The Idolatry of Rob Bell


“Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.  He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.  He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.’” Jeremiah 17:5-6 ESV 

Earlier this week I included a post detailing a false gospel which is accurately termed the “political gospel” and has become quite popular in conservative circles through media voices such as Glenn Beck.  In that post I alluded to the equally dangerous liberal/social gospel which shares a commonality with the political gospel in that both are based on a man-centered theology.  In this post, we’ll examine the unbiblical, heretical viewpoint from the liberal side, primarily through the theological beliefs of Emerging Church front man, Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Michigan.

For some time now I’ve been struggling with a clip I watched from Bell’s Nooma DVD sermon series.  My struggle is not with the lack of scriptural basis for the message, but more so a continued frustration with Bell and his cohorts.   As you may know, I’ve been outspoken regarding Bell’s heretical theology that’s reminiscent of the Gnostics that the Apostle Paul opposed in his letter to the church at Colossae.  You can read more about his beliefs here: 4-point Spiritual Abuse , The Emerging Heresy , My Heart is Burdened , and Apostasy: The Wolves are Emerging .  At the core of this false gospel is a man-centered religion that searches for such things as the “spark of the divine” within and the inherent good that each of us supposedly possesses apart from Christ.  As with any preacher/teacher it’s critical to test their words against God’s holy, inerrant words in the Bible.  With this view of the divinity of man, which many of the those within the “Emerging Conversation” hold dear, I’m reminded of Romans 3:10-18 ESV, “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’  ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’  ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’  ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’  ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”  Likewise, in Isaiah 64:6 NKJV “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind, have taken us away.”  These passages are hardly an endorsement for the divinity within man.  Similarly as we’ve read these truths that point us to the inherrant wickedness of man, we can view the subject passage from Jeremiah in an even greater Biblical light.  The words of the LORD are captured here as He states, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.”  Just as God’s words in the passages quoted from Romans above tell us about man’s sinful nature, His words here warn us of a misplaced trust in man, let alone in ourselves. 

In Rob Bell’s video that I alluded to earlier, he is discussing the Apostle Peter’s walking on water from Matthew 14:25-33 and he is using this story to teach us the EXACT opposite of what our LORD warns against in Jeremiah 17.  I’ve included the clip below, but please note I must apologize for the foreign language subtitles and because of that the English does not match up with the video (The original excerpt in English is no longer on YouTube).  However, I’ve included this link that includes much of the transcribed commentary from the video that is directly from the Nooma video series to ensure you the validity of the information in the video.

Here is the text from Nooma DVD as provided in the link above, most of which you heard in the video:

“Now, I always assumed that Peter doubts Jesus.  But Jesus isn’t sinking!  Who does Peter doubt?  He doubts himself.  He loses faith in himself that he can actually be like his rabbi.  Faith in Jesus is important, but what about Jesus’ faith in us?  I mean he must have faith in us because he leaves it all in the hands of these disciples.  Jesus has faith that you can follow him and that you can be like him.  May you believe in God.  But may you come to see that God believes in you.  May you have faith in Jesus.  But may you come to see that Jesus has faith that you can be like him.  A person of love and compassion and truth.  A person of forgiveness, and peace, and grace, and joy, and hope.  And may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi, Jesus.”

This is the passage from Matthew 14 that Bell is referencing:

“And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out,  “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In the video, Bell says that the reason Peter is sinking is not because he loses faith in Jesus, but that he loses faith in himself.  We just read Jeremiah where the LORD says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength” and He warns that such a man is like, “a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.”  But here Bell is making the argument that if Peter simply had more faith in himself he would’ve been able to walk on water just like Jesus.   In Psalm 118:8 we read, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.”  Any faith that Peter had placed in himself would’ve been misplaced, yet that is precisely the interpretation that Bell is making.  That we, like Peter, should have faith in ourselves and we can be like Christ.  In the passage from Matthew, the text reads, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me.'”  Note here that Peter did not cry out to himself.  He didn’t look inward for some kind of self-reliance or a deep seated confidence that he could be like Jesus.  He cried out to the only one who could save him, the only one in whom to have faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Similarly, David writing in Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in  you.”  Again, where does man’s faith rest?  In the Lord, not in himself. 

This begs the question, why would a preacher of God’s Word propose that man have faith in himself which in turn supplants any needed faith in Christ?  The answer is quite simple, Bell is a false teacher disguised as a “servant of righteousness” whom the Apostle Paul explicitly warns against in 2 Corinthians 11:15.  The message that Bell is preaching is exactly the man-centered gospel of the liberal emerging/ent church (see also social gospel).  Typical of this type of teaching is to place the emphasis on man, his potential for divinity as we mentioned earlier, and to take the focus off of Jesus Christ.  But it gets worse.  Note how Bell even says that Jesus has faith in us.  According to Bell, not only are we to have faith in ourselves, but Jesus also has faith in us.  If that’s true, then the Scriptures that we just read, where the Word of God explicitly told us not to trust in man, have no been contradicted.  Job 4:18 says, “Even in His servants He puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error.”  Despite what Bell asserts, the Bible states God places no trust in man.  While He has gifted us and entrusted us to share His Gospel message, there’s no inherent faith in us.  He expects us to fully trust in Him to fulfill the Great Commission.  Again in Job 15:15, “Behold, God puts no trust in His holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.”  What Bell is saying completely changes the message of the Bible.  All throughout Scripture we read that man is to trust in God; in fact that is the heart of the Gospel message.  But this is not the message that Bell is preaching.  His takes the focus off of God and places it squarly on man and this is idolatry and it is blasphemous.

The LORD continues to speak in Jeremiah as He states, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 Blessed is the man who trust in the LORD and cursed is the man who trusts in man, so Rob Bell is actually putting those who follow his teaching under the curse of the LORD by following his guidance.  The familiar passage in Proverbs says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 This is precisely the message that is to be taught from the passage in Matthew, to trust in the LORD in ALL things and to do exactly what the disciples did when they said, “Truly you are the Son of God” as they acknowledged who He was. 

What makes Bell and his associates, namely Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Tony Campolo, Doug Pagitt, Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne to name a few, so dangerous is because they continue to be “relevant” in today’s evangelical church.  Personally I continue to have discussions with people who adhere to their unbiblical teachings, I continue to see their books within youth groups, and I’m quite literally sick of seeing the damage they are doing to less mature believers.  Lest you ask, “Who is Rob Bell?”  This is the man that Time Magazine declared the next Billy Graham back in 2007, click Time Magazine on Rob Bell for that article: so he is not a fringe pastor or televangelist, he’s mainstream and unless Christians begin to contend for the faith, as Jude 3 states, then men like him will continue to invade the Church with their unbiblical and heretical teachings snatching the seed from as many people as they can.

Below is an excellent video exposing additional heretical teachings of Bell using the video from above.  It also includes the “English” version of the video I posted:

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.


  1. John,
    I read what you are saying and I beleive you are picking and choosing what you want to hear. If you take what he says about Peter walking on water and put it into the context of what he is saying earlier about the talmudeen following his Rabbi, then what Rob is saying can be a correct interpretation. I understand your arguement that man cannot place faith in himself and agree, however, the scriptures continually tell us to be like Christ, and what Rob had said earlier, that each disciple wanted to do all his Rabbi did, then it makes sense when he says Jesus may be referring to Peter’s lack of faith in himself to do like and be like his Rabbi- Jesus. I beleive that Christ has faith in us, faith that we can grow to be like him(even tho that will never totally happen this side of heaven) and to carry out his great comission or he would have never tasked it to us or to the discipiles. Think about it, instead of accusing someone who makes you think outside the box. As with all pastors, authors, and other media, you have to at least be open to hear what they say in the text that they are saying it and grow from the parts of it that make sense to you and correlate to the bible.

  2. Robin, first off thanks for the comment. I understand how this might be confusing but let me see if I can clear it up. When we read of Jesus giving us the Great Commission or how Jesus established Peter as the Rock on which He would build His Church or how Jesus entrusted the disciples, including Paul, to share the Gospel throughout the known world, it’s very easy for us to think that He has placed faith in us and that the entirety of the Kingdom rests on the shoulders of Christians, but see herein lies the inherent danger with this logic. Because what it presupposes is that it depends on us. Instead of placing Christ as the central focus it shifts it to man. Think about it what Bell is saying and perhaps what you are saying also. Jesus puts faith in weak, finite, inadequate men and women who are sinful by nature and moral failures from the start. In fact even Christians continue to battle sin until glorification. How then can He have faith in us? Actually why would He even entrust us with something so great, so above our capabilities as fulfilling the Great Commission?

    But see here’s what I think Bell misses in this particular case and perhaps where you may be confused. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus concludes His Great Commission with these words, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What’s the significance of this? If He placed faith in us to fulfill His plan, why not just say, Hey I’ll come get you guys when you’re done? The Biblical truth is Robin, that Jesus empowers us to fulfill His plan. He has given every believer the Holy Spirit. He stated to His disciples that He would be with them until the end of the age because He knew that left to themselves man will fail. God is working His sovereign plan through us as He works in us and because of this synergism He is able to get the most glory for Himself. God is just as glorified in the preacher as the one preached to. It is a duty and a privilege for us to be involved in this plan, because God is absolutely sovereign and is capable of saving everyone apart from us, i.e. He doesn’t need us, instead He has chosen to involve us.

    You are correct, Scripture does tell us to be like Christ, but it never tells us to trust in ourselves for anything, in fact the commonly known Proverb says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 Additionally John 15:1-17 details this perfectly using the analogy of the vine and branches. In verse 4 of this passage Jesus states, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” See what Jesus is saying here, we cannot do anything unless we abide in Christ, meaning to remain or stay in Him. The Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 Note the source of Paul’s strength, it doesn’t come from within, but through Christ.

    As believers, we are commanded many things in the Bible, obedience, love the Lord, love our neighbor, fight sin, the list is long, but it never says that we can do these things in our own strength. We are constantly to rely on Christ. That is the point of Peter walking on water and subsequently falling. He lost faith in Jesus. Humanism teaches faith in man. The Bible teaches faith in Christ. Rob Bell doesn’t challenge me to think outside the box. He is trying to get his followers to think outside the Bible and I am not open to any person who teaches that. We are never told to listen to pastors, authors, or other media to pull parts out that make sense or correlate to the Bible. Satan is far too clever to make something obviously false, instead he disguises himself as an angel of light and those who teach false gospels disguise themselves as messengers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) The Bible expressly teaches us to beware of false teachers and prophets and to contend for the faith against those that have crept in (Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 24:24, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1, Jude 3-4). I sincerely pray that the Lord opens your eyes up to this false teacher.

    In Christ,

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