What we talk about when we talk about Oldsmobiles

The new trailer for Rob Bell’s forthcoming book is out (see above). If you don’t want to spend three minutes watching it, here’s my quick summary of it.

[Note to those who may have difficulty understanding what I am about to do here. I am going to comment on the trailer which I have seen and not on the book which I have not seen. I may or may not read the book when it comes out.]

The traditional doctrine of God and his ways is as passé as an Oldsmobile. It was good for a time, but now it is no longer relevant. Modernity presents us with new evidence, and that new information compels us to cast aside the ancient faith in favor of a new model. In short, it calls for a revision of evangelical theology. Your belief that pastors should be qualified males must go (1 Tim. 2:12). Your conviction that homosexuality is sin and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life also must also go (Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 1:26-27). Your belief in the authority of scripture must take a backseat to what science teaches us about “creation” and human origins (Gen. 1:1, 26-27). If you don’t set aside such outmoded beliefs about God and His word, then you are not only irrelevant to modern people, but you are also causing them harm.

The trailer makes the book sound like it will be a total redefinition of the Christian faith, and I suppose such a trailer will be quite a tease for some people. Nevertheless, it sounds like the same song, second verse. That’s why I doubt that this book will attract the same attention among evangelicals as his last one did. Bell has already had his coming-out party as a false teacher with Love Wins. Everyone gets it at this point. The novelty has worn-off. What else is there to see here?


  • Patrick Duncan

    If you change some of the vernacular in this video and put Rob Bell in a suit, this could definitely be Joel Osteen. I think those two are brothers separated at birth.

  • J O E B L A C K M O N

    Actually, I am thankful for and appreciate Rob Bell. There are many people who have believed what he believes for a long time but wouldn’t say it out loud so they were in our churches, the tares among the wheat. Now, since he’s so vocal about his heretical doctrine, separating the sheep from the goats is so much easier because obviously anyone who agrees with him isn’t a Christian.

    • Dwight McKissic

      “anyone who agrees with him is not a Christian”—-This is the kind of over-the-top language that causes many evangelicals of many stripes to be embarrassed by this kind of inflammatory, divisive, alienating, and totally unnecessary rhetoric. The reason that there is very little unity among evangelicals and conservatism is in disarray, is because of statements and attitudes displayed by this comment.

      Although I don’t hold any of the views that Dr. Burk alleges(and I have no reason to doubt his accuracy) that Rob Bell advocate in his book, it is possible for a person to hold those erroneous views, and yet believe that Jesus is Lord. After all, SBC’ers affirmed abortion, slavery, segregation and racism. No one questions whther or not those SBC personalities who voted in favor of these views were Christian. Therefore, do we have to use such harsh rhetoric toward those who may approve of Rob Bell and his views. Shouldn’t labeling them liberal-and rightfully so- be enough? We need to be careful with this kind of irresponsible labeling, lest we convict ourselves, if we use the same measuring stick to judge ourselves.

      • J O E B L A C K M O N

        Therefore, do we have to use such harsh rhetoric toward those who may approve of Rob Bell and his views.

        My conscience won’t even flinch a little bitty bit and not only will I not apologize for my swipe at those who agree with Bell, I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again.

          • J O E B L A C K M O N

            Well, to give a serious answer, I have to admit that it’s not salvific (i.e. Agreeing with Bell would not cause someone to lose their salvation). However, I would bet you a Hardee’s thickburger and a double thick chocolate shake that an overwhelming majority of folks that agree with Rob Bell
            a) are political liberals (whch doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian, it just means you don’t have sense)
            b) don’t believe in the exclusivity of Christ i.e. sincere believers of other faiths can be saved (that would be a denial of the gospel)
            c) reject the idea that Christ was punished by God for our sins (again a denial of the gospel)
            d) reject inerrancy (which leads them to b and c, so while it’s not salvific per se, I don’t know any Christians who reject inerrancy)

            So I think a more precise way to say it is that I’m more than willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of Bell supporters also happen to not be Christians.

            However, I prefer to say it the way I did in my first comment because it was inflamatory, divisve, and allienating towards those who agree with Bell. I wouldn’t say something like that aimed toward people who deserve respect.

            • Dean Chang

              So Joe, because someone has theological disagreements with you mean they don’t deserve respect? What is going on here?

              • J O E B L A C K M O N


                We’re not talking about “theological disagreements” here. Bell denies the gospel and preaches a false gospel. Therefore, people who support Bell believe a false gospel and support him in spite of his false teaching.

                • Dean Chang

                  Joe, are we all adults here are not? Should we just cut to the chase and have a fist fight? Because that’s where you go when you say you can’t respect someone because they believe something different than you. Do you read any Church history by the way? Something tells me you don’t because your hero John Calivin did and said some pretty nasty things and guess what, your seemingly innocuous statement about not needing to respect other human beings is exactly how it starts every time. It’s odd to me that in your religious fervor (which I respect) you are totally blind to that.

            • buddyglass

              I don’t know any Christians who reject inerrancy…

              Lewis and Bonhoeffer come to mind, though you may not consider them to have been Christians. Or, possibly, you might not consider Lewis’s quibbles with scripture to rise to the level of “rejecting inerrancy”.

              I submit this paragraph from Wm. Lane Craig, commenting on Bart Ehrman, for your consideration:

              Ehrman had, it seems to me, a flawed theological system of beliefs as a Christian. It seems that at the center of his web of theological beliefs was biblical inerrancy, and everything else, like the beliefs in the deity of Christ and in his resurrection, depended on that. Once the center was gone, the whole web soon collapsed. But when you think about it, such a structure is deeply flawed. At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center. The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture will be somewhere further out and inerrancy even farther toward the periphery as a corollary of inspiration. If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

  • Freddy

    He’s a smooth talker for sure. He’d make a great used car salesman selling Oldsmobile Delta 88s. Bell is the one becoming more and more irrelevant, not the Lord.

  • Drew Mitchell

    It seems to me that you are filling in quite a few gaps for Mr. Bell here, Dr. Burk. To pass the judgments that you have here requires that the the full context of each of these issues and the nuances that accompany them would need to be heard/read. Without reading the book, that seems awfully difficult, if not impossible. That being the case, why even bother reviewing a video preview? And if it is all the same old heretical song and dance, why bother engaging this video?

    • J O E B L A C K M O N

      To warn people who don’t know any better that Bell is a false teacher?

      Also, please explain the context that would make it ok to say that homosexuality is not a sin? Thank you.

      • Drew Mitchell


        Nowhere in that video did Bell say that homosexuality was not sin; he said that a preacher was heard declaring that ALL HOMOSEXUALS are going to hell. Is that true? Perhaps. But nuance and context are an integral part of understanding such a statement. All non-repentant homosexuals who do not place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are surely in danger of hell, but no more than unrepentant liars, thieves, the prideful, etc. Perhaps said preacher made such distinctions. Perhaps he didn’t. Does Bell make a distinction? I’m not yet sure; we would have to read what he wrote, wouldn’t we? Making broad, sweeping claims and judgments based on soundbites and snippets is simply not helpful, no matter what side of the debate you are on. Blessings to you and yours.

        • J O E B L A C K M O N

          We already know from other things Bell has written and his other political and thological stances that’s EXACTLY what he meant.

        • Patrick Duncan

          Drew, come on, man! Bell has been doing this for years now- he makes his statements in the form of questions. He frames a question in a rhetorical manner in order to get the listener to answer the question the way he wants you to. Matter of fact, his questions are usually a variation on an age old question – “has God REALLY said….?”

    • Abe Hodges

      Dr. Burk, thanks for your work on this book and writer. I hope people recognize the ever so slightly turn an individual can make and the drastic distance from truth that results. I am not indicating that Bell is close to truth, but he seems further from it than ever before.
      May Truth Win.
      I can remember watching his videos in college, and everyone thinking how cool he was, and how great the videos were. I was not aware of his teaching, writing, or preaching, but yes I thought this guy talks about God in a cool way and people like him. Over the last 8 years or so I have learned much about how to read the Bible, or how to allow the Bible read me, understanding the whole of Scripture, and determining different points of view as Biblical or not. By no means do I have everything figured out, but I appreciate what you write, and how you defend your position according to Scripture.

  • Joshua T

    Everything you say here is spot on. As an individual who read Love Wins and Velvet Jesus, I am saddened that Bell is full of good questions and poor exegesis for his answers. I do think there are a lot of things that the church has accepted by tradition and needs to be shaken out of but most of the things that Bell gets particularly worked up concerning are clearly taught in Scripture.

    I’ll likely buy (at half price via goodwill, etc) and read this book only to be aware of what passes for “Christianity” in the new modern world. It seems the church needs a few more Daniels to take on growth of false testimony. There is nothing wrong with being aware of these things and flagging them for the Christian community at large. Because of that I thank you for your service of bringing this video to light and testing it against the full cannon of Scripture.

  • Scott Terrell


    You can’t keep posting about Rob Bell (this is post #3, and the book isn’t even out yet) & then say that evangelicals will not give it any attention.

  • Ryan Phelps

    To affirm what Drew already said, while I agree generally that Bell’s teachings fall outside of orthodoxy, you’ve uncharitably assigned meaning to his statements I don’t think you can.

    You said he said, “Your belief that pastors should be qualified males must go (1 Tim. 2:12).” No, he said that her friend heard someone say that women, across the board, are never allowed to preach or teach.

    You said he said, “Your conviction that homosexuality is sin and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life also must also go (Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 1:26-27).” No, he said that a preacher he heard condemned all homosexuals and taught that they were all going to hell.

    You said he said, “Your belief in the authority of scripture must take a backseat to what science teaches us about ‘creation’ and human origins (Gen. 1:1, 26-27).” No, he said that a preacher dogmatically asserted that if you don’t believe in a literal six-day creation, you can’t believe the rest of the Bible.

    Again, you have assigned meaning that isn’t there. The video only proves that Bell does not like rigid, graceless dogmatism (and, at least at that level, I agree with him). While it’s possible that what you’ve described are conclusions he will make, they’re just not in this video.

  • Andrew Mook

    Hi Denny,
    I would encourage you to listen to the intro chapter of his book. You can listen here –

    I post this because even in this intro Bell is clear that God does not change – nor does He need too. He is speaking to non Christians and Christians who are engaging the lost.

    I’m not a “fan-boy,” just a pastor who doesnt think we need to excommunicate Rob.

    FROM THE BOOK: After this chapter Rob notes how the word ‘God’ means many things to different people, and how we need to establish a common understanding when talking to people about God, because a lot of people reject the idea of God based on a poor understanding of what God is really like.

    Rob then looks at how people need to be open to the idea of God in today’s world, and uses the example of science to illustrate this point, showing how there are many scientific concepts that break the rules of logic and reason, yet still get accepted. Likewise, he argues, people shouldn’t reject God because he operates outside our idea of logic. There is even some Louie Giglio-esque discussion about how big the universe is.

    Rob uses examples such as the fact that people accept we have a personality despite it not being directly observable to argue that it isn’t such a huge leap to accept a God who isn’t directly observable, and points out that all people have faith of some sort.

    Lastly there is a section on grace where he points out “God doesn’t wait for us to get ourselves polished, shined, proper and without blemish – God comes to us and meets us and blesses us while we are still in the midst of the mess we created.” Finally Rob looks at how God is ahead of us, pulling us forward and uses examples of Old Testament passages such as “an eye for an eye” to show how God is actually ahead of the cultural norms of the time and the point of that verse wasn’t to encourage revenge, but to limit it.

    **A REMINDER: Bell has never denied the physical Resurrection (in fact in his 2011 (i think) Easter sermon he uses Keller/Wright’s defense), the exclusivity of Jesus, or the incarnation. He can be sloppy for sure – but heretic can’t be applied when he lines up with the nicene/apostles creed.

    Thanks for your work.

    • J O E B L A C K M O N

      the exclusivity of Jesus,

      Oh please give me a middle Tennessee break. On page 154 of Love Wins, the Reverand (snicker) Bell writes ““What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through Jesus. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through Jesus will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through
      him” In other words, according to Bell, it is possible for people of other faiths to go to heaven without consciiously placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

      Also (taken from Kevin DeYoung’s review) “Bell finds support for this Christological hide-and-seek in 1 Corinthians 10. This is where Paul calls to mind the Exodus narrative and asserts that the rock (the one that gushed water) was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). From this Bell concludes, “There are rocks everywhere” (139). If Paul saw Christ in the rock, then who knows where else we might find him (144)? Jesus cannot be confined to any one religion, Bell argues. He transcends our labels and cages, especially the one called Christianity (150). Christ is present in all cultures and can be found everywhere Sometimes missionaries travel around the world only to find that the Christ they preach was already present by a different name (152).”

      Are you stll going to maintain that he hasn’t denied the exclusivity of Christ? Puh-lease

      • buddyglass

        Bell doesn’t deny the exclusivity of Christ in some contexts. The disagreement between yourself and Andrew is due to your discussing two different kinds of exclusivity.

        When you talk about the exclusivity of Christ you’re referring to acknowledged faith. That is to say, only those who name Christ and place their faith in him are saved.

        When Andrew says Bell affirms the exclusivity of Christ he’s talking about Christ’s power to save. That is to say, only Jesus is capable of saving anyone.

        Consider a hypothetical devout Muslim. You would say, “His faith in Allah cannot save him; ergo he is not saved.” Bell would actually agree with you on the first point: his faith in Allah cannot and does not save him. Bell would add, though, that Jesus may decide to save him anyway.

        • J O E B L A C K M O N

          Bell would add, though, that Jesus may decide to save him anyway.</I.

          Which makes Bell a false teacher who preaches a false gospel. I'm quite sure you agree with Bell on this point.

          • buddyglass

            You’re seem to be certain about a lot of things that are, in fact, not true. Maybe something to pray about. Without having read Bell’s book or ever having heard him speak, I’m pretty sure I disagree with him on this count.

            In any case, it’s not accurate to say Bell doesn’t affirm the exclusivity of Christ in general since he clearly states Jesus is the only one with the power to save. Unlike most orthodox Christians, though, Bell is agnostic when it comes to the conditions under which Jesus chooses to save.

  • Andrew Mook

    to your comment i would reply: yes i will maintain that he hasn’t denied the exclusivity of Christ.

    i’m not here to defend everything bell has ever said. but of all the sources i could quote and of all the time i could take clarifying what bell is saying in the section you quoted, i will simply post these three things.

    faq from mars hill on love wins. (see first question)

    audio – from a teaching immediately following the release of love wins:

    mars hill theological statement (which bell co-wrote and continues to reference).

    hope you had a chance to listen the link above. from my first glance of the book – it seems to be a simple defense of the existence of God for a post christian, post god world.

    • Andrew Mook

      i should add – being open handed is something that every christian i have every talked too does. we do not know all the ways people may enter the kingdom. bell saying – “look i think the bible makes some room for the unknown” is not heresy.

      that said – we are called to call people to repentance now! (which bell affirms at the end of the book and at the end of his time magazine article).

      • Andrew Mook

        (my other comment didn’t post yet – it’s awaiting a moderator – i’m assuming thats because there are hyper-links.

      • J O E B L A C K M O N

        Please, enlighten us…what is this “unknown” that the Bible makes room for?


        Yeah, that’s what I thought.

          • J O E B L A C K M O N

            Ok, Nathan
            Please, enlighten us…what is this “unknown” that the Bible makes room for?


            Yeah, that’s what I thought.

            I have never claimed that I see everything. But I’ll doggone sure claim that NOTHING Bell teaches lines up with scripture. Why don’t you try using scripture to back up his claims?

      • Patrick Duncan

        Bell loves to question the “known” and embrace mystery and the “unknown”. Of course, this is music to the ears of anyone who likes a la carte style religion or Christianity, where you can choose your own set of convictions the way you might create a playlist on iTunes.

    • J O E B L A C K M O N

      From the PDF you linked above–
      “Mars Hill affirms that Jesus is the only way to inherit salvation, how exactly
      that happens, however, is a matter of mystery that we do not claim to have all the answers to
      . As Rob says after quoting Jesus, “What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him” [pg. 154].” (emphasis mine)

      Saying that “If you are saved, it is through Christ even if you don’t consciously realize it’s through Christ” and saying that “You must personally, consciously trust in Jesus Christ to be saved” are two ENTIRELY different things. The first (what Bell is saying) means that a muslim, mormon, or atheist could be saved even if they don’t realize that it’s Christ who is saving them. That is a FLAT CONTRADICTION of the exclusivity of Christ as taught in scripture.

      Wanna try again??

      • Dean Chang

        So Rob Bell can’t defer to mystery when talking about the salvific work of the Cross, but the neo-Reformed can defer to mystery when talking about how a sovereign God could possibly have allowed sin into Creation? Who are we kidding here?

        • J O E B L A C K M O N

          Right. Because the Bible explicitly says that salvation is by grace through faith. So we know EXACTLY how people come to God through Jesus–through faith. God did not reveal exactly how salvation works from the perspective of divine soverignty/human responsibility.

          • Dean Chang

            I agree that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I disagree that how that operates is as clear as you seem to think it is. So I guess you’re going to kick me out of the body of Christ now? Am I going to get an official letter from you or something at least? 😉

  • Jon Hall

    “This… is a problem.”

    Ummm… yeah, those things are problems… but not in the way you want to see them.

  • Daryl Little

    Time was when one could safely say that while Rob Bell taught sketchy and even unChristian things, he himself was probably a Christian.

    I’d have a tough time with that now. I fail to see how he can claim to be a Christian at all.

    • J O E B L A C K M O N

      I fail to see how he can claim to be a Christian at all.

      That is a very, very wise and truthful point.

  • Don Johnson

    I listened to Rob’s video twice and read Denny’s review more than twice. What Rob actually said and what Denny thought Rob said shows that Denny is hearing things that Rob did not actually say. Now it might be that Denny does not agree with Rob, but to claim that Rob said things he did not actually say (or even necessarily imply) in the video is not doing anyone a service. I call upon Denny to repent and change his summary.

    • J O E B L A C K M O N

      Denny’s summary is completely accurate. Bell may not have said those exact words, and you’ll notice Denny didn’t write what he did with quotation marks, but it is most certainly what Bell meant and what Bell believes. Why don’t you go and call on Rob Bell for his deceptive preaching of a false gospel that will damn people to hell.

          • Jim Kirchner

            Greetings folks. I saw Rob Bell teach yesterday at Mars Hill. It made me sick to see one of God’s very special creations used a media tool by the enemy. It takes a solid Biblical foundation to discern truth from error, and many are being led astray. He may have made fun of ‘big hair’ but his beige suede shoes and white shoelaces weren’t much better. Definitely not wearing camel hair. It would be an amazing testimony if God turns him around now. He desperately needs our prayers – please join me. In Christ, Jim

    • Matt Martin

      Agreed. Denny is in the wrong here. One can disagree with Rob all they want. But to imply that Rob said things that he never said is in poor taste.

  • Paul Jacobs

    Just about the time I get comfortable wearing my “rob bell” eye glasses, he goes and gets lasik. At least he has figured out all of this Christian living stuff, or something. Better him than me as I am a part of the irrelevant church.

  • henryfrueh

    What Bell did not say was “Jesus”. The cross and the resurrection have long since gone the way of the Oldsmobile in his theology. He talks of God as a collection of concepts and he makes the evolving culture as the matrix for truth. It is intellectual, reasonable, current, and yet false. Women preachers? Homosexual sin? Inspiration of Scripture?
    Just answer this question first: How can a sinner be ushered into heaven after he dies? I have never heard Bell give a clear answer to that. Wolves are very creative and avoid doctrinal eye contact.

  • Bruce Symons

    Yes of course commenters’ views are their own. But do you apply the second paragraph of your comments policy? … But looking back over the last few posts, maybe you have removed the more obnoxious one I was reacting to?

  • will cunningham

    I had an Oldsmobile once. She was a darn good car–big as a boat, solid and dependable. The front seat was like a giant, leather pew sprawled out from one side of the car to the other. I could smile at my girlfriend, and she would slide over next to me, and I would feel like the king of the road. Eventually she became my wife, and we had two sons, and now they are all grown up and moved away to practice medicine and ministry. We have had many cars since then– none of them worthy enough to sniff the exhaust of my old, gold Oldsmobile. Funny how we assume new is better than old.

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