the mystics—and what’s always at the heart of the spiritual lives, the everyday lives of the great ones was always a period of time. Whether it’s prayers, chanting, meditation, reflection, study—whatever you call it—what is it essentially; it’s taking time to breathe. Because when you’ve been breathing, (slight pause) in a proper sort of way, you’re far better equipped to handle what life throws your way.”
Excerpts from an interview in Christianity Today, Apr. 2009 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=81195 :
Interviewer: “How would you present this gospel on Twitter?”
Rob Bell: “I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.” –Rob Bell, Christianity Today, 5/09
Interviewer: “You say, ‘Jesus is leading all creation out of the land of violence, sin, and death.” You’ve added the word violence to the Pauline “sin and death.’ Why?”
Rob Bell: “The myth of redemptive violence—Caesar, peace, and victory—is in people’s bones so deeply, we aren’t even aware of it. You crush the opposition, that’s how we bring peace.”
Interviewer: “You say, ‘Jesus wants to save us from making the Good News about another world and not this one.’ What do you mean?”
Rob Bell: “The story is about God’s intentions to bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and the story begins here with shalom—shalom between each other and with our Maker and with the earth. The story line is that God intends to bring about a new creation, this place, this new heaven and earth here. And that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, essentially, of the future; this great Resurrection has rushed into the present. The evacuation theology that says, “figure out the ticket, say the right prayer, get the right formula, and then we’ll go somewhere else” is lethal to Jesus, who endlessly speaks of the renewal of all things.”
Interviewer: “You’re essentially reframing the gospel—at least the gospel you inherited, the gospel we have known as the gospel in North America for the last couple hundred years.
Rob Bell: “I am leery of people who have very clear ideas of what they’re doing from outside of themselves: ‘You have to understand that I’m doing this and doing this.’ I would say that for 10 years, I have tried to invite people to trust Jesus. You can trust this Jesus. You can trust him past, present, future; sins, mistakes, money, sexuality. I think this Jesus can be trusted. I often put it this way: If there is a God, some sort of Divine Being, Mind, Spirit, and all of this is not just some random chance thing, and history has some sort of movement to it, and you have a connection with Whatever—that is awesome. Hard and awesome and creative and challenging and provoking. And there is this group of people who say that whoever that being is came up among us and took on flesh and blood—Andrew Sullivan talks about this immense occasion the world could not bear. So a church would be this odd blend of swagger—an open tomb, come on—and humility and mystery. The Resurrection accounts are jumbled and don’t really line up with each other—I really relate to that. Yet something momentous has burst forth in the middle of history. You just have to have faith, and you get caught up in something. I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I’m really absolutely sure of some things that I don’t quite know.”
“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. He (Jesus) talked very little of the life beyond this one…” Velvet Elvis, p. 148
“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.” p. 83
“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, p. 139
“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?” –Velvet Elvis, p. 146
“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… When people say that all we need is the Bible it is simply not true.” – p. 68
“Maybe, sometimes, it takes suffering to get the other stuff out of the way, so you can get at the greatness that’s inside you…” (Drops Like Stars Tour, Apr. 2009)