Mention the name Rob Bell these days among the evangelical crowd and you’re sure to get a reaction, be it good or bad…there is no longer an indifferent. I experienced this the other day as a co-worker asked me if I liked Rob Bell and if I had read his most recent book Love Wins. My immediate reaction upon mention of his name was to cringe, though in hindsight I hope it wasn’t visible. Much of my own reaction stems from my own experience with Rob Bell. At one time I was a devoted fan, I watched all the Nooma videos I could get my hands on, I read his books, I even listened to podcasts of his sermons. In retrospect I feel like smacking myself on the back of the head for such blind allegiance, which is probably where my initial cringe stemmed from when the afore mentioned co-worker asked about him. Bells book, Love Wins, has certainly generated much discussion both inside and outside the church walls. And while some are shocked at how far Bell has “fallen” outside the lines of orthodoxy I am not at all surprised. It’s not that Bell has “fallen” outside the lines of orthodoxy in the church, he’s always been there, it’s just that this is the first time it can more clearly be seen. Even in his first book Velvet Elvis he asked questions about the origins of the Christian faith such as: If we take out one of the pillars or “springs” of Christianity, (i.e. the virgin birth) would the whole thing fall apart? While in the book his answer is: no, that he believes the Christian faith is “the best way to live.” In reality the answer is: “yes.” If we take away the virgin birth the whole thing does fall apart. If Christ had had an earthly father he would not be the second Adam, that is to say, with an earthly father he would have been born under the curse of Adam, therefore he would not have been a perfect sacrifice without blemish and he would have no ability to take away the sins of the world. Not to mention the fact that he would not be fully God and man, as the Bible says, he would just be a man. So Bell is certainly no stranger to doing theological somersaults and jumping through hoops to force the Bible to conform to his theology, a theology that is deceptive at best and damning at worst.
Has Rob Bell been bad for the church as a whole? Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that he is weekly misleading thousands of people away from the firm foundations of the Bible and into his own twisted version of what Christianity is in the 21st century, and I pray that God would allow the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the truth of Scripture. I wish instead of selling his books and videos Lifeway stores would have never put them on the shelf or added them to the catalog. (I will bemoan this point further in future blog posts) I wish that instead of allowing Bell to speak regularly at Willow Creek (Which I know he did as recently as last August, I was at Willow for the Leadership conference, not by my choice, and saw the flyers promoting Bell and the CD’s and DVD’s of his teachings at Willow for sale in the bookstore) I wish Bill Hybels would have advocated his teaching dangerous and declared him accursed as instructed in Galatians. (but that might hurt Hybles popularity plus it would require a proper understanding of sound Biblical Hermeneutics so obviously that wouldn’t happen, I just wonder if those materials are still in the bookstore at Willow Creek) But has Love Wins been bad for the church as a whole. Love Wins has drawn a line in the sand, either you still follow Rob Bell and his teachings or you see how far he is from orthodoxy and you want to warn everyone.
As per my experience though I don’t think Bell has been entirely bad for the church as a whole. My own spiritual wandering into the myths and legends promoted by Bell has brought me a greater love for true orthodoxy and sound doctrine. Our church, though at one time it would be classified as “seeker-friendly”, now does expository sermons every week and is even going through a series on Wednesday nights during our mid-week service on Doctrine, using Mark Driscoll’s book of the same title and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and primarily the Bible. Just as my eyes were opened to the theological circus of Rob Bell, thanks to the Holy Spirit and ministries like Pirate Christian Radio, so have the eyes of our pastor and elders at our church, thanks to God’s grace and Love Wins. And I know my story is not unique, I have had conversations with others who have survived Bells bad teaching and now love sound doctrine. Bell’s dance of deceptive and misleading questions has even opened the eyes of my afore mentioned co-worker, who I was able to talk to, present the Gospel to (for a true Christian should never tire of hearing it.) and recommend some other, more solid, books to. Her next book to read is Erasing Hell by Francis Chan because she wants answers, she wants to know that she knows something that’s solid and rooted in the firm foundation of Scripture. And I pray that like her, the Holy Spirit would open everyone’s eyes to what the nature of true saving faith is. That it is in Christ alone, through faith alone, that the Bible…every word of it…is true and relevant for today and forever.
I don’t believe this whole Love Wins thing has been all bad, just as usually happens what Satan has intended for evil, God has used for good, because in the end…God always Wins.