Sound the Berean warning bells!
Let the discernment warning tocsins be sounded!
Signal all to take Caution! Caution! Caution!
There’s a new Rob Bell book soon to be released.
I thought I’d warn you that, soon enough, your social media threads may be fuller than a tick on a hound dog’s buttocks with Rob Bell-isms and, hopefully, with the rightful, scornful rebukes his theology, so far, demands.
Bell’s upcoming tome? It’s called What Is The Bible? While it might seem cause for thanksgiving that Bell may have finally discovered the source of divine Truth in the written Word of God, such an epiphany on his part doesn’t seem all too likely. The book has a rather long subtitle that with a tone that tends, rather, to confirm that Bell’s traits of emergent, man-centered unorthodoxy haven’t necessarily been forsaken.
The subtitle is “How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.” It’s a mouthful, to be sure, but because it’s bellowed by Bell, it tends to stimulate discerning theological taste buds with a face grimacing aftertaste of heretical, over-chewed, toxically-emergent cud that needs desperately to be spit out.
Bell’s Bible book is, according to Amazon, set for release on May 16, 2017. Amazon also notes it as the “#1 New Release in Christian Bible Study.” Hmmm.
Published by HarperCollins, a promotional book tour will commence on May 17. Notably, the tour locations are bookstores, not churches. Can we take this as a sign that the general book-reading public is becoming more Bible and faith-friendly? Or, can this be interpreted to mean that, though it’s a book about the Bible, it’s not one that would be welcomed in most churches? Or, can we take the book tour locations purely at face value, a marketing attempt to engage the author with the public in order to generate promotional buzz that might translate into deposit-able funds?
Interestingly, the intrinsically irrelevant, but highly relational Relevant Magazine is poised to release a feature story on the Bell book in its May 1 issue. At least one teaser article has already been published there, with the shocking, at least to any abide-in-my-word disciple familiar with the apostate’s works, claim: “Bell is an expert in the Scriptures …” This doesn’t necessarily bode well for any hopes that Bell’s heterodoxy has suddenly become orthodoxy.
But it’s the book’s description on the HarperCollins website that gives an abbreviated microscopic prelude to the coming full-paged musings of Bell.
Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.
The use of the adjective “beloved,” to me, necessitates that the proper noun to which it is attached be a well-respected, fully-vetted, doctrinally-sound, Scripture-fixated orthodox church figure. Somebody like Spurgeon. Somebody like Jonathon Edwards. Somebody like a Puritan. But, mainly, somebody dead, whose works have been duly, ably digested under the lens of orthodoxy and found to be soundly reliable. And, by virtue of their temporal absence, the “beloved” individual is thus free from creating for the church any potential doctrinal angst by saying, preaching, publishing, or muttering Scripturally inane things if they were still alive. So for Bell to be “beloved” seems to me an untenable stretch. But, hey, it’s the publisher’s website. They have a vested interest.
In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid to ask about heaven, hell, fate, and faith. Using the same inspired, inquisitive approach, he now turns to our most sacred book, the Bible. What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.
Well, if Love Wins is any indication of the caliber of Bell’s latest book, brace yourself for more bloviating Bell buffoonery that may sound a lot like Christianity, but is actually a flashing neon billboard broadcasting “this way to heaven” on a really, really wide path. In Love Wins, Bell bellows out the heresy of universalism and quenches concerns about the flames of hell, touting it as a temporal mindset rather than as the physical reality that Jesus surely posited. (Tim Challies gives an astute review of Love Wins HERE.)
But, just make a note, the willingness of someone to ask questions, using an “inspired, inquisitive approach,” does not relinquish that questioner of charges of heresy with a “Hey, I’m only asking the questions, don’t accuse me” retort. Bell is no reliably beloved icon soundly explaining difficult Biblical truths to honest questions. Bell asks questions in order to drive his hearer to a pre-determined position. And, most often with Bell, that position has been known in the annals of orthodox Christian history as HERESY.
“Avoid foolish questions.” (KJV, Titus 3:9)
Now, not trying to pre-review a yet-to-be-released tome, we’ll not label What Is The Bible? as a work of Word-defying heresy, but we can certainly label it, at least, as the work of the former emergent church pastor most recently known as a heretic.
Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn’t ask “Why did God say . . .?” To get to the heart of the Bible’s meaning, we should be asking: “What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?” In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of “is it true?” to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.
Hold the presses. “Rob takes us deep into actual passages?” I’m now laughing out loud. That “Rob” is actually going into “actual passages” absurdly serves as an ironic admission that he hasn’t been doing that all along, his resultant heresies no doubt the logical outflow of such Scriptural disregard. But “actual passages?” What an altogether astounding comment. It’s really telling … in a head-shaking-while-I-guffaw sort of way.
Oh, and the line, “You can’t get to the holy without going through the human” may sound so inexhaustibly profound, so utterly theological – yet somehow just within my (or, maybe your) mental grasp – that one might be tempted to spend hours with those words dripping mantra-like on their spiritual lips, navel-pondering the deeper truths such a statement must necessarily imply. But, do yourself the same favor I’m doing myself – save yourself the neural calories. There’s nothing deep, profound, or, even particularly theological here.
“For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.” John Calvin
Bell’s human-to-holy profundity is just culturally hipster emergent-speak that really commands only two points in response. First, because God is God and man is man, God speaks to us in a manner we can understand. Thus, for humans to cogitate on the holy, it must be presented to us in human terms, precisely what the Lord has done in His Word. It reveals His holiness (and much, much more) in an anthropomorphically-friendly manner. Other than the phrase being an attempt to sound intentionally “buy this book” profound and deeply “your soul needs this” theological, it’s a rather simple notion. God talks so we can understand. But wordsmithing the simple to sound profound sells books, I reckon.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:1
The second response to this overly complicated attempt at theological profundity is that it seems to emphasize the “human,” not the “holy.” Given the context in which the phrase is placed, it appears that this “man-first” priority will be the method of Biblical interpretation which Bell will present in the book. This method of “Bell-eneutics,” however, is neither useful nor novel. Man has been interpreting Scripture with a “what’s this verse mean to me” lens since the olden days of scroll and quill. It’s still a commonplace hermeneutic employed in thousands of Sunday School rooms around the world each Lord’s Day. (I know this for a fact from some Southern Baptist ones I’ve been in; no doubt you know it as well.) But the man first form of interpretation is spiritually useless to the faith. In fact, it’s spiritually dangerous to the faith, because, in fact, it leads to heresy.
“If the Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all.” John Owen
Scripture has one meaning … the meaning the Holy Spirit Who inspired it intended it to have. The meaning does not change with the times, a suggestion implied by Bell’s hermeneutical query, “and who was God at that time?” The meaning in the 1st century was immutably the same during the industrial revolution as it was during the technological revolution. The meaning was the same in the modern era as it was in the pre-modern era. It remains the same meaning today, too, in the post-modern era.
The “one-dimensional question” of “is it true” which, according to his publisher, “Rob goes beyond” is, more than likely, answered by him in a way that disregards such things as infallibility, inerrancy, authority, sufficiency, and clarity of the Word. (How, in fact, can an authentic believer even “get beyond” the reality that it is, indeed, True, and why would you then want to even if you could?) In fact, Bell almost has to go beyond these things to support the implied notion of his subtitle, that there is a way to look at this “ancient library” that is helpful irrespective of its inherent, divine veracity. His book is intended to help you take the Bible and let it “transform the way you think and feel about everything.”
Somebody ring the barista just-got-a-tip bell because Bell must be suggesting that those “poems, letters, and stories” have inherent “feel good, think good” transformative value, apart from the correct response to the “is it true” query. Almost a sort of “who cares if it’s true, so long as it makes me think happy God-thoughts and makes me feel warm, fuzzy, and/or theologically profound?” And that’s exactly what the publisher has implied about the book about the Book; it doesn’t matter if it’s true.
In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of “is it true?” to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.
So the Bible has “authentic transformative power,” but not because it’s true? Lemme ask you something. You smell anything? Cuz I’m smelling yet another “whatever feels good” subjectivistic defamation against the Word of God. Maybe it’s just me. But it smells all too post-modernly familiar with a Gospel-void hint of aromatic “me-ism” wafting about. Gee, I wonder if Andy “Get The Spotlight Off The Bible” Stanley penned the foreword.
But, apart from soundly handling that “one-dimensional question,” Bell’s book may just end up being another God-exists-for-the-benefit-of-man tome that, at a minimum, seeks one particular end … authorial cash flow.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:13
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
Unless it expressly points to the inspired Word as the singular divine source of Truth that fundamentally features the life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return of Jesus Christ, then Bell’s book will be worth the same as his previous emergent fire-starter offerings.
But – and here’s the really, really staggering Truth – for the authentic believer, regenerated by the grace of God through the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of that Gospel, the Bible is easily comprehensible, eternally transformative, and authentically sanctifying. The pagan won’t become holy by reading it but the born-again, indwelt-by-the-Holy-Spirit disciple most certainly will. Before holiness, pagans first need the same transformation that Christ told Nicodemus some two millennia ago, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7)
Anyway, this has been a friendly, preemptive discernment warning. Rev up your Berean skills, both to protect yourself and to intervene on behalf of others. Hone up on your Bell polemics. It’s quite possible you’re gonna need them.
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
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