Did Rob Bell Really Say…?

 —  February 19, 2015 — 24 Comments

“Rob Bell is in the news again.”

My wife mentioned this to me the other day. I wasn’t aware of all the details in that moment, so I simply sighed.

robbellBell made headlines this week via an interview he and his wife took part in with Oprah Winfrey. The Bells promoted their new book on marriage, while poking at its definition and Christianity in general. Their book includes a chapter for gay couples.

Rob said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

Charisma Magazine responded:

God made us to be relational beings, but in a very specific way. He formed Eve as the fit companion and helper for Adam, the two of them uniquely designed to complement each other in the journey and mission of life.

And Paul’s solution to loneliness (and, even more so, to temptation) was specific as well: “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

He didn’t say, “Each person should have his or her own companion,” because that was never God’s intent for His creation… according to Bell, human feelings trump God’s Word, which can easily be dismissed as outdated—2,000 years outdated, it appears.

didGodLet’s talk about what we’re talking about… whether it’s the next thing Rob Bell says, or the next “Rob Bell.”

The first question in the Bible begins with “Did God really say…”

The first question a human asked in the Bible asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I see a theme there.

Rob is great at asking questions. It’s what made him largely popular among many Christians early on in his ministry. I sat under him as my pastor for a season when he was theologically sound. I realize that sounds like a summary statement, and it absolutely is. It’s the kind of statement that Rob himself might say, “Who’s to say what theologically sound even means? Is it because someone agrees with you?”

Notice, that would be simply asking another question. Still, Jesus said to evaluate people and teachers to make sure the fruit they were producing was healthy because it was in agreement with God.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched Rob build a career and new theological platform on asking questions…

which is like saying, “I’m going to jump up in the air. About midway up, I’ll jump again simply in my own power… and then, midway up from there… I’ll jump again, again in my own power.”

doublejumpThe first jump is sound… any jumps after that are just resisting what is actual law.

(Maybe a little much Mario has influenced this thinking.)

You’d have to construct something artificial – a platform, perhaps –  to make any subsequent jumps.You might become so used to using your platform and seeing others use it that you’d actually begin to feel like you redefined what it means to jump.

You haven’t.

You’ve merely gotten a number of people to buy into your platform to allegedly reach new heights.

Which perhaps is why when speaking on the attempt to redefine marriage to accommodate gay couples, Bell added, “…the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense. When you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other, and they just want to go through life with someone.”

Hang on… “Did Rob Bell really say…?” And because he did, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Here’s the irony – and this is what I’d really like to point out.

Bell is kicking at biblical values using biblical values. You see that, right?

I noticed this pattern in a review I wrote for his book Love Wins. Bell talks about the beauty of marital love from a perspective that God blessed us to have… while at the same time he’s questioning the very Source material by which he even knows that to begin with.

dictionaryAgain, it’s like saying, “The Dictionary is an outdated concept. Words no longer have meaning.” To state that, you just used words.

Tracking so far?

If there are any takeaways you can offer to people you know who are processing this, help them to understand this point.

There will always be someone in our midst on this side of heaven who perhaps with good intention is attempting to make sure we’re not missing something. Such individuals can either be helpful accountability to Christianity, or become so focused on potential errors that they create new ones in the process.

Thankfully, there will always be a God in our midst, too – both on this side of heaven and on the other side of it. He’s not threatened by Rob Bell’s comments… nor should we.

What we do need to do is remove the stumbling blocks it puts into the paths of others.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Thoughts?

I’ll admit it.

I’m feeling edgy as I write this post.

bibleI just finished reading an article via Relevant Magazine’s website entitled “5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible.” It has layers and layers of comments with all the diversity that you might expect. .

I hope it’s okay, but I’d like to share what I wrote there here to enlarge the conversation.

The article’s author essentially makes the following five points:

  1. The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book: “It isn’t really a book at all. It’s a lot of books. It’s a library.. and those books have dozens of authors… each had very different target audiences, disparate life circumstances and specific agendas for their work; so we don’t approach each book the same way.. some are for inspiration and some for information; we receive and see them differently.”
  2. The Bible Isn’t as Clear as We’d Like It To Be: “When you read and study this library in its totality, there are certainly themes and continuities and things that connect exquisitely, but if we’re honest we can also admit there are ambiguities.”
  3. 
The Bible Was Inspired by God, Not Dictated by God: “The Bible is ‘God’s Word,’ but we need to be careful about what we mean when we say it was ‘written’ by God. These are the words of men who were compelled by God to tell, not only what they claim to have heard God say, but things happening in and around them—their struggles, personal reasons for writing and specific experience of God. Of course they were inspired by God… but it doesn’t claim they are God-dictated.”
  4. We All Pick and Choose the Bible We Believe, Preach and Defend: “There are as many specific individual interpretations of Scripture in history as there have been readers of it. Our understanding and belief about the Bible is a product of our upbringing, the amount of study we’ve had, the friends we’ve lived alongside, the area of the world we live in, the experiences we have and much more. Is it really fair to accuse someone else of selectively using Scripture, unless we’re prepared to admit to the same crime in the process?”
  5. God Is Bigger Than The Bible: “The words in the Bible point to someone for whom words simply fail. The words are filled with good and lovely things that give us some frame of reference, but ultimately, God is far too big to be contained in those words. The Bible is not God. The Bible is a library filled with inspired words about God.”

Again, read the whole article if you’d like. I had to abbreviate it for space.

That said, I wasn’t initially sure where to start in my commentary on it.

Maybe it’s worth noting that the language of its headline alone indicates it is an opinion piece. That means that much of what is contained in here is based on feelings and ideas that may or may not be God’s intent.

Now, that’s something!

signedImagine an article with the same headline that God would write as the author. Maybe it would go something like this:

  1. The Bible Is a Divine Book: It’s not just a collection of many books, but One Story that involves several chapters. I AM the star. You are the supporting characters. It doesn’t work if you reverse that.
  2. The Bible Is As Clear As I’d Like It to Be: I did this on purpose so that through its words you would know The Word… and through Him, the Father and Spirit. You are meant to turn to Me, and I have provided you the verbal on-ramp of the Scriptures to this relational Highway.
  3. The Bible Was Inspired by Me, Because I Am, in fact, I AM: While many people would point out the humanity in the Bible, I AM in that very humanity. I AM in all things… but I specifically was in relationship with those people so that these timeless words could be articulated in time for all of history to benefit. Make the most of their journey to impact your journey.
  4. 
People WIll All Pick and Choose the Bible They Believe (But It’s Possible to Not Use This As An Excuse to Be a Cynic): Truth exists, and the fact that people argue over it will either propel them closer into the Truth or away from it because they dislike the tension. The choice is yours on which way you will live.
  5. I Am Bigger Than The Bible.
.. Which is Something You Know Because of the Bible: Do not look for Me wherever you want to find Me. Look for Me in the places I have told you I would most like to be found. Do not use My omnipresence as your excuse to be selectively present.

819Granted, all of that may be my opinion… i.e. “5 Things I Wish God Would Admit About the Bible.”

Then again, maybe my opinion is an informed one because of the Bible?

What do you think?



Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.23.25 AMI respect the fact that people have differing opinions and beliefs. I also am fully aware that there are always two sides to every story. But even though I’m not an expert theologian or a professional reporter, I can say this Newsweek article is highly unfortunate. Good for business I suppose, but potentially an unwarranted problem for those of us that know the beauty of the Church and following Jesus.  If you have not read it I recommend you do so at some point. I cannot take the time to personally address or affirm all the points made in the article, but I will share a few thoughts on this, albeit blunt thoughts. College students and others you work with will likely hear about this, so here are a few bullet points to maybe keep in mind upfront:

  1. Clearly stated bias. Thankfully the author clearly states his bias in the beginning. He doesn’t state it as a “bias” and anyone somewhat disgruntled with the Church or Christianity will resonate with his statements, which is a bummer. But, those with some intellectual honesty can easily realize this is being written from a bias perspective.
  2. Not-so-good reporting. With the tone of getting to the truth, this sadly does not “report” much but instead states a particular perspective as the facts. And the author doesnt state sources but rather makes swooping statements like “all modern scholars.” This is misleading to say the least because the author only listed straw-man arguments from opposing views.
  3. Fantastic, but unfortunate rhetoric. By making his statements as irrefutable facts that don’t have rational explanations and doing so in ways that make anyone that claims to believe in the authority of scripture look like total idiots, readers that are not well informed on the scrutinies listed will likely think the bible is completely discredited.
  4. Dishearteningly one-sided. This article assumes there are not opposing thoughts or deeper understanding and does so by not even mentioning other thoughts or the fact there are common and often basic explanations for such things.

If you would like to read much more thorough thoughts on this article I would recommend Al Mohler’s blog or Michael Kruger’s blog.

Study Helps

 —  October 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

bible

I led a workshop and Half-Track on technology in ministry at KidMin last month. I shared a little about Bible software and message prep, attendees had some great suggestions for free study resources. Check this out, maybe you will find something new, and if you know of a useful online study resource share it in the comments.

Textweek
Olivetree
YouVersion
Sermons.logos
Biblestudytools
The Gospel Coalition
Blue Letter Bible



I am excited for a former student of mine, Adam Greene. Adam is the man behind Bibliotheca the third most popular Kickstarter project on the planet, out of 161,281 projects. Adam’s project is an amazing and beautiful Bible set. His kickstarter has been featured on blogs like Fastcodesign.com and The Verge and is curently dollars away from hitting half a million dollars.

Way to go Adam! As excited as I am for Adam’s success, I am excited to get my hands on the set I bought. I was one of the first supporters (getting a killer deal of the set). Check out the video and click over to his page…if you want a set you better hurry, it’s over on Sunday, June 27.

Bibliotheca Kickstarter from Good. Honest. on Vimeo.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post called, “Pivot of Perspective On Bible Study” where I talked about a few different ways I’ve been talking to people about how they view the Bible. Here I would like to throw out a few Bible_Coffeethoughts I’ve been thinking a bit through about how we refer to it in our speech. We refer to the Bible in a number of ways. We call it things like:

  1. Scripture
  2. The Bible
  3. The Word
  4. God’s Word
  5. The Holy Bible
  6. Word of God

All of these are certainly good and well-meaning names and I am not saying we need to change how we refer to it. But, I am asking whether or not it would change things. How could that impact how we think of the Bible and could that in some way change the way it impacts our lives? I have found the most common way we refer to it is, “The Word of God.” We have time in the Word. We study the Word.

But the more I study it, I’m starting to think maybe a more accurate and fresh description of it would be the “Acts of God” versus the “Word of God.” Now, I know that would be a bit awkward to refer to it by that name in the contexts we typically use the phrase “The Word of God.” But, just think about it for a second. We are not just talking about words here. We are, in fact, talking about actions God has taken.

Maybe referring to it (or thinking about it) as “Acts of God” would cause us to see how our actions should change? Maybe it would be a refreshing reminder that God took action toward and for us? Maybe understanding it as actions would help us move beyond feeling spiritually mature simply because we studied it a lot? And, maybe understanding it as Acts of God would reach much deeper into our affections/desires/feelings in ways that literally transform our motivations for obeying it?

After all, we do say things like, “Actions speak louder than words.”



The Best Bible Ever!

 —  May 31, 2014 — 1 Comment

“So…

your Bible has your name gold-stamped into the cover?

Nice.

Well, MY Bible…”

10301505_10204367094721555_8161256884303936667_n

This video has made its rounds on the web since 2011. It is still a great conversation starter even though our students have no idea about Schoolhouse Rock.