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bell-velvet-elvis.jpgTime magazine recently called Rob Bell “The Hipper-Than-Thou-Pastor” (Thursday, Dec. 06, 2007). This, along with the fact that his influence seems to only be growing, led me to read his book Velvet Elvis. Since it has been done, there seems to be little need for a comprehensive book review. But as I read Velvet Elvis I became personally motivated to do my part and duty as a pastor and expose some of the dangerous content lurking behind Bell’s hip veneer.

Based upon what I read in Bell’s book, he is both funny and hip. I say this because he made me laugh and because he does cool things like play in a punk band and surf (even the infamous Trestles!).

Continuing on with the positives, Bell seems sincere and appropriately calls for Christians to love those in need (not just fellow Christians) as is called for in the second greatest commandment. This is a great point and something that needs to be said and re-said before being said once more.

Anger Management
So with a hip rock dude writing a book addressing the need for Christians to act more like Jesus, why the anger on my part? Here are some of the reasons:

Rob Bell makes me mad because he preaches an anti-gospel. He craftily does this by portraying the essence of Christianity as following Jesus and treating people the way Jesus did. While this is important, living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Missing this is no small oversight by Bell. It is missing that which is of first importance! Over and over again he talks about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus’ work! This is scandalous.

robbell.gifRob Bell makes me mad because he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as non-essential (pp. 26-27). You heard right, he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as not essential! To state the obvious, this is entirely out of step with the Bible. Sure, one can redress and then mimic once-trendy quasi arguments by unbelievers about the word used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 possibly meaning young woman. But the New Testament leaves no wiggle-room on the intent and therefore meaning of the word. We know this because the Isaiah text is quoted and essentially interpreted in the New Testament. In Matthew 1:23-25 the word virgin is used twice and shown by the context to mean virgin in the classic sense of the term. To ignore this is to show gross negligence which seems to depend upon an assumed biblical illiteracy by his readers. Far from being not essential, the biblical reality of Christ’s virgin birth is vital to His unique status as the sinless God-Man. As troubling as this unorthodox teaching by Bell is, he commits a more dangerous foul. Bell continues with arguments against the virgin birth of Jesus followed by an attempt to defuse would-be critics by slipping in a token affirmation. Bell professes to be a Christian. But given his disregard for Christian doctrine, the name “poser” comes to mind (borrowing an old title from the punk rock scene).

Rob Bell makes me mad because he downplays the vital role of conversion. In a horrible overreaction against professing Christians wrongly not being compassionate, Bell says “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…” (p. 167). He then proceeds to establish a supporting argument that would surely set well with most anyone who is either ignorant of or ignoring what Jesus says in John 3—unless someone is converted, they will not see the light of day in the kingdom! Bell’s tactic is entirely unacceptable and irresponsible, but dare I say, fits with his mimicking the likes of the quintessential theological liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969). Certainly Christians must love those in need if they are going to truly follow Christ. But such love is to augment the need to proclaim a gospel of repentance which calls for conversion according to Jesus.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he does violence to the clear words of Jesus. On page 21 for example, when he talks about Jesus’ claims of exclusivity in John 14:6, he spins them to mean something other than what they clearly say and have been recognized as saying by Christians throughout the ages. At first I was surprised at how much Bell sounded like a radical theological liberal like Marcus Borg, but then I saw that the very first endnote in the book was an unqualified recommendation of a book by Borg! Bell’s recommended reading on his church’s web site promotes reading by John Dominic Crossan, the former co-director of the Jesus Seminar, so endorsing Borg is not a matter of isolation. Such men have a reputation for shamelessly doing violence to Jesus and His gospel.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church. I am not suggesting that churches with “Bible Church” in the name are anything special per se, but historically they have not been places where things like the virgin birth is considered non-essential. In my estimation this is downright deceptive.

A New Dress
Simply put, Rob Bell is a theological liberal resembling the mainline denominations of the early 1900s. The difference is that Bell is sporting a fashionable new dress or in his case, a new pair of geek-chic glasses.

If J. Gresham Machen were alive today, I suspect he would do what he did with Bell’s theological predecessors. Machen would remind him that while he has the freedom to start a new religion, he really should call it something other than Christian given that his religion does not resemble what Christ actually established as recorded in the Christian book, the Bible.

In my opinion, the reason this book is resonating with so many is because we have seen the evangelical church abandon the Evangel Himself. Yes, much of evangelicalism is empty because the Evangel of our evangelicalism is gone or as David Wells so aptly put it: He has been dislodged from its center. Couple this with a general ignorance of the Bible and church history and you have a book like Velvet Elvis actually seen as publishable by a “Christian” publisher and selling as if it were something novel and good.

Because I love the Evangel of the Bible and therefore historic Christianity, I guess it is off to anger management class for me.

Patrick Abendroth

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166 thoughts on “Rob Bell makes me angry: a pastoral response to Velvet Elvis”

  1. Thank you for sharing that review. It’s very helpful.

  2. Ken Silva says:

    Resources containing three years of research exposing the postliberal theology of Rob Bell can be found here.

  3. JD says:


    It seems to me that your time might be better spent going to an anger management group where you can actually get some help with your anger.

    Reading your posts it’s clear you have a lot of built up hostility that you prefer to take out on other Christian leaders and their churches. I’m sure you and all the people in your life would truly benefit from you getting the help you need.

    My words are not meant as an attack but as someone who sees a hurting person. I hope you get some help.

    1. joe says:

      I called home to fort wayne Indiana from Atlanta to catch up with my mother. In a lengthy talk, I come to find out that My Mother and Brother do not believe in Hell or demons or the devil after reading ROB BELL.
      Contrary to the very testimony of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this dogma is DANGEROUS and has really CONFUSED them both.
      Im praying for them both to get back on solid ground, and get off the sand Rob Bell is offering them to build their faith upon.

  4. anthony says:

    I’ve thumbed through Velvet Elvis at the local bookstore and put it down after a couple pages…… on more than one occasion. On one page he will say something that all Christians can probably say “Amen” wholeheartedly to, and then on the next page say something that will rattle your cage if you are conservative, let alone a Reformed guy, and leave my stomach feeling queasy ultimately.

    To think, some guys in my generation (twenties) are reading this guy and ignoring a great history of Christian scholarship and even modern guys like Sproul, Packer, or Piper.

  5. Joshua says:

    so, JD:

    you are saying that Erik and Pat shouldnt being using the gift of Discernment.

    2 Timothy 4:3-4 which says:

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.

    Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

  6. Jeremy says:

    This is all turn of the century liberalism, re-packaged with some trendy clothes and hip music. Here is the problem. These guys are really, really nice guys. They seem to be sincere in their love of people and want to make a difference. They are also trained in critical analysis of the scriptures. The people that they minister to are biblically and doctrinally illiterate. So, when you try and point out a problem with their theology, you look like “the bad guy”. Why do you not like “so-and-so”, he loves people just like Jesus did? I know this from experience.

    I haven’t read Velvet Elvis, but honestly, I don’t have to. If he promotes John Dominic Crossan for ANYTHING, he is leading people to another Christ. I’ve read some of Crossan’s books and they are very, very troubling. They are attempting to turn Christianity into a crossless religion. The Cross brings offense and always will. I say “let them alone. They are the blind leading the blind.”

    People like Rob are some of the most intelligent people you’ll encounter in your Christian walk. If you attempt direct arguement with them, they’ll chew you up and spit you out. They have built a religion on tangible evidence, our is dependent upon faith and revelation, neither of which is tangible. Same planet, different worlds.

    Things are going to continue to go in favor of The Jesus Seminar and such, because that is what people want to hear. They do not want to hear of Christ dying for their sins. They want to hear the 10 steps to being a better person. Any religion can offer this. My question is, in Velvet Elvis, is anything offered that another religion couldn’t offer?

    Finally, I have a question for JD. Do you understand what we are talking about? This isn’t an attack, but your comment is typical when Christian leaders try to address problems with theology.

  7. Seth McBee says:

    Everyone gets pissed when a shepherd does what Scripture tells them to do:

    holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
    Titus 1:9

    I like the review and see Rob Bell as someone who has overreacted to the crappy, legalistic churches that we all know and have love/hate relationship with. The legalistic works driven churches are on one end and the emergent church is on the other. Those in the middle, in my opinion OBC would be one, get hammered by both sides because you have to discern and you will of course discern against (maybe a little strong of a word) both of these types of churches. Think of MacArthur, Piper and some up and comers like Driscoll. All of these guys get hammered constantly for what they stand for and against. But this is the job of a shepherd, to guard the flock of God for they have watch over souls.

    Rob Bell has some great thoughts on contemporary Christendom but really misses the mark when he gives his thoughts on how to carry out these concerns.

  8. A.Fudge says:

    Do you really think that Erik and Pat just sit around being angry over silly things? Is not scripture and God’s holiness for Himself not warrant justified righteous anger? I agree with MacArthur who says “Some of the unbiblical philosophies and standards within evangelicalism need to be challenged with righteous indignation, because they attack the kingdom and the glory of God.”
    We need to stand up and defend the Truth of the gospel and sometimes that means getting angry/upset for the RIGHT reasons! (Eph 4:26) Out of a LOVE for Christ and His character!

  9. Erik, longtime reader, first time commenter.

    Good post. I read Bell’s Velvet Elvis after a guy in my small group Bible study challenged me to read it before I criticized it. Getting through the whole book was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had. There were times I wanted to put the book down and start yelling at it. The way he undermines the importance of orthodox Christian doctrine borders on heresy – seriously.

    Thanks for posting this thoughtful review.

  10. Toby says:

    I thought the level restraint by Pat in the review was appropriate. The need for restraint when responding to Rob Bell is not because of any qualities in Rob. We only restrain our response because of the attributes of God. He will judge Rob with perfect justice, displaying his righteousness and holiness, and his Son will continue to build his church in spite of the work of Rob. However, Pat is responsible to respond to false teaching because he is an undershepherd to Christ, whose example when dealing with false teaching demands a firm response.

    I have been in churches that lack elder oversight of the sheep and those that take that responsibility seriously. Where there is careful gaurding of the sheep there is security and unity in the flock. When those elders are undershepherds of Christ, that oversight facilitates the grace of God on the local church.

    If you are blessed by God to have a pastor and elders who take their job seriously, recognize and thank them for what God is doing through them. Encourage them to continue. If you are not so blessed, with love and grace, demand nothing less from the man of God.


  11. Seth McBee says:


    By the way…you gotta check out Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be

    Great book.

  12. Rich Johnson says:

    I appreciate your post which I found via Ashamed Workman. I’m going to take the risk of suggesting that perhaps there are other ways of looking at Rob Bell / Velvet Elvis. Before I go further, let me say I am an evangelical Anglican vicar with an academic background (if that makes any difference !). And I’ve read Velvet Elvis many times, recommended it, used it and critiqued it. It’s not all good – there are some issues I have with it.

    In reading and re-reading your post, and many similar ones, it seems to me that you are understandably reacting to a doctrinal clash – what Rob Bell thinks isn’t what you think. But this is doctrine, not necessarily Biblical theology, that you are reacting to. A criticism I regular hear of Reformed men and women is that there is an arrogance and hardness when it comes to others with different doctrinal frameworks. Please don’t end up there.

    Rob Bell et al. are not in my opinion the new liberals (the implication with the label “liberal” is actually “not a true Christian” – a dangerous judgement). They do not hold to a Reformed doctrinal framework because they operate within a different Biblical worldview. This does not mean they are liberal. It’s means they are not evangelical like Reformed folk.

    Yes there are verses galore to suggest that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are all that matter. But Jesus himself is clear that he expects a response to these things that changes people and communities. Rob Bell and Mars Hill are exemplary in this response.

    I suggest that maybe we can focus on the common ground. Rob Bell loves Jesus and believes in Him. He articulates it differently for different reasons, and maybe that is ok.

  13. Wayne MacKirdy says:

    JD: I would simply refer you to the first few verses of Jude. Our role as pastor-teachers is to contend earnestly for the faith, and to defend and equip the flock to resist false teachers who are creeping into the church.

  14. JJ says:

    Bloggers question his substance, his theology, his very Christianity. Does it bother him? He leans his head back against the wall and thinks about that. “Part of it hurts,” he says. “It just hurts. It’s painful. But it’s fear and misunderstanding. These are mean and angry people.” Then he laughs. “You know, God could give me 50 more years,” he says. “So don’t wind me up. If you’re offended now, I’m just getting going.”

    Even as an atheist who disagrees with many of his core beliefs, I’m still willing to lend an ear to just about anyone who can effectively promote an anti-Religious-Right form of Christianity.

    I have mixed feelings about Rob Bell. Having lived in Grandville for a few years, I attended Mars Hill and ate up every word during my Christian days. Now as an atheist, I periodically download mp3’s of his sermons, and it’s fascinating just how much fluff goes into them. On the one hand, I applaud the newer brand of Christianity he’s selling, only because it is in stark contrast to fundamentalism and it seems to make those fundies all queezy. But on the other hand, having listened to a lot of his sermons, I realize that when it comes down to it, he’s a performer plain and simple. He has a way of story-telling that is more about feel-good living and helping others rather than militaristic evangelicalism. In all honesty, his teachings remind me of the ol’ serpent in the garden with his soothing, slippery tongue. It’s such an eye opening experience to see his performance for what it’s worth after having been held captive by it in my earlier days.

    In the Saturday, September 9th edition of The Grand Rapids Press, Rev. Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church stated the following, in an article entitled, Religious Leaders Reflect on Impact of Attacks: “9/11 woke us up to the fact that we live in a global village. People are waking up to how many people in the world have a problem with America (and) that some of those feelings are legitimate. We’re 6 percent of the world’s population and consume 40 to 50 percent of its resources. The central voice of the prophets all the way through Jesus is that it’s not right for some to have so much, horde and build up a surplus at a time when others have so little. “The strongest spiritual current I have seen is an awareness that our consumerism is causing our souls to shrivel. We have too much stuff and we know it. “If we’re really serious about ending terrorsim, we would start with working to end poverty, because that’s where it starts. It’s hard to drop a bomb on somebody who just fed you. If we want to end terrorism we have to ask, ‘Who hates us most, and how do we bless them?’

    No, that’s not Corey Feldman from “Stand By Me”. It’s Rob Bell from Mars Hill Bible Church down the road in Grandville. (Corey’s on the right) I guess how it works in the “emergent” movement is the uglier the glasses, the holier thou art! You’ll read the Detroit Free Press article below and immediately recall the time that Jesus assembled the disciples and had them cut up their credit cards. I did. It’s right there in Mammon 3:16. And the kickin’ band! Who can ever forget Peter on the Stratocaster in the upper room? Man, that Rock rocked!!! I said it in my blog piece on Bell a few months ago and the question still comes to me: Mr. Bell, who commissioned you to “disorganize religion”?

  15. Seth McBee says:


    That is all fine and dandy until you read what the Scriptures tell us. Rob Bell does a great job in helping the poor and downtrodden, no one can deny that. But so do a lot of other people, including Ghandi and here is what he said about Jesus:

    “Whether you think Jesus was God or not, you must admit he was a first-rate political economist.”

    This seems to be where the Emergent movement is heading. Paul tells us what is of first importance:

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
    1 Corinthians 15:3-4

    And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
    1 Corinthians 2:1-5

    So, I will stand with Paul here and test those around me to see if they take the cross of Christ as of first importance or if they seem to have another agenda. For me, it seems as though the Emergents are more concerned with moralism than they are of Jesus’ death on the cross.

    Moralism is why Jesus came to die, not what he came to establish.

    Rich, you say:

    Yes there are verses galore to suggest that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are all that matter. But Jesus himself is clear that he expects a response to these things that changes people and communities.

    A true Christian looks at this and realizes that of first importance is the cross of Christ and his penal substitutionary atonement and then asks the question, “What do I do with this?” Some in contemporary Christendom see the first part and then totally miss the second part. Some (Rob Bell, et al) totally miss the first part and focus on the last part. Both are to be admonished. But to just say that Rob Bell sees things differently is very dangerous to do.

    I have said this many times and have heard others say it too. The emergents ask a lot of good questions (and bad ones too), but the way that they answer them can damn your soul.

  16. Rich Johnson says:

    Seth. With all due respect to you, you have responded exactly as I feared – doctrinally.

    For you “a true Christian looks at this and realizes that of first importance is the cross of Christ and his penal substitutionary atonement and then asks the question, “What do I do with this?”.

    This is a DOCTRINAL approach. Penal substitutionary atonement is only one theory of atonement – not true pure perfect atonement theology. You equate true Christianity with a belief in this particular doctrinal position. That simply is not a Biblical way to approach this.

    I don’t see Jesus ever inviting us to faith in Him on the basis of a doctrinal conviction. I’m not saying that substitutionary atonement isn’t happening, but I am saying that you are approaching this out of a desire to defend a particular doctrinal position. From that place, you are critiquing someone else who has different doctrine to you.

    This is my concern for the Reformed folk around the place – people are increasingly see this kind of reaction/response to other doctrinal approaches as something to shoot down, kill off, and be wary of. It’s coming across arrogant and judgemental all too often.

    Jesus does not say “faith in me = belief in the theory of penal substitutionary atonement”. He says many things to many people as a means of challenge, conviction and calling. John 13:34-35 is clear to me. Jesus wants the thing people to see as evidence we are “true Christians” is a love for one another that express His love for us.

    1. Tyler says:

      What about passages such as Matthew 5:18 where Jesus validates the entire Old Testament correlated with passages such as Matthew 16:19 and 2Tim 3:16 where Jesus says the New Testament is totally reliable?

      I worry for you and will be praying for you. You seem to have given over to an intellectual fad instead of the true word of God.

  17. Rich Johnson says:

    Wayne. I concur with your reference to Jude. But… implicit in your comment is a belief that those who hold a particular doctrinal approach are “true teachers” and everyone else if “false”. There is a very strong theological argument against “penal substitution”.

    Who is right ? Who is wrong ?

    Rob Bell could legitimately argue that he is guarding his flock from false teachers who bang on and on about “penal substitution” at the expense of other things.

  18. Jeff Halley says:


    Thanks for posting this. Very helpful, indeed, and a good reminder to us all to be careful.

  19. Jeremy says:

    Rich. Don’t fear a doctrinal reply. Expect it from any site that has CALVINIST in it’s title. LOL! Peace brother.

  20. Rich Johnson says:

    Yeah, good point. Sigh.

  21. Robin says:

    Erik – thank you for putting Pat’s review out there. He emailed it to us, but I have been waiting for it to be on the Internet. Your site seemed like the best place for it to get traffic. I notice you haven’t had any comment on any of this so far. I look forward to what you have to say.

    JD – Neither Pat Abendroth (who, by the way wrote the review Erik posted), nor Erik are in need of anger management. Neither of them are hotheads that melt down, or shut down when approached with differences of opinion. And I can say that, because I know both of them personally and sit under the teaching of both men. I daresay what Pat is expressing here is righteous indignation – not true, pure, hate induced anger. Just wanted to let you know that so you wouldn’t have the wrong idea or opinion of either of these godly men.

    Rich – I have to shake my head when I read terms such as arrogance and hardness. I marvel at how these are so easily applied to those who believe that God predestines those He elects to be His children, and that Christ was the propitiation for our sins. Why are they not applied to Rob Bell? Is he being loving when he ridicules reformers and reformation? I think not. And is it not also arrogant for one to assume that the useage of the term “liberal” in Pastor Pat’s review means “not a true Christian”? If, indeed, Mr. Bell is misrepresenting God’s word, that would be exactly what he is, by the way.

    I guess I just am tired of seeing reformers as fair game for bashing and unlovely name calling – but pull some Scripture out to back up what you are saying as a reformed believer, and you are intolerant, arrogant, hard and backing only doctrine, not Biblical truth.

    I’m just saying….

  22. Rich Johnson says:

    Robin. The glaring irony of your comment is this: equivalent terms are being thrown left, right and centre at Rob Bell because he articulates his believes in God differently to you. And yet I am not able to challenge that approach.

    Furthermore, I did no apply the terms “arrogance and hardness” to you, but used them as descriptions of how people PERCEIVE your approach. I’ve been trying to give you some honest feedback.

    You have a strongly held fixed opinion about “true doctrine”, which when applied rules everyone who has a different perspective a “liberal”.

    Is this not a fundamentalist position ? Over and out.

  23. Robin says:

    Wow. Okay, Rich – thanks for that. You have a blessed week.

  24. erik says:

    To all- I’ve been pretty busy and able to chime in here…I am impressed that without having to resort to characterizing the danger of meandering from the truth (ie objective body of doctrine) some have come in and actually provided first person examples. When you regard doctrine as unimportant and then further, you regard the penal substitution of Jesus as merely a theory, you have made my point better than I could have. Thank you for coming in and putting this post in bold black letters.

    1 Timothy 6:20-21 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.


  25. Seth McBee says:

    good points…


    So, how much are you allowed to throw out about Christ and still be a “Christian” on the front of “they just see things differently.”

    Notice that especially with the atonement that when asked “How can I be saved?” the apostles answered, “repent and believe.” Repentance cannot happen unless Christ took our sins. A comment forum is probably not the best way to communicate all there is in regards to this, but we have the sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointing towards Christ because animals couldn’t take away sins. (Heb 10). We have that Christ became our sin (2 Cor 5:21) That without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22) and we could go on.

    This is the very heart of the Gospel message.

    I just wonder how much doctrine one can dismiss and still be welcomed into the church because they feed poor people.

    We have seen Bell, et al, deny or question: penal substitutionary atonement, the sin of homosexuality, infallability of Scripture, the virgin birth, etc.

    Do we all just hold hands and say that Jesus was a good guy to follow? I don’t think so.

    I will stand with what I believe Paul would say about Bell and the Emergents:

    Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
    Romans 10:1-2

    Doctrine is of the upmost because it tells us what to believe and how to worship God. We cannot dismiss it. Once you mention even one truth about Jesus, you are speaking doctrine.

    ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
    Mark 7:7

  26. Tim says:

    This all strikes me as another in a long line of examples of Christians defining ourselves by “what we are not” instead of “what we are”. So you disagree with some of the things that Rob Bell says, that’s fine, he’s an easy target because he is high profile. But to label him “liberal”, or to begin to assume how he will be judged by God (Toby) is unconscionable.

    You know Jesus gave us many examples in his teaching of how we are to treat those who are different from us (Pat, is it okay if I use an example of living like Jesus would? I know you think those examples are unimportant…hmm?)
    In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan “took pity” or “had compassion” on him (Luke 10:33). Here is where we as Christians do the most damage to our message. The unbelieving world sees our lack of compassion for each other and its no wonder they turn their eyes from us.

    In his book “Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation”, Rodney Clapp says this, ‘If professing Christians define ourselves by our enemies and see ourselves fundamentally in an antagonistic relationship with those who are different and with whom we disagree, we betray that we have not understood the parable of the Good Samaritan– let alone the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ’.

    Instead of finding blame, we need to find compassion.

    Grace and Peace.

  27. Rich Johnson says:

    You don’t get me ! I’m not saying doctrine is not important, but is not of the upmost importance. Doctrine must not, but here seems to be, take precedent over Jesus. It’s more important who you believe in that what you believe in.

    None of you have asked me about my doctrine – for all you know, I might be exactly like you. You have assumed so so much.

    My point is this. When you judge others because there doctrine is not your doctrine, you contradict scripture. When you assume your doctrine is true and right, and all others are wrong, you are judging and condemning.

    I seem to recall that Jesus is very clear – He wants there to be FRUIT, not just a neat tidy plot of land with fruit bushes all the same, immaculately pruned, but not bearing fruit.

    Please hear a gentle nudge from someone different to you… the phrase “repent and believe” can be read in a multitude of ways, not just your way. And they can all be “true”.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m not Calvinist, but I am a theologian with a PhD, so I’m not a “liberal emergent” to be alarmed about.

  28. Paul Bright says:

    To any who cares to read,

    As an opening caveat, I have not read Rob Bell nor am I familiar with the emergent church movement.

    However, there is a nacent problem with positing a rift between doctrine (knowing WHAT you believe; I use the term broadly) and relationship (knowing WHO you believe). To shift to one side (doctrine devoid of relationship) or the other (relationship devoid of doctrine) is biblically erroneous and damning (e.g., a claimed doctrine w/o relationship–John 5:29; a claimed relationship and obedience w/o doctrine–Matt 7:22-23 [NOTE especially the link between “know” and “lawlessness” in verse 23]. Jesus demaned the right doctrine AND the right application of that doctrine into personal trust and loyalty to himself! Biblical epistemology includes both a Greek-perspective of knowledge (being able to reflect the truth of something in the mind) AND a Hebrew-perspective of knowledge (being able to fellowship with a person in intimacy). Jesus defined eternal life more Hebraicallly in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” However, He in no way shrunk from those who misunderstood the Scriptures (cf. Matt. 22:29 and the link to understanding the intellectual reality and application of God’s omnipotence!). To know is to relationally understand in intimate terms. But relationship with persons also requires the intellectual knowledge of who they are. The only AUTHORITATIVE source that describes the persons of the Trinity is Scripture. Now, the relationship with the persons is not the same as the intellectual knowledge of the persons. And, it is clear that the persons of the Trinity have put conditions upon relating with them. Some of these are ethical (any one of Paul’s lists); some are illuminative (John 3:7-8 cf. 11); some are doctrinal: from Jesus [Matt. 7:15-20]; Peter [2 Peter 2 is a continuation of chapter 1 and the attack on the authoritative source of the Gospel account; notice Peter uses ‘know’ doctrinally in 2 Peter 1:12]; Paul [1 Tim. 6:1 “that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed”…if doctrine is unimportant, how can it be blasphemed as equally as the name of God?; 1 Tim. 4:1-7; 1 Cor. 15 and the rejection of a resurrection body, especially vv. 35-36 “You fool!”; Gal. 3:1 and the foolish Galatians who had abandoned the doctrine of justification and had not ‘obeyed the truth.’]; Jude [“the faith” (v.3) = the apostolic doctrines set forth in contrast to the doctrine of the false teachers, which gives vv.22-23 meaning IN CONTEXT: certain men (v. 4), ordained for commendation (v. 4); deny the only Lord God and our Lord (despot) Jesus Christ–a denial of Lordship (v.4), these (v. 8), these (v. 10), Woe to them (v.11–a divine curse), these are spots in your feasts (v. 12–they practice the fellowship meal meant to signify relationship, but their doctrine soils them), to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (v. 13), Enoch prophesied of these (v. 14-15), these are (v. 16), these have not the Spirit (v. 19), but Jude wants them to content for ‘the faith’ and ‘remember the words…” (v. 17)]; John (most of 1 John). There is evidence that one of the schemes of Satan is to use the name of God more specifically when in reality the God is false [cf. 2 Chronicles 18:4-5 and 11–King Ahab assembled four hundred prophets of Baal to deceive King Jehosophat to proceed in an alliance of war (v. 3). Jehosophat wanted King Ahab to inquire of YHWH (v. 4). The 400 prophets used the generic name “El” in verse 5. But, after they saw that they made no ground and that Jehosophat wanted a prophecy in the name of YHWH (v. 6), they changed the name of God (El) to YHWH (v. 11), but the message and deception was the same]. Thus, there is biblical reason to be wary of those who use ‘name’ or ‘person’ without equally taking in the attributes of that person and responding appropriately.

    In conclusion, neither doctrine nor relationship should be emphasized over each other. “Doctrine” without relationship is SCRIBALISM. “Relationship” without doctrine is MYSTICISM. Sincerity is also not a basis for truth, as the prophets of Baal (who cut themselves until they bled profusely knew).

    For our Lord and Master,
    Paul Bright

  29. Rich Johnson says:

    I agree Paul. Thanks.

  30. phil green says:

    Hi Irish Calvinist

    I am new to this site, having been led to it by a link on another blog!

    My name is Phil and I live in Liverpool UK.

    Tim has said earlier “So you disagree with some of the things that Rob Bell says, that’s fine, he’s an easy target because he is high profile. But to label him “liberal”, or to begin to assume how he will be judged by God (Toby) is unconscionable.”

    Tim…I love you mate!! Unlike Rich, but like yourself, I have recently read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and found it to be the most inspirational, thought provoking and perceptive books I have read in years.

    If the likes of Ken Silva have felt the need to devote several years of his life trying to vitriolically destroy his credibility, then Rob must be doing something right in my opinion!

    I do take exception also (and this is rife amongst anti-emerging church types) to the exaggerrated claims that are made regarding stating belief in the Virgin Birth as non-essential or that Rob Bell denies the need for conversion as bordrering on excessive sensationilism.

    And as an Irish Calvinist please could you answer me one question. As a lifelong resident of Liverpool, from the “Protestant” side of the fence, where is your devastating critique of the deeply Calvinistic Orange Order which has done more in this city to discredit the name of Christ than anything else in all of history apart from participation in the slave trade? The silence is almost deafening!Their antics have often made me ashamed to bear the title “Protestant”.

    This organisation which is still going strong in Liverpool, Northern Ireland, Glasgow etc and has been promoting the hate…oops sorry…Freudian slip…the love of God for decades, is packed full of people who have been “once saved” but appear to have stopped right at the very point of conversion, if they were ever converted at all! Worse than that they are a mere front in many ways for a legitimised form of Protestant Freemasonry! They go by the name of”Order” and its leaders have titles such as “Grand Master” Would not Ken Silva be better spent using his time to expose these ultra Calvinists and the false gospel they preach masqueading as the truth which they so boldly and confidently ? Rob Bell’s approach is infinitely more Christlike, grace-filled and acceptable to God in comparison I believe!

    Finally, you did not make note in your extremely selective critique of Rob Bell’s work of the fact that when Mars Hill Church started out, they met in a warehouse and did not do any advertising whatsoever…the fact that a year later they had a congregation of 8,000 may just be an indication of God’s Spirit being at work!…the last thing they wanted was a mega church…which is a refeshing change from the majority of the more ego-driven pastorally driven churches where passionate, though often hidden agenda (often blanketed behind the appropriately humble language and rhetoric) is to create a mega-church to match the size of the ego of the leader!

    Above all else, Rob comes across as an honest man full of integrity, which also may explain why his church is growing…it’s not just about being cool and trendy, it is about being authentic, genuine and relevant!

    In short, I probably require Anger Management classes as much as you do. I groaned inwardly, took a deep breath and clicked onto Ken Silva’s extensive list of links designed to inform us that Bell and McLaren are bound for the pits of hell (where incidentally, if they are, they will undoubtedly meet up with more a fair number of unregenerated Orange Lodge Irish Calvinists!).

    Rob Bell may make you angry. Posts like this one stir up exactly the same emotions in me!

  31. phil green says:

    Hi Jeremy

    “The people that they minister to are biblically and doctrinally illiterate.”

    This is surely far more intellectually elitist, smugly arrogant and rudely condescending than anything you have accused RobBell of being in your thread.

    If I may say so I find your approach deeply patronising. I am not a “blind” follower/advocate of Rob Bell….but his book ministered deeply to me and I am neither academically, theologically, biblically or doctrinally illiterate! How would you know> Have you met me to discuss my views?. How many of ‘them’ have you actually met and got to know..and dare I say it…befriended!?? What I think you guys cannot stomach is that conservative evangelical theology cannot be re-visited or critiqued. Yes it can.. and yes it must be..continually if it is “the truth” that we are frequently told it is.

    “The Cross brings offense and always will”

    I have no problem with the cross of Christ bringing offence and I certainly do not consider myself a “Crossless Christian”! What I do have a real problem with is offensive Christians..

    As Mahatma Gangdhi once said “the Person of Jesus Christ I Love…it’s just you Christians I cannot stand!”

    People have been switched off conservative evangelical Christianity in their thousands by Christians who have given unnecessary offence, not by the preaching of Christ crucified, but by the action and behaviour of doctrinally convinced Christians who then go on to use the “cross brings offense and always will” mantra as a lame, weak and pathetic excuse for their graceless, loveless, life-destroying behaviour.

    I would be grateful if you could try and credit those you disagree with with at least a modicul of the intelligence that you clearly possess yourself.

  32. T says:

    People have been switched off conservative evangelical Christianity in their thousands by Christians who have given unnecessary offence


    How is this statement not offensive to evangelicals?

    Judge not, that ye be not judged.

  33. Tyler says:

    I think what troubles me about the comments here is the intellectual approach taken to an important subject (not to mention some of the rudeness demonstrated here). It grieves me. I visit blogs like this so that my heart may be stirred to love Jesus of the Bible more. I find that many of the arguments and discussions of ‘other theories of atonement’ are very unhelpful to someone who is like me (some regular guy with regular intelligence). I don’t want intellect. I don’t want theories. I don’t want personal thoughts. I want truth. And more specifically, truth about Jesus. I appreciate all the intellectual work that is done to safeguard the truth about Jesus, but let us not divorce that work from the heart. Please.
    Also, please, do not turn Jesus into a theory. Do not turn the Bible into an intellectual game where you have to be so smart to figure out the simple things of the gospel. But when I read many of the comments here and ask myself ‘does this help me trust in Jesus more?’ the answer is clearly a no. In all of our disagreements and discussions, lets work to point people lovingly back to the gospel. Not theories, not word games, but the clear obvious gospel in the Bible.

    (I don’t mean to be rude to anyone, but trying to confuse/meddle with the gospel of the Bible is no light matter. It is something that can be the difference between life and death. And not abstractly. But for folks like me who need the gospel so badly. Thank you.)

  34. phil green says:

    Hi “T” said

    I shall slightly revise my earlier statement

    “People have been switched off by certain types of conservative evangelical Christianity”. Is that any more palatable?

    Are you saying that there is not a lot of truth in this statement?

    If those of us who are on what can be decribed as the “emerging” side of things wanted to, we too could spend our time building up a three year dossier on the antics of some of the more splenetic ragings of some (though by no means all)far right conservative evangelical leaders. Maybe we just do not see the need to “keep a record of wrongs”, For some people, it does appear to have become an all-consuming passion. Have they got nothing better or more constructive to do with their time?

    And as for causing offence, I have not yet heard Ken Silva even go as far as to mumble one word of apology for some of the awful and insulting things he says and the manner in which he says them

    Do you not think the “Judge not and you will not be judged” criticism applies eqally to him, or do different standards apply to different people?

    Also, I am an evangelical myself, but I do try to listen to how others feel they have been badly treated and spoken to by the worst excesses of the evangelical constituency. What is more worrying is your jimplied judgement that just because I have posted in support of Rob Bell I could not possibly be classed as an evangelical!

  35. Steve says:

    Regarding some of the comments:
    These words couldn’t have come across more clearly about your desire to rethink Christianity, unless they has been spoken by the church of ….. Pergamum.
    I have been amazed to study through the Gospel of Mark and see that Jesus’ priority wasn’t to heal but to “teach”. He was committed to teaching the Gospel. It makes me wonder does it sound a bit strange to say “I love the teacher” but “I don’t care for His teaching”?

    The next time you sound out a call to ambiguous theologians everywhere, make sure you include a postmodern dictionary. (oops that would be an oxymoron)

  36. phil green says:

    Hi Steve. Good to hear from you.

    “These words couldn’t have come across more clearly about your desire to rethink Christianity, unless they has been spoken by the church of ….. Pergamum.”

    Pardon me for being a bit slow on the uptake but I wasn’t quite sure what you were trying to say. I think you may be trying to say that those of us in the “emerging” camp are either on the verge of, or wholly heretical or apostate with regard to the “Pergamum church comment.

    If I may say so, this is what concerns me more tahn most about the critics of anything which is not “straight down the line Calvinism” I hesitate to use the phrase “straight down the line gospel” because for some I think the terms Calvinism and gospel appear to be virtually interchangeable.

    I think there is nothing more dangerous, or even slanderous at times than the casual chucking about, or in this case, subtle inference that people such as myself are heretical or apostate. It is easy talk and it and is cheap talk.

    However, one thing I do agree with you on. Somebody on another site responding to this post which he had read, said that I should invite Erik to my church so that he could “preach the gospel”. I responded by saying, in agreement with your assessment when re-reading the book of Mark, that I should ask Erik to come and teach and edify the faithful as well as merely “preach the gospel”.as I believe teaching and preaching are entirely diferent ministries requireing differing skills and giftings. I used to share a house as a student with a guy who had been a with a member of the Plymouth Brethren since his early chldhood, and even he (being in an environment where he was free to question stuff which he had been led to believe that he could never question) said that he used to get so frustrated at the evening “Gospel sevice” where the preacher week in week out would “preach the gospel” to the same people who had been converted years earlier. He would go on to add that there was hardly ever an unsaved person present. My guess is that these people had had plenty of preaching of the gospel, far more than they needed, but very little in the way of biblical teaching. I agree with you that we are called to “teach the gospel” only I would go even further and say that we are actually called to teach the whole counsel of God.

    If I have misinterpreted what you are saying then please forgive me. If I am right in what I assume a little more thought before labelling people as heretical or apostate would be greatly appreciated.

  37. phil green says:


    Thanks for your mesasage. I can assure you if you were offended by what I have posted it was not being aimed at yourself.

    I agree with you wholehjeartedly about the intellectual approach to what is a very important subject.

    I minister in a church situated in a tough, urban innercity parish in Liverpool UK. All I can say is that there are people who cannot relate to some of the more intellectual stuff, who are struggling with their lives, who have been greatly helped by the teachhings of Rob Bell, especially his Nooma CDs, which are not merely stuff verbally delivered by the guy at the front of church, but which are both verbal and visual and have been a great stimulus to geting some of them to really open up.

    That is why I get so annoyed when I hear some pretty offensive stuff being said about the likes of Rob and others, because they are reaching some of the people with the truths of the gospel in a way that some of those who criticise them could never do.

    Apologies for any offence you may have suffered on my account.

    Take good care


  38. erik says:


    I often wonder how ‘ministers’ such as yourself have so much time on your hands so as to respond to blog comments and posts in such a remarkably fast manner. You are typing responses even before they show up in my in box.

    I am a pastor and find it pretty difficult to stay on top of every comment or email relating to my own blog let alone posts on others. I suggest to you a refresher reading of Paul’s Epistles to Timothy that you might set aside your fascination with Rob Bell and find the promotion and defense of the glory of Jesus to be paramount instead.


  39. erik says:


    Thanks for your comment. Particularly this: “It grieves me. I visit blogs like this so that my heart may be stirred to love Jesus of the Bible more.”

    This is the reason for this site. It really is the goal. Sometimes though, it is incumbent upon us to point out things so that others do not eat rotten food (1 Tim. 4). This too causes us to love Jesus and his gospel more.

    Thanks for reading and I do hope you continue to find encouragement here.


  40. Toby says:

    Tim, Phil, JD and Rich,

    I should have said, “He [God] will judge Rob with perfect justice, displaying his righteousness and holiness and his Son will continue to build his church regardless [rather than in spite] of the work of Rob.” I was trying to show that we don’t stand in judgement, God does. God will judge all of us, Rob, you, Pat, me… and Christ will build His church.

    If you don’t believe the Bible to contain clear truth that can be ascertained and understood and that there is only one true interpretation for any passage than you would be right to have a problem with Pat. If it’s one man’s opinion against another’s than all should claim ignorance and embrace as we muddle around in the dark together. More appropriately, if there is no certainty we should all be suspect of one another and separate far from each other for each man’s opinion would be shaped by his own thoughts and ideas from his own heart which is deceptive and wicked. The only similarity is that we would still be muddling around in the dark.

    But the Bible is true. This truth can be ascertained and understood. There is only one correct interpretation. This is why the church is given the Word of God to guide us and the Spirit of God to teach us that Word and work it into our lives. God has also given us men to teach, train, exhort, and rebuke using that Word. I was commending Pat for using his spiritual gifts to fulfill his responsibility.

    With humility,


  41. Paul Bright says:

    I am glad that there is agreement that the Scriptures teach the link between doctrine and true relationship with the Trinity. Now, two questions remain: first, do the Scriptures support exposure and judgment [I am not British…no ‘e’] with attending human emotion in doctrinal matters? And second, if yes, which doctrinal matters do the Scriptures explicitly and perhaps implicitly identify?

    It is not possible in one post, or in multiple posts answer both questions adequately or where all sides would agree. Therefore, to all who would continue, my sincerest prayer is that you would read the following as AN attempt to present a BASIC answer to the questions. In this post, if God wills, I will provide an answer to the first question; in a future post (or if someone else would care to tackle it…hint Erik!!!), the second.

    As a first principle, the claim that Christians should not judge one another always needs to be qualified. For, depending upon which verse one sites as proof, one might find an apparent contradiction. From my own study (not given here), I think the answer is this:

    1) excluding Jesus (because of omniscience), when observing the works of a person (ethical conduct) and speaking in the second person or about a real living person who had made a claim to the Christian faith, the observer is limited to what is outwardly visible (to be witnessed with the human senses) and must be substantiated (multiple witnesses). Extra conditions are included when elders are so judged, and the penalty/exposure is more harsh (1 Tim 5). Internal motives, unseen desires, the will are rarely expressed by the observer authoritatively in the SECOND or FIRST person. Thus, there seems to be evidence that when a linkage to the heart is made with regards to a work, the teaching is that of ‘HYPOTHETICAL THIRD PERSON.’

    2) Patterns of observable external ethical works that are contrary to the known transforming work of the Spirit in the heart (and subsequent actions) give rise to the ever-increasing probability of no salvation. As an example, the ‘so-called’ brother (the living person at that time, not hypothetical) in 1 Cor 5 who was living incestuously is NOT identified ABSOLUTELY as ‘not a Christian,’ a phrase too casually and heartlessly thrown around by modern men. Can one imagine the repentance needed on the part of those Corinthians in 2 Corinthians who refused to receive back into true fellowship this same man who had repented of this sin? Perhaps they had gone too far? The end result of church discipline is to treat them as a tax collector and a sinner, but the understanding is that of…with the possibility to repent. Some may here quote Heb 6 and Heb 10 as stronger admonitions of classification, but I would remind them, that Heb 6 and 10 (admittedly the strongest warnings in the NT) are again ‘HYPOTHETICAL THIRD PERSON’ warnings, and are both followed immediately by encouragements in the SECOND PERSON to the very readers of the letter.

    3) The claim of faith without the attending heart transformation and external evidence of works are polemically addressed with the ‘HYPOTHETICAL FUTURE JUSITIFICATION BY THE LAW’ by both the apostle Paul and by James. Now, before one completely disagree with the content of what I just wrote, at least grant me this…both Paul (Rom 2:13) and James (chapt 2) place the CLAIMANT of faith (in Romans…the Jew; in James…the Christian) who does not have works UNDER the standard of JUDGMENT that is to come according to works (which of course no one will pass). Thus, it seems appropriate for anyone claiming faith w/o works or certain kinds of works only to direct them towards the final judgment.

    4) If for the apostle Paul, who fully kept his own conscience undefiled, unseared, unsoiled, soft, and filled with truth, refused to acquit himself by his own conscience, but left room for the final judgment (best case scenario–argument from the greater), should one then judge the interior of another (the motives)?

    1) One is immediately taken aback by the range of scenarios one finds in the Scriptures regarding doctrinal error/bad doctrine/false doctrine. The spectrum ranges from ‘be patient to those who OPPOSE, for the Lord might grant them repentance’ OR ‘separate, but treat them as a brother’ TO ‘may they emasculate themselves!!!’ OR ‘these are doubly-dead.’

    2) Is there any kind of pattern in these statements outside of THE CONTENT of their teaching? Whereas I do believe a pattern exists because of WHAT was taught that created such reactions, I also find a pattern to the responses in the DEGREE OF OPPOSITION/KNOWLEDGE.

    3) For example, in the Thessalonian church (the first letter), barely had passed since Paul had to flee that city because of the persecution. Bad doctrine had risen, such as abuse of revelatory gifts, bad teaching regarding eschatology and how it relates to the present time. But, the harshest word Paul has for the church is, “Admonish the unruly!” which is followed by ” Be patient with all!” Moreover, they should ‘test everything’ not condemn everyone, but test everything (in context DOCTRINE). But in Paul’s second letter, his command to the disobedient become a little stronger (3:14-15 “If anyone [notice the hypothetical third person] does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.!” THUS, the ‘does not obey’ could be better understood as ‘continue not to obey.’ So, whereas doctrine was the issue, LENGTH of opposition also exposed a resoluteness within the opponent, which required a stronger penalty.

    4) Jude himself, after a letter filled with some of the strongest words against false prophets that were ravaging the assemblies of his readers with a ‘no lordship-libertine gospel,’ permits various approaches to the opposition (vv.22-23). Erik himself preached on these verses and beautifully brought out the intended degrees. Simply understood, the more a person is INWARDLY committed to the false doctrine, the harsher the response is necessary. The first group merely doubt. Therefore, HAVE MERCY. The second group are involved. SNATCH THEM OUT OF THE FIRE. The third group are entirely polluted. BE CAREFUL TO TOUCH THEM: HAVE MERCY WITH FEAR OF ONESELF. As the heart [notice how the COMMITMENT IS WOVEN IN] is more and more aligned so that one moves from a dabbler to a soldier to a general in the opposition, the response becomes greater and greater! And, it seems that it is the last group ONLY who should be equally identified as the FALSE PROPHETS in the earlier chapters. The pattern follows the ‘stricter judgment for teachers’ seen elsewhere.

    5) Some might object because of the Galatians ‘quick’ defection from the Gospel. But ‘quick’ might mean not the time between Paul’s preaching/their reception and the current letter, but the time between the appearance of the false teaching about justification and the rejection of Paul’s teaching (to which I hold). In this case, the word does not mean ‘quick’ but ‘easy.’

    6) Also, when leaders in the church TURN in DOCTRINE or fail in DEED, and that leader is known, he is exposed as such. Paul exposes Peter in Gal 2, but it is BARNABBAS’ sin that is even more drastically highlighted (notice the ascensive ‘kai’), because Barnabbas, a co-missionary to the Gentiles with Paul, who took Mark under his wing to train him in Gentile equality, EVEN this Barnabbas was seduced by the Judaizers. On a smaller scale, Paul states in 2 Tim 1:15 the following: “You [sg] are aware that all [generically] who are in Asia turned away from me [synonymous with ?], among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” The nature of their turning away is not explicit [doctrinal–preceding context OR personal–following context], but it is assumed that Timothy would know these two persons and that because they turned away, most likely because of some kind of leadership position or personal connection, Timothy must know. This then helps us today establish a principle. Third, Paul says this in 2 Tim 4:10, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” If one were to follow the career of Demas in the Scriptures, one would find incredible commendations by the apostle Paul: Col 4:14 [in prison with Paul]; Phm 24 [fellow worker]. And now, he has because of love [motive only or evidence by works] for the PRESENT WORLD [never a positive in Scripture…NEVER!] has abandoned Paul in Rome. Consider now the difference in the same letter between ‘the all who were in Asia,’ the obscure names of ‘Phylegus and Hermogenes,’ and ‘Demas.’ As the responsibility increases or knowledge of such a person increases, the descriptions become more and more specific and emotional!

    Therefore, one has three principles by which appropriately increasing reactions to bad/erroneous/false doctrine: 1) LENGTH of OPPOSITION; 2) COMMITMENT to OPPOSITION; 3) PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE/RECOGNIZED POSITION OF PERSON.

    Now, one can approach the CONTENT of doctrine!

    For the Master,
    Paul Bright

  42. Jake Meador says:

    I know I’m late on the discussion but I feel like I’ve seen it a thousand times already in the blogosphere:

    Essentially, we have three teams speaking three different languages: We have traditional, conservative protestants speaking one language, emerging christians speaking another, and then there’s almost always some third group, generally a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian who can only shake their head at both the other groups.

    Having read this exact conversation more times than I care to remember, I want to ask that everyone chill out. The issues being addressed in here are serious and affect thousands of Christians. They’re not going to be resolved in one conversation on one blog.

    Second, please ask each other questions before judging the other. Read the response sympathetically with a desire to really see the issue through the eyes of the speaker. Whether you see them as a brother or sister in the Lord or not is irrelevant because whether they are or not, they’re a human being made in God’s image who we must respect.

    Finally, offer thoughtful responses in a spirit of humility with the understanding that your personal theology is simply your fallen, subjective response to the objectively communicated word of God. That doesn’t mean truth is relative or unknowable, but it does mean our finiteness and sinfulness limit us in our ability to speak of it exhaustively.

    Sorry if this comes off preachy, but honestly, I’ve seen this exact conversation played out so many times, I’d really love to see it go in a direction that is helpful to all the participants.

  43. phil green says:


    Thank you for your gracious response.

    I understan fully where you are coming from. I just get very disturbed when claims about other people are presented as “the truth” when more often they are inaccurate misrepresentations. I do feel that such claims,when made in the public domain eg a blog have to be challenged otherwise people swallow it uncritically. I would argue that the same applies to those who blog on emerging websites that they have to listen and be fair to those with whom they disagree,

    Toby..thanks for the tone and grace of your reply.

    “But the Bible is true. This truth can be ascertained and understood. There is only one correct interpretation. This is why the church is given the Word of God to guide us and the Spirit of God to teach us that Word and work it into our lives. God has also given us men to teach, train, exhort, and rebuke using that Word. I was commending Pat for using his spiritual gifts to fulfill his responsibility. ”

    “But the Bible is true. This truth can be ascertained and understood. There is only one correct interpretation. This is why the church is given the Word of God to guide us and the Spirit of God to teach us that Word and work it into our lives. God has also given us men to teach, train, exhort, and rebuke using that Word. I was commending Pat for using his spiritual gifts to fulfill his responsibility. ”

    I can’t help but feel that this approach is just a little too naive, especially there is only one correct interpretation it.

    I wiould contend that the men and women, even the likes of Pat and Erik whom God has raised up to teach, train , exhort and rebuke are also fallible human beings who can get things wrong and interpret things incorrectly.

    I would seriously hope that both Pat and Erok would want their congregations to appreciate their teaching and minisstry, yes, but surely also to test, consider and critically appraise their sermons as well.

    “This is the reason for this site. It really is the goal. Sometimes though, it is incumbent upon us to point out things so that others do not eat rotten food (1 Tim. 4). This too causes us to love Jesus and his gospel more.”


    This exactly the reason why I posted my original comments. I also notice that there was a distinct lack comment about the “rotten food” which the Orange Order have not just swallowed but insist that others do also.

  44. Elise says:


    As a matter of fact, there is only one correct interpretation. Second Peter 1.20 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.”

    We, as fallible human beings, need to be very careful in our study of it, and in who we trust to teach and lead us in it, but there is truth that “can be ascertained and understood,” as Toby said.

    I have not heard Erik preach as much, but I have heard Pat say from the pulpit that he wants to be hauled out of it by a discerning congregation if he begins to preach falsehood.

    I pray that your study of the Scripture would lead you to His truth.


  45. phil green says:


    Thank your for your response. I am glad to hear that Pat would have no problem being hauled out of the pulpit (actually I do not teach from a pulpit, I teach from a lectern as I prefer to be on the level of the people I am addressing) but if I did I too would not have a problem with being hauled out – I actively seek congregational engagement, interaction and involvement when I am teaching). I do believe that it would be a brave person who took the risk though!

    Thank you for your advice, but please may I offer you some constructive advice in return. Taking and quoting one verse of the Bible out of context without including what precedes or follows that verse is not the most helpful way to approach the issue of biblical interpretation. We can all use single proof texts to back up any argument we like…the passages should be considered in their context.

    I too pray that your study and interpretation of the Scriptures will lead you to His wonderful truth.


  46. Barry says:


    When you say “I teach from a lectern as I prefer to be on the level of the people I am addressing”. Please tell me that, as a pastor, that you have not forfeited your authority. This would not be good. I am concerned when those who preach or teach a congregation do so in this in this manner. I believe it undermines the authority given to the ordained pastor by God. In Titus chapter 2 the apostle Paul is instructing Titus (a pastor) in the attributes of a pastor or shepherd. In verse 15 he is instructed to do these things with “all authority”. In 2 Timothy chapter 2 there is a commanding tone to Timothy to “preach the word” in season and out of season. I would contend that this is not an interactive mode, where one person who has the lectern is only theologizing, sharing ideas and thoughts, or counseling. I am not saying these are not to be used by pastors, but not in the context of addressing a congregation. I think you should take back your God ordained authority. Preach the word brother.

  47. Joshua says:

    say Erik I would be curious what you and Pat’s and everyone else here’s take on what is said at

    the article is Rob Bell’s Comments at the Seeds of Compassion

  48. Toby says:


    “I would seriously hope that both Pat and Erok would want their congregations to appreciate their teaching and minisstry, yes, but surely also to test, consider and critically appraise their sermons as well.”

    What would you like them to test there sermons against if not the Holy Word? What should their congrerations test them with, if not as Bereans according to the Holy Word?

    2 Pet 1:12-2:22 does deal with the importance of truth in Bible interpretation when dealing with false teachers. It was an appropriate passage and it was good to see Scripture used in this discussion among Christians.


  49. W. Thomas says:


    After the dozen or so comments you have left, I am not wearied by the number of words you have written insomuch as I am wearied by how little you have actually said with those number of words. You have been confronted with Scripture a number of times now, yet refused to interact with Scripture. Instead, you give a remark that the scripture is being taken out of context (as stated to Elise regarding 2 Pet 1:20) or that the interpretation is wrong, or any other number of responses which lack a presentation of biblical data. They are not weak responses in and of themselves. It would be one thing for you to make a statement and then DEFEND it, but you just make statements with no defense. I for one, can defend Elise’s comment regarding 2 Peter by looking at the context immediately preceding and following it. First, in verse 16, the Apostle Peter does not appeal to his own authority (not following cleverly devised tales), but to the authority of God Himself (vs 16-18), being an eyewitness to the majesty of God, hearing the voice of God. It is this authority they appeal to in verses 20-21. Any Scripture when backed by the authority of God, which is all of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), is sealed in the manner of interpretation, thus making Elise’s statement true. This authority pertains to the writers of the OT as well as the NT (vs. 21). Thus the principle drawn from the context has wide ranging ramifications. Elise was not appealing to human fallibility but to divine infalliblity.

    Of course I am citing just an example. However, let me be the first, since you say no one has up to this point, to ask you: What do you believe?

    Specifically, what do you believe about the atonement of Christ?

    What do you believe regarding the Bible? Just so you know where I stand on this, let me define my position as well. I believe in the inerrant, infallible Word of God as it testifies of itself (2 Tim 3:16-17). It contains no error in anything about which it writes and is absolutely authoritative on anything it contains therein.

    What do you believe regarding sin? What is your interpretation of the human condition as defined in Romans 1-3.

    Finally (these questions are just for starters, of course), and this ties in with the former, how is man presented as right before a Holy, just, perfect, omnicient, God? Do you have, in your worldview, a doctrine of justification and can you define it?

    Here is your opportunity to do what you say you have not been given the opportunity to do.

    As a couple of final words, I agree with Paul Bright (whose arguments you have yet to interact with) from his first comment that doctrine and relationship are inseparable. Professing believers who lack the fruit of the Spirit are in a real dilemna when they are faced with the Biblical data, just as those who are all about relationship, yet cannot worship God according to His rules (doctrine), are in a real dilemna when faced with the Biblical data.

    Look forward to reading what you believe.

    W. Thomas

  50. phil green says:

    Hi W Thomas

    Thank you for your response.

    I am more than happy to share with you what I believe.

    I taught this morning from John Chapter 14 verses 1-14 on Jesus’. I have to confess that I was not spaeking from a pulpit, which from what a previous contributor to this thread implied was almost a heresy in itself!

    I am more than happy to share with you what I believe. I have a deep and personal, saving faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ and his blood shed for my sin on the cross. I believe that He is the Way the Truth and the Life. I believe firmly in the death, resurrection, ascension and future return of the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe in the gifting and empowering of the Holy Spirit for God’s mission of making known the good news of Jesus in the world today,to the world today, for the world today.

    I too believe in the blogging ‘to the glory of Jesus’, and I will leave this site now as I do not believe any further interaction will accomplish much. But I will leave by saying this…I believe that when false and slanderous claims are made on public forums such as this one, clearly designed to be destructive towards the ministry of a fellow church leader that they need to be challenged.

    It would appear that you guys love to be the ones doing the criticising, often hiding behind your love for the Word of God, but when it is stripped away it is nothing but a personal attack on other church leaders which I do not believe glorifies the Lord you claim to love so dearly and serve so well.It would appear that you revel at times in providing criticisms of the stances of others, but are not too happy when others criticise you own manner of interacting or teaching.

    I would love to have seen one positive aspect of Rob Bell’s ministry highlighted, but if it wss I guess that it would be between gritted teeth.

    I will now depart to continue my “ministry” which is in a lay capapcity. All I will say was that I was assured by many people this morning that the teaching and ministry was helpful, uplifting, practical and edifying. They know me far more than your good selves and I am more than appreciative of their support and their ministry to me in return.

  51. Leah says:

    Rob Bell is a good, smart man, and his videos and books really make you think. They make me think. I watch his videos and they make me want to go out preach, and help people and pray and maybe you dont believe that he stresses the “important” things… Well if you’ve watched his videos, he has one on almost every topic imaginable. So before you base your oppinion of him on one book that most of you probably only read a couple pages of…look into more his work, read more of his books and watch more of his videos… I really do think your oppinions will change.

    And atheists are reading these post and you all are feeding the steroetype. You all are fighting and arguing about something so small when you all believe in the same bigger picture. this is what they want to see… Christians fighting with Christians…

    And for Pat…why dont you take time to write Rob and talk to him One-on-One. Find out his reasons for writing and saying the things he says… instead of going behind his back back… You’re both pastors and you’re both trying to accomplish the same things in your sermans. You’re both trying to do the Lords work… And by publicly bashing another pastor… Are you really doing his work? or hindering it?

    I’m only 19, And i dont know as much about religion as a lot of you who have made prior posts… But do you know how many people have come to Christ because of his books and movies? How can that be wrong…?

    That’s all i have to say.

  52. Toby says:


    Please understand, my desire isn’t to beat you up, but to maybe help you see things from a different perspective. It might also help you understand the people who are defending biblical Christianity from what Rob has said in his book.

    The post was a book review. It reviewed the thoughts and ideas expressed by Rob Bell as stated in the book. The public forum was entered by Rob, and Pat responded publicly.

    These issues raised by Pat were not small issues. Rob Bell has left the reservation of traditional, historical Christian thoughts and ideas and therefore has caused the controversy. If there is an argument or fighting it is because of what Rob Bell has written, not because of Pat. If someone punches your child in the nose and you fight to defend them you have not been the cause of the fight. You are right if you say Pat could just ignore the error and avoid fighting, but again, Rob entered the public arena to change people’s thoughts and ideas and a response from a pastor seems appropriate.

    You also need to understand that Rob Bell’s public attack on the virgin birth and the gospel and conversion is an attack on all the pastors who preach the importance of these things.

    Please examine the things you are saying about Pat and see if the source of the angst is really caused by Rob. I would ask that you not look at methods or outcomes, as these could be misleading. Remember Jesus’ ministry ended with him being executed and all his friends having fled. Instead, look at what is being said by Rob, comparing it to scripture, and see if it is honoring to God.


  53. Mark says:

    Rob Bell won’t stop staring at me. I can’t read the article with Rob Bell creepily staring at me!

  54. Paul says:

    After attending Mars Hill for the last 5 years it is interesting what we have learned. Just in the past few months have we left Mars Hill.

    Mars Hill is not the growing, healthy and prospering church that you all hear about.

    Rob could sell ice to the Iceland so there is no question of his appeal.

    But after you have set under the leadership and see the real Mars Hill and the real Rob Bell you would find what many of these people have only read about are very much true.

    Time will show people who really Rob Bell is.

  55. Phillip Ross says:

    Bell’s theology is not surprizing once you know the origins of The Emergent Church

  56. Seth McBee says:

    Very interesting to hear from someone “at the scene”

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on why you left as I have a buddy that pastors a church next to Mars Hill…

    If the reasons are too personal or would turn into gossip, then just ignore this post..

    you can email me here:

    sdmcbee at hotmail dot com

  57. Andy says:

    Without taking sides, am I the only one who caught that this review says,

    “living the ‘Jesus life’ is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus”

    No matter what side you’re on, statements like that should scare you.

  58. KennyEngelking says:

    regardless of doctrine, theology, or whatever… there are things about Rob Bell that are good, and not good. Just like any of us. The tricky thing is is that Mr. Bell is the pastor of a very large church, and is writing books about Jesus that contradict the Bible.

    Jesus Christ, the son of God, came and died on the cross and rose again on the third day so that we might have life and have it to the full. He was the substitute for our sin. To deny that is arrogance. Without the cross, and without His death we would be in darkness. There is no way to deny that. So what we take from that is this, we have an opportunity to live a life worthy to the calling we have been given. We are CHRISTians. We are called to be like Christ, because of what he did for us.

    Yes, we absolutely should love those who are unlovable and those that hate us. It was the example of Christ. But we CANNOT forget where we came from. It has to be a mix of the two perspectives. Legalistic christians often focus on what we have done, and what we should not do which is wrong. But “liberal and emergent” christians focus on the fact that we have been separated from our sin and so no matter what we do we’re forgiven so it doesn’t matter. Which is also wrong.

    Do we see why there is a battle going on within Christianity? We must remember where we came from. We came from sin, darkness, death, and worthlessness. But through Christ’s death and resurrection we have been cleaned, are in the light, and alive. We can’t have one without the other. Without Christ’s supremacy (being in very nature man, and very nature God) and without His perfection, He wouldn’t have had the ability to be the propitiation of our sins. Which ultimately is the reason we are able to be called Christians. Christ died, on the cross, to save the us from our sins. It is the Gospel. To deny that, to contort that, to criticize that, it is near heresy.

  59. reawakening says:

    I’ve read the book. It’s slick and like your pastor friend says—he’s even funny at times. Bell is hip and it’s hard not to be attracted to his Nooma dvd’s and such. But he downplays man’s sin and speaks so little of grace. I came away wondering how Bell could preach any kind of true gospel message without highlighting man’s fallen state. Maybe I missed it—but I just don’t remember Bell (who’s repainting the Christian faith mind you!)—address man’s depravity with any seriousness whatsoever.

    Maybe I need to look the book over again?

  60. Brady says:

    I had to laugh at the one commentor who said that faith in substitutionary atonement is just a theory and not essential to the Gospel.
    My response is, the Gospel will always be viewed as irrelvant by a person unless they first know that they are a sinner, in need of a substitute to accept the punishment for their sins.
    If that were mere theological theory or a doctrinal approach (and it isn’t), then we may as well hang the whole thing up, including Bell’s approach of making the world a better place to go to Hell from.

  61. LogicLives says:

    Hi. I recently attempted to post 3 comments (not including this one) on this blog offering thoughful critique to the dominant views expressed here. I made no personal attacks on the people who subscribed to those views which I criticized. I think it would be wonderful if this blog gave equal voice and exposure to the points made which contradict the views espoused here. Is there a reason my comments have never been approved?

  62. TomT says:

    See what bothers me about this whole string of commentary is that so many people don’t know their church history. The Christian church has NEVER decided on one particular understanding of the atonement – not the “substitutionary atonement,” which Erik argues for, not the “moral influence” understanding, not the Christus Victor understanding – none of them. The early church did not decide on one understanding (as they did about, say, the nature of Christ being both human and divine). Nor did the Protestant reformers. Certain contemporary evangelicals have come along and decided they have THE understanding. Clearly, different understandings can be supported by the scriptures.

  63. Jon Wymer says:

    TomT, I don’t know which “Christian church” you are referring to. It seems you are referring to some sort of mythical organization that issues press releases from a street address. The truth is you are right in one sense: there has been false doctrine since the days when Christ himself walked on earth. There has also been a consistent adherence to penal substitution within the heterogony. If you have not read Pierced for our Transgressions, I recommend a visit to It is a nearly exhaustive treatment that would possibly lead to more useful discussion of this issue.

  64. TomT says:

    Heterogony? Apparently another mythical organization! What you mean is 19th and 20th century American evangelicalism has consistently adhered to the penal substitution understanding of the atonement.

  65. Jon Wymer says:

    The straightforward point I was trying to make in a humorous way is there has always been disagreement. The idea that professing Christians have always been for or against any one point of doctrine this is simply not true. It is an interesting but flatly untrue characterization that only 19th and 20th century Americans have held to this theory of the atonement. My point in recommending the book is that we could have an informed conversation on the basis of facts, not simply slinging pithy sayings back and forth.

  66. Gary says:

    Not that I agree with everything of Rob Bell however I have read things of his and gleaned a few helpful insights. Remember the verse that say’s some preach Christ out of this, out of that, but Paul said as long as they preach Christ. If God can use a donkey, he can use anything including you and me. Thanks.

  67. Erik says:

    The only issue here is the whole ‘preach Christ’ part. That is the big issue that this post is driving at. Rob Bell is not preaching Jesus.

  68. Brian says:

    The first rule in healthy interpretation…Context. Context. Context.

  69. Mel says:

    May God Judge you guys as Harshly as you judged Rob Bell. Seriously. I’ve read every book he has written. And seen most of his DVDs. He is Christ centered to the core and far more Biblical than any of you pious higher than though Christians. Maybe you should your time in God’s word instead of judging others.
    Wake up. Judge not least you be judged.

  70. Erik says:

    Mel if you read Rob Bell, watched the videos and read your Bible as well as you read this post then I can understand why you’d be upset with us.

    BTW…you kinda come across as one dripping his piety and higher than though attitude. Feel free to mix it up from the Bible instead of just dropping the ubiquitous “nuh uh…!” in a blog comment.

    Hey, that’s the recess bell, I gotta go back inside.


  71. Julia Austin says:

    Well, I think we need to make our young people minds know that Mr. Rob Bell is actually manupilating the teachings of Bible.

  72. I’m sure the small minded will take this in the wrong way, but just remember, ALL the religious, doctrine saturated jews of Jesus day called him a “Heretic” when he went AGAINST, and I want to stress againm, AGAINST God’s interpreted words, according to the LEADERS OF THE CHURCH. The legalist hated Jesus, and they’ll hate Rob. I say, like Gamaliel said,”let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
    (By the way, to you legalist, since you believe the bible is the very words of God, YOU HAVE TO OBEY THIS !!)
    I grew up in your little judgemental groups, I was an Evangelical of the Evangelicals. I judged everybody but, like you and the apostle Paul, I did it ignorantly, which is why I can have compassion on Judgmental people. Nevertheless, one day you’ll find out God is bigger than any religion and talk is cheap. And like Jesus has shown me over the years, when you begin to get the beam out of your own eye, you’ll quit seeing spekles in everybody else’s eyes.

  73. Erik says:

    Steve your argument lacks reason and the integrity of addressing the issues. Just because someone is opposed doesn’t make them right. Otherwise you’d validate Satan. The issue with Jesus was his Christology; his words–which you seem to call cheap (kinda self-defeating since you left a comment!)

    furthermore, legalism is not defined as judgmentalism. Legalistic people may be judgmental but so are liberals like yourself. Legalistic people believe that they can earn and keep God’s pleasure by what they do or do not do (ie apart from Jesus). Incidentally, if you cast aside the exclusivity, sufficiency, and power of Christ’s substitionary atonement (like Rob Bell) then you too are just as guilty as the legalist, you are making your own rules.

    At least have the decency and integrity to debate the issue at hand here rather than slapping people in the head with your red herring and straw men. It’s immature and tired.

  74. I don’t have an argument and I don’t want to “debate” you. You win.

  75. Dan says:

    The words of Jesus: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.”

    These are the words of Jesus.

    Rob Bell teaches these things.

    Faith = dependance + obedience on Jesus…NOT an intillectual agreement of what or what isn’t orthodoxy.

    Jesus came didn’t die to give us good doctrine…he came to give us LIFE. He is the way; the path.

    Ephesians 5:1-2: Says be imitators of Christ.

    The greatest command is to LOVE, and by THIS all men will know that we are of Christ.

    Rob Bell teaches these things.

    Keep in mind, the only opposers to Christ were the religious. So it would be today. Let’s start with the Red Letters in THEIR own context and interpret our worldview through THEM, instead of the other way around.

    Bless you all in your processing.

  76. rd says:

    Rob bell might believe in the resurrection, but he does not teach it, which i find disturbing. ever since the fall of man, humans have been sinners, and anything we do is rooted in sin, jesus lived the life we were supposed to live and died the death we were supposed to die. I have never heard Rob Bell talk about this

  77. Larry Swift says:

    Rob Bell is a person who does go against what we believe, but because he is funny and plays funkie music doesn’t change who he is. In 2 Pet.2:1 declare we shouldn’t be surprised when false teachers arise and introduce destructive heresies, God declares there end is coming quickly and sure. He knows how to deliver them. He also grieves me. thank you for your honesty!!

  78. Hey rd, remember, the word “resurrection” can be preached many different ways. Yes, I understand that Jesus physically resurrected, but at the core of resurrection is simply new life, new reality, and Rob certainly teaches that. I often wonder though, whether the symbol is becoming more important than what it symbolizes ?

  79. James says:

    Well I’ve read this review twice now. I’m not going to try and change your mind about Rob Bell. I’m not going to say I agree with everything Rob Bell does. You just sound like you wrote out of anger. Like someone did something different than you and you didn’t like it. I would say it’s pretty hard to condemn an entire church and that church’s motives by one book and it’s leader. You’ve based most of your accusation on his view of the Virgin Birth. I don’t think his point was to disregard the Virgin birth. It’s clearly about whether or not your faith is strong enough to stand through something like that. IF that was to happen. He later affirms that he DOES believe in the virgin birth, which you wrote off as trying to cover his behind so he wouldn’t get chewed out. I think it’s a pretty big deal to say you know someones motives and someone’s heart. You say it resonates with people because the Evangelical church has separated from the evangel? How and why would that resonate with anyone. Have you been to an evangelical church? And if so can you condemn every evangelical church based on that one or maybe two experiences? The whole review seems heavy handed and not well thought out. And it doesn’t sound like you’re loving Rob Bell. You say he’s preaching an anti-gospel. Come on! Do you have the authority to say what the “gospel” is and what is the most important thing in the bible is? Secondly, if you are living like Jesus like Rob Bell says, then you will most likely in turn do the work of Jesus like you say. Don’t they go hand-in-hand? Do you really have to try and shoot down this guy over things that you BOTH agree on? Last, look at what he has done. He has brought thousands of people to look at christianity and the bible. I know it’s not all about numbers, because to say that would be foolish. But he has done a heck of a lot more than me. And he has done things for me that I haven’t had anywhere else. It’s easy to call someone a poser from behind a computer. Maybe trying to support a fellow believer and work with him on things that you disagree on would be a better idea.

  80. Jay says:

    Hi everyone.

    I am a former calvanist, reformed to following Jesus. I say this not to imply that Calvanists are not following Jesus but simply to say any religion can overshadow our need for Christ. I think my conservative background actually set good parameters for my growth in following Jesus, but it ultimately led me to become a pharisee, lacking faith, power, and love. And I see other pharisees all over this board.

    I am also a former emergent follower. I read extensively both Rob Bell and others like him such as Brian Mclaren, etc. The emergent movement began out of deconstructing and asking questions and it renewed my faith, gave me more confidence than doctrinal salvation ever could, and it gave me hope. But when the emergents began to build doctrine again it was anything but scripture based.

    Perhaps, the best solution is to balance the two. Conservatives need to examine their beliefs and their heart in light of Jesus. They need to repent from the enlightenment understanding of scripture and ask deeper personal questions and unlock the “god box”. Turn your logic into a tool, not a weapon and live out everything in the scriptures not just your doctrine.

    Rob and the Emergents, you have some good intentions, and your morality is exemplary but your reasons for morality are free floating, you have no foundation. It is time to turn you minds into discovering, with your questioning, what the foundation of your beliefs are. Compare them with the scriptures, repent and change.

    I will join both of you in this process. On this Journey.


    PS as for the critique above of Rob, it is terrible. Rob was only trying to say that we can come to follow Jesus before we have to believe in the virgin birth. It is possible that this could happen and someone could come to know Jesus like this because of His awesome grace, just not likely. Which of you is ready to stand up and say that God’s grace couldn’t do that?

  81. John Kurien says:

    If you think Rob Bell is “wrong” check out the teachings of a secretive powerful group that calls itself “Christian” at
    This group believes too that one must live the life of Jesus and obey his commandments. But they also believe that Jesus was only human and overcame the ‘sin” he found within himself as he was a fallen son of Adam just like us and that he became God by cleansing himself of all sin within his flesh.
    Their theology is called “Christ Manifest in the Flesh” and it originated a 100 years ago in Norway and has spread to many places in the world.
    Their website is
    Their teaching is exactly the same as that of Edward Irving and they have taken it much further.
    I think it is pointless asking groups like this and Rob Bell to stop claiming that they are ‘christians’. Because the only way they can get ‘converts” is by drawing other Christians who believe in the atonement to their strange teachings.

  82. jam says:

    all i have to offer:

    I do not know the conversations between bell and God and I cannot defend him, nor can I for any writers here.. all i can say is the truth i know for myself.

    the reason i am saved.. the only reason i am going to heaven after this life is because of Jesus. And the only reason i know Jesus was because a man named Rob bell introduced us, (though Jesus already knew ME)

    Rob bell is bringing bus fulls of souls to heaven.. some of you want to sit around and decide if he is going to be on that bus or if he’s going to just drop us off and end up in hell.. i don’t know. Our good Lord does though.. so if you don’t like what bell is saying or how he looks or whatever.. please know, he spoke to me and I will see you in heaven because of this. He taught me 2 things. Believe and Repent and that I cant do either without Jesus. I don’t know any books of the bible or any characters (though i;ve started reading!) i don’t even know the ten commandments.. but i know the Lord now because of this man, isn’t that enough?

  83. Devin says:

    I don’t think I noticed it in your review of Velvet Elvis but it seems to me one of the most inflamatory, at best, was Bell’s questioning of the authority and trustworthiness of scripture.

    But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the bible even is.  So when I affirm the Bible as God’s Word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did.  When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true”  p 67-68

    The five Solas of the reformation are at the very least non-nagotiables. Yet here Bell rejects the fact that we as Christians hold that no other words are as certainly nor wholey true as those given to us in the Bible. Bell rejects sola scriptura and McLaren calls us to make Budhist/Hindu followers of Christ essentially turning from Sola Cristus. There are certain things that are non-nagotiables, without which we have to question ones faith if not even consider it apostacy.

    One other commenter above did say that the emergent church did for them what doctrine couldn’t. I must disagree any change would have been inspite of the emergent teachings. Abiding in God’s word brings us to truth and freedom, but lies leave us in bondage. This verse in scripture shows us the necessity of truth, the necessity of doctrine. If doctrine isn’t changing us it is not for lack of power as it says in Jeremiah My word will go out and will not return empty, the word the truths from God do work, do change, do accomplish what God wants. We just run from such words because like a mirror they show us what we do not want to see.

    Regards <,

  84. Kyle says:

    “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…”

    What if instead of bible thumping these churches decide to show love to the lost and let God do the converting?

    maybe thats what he meant.

  85. Debbie Chen says:

    I have to say that Velvet Elvis was so much more biblical than your response. I’m curious about all your pent up anger. I don’t think you are angry about the same things God is angry about. Have you thought about going to counseling to delve into why you are such an angry person. Does the bible say, speak the truth in anger?

  86. Debbie Chen says:

    Jesus never uses the word convert. He didn’t lead a movement to convert people to Christianity. He longed for people to follow him and know him. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world who is hurting. .

  87. Erik says:

    Debbie, if people are not converting to Christianity then Jesus doesn’t make a whole lot of sense:

    Matthew 18:3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    You should be careful as you are ‘being the hands and feet of Jesus’ that you are not putting duct tape on his mouth. Because he actually has a lot of things to say.


  88. Bobby says:

    Rob Bell is great. I don’t agree with everything he says but at least he looks at things with an open perspective and doesn’t blindly swallow everything that the modern church throws out there. I think people are drawn to him because he speaks the truth and that’s what people want. In my opinion many people today trip over Christianity when they try to follow Jesus and get caught up in the “law” of the church rather than the law of Moses. God wants our hearts. If people don’t share your beliefs are they going to hell for not believing the right thing if they live a good life, love God and love their neighbor. The way fundamental, conservative Christianity is portrayed makes little sense to me the older I get and the more I ponder them.

  89. Diana says:

    February 15, 2010 at 12:12

    “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…”

    What if instead of bible thumping these churches decide to show love to the lost and let God do the converting?


    I agree, but I don’t think that’s what was meant in the quoted statement. I really don’t. And that is sad because people coming to know Him is God’s greatest desire. And if that is not a desire of His church, where does that leave us?

  90. Sherry Innes says:

    Wow. What a great review. It was factual without being judgmental. I appreciated the tone and the faithfulness to the Biblical view. I discovered the review and this site tonight, Feb. 25, 2010. It looks like it was published quite a while ago, but the message is even more needful today. I am not a reformer but I certainly hold to the fundamentals of the faith. There are certain essentials that are not open to individual interpretation in order to be considered orthodox. The virgin birth, deity and atonement of Christ, and the authority of the Scriptures. I noticed the reluctance of some of the comments to label Rob Bell’s teachings as heresy, but I don’t understand why not. Isn’t that what heresy is, false teachings? I’m afraid the “evangelical” church is reaping the results of short-changing congregations by not teaching the deeper things of the faith. Hopefully, the emergence of the “emergent church” (so called) will be the impetence to correct that.

  91. Sheena says:

    It is so sad to see how many people are being decived by this man!!! At my church about a year ago they played some of his shot clips and I was drawn to him because he was cool. So I started to watch some of his vidoes on youtube. After watch them a few time I started to get a VERY stronght feeing that I will never forget!! I didnt understand what it was at first .It was a feeing like I NEED to read my bible and I never got a feeling like that in my life!!! Not that strong .I know now that it was God telling me “No dont go that way ” Then I stared to do some research on him and ya I understand now.I had people tell me “I dont get a good feeling about this guy” but I didnt listen at first now I thank God for helping me see the truth. Praise GOD !!!!

  92. Lyn Diekman says:

    Does Rob Bell love Jesus? watch his video on bull whip man and then tell me he loves Jesus!

  93. Darin Best says:

    Let me preface this response with a disclaimer: I’m not a brilliant, well-educated scholar. I don’t have a Masters of Divinity. I’m just a guy who was confronted with God’s grace and his desire to know me and have me be in relationship with him.

    I read this article yesterday and all the responses and realize that this discussion is nearly 2 yrs. old and may not even be interesting to anyone anymore, but I was intrigued at the conversation (both sides of the argument). As I’ve continued to think about this topic, I’ve realized that this article was written from one perspective, one point of view. Erik was simply reviewing a book and may not have been looking for a discussion about whether or not his thoughts were correct. He may simply have been interacting with Rob Bell’s treatment of the subjects in Velvet Elvis. The fact of the matter is though, that he wrote it and then published his opinion on the internet. Therefore, it is open season, much like Rob Bell publishing his book and releasing it to the public. I’m sure it’s no surprise to Rob that many people disagree with his views on many subjects, I’m sure he expected many “Christians” to be shocked and disturbed that he might expose some sacred cows (i.e. the virgin birth being part of the gospel, which by the way, was not his point.). I’m sure that this, what we are doing right now, was the point of him writing said book, to get the church to come out of it’s coma…to wake up and start discussing important issues. To start being a what God called us to be and to gain a voice outside of our “holy huddles”. So…I say, GOOD JOB, ROB BELL! You have met your goal. God’s church is interacting with scripture. We are communicating between denominational lines. We are hopefully, loving one another in the process (which in the end is the proof of whether or not we’re really preaching the gospel at all right?). So, Erik, whether you agree with any or all of Rob Bell’s doctrinal standings is not the point. Rob has been an instrument of His power to work in your life to continue to mold you more and more into his image whether you realize it or not. Isn’t that his sovereign right?

    One nuts and bolts question, because I’m still in the process of learning and growing as a follower of Jesus and DON’T have all the answers or even a few of them. Erik, what is THE GOSPEL in your understanding and view of scripture? This is a sincere and honest question that I’ve discussed at length with many fellow Christians and really just want another perspective on it. What I mean is, is the gospel inclusive of all of scripture or is it confined to just the texts relating to justification, atonement, and regeneration? Is the gospel and therefore the basis for being able to call someone a brother or sister in Christ, solely based on right doctrine relating to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ or is there something more that should be our litmus test? If believing in the “true gospel” means that we must adhere to and believe all of scripture as being completely accurate and literal, then one would have to believe that the earth was created in 6 literal days, that a serpent spoke to Eve, that a donkey spoke to what’s his name, and that Jonah was really swallowed by a large fish and kept there for 3 days. All of these of course are inflammatory and hot-button issues that every congregation in the world would have many people who hold very different and valid positions on these passages. I personally believe all of these passages happened just the way they are written…I have been graciously given the gift of faith, but for many fellow believers, these are stumbling blocks. If they had to sign a document that says they believe in these things to be considered a Christian, they wouldn’t be “Christians”.

    In my understanding of the gospel, the virgin birth is not a corollary piece of the “good news”. Yes, it adds to the miraculous nature of the gospel, it shows God’s sovereignty in His ability to transcend the natural order of things, but I’ve never heard of anyone denying the that someone is or is not a Christian based on whether they believe that Rahab was really a prostitute…after all, if she wasn’t a prostitute it wouldn’t be as good a story of redemption that she is in the lineage of Jesus’ step-father. Or that if one doesn’t believe that Jonah really was swallowed by a large fish that they were not teaching the “real gospel”. After all, Jesus uses this story as a prooftext that he will rise from the grave in 3 days “just like Jonah”.
    (Matt. 12:39-41) 39He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one[a] greater than Jonah is here.

    The truth is that many of you will interpret the passages I’ve mentioned differently and many of you will say there is ONE way to interpret it. If all scripture useful for teaching and rebuking, etc…then we cant’ forget James 1:19-27 as well.

    One last disclaimer: I do not wear “geek-chic glasses” (in fact, I don’t wear them at all). I haven’t joined the “Rob Bellion”; I eat meat that I’ve hunted and fished for myself; I believe that there is a time and a place to kick some butt (just-war); but neither am I a Driscoll fan…sorry! Or a Piper fan. I’m not a Calvanist and IF I were, I wouldn’t wave it as a banner that I have all the answers and everyone else who believes differently than I do is apostate. The older I get, and the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize I don’t KNOW, but the more I realize I know HIM!

  94. Lisa847 says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  95. Matt says:

    Well Erik and everyone who commented on this.. I think it is far less necessary to sort through all of the doctrinal stuff that seems to separate us Christians, creating walls that keep us from focusing on what Christ did for us. Erik, your problems with Bell are apparant, but in your arguement you do not use one piece of evidence or text support to show readers the controversial things he writes. For all we know, your paraphrases could be solely “you-inspired.” Yes, he mentions “virgin” to sometimes translate as “young woman” but if you actually look at that paragraph you’ll see that’s not what he believes. He’s posing an idea from the perspective of a sceptic. When people read, they need to look deeper. What you’re doing by taking his thoughts out of context and exploiting them can, and is, seriously ruining his reputation. Prayers, brother

  96. Matt says:

    “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Why are we arguing about this. Shouldn’t we be telling people about Jesus? Erik put the “ire” in Ireland.

  97. Steve says:

    I cant disagree that Jesus Christ our sublimentary attonment is the key factor in what to sharing what is our slavation…However you cant downplay the improtance of Living as Christ did. Christ death is central, but living as Christ is of the utmost importance as well. The fact is when Christ came he set us to a higer standard even above the Law and we should stive for this so that our obedience can lead to righteousness leading to holliness.

  98. Erik says:

    Steve, I think you mean ‘substitionary atonement’…not sure about a ‘sublimentary’ atonement.

  99. John Coombes says:

    Is your foul language typical of American Christians, or would you consider this old man a prudish pre-modern (like ancient paths)?
    Eph 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
    eg Everyone gets pissed
    and crappy, legalistic churches

  100. Jack says:

    It is good to see people are beginning to open their eyes to the problems with this anti-Gospel theology.
    A year ago I cold find very few who understood how dangerous Bell and McLaren (and others like them) truly are to everyone, esp young people whom they have targeted.
    (Even some in the PCA have embraced their teachings, which has formed a fine mess, but I am hopeful that the weeding has begun.)
    I too have heard preachers like these talk about “coming along side” and “loving” but purposely neglecting to mention the need for repentance and trusting in the Lord
    Jesus. It is not loving to send people merrily on the way to hell. But they feel they don’t want to offend anyone!
    (Do they know that the Bible says that the Gospel is offensive? Do they know that it says that Christians will be persecuted? If they are doing the persecution, which they often are, are they not like Saul? But Jesus can convert them to Pauls! Amen.))
    Unfortunately, when you point these things out these though these folks get very angry to the point of hostility; like Mel, above who said “may God judge you as harshly as you have judged Rob Bell”…that is a very significant comment, that truly makes me afraid for these people. (Not unlike Rob Bell mocking “bullhorn guy”)(all I could think the whole time was…Uh, OH, he’s going to get in trouble for this, (yes, from God) if He doesn’t stop.)
    These young people think they are clever but they are very unaware of the reality of who God is and what He is like. My guess is that most of them have not read Ezekiel or Daniel or Revelation.
    And I think that they have not yet really suffered.
    Maybe, after the reality of a life kicks in, perhaps they will begin to become disillusioned with their pseudo intellectual gurus who can’t offer them anything and they will turn to the Lord in fear and trembling.

    1. Joshua says:

      I’ve seen extreme trauma in my life.
      You’re a fool.

      I’m not angry with this post, I just think churches are extremely segregated and it hurts me to think I can’t go to some people openly with my problems in fear of YOUR wrath of being so compassionate for your fellow man who may or may not wrong you at any time.

      You separate Christians as if they are a different brand, or don’t stand a chance of making it in God’s eyes.

      You’re wrong. Plain and simple.

    2. Sherry says:

      “they will turn to the Lord in fear and trembling.”

      I will NEVER again “turn to the Lord in fear and trembling.”

      I was raised in a Fundamentalist home and spent many Sundays as a child sitting in a pew in abject terror as the pastor preached of hell & damnation and the horrors the unsaved would endure in the Apocalypse. I had nightmares of not only myself, but also my Catholic and non-Christian friends screaming in unbearable pain in the fires of hell. I was in constant fear of coming home only to find my parents gone, taken up in the Rapture. I suffered all this even though I had been “saved” because, in my heart, I could not believe in nor reconcile God’s “love” with the hate inherent in the fearful things I was being taught.

      Thankfully, I finally saw the “light.” As a young teenager, we were being taught about Gandhi in school. I was in awe of this man, his wisdom, and the good he had done in the world. That Sunday, the pastor was again preaching hell & damnation and stated, “Even Gandhi, in all his goodness, will spend eternity in that lake of fire because he has not accepted Jesus Christ as his savior!” With those words, it became crystal clear to me that the beliefs I had been taught all my life were not true.

      At that point I turned away from and rejected religion. It then took me many, many years to finally realize that true spirituality has nothing to do religion. And to come to understand that the “God” that created and guides us is a force that instills love, acceptance, joy, and true peace, not “fear and trembling.”

      My heart hurts for you, that you are trapped in such a destructive belief system. Still, I know that once you move beyond this world, you will come to know the true love of God.

  101. John Dunning says:

    I am sick and tired of the way in which many Christians pussy-foot around what is crucial. How can you guys make stupid remarks about anger management courses, when someone has such a heart as to stand against half hearted preaching that ultimately sends people to hell?

    We serve a God who is angry with the wicked every day, and yet remains a Just Judge. Should He go on an anger management course too? Is it not the Bible that tells us:

    “Therefore, putting away lying, “LET EACH ONE OF YOU SPEAK TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR,” for we are members of one another. “BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,”
    [Ephesians 4:25-26]

    Unless we proclaim the full counsel of God, which includes the substitutionary atonement that is found in Christ alone, then we proclaim another gospel and should be accursed.

  102. Mr. Snyder says:

    If you live a good life, help people, and do what is right then it doesn’t matter what your religion is. It is a lack of understanding of this principle that has led to zealous fanaticism, planes flying into buildings, and the shooting of abortion doctors. The more certain a person becomes about the nature of anything, the more dangerous they become to themselves and humanity. It is with unease and trepidation that I watch the world filling with “religious certitude”, leading to more misunderstanding, death, and destruction.

    And now, for the inevitable….

    1. Konastephen says:

      Ah Snyder. You crack me up. You’re expecting a blizzard of hate because you’ve convinced yourself that the word “fundamentalist” does in fact mean what the New Yorker said it meant when they first used it to describe the good folks of Ohio’s “faith community” who naively believed that God actually created the world. You do disservice to the truth when you equate Bible-believing Christians with Moslem terrorists. You’ve got eyes but you’re just not seeing. What made you post this comment? Smugness? Superciliousness? Group behaviour? Is it just too hard for you to stand on your own two feet and follow Jesus?

      By the way, when you say “live a good life”, what do you mean by “good”?

  103. CT says:

    Mr Snyder,

    You said, “It is with unease and trepidation that I watch the world filling with “religious certitude”…”

    If you truly believe this then why did you open your post with your own version of “religious certitude”? You said, “If you live a good life, help people, and do what is right then it doesn’t matter what your religion is.”

    Your statements are contradictory and they fall into the same logic trap as when someone says “there is no such thing as absolute truth.” This statement is an “absolute truth” and defeats the very arguement it is trying to support.

    Something to think about…

  104. Great n Thanks. Keep working.I just added your site to my bookmark page.

  105. Konastephen says:

    Amen, Brother!!!

    Not that geek-chic is evil (unless you were never a geek in which case you lie by sporting it). Not that new clothes are bad (unless you are glorifying the opposite of what the Amish would call “demut” – Biblical Christ-like humility). Not that repainting the Gospel is a bad idea (unless you’re treating it like one of those mausoleums to which Jesus compared the Pharisees)…..

    It’s pretty obvious that Rob Bell thinks he’s cool. Young people today have been taught that cool is sweet. Personally, I think King David is cool. I think the law of the Lord is sweet (like honeycomb on my lips). I want to be like King David, who would’ve flipped his lid if he’d been able to experience the atonement his descendant Jesus brought us and then lived to see someone tell us that it doesn’t really matter if it literally all played out the way it did… I think Rob Bell is a poser. I love the guy. But I wish he’d shut up and work out his own salvation with fear and trembling for a while.

    Thanks for this summary of what’s ill about emergentism.

  106. Dave says:

    Hi Patrick

    Only just stumbled upon your page here about Rob Bell’s ‘Velvet Elvis’. I heartily agree with your review.

    God bless.

  107. Lee says:

    Rob Bell is much closer to God’s message than you seem to be(note: GOD’s. I do not believe in the fundamentalist Jesus cult concept.) You accept the orthodoxies of your branch of Christianity, but resent examination and questioning. Re: Virgin birth – if you go back to the texts in their original languages instead of relying on translations of translations, all of which were and are political, you will live a very different faith – much like that espoused by Bell – instead f doing Christianity-rote.

  108. Christian Osburn says:

    I guess I appreciate pastors like Bell for asking questions about poignant topics. I don’t think in most cases he’s making black & white statements like “there was no Virgin birth”, “there is no hell”, etc. I think he’s daring to ask, “what if there isn’t/wasn’t”? Does it change your faith that there is no hell or Virgin birth or that guys like Ghandi might have snuck into heaven? i think he’s pointing out (more than anything) that we hold onto doctrines too tight at the expense of others.

  109. Farmboy says:

    Of course you’re angry. The your “Gospel” is centered on Hell.

    Hell, the Norse goddess of the underworld Helheim that got inserted into the “divinely inspired Word of God,” ranks theologically more important than Jesus, to those who demonstrate strong RWA (Right Wing Authoritarian) scores.

    Jesus’ core teachings are mocked as “liberal garbage,” and only the magic “divine plan of fire insurance” is regarded as consequential.

    The real he heart of the matter is a personality trait called RWA or Right Wing Authoritarian personality. Look up RWA scale on google; I’m guessing you’d rank high. The RWA heart is one of anger, jealousy, punishment, aggression, domination and control.

    Take away the Authoritarian Submissive’s dearly beloved Hell, sadism, and psychopathic torture, and life becomes empty and meaningless.

    Sorry, but Jesus was not a thought-crime control-freak. Read up on his core teachings, and it will change your life from being an Authoritarian Submissive.

    Nobody is going to be sent to hell by your petulant deity for the thought crime of thinking differently than you – even if you make-believe they will. That’s good news to non-sadists.

  110. Nathan says:

    Why are we arguing about this? Shouldn’t we go feed the homeless or something?

    1. Meredith says:

      lol. and YES. I do think it’s important to have a deeper understanding of your faith…I think talking about it is healthy. But that is why I like your comment…because people aren’t just talking about it. They are getting violently defensive, on both sides, and saying this or that person is going to hell. Isn’t that God’s job, not ours? Also, I would love to know the authors thoughts now that “Love Wins” has come out. But then that would be opening a whole other can of worms

  111. Jim says:

    Let’s call it what it really is….snake oil. You have the perfect right to express your thinking about what appears to be only another charlatan.

    I am quite afraid there is only one sincere motivation for such fanciful yet eroneous doctrine, and this is in the selling of books, lots of books. It is about money, the scriptural root of all evil.

  112. Phil says:

    The anger and vituperation generated by Rob Bell is alarming and is reminiscent of what my spiritual forebearers went through during the reformation and up into the 1800s when they had to flee their homelands for America due to narrowminded angry people who were convinced their brand of christianity was the only way and they would enforce it with excommunication, expropriation of property and death. It is also reminiscent of the time period 320 A.D to about 650 A.D. (read “The Jesus Wars”) when christians persecuted and killed each other over differences in theology. It goes to show that Christians really haven’t matured all that well, and that the show of civility, even among christians, in this country is a fairly thin veneer. A problem with emphasizing Christ’s work through the cross while downplaying his teachings and work prior to his death is that disregarding his teachings and modelling of behavior leads to superficial christianity. Results: it’s really not much different behaviorally from the negative aspects we see in islam. Jesus didn’t say that in the judgment he would separate the sheep from the goats based on whether people believed in the virgin birth and many other doctrines…he will judge based on what we did to the poor, the prisoners, the hungry ones.

    1. Jim says:

      Perhaps not, but he did say some things that you and others of your ilk boldly gloss over and obfuscate key learnings, such as the parable of Lazarus and the rich the man, acts and events upon the return of Jesus, Mt. 3.11-12, Mt. 5.21-22, Mt. 5.29-30, Matthew 10:28, Lk. 12.4-5, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33 and Isa. 66.24, to mention a few.

      While it is easy for proselytes to wield their new found readings like a young Roman soldier would wildly swing his sword in battle, it is the maturity of study and years of wisdom gained through prayer, meditation and reflection on scholarly commentary that truly gifts the full knowledge of salvation and our redemption from hell.

      Without such maturity of thought, your dogma is no better than Roman Catholic theologians, and is certainly no mastery of scripture. Your immaturity on matters of Bible study show much more than you will probably ever realize until you have gained some insight later in your lives.

      Blessings for you for trying, I hope, but study long and hard before your render verdicts and pronounce conviction on others who have done the heavy lifting of study from many, many years.

  113. Billy iama says:

    I was listening at first, and I ll look into it. But you just discredited yourself the moment you decided to attack how he dresses. How does that fit into anything else you are trying to say. As a christian, I can honestly say that your thoughts are not healthy on this subject if you are going to that point.

  114. Sincerity, good intentions, contextual language is important, but never justify doctrinal reduction. This trial undermines the relationship with the Gospel of Truth.

  115. Willy says:

    I disagree with the main points of this article. If he gets anybody to stop just day dreaming and actually think about what they believe and act on it. I’m all behind him. I’m also disappointed in the misquoting that took place in this review. In almost every critique they left off half of Bell’s sentence. Anyone can cut and paste to make someone look like heretic. I am saddened how much hate is poured on a brother in Christ when in reality the Enemy sits on his throne and laughs while we rip ourselves apart.

  116. Your review was very well done…

  117. Taylre says:

    I liked a lot of this book. I felt like he brought some things to my attention that I hadn’t thought of. But of course, I think he’s just a bit radical–I think he writes off the conversion thing a bit. But also, I don’t. I was “converted” when I was a kid. But I really wasn’t. I didn’t understand at all. And somehow gradually I’ve become a Christian. I cannot pinpoint one moment when it was like *bam* I know I’m right with God. I grew into it. But he also brought it to my attention (not on purpose) that truly, the Bible is a gem of many facets (to semi quote him). There are LOTS of interpretations, and we can only hope that God leads us to the right one. I’m not angry at him. I feel like he’s bringing me another point of view. My faith in the Bible is truly faith that God will direct me to the right interpretation, that the books he wanted were put in, and that the translation I’m reading will still get across to me what was meant to be said.

    On another note, I think you took the virgin thing wrong. He wasn’t denouncing Jesus’ virgin birth, he was proving that to believe the Bible we must have faith.

    And I also think he was right in bringing up Jewish culture so much. Reading the Bible without it is crippling.

  118. Kurt says:

    I purchased a copy of Velvet Elvis because my pastor suggested we read it. I only made it thru two chapters before I tossed it. The true Rob Bell has finally be exposed.

    1. Erik says:

      You might want to follow up with that pastor, if you haven’t already.

  119. Joshua says:

    Your view of Christianity sounds more like racial segregation than an all-loving God. I believe in a just God, but just in the sense that he accepts his peoples faults, therefor, why he sent Christ to begin with. Nothing we can do, can prove to God that we are worthy. This blog entry is a waste of your energy, as is this comment I’m making.

    You and your segregation are the reason your “religion” is not growing, rather failing. I say “religion” in the standard literal sense. Not in the terms of Christianity or Jesus’ himself. They don’t conform to your standards, nobody does. Nobody will EVER conform to your human opinions or your perfected understanding of the vast universe.

    I’m certain God will give you a high-five in heaven for all your great blog entries that create a huge GAP between you and your religion and the people who need it most.


  120. Bill S. says:

    I write as someone no longer the part of any church, though I was reared in the strictures of the Southern Baptist religion. I get the devotion to the story of the virgin birth, it was a intricate part of the beliefs of my parents and their generation. Later on in life I ran across this quote from Thomas Jefferson:

    “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

    The generation that Bell is speaking to is not the generation that was subservient to the feudal overlords of the middle ages and their papal masters, unlettered, unread, told what to believe by their betters, deliberately fed on lies, kept in line by stocks, whips, or in some cases, burning stakes. Is your Christian faith so shallow that it can only survive if it condemns all those who question whether it is essential to Christian belief that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin?

    Bell is such a successful pastor, writer, teacher because he does not erect artificial barriers between people and God’s love. Pastors such as the author of this blog don’t need anger management, they need to recognize that they are not going to bring others to the salvation if the price of admission is the surrender of their reason to superstition and fable that was transparent to minds as rational as Jefferson’s 200 years ago.

    If you are going to worry about someone, worry about those like yourselves who have driven millions of people from Christ by insisting that believers swallow myths like the virgin birth. Shame on you.

  121. Travis says:

    is Rob Bell about to become irrelevant or will his message resonate with a new generation of Christians?

  122. Perry says:

    I ended up here while searching for the “reason” Bell’s stuff was pulled from our church’s bookstore. I only new of him because of the nooma video series – which I found very thought provoking. I must say that reading through most of these posts was way better than any small group discussion I have ever participated in, by far. Lots of great and passionate comments. I leave confused about Bell. Reminds me of when “Christian Rock” got started. We were all going to hell for listening. I remain certain of my salvation and greatful that I learned a few years back to renew my mind (again) and seek to please God instead of man. His ways are above our ways.

    1. Erik says:

      Thanks for the comment Perry. I would not equate Rob Bell to Rock Music. While the noise might be providing the same type of ‘feedback’ it is different. Bell has jumped of the ship of orthodoxy into the ocean of liberalism. It would probably be a good follow up to talk with your pastor as to why it’s been pulled from the bookstore.

  123. Sherry says:

    “The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners(i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles.”

    To be a Christian means to be “Christ Like”, to pattern our lives on the paradigm of Christ’s life in this world. It doesn’t mean to follow the “prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles”.

    And exactly what was “the work of Christ on behalf of sinners”? If you look at his life, it was one of service, acceptance, and the teaching of love and forgiveness of others. To base your Christianity on the “prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles”. is to be “Apostle Like” not Christ Like”.

  124. Kaye says:

    “Who dares to bind to one’s own sense the oracles of heaven, for all the nations, tongues, and climes and all the ages given? That universe, how much unknown! The ocean unexplored! The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his word.”
    – from a hymn by 19th-century poet George Rawson.

    So what’s my point? Regarding interpretation: Judeo-Christian Scripture has been used through the centuries to justify everything from slavery to polygamy, from violence to vengeance; sexism, racism, oppression, murder, bigotry, national imperialism, and other acts and beliefs which, through scholarship and the leading of the Holy Spirit, were one by one abandoned (at least in theory) in light of new interpretation.

    I think God and God’s creations — the universe, time, matter, energy, etc. are so massive and beyond our comprehension that to claim more than a very limited understanding of any of them is myopic if not delusional. Therefore, I believe that as history progresses we must remain open to fuller and deeper illumination of Scriptural truths, or our descendants may someday relegate us to the same category as those devout Christians who steadfastly but incorrectly held their view that the world was flat.

    1. Joe says:

      ^ This! This right here!

  125. Mike says:

    Patrick, from the comments above we see a deceivers form inmass…The time of the anti- christ is here ..The “Great Deceiver” Like Michael said, “The Lord rebuke you” Jude 1:9 then read 1:10 No more needs to be said.. Thanks for the heads up about this deceiver. God with you Patrick.

  126. Sherry says:

    I ask you this; If you knew of a person who punished a child, or anyone, by burning him or torturing him, would you call that person a loving? Would you accept this person’s teachings or follow his leadership? I strongly doubt you would. So how can you claim to believe in and follow a “loving” God if he punishes and tortures people by burning them for eternity in the fires of hell?

    The true God is a God of LOVE, not a sadistic being who condemns people to an eternity of unbearable pain.

  127. Jackie Sprague says:

    Thank you for your response. I have not read any Rob Bell books. I have been reading all the hype about him and watching the You Tube videos. He is just a product of the “Fluff Movement” that is so popular in Christian Theology today. AKA the “Joel Olsteen” effect, the let’s be cool like the world rather than preaching biblical doctrines (The Doctrines of Grace-TULIP). He has taken the fluff/no substance preaching to the next level. He is a HERETIC and should be slammed for the garbage he is preaching.

  128. Don says:

    I’m a relatively new Christian and as such you can take my comments or leave them. I was introduced to Rob Bell early on in my walk and found his videos and writings refreshing. I also found that they left me confused and I turned to the word of God for clarification. I no longer read or watch anything produced by Rob Bell. If anyone teaches anything that is in conflict with the teacings of Jesus Christ it can come from only one source; Satan. We need to all be on guard.

    1. Jackie says:

      Don, I am the post right above you. I am glad God has given you the wisdom to go to the scriptures and not trust in the preacher when he is preaching false doctrine. Since you are a relatively new Christian, check out this website Senior Pastor Dr. R.A. Hargrave of Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach, FL is in my opinion the greatest preacher of the gospel today. I attended his church when I lived in FL.

  129. Chuck says:

    Proverbs 16:25

    1. Kaye says:

      Hey, how about Deut. 28:53? Or Deut. 23:1? Or Lev. 25:44? Or Exodus 21:7?

      Pulling single verses out and proof-texting have gotten the church into lots of trouble over the course of history. Maybe we should learn from our mistakes? Context, anyone?

  130. jony gamez says:

    I completely disagree with your take on rob bell. I wont go into too much detail but one point i will make. The church today is losing a battle of numbers. Mainly due to the fact thats it has no relevance to the world we live in. So we say “well they just don’t want to hear the word of god, its not my fault”. Wrong Rob bell is connecting with people at the very essence of Christianity. For once stop thinking so closed minded and open your eyes to the truth, what do the gospels comprise of mostly. 90% is about the kingdom of god, how do we achieve the kingdom of God, by citing a prayer of salvation? carrying rituals? developing doctrine that segregates instead of building a common ethos? No, Jesus put it simply in the two greatest commandments love god i.e. acknowledge the creator and love him and all that he stands for. Then you realize all God stands for is his love for us which leads us into loving others as i Jesus ordained it. Through his example, Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate it. The sacrifice on the cross is important but it is not the focus. Think about it. As father i have noticed do you concern yourself in following all the rules of building a good family or just live by being a family. This is no different to the God i know.

  131. Michael says:

    I’m not “mad” at you, but I COULD take your remarks “out of context” and say that you don’t believe that obeying Jesus is essential or all that important. (I know you don’t really believe that, but one wouldn’t have to stretch your words too much to come to that conclusion.) And, why should I trust you or believe you about what is of “first importance” when it comes to being a Christian? Jesus said, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor”. Have you done that? Jesus said, “The sheep (those in heaven) fed me, gave me drink, clothed me, comforted me. The goats (those not in heaven) did not feed me, give me drink, clothe me, or comfort me”. Where O where does Jesus say, “Unless you accept me as your personal Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in hell?” And, even if you could find any verse like that in Scripture (you can’t), why should I accept your personal interpretation of what that means? I will end by asking you if you are willing to say, “Anne Frank is spending eternity in hell because she died a devout believer in the Jewish faith and did not accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior.” Because that is what you want me to believe. You may not like putting it in those terms, but that is what you want me to believe. I don’t believe that, and I thank Jesus (literally, “Thank you, Jesus”!) that I don’t believe that. I look forward to seeing Anne Frank and many others who were devout Jews (like Jesus) when they died. We will tiptoe past your heavenly mansion so you won’t freak out by finding that people of the Jewish faith are in heaven, too.

  132. Bobby says:

    Well, I’ve read this review twice now. I’m not going to try to change your mind about Rob Bell. Neither am I going to say that I agree with everything Rob Bell does. You just sound like you wrote out of anger. It sounds like someone did something different than you, and you didn’t like it. I would say it’s pretty hard to condemn an entire church, and that church’s motives by one book and it’s leader. You’ve based most of your accusation on his view of the Virgin Birth. I don’t think his point was to disregard the Virgin birth. It’s clearly about whether or not your faith is strong enough to stand through something like that. IF that was to happen. He later affirms that he DOES believe in the virgin birth, which you wrote off as trying to cover his behind so he wouldn’t get chewed out. I think it’s a pretty big deal to say you know someones motives and someone’s heart. You say it resonates with people because the Evangelical church has separated from the evangel? How and why would that resonate with anyone? Have you been to an evangelical church? And if so can you condemn every evangelical church based on that one or maybe two experiences? The whole review seems heavy handed, and not well thought out. And it doesn’t sound like you’re loving Rob Bell. You say he’s preaching an anti-gospel. Come on! Do you have the authority to say what the “gospel” is and what the most important thing in the bible is? Secondly, if you are living like Jesus like Rob Bell says, then you will most likely in turn do the work of Jesus like you say. Don’t they go hand-in-hand? Do you really have to try and shoot down this guy over things that you BOTH agree on? Last, look at what he has done. He has brought thousands of people to look at christianity and the bible. I know it’s not all about numbers, because to say that would be foolish. But he has done a heck of a lot more than me. And he has done things for me that I haven’t had anywhere else. It’s easy to call someone a poser from behind a computer. Maybe trying to support a fellow believer and work with him on things that you disagree on would be a better idea.

  133. Steve Alexander says:

    From one pastor to another. Awesome job, sir. May you prosper in the care and nurture of the sheep that the Chief Shepherd has entrusted you with. Steve

  134. John Bautista says:

    crazzzyyyy conversation here…

    does anyone know if this article is true??
    Rob Bell Leaving Mars Hill

    thanks john

    1. Erik says:

      He is leaving, yes… And this is crazy talk in this thread.

      1. Gene says:


        You ain’t kiddin’! Alot of these folks traded in their anger and common sense for a Dr. Phil degree! Wooooooo! Take a pill people, people…obviously the man was being a little bit tongue-in-cheek about his “anger”! And all the deep insight that people pretend to have! “It sounds like someone did something different than you, and you didn’t like it.” Really? What are you, Bobby…clairvoyant? A Seer? Maybe your one of those them there Mediums! I read the same thing Erik wrote and I couldn’t get within a mile of that assumption! Erik, for what its worth, and according to my take on your firm grasp of this whole dustup, I won’t be offended if lil’ ol’ me don’t hold a candle to your gift of sense, but I just wanted to let you know that you are spot on! You’re as near to the truth as Obama is to moving day January of 2013! God Bless!

        1. Joe says:

          Because you all clearly have a patent on religion right?

          This is exactly the problem Rob is talking about.

          Oh, and if Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, or Herman Cain defeat President Obama in the next election, I will eat my copy of Velvet Elvis and post the youtube video here.

          1. SoV says:

            How about that Ron Paul guy? He’s the only candidate out of all of them who has a record that proves he’s been consistent in his political views of limited constitutional government.

  135. Rachel says:


    I like what Rob Bell says about being like Jesus. I feel that it is important, as Mahatma Gandhi put it, to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Not by converting or trying to change other peoples opinions but by attempting to be like the people you admire most. I admire Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Jesus. None of these people made a difference by forcibly trying to change others, they made a difference by becoming more understanding and accepting of other peoples cultures and beliefs. Trying to change others doesn’t work. The world is of so many different opinions that the best way to work together is to be understanding and accepting. People react much better to someone who is accepting and who loves them unconditionally -regardless if they are of a different race, gender, sexual orientation or belief – than they do to an oppressive church or a man with a gun yelling at them to change or they’ll shoot. It is not our job on earth to change everybody’s minds into thinking like you. It is not our job to judge others it is the lords job in heaven. It is only our job to teach them what we know and love them even if they choose not to listen. Society has a tendency to want to control others opinions. However, the popular opinion of one time may be different in our posterity just as our opinions today are different from those of our ancestors. Everyone has a different opinion of what is right and true but nobody has the right to control others opinions. I believe that every belief should be discussed, argued, examined and tested just as science is tested. Only then can we find the best truth for our time. It pains me to see those groups who protest funerals because the dead man was gay or who claim that it was the lords will that a small child was shot. These people praise death, not God. These people practice hate and intolerance. It is not our place to judge, we are here to learn to love, unconditionally. That means without conditions. We cannot say “well, I would love this person but they do not think like me, they do not agree with my morals. They are the wrong color, they are gay so I cannot.” Those are all conditions. This is what Rob Bell is saying and I don’t believe that his main point contradicts the bible at all, it is simply a different interpretation of it – a difference of opinion to be discussed – as we are doing. Our job as Christians is to change ourselves, not others. Look inward. It doesn’t really matter whether Mary was a virgin or not. These are minor details in the big picture. Who cares if there is a hell or not? we should still be the best individuals we can be, why should the nonexistence of hell matter? It shouldn’t. If it does matter than you probably aren’t loving others because of your good heart. Why should it matter if others don’t believe in hell so long as they are living a good life?

  136. Zach says:

    Since when was trying to “becoming more like Jesus” a bad thing? Rob Bell never claimed that his book was a complete guide and ultimatum to everything about the gospel. In fact, he even specifically told his readers to not just assume everything he said as correct and to look into it on their own. He offered a very important perspective on Christianity that many of us oversee, and I thank him dearly for that.

    If “those who are for us cannot be against us” then why in the world would it be appropriate to slander publicly about another Christian leader? That right there would be more inappropriate than anything Rob wrote in his book, which had been written as an opinion, or word of advice, to help those who could have been helped.

    There is nothing more that the devil loves than Christian leaders fighting amongst each other, please knock it off.

    Can we please open our eyes and act like the brothers and sisters that we are, that we are supposed to be?

    P.S. he can name his church whatever he wants to name it – we are missing the point altogether.

  137. Gary Sellars says:

    Accusing Bell of believing that the virgin birth is not essential is a pretty significant charge. I therefore was surprised that you didn’t even bother to give ONE quote from him that clearly says so.

    That is irresponsible and puts you in the category of libeler in my eyes.

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and it’s not my responsibility to diligently search out your credibility. You should have sufficiently defended your charge when you made it.

    I hope your conscience sufficiently works that you correct the inequity immediately along with an apology for your original failure to do so. After all, 2Co 8:21 is still in my Bible. “for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” NASB

  138. Joe says:

    I loved this book. For the first time in my life I found myself compelled to track down contact info for an author and call them to personally thank them for writing it.

  139. SoV says:

    I know this post is years behind, but I stumbled across this thread and wanted to post the following verse in response to Rich Johnson, who seems to want to steer people AWAY from sound Biblical doctrine.

    “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering AND DOCTRINE. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:1-4

    According to 2 Timothy, sound doctrine is CRITICAL for preaching the Gospel to a lost world. It is particularly interesting that this is taught in conjunction with a warning against false teachers. Simply put, false teachers abandon sound doctrine and long-suffering.

    Also, this verse must be taken into consideration:

    “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that NO PROPHECY OF THE SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” – 2 Peter 1:19-21

    So you see, scripture isn’t open to subjective interpretation at the whimsical fancies of men. Of course, God uses scripture to teach us under our unique circumstances, but the message of scripture is absolute and applies to everyone. Our various situations are unique and subjective, but the Word of God is not.

    Sound doctrine is key to preaching the Gospel. If that is abandoned, then space is made to accommodate false doctrines and wolves in sheeps clothing.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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