I’m starting to desperately wonder, “What will Rob Bell have to do to get Relevant Magazine to stop defending him?”
Back in December, I wrote an article titled, Rob Bell Isn’t Being Crucified By Anyone! Perhaps evangelicals didn’t reject him. He rejected us! in response to an article re-published in RELEVANT MAGAZINE titled, What the Continued Crucifying Of Rob Bell Says About Modern Christianity. The article in RELEVANT was about how the Evangelical Church turned on Rob Bell. My response was that he turned on the Evangelical Church.
When he first gained acceptance in Evangelical circles, he came off like a mysterious forward thinker who asked lots of questions. This approach helped him connect with Millennials. With each passing year, he seemed less than an edgy Evangelical and more just over the edge. In the last few years, he’s made definitive statements making it clear that he has moved far from his Evangelical roots.
Still, RELEVANT continues to support him.
RELEVANT & THE ROB BELL SHOW
As you can imagine from the title of the article, it was essentially a positive review of the first episode. I have not seen the episode, so I won’t comment on it. Based on the article, Bell came off pastoral and the episode came off like a Sunday morning sermon in TV show format. In the episode Bell talked about Colossians 1:20, reconciliation, and tied it all together by talking about the Cross. The article did concede that the discussion of the Cross did not mention sin, but also mentioned that this was only the first episode.
‘The Rob Bell Show’ wasn’t made to answer his critics—its premiere episode was tailored to point hurting people in the direction of the cross.”
The article had a bit of a tone that critics should back off and wait to hold judgment about this new pairing. That’s certainly a fair point. Many of us weren’t expecting any scripture or mention of the Cross based off of some of his more recent works.
Should we back off our criticisms?
Well, in the time since my last post, Bell has done more than just launch his TV show, and he’s talked about more than just Colossians, reconciliation, and the Cross…
ROB BELL ON TWO THOUSAND YEAR OLD LETTERS
About two months after Bell’s show debuted, he appeared on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday,” and eventually the subject of gay marriage came up. While certainly his comments about gay marriage would be highly controversial, his defense of those comments is far more troubling.
I want to totally set aside the issue of gay marriage, the following statement reveals everything about where Bell is really coming from:
The culture is already there. The church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from two thousand years ago as their best defense. When you have living, breathing people. Flesh and blood people.”
– Rob Bell.
No matter which topic is being discussed, this quote has two extremely dangerous statements:
#1 “Culture is already there”
Culture is a TERRIBLE moral compass. Every culture is different. Every culture shifts with time. Every culture has had HORRIFIC systematic injustice. Suggesting anyone should move in a direction simply because culture is there is a very bad idea.
#2 “The church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from two thousand years ago as their best defense”
As controversial of statements as he has made, and as far from Evangelical his positions have moved, this is still a rather shocking statement to me. I have played his teaching videos for my student ministry, and he just called the New Testament “Letters from two thousand years ago, ” and then he suggested that rendered them irrelevant, and a bad defense.
- He didn’t qualify the statement.
- He didn’t form the statement as referring to thoughtlessly quoting The Bible
- He didn’t acknowledge the role of scripture in the world view of the Church
He just suggested that quoting the Bible is a bad argument. CERTAINLY quoting the Bible to a non-Christian is a TERRIBLE argument. That’s putting the cart before the horse in regards to what they need. However, he didn’t say that. He simply dismissed scripture as letters from 2,000 years ago.
This quote is particularly ironic to me because he was the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church until just a few years ago. I understand that Mars Hill Letters From Two Thousand Years Ago Church of Irrelevance isn’t as catchy as Mars Hill Bible Church, but it appears it may have been more appropriate. And he quoted one of those letters in the episode of his show which RELEVANT reviewed.
At this point, I honestly wonder what Rob Bell would have to do to get RELEVANT to stop defending him.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
When dealing with hard subjects, we have to balance four tensions:
- The Word
- Love & Grace
Or, as a question:
How do we apply THE WORD to PEOPLE with LOVE & GRACE in our CULTURE?
In an effort to balance tensions, people will either pull too far in a single direction, or completely abandon one of the tensions.
By Rob Bell’s own words, in an attempt to love people in our culture, he called The Bible “letters from two thousand years ago.” Certainly RELEVANT wouldn’t agree with that assessment, but they also seem to be pulling far too hard towards being relevant to culture (which is not surprising), and loving people.
They continually run articles that criticize those who use the Bible to defend Christianity in our culture while forgetting to love people. But they don’t criticize those who compromise scripture in order to connect with culture.
How should we respond?
We must learn to live in the tension. In responding to someone like Bell, we evaluate his comments in light of scripture, and we respond with love. How do we respond to issues in scripture? We look to scripture and respond with love because we’re dealing with people in a specific culture.
Living in the tension isn’t easy, but it is the right thing to do.