A brief postscript to my earlier critique of Rob Bell

Peter Enns admonishes Carl Trueman, Owen Strachan, and yours truly for critiquing Rob Bell’s forthcoming book before even reading it. I would agree with Enns that it is unwise and unfair to criticize a book that one hasn’t even read. But since not one of the three of us has actually criticized the book, I have to wonder why Enns’ has said that we did. All three of us were explicitly offering brief commentary on the trailer, not a definitive analysis of the book itself.

Enns appears to be under the impression that evangelical reviewers are chomping at the bit to give nasty reviews of Bell’s book. But I don’t think that is the case at all. In fact, I predict that Bell’s book will be greeted largely with a collective yawn from conservative evangelical reviewers. There won’t be an outcry like there was last time. Why? Because Bell’s reputation as a heterodox theological liberal is now well-known. Why belabor the point?

That is why I don’t expect to see a flood of urgency among evangelicals to critique his new work. My hunch is that a few trifling comments about the book’s trailer may be the extent of the attention that folks like myself give to Bell’s book. We’ll see.

17 Responses to A brief postscript to my earlier critique of Rob Bell

  1. Collin Garbarino February 19, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Enns has it wrong. Those of us who have criticized Bell’s trailer aren’t necessarily criticizing the book. We’re mostly laughing at the ridiculous self indulgence found in the trailer.

  2. Michael Lynch February 19, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I think you’re right, Bell is irrelevant. Maybe you guys should divert your attention to Enns’ denial of Adam and his views on creation. These are ideas that are gaining advocacy in the church.

  3. J.M. LaRue February 19, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Enns acts like Bell is a clean slate without an extensive resume of books and sermons.

    The most shocking thing Bell could do at this point is write an orthodox, evangelical book.

  4. Michael Krahn February 19, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Agreed… as predicted here: http://michaelkrahn.com/writing/2011/03/the-mclaren-moment-what-john-piper-meant-by-“farewell-rob-bell-”/ :-)

    “When the current Love Wins hype is over and the book completes its guaranteed run as a bestseller, Rob Bell will be able to release a book twice as controversial in the future and receive less than half the fanfare. HarperOne should enjoy the flood of free publicity from the power writers of the Evangelical blogosphere this time around. Next time out the bait will be a much tougher sell.”

  5. Elizabeth Anscombe February 19, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Hilarious, and oh so true.

    Denny, I would offer a quibble though as to whether one really CAN’T say anything negative about a book one hasn’t read, if one knows enough about it to tell that it’s a disaster. I’ve never read _Twilight_ but have seen clips of the movie and read reviews—still, does that mean I can’t say with confidence that _Twilight_ is a train wreck?

    • Denny Burk February 19, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      You can say it with confidence, but you can’t say it with credibility. And that’s the point.

  6. George Naylor February 19, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Of course, what you can say with credibility about Twilight or Rob Bell without reading them is, “From all the reviews I’ve read & from all I know about the author, this doesn’t sound like the book for me & here’s why.”

    That being said, I’ve read Twilight. I try to forget that I have, though.

    Rob Bell, well, I’ve not read anything by him, although I’ve unfortunately listened to a few of his ‘sermons.’ For some reason Genesis 3: 1 always comes to mind when doing so.

  7. Scott Terrell February 19, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Denny,

    This is your second post about Rob Bell’s new book, ahem, I mean trailer. We’re past the point of “yawning” about it, agreed?

  8. Aron Utecht February 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I disagree somewhat.

    This won’t garner the attention his last work did, but I still hope the big names come out in force to critique this thoroughly, and biblically. There are still many young people who grew up on Nooma in their youth group and still think Bell was treated unfairly the last time around.

    Yes his stripes have now been clearly shown, but he is still a spiritual celebrity to many people. And I’d still like to hope those folks will be open to reason and the Scriptures.

  9. Marla Beale February 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I would add ; Peter Enns is just as known as Rob Bell. Who cares what he has to say?

  10. Elizabeth Anscombe February 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Would you extend that to _50 Shades of Grey_? “Well, I haven’t read this book, so I can’t say credibly that it’s perverse and disgusting, but from what I’ve read about it, it just doesn’t sound right for me.”

  11. Elizabeth Anscombe February 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Yes, because HEAVEN forbid that somebody, somewhere not be talking about him. The word “attention-starved” comes to mind.

  12. Stephen Beck February 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I have to say the most devastating critique I’ve seen of the trailer was Jared Wilson’s tweet, “The most shocking thing revealed in this video is that he says the book will have paragraphs,” though it would have been more effective if the tweet was more like:

    The most shocking thing.

    Revealed in this video.

    Is that.

    He says the book.

    Will have.

    Paragraphs.

  13. Matt Martin February 20, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    “I predict that Bell’s book will be greeted largely with a collective yawn.”

    Well, you sure jumped at the chance go after his trailer for the book. Nothing riles up evangelicals more than people they disagree with. And really what comes across to the world is…we’re a bunch of jerks.

  14. The Seeking Disciple February 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    Bell is a has been among evangelicals in my estimation. I don’t know one person who is reading his books, listening to his sermons, or even mentions him anymore. You are right to say that the fact that he is so out there now and so far from the truth that many truly saved people don’t even bother listening anymore.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] read the book yet are already critiquing it based on the marketing material alone. Denny Burk recently called Bell a “heterodox theological liberal,” and further claimed Bell is “no longer […]

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