Tag Archives: Rob Bell

The Unsurprising Descent of Rob Bell

 

I began writing this blog in January 2009. Initially, it was a way to communicate truths about God’s Word to others while also serving to help me grow in my walk with Christ and my own personal understanding of the Bible. Those early days were marked with semi-frequent posts on the Emerging/Emergent Church and certain trends in evangelicalism that some might’ve read in greater detail on so called discernment blogs. I suppose in part, some errors that I had been exposed to either within the church or online through these types of blogs began to spill over into the content that I wrote on my own blog. An example of this was numerous posts on Rob Bell, then pastor of Mars Hill (not the same as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill).

At the time, I was so concerned about the influence and teaching of Rob Bell that I tried to make his name and heretical beliefs known to as many people as I could. His books, sermons, and videos had begun trickling into the youth group that I was serving in at the time and as Scripture states clearly, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). There was really no other option but to confront those who endorsed Rob Bell, give them opportunity to dissociate from him, or otherwise ask them to leave (Matthew 18:15-20). That final step is what ended up happening on several occasions. I am deeply indebted to the Lord who through His grace granted me discernment in these matters, constantly forcing me to examine what I had read or heard in light of His holy word. As much as the popular evangelical establishment dislikes discernment blogs, they were right on Rob Bell then and the fruits of his ministry are even more evident now.

More recently, Rob Bell has stepped down from his pastorate and moved to California to begin a television/entertainment career and now has his own show on Oprah’s OWN network. In the past year or so, Bell has published a new book with his wife titled The Zimzum of Love and has recently appeared with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday program (the irony is overwhelming) to endorse and promote the book. Before we get to some interesting things in that interview, a word about the book’s title.

suessismsZimzum. Sounds catchy, almost Dr. Seussian isn’t it? Here is how Bell defines Zimzum on his website:

“Zimzum is a Hebrew term where God, in order to have a relationship with the world, contracts, creating space for the creation to exist. In marriage, zimzum is the dynamic energy field between two partners, in which each person contracts to allow the other to flourish. Mastering this field, this give and take of energy, is the secret to what makes marriage flourish.”

I’ll admit, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. It sounds philosophical and intellectual and this creates intrigue I suppose, but I actually think this pseudo-intellectual language is gibberish. In order to have a relationship with the world, God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, that the world through Him and Him alone, might be saved if they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. That’s crystal clear. Additionally, God’s Word clearly defines the “secret” to what makes a marriage work:

“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33 Again, clarity abounds.

Back to the philosophical gibberish. While the indication that Zimzum is a Hebrew word is strategic to help the readers feel more comfortable with it, as though it is a biblical word or at least has biblical roots, it is actually an unbiblical anti-God concept because it finds its developments in the Kabbalah religion, made popular more recently by Madonna and several prominent members of the entertainment industry. Kabbalah itself has Hebrew origins and sounds very intellectual and philosophical much like the definition of Zimzum given by Bell above. Here’s what CARM says about Kabbalah:

“Kabbalah is difficult to categorize because it is a subjective non-falsifiable belief system. In other words, it rests in non-verifiable philosophy, not in historic fact. Nevertheless, Kaballah is a mystical and esoteric system of observing and interpreting the universe and mankind that also seeks to reveal the true relationship between God, man, and the universe. It teaches that there is a divine being, neither male nor female, that has 10 primary aspects called sephirot which are represented in the Tree of Life. Kabbalah teaches that the supreme being created the universe through a series of those 10 aspects that descended through various levels until creation was fully realized.”TreeofLife

They go on to summarize Kabbalah as follows:

“Because there is no way to verify the truth of the 10 aspects of God, that Kabbalah was given to the angels for the creation of the world, etc., the Kabbalist is left to either believe or disbelieve based upon his preferences. Instead of believing what the Bible actually says, the Kabbalist is left with following the baby and mystical interpretations of a few ancient Jews.

Unlike the Gospels, Kabbalistic literature is full of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, unverifiable and subjective ideas, and words that are strung together in such a way as to appear to be semi-coherent. The problem is that Kabbalah contradicts the Bible. Therefore, it is not true.”

In its philosophical nonsensical way, Zimzum is trying to express the presence and absence of the divine. As it relates to marriage, Bell is seemingly trying to correlate this term and apply it to knowing when to be present and knowing when to give space. In reality, what Rob Bell has done then is to co-opt a Kabbalah philosophical term, as to create nuance and intrigue and then apply it to the idea of marriage between professing Christians such that the audience broadens to include not only New Age/Kabbalah followers, but also appeal to Christians who may already be familiar with him. Simply put, this is the classic methodology of Satan whom the Apostle Paul says disguises himself as an angel of light.

If his outright embrace of Paganism wasn’t enough, nor his association with Oprah who has promoted such New Age philosophers as Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Oz and such books as The Secret, A New Earth, and A Course in Miracles, then allow the interview of Bell and Oprah to shed additional light on the further shift of Rob Bell away from Orthodox Christianity (if he was ever truly there to begin with).

 In addition to the esoteric language and conversation which says little of substance while saying a lot in quantity, here are some takeaways:

  • 23:27 Marriage is an opportunity to find God in each other
    • The theologians call it incarnation, when the divine and the human exist in the same place.
  • 29:20 “Marriage – gay and straight is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, and sacrifice.”
    • Discussion on the embrace of homosexual marriage begins here
  • 30:00 Oprah: When is the church going to get this? Bell’s: We are a moment away from the church’s embrace of homosexual marriage.
    • Culture is there, church will be irrelevant if it continues to quote letters from 2000 years ago as their best defense.
  • Exactly Zero Scripture references/quotations

dont-drink-the-kool-aidChristians, this video should disturb you; from the talk of energy fields and spirituality, the debasing of the Bible, to the embrace of homosexual marriage intertwined with an appeal to the emotional desires of people to be loved. This material is presented in such a way that makes you less likely to recognize the cyanide and drink the Kool-Aid unsuspectingly.

Rob Bell is a false teacher. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing when wolf-572x368making his Nooma videos and writing such books as The Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Love Wins, but now he is making perfectly clear the sheepskin has come off to reveal an extremely dangerous teacher who claims Christ but mixes truth with error. In an age of Christianity where believers are seen as intolerant and violence against Christians is at an all-time high, need there be more compelling evidence for the call to be even more vigilant, even more discerning, and even more willing to stand as Ezekiel and be a watchman for the Church.

The Danger of Isolating the Love of God

It has been an extremely busy few weeks for me and I’ve been unable to post blogs as regularly as I would like.  In addition to helping raise our 1-year old while also remodeling a house my wife and I recently bought, the Lord has placed me in an interim Youth Director position at my local church.  Between preparing for that and a Bible study that I’ve been fortunate to lead, much of my Bible preparation time goes toward that, rather than here.  I hope that once we get moved this month I can return to a more regular posting schedule.  I apologize to those of you who are regular readers, but I pray that you bear with me during this transition.  Having said that, I do have a backlog of posts prepared that I hope to begin publishing in the next few days, beginning with this one.

 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

It’s likely that those of you reading this are familiar with the passage above.  If not with the Scripture passage from the Apostle John, then certainly with the statement “God is love”.  Perhaps second only to John 3:16, this statement has been frequently quoted, oft out of its original context in the passage and has been declared the final word the Bible has to offer about who God is.  Is the love of God all the Bible says about the character of God?  Is that all that the unbelieving world needs to hear?  As Christians, is God’s love our primary focus?  Similar questions like these are what J.I Packer tackles in a chapter from his book  Knowing God, entitled “The Love of God”, which we discussed in detail in Lady Gaga, Rob Bell and Misunderstanding the Love of God.  As we saw, Packer concludes that “God is love” is not the final word that the Bible offers concerning who God is, but that for believers it should be our primary focus.  As believers we should rejoice in the love of God, resulting in worship, praise, and adoration to the glory of God, for God is love. 

Here is where I think today’s modern evangelical world has become so confused.  Due primarily to a lack of biblical knowledge and an immature understanding of who God is, they simply take God is love in isolation and spread it like a blanket over everything and everyone regardless of sin, situation, or circumstance.  Instead of being properly placed as an attribute, among infinite others, intrinsic to God’s nature, God’s love is placed directly at the center and all other attributes must then be subordinate to love.  God’s justice, must follow God’s love.  His wrath, again subordinate to His love.  Is God first holy, no they would say God first is love.  What this view actually does is distort the character and nature of who the Bible tells us God is.  It creates a god who is unable to uphold His own righteousness and holiness because He must love.  It says that a god who is love cannot, nor would not, send any person to hell as punishment for offending His holiness.  The reality of this is that it actually strips away God is love and skews it to say “Love is god”.  As should be familiar to all of us, the LORD clearly states, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me”, to do so would be idolatry.  Yet this is precisely what so commonly happens when people take an attribute of God in isolation and fashion a god out of it, all the while rejecting the rest of what the Bible has to say about who God is.  In essence, an image of God is created in the mind that is inconsistent with the God of the Bible and this is idolatry.  This is not to say that we cannot individually study an attribute of God, nor does it say that we cannot meditate on or thank God for His love, mercy, grace, etc.  But it is certainly saying that biblical knowledge of God is of the utmost importance.  There is a reason why Jesus states in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom  you have sent.”

As we’ve seen the past couple of weeks with the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, an improper view of the character of God leads to confusion and quite simply heretical beliefs.  God’s love does win, first for Himself and secondly for those who are His children.  But it is not the end of the matter, because God also must be just and as such His wrath must reign down on all those who have rejected Jesus as Savior.  Romans 3:25-26  It is a difficult truth, but nevertheless, God’s love for His children is complimented by His wrath towards unbelievers as He is glorified both in His giving of salvation to believers and in the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Romans 9:22-24

God is equal in all of His attributes.  If one were to be out of balance, then God would be less than perfect.  Because our minds are so finite, we have a limited understanding of the nature of God’s love.  We know of only a love that, let’s face it, is mushy and sentimental.    Human emotions generally run hot or cold, are imbalanced, and are usually dictated by situations.  This makes it difficult, nigh impossible, to love and hate at the same time or to grant mercy yet give justice simultaneously or to put our wrath on display and be justified and glorified for doing so.  Yet God can.  When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all those who believe, God poured out His wrath on His Son, yet He didn’t stop loving Him.  He was perfectly capable of displaying both His wrath, in His punishment of sin, and His love by offering His only Son as a sacrifice for sinners.  Again, His love was complimented by His wrath, yet in His wrath His love was displayed.  This is why the Apostle John can say with confidence, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:10 Simultaneously, the fulfillment of God’s love and the satisfaction of God’s wrath.

God is love on the surface is a simple, yet profound statement, the depth of which we will never know (Ephesians 3:19).  But unless we take the due diligence necessary to understand what the Apostle John is talking about in 1 John 4 and who he is talking to, then there is an imminent danger of isolating the love of God from His true nature.  If you are a believer in Christ, then rest firmly in the infinite depth and riches of God’s love.  But, dear friend, if you are yet without Christ, then you must know the “wrath of God remains” on you (John 3:36).  Repent of your sin and Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Below are several follow up blog posts by Pastor/Teacher Dr. John MacArthur on the saga of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.  I introduced you to the first post in his series here:

Rob Bell: “Evangelical and orthodox to the bone?” Hardly

Rob Bell: A Brother to Embrace or a Wolf to Avoid

Bell’s Inferno

Rob Bell’s Unbelief in His Own Words

Time Magazine, Rob Bell, and Pastoral Commentaries

Just in time for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the grave, 3 days after dying on the cross for the sins of all who believe in Him, and taking upon Himself the wrath of God, Time Magazine is set to release a cover story devoted to Rob Bell and his controversial new book Love Wins.  I’ve posted the link to that article below, along with commentary to it written by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The Time article is in essence an apologetic for Rob Bell and it is theologically shallow and biblically inaccurate.  It represents the mainstream [theologically] liberal media view that would call into question the veracity and inerrancy of Scripture.  When the “world” begins to gravitate towards so called “Christian” books, then that should immediately send up a red flag because the Bible is crystal clear that its message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block and folly (1 Corinthians 1:23) and the natural man cannot accept nor understand the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Books such as The Purpose Driven Life, The DaVinci Code, and The Shack, should serve as recent reminders of so called Christian books that have been popular in the mainstream, but woefully unfaithful to the Word of God.  Such is the case with Love Wins.

While I offer up those articles below, I also commend in its entirety, yesterday’s blog post written by Pastor John MacArthur entitled: “Rob Bell: A Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?”  Below is that post.  Tomorrow, I’ll continue to post the blog series regarding Bell, that Dr. MacArthur mentions.

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From: http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110412

If Christopher Hitchens or Deepak Chopra penned a book that scoffed at the biblical teaching on hell, we would not be surprised. So why would anyone be shocked or confused when Rob Bell writes Love Wins? Has Bell shown any more commitment to gospel truth, or any more devotion to the principle of biblical authority than Hitchens or Chopra?

Is Rob Bell truly a Christian, or is he one of those dangerous deceivers Scripture warns us about repeatedly (Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 2:1; etc.)?

It’s a fair—and necessary—question. Christ’s famous warning about wolves in sheep’s clothing is given to us as an imperative: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Our Lord clearly expects His true disciples to be able to spot spiritual imposters and wolves in sheep’s clothing—especially those who are purveyors of deadly false doctrines.

Rob Bell certainly fits that category. He relentlessly casts doubt on the authority and reliability of Scripture. He denies the Bible’s perspicuity, disavows its hard truths, and ridicules some of the most important features of the gospel.

Granted, Bell (who was raised in the evangelical movement and is an alumnus of Wheaton College) still insists on calling himself “evangelical.” He reiterated that claim recently in a March 14 interview with Lisa Miller, where he stated, “Do I think that I’m evangelical and orthodox to the bone? Yes.”

A careful examination of Bell’s teaching suggests, however, that his profession of faith is not credible. His claim that he is “evangelical and orthodox to the bone” is, to put it bluntly, a lie. Bell’s teaching gives no evidence of any real evangelical conviction. If “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44), we cannot blithely embrace Rob Bell as a “brother” just because he says he wants to be accepted as an evangelical.

If, as Jesus said, His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27), then we ought to look with the utmost suspicion on anyone who doubts and denies as much of Jesus’ teaching as Rob Bell does, and yet claims to be a follower of Christ.

Scripture is crystal-clear about this: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Historic evangelicalism has always affirmed the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture, while declaring (as Jesus and the apostles did) that the only way of salvation for fallen humanity is through the atoning work of Christ, and the only instrument of justification is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.

Rob Bell believes none of those things. His skepticism about so many key biblical truths, his penchant for sowing doubt in his hearers, and his obvious contempt for the principles of divine justice as taught in Scripture all give evidence that he is precisely the kind of unbelieving false teacher Scripture warns us about.

Bell is an inveterate syncretist who loves to blend “progressive” and politically correct dogmas with eastern mysticism, humanistic jargon, and Christian terminology. His teaching is full of barren ideas borrowed directly from old liberalism, sometimes rephrased in postmodern jargon but still reeking of stale Socinianism.

What Bell is peddling is nothing like New Testament Christianity. It is a man-centered religion totally devoid of both clarity and biblical authority.

Given those facts, you might think any true evangelical would reject Bell and his teaching outright. But evidently many in the American evangelical movement think they are obliged simply to accept at face value Bell’s claim of orthodoxy. No less than Mart DeHaan, voice of Radio Bible Class, decried Bell’s critics, portraying them as the divisive ones for pointing out the unsoundness of Bell’s teaching. DeHaan wrote,

I’m left wondering… are we allowing love (and truth) to win now… by using threats of group pressure and blackballing of brothers like Rob, and those who openly or secretly stand with him? Is that really the best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy? [emphasis added]

The biblical answer to DeHaan’s question is clear and fairly simple: The best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy is to “[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching . . . to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers . . . who must be silenced” (Titus 1:9-11).

We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell (cf. Matthew 23:15).

In a series of posts this week, we will demonstrate from Rob Bell’s own published works that he has long been hostile to virtually every vital gospel truth; we will consider some of the questions he has raised about what the Bible has to say about hell; and we will compare and contrast what Bell is saying about hell with what Jesus said about it.

Buckle in and get ready to be challenged. These are admittedly some of the hardest truths in the New Testament, but there’s no reason anyone holding authentic evangelical convictions should find the subject confusing or controversial.

John MacArthur
Pastor-Teacher

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See also Time Magazine article “Is Hell Dead?”: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,2065080,00.html 

Al Mohler’s Response to the Time Magazine article: http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/04/15/a-massive-shift-coming-in-what-it-means-to-be-a-christian-time-magazine-considers-rob-bell/