If you listen to this interview you will see that Bell is no longer teaching the Gospel – indeed he is teaching against the Gospel and against the Bible. He has become his own one-man cult. When you listen to an interview like this – its not enough to take the good bits (the bits you agree with) and ignore the rest. We need to listen carefully and see why, despite the ‘Jesus’ language, the articulate and humorous presentation, what Bell is teaching is against what Jesus teaches.
It’s illegal to cycle in the UK without a bell on your bike. The reason for this is to warn the ambling pedestrians that you are about to hit. I thought of this when I wasted 47 minutes of my life listening to one of the worst interviews in terms of the responses of the interviewee, I have ever heard – Premiers§ Christianty magazines interview with Rob Bell.
I also lost a couple of hours of my life reading Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ – one of the most frustrating, depressing and heretical books I have ever read. So why bother writing about it? Because again Christians in the UK are being fed poison by a false prophet – and far too many of us seem to drink the poison (mainly because we do not recognize it as such). Bell has just been on tour in the UK (in July) brought here by Greenbelt and it has been a sell out, in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and other venues. It’s time for an alarm to be sounded.
I wrote this article about the four different evangelical tribes. I think that the political evangelicals, especially on the left generally love Rob Bell whilst the broad evangelicals are reluctant to call him an evangelical but still regard him as a somewhat eccentric errant brother. But if you listen to this interview you will see that Bell is no longer teaching the Gospel – indeed he is teaching against the Gospel and against the Bible. He has become his own one-man cult. When you listen to an interview like this – its not enough to take the good bits (the bits you agree with) and ignore the rest. We need to listen carefully and see why, despite the ‘Jesus’ language, the articulate and humorous presentation, what Bell is teaching is against what Jesus teaches. He is one of the false prophets who profess to come in the name of Jesus, but in reality is a ‘savage wolf who does not spare the flock” (Acts 20:29).
I won’t go through the whole interview…. but here are some of the things that show where Bell is now coming from.
1) First of all note that Bell is a performer. He regards preaching as ‘performance art’. He is an entertainer, a preacher without a church and without the Gospel. He is doing a show.
2) Secondly he sets himself up as a spiritual guru. What he says has nothing to do with the Bible. He is selling a product and that product is his teaching. As he goes on it has less and less to do with the teaching of Christ. Bell does not discuss/debate. He pronounces.
3) The language he uses is revealing. For example he does not speak about the Holy Spirit but rather ‘spirit’. He describes preaching as ‘spirit speaking to each person about what they need to hear’. He talks about ‘the Jesus tradition’ – rather than the person and work of Christ as given to us in and through his word. We preach ‘Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). We don’t preach spirit telling each person what they need to hear! We don’t talk about the ‘divine’ (the inner light within or whatever spirituality you espouse)…we talk about God. About the Christ who is the Son of God. We preach him. And we preach him crucified.
4) Bell is right to say that there is plenty room for the message of Jesus in the larger market place of ideas. Paul in Athens (Acts 17) did precisely that. The problem is that Bell does not bring the message of Jesus. For example when talking about what it means to be Christian, he says it means being human. In Bell’s eyes every human being is a Christian and Jesus came just to remind us of our humanity.
5) His misuse of history is atrocious. I’m used to the authoritative psychobabble but I did not expect his confident historical assertions. For example when he says that evangelical was a Roman military term for describing their conquests which the Christians took over and turned into an anti-militaristic term – resisting the corrosive powers of violent empire. I’ve tried to find any evidence for this claim and have asked around, but no one seems to have heard of this. It’s highly unlikely given that evangelion is a Greek word meaning good news. The Romans spoke Latin. Doubtless it was the case that when the Romans won a battle they would announce it as good news…but it is stretching things to suggest that the Christians took over a Roman military term to express opposition to militarism! Basically Bell in classic post-modern fake news style is just making it up. A lie told with humour and sounding profound, is still a lie.
6) He doesn’t get Jesus. Bell’s Jesus is one whom everyone loves. When you talk about the character and personality of Jesus then people love him – (its just Christians they can’t stand). To be fair to Bell this is a fairly common and accepted meme amongst more orthodox evangelicals. But its nonsense. Jesus warned that ‘if the world has hated me, it will hate you also’(John 15:18). And the world did hate Jesus. The world crucified Jesus. And the world will hate his people, teaching and church. The nice, watered down, Jesus that Bell teaches is one that will of course be loved in our culture – because it is just a reflection of us…not the reflection of the glory of God.
7) Bell doesn’t get Christianity– He comes out with the usual ‘Jesus would have been horrified about starting a religion in his name’ – which is one of those sayings that sounds good until you examine it and realize it for the meaningless waffle it is. The trouble is that Bell usually gets away with this kind of stuff because no-one has the time or can be bothered unpacking what he has just said. Likewise when he states:
“What’s fascinating to me is when the word Christian becomes a whole new way to divide people, here now violating the thing that Jesus came to do, which was to awaken us to our shared humanity….even the apostle Paul said that in Christ there is a new humanity”.
But Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but division (Matthew 10:34-36). It is Jesus who talks about dividing the sheep from the goats on the judgement day. How does that work with the shared humanity?! And the new humanity Paul is speaking about is for those who are in Christ. There is a world of difference between the gospel of Bell (you are all human, be nice to each other and enjoy life cos everythings cool) and the gospel of Jesus (that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life – but whoever does not believe stands condemned already – John 3:16-18).