Lisa Miller Interviews Rob Bell

Earlier this evening Lisa Miller of Newseek interviewed Rob Bell about his new book Love Wins. If you want to see where the rubber meets the road with the theology in Rob Bell’s book, then you’ll want to watch this.

Miller actually does a good job of pressing Bell on some key points. I think she understands the affront of the cross, and even Rob Bell’s inclusivism is offensive to her because it still relies on Jesus as the savior of the world. Unfortunately, Bell fails to state a clear gospel message. Instead, he gives short pat answers and tells lots of stories. Interestingly, Miller calls him a universalist inspite of the fact that Bell eschews the label.

You can watch the interview above, or you can check out a partial transcript of the interview below.

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Miller: You have been accused in a lot of the coverage of your book of being a universalist… Are you a universalist?

Bell: No, if by universalist we mean there’s a giant cosmic arm that swoops everybody in at some point whether you want to be there or not… [story about a wedding] If by universalist we mean love doesn’t win and God sort of co-opts the human heart and says “you’re coming here, and you’re going to like it,” that violates the laws of love. And love is about freedom. It’s about choice. It’s about, “Do you want to be here?” Because that’s what would make it heaven. If you’re there and you don’t want to be… Now, do I think all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of labels will be [there], yes. I think heaven is full of surprises. And I think Jesus brought this up again and again and again… this was central to his teaching.

Miller: Define what gets you in.

Bell: I begin with this. I with the reality of heaven and hell right now. Greed, injustice, rape, abuse. We see hell on earth all around us all the time. So I begin with these realities here and now. And we actually see lots of people choosing hell. We see oppression. We see tyranny. We see dictators using their power to eliminate the opposition, like, literally with bullets and guns and fire. So we see hells on earth right now. There are those that we sort of create on our own, and then there are those [that are] somebody else’s, sort of, spills over onto us.

Miller: So I’m an atheist, say, and I’m an atheist who gives to the poor, who helps little old ladies across the street, and spends all of my free time in charitable works. Am I going to heaven?

Bell: The essence of grace is Jesus saying, “Left to your own,” we are all in deep trouble. We have made a mess of this place. We’re all sinners. No one has clean hands. So the essence of his gospel was, “Trust me. I’ll take care of it. Just trust me.” Now how exactly that works out… cause he’s unbelievably exclusive. He says these things like, “I’m the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” He says things like, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God.” So he’s very exclusive. He’s also fantastically inclusive. He says things like, “You know, I have other sheep.” He’s says things like, “There’ll be a renewal of all things.” He says, “I’ll be lifted up and draw all people to myself.” So he’s like inexclusive. That’s a word that I just made up. And so I think what happens is, especially for followers of Jesus, is there is sort of his exclusive claims that are often at the expense of the other things that he says which are, “Be careful because I’m doing something for everybody. And how exactly that pans out, that’s God’s job.

Miller: So this sort of universalism that you are preaching that’s exclusive and inclusive…

Bell: That I just denied? Yeah, that one. Okay.

Miller: … has offended some people who call themselves more orthodox than you… There is something in here that offends me, and it’s not the sort of universalist part. And it is what you just said. Which is that Jesus is the mechanism through which we all will get there.

Bell: Yeah, I understand.

Miller: So I’m Jewish. And my relatives—many of my relatives—died in Europe for being Jewish. And they would be appalled to think that their salvation was dependent upon Jesus—because they died for being Jewish. So are you sure that Jesus is the mechanism?

Bell: Well look, I would say this. In the Torah when Moses strikes the rock and water flows from the rock, that is a beautiful story of people who are thirsty and were told that through Moses God provides them water. Then later… Paul was like, “Yeah, that water was Christ.” But he speaks of this Christ who is the word of God who is the animating force of the universe. He broadens this way, way wide. And then he adds almost no commentary. He just says, “God has been rescuing people, redeeming people for thousands of years. We see this throughout history. And then he sort of lets that just sit there. So that means that the Bible itself creates all sorts of space there. Now, of course a Christian answers your question with, “yeah well then they’re gonna get there and then they’re gonna find out … “It was [Jesus] all along”… That is a great question. And I think it is most important for a Christian at this moment to be incredibly gracious and generous. And say he comes and he says, “I’m showing you what God’s like. I came to make the Torah speak. I came to show you compassion. I came to show you generosity. I came to show you how to love your enemies. I came to show you how to make a better world.” Does anybody have a problem with that?… And he does say things like very divisive sort of… But then he also says things like, “If you’re not against me, then you’re for me. He is a paradox. He is within himself… there’s tremendous tension. And we’ve been trying to figure that out for thousands of years.

39 Responses to Lisa Miller Interviews Rob Bell

  1. Casey March 15, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Rob Bell is very accomplished at using many words to say absolutely nothing.

  2. Jesse Lofton March 15, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    This is a perfect example of how a poor foundation makes all the rest shaky. Bell starts with the poor foundation of universalism and builds a fantastic structure of thought that ultimately is false. Bell’s explanation of faith vs. works, for example, was beautiful in that we do the works not to earn merit, rather we do the works as we respond to the grace already given us. In the beauty of that presentation is the false foundation of what that grace is – we are saved from our deserved judgment through the redemptive act of Jesus on the Cross and His resurrection. *Oh, have Bell’s oratory skill…

  3. Danny March 15, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    isn’t interesting that when he basically describes sin as hell, he only says we see lots of people choosing hell, instead of all of us choosing hell (if that’s just sin).

    in fact, he goes on to just make hell “the biggie sins.” seems to me like bell is fighting for more than just his definition of love, he’s also fighting to declare himself innocent.

  4. Danny March 15, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    well, until he then says we’re all sinners.

    wow, this inexclusive (by the way, did we really need him to tell us he made that word up) message is confusing.

  5. Andrew Lindsey March 15, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    re: “So he’s like inexclusive. That’s a word that I just made up.”

    -LOL. So Bell is in the same camp, linguistically, as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.

  6. Brian W March 15, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    I was stunned at how embarrassed he sounded when she shared her personal offense of Jesus being the mechanism of salvation as he puts it; he doesn’t even have conviction to hold firm to that.

    Galli wrote at CT that he was thankful to Bell for bringing up the issue; I’m thankful to Bell that I can show my sons what a false teacher sounds like. He’s the real deal.

  7. Jeremy Sells March 15, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    That was painful to watch. His answer to the “Wide” and “Narrow” paths was almost nonsensical (Intentionality?).

  8. Ryan K. March 15, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    This is clearly Karl Barth universalism, and I think Bell is smart enough to know that is what he is promoting.

    The only reason he is able to say “no” to being a universalist is because he believes he gets there on a different path than a Unitarian.

    I did have to smirk when even Lisa Miller called him out and said, “Aren’t you just a liberal mainliner masquerading as an evangelical?”

    The sad thing is I think this truth will be more evident to a secular Jewish woman, than many evangelicals.

  9. Derek March 15, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Ryan K., I totally agree. There is little to no discernible difference between Bell’s theology and the mainline denominations and Miller called him out on that.

    I think we’re seeing why Bell will not debate his critics. Even when a person who is friendly to his cause asks straightforward questions, there are some very cringe-inducing responses.

    I also couldn’t help but notice that he does what politicians do when they get a tough question – take a detour by telling some story that barely relates to the question.

  10. Derek March 15, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I also think it is really interesting how Bell loves to talk about maintaining a Jewish perspective when interpreting the Bible. When Bell uses the “sheep that are not of this fold” passage from John 10, he of all people should know that Jesus was talking about how He will not just save the Jewish people, but Gentiles.

    When a Jewish perspective can be used to advance his agenda, he’s more than happy to use it, but with this passage, he deliberately ignores the “Jewish reading” and wants to transport us to a 21st century, pluralistic, “inclusivist” rendering of the passage.

  11. Todd March 15, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    i personally liked when bell claimed at the end of the webcast that he was just a pastor and not a theologian….as if that excuses his incessant ramblings.

  12. Michael March 15, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Love Wins = Epic Fail

  13. Steve March 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    The first one to comment – Casey – has said it all. There is nothing more to be said nor can it be better said!

  14. Pastor Matt March 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    I think it all comes down to how you view Scripture (revelation itself or a witness to revelation) and how you interpret Scripture. I was where Bell was once but thanks to guys like Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll and the late Carl Henry, I’ve happily returned to the evangelical camp.

  15. Ryan March 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    We need more teachers/leader/pastors exactly opposite of the likes of Rob Bell. Ones that speak clearly, who help to give answers to the scriptures. And to not create confusion for those young in the faith.

    This interview is just plain confusing and tiresome.

  16. Esteban March 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Sadly, most people are too thick headed to get Rob Bell.

    We’re all insane! Humans (including conservative Christians) keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Einstein’s definition).

    When is someone going to answer the questions that LOVE WINS asks?

  17. Eustice Seeney March 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    I posted my comment earlier but my comment was removed. Nothin’ like good ole censorship….

  18. Andrew Lindsey March 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    Esteban,

    re: “When is someone going to answer the questions that LOVE WINS asks?”

    -Denny Burk already did, at the following link:

    http://www.dennyburk.com/rob-bell-outs-himself/

  19. Caroline March 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    On some level, I think Mr. Bell is working out his own salvation, along with all of us. He doesn’t have ALL the answers. The thing I like about Rob is that he’s asking the QUESTIONS!

  20. Caroline March 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I think Lisa Miller already has her mind made up about Rob Bell. She appears pretty annoyed during the entire interview.

  21. Tim March 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I think it needs to be said that it’s totally fine to have different opinions about these things. Doctrine is supposed to be like grammar – it needs to be flexible. The right telling/living of the story is the point. The problem comes when people want to call people heretics because they have a different conviction about scripture. The arrogance of many of the comments here (and elsewhere), concerning “Love Wins” is simply embarrassing. The reformed tradition is not the end-all be-all of theological discourse. I’d love to see you guys try to defend limited atonement or unconditional election to someone smart like Lisa Miller.

  22. Karen March 23, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Tim, thanks for that!

    It might be helpful to some to read Origen (3rd cent.), St. Gregory of Nyssa (4th cent.), and St. Isaac the Syrian (7th cent.) on this subject as well as have a good understanding of the character of the lives of these three towering figures in earlier Christian history–a period of Christian history, btw, that FAR predates German higher criticism, Karl Barth, and this modern Evangelical squabble with mainline liberalism. At the very least, it demonstrates to me that in these thoughts, Rob is in some very saintly Christian company!

    No, orthodox (or Orthodox) Christians of the first 1,000 – 1,500 years of Church history did not embrace even St. Isaac’s or St. Gregory’s versions of speculative hope about the meaning and implications of references in the NT to the “restoration of all things” at the consummation of the ages. They certainly did embrace St. Gregory and St. Isaac; however, not only as brothers and Christians, but as Christians of heroic spiritual stature! They did not embrace such speculative hopes about the finiteness of “Gehenna” as dogma (though one could argue neither really did Origen in context or St. Gregory or St. Isaac–speculative hope on the part of even saintly Christians does not carry the weight or demand of dogma espoused by the whole Church). An official Council of orthodox Christian bishops also rightly anathematized (in the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon) later versions of universalism attributed to Origen because these contained manifestly pagan philosophical elements.

    Nevertheless, going back to the patristic period of the Church, if we were willing to give our Christian ancestors of this period a vote, I would not be surprised to find that Rob Bell’s reading of the NT regarding the basis of “Final Judgment” and the nature of “Gehenna,” more readily passed their litmus tests of true Christian orthodoxy than that of many of his detractors.

    I did also hear/read Rob Bell say quite unequivocally “no” when asked straight out whether or not he was a universalist, so he appears to me at least not even go as far in his readiness to accept even as a hope some form of universalism as St. Isaac or St. Gregory did.

    However, I’m sure this debate will continue. I agree Rob Bell’s way of answering questions is evasive and unsatisfying to those looking for some positive affirmations of “biblical truth” to hang their hat on. But I also think that it would be very difficult for him to provide succinct, easy to understand, sound bites in such an interview that do justice to the need to explore the many and subtle ways in which our thinking on this subject has evolved away from the fullness of the biblical teaching by centuries of approaching the sacred text through philosophies of interpretation alien to the writers of the Scriptures themselves (see 1 Corinthians 2, Acts 8:30-31, and 2 Peter 3:15-16). I’m talking about the long evolution of thought, particularly in the West, through various schools of Augustinianism, Scholasticism, Medieval Nominalism and Feudalism, Roman Legalism, Thomism, Scottish Common Sense Realism, and Enlightenment Rationalism through which modern Christians have learned to see and understand the Scriptures–in many ways quite different (those more learned than I would argue) from the early Greek-speaking/reading Fathers of the Church. I think, and suspect Rob Bell believes, that such a profound evolution of thought away from the mindset of those to whom the Scriptures were first written, cannot be easily overcome by a few sound bites in interviews such as this. Better to keep asking questions and provoke a few intrepid souls to begin doing the soul-searching, Scripture-searching, and Church history-searching research for themselves.

  23. TMAN March 23, 2011 at 2:55 am #

    > Doctrine is supposed to be like grammar – it needs to be flexible.

    That’s fine for art, but not for Truth. Respectfully, this is 180* opposite of what the Bible teaches.

    Why bother claiming to teach people Truth, if the meaning of that Truth is free to be flexible? Let’s put the shoe on your foot: Can I interpret your statement to be something other than what it (clearly!) means? Would you be miffed if I “quoted” you saying that all Christians everywhere are embarrassing? You would never grant me that kind of leeway with your words – please be consistent and don’t grant Rob that kind of leeway with the God’s Words.

    If you count the number of times Jesus went on the offensive against His detractors (and disciples!), calling them names, etc, because they failed to understand or believe what Moses and the prophets said about Him, it’d make your head spin. This can only mean one thing: doctrine is fixed and has specificity. We may contend with God about some parts of it, but note that such wranglings may come with a cost (Job 38-42; Rom 9:20ff).

    Rob is not a heretic because he has a different interpretation: he’s a heretic because he denies that the Bible means what it says when it provides clear answers to his questions. His “interpretations” and methods are diametrically opposed to the teachings and methods of the Bible, just as my ‘quote’ of your embarrassment would malign you. That makes him a heretic.

    How would I defend limited atonement to Lisa Miller?
    Hmmmm… let’s see… Let me use Rob’s “answer a question with a question” tactic:

    In Gen 19:24, Jesus Himself (working in concert with the Father – note there’s 2 ‘Lord’s at work here) destroys Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness (read it).
    But 2,000 years later and 120 miles NW, Jesus tells Capernaum (a place where He preached and performed miracles) that Sodom and Gomorrah will have less judgment because they would have repented and would be standing to this day if they had seen what Capernaum had seen.
    Question: If Jesus knew what it would have taken for S&G to repent (which is exactly what He’s saying in Matt 11:21-24), then why did Jesus destroy S&G instead of giving them what they needed to repent? He held the “repent card” – yet He didn’t play it. Why?

    If the idea of God not wanting certain people to repent and be saved seems offensive to you, then what do you do with the following verses:
    -Why did Jesus thank God for hiding the Truth from people who did not believe? (Matt 11:25-27)
    -Why was Isaiah told to blind, deafen, harden people so they would not be “healed”? (Is 6:8-10)
    -Why does every Gospel quote (at least once) Isaiah saying that Jesus would hide the Truth from people so that they would not repent and be saved? (Matt 13:13; Mark 4; Luke 8; John 12; Acts 28)
    -Why does Paul continue this line of thinking saying that Israel failed to obtain salvation, the elect obtained it and the rest were hardened so that they would not see and would not hear – so that they would stumble and fall into the trap?

    ..and if all this sounds new to you, could it possibly be that you’ve been hardend/blinded?

    Think carefully before you answer.

    I’m not opposed to questions that struggle to embrace revealed truth. I am most definitely opposed to questions that undermine revealed truth.

    Like satan with Eve, Bell wallows in the latter.

  24. tim March 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    tman: We must never contend to have the only true teachings of the scripture contained within our own tradition, or that everyone who understands it differently is conveniently wrong and a heretic. Doctrine has always been flexible (as Karen demonstrated above). Your tradition is subjective as is your reading of the text. We children of the reformation must never forget we stand on the shoulders of 1500 years of Christian history & doctrine which developed over time. We must resist the impulse to freeze it at any one point and thereby refuse the Spirit’s power to do a fresh work in our understanding of the Scriptures and the mission of God.

    I cannot imagine what it is like to live a life where one feels they must call brothers in Christ heretics because they read the scripture differently at some points. Yes Jesus called people out often. But think about who he called out. They were those set on violence (Zealots), those set on enriching themselves (Sadducees), those who tried to hold truth as their own possession & keep other people from experiencing life among the people of God (Pharisees). Jesus stands firmly with those who the religious elite attack – which means he stands with Rob Bell. Before we try to remove the speck from Bell’s eye, let’s deal with our own plank.

    And what about the faithful traditions which vary so widely from Eastern Orthodox, to Roman Catholic; from Anabaptist to Methodism? Perhaps “What the bible teaches” is a phrase which should be struck from our vocabulary? The scriptures are not self-interpreting. We read it as we are taught to read it. You should read it deeply within your own tradition, and I within mine. But, we must allow for the fact that there are many ways to read the story. We must look to one another with grace, attempting to learn from each other’s traditions. You’ve been taught one way, I’ve been taught a different way. What I’m saying is that we cannot count each other out and cry heresy. That does damage to the body of Christ. That kind of positivism is naive.

    What if truth is not a rational category? What if truth is a person. The scriptures seem to witness to this (I am the way, the truth…). We must not speak as though we have “Truth” in our pocket – a rational abstraction to be wielded like a sword vanquishing all who believe differently. Truth is not something which can ever be contained by our doctrines, or even in words – it can only be fully embodied, and was, by Jesus Christ; encountered by people who bear witness to its veracity; and finally embodied by the people of God. Christ transcends all of our doctrines and truth claims and calls them all into question at every moment. Therefore a posture of humility is required to be good readers of scripture.

    BTW: Your proof-texts deal with the doctrine of election, not limited atonement. Limited atonement purports that Jesus did not die for everyone – only for the elect. Show me that doctrine in the scriptures – and see if you can do it w/out proof-texting. Where is that theme in the gospels?

  25. Karen March 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Tim, I would have to say from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, the *expression* of doctrine has had to flex with the times. From NT times on, the Apostles and their successors appointed to teach and lead in the Church have adapted terms, not found in their own Scriptures (such as the “logos” for Christ in John’s Gospel) from the surrounding cultures’ philosophical and symbolic traditions to try to properly explain and defend the one unchanging reality of the nature of the God revealed in Jesus Christ over against developing heresies (such as Gnosticism and Arianism) that threatened to obscure what had always been believed and taught in the Church Christ established. But orthodox (Orthodox) doctrine itself, the Apostolic teaching and witness to Christ–to use a technical term, the Kerygma or the “Apostolic Hypothesis” through which Scriptures may be properly interpreted–must not change. From an EO perspective, we must see continuity of liturgy and dogma, and uninterrupted sacramental communion throughout history and across cultures, or quite simply put, some part of that Apostolic deposit has been abandoned, and we do not have exactly the same faith (though there may be some overlap and similarities, at least on the surface.) It is one thing to take the same spiritual reality and use new words to seek to convey it in a new context, language, and culture. It is quite another to use the surrounding culture’s values as a barometer for evaluating a tradition of biblical interpretation or expression of worship that has been faithfully passed on within a Christian community for centuries and upend it redefining credal and biblical terms and statements, including the language of liturgy and ritual, to suit our own cultural values and beliefs, rather than seeking to understand and faithfully convey what those statements meant and how they were originally understood in their own context. My critique of the criticism of Rob Bell is that the tradition of interpretation being used to criticize him does not have this full continuity back into those earliest centuries of the Church, whereas strains of Rob Bell’s thought, in fact, do!

    TMAN, istm, part of the problem of this whole debate is that one can’t fight Scriptural proof texting with Scriptural proof texting. One has to show a continuity of orthodox interpretation throughout history to have an arbiter for which Scriptures give proper context to the others. And, as they say, for understanding the real meaning of any kind of interpersonal communication (which the Scriptures are), context is everything. As St. Vincent of Lerins (5th cent.) wrote:

    “But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

    “Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient [unanimous] definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.”

    (Just a note: readers may or may not be aware that it would be anachronistic to read “Catholic” in this quote as “Roman Catholic” inferring later doctrines unique to the post-Schism (1054 A.D.) Roman Catholic Church, and not held during earlier periods of the Church’s history. I.e., we need to understand “Catholic” here as St. Vincent himself is defining it.)

  26. tim March 24, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Karen, it’s a great point you make about EO doctrine being much more stable. As the Orthodox have rightly refused to adapt to (or adopt), the enlightenment (good move BTW), they now do not have a bunch of things which need to be undone. Although I agree the truth is unchanging, I’m surprised to hear you say there is no doctrinal development past the patristic area. Surely it has had to develop a bit? It’s my understanding that John Zizioulas has redefined some of the EO anthropology and perhaps even shed new light on their understanding of the Trinity (love is the supreme ontological predicate). Schmemann surely changed some of the Ecclesiology? Afanasiev seems to have done something similar for the Eucharist? But maybe you’re right. Perhaps their work is more of a rediscovery of what was there all the time than saying anything new.

    You point out the big heresy cases. I’ve tried to search through the big ones, arius, the gnostics, Ebionism, Docetism, Marcionism, and down the line. Bell does not fit in any of the great heresy categories. Perhaps we need a new one – like disagreeing with the Westminster Confession?

    The strangest thing to me about all of the critiques of Bell are the ones that seem to believe he’s just trying to accommodate a culture which has a distaste for hell. I think Rob Bell has come to his conclusions after careful study of the text and of church history. It’s one of the most insidious things about hardcore reformed theology – it assumes it has a monopoly on truth. The implicit critique Bell and many other American Protestants are making is that American Evangelicals and many Protestants (Calvinists in particular), have so adapted the faith to enlightenment culture that it has been essentially compromised. Now that the enlightenment is waning, we can see a lot of the compromises the reformers made. Entrenched in the Westminster Confession, they remain intractable.

  27. Karen March 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Tim, I think you and I are using the term “doctrine” somewhat differently. I am using it to denote the unchanging deposit of the truth of the nature of our salvation in Christ handed down within the Church from the Apostles (the Scriptures being the authoritative written rule and record of this deposit of faith, while its living “letter” being the ongoing exposition and expression of this faith in the way of life and worship of the Church, especially as expressed in her Fathers and Saints. Yes, I think the Orthodox teachers/writers you have mentioned have really tried to expound and recover genuine Orthodox faith and practice and faithfully communicate it into the modern context. But more authoritative than anything such modern scholars or teachers might say, are the words and lives of those designated “Fathers” within the Orthodox Church (I’ll explain that a little later).

    EO really focus on “orthodoxy” not primarily as a system of correct dogmatic statements and abstract theological propositions (although they have those and certain ones, e.g., the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed, are quite binding upon their members), but rather as a way of life in communion with Christ and His Church. “Orthodoxy” can be rightly translated as “right doctrine,” but it literally means “right giving of praise” or “right worship.” Orthodox ritual worship has not changed in any important detail since the 8th cent.. It continues to be translated into the vernacular of the people, and the hymns and “tones” used (the Liturgy is almost all sung) continue to take on the musical “flavor” of the cultures to which the faith is being brought. But the basic shape of the Orthodox Liturgy has not changed since the earliest centuries of the Church, and the main Liturgy that is used to this day is one by St. John Chrysostem (5th cent.) which has roots in a family of Syriac liturgical rites all tracing back in turn to a very early form attributed in its origins to St. James the Just, the brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem.

    Orthodox will tell you if you want to understand what their faith teaches, come and regularly attend the Liturgy and it will teach you all you need to know! Beyond the early “patristic” Fathers, there have been key expositors of Orthodoxy such as St. Maximus the Confessor in the 7th cent. and St. John of Damascus in the 9th, St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th cent.), St. Gregory Palamas (14th cent.) and others more recent and even to the present day who are looked upon as “Fathers” of the Orthodox Church because of their faithful and exemplary continuing exposition (what I think you are calling “doctrine”) and living expression of the faith in the face of the challenges to it in their day. BTW, in Orthodoxy, noone can be designated a “Church Father” who is not also recognized as a Saint (cap. S, though we are all “saints”), hence Origen and Tertullian, though important thinkers even for Orthodoxy, are not considered “Fathers” of the Church, as I believe they are in the West.

    Yes, through such figures as I have mentioned, EO has continued to expound that doctrine of the Apostles past the patristic era to the present day, but always in keeping with the guidelines established by St. Vincent (and also those established by St. Irenaeus before him in the 2nd cent., who is noteworthy among other things for his clear explanation of the importance and place of the Church’s teaching/practice of the “Apostolic Succession” of its bishops in the preservation of its members against heretical interpretations of Scripture and heretical teachings about Christ).

  28. Janie March 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    I am not a believer in Christ. I think that this goyish nonsense is overrated and is nauseating. It’s sickening to hear these so called experts pontificate about a fictional character and expect some of us of other faiths to buy into it. I respect your right to believe as you wish, but please, keep it to your selves. Happy Purim.

  29. TMAN March 25, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Hey, Janie – some of us like to “tinker under the hood”. Some of us like Fords. Some of us like Chevys. Some of us only like Japanese models. Some of us couldn’t care less: we just like to turn the keys, put ‘er in gear and go.

    But if we’re calling a “red herring” a “car”, we’ve got a problem, wouldn’t you say? Especially if that ‘car’ needs to take us places very, very far away.

    So our thoughts are efforts to try and cut to the real issues at hand. Not everyone will understand the relevance, and that’s ok.

    > tman: We must never contend to have the only true teachings of the scripture contained within our own tradition, or that everyone who understands it differently is conveniently wrong and a heretic.

    Uhhhhh… tell me again how I’m wrong and you’re right because you’re willing to think *you’re* wrong. Doesn’t it usually go “you’re wrong and I’m right”?

    With all due respect, this is nonsense! My tradition rejects your tradition …so.. what are you going to do about it? Violate your own standard of “tradition respect” by rejecting my tradition? Since you think your tradition is prone to be wrong, why don’t we just both agree that you’re wrong and leave it at that? .. unless you’re willing to call mine wrong. ..which you seem reluctant to do, but as I read your post .. you do precisely that. I think you need to reconsider your statements.

    Don’t get me wrong: I will never claim to be perfect. And if you want a list of my errors, just ask my wife – she’d be happy to oblige.
    But if I’m wrong, please don’t waste our time with pointless patronizing: demonstrate it! And I will apologize.

    I’m placing my opinions and faith firmly on Jesus. If I’m wrong, I’ll take the lumps for it, and I won’t curse you for laughing at me.

    Jesus made it perfectly clear that He was the only way (Jn 14:6) and that if you don’t believe that He’s the Messiah, you will die in your sins (Jn 8:24) For your sakes, I pray I’m wrong. But if you can’t see that Bell would have us totally reinterpret Jesus’ meanings (and therfore His character, His work on the cross, His substitutionary atonement, etc, etc, etc) then I don’t know what to say to you except to check the ingredients on your koolaid.

    Rob Bell’s book makes Jesus’ warnings sound like He’s making a mountain out of a molehill. That’s insulting to anyone. But because we’re not dealing with just Anyone, we have a special word: it’s called “heresy”. If you don’t think ‘heresy’ applies, then please tell us what ‘heresy’ means so we can use it properly. (We’ll note for the record that you ignored my first request. Here’s hoping you don’t ignore it the second time around). Bell is undermining the words, emphasis and warnings of Jesus. In my book/tradition/understanding/culture/whatever, that makes him a heretic. Either show me where I’m wrong, or deal with it. Don’t tell me to pipe down “just because”

    > The scriptures are not self-interpreting.

    Oi, veh!!

    Why on **EARTH** would Jesus reprimand people, telling them that they didn’t know Scriptures?? Where was the smart-aleck in His crowd that piped up and said “Quit calling us fools! Scripture is not self-interpreting and it’s translations are up for grab! Now stop condemning us!”

    Should I assume you take this position because you, like them, don’t know Scriptures?
    Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10, ESV)
    Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures??!!” (Matt 21:42a, ESV)
    But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matt 22:29, ESV)
    And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25, ESV)
    And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27, ESV)

    Jesus would never have said these things if the Scriptures were left open to interpretation. Words mean something. Take a stand. Be ready to learn more, be ready to be corrected (2 Tim 3:16-17), but don’t sit around and say “because my view is invalid everyone needs to act like theirs may be too”. That’s for wimps.

    Be a Man! Be a Berean! (Acts 17:11): when faced with stuff that challenges your understanding, hit the books. Find the Truth – then believe it and stand on it!

    > That does damage to the body of Christ. That kind of positivism is naive.

    Nice.
    Show me where anyone in the Bible endorsed that view and I’ll ammend my ways. (forgive me for not holding my breath)

    > What if truth is not a rational category? What if truth is a person.

    And what if truth is a pig that flies? Tell you what, if truth is stuff you put in your pipe and smoke, go do it in your corner and quit trying to act like you’ve got more truth than anyone. You’re wasting your time professing yourself to be wise. You’re claiming your truth has no teeth. Why would I want your version of truth? By your own admission, it’s good for nothing.

    If I’m wrong, show me from the Bible that I’m wrong. Life is to short to chase every vain imagination.

    > BTW: Your proof-texts deal with the doctrine of election, not limited atonement. Limited atonement purports that Jesus did not die for everyone – only for the elect. Show me that doctrine in the scriptures – and see if you can do it w/out proof-texting. Where is that theme in the gospels?

    1. I’m posting verses for readers who may be unfamiliar that such concepts even exist in the Bible. If you feel I’m pulling a verse out of context, please let me know which one(s) and I’ll happily demonstrate that each verse is part of a stream of verses and Biblical logic to support the views I’m setting forth.
    2. Why should I limit myself to the Gospels? Do you not believe that the rest of the Bible is inspired? Jesus taught that understanding the Prophets was critical to understanding Him. Surely you wouldn’t deny this. (do you want me to provide verses for this, or would that be the proof-texting you’re trying to avoid?)

    Let’s start with this: what’s the point of electing some if you really paid for everyone? Is that not common sense?
    If Jesus paid for the sins of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah.. uhhh.. someone should have told Him! Because He destroyed them. And then later said “btw, if I did there what I’m doing for you, they would have repented”. Did Jesus not get the memo that God is not willing that any should perish? .. or could it possibly be that “any” in that culture/tradition/insertYourFavoriteWordHere doesn’t mean what your favorite preacher tells you it means. Or is this just a paradox we should ignore? (Forgive me for being the kind of guy who occasionally thinks that actions speak louder than words)

    If you look at the context of these verses, it’s not a stretch to see that “whole world” and “all” likely don’t mean what modern preachers make it out to be. That might be why Polycarp and Irenaus (Direct disciples of St. John!) would use phrases like “of the whole world of them who are saved” when referencing concepts John gives in John 3:16.

    Closing thoughts:
    If you’re willing to entertain the notion that *prevenient grace* for everyone is also paid at the cross at the same time that *salvific grace* was paid on the cross, at this point in my spiritual growth, you won’t get a rebuttal from me – I may actually agree with that. God sends rain and blessings on the unjust, and if we say that Christ’s death allows it, I might go with that since I don’t have any verses pro/con. But if you want me to believe that *salvific grace* for every person who has ever lived is paid at the cross, uhhhh… then why the heck send all those people to hell?

    Eph 5:25 says that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for *HER*.

    If Christ gave His life for everyone, then all verses (not just a couple) would say ‘Christ gave His life for everyone’ and none of them would say ‘church’ or ‘elect’ in place of ‘everyone’.

    That’s how I see it. I may be wrong (there: did that make you feel better?), but that’s where I stand. I can do no other (unless you show me where I’m wrong in the Bible)

  30. Paul March 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    The Resurrection is not the affirmation of the goodness of this world, as Rob believes, it is that affirmation that Christ is the way out of this world to heaven. The answer is Jesus,the resurection and the life, who spoke many many times about the reality of a heaven and hell, real places where people go depending upon whether they believed in Jesus! Sadly, this is something, among many other things, that Rob isn’t convinced of himself. The message is simple for anyone who is searching for eternal life in Heaven: “For God so loved the World, that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him(Jesus) will have everlasting life”. John 3:16- the Bible.

  31. Miranda March 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I think that the biggest issue in this debate is the Bell sidestepped the question if hell was a real geographical place. He certainly said that he believed that people create hell on earth, but what about hell when we die? He totally failed to answer Miller’s direct question about hell.

    And when he was asked the question whether it would be loving for God to send an atheist to heaven or not, he answered it from a matter of what people desire vs. their sin and lack of belief and repentance. He did not give us a correct picture of what heaven really is either. He said that it is a place with puppies and clouds. But more than that, it is where the absolute magnitude of God’s Holiness dwells.

    Although he did acknowledge that God can be both just and love at the same time, he seems to think that a God of wrath and God of love are totally different. He takes that the view of a God who sends people to hell is a bad God while not acknowledging that God is good to send unbelievers to hell. He failed to acknowledge that the cross is where God is both just (wrath) and love. On the cross, Jesus bore our sins and the punishment we deserved.

    Many will not accept the real truth of the Bible, and if they don’t it is because they do not believe they are a sinner or deserve hell. That is where the rubber meets the road.

  32. Ken Silva March 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    If anybody needs it, there’s a full transcript of the interview here: http://apprising.org/2011/03/29/transcription-of-lisa-miller-interview-with-rob-bell/

    Bell’s drifting becomes clearer when you can read his words apart friom his speaking style, which tends to divert attention away from what he actually says.

  33. yankeegospelgirl March 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    Oh. My. Word.

    I have a cracked lip right now, and I’m having to be very, very careful as I read the Miller transcript, because I am this close to laughing out loud.

  34. Esther Kramer September 17, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    wow, if you all are what Christians are like, I sure don’t want to be one. Wouldn’t you have all been called Pharisees in the New Testament…the ones that didn’t like Jesus because he upset the status quo?

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