Tuesday, July 24, 2007

False Teachers Part One: Rob Bell

The worst false teachers are those who sprinkle their deceptions with a lot of truth. They use Biblical terminology and concepts but hidden under them is a theology of self esteem, prosperity, works etc. Rob Bell is one of them. I first heard Rob Bell at a week long retreat the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I don't remember too much about his talk, however I do remember liking it. In my next year or so in the youth group I was attending we watched several of Rob Bell's "Nooma" videos. I enjoyed them at the time and still remember much of what was said in them. It was only after I read Velvet Elvis and began learning more about refomed theology that I noticed some strange errors in his teaching. The book Velvet Elvis takes a valid criticism of many Christians and gives a false correction of it. That criticism is that Christians simply believe what they are told and do not think for themselves. They do not search the scriptures to find out what they really teach. This of course is a great message which all reformed Christians should agree with. Unfortunately however, Rob Bell does not give instructions about how to properly interprate the Bible in context but tells his readers that the Bible must change with culture and that it is not even all that clear. His postmodernism here is obvious. Rob Bell and his wife said the following in an interview, "The Bible is in the center for us, but it's a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery rather than conquering it. I grew up thinking that we figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means." This doesn't seem to fit with the idea that the Bible is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our paths. Rob Bell sounds like Erasmus.
One of the most obvious errors that I have heard in several of Bell's sermons and his book is that he takes the focus of the afterlife and puts it on our life on earth. One's eternal destiny does not matter as much as if they have food, medicine etc. Sure, these things are great but not compared to the gospel. The gospel is not about helping people. It's about what Christ did for us hopeless sinners. When one is missing that, they are missing the gospel, and are preaching nothing but a moralistic therapeudic deism. Many of Rob Bell's messages could have been preached by Ghandi or the Dhali Lama.
"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 pg 148)
Is that really what it's about? I seem to remember Jesus saying that His kingdom was NOT of this world.
Bell's rejection of the gospel comes off perhaps more clear in his view of man. The following comes from his book, “God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.” (pg.134) Really? Is that what the Bible teaches? A reading of verses like Romans 3:10-18, Genesis 6:5, Psalm 58:3, Ecclesiastes 9:3 and several others will show that the opposite is true. If God had faith in us to take care of things, we would all be screwed.


krista said...

hey! get started on part 2.

Anonymous said...

You know, this statement was dead on:

"The gospel is not about helping people."

Maybe your next entry could be titled "False Teachers Part Two: James, the Brother of Jesus". You know, all that stuff about "pure and undefiled religion" being about "helping widows and orphans," and how saying "Go in peace" but not ministering to the body, not helping people, is a useless and dead faith. Jeez, what a heretic.

Anonymous said...

Properly defined, the gospel is the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and how by trusting in His work alone, we may be forgiven of our sins and accepted as righteous. Good works are fruits of the gospel but not the gospel itself. The danger in Bell's teaching is that the teaching of works replaces that of what Christ has done for us. Works are essential in the Christian life as a fruit of the gospel and of our justification. James is not a heretic. However, James must be understood in light of the rest of the new testament.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever told someone dying of hunger that they need to repent? What about someone dying from a preventable, curable illness like cholera? I thought not. If you do not first take care of people, do you seriously think they will be receptive to the gospel?

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