Bell Again

The conversation about Pastor Rob Bell is still going on under my previous post. So I thought readers might be interested in another story—this one from Time magazine.

‘Bell, 37, is guilty of none of the negatives. He is largely apolitical, thinks that only those with gay friends are positioned to judge homosexuality–and he tinkers marvelously. At 28, he founded a megachurch that threw out the conventional sermon-and-worship service and instantly drew thousands of attendees. . . “He could be one of the most important 21st century Christian leaders,” says Bible professor and evangelical blogger Ben Witherington.’

No comment. Just an FYI.

44 Responses to Bell Again

  1. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 1:41 am #

    Only those with atheist friends are in a position to judge atheists.

    Only those with murderer friends are in a position to judge murderers

    Only those with adulterer friends are in a position to judge adulterers

    Only those with drunkard friends are in a position to judge drunkards

    Only those with liar friends are in a position to judge liars

    ad infinitum….

    This guy and his statements…..God is sick of it.

  2. Brett December 10, 2007 at 2:55 am #

    Brian,

    it’s guys like you that give conservatives a bad name. Bell is making a point here b/c so many of your people condemn homosexuals and don’t even reach out to them. Besides, the statement could have been taken way out of context. That’s very prideful of you to say “God is sick of it”. Maybe God is sick of you and your smart-alec self-righteous remarks…ever thought about that?

    You and your self-righteous condemning posts…..all of us are sick of it.

  3. MJH December 10, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks again Denny for your posts.

    It’s a bit surreal to see a guy go from “just another guy you know” to the focus of a lot of “talk.”

    TIME magazine isn’t exactly the best place to get information about Rob Bell (or anything Christian for that matter.) But if it brings those who are outside our little walls into the discussion and eventually into a relationship, then maybe it’s a good thing?

    I pray for Rob always and trust God with his mission.

    Thanks again for your posts on everything interesting.

    MJH

  4. Kevin J December 10, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    I am just amazed that this “dude” is not from California. I didn’t know that other states could produce someone like him 🙂

  5. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 10:52 am #

    Hahaha, “That’s very prideful of you to say “God is sick of it”.” is a mockery of one of Rob Bell’s videos where HE says that. It is prideful. Classic.

  6. jeremy z December 10, 2007 at 11:34 am #

    Just for the sake of the post, lets compare Bell to Luther/the other reformers.

    Bell is revolutionary.
    Bell is attempting to change mainstream.
    Bell is receiving much flack from the high church.
    Bell has been excommunicated from ultra Conservative Evangelicalism.
    Bell is changing methodologies of ecclessiology.

    Can ya’ll see the point I am trying to fabricate?

    Brian thank you for role playing as God. I appreciate it and I know God deeply appreciates it.

  7. Kevin J December 10, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Jeremy Z,

    I see your point. However, Bell is “revolutionary” in the wrong direction.

  8. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 11:47 am #

    Bell plays God in his nooma videos…I think it’s funny for you to say i can’t do it, but He gets a pass…?

    You know who else did all those things you mentioned about the reformers? Pelagius, Arius, etc.

  9. Ken December 10, 2007 at 11:48 am #

    “Fabricate” would be about the right word, jz.

    Bell and Luther? Surely there’s a Quayle-Kennedy joke in there somewhere…

  10. Brett December 10, 2007 at 12:19 pm #

    Brian,

    I don’t care where you got the phrase. How old are you anyways, like 14? You’re very immature and your posts will be ignored by me from now on.

  11. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 1:03 pm #

    Brett, come on, ad hominem is the best you can do? Why resort to that?

  12. Bradley Cochran December 10, 2007 at 1:12 pm #

    I think part of the problem between “fundamentalists” and Bell is this: The former group tends to interpret things systematically, and expects people to speak with technical clarity, whereas Bell and others like his type are willing to play “loose” with language (not with truth mind you) in order to communicate a point. If you were Bell’s friend and you asked him with humble concern whether a Christian can know whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong based on what the Bible teaches even if they don’t have a homosexual friend, he would probably say “YES, but…” and make his point that many Christians lack compassion and understanding when it comes to how to minister to the homosexual community, and that he is tired of the way “fundamentals” are approaching the issue in the public squares. But he isn’t afraid to make comments like “Only those who have homosexual friends can really judge homosexuals” because it communicates his point more sharply and provocatively. It adds exclamation and attention to the message. Sometimes you can kill a truth with a thousand qualifications.

    Funny, Jesus and the prophets did the same sort of thing too. Jesus, for example, told people to pluck their eyes out if they their eyes led them to lust. What a lunatic right? Well … if your interpreting Jesus with a wooden hermeneutic you might think so. I think the “fundamentalist” crowd understands this latter illustration well, and they realize that Jesus and the prophets often spoke with poetic hyperbole to make a point. So maybe those critical of Rob Bell should start interpreting what he says with the same hermeneutical sensitivity which is used for the biblical authors: the OT prophets, Jesus, Paul even (and other NT writers).

    I have found it helpful for myself, in trying to be more charitable towards those whom I find myself disagreeing with, to ask this question: “What truth may person x have been trying to ‘get at’ with his/her comment?” Or, to ask it other ways: “What charitable way could I interpret person x’s comment so that I actually end up agreeing with it?” “What truth looms in the background of this statement that might be redeemed?” I think if Bell’s critics would ask this question more often, they would appreciate what he may be trying to say more often than being critical of what he actually said (interpreted literally).

    This sort of practice, I think, in addition to being more charitable, is more profitable. It may be that we need to hear what other people meant rather than what they actually said. We open ourselves to profit from a good point they may be trying to communicate. It helps us not to make the mistake of picking apart a person’s words only to miss the spirit of their message. It may instantly turn one’s horde of critical remarks into a humble appreciation for what was meant, and even a sympathy towards the spirit of what was said. Such charity can cover a multitude of critical remarks.

  13. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm #

    “It may be that we need to hear what other people meant rather than what they actually said. ”

    Wow. Words are very important. VERY important. It matters greatly what people say…Bell isn’t on par with the biblical authors either. He is not inspired, or God-breathed.

  14. Brian L. December 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm #

    Say what you mean and mean what you say

  15. Kevin J December 10, 2007 at 2:50 pm #

    Didn’t Satan use that tactic? “Eve, God actually meant to say ‘you won’t die, in fact you will be like me…knowing good and evil.'”

  16. Bryan L December 10, 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    I get what you’re saying Bradley about being charitable towards others. Good advice.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  17. Bradley Cochran December 10, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    Brian L

    What do you think I meant by paying attention to what people mean by what they say rather than only paying attention to just what they say?

    Thanks for your more charitable comment later in the day.

    Kevin J,

    I suggest that you missed my point. Do you think we should pluck our eyes out if we lust? If not, would you consider yourself to be following a satanic practice of making a separation between what Jesus said vs. what he meant? Kinda like the snake in the garden?

  18. Kevin J December 10, 2007 at 9:26 pm #

    Sorry about that. I am on some meds that make my head spin. I do see your heart in what you said and I do agree that we should give the benefit of the doubt…at first…but, we must also be on the lookout for wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

  19. Kevin J December 10, 2007 at 9:27 pm #

    Bradley,

    By the way, there are 2 different Brian/Bryan L’s on here.

  20. Bradley Cochran December 10, 2007 at 10:05 pm #

    Kevin,

    Thanks. Now I see. lol!

  21. D. Taylor Benton December 10, 2007 at 11:28 pm #

    Yea BOTH Bri/yans……change your names or something this reading is getting ridiculous with both of you posting.

    Bradley,

    I am sorry but playing with the fire of mincing words ( i would contend the truth as well) to avoid being judgmental is like trying to like giving someone the cure to AIDS without telling them it is such.

    Bell wants to have his cake and eat it too, I do agree that many Christians are too judgmental when it comes to such hot button sins such as abortion and homosexuality but that gives no excuse to play the arbitrator of interpretation with God’s Word.
    just as you gave that example of person X, honestly what a person said is what a person said, yes you can be gracious in your interaction with them and gracious in your response but it is not your place to determine the meaning of what someone has to the make yourself agree with them more…
    It also is not our job to try and make a “point” more sharp and provocative especially with doing so can be seen as denying clearly taught doctrine in the Scriptures.

  22. Bradley Cochran December 10, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    Benton,

    I don’t think my admonishing a closer questioning about what Rob Bell might be “trying” to say is the same as your analogy about AIDS.

    You say, “What a person said is what a person said.” But this is truely an oversimplification. An introductory course on Hermeneutics tends to cure such a notion.

    Luther uses this same argument/literal hermeneutic to say that Jesus broke the bread and told the disciples “This IS my body.” Luther says in effect: “He didn’t say ‘This REPRESENTS my body.’ He said “This IS my body.” So Luther argued that the bread of the Lord’s last meal of communion was literally Christ’s physical body. So, Benton, I’m curious: Do you believe Luther’s argument was valid? What did Jesus actually say? Do you believe Jesus wants us to pluck our eyes out when we find ourselves lusting? What did Jesus actually say?

    Your answer to these questions will help the discussion along.

  23. D. Taylor Benton December 11, 2007 at 1:04 am #

    I was being facetious in using the AIDS analogy but your are now using the same argument that you accused me of…

    obviously I have taken hermeneutics being is that I have a B.A. in Biblical and Theological studies, that isnt the point…

    and asking Rhetoricals about clearly understood portions of scripture does not prove anything when Bell is saying “but…” on issues that are CLEARLY taught in scripture. I think Bell is not letting his yes be yes and his no be no…and of course its not Jesus’ literal body and no I do not advocate one should pluck out his eye if he lusts. But our actions against sin should be as radical as such actions would be…

  24. Bradley Cochran December 11, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Benton,

    Not sure what you meant when you said that I was using the same argument I accused you of. I didn’t really make an argument; I asked you a question. My question was: “Do you follow strictly what Jesus said, or do you follow moreso what you understand him to mean by what he said?” Only I worded it more like this: “Do you recommend us plucking out your eyes?” Since you don’t advocate eye-plucking, and you consider that Jesus “clearly” did not mean what he actually said (for he actually said to pluck our eyes out), you have proven my point: There is a difference between what people “say” and what they “mean” by what they say.

  25. D. Taylor Benton December 11, 2007 at 10:23 pm #

    even though I have proved your point that has no baring on what Bell is doing by minimizing clear truths in the Scriptures by letting situational issues take precedent over the clarity of scripture

  26. Bradley Cochran December 12, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Benton,

    If you don’t see the connection between my point and Bell’s “minimizing clear truths in the Scriptures,” maybe you should go back and read comment #12. Your comment may indicate that you have got lost in the arguments and forgotten the point of them.

    For clarity sake, I’ll state it again: Bell may not be trying to “minimize” any biblical truth, it depends on how you interpret what he said. It’s precisely your interpretation which I am suggesting may be improved by taking a more charitable approach to Bell’s statements. I recommend applying similar hermeneutic principles to Bell as we do the words of Christ when he said, “pluck out your eyes.” I commend that begin asking, “What did he mean by what he said?” rather than merely “What did he say?” Therefore, I do think there is a connection between my point and Rob Bell’s supposed “minimizing of clear biblical truths.”

    Hope that helps you see the connection which I am seeing.

  27. Barry December 12, 2007 at 1:56 pm #

    Is Bell playing “air flute” in that picture? Sorry, that’s all I have to contribute.

    Barry

  28. D. Taylor Benton December 12, 2007 at 7:24 pm #

    Lol I thought he was playing that too…

    Bradley,

    I do now see the connection, maybe I am uncomfortable with the word “charitable” because in my mind that gives the impression compromising something. like you are giving something up to get something.

    Like you have to say, “well, that may sound bad but i will give him the benefit of the doubt”, which I don’t mind doing once or twice for someone but when it becomes a steady need to “give them the benefit of the doubt”, that bothers me because just as it is our responsibility to be “charitable” it is also their responsibility to strive towards clarity in my opinion. This fact is true because even though Christians can understand what Bell may or may not mean, someone that has had no exposure to the Bible or Christianity could be very misled and confused…

  29. Bradley Cochran December 13, 2007 at 1:46 am #

    Benton,

    Good point. I wish rather than bashing Bell, people could sensitively state their concern like you just did without slinging mud all over the place and being divisive; without dragging Bell’s name through the mud and giving non-believers a reason to be turned off to Christianity (which happens when they see how critical we are to one another).

    I actually sympathize with your concerns. I guess over the years I have developed an equal concern for being very careful and charitable about how to express my concerns in a loving way without being guilty of having a critical spirit, lacking grace and humility, failing to give the benefit of the doubt, and, of course, slandering my brothers in Christ. A divisive critical spirit comes so naturally to me, and feeds my pride. Guy’s like Bell are an easy target. I feel sorry for him. I think he means well. Thanks for sharing the heart your concern. Good thoughts.

  30. MatthewS December 13, 2007 at 9:54 am #

    Bradley,

    I agree. I am guilty of repeating myself to say this, but it is my opinion that what you are referring to is basically fruit of the flesh from Gal 5, Col 3, other places. Anger, fights, dividing up into small groups and criticizing others – these are all fruit of the flesh. Being patient, kind, gentle, humble – these are fruit of the spirit. Conservative or liberal, if one is given to the former list, that one likely lives in the flesh.

    Bell might be wrong. I have only spent a few minutes reading one of his books. The whole stream-of-consciousness thing turned me off. I will try again. But if he is wrong, it is for those who have fruit of the Spirit to be patient, kind, hopeful and all the rest of it in addressing the wrong. And like you said earlier, those who do so might just benefit from him and learn from him even as he might learn from them.

  31. Bryan L December 13, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    You know the only time I’ve been interested in reading Bell is when I heard all the controversy and criticism of him. Before that I could care less what Velvet Elvis was about and figured it was just another popular level Christian living type book that nobody would really care about a few years down the road. But after some of Denny’s quotes I was interested to read the quotes in their original context (which always seem to have a way of sounding different from the way Denny makes them out to be) and was actually intrigued by some of the things he was saying.

    In the end I think those who don’t want to like him will find things they don’t like about him or what he says and those who are open to what he has to say will find a lot to take away from him and those who didn’t care in the first place might actually get interested in his stuff too because of all the controversy and criticism.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  32. Lucas Knisely December 13, 2007 at 10:43 am #

    hahah, Brian FTW!

    You get all the candy bars for this comment section, Brian. haha

    🙂

  33. MatthewS December 13, 2007 at 11:31 am #

    Lucas,

    Do you mean Brian or Bryan? I don’t know why “brian” changed to “Brian L” but I wish he wouldn’t have. It is confusing.

    brian: you there? Please – change it back!

  34. Bradley Cochran December 13, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    Matthew,

    Thanks for your constructive comments. I am taking for granted the distinction you are making between the flesh and the spirit; that’s why I am trying so hard to avoid the things of the flesh, but they easily disguise themselves in pietistic garb in debates like this when Christians disagree over important issues. We create a blind spot to the works of the flesh with the under-shade of our “in the name of truth” banner. It’s easy to label an orgy as a work of the flesh, it’s hard to recognize one’s critical remarks of someone who might be wrong on an important issue, or misleading people unwittingly, as a “work of the flesh,” because it has a legit concern mixed with it.

    I suppose how one stewards their convictions and differences with others will be the difference between love and pride; between true godliness and “works of the flesh.” So … as it turns out, what is more important than whether or not Bell is some neo-liberal (or flirting with it) is not as important as how we ourselves handle our disagreement.

    Bryan L.,

    Bullzeye.

  35. Brett December 13, 2007 at 12:16 pm #

    Bryan L,

    I feel the exact same way bro. I could have cared less about Bell until I heard my fundamentalist pastor bashing him from the pulpit calling him a heretic (funny thing is, I asked him questions after the sermon and he had never even read the book! Just some review by a conservative dude…funny how that works some times). Then I read the book, and actually took some good things away from it.

    Also, the examples my pastor gave (as with Denny as well) seemed to sound a little different in context when I read them (funny how that works too!). It’s funny how heretical you can make an author sound by quoting a sentence or two out of context. I could easily do this with John Piper or his like.

    So, thank you ultra conservative fundamentalists for being so anti-Bell that you have probably caused his book sales to double and have introduced me to a gifted man of God. Maybe I need to write a postmodern Christian book so reformed conservatives can post warnings on their blogs about how heretical it is and I can become rich off of it b/c all it does is peak people’s interests and they go out and buy the book!

    Good day

  36. D. Taylor Benton December 13, 2007 at 7:08 pm #

    Bradley,

    I honestly can say that I respect your opinion and thank you for the good conversation. As we all know iron sharpens iron. I too strive to be humble and earnestly seeking the truth, and in that honestly seek not to be condemning, rude, or judgmental. I say all that to say, I still see issues that concern me about Bell, and I HAVE read his books. along with the whole Nooma stuff..

    Brett,

    You tip your hand by calling people like Denny ultra conservative fundamentalist…if He (myself included) is ultra conservative fundamentalist, who would you call just the conservative fundamentalists? Or who would you call just the conservatives? because I promise you this, if you think Denny is an ultra conservative fundamentalist, than I would hate to hear what you call those that go to Pensacola Christian and Bob Jones…

    Second of all, if you know your own vocabulary, you cannot be both Postmodern and Christian…
    In their very essence Postmodernism is a strive towards the relative (mostly in the realm of morality and truth) and Christianity is a strive towards the Certain (absolute truth)…kinda wierd how you would say a postmodern Christian book…that is where the rub is..I don’t think one can consistently hold both a postmodern and Christian worldview.
    It is also somewhat entertaining to think about the fact that most Postmoderists would say the meaning lies with the reader in which your comments about portions of books should not bother you because context is with the reader and not the writer… just some observations.

  37. MJH December 13, 2007 at 9:14 pm #

    D. Taylor Benton,

    Postmodern Christianity can be conservative or liberal. You’re simply misunderstanding the use of the language.

    Postmodernism is as you stated, an time in which relativity (among many other things) is predominant.

    However, a Christianity that exists in this time, ie. Postmodern Christianity, is simply a people who are Christian in this time period. A postmodern Christian book is a book by a Christian from a Christian perspective speaking into the postmodern culture we live in.

    We must, as Paul did in the Hellenistic period, be able to address our culture from where it is.

    I tend to be ultra conservative (in the vein of Bob Jones as stated above.) Yet I attend Mars Hill Bible Church and love Rob Bell dearly. I probably wouldn’t do things as he does them, but then I don’t have his passions and gifts either. I pray for him had have long before he became nationally known. I trust him in God’s hands.

    MJH

  38. D. Taylor Benton December 13, 2007 at 10:30 pm #

    I do understand the concept but there is a BIG difference between a Christian in a postmodern context and a postmodern Christian…that is honestly where i see a lot but not all of the EM…

  39. Bryan L December 13, 2007 at 10:49 pm #

    D.,
    For postmodern friendly Christian books you should check out the following (if you haven’t already them) and not just critical reviews of them:

    1.) James K A Smith – Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism

    2.) Crystal Downing – How Postmodernism Serves (my) Faith

    3.) Stanley Grenz – A Primer on Postmodernism

    4.) Heath White – Postmodernism 101

    They’ll give you a good idea of how Christians can apply positive aspects of postmodernism to the faith as well as critiquing some of the other negative aspects.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  40. D. Taylor Benton December 13, 2007 at 11:40 pm #

    I’ve read Grenz but none of the others…thanks

  41. Brett December 14, 2007 at 1:27 am #

    For those of you who slander postmodernism, what do you suggest we do? Go back to modernism? I dare say this is just as bad if not worse. The modernistic mind is all about “me me me”, very individualistic. “Let me have my quiet devotional time with God”, while neglecting the communal aspect of Christianity. You must prove something for me to believe in it. If by my reason and evidence I can prove something, then I will have faith. These are all aspects of modernism and they are completely destructive.

    I am not singing praises of postmodernism. I know the postmodern mind leans towards relativism…which is its biggest downfall, especially to a modernistic mind which sees everything as black and white. However, postmoderns tend to value community, something that moderns do not. Christianity is more of a communal religion than a private relationship, and postmoderns welcome this.

    Okay you say, then lets go back to premodernity. Well then, lets go back to having people tell us everything to do and believe. Lets go back to having a pope system and take his word as equal with God’s. Lets go back and let tradition interpret scripture for us…not using it as an aid, but using it as THE authority. Lets completely deny ALL experience and emotion, even though these are things God gives to us and ways he teaches us. Lets go back to having the lay people uneducated and ignorant and suppressing many truths from them b/c they don’t fit in well with our system.

    Bottom line, there was never a golden age. There was never a time period when all was fine and dandy and all sought God. Postmodernism is not the problem, the problem is sin and a lack of Jesus Christ in the lives of individuals.

  42. Kevin J December 14, 2007 at 8:18 am #

    It is true, very true, that we are all like sheep who have went astray and would follow the one in front of us…even if it is to fall off a cliff.

    Let’s just follow the God of the Bible and not some movement. Following a movement is extremely dangerous and can lead you right off a cliff.

  43. D. Taylor Benton December 14, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    Amen Kevin,

    Brett,

    How about we be in the world and not of it, as regenerate Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit seek to be salt and light to this dieing world instead of taking on ANY of it’s worldviews and influence the culture and community with a CHRISTIAN worldview.

    Which I do concede to a small extent may be informed by the world around us like Paul suggests, but to just to jump headlong into a worldview and ideology just because that is what is “cool” at this point is time is ridiculous honestly…

    I seek to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and see the lost saved, and if I am being obedient in that I believe the community atmosphere you so champion will be a natural overflow of the regenerate Bride of Christ and not some secularist influenced, academic created worldview that has sought to throw off the old shroud of black and white and be more “flexible” and more “multicultural” as a lot of PM’s like to say…

  44. Bradley Cochran December 14, 2007 at 5:57 pm #

    We don’t have to choose between modernism and postmodernism. We can take the best of both and incorporate them into a Christian worldview.

    Perhaps this discussion will be unfruitful unless someone is willing to define their terms. What is postmodernism? What is modernism? What is “flexible”? What is “multicultural”? What is “ultra-conservatism”? What is “conservativism”? What is “fundamentalism”? Defining one’s terms in discussions like this is often very helpful.

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