I spent a great night in Indianapolis last Friday night in order to attend Rob Bell’s close-to-final-stop on his speaking tour, The Gods Aren’t Angry.
Rob discussed ancient religions and how the altar mentality gained prevalence, and how easily the act of giving to the gods became viciously circular. Inevitably, once you decide that what happens in this world is because of the anger of an outside being, the act of giving is used to greater extremes in order to make the god happy again. This, in the ancient world, deteriorated into self mutilation and child sacrifice.
Probably the most riveting piece of the talk for me was his retelling of the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. When Abraham is ordered by God to go sacrifice his son to Him, Rob asks, why doesn’t Abraham ask
Why? Why doesn’t Abraham ask
How? It seems that Abraham already knows the drill. Bell posits that this is because the gods of the day would all, at one point or another, demand infant sacrifices from their followers. Perhaps Abraham saw this as the next inevitable step in his relationship with this new god. Abraham didn’t get it.
In many interpretations and tellings of this story nowadays, we see Abraham depicted in this story having a model faith, willing to go as far as to&elip;Right? Instead, this paints the picture that Abraham is a very spiritual person who has been going down the wrong road. Even now, while following this new god, he is seeing things in the wrong way. Now, when God stops him just before he kills his son it takes on a new light. God provides, the scripture reads. God provides. And now there is no need to sacrifice that way. That’s the old way.
Do you sometimes feel you aren’t giving enough stuff? If you are you’re thinking like a caveman. The new way, the way proposed by Jesus, is a way of self sacrifice. This new sacrifice is about giving of yourself to others.
There was a lot to what Bell said. I couldn’t say much about it without taking away from what was said. A lot is written about Bell online, so search if you would like to find more. I’m already looking forward to the next time I get the priveledge of hearing Bell speak.
I’ve got to see this guy on tour someday. I missed Everything is Spiritual, the UK tour, and now this. But…someday.
Glad that you enjoyed it!
I have been a big Bell fan until recently. I have all the Noomas and have used them in small groups. I have shared “everything is spiritual” with skeptics. I read Velvet Elvis and have listened to his podcasts for a few years.
There is a lot to like about his message -but it all of a sudden hit me that I cannot recommend this guy’s teaching anymore.
What I like: (1) social gospel message of “lets help” instead of lecture. (2)lets view the teaching of Christ as a revolutionary way to live, instead of set of facts. (3) lets really dig into history and Jewish culture to fully appreciate the Bible.
But where I am now is that Bell bends scripture to make his points, just like anyone else with an agenda. Bell’s world view is inclusive and non combative. So lets belittle “bullhorn” guy — even if he is acting on his convictions (believe it or not, I know three people who found Christ from a “bullhorn guy.” Another example: Peter sank while walking on water because he did not believe in himself. WHAT?? that is a man-center, believe-in-yourself mentality that denies dependance on Jesus. Peter sank because he lost faith that Jesus was greater than his fears — only Bell sees that differently. Bell routinely tries to say that the Sermon on the mount was blessed are the poor — as in materially poor. I guess he assumes that we never really read the rest of the passage. I have heard Bell call Jesus a genius, but not God Himself. I have never heard Bell discuss the Holy Spirit or the realities of Heaven and Hell. In fact Bell’s sermon on Hell was very abstract — and missed sound teaching. Bell totally misrepresented the Canon process, making it sound like a group of people voted on what would go into the Bible in the 3rd century — rather than the fact that the canon process was going on from the submission of the first letters/books. (A good book for the real story on the canon is Misquoting Truth.)
Look, I really admire his heart and that he lives a simple life downtown in a bad neighborhood. I would like to drink a beer with the guy. But I am very sensitive now to WHAT IS MISSING in his theology. Most of what he is saying about Christianity could be said about any religion, it seems. Bells message is all love your neighbor…but the part about loving God with all your heart should require a deepening knowledge of God. And whether Bell likes it or not, He is a God of Judgment too.
One more thought: You note regarding Bell’s discussion on Abraham’s sacrifice two questions: “Why?” and “How?”
Let me address “How?” first. Why does Bell think that Abraham was not following a sacrificial system as God ordained it. My “guess” would be that there was likely a True sacrificial system, during those early days, and false versions. (that seems to be Satan’s MO). We know that Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. Might it be that Abraham was pursuing God as best as he understood and was following a God-ordained sacrificial approach?
Regarding “why?” I am SURE that Abraham asked why. Abraham’s son was a late answer to prayer and obviously needed for God to fulfill His promise of a great nation. Of course Abraham asked why. Most theologians would say that Abraham just trusted God, as the New Testament says…either trust Him to spare his son or raise him from the dead.
If Abraham was just trudging his way toward sacrificing his son thinking that this must be how it works with this new God — then he was not going in faith, it would seem. Romans 4:9 says “We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.” What was Paul referring to?
Bell seems to grab new, strange interpretations, then builds an interesting message around it. But in this case, he seems to cheapen Abraham with his revisionists history.
Hope I am not being unfair, since I have not heard this new talk… thanks for the space.
Perhaps Bell had more support for his view than a hunch. Thanks.
I would offer this advice, before you accept anyone, whether Rob Bell or John MacArthur, put what they teach up against the light of scripture. The Bible is our source of truth because it came from the ultimate source of absolute truth, God. If anything anyone says is out of line or out of context with the Bible then it is not truth and it should not be followed.
I personally have come to the opinion, after watching a few noomas and reading Velvet Elvis and Sex God, that there is MUCH wrong with Bell’s theology. But search the scriptures yourself and be convinced yourself. Just be wary. The Bible tells us to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) and to reject anyone who does not hold the correct view of the Doctrine of Jesus (2 John 7-11).
@Tim: First of all, thanks for commenting on my blog. All are welcome, and it is interesting reading your thoughts. Just out of curiosity, how did you stumble upon my little space?
Now, to what you said. I’m cautious to desire to be as divisive as you prescribe. If I have learned anything studying the scriptures, it is that (assuming that there is)in the Bible is incredibly hard to discern. In fact, the history of theology shows that the only thing constant is disagreement. I am very very cautious to claim any sort of absolute truth, and am very wary of anyone else who claims to have it.
I appreciate you sharing your opinion. But I would contend that while I agree that we should contend earnestly for faith, 2 John 7-11 does not refer to any sort of. I would argue that this scripture is written, communicated, before a time when things like doctrine were important. I haven’t looked it up, but it seems that the Greek word here is one meaning teaching, which is more basely one’s words. That doesn’t seem to imply any sort of strict line between that which is right and that which is wrong. I do agree that one should follow the teaching of Jesus if one wants to follow truth. However, I think what exactly that means, and how to live it out, is still very much growing. The discussion isn’t over.
My theology is set up much more as a trampoline than a foundation. I’m jumping. Springs can be added and removed, and I won’t stop jumping. Theology is words about God. I want to keep talking, and remain skeptical of anyone saying that the distinctions on right and wrong are clearly marked off in the metaphorical sand. I’ll keep jumping.
Again, thanks for sharing. I hope you stick around for more words.
I actually hadn’t hear or paid attention to the negative feedback Bell seems to have been getting lately. My first experience hearing someone suggest he was anything more than another guy asking questions about what we all assume as people who identify with Jesus was during the international conference for the group of churches’ our church is involved in.
I was driving two guys (a young pastor and his father in law) from OIA to the convention center we were holding the conference at, when out of nowhere these guys start railing about how Rob is a heretic, decreasing the value of the gospel, etc.
Here’s to asking questions. I hope that God has the grace to forgive me when I’ve come down on people, thinking they were clearly wrong or out of line when that wasn’t the case at all. I certainly have had the problem of wanting to be heard and not hearing, etc.