This is a follow-up from my post earlier this week about Pastor Rob Bell. D. A. Carson commented on Bell’s ministry at the 2008 Nashville Conference on the Church and Theology [HT: Justin Taylor]. The title of Carson’s sermon was “Keeping Up With The Conversation,” and it surveyed the Emerging Church, the Emergent Movement, and postmodernism. Doug Selph has the audio, and you can listen to it here:
What weird comments and analysis.
Why do people even listen to Carson or care what he says? I’m convinced it’s because the way he talks (that sort of proper, arrogant sound) and because he loves criticizing new things. He wouldn’t even get any listen outside of conservative Reformed circles. In fact I’m convinced that outside of Reformed circles people really don’t care much for what he’s saying and it’s only in conservative reformed circles that he can be a sort of super-star NT scholar or authority on whatever he feels like talking about.
Hopefully if you listened to the clip you recognized what I just did and why this clip is kind of odd and should be taken with a grain of salt considering what it really is.
“Why do people even listen to Carson or care what he says?”
Because he’s one of the most brilliant bible scholars on earth today…he gets plenty of “listen” outside of “reformed circles”
“What weird comments and analysis.
Why do people even listen to Carson or care what he says? Iâ€™m convinced itâ€™s because the way he talks (that sort of proper, arrogant sound) and because he loves criticizing new things. ”
How are these comments helpful? If you want to engage what he is saying, then gird yourself up and address his ideas. But to make such caustic remarks not only is unloving, but it assumes that a well-respected NT theologian is nothing but a twit and runs his mouth off on anything he pleases. This assumption itself is rather arrogant.
Dismissing him as prideful and overly verbose is unwarranted. I have read numerous books written by Carson, and he is a humble, God-fearing man who has influenced me greatly concerning the preciousness of the Bible and the Gospel. Andreas Kostenberger, in his biography on Carson, says the following things on this very issue: Others object to Carsonâ€™s confrontational, direct manner, both in writing and in person. It
should be realized, however, that what may appear as glibness in Carsonâ€™s dealing with opposing views could actually be a reflection of his quickness in sizing up an opponent and his sharp penetration to the heart of an issue. But whether these criticisms are warranted or not, they reveal a certain ambiguity with which Carson has been received by his colleagues. Many scholars who do not share Carsonâ€™s conservative evangelical views on Scripture apparently believe they can safely ignore his writings. Others, perhaps voicing the concerns just mentioned, do not give Carsonâ€™s views the attention they deserve. Overall, it seems that Carson is only beginning to get the kind of exposure and attention due a man of his scholarly stature.”
Kostenberger is correct. Carson has an uncanny ability to size up opponents and critique their views. Simply because he is confident in his assertions does not imply arrogance.
Bryan, my plea is that to simply dismiss what he says, and to quip that he is arrogant and runs his mouth off at anything without thought is insulting to a man who has spent his life as a well-respected, hard-working evangelical scholar. Moreover, this is insulting to God, for it does not produce healthy or helpful conversation for it does not engage any of his ideas.
“Why do people even listen to Carson or care what he says?”
Probably because he is a very educated, well respected author, theologian, and professor who has earned that status through years and years of research, preaching, and ministry to the church. His influence has been largely based on the substance of what he says instead of rhetoric or production. The sort of smug attitude that gives an unqualified dismissal of such an accomplished person reveals a brash lack of humility. Not surprising though in a culture that reveres everything “new” and readily mocks or dismisses any form of christianity that has historical roots deeper than twenty years.
Obviously y’all missed my play on his comments. Good job.
My comments were meant in jest and not to be taken too seriously, but instead to show that really all he was doing is offering his un-researched, unscientific opinion that should be taken for what it was.
This Carson guy just needs to stick to writing commentaries. His voice bugs me and he is too stuffy. He is not a great communicator at all.
His reformed descriptions about “Grand Rapids” is a nice obersvation, but what does that have to do with Bell’s success? The goal of planting a church is to the know land inside and out. Bell obviously did his homework, which is why he has big numbers.
I believe if Bell planted a church in NYC it would look completely different. I think Bell is brilliant for tapping into the theological need in Grand Rapids.
I am sorry but Carson does not do it for me. To dry, not compelling. Thus I will stick to reading his commentaries and not listen to his commentaries about other successful and inspiring ministries.
Ah yes, the word “successful”, the wonderful western concept destorying the idea of “church” as we know it.
I like Carson, but I do agree with Brian L that he sounds very smug. His point is odd to me as well because it can be said of most accomplished pastors. For instance, would someone like Jack Graham have a thriving ministry outside of the Baptist belt? Would Charles Stanley’s style work in Manhattan? The mere fact that Bell is selling out venues from Dallas to Duluth (not sure if he’s actually been to Duluth!) is because he’s demonstrated a mass appeal.
If you aren’t familiar with traditional Baptist lingo, are you going to listen to a pastor who only speaks in such terms? So, I have a hard time finding the point that Carson is asserting. He’s really trying to say that Bell is shallow unless you have a theological framework from which to interpret him. I would submit that this would be the case for most pastors.
If you think he’s shallow, just say so. Don’t go through this long explination that applies to nearly every pastor who preaches from a gospel context.
Too stuffy? His voice bugs you? Those aren’t very substantial reasons to not seriously consider what someone says. And, as in Bell’s case, the opposite is true. Wicked communication skills should not woo us into uncritically listening to the content. Sure, it is nice when both go together, but content is king and delivery it’s servant. Don’t worship the servant over the king.
Touche. Your explanation helps me read your comment in a different light. Maybe this helps. Let me show you how I think your comment can be confusing or easily misunderstood. “Hopefully if you listened to the clip you recognized what I just did (by giving an unqualified, unresearched opinion which should be seen as that)” versus “Hopefully if you listened to the clip you recognized what I just did (when I listened to the clip…). But now understanding your intentions I would have to say that I agree. I highly respect Dr. Carson but as I listened I thought the same thing, “This is just an opinion, nothing more” (I think he said something to that affect). Whereas I would be inclined to give more weight to an opinion from someone as educated and accomplished as Dr. Carson I still recognize it as such. I apologize for misinterpreting your satire.
Dr. Carson’s point about Grand Rapids appears to be this, because the people there have a solid theological foundation (from their historically Reformed roots) they carry that into Bell’s amorphous language and teaching and everything “clicks”. Bell stays away from big theological discussions/debate so people can carry there own theological groundwork with them. However, the implication is that this same teaching would be/is dangerous in a an environment that has less of a theological tradition or foundation.
It’s cool Tristan. I guess I could have been a bit clearer but I was hoping people would have read my comments after listening to the clip and sort of picked up on it.
Next time I’ll take your advice.
Please learn how to do a better job of satire. The reason why we didn’t “get it” is because what you wrote in no way resembled Carson’s comments.
I would love to hear more of your observations about church planting. For instance, you have just taught me that the goal of church planting is to know the land “inside and out.” That’s a pretty big statement. Can you explain?
By the way, Carson is not some dry academic. Anyone familiar with his work and ministry knows how much he has done in the areas of missions and evangelism.
I know he doesn’t have a soul patch or square glasses and uses proper grammar but he has some redeeming qualities as well. I’m so glad Jesus was cool and successful! People LOVED his message.
Actually, though you were using satire, your analysis of Carson is right! Even in Reformed circles a lot of people are starting to lose respect for him. My Greek professor is very reformed and criticizes him often.
His analysis was immature and degrading of Bell. Although, I find that kind of attitude typical among reformed folks. Gee, you think it’s their system of theology that causes them to act like that? I wonder.
“His analysis was immature and degrading of Bell. Although, I find that kind of attitude typical among reformed folks.
Oh sweet irony, how I love thee.
I just listened, and frankly, I don’t get the point. Unless his point is that seekers need to be pounded over the head with the minutia of Christian theology from the git go. Which doesn’t really seem right, does it?
Maybe within the context of his whole presentation, he might make more sense, but given this clip, it just sounds like so much what for.
â€œHis analysis was immature and degrading of Bell. Although, I find that kind of attitude typical among reformed folks.
Oh sweet irony, how I love thee.”
Thanks for making my point even clearer!
It’s so much cooler now that I’m not the only liberal leaning, emergent appreciating person round these parts…
“â€œHis analysis was immature and degrading of Bell. Although, I find that kind of attitude typical among reformed folks.
Oh sweet irony, how I love thee.â€
Thanks for making my point even clearer!
Irony + Super Irony =_(
i just want to walk in the rain with a kid on my back.
â€œâ€œHis analysis was immature and degrading of Bell. Although, I find that kind of attitude typical among reformed folks.
Oh sweet irony, how I love thee.â€
Thanks for making my point even clearer!
Irony + Super Irony =_(”
And now it’s crystal clear, funny how that works!!!
Okay children, does this really need to continue?
Let them go…since Louisiana outlawed cockfighting, I have been looking for a new sport to watch – I guess Emergent-nonEmergent fighting will have to do….
Listened to the clip.
Doesn’t put Carson in the most favorable light. Though there is good reason to his logical conclusions, those conclusions are simply his assumptions.
But isn’t that what makes freedom of speech free? I doubt Bell is losing any sleep over his critics negative comments. And I know Carson won’t lose any sleep over any of his criticâ€™s comments either.
Remember “A harsh word stirs up anger”.
Let’s keep our wits about us in our comments.
I’m not fighting. =)
Unfortunately now that Denny’s comments are more moderated I sometimes miss responses to me so to respond to a few that I didn’t see earlier:
Jeremiah, hopefully you saw the point of my response.
One of the things I wanted to do with my original response was something of an experiment. I wanted to see how people would respond to comments similar to Carson’s had the been about someone they liked… such as Carson.
For some reason it seemed when Carson said what he did people thought it was insightful and logical and a good analysis, when all it was was his guess and untested, unresearched hypothesis. It was basically just his opinion.
But when I made comments similar to Carson’s commenting on his communication or rhetorical style and that he could only be popular the way he is in certain circles (again all in jest and just an opinion I pulled out of nowhere), basically the same kinds of things he was saying about Bell, then people got up in arms and angry about it. Really my comments were no different from the type of comments Carson made about Bell.
Yet there is an unequal measures thing that goes on hear where it’s ok to criticize certain people to the point where you can just spout off unfounded opinions as if they are truth, fact or researched conclusions, but don’t dare do the same for one of our heroes because for some reason they are above that because they paid their dues or something.
Anyway give that some thought.
I’ll go work on my satire skills for you so next time you’ll “get it”.
BTW, why the need to bring up soul patches and square glasses as if all you have to do is dress and look a certain way and people will listen to to you? Give me a break. People can recognize ‘real’ whether you dress hip, cool and modern or whether you dress and look like a complete nerd. My favorite teachers are not young and modern but in their 50’s and up. My favorite teacher, period, is 73 and doesn’t have a soul patch or square glasses. Please stop trying to pigeon hole people and assume you know the reasons why people decide to listen to particular preachers or authors. And sorry not all of us have the best grammar. Hopefully you can see the redeeming qualities in people like Bell too.
Thank you for putting a label on me when I never, ever called myself emergent. In fact, I don’t really even know what that term means, and I certainly don’t know the difference between emergent/emerging.
Labels can be dangerous, and I ask that you please do not label me when I have never classified myself with any movement. That would be like me calling you a hyper-Calvinist or something, when you’ve never called yourself that and you’re probably not (at lease I hope not).
There are many of us that believe false teaching within the church deserves to be confronted. I don’t find anything Carson said inappropriate in light of what Bell teaches and writes.
When a prominent and influential preacher and pastor compares doctrines such as the Trinity and the resurrection of Christ to springs on a trampoline that can safely be disconnected without losing the fun of jumping on the trampoline of Christianity then strong words are called for. Has anyone read Paul’s words to the Galatians? Was he being mean, devisive, and ignorant?
what carson said sounded ok but i am just wondering what rob bell has to do with the emerging church, since he says he is not a part of it and emerging church people, who do not have 10,000 coming to their communities, and who did not start their churches with a big budget and a 800-person transplant, also dont see him as part of the emerging church.
Todd said, “Has anyone read Paulâ€™s words to the Galatians? Was he being mean, devisive, and ignorant?”
I more or less asked the same question the other day in another thread and was ignored on that point. Here’s hoping you get more of a response.
Todd you’re changing the subject (a favorite tactic here). You’re not even addressing what Carson actually said but basically saying because we all know Bell is a heretic than it’s ok for Carson to say whatever he feels like about him no matter how unfounded or unresearched it is. Carson didn’t even critique his teaching much except by broadly calling it empty and generic (not false though). He didn’t bring up anything specific and his point was more to say he doesn’t think Bell would have made it outside of Grand Rapids.
Carson is not Paul and neither are you. Let’s stop acting like we are Paul and everyone who disagrees with us is out to preach another Gospel (especially when we’re not willing to back it up with any substance and show how that’s so).
Yeah Faimon, you jerk. Are you a hyper-calvinist?
Bryan L: I disagree that Todd has “changed the subject.” The issue that we’re all dancing around here, one that has been central but unaddressed in the several recent discussions on Mr. Bell, is discernment. No, none of us is the Apostle Paul, but Paul practiced discernment and exhorted us, especially those of us in leadership positions in the church, to do the same. In fact, if we do not exercise discernment we are being disobedient to our calling.
For my part, I have read warnings about Mr. Bell from other sources that I trust. It gets my attention when D. A. Carson has critical things to say about him because Carson has a credibility that Bell has so far failed to achieve, to my satisfaction at any rate. As far as lack of substantive evidence for being concerned, if what Todd has said regarding Bell’s teaching on the Trinity and the resurrection is true then I as a shepherd of the sheep have raised my Wolf Defcon Level to 1.
I don’t see how I have changed the subject. You are saying that Carson’s critique is wrong. I am saying that it is not. Much of what Bell has written is outside the bounds of biblical orthodoxy and therefore should be rebuked.
I do not even begin to understand your rebuke of me using the apostle Paul as an example to follow. Is it okay if I use Jesus as an example to follow even though I am not Jesus?
I don’t rebuke people for being different from me or for disagreeing with me. What all of us must rebuke however is false teaching. Does it matter at all if a minister of the Gospel says that it doesn’t matter if Jesus’ bones are dug up somewhere in Palestine? Even though we are not Paul I think it is still right for us to call that what it is.
You said “You are saying that Carsonâ€™s critique is wrong. I am saying that it is not. Much of what Bell has written is outside the bounds of biblical orthodoxy and therefore should be rebuked.”
Did you even listen to what Carson said Because it’s starting to sound like you didn’t or if you did you heard whatever you wanted to. He never really critiques Bell’s theology. The whole thing is about why he thinks Bell has a big following and how he doesn’t think he would have it had he not been in Grand Rapids. Carson doesn’t go into Bell’s orthodoxy or talk about how it is out of bounds. He doesn’t critique him on certain doctrine (beyond saying he is moving away from the Reformed faith). He just says his videos are particularly empty (while first calling them brilliant) but people in Grand Rapids don’t realize it because they carry their theology with them when they see the videos and assume it and therefor miss how empty they are.
Please show me where in that clip he says whatever it is you think he is saying.
The problem with you using Paul is that you are assuming you are in his shoes, fighting the same type of battles and if he were here he would side with you (and the same with Jesus), but you’re not (unless you think Bell is teaching people to complete their salvation by becoming Jews like the Judaizers, or being an outright hypocrite like the Pharisees).
Ken the problem is that we want to discuss secondary sources and beyond (what other’s say about other say talking about what Bell said) rather than the primary sources themselves (what Bell actually says). Notice how you said, “if what Todd has said regarding Bellâ€™s teaching on the Trinity and the resurrection is true”. If you are so concerned as a shepherd then go find out what he actually said yourself. Do you think Todd is a neutral, objective bystander just reporting the facts? Do you think if Todd reads Velvet Elvis that he is automatically going to represent Bell accurately? Why? Why don’t you read Bell for yourself?
And while your at it please show me where Bell abandons the trinity or says Jesus wasn’t resurrected? Please. Let’s not constantly talk hearsay.
As far as my comments about changing the subject see comments above to Todd.
Follow Bryan’s advice. Read Bell. I wish all discerning Christians would take at least some time to read “Velvet Elvis” and Maclaren’s “Generous Orthodoxy.” Their apologists often times distort their words. But the errors of these two men really are great.
Bryan, has Bell not compared the doctrines of Christianity to springs on a trampoline? Did he not include the Trinity and resurrection as springs that could be disconnected safely without losing the ability to jump? Did he not say that while he personally believes in the resurrection that it is not necessary? Did he not say it would not change his faith if Jesus’ bones were dug up? How radically different this is from Paul’s understanding of the resurrection. Of course, I’m not Paul so I shouldn’t appeal to him as an example.
Your argument against my using Paul as an example still does not make any sense to me. Perhaps I am just dense.
Bryan, is the resurrection of Christ a part of what you would consider essential Christian doctrine? Is there such a thing as essential Christian doctrine? I promise I am not asking sarcastically. We don’t know each other and I just want to have a better idea of where you are coming from.
What do these questions have to do with what Carson is saying in the audio clip? Do you see yet how this is changing the subject? Before we go on to address other issues, please, let’s take care of subject of this post first.
Good comments Bryan. I think it’s funny how we quote a Pauline verse about confronting heresy when it has no application whatsoever to situations like these.
It seems like many of you all think that Paul is talking about the reformed faith when he says the things he does in some of his letters. I mean, you think because of the way Paul speaks to the Galatians gives us a right to treat Bell the same way? Give me a break, they’re not even comparable, by any standard.
My favorite is this one:
Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
This “different Gospel” is anything other than the Reformed tradition. If we hear anything other than the “Reformed Gospel”, we are not to listen to it and that person who preaches it will be cursed. “The Gospel you received” is taken to be the Gospel that Augustine, Luther, and Calvin spoke of, so we have to always preach and teach the Reformed Gospel or we will be cursed. Curse you Bell, you don’t preach the proper Gospel! The only people with the “correct” Gospel are Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Piper…so if you disagree with them about anything, you will be accursed!
I’m sure that’s exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words…surely, right?
By the way, who determines orthodoxy? Is it the Bible itself, or is it your favorite church history people? I know what we will all say, but we all certainly don’t practice this way.
Brett (that label ok?)
I just deduced that this seemed to be a debate between people who are emergent and non-emergent. I meant nothing by it. And the only label I will accept for myself is a warning label.
I am hyper-calvinist, hypoglycemic and a hippopotamus. That makes me a hyper hypo hippo.
You are right about me being off topic. I was writing far more broadly. Your critique of that point is accurate.
My appeal to Paul is legitimate. I am addressing what I believe are clear departures from the Gospel and biblical orthodoxy. Do you honestly believe that it is improper application to refer to Paul’s rebuke of the Galatian’s distortions unless we are referring to distortions of the exact same type? Following your apparent line of thinking then our applications of the Bible have suddenly shrunk exponentially.
By the way, I don’t believe that the only ones with the correct gospel are Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Piper. You’re accursed if you disagree with Spurgeon and Whitfield as well.
Brett, your lack of generalizations and labels are refreshing.
I don’t equate the gospel with Calvinism. I will gladly share heaven with untold numbers of people who disagree with me about the doctrines of grace. I have a feeling that in heaven Bryan and I will have other things to talk about.
About a year ago I was browsing in a retreat center bookstore and picked up the lone copy of “Velvet Elvis” available for sale. Didn’t take long for the hackles on my neck to raise. I gave him the benefit of the second look. Same response. Didn’t buy the book.
Brett, I’m not talking about the Reformed faith here. I’m talking about mere Christianity, the basics that have been believed everywhere by everyone always. Things like the Trinity and the bodily resurrection of Christ, without which our faith is in vain. These are non-negotiable.
Incidentally, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Piper (you forgot Saints Spurgeon and Sproul, by the way…) disagree/d at several points. However, you can do far, far worse than to take that group at its common denominator. Within it are four of the five greatest theological minds of the past 1500 years in western Christianity. And I rather doubt the fifth (Aquinas) would quarrel substantially on the topics of the Trinity and the resurrection.
It is kinda funny…I have had Galations used against me for believing in the doctrines of grace. Funny how it works the other way too…not that it is correct…but funny (weird funny).
If you’re interested I left my thoughts on the things you are taking issue with Bell a couple of months back when Denny posted about “Rob Bellâ€™s â€˜Sex Godâ€™ on CNN”. Here’s the link:
My comments on these issues start at #18 and are in response to Denny’s at #14.
Ken and Todd,
Bell does not deny the Trinity, resurrection, or virgin birth. Please do not attribute these unbeliefs to him when he clearly says he believes in them. He’s never denied them and whoever told you he did is dead wrong. I agree, these are non-negotiable…but no worries, b/c he agrees. He is “orthodox”…whatever that means.
I clearly stated that while Rob Bell “personally believes in the resurrection” he does not consider it a “non-negotialbe”. That’s quite different from you attributed to me isn’t it?
Are you as bothered by your misrepresentation of me as you seemed to be about my supposed misrepresentation of Rob Bell?
Of course, misrepresentation is probably one of those things like orthodoxy, whatever that is. Who can say what it means? Isn’t it just a matter of personal interpretation? What’s misrepresentation to me (you saying I wrote something that I didn’t write) may not be misrepresentation to you.
I was mainly talking to Ken from his previous post, so I’m sorry if it sounded like I attributed you with that statement. However, even your statement that Bell thinks they’re not non-negotiable could imply that Bell’s a heretic just b/c he doesn’t think others have to believe in these…though he does. So what’s more important, what you personally believe…or what you think others should believe?
And speaking of orthodoxy, since you seem to have such a good grasp of it, can you tell me who decides what is orthodox? I haven’t gotten an answer from anyone. Orthodox is just one of those words thrown around to make conservatives look pious and everybody else look heretical. James Dunn’s “Unity and Diversity” actually has a good section about this.
You may think of me as relativistic by your last comment…need I remind you that I am certainly not. I believe there are absolute truths, and we should begin with Jesus Christ himself. To attribute gray areas with black and white status is what I’m arguing about (e.g. inerrancy, every letter of TULIP, etc).
I’d love for you to tell me what orthodoxy is. I’ve heard the term a lot, but nobody really defines it for me and gives me the parameters for it. I mean, if we’re arguing that our definition must come from antiquity then infant baptism is orthodox, allegorical parables are orthodox, interpreting Song of Solomon as an allegory between Christ and the church is orthodox, the belief that babies go to hell is orthodox.
What in the world is orthodox? Lets defines our little Christian code language before we go further please.
Okay, this will have to be my last post on this subject.
First of all you must not have read much of Rob Bell. He absolutely DOES write that belief in the resurrection of Christ is not essential. Don’t fight it. Let the man speak or write for himself. I assume he means what he writes.
Secondly, orthodox means “right belief.” I hope you are not expecting me to write a compendium of biblical doctrine. I have a few other responsibilities in life that demand my time. I am assuming you are not serious in your request.
The only thing from antiquity that I depend upon for what is orthodox is the Bible. We have 2000 years of church history that helps us but I affirm Sola Scriptura.
I actually don’t believe that the Bible is hopelessly mired in mystery. God’s Word is clear enough so that Christians can have a reliable guide in knowing the difference between truth and error. For instance, it is clear enough that Christians can know that if Jesus’ bones were discovered our faith would be in vain.
I actually have read Rob Bell thank you very much, and I should have been more clear in my previous post. Because when I said “just because he doesn’t think others have to believe in these…though he does”, I was implying that Bell believed in these things personally (putting the emphasis on “he”), not that he thought it necessary for others to believe. So I’m sorry for making that confusing. I went back and read it a couple of times and it sounded confusing to me too. But that’s not what I was trying to say. I agree with you, he implies that some of these things are non-essentials. I don’t like that he does that, but he does. I don’t agree with him, but I don’t think he’s going to hell for it. I know you probably wouldn’t say he’s going to hell, but you seem to be on the verge of at least calling him a false teacher and leading people astray. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. Personally, I feel like he has wonderful things to offer.
Second, I’m asking you who is the authority for establishing “right doctrine”? Calvinists think TULIP is orthodox, Arminians think just about the opposite, and they believe it’s orthodox! So what’s orthodox? I agree there are a few essentials I would classify as “orthodox”, but my point is that the word gets thrown around to make us look pious and holy when a lot of the things we define as “orthodox” are very ambiguous (e.g. egalitarianism/complementarianism). I think we have a misunderstanding or misconception of what is truly “orthodox”, what is truly necessary belief for salvation (though how you live is FAR more important by the way).
I am very glad to hear you say that the only thing from antiquity that you depend on is the Bible. Frankly, I am quite shocked, b/c that’s often not the response I get! I believe that is the cry of the Reformation, and many have lost that cry today. I believe church history is extremely important, but we should view it with a very critical eye and learn from it…the good and the bad. I’m definitely pro-sola Scriptura, but I believe many people have lost it. For instance, I had a historical theology class last semester (at a fairly reformed institution with a very reformed teacher), and it seemed like he taught anything but sola scriptura. He would say orthodoxy is found by looking through Christian history and seeing a common strand of beliefs and adopting that set of beliefs for yourselves. And, what do you know, the 4 main people he highlighted were Augustine, Anselm, Luther, and Calvin. Anyways, it just kind of made me sour, because I understand the importance of studying these men, but just to simply adopt their theology without being critical of it from a biblical standpoint is simply ridiculous.
I don’t believe the Bible is hopelessly mired in mystery either. Did I put off that vibe? I don’t think that at all. I think it’s a lot more difficult to understand than most people think it is. Hence, I don’t have much optimism for private quiet times where one reads 2 chapters a day (I mean as far as them figuring out original intent). There are certainly some black and white areas, but there are many, many more gray areas than most people think. I don’t think I know the Bible that well right now, and look at it as a lifelong challenge to wrestle with it and learn it. It’s tough to understand when you’re separated by thousands of years from their culture, sociology, etc. But I definitely don’t think that is grounds for relativism! The relativistic person is just lazy and immature.
Anyways, I agree with a lot that you say. Posts like the original one Denny did just bother me because I consider Bell a Christian brother, and if I started a blog and did the same things to John Piper, D.A. Carson, or Al Mohler, then a lot of people on here wouldn’t think so highly of this criticizing and judgmental method.
Anyways, thanks for speaking to me. It’s nice to speak with someone who doesn’t have so much poison and venom behind their words all the time when discussing these issues!
Todd, I know you said this was going to be your last post but could you provide page numbers for Rob Bell saying the resurrection is a non-essential. I’d like to examine exactly what you are speaking about.
The way it sound from you, Bell was saying It’s ok for Christians to not believe in the resurrection. From what I remember he was getting at was that if we somehow came up with undeniable “proof” that Jesus was not physically resurrected and that the people of the NT were speaking about something else like his spirit was resurrected or whatever then Christianity should not crumble and that we shouldn’t have to abandon it (in sort of a domino effect where one doctrine falls and they all fall after tthat).
At least that’s what I seem to remember. And although to some those things might sound no different, I think there is a key difference there.
You’re right, that’s exactly what Bell is talking about. People just take the analogy way too far and say things like, “See, he don’t think you have to believe in the resurrection to be a Christian.” Isn’t that amazing how people quote authors out of context in order to fit their way of thinking that they have adopted from popular conservatives? Gee, you think if they do this with authors and book, they might do this to the Bible too? You think they make the Bible fit their system too?
Anyways, I just don’t like Bell using those examples. He’s making a point, and I got his point, but people can take it too far. He could have made it some other way. I certainly am not calling him a heretic for it though!
I don’t have the page number. I read the book in Barnes and Noble. But I did write the quotes down. I have not taken him out of context. It’s a short book so it won’t be hard to find them.
I would strongly but lovingly disagree with you that it is somehow acceptable to deny the physical resurrection of Jesus while affirming some kind of “spiritual resurrection.” Is there anything that the Bible affirms so definitively as the death and resurrection of Christ? To deny it is to deny the veracity of Scripture itself. It is also to render our faith and our preaching vain. If Christ has not been raised then we are indeed to be pitied above all men. There is no Christianity and no hope if Christ has not been raised for we are still dead in our sins.
To personally affirm the resurrection but hold forth the idea that one can still be a Christian while denying this Gospel essential is a dangerous thing. Also, salvation comes by grace through faith. Therefore, I respectfully disagree that how we live is “FAR more important” than what we believe. Remember what Jesus taught us in John 3:16ff. Salvation comes to those who believe and those who do not believe are “condemned already.” Who and what we believe makes all the difference in eternity.
Is how we live important? Absolutely! Our lives testify to whether or not our faith is genuine. The miracle of the new birth will always produce a changed life. I simply see no rationale in Scripture to separate right belief from right living.
Could you provide the exact quotes then? I think it’s important that we establish exactly what we are discussing from what Bell has said.
I’m not arguing that it is ok to deny the resurrection of Jesus and I don’t know that Bell is either. But the question is, if there were ever undeniable “proof” that Jesus was not physically resurrected and the early Christians didn’t truly believe he was then would you still be able to be a Christian. You seem to be saying no, others would say yes. Now as I’ve pointed out in the previous blog that Denny posted that I linked to, the difference between you and these other types of people is that you probably would never even consider the “proof” of whether Jesus was physically resurrected or not. You would in a sense cover your eyes and plug your ears, whereas the other type would be willing to consider the proof and possibly even agree with it. But instead of abandoning their faith they would instead just reorient their beliefs.
The same question remains for other topics like the trinity and the virgin birth. Again the difference is that one side is not willing to consider the negative “proofs” against these doctrines, whereas the other side is willing to and if they end up agreeing with them then they will readjust what they believe instead of just abandoning their faith altogether.
I don’t know that I’d be willing to readjust my faith if I could no longer believe those things (especially the resurrection) but I realize some could.
In the realm of the proving past events, “proof” doesn’t undeniably prove anything. It can, however, sway belief in one way or the other. Proof for Christ not resurrecting would not just have to come to light, it would have to surpass the proof already in place that proves He did resurrect.
The odds are incredibly in the Christian’s favor. And not only are the odds in our favor, so are the historical facts. This is why scholars may come off harsh or annoyed when Bell says some of the things he says. He is a prominent and well studied Christian leader, and it’s irresponsible for him to be so glib about foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Foundational doctrines, that, in light of the facts and historical evidence, are solid and practically immovable.
After reading some of your comments on this blog I am curious of something. You seem to take exception to the fact that people would criticize Bell since he is a fellow believer however at the same time George W, Bush claims to be a born again believer and you have no problem calling him an “idiot” and a “joke”. Is this because you don’t believe him to be a Christian? And by what standard is he not a Christian (and thus liable for such criticism I assume) but Rob Bell is? And is it somehow okay to call non-Christians names but not Christians?
I’m not saying that I approve with everything that George W. Bush does or says but I am just wondering if you see any inconsistency there?
There is no way you can compare these 2 things. For one thing, Bell is a minister in the church, George Bush is not. Bell is an obvious Christian because he is in the ministry, Bush is not. Bush is a politician, hardly nobody trusts politicians, and many politicians wear the “Christian” ticket on their sleeve.
Bush works for the kingdom of the world, Bell works for the kingdom of God. Bush is promoting killing and war, Bell is promoting peace and love.
George Bush is an idiot, few people would actually doubt that. Even some of my right-wing friends acknowledge that he is an idiot. Politics has nothing to do with Christianity…period. I don’t know if Bush is a Christian or not, I certainly don’t trust a politician when he says that he is though. I mean crap, Bill Clinton says he is a Christian. Barack Obama says he is a Christian. The exact same question can be asked to your side of the camp, which I’m sure you’ve participated in plenty of those discussions about democratic candidates.
Benny Hinn says he is a Christian, Joel Osteen says he is a Christian. I could go on and on. The bottom line is that Bell is not preaching a “false Gospel” and I believe him to legitimately be a Christian brother. And nobody has given me any evidence to think otherwise. Now tell me Tristan, what did Jesus mean when he prayed to the Father in John’s Gospel for us to be one and to love each other?
I mean, I personally don’t like John Piper or Al Mohler, but honestly try my best to not slander them or call them heretics. I disagree with a lot of their theology, like you all do with Bell, but I’m not writing papers and posting on blogs about how wrong and evil they are. I was asked by some friends about Mohler the other day, and my first response was about how brilliant the man was and how much I admire him because of how well-studied and how dedicated he is.
Somebody asked me about Piper the other day and the first thing I mentioned was how much I respect him as a person for not having a megachurch mentality and giving book profits to his ministry and not building himself a big mansion.
It’s all about how we come across to people. I certainly disagree with Mohler and Piper, but I try my best not to slander and degrade them and call them false teachers…especially in public contexts! That’s what bothers me so much, is that we do these things in the newspapers, on blogs, and in book reviews in journals.
Even though I don’t agree with people like Piper and Mohler, I don’t think they’re preaching a false gospel, or are guilty of heresy. I think that’s ridiculous! I believe these people are men of God whom I can learn from. I personally admire their zeal and dedication. I believe they have some misguided focuses, but I respect them nonetheless.
If it’s blatant heresy, then yeah, speak up and let everybody know. But when it comes down to secondary doctrinal and methodological issues, then please just shutup.
1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
(Note: I apologize to all because I realize this is somewhat off-topic however, I made an observation and I would like to follow up on it. Thanks.)
I’ve debated whether or not I should reply to you because I’m not sure how receptive you’ll be to this criticism but I realize that others will be reading this so I’ll reply:
“For one thing, Bell is a minister in the church,”
Here you make a false distinction between those in the ministry and those who are not, as if people who are ministers are somewhat higher in status than those who are not. Your distinction seems to assume that since Bell is a minister he is not under the same scrutiny that Bush is under.
“Bell is an obvious Christian because he is in the ministry, Bush is not.”
Here you are stating very clearly that the reason that Bell is a Christian is obviously “because” he is a minister. Surely, your reasoning has more to do with something other than his profession. Again, see my comment above about your distinction between those in ministry and those not.
“Bush works for the kingdom of the world, Bell works for the kingdom of God.”
Here you make an assumption that you make throughout, that most politicians are working for the devil. Let me make this clear, you can’t automatically assume that. Just because you don’t agree with someone politically does not mean that they are not a Christian.
“Bush is promoting killing and war, Bell is promoting peace and love.”
Now you are making a distinction between party lines. Are you saying that people who support the war are not Christians whereas people who are against the war are Christians? So, is anyone who is for the war a non-Christian? It seems that you are assuming his Christianity based on whether or not Bush votes as you do. Let me post some of Bush’s own testimony and see which part you object to:
‘I was humbled to learn that God sent His Son to die for a sinner like me. I was comforted to know that through the Son, I could find God’s amazing grace, a grace that crosses every border, every barrier and is open to everyone. Through the love of Christ’s life, I could understand the life-changing powers of faith.’
Please let me know what part of this is false in your mind and why. Thanks.
“Politics has nothing to do with Christianityâ€¦period.”
There is a man in my church who is running for state senate. Should I assume that he is a non-Christian or should I discourage him from pursuing such a non-Christian lifestyle?
“George Bush is an idiot, few people would actually doubt that. Even some of my right-wing friends acknowledge that he is an idiot.”
I disagree with this assesment. I think that anyone who has the ability to become President of the United Sates is not necessarily an “idiot”. It seems your justification for calling him an “idiot” is that “some of my right-wing friends acknowledge that he is an idiot.” Is this really the only the defense that you have? Please provide other evidence than ‘my friends say it too.’ What if I said, (for example) ‘D. A. Carson is an idiot. Even the people I hang out with say this.’ Does this make it true?
“The exact same question can be asked to your side of the camp, which Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve participated in plenty of those discussions about democratic candidates.”
I find this interesting since earlier in this thread you said, ‘Labels can be dangerous, and I ask that you please do not label me when I have never classified myself with any movement.’ When did I classify myself with any movement? And yet you seem comfortable to say ‘your camp’? Again, interesting.
“Benny Hinn says he is a Christian, Joel Osteen says he is a Christian.”
Both of them are in ministry so they are obviously Christians right?
“Now tell me Tristan, what did Jesus mean when he prayed to the Father in Johnâ€™s Gospel for us to be one and to love each other?”
I find this to be a very ironic question in a conversation where you are doubting the salvation of a person who claims to have accepted Christ and I am not.
“I mean, I personally donâ€™t like John Piper or Al Mohler, but honestly try my best to not slander them or call them heretics.”
You seem to be saying that either D. A. Carson or Gilbert were slandering Bell or calling him a heretic. Can you cite where they were doing that and how you disagree with their assessment?
“I disagree with a lot of their theology, like you all do with Bell, but Iâ€™m not writing papers and posting on blogs about how wrong and evil they are.”
Again, ‘you all’? Will you please let me know what group you’re aligning me with because I’m not sure? Where did I say how wrong and evil Bell was? Thanks.
“I certainly disagree with Mohler and Piper, but I try my best not to slander and degrade them and call them false teachersâ€¦especially in public contexts!”
Both of the people you mention are very public figures with very public ministries. If they state something very publicly do you see anything wrong with correcting them very publicly? I don’t. If I were to publicly criticize something my friend said in private that would rightly be viewed as wrong (and a little weird), but for me to publicly criticize something that is stated in a public forum is not as wrong because they are making their case public. By releasing his videos to the millions, Rob Bell is telling everyone, “This is my view of Christianity”, and in such a public forum I think everyone should have an opportunity to respond.
“If itâ€™s blatant heresy, then yeah, speak up and let everybody know. But when it comes down to secondary doctrinal and methodological issues, then please just shutup.”
‘Shut up’ is always such a nice phrase to hear in a civil conversation. But my issue is not as much with that phrase but with the concept that surround it. The phrase “shutup” obviously means ‘don’t talk about it’. So, here is the issue. You seem to assume that “secondary doctrinal and methodological issues” are unimportant. What about issues such as church government, baptism, evangelism, preaching, end-times, or all other issues that are not classified as “blatant heresy”. Should we not discuss these issues publicly? Or with regards to these issues should we all just “shutup”?
Almost every statement you made was eisegetical and assumed something I didn’t say. I will choose not to answer. One, because I don’t feel like it, and two, because you will eisegetically expound my next statements as wrongly as the last one and attribute beliefs and positions to me again that I do not hold. You can make and read anything you want to into any statement. Why is this such a common trend?
I must say, I saw that response coming from a mile away. I am certainly not against being corrected. If I have misunderstood or misrepresented you then I will apologize. However, it seems to me that you used pretty clear language that makes it difficult to misrepresent. Furthermore, I simply responded to many of your comments with a follow-up question. It’s hard to use eisegesis when asking a question. The problem is you seem to be comfortable making blanket assertions (e.g. “Bush is an idiot”, â€œBell is an obvious Christian because he is in the ministry, Bush is not.â€, â€œPolitics has nothing to do with Christianityâ€¦period.â€) but when asked to back up those assertions you say, “I don’t feel like it”. That’s not the way to have an educated discussion.
You seem to run into this a lot. Maybe you are to blame?
I will choose never to address or answer you again on this blog. Your childish games and immaturity only reflect your theological beliefs and character as a person. You give your system a bad name and lack any aspect of humility or godly character.
Thank you for making me opposed to your theological and political system even more than I was beforehand. It is precisely because of people like you that others want nothing to do with Christianity. I’m glad I gave you a chance to show your true colors. Please forgive me for any wrong I have done to you or offense I have been. I realize I have spoken some out of anger and some out of pride. However, because you keep continuing to respond to me in the manner you do, I will not acknowledge any more of your posts. Blessings
Why is it so hard to just say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I let my lesser emotions get the better of me.”? Sad, it’s all very sad.
I asked a simple question, nothing more. Your attack on my character is uncalled for. You really need to calm down before responding to questions or criticisms. Practically every person that you disagree with on this blog gets lumped into labels, categories, and insults. You claim we all misunderstand you, have “bad hermeneutics”, follow Calvin and Augustine instead of the Bible, or you bow out while insulting and attacking someone’s character.
You’ve called me a jerk, immature, childish, prideful, arrogant, and now you blatantly attack my character. I’ve been sarcastic with you, but I’ve not once stooped to this level of uncharitable name calling and slander.
My advice to you is this: Stop debating online because you obviously can’t handle it. You get mad and lash out at people who question, criticize or disagree with your views. I’ve yet to see anyone come close to your level of hostility on here. It is unwarranted and wrong.
It seems like most people are just playing posting wars, so I didn’t get too far through the comments before skipping to the end.
I’ve seen Carson a number of times, and read a few of his books and I love his work (so long as I have a dictionary on hand).
I knew nothing of Rob Bell until I saw the ‘Everything is Spiritual’ dvd a few weeks back and loved it.
The only difficultly I had, as I gushed to a mate a church about this video I’d seen, was that I couldn’t really explain the point of it, except to say it was a science lecture, but from a Christian Bookstore? It did all make sense to me though, because I do have that biblical framework and I could read between the lines of what Bell said. So what Carson was suggesting, that Bell’s Biblical framework has gone/diminished, is a valuable comment for me because I don’t know anything about the context or history of Bell.
Bell is certainly a wonderful communicator, and seems to be saying good things, but perhaps I should be more critical and thoughtful when assuming his Christian standpoint. But I still want to watch his video again.
To All Concerned
Paul’s Jesus is not Lord or Messiah, but a manifestation of Paul’s vivid and fruitful imagination. Subsequently, for hundreds of years, Christians have been mislead. Paul’s theology is not based on the Lord of the Old Testament. Because Paul’s theology is not base on God’s truth, it’s dead. This assertion can be verified by tracing Paul’s theology to the Old Testament where you will find only obscure and/or unbelievable references.
The following is my comment on a recent Time magazine article on Paul’s theology with reference to Jesus. I mention a few of the essential predicates of Paul’s theology. There are, of course, many more, which require a lengthy discussion. However, I believe that my brief introduction to Paul’s theology is a good beginning.
I just read the article entitled “Re-Judaizing Jesus” in the 3-24-08 issue of Time. I am fascinated by the topic of how Jesus came to be defined differently because of Paul’s theology. Briefly, my view is that Paul did not have a clear understanding of the Lord. You come to this idea by comparing the OT Lord with Paul’s Jesus. Paul claimed on one hand that Jesus is God’s firstborn and our brother while claiming on the other hand that Jesus is Lord, as John (14:6) said, “If you know me, you know the father as well.â€ The problem with Paul’s theology is that it trivializes Jesus in order to gain converts, and in so doing, gave Jesus human characteristics, which although appealing to converts, is uncharacteristic of God (Lord).
The key for understanding Paul’s error is to trace back his theology to the OT, an exercise that theologians have failed to pursue. The key factor of this criticism begins with Paul’s assertion that, whereas Moses veiled his face to protect the Israelites from seeing the Lord’s radiance, believers in Jesus will see the Holy veil of God in each other’s face. There is, of course much more that is wrong with Paul’s theology. As an example, Paulâ€™s claim that Jesus was God’s first-born is ludicrous. How can Jesus, who is also Lord, become God’s first-born, unless you regard the man Jesus to be His first-born? Applying logic to this assumption, you would have all believers equal to Jesus, which, according to Paul’s words, is what we are to believe.
If you research the OT for Paul’s assumptions, you will find little, if any, basis for his theology, and, if you disregard his theology, the NT takes on different meaning. For example, where does the OT say that gentiles replaced the Jews? If you read the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31), which is a basis of this assertion, you will find no mention of gentiles. My position is that Paul was not God. If that is true, which we have to believe, except that he claims to be the brother of Jesus (Lord), then when his theology conflicts with the OT, you must conclude that Paul lacked the spiritual insight he claimed to possess.
I believe that OT prophets confronted the real Lord and not Paul’s Jesus, who has become so trivialized that, for many Christians, Jesus is just a nice guy, or about the nicest person, they’ve ever known.
I believe the above-mentioned issues regarding the Lord require serious scholarly research and not just blind faith in Paulâ€™s words regarding Jesus. In short, there must be consistence between the Lord of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament. If you are to believe Paul, they are not the same.
Missing the point?
wow… blogs can so easily lose focus can they?
i think (to return to the topic at hand) that what Carson is saying is that where Bell goes with this “reach” to a non-christian is dangerous because he doesn’t GIVE people the whole gospel. The Christian can read his stuff and “read between the lines” and fill in the pieces we think are missing and sometimes not even know we are doing it…
that is the danger. Without making a stand and clearly communicating the WHOLE Gospel there is danger in drifting toward a false-Gospel…
just trying the frame this part of the conversation in a larger context…