Tag Archive: rob bell


Would you believe in an addictions councilor who was arrested for drug trafficking? Would you believe in a marriage councilor who was getting divorced? Would you believe in a fireman whose house burned down or farmer who never harvested a crop?

Would you believe in a God who does not always do what you would expect him to do? Would you believe in a God who allows some people to choose eternal separation and torment (i.e. hell)?

Would you believe in a God who created some people destined for destruction…all so that he could demonstrate to you and I the blessing of a relationship with him and the peril of lacking that relationship? The apostle Paul asks this question of the church in Rome.

This line of questioning has become quite popular these days especially within the writing of Rob Bell and others and I think that it is having a damaging and confusing impact on our faith. These questions play on our natural sense of morality as they cause us to question what WE think is good and loving…which leads us into dangerous grounds.

I once thought that our natural sense of morality was evidence of God’s fingerprints on our lives. I think we can all agree that things like violence toward children is one of the most depraved things a human being could engage in…God would agree. But I now see how cursed even this seemingly good moral sense is for it tricks us into being sympathetic for the things that WE deem moral with no regard for whether God has said it is moral or not.

I dare say there are many in the church today, even good God fearing people, that when pressed on some areas of morality in our society today would find it very conflicting in their spirit to uphold God’s morality when our own morality seems to just make more sense.

Some Christians and other well meaning people wonder why we are so down on same-sex marriage and abortion; can we not just go with the flow on these issues? What is so wrong with loving whom you want to and choosing to have a baby (or not to) when you want? Is not the right to personal choice and unique personal expression a fundamental aspect of human freedom?

The problem with this line of questioning is that it puts us in God’s place and makes us the supreme judge of what creation was made to be and what potential it has to become. Do we really think that we know enough about love and enough about God to fill in for him from time to time?

Paul says to the Roman church, “But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who form it, ‘why did you make me like this”. (Romans 9:20) God speaks through Moses in the Old Testament when he says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Ex 33:19)

God did not say we would always understand everything about this world and everything about Him. However, he did say that he would always be good and in that we can have faith.

Romans 8:28 “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

If you are ever confronted with the “how can you believe in a God who…” line of questioning you can tell them that your faith in God does not mean that you can always understand all of God’s ways. Having faith in God does not always mean that what seems logical and good to you is what is best for creation.

Instead, our faith is such that we trust that God’s ways are still good even when we cannot understand them!


Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death”.

So, although I did not spend much time with you guys last night (blame it on the Monkey Barrel crowd) I STILL know what you guys were up to. In fact, I was talking with your small group leaders afterwards last night and they said that you were…well, fairly engaged given the topic.

So, lets briefly summarize what last night was all about (in case you were not here or not paying attention).

We watched Rob Bell in one of his first NOOMA videos called “Flame”. In this video he talks a lot about dating, relationships…and sex. He basically says that sex is something that is so special that you need to want until you are absolutely committed to one person and then allow it your life. Any deviation of this pattern leads to potential destruction…if you don’t believe Rob (or me) just look around teenage culture.

Song of Songs 2:7

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

The reason for this: love is a flame.

There are three Hebrew words used for love; the first is raya, the second is ahave, and the third is dode.

Raya is used to describe the relationship between friends. It is a companionship kind of love. Ahave is a willful love that you choose and decide who to give to. Rob Bells says, “…this is way more profound than fleeting romantic feelings. This is much more than temporary urges. Ahava is making a decision to join your life to the life of another. This is an emotion that leads to commitment.”

Dode is the sexual/intimate love in a relationship. Dode is like a potent flame that when unleashed out of sequence with the other aspects of love can certainly result in destruction of you and others. All three love ‘flames’ must burn at the same time and in the proper sequence.

When the three burn in complete unison you have….well….you saw it; that BIG flame. If you have never seen Rob Bell’s NOOMA video called “Flame” I urge you to locate a copy (we have them in the EGCC library) and watch it!

Think about these questions:

Why is love so complex?

Do we generally treat love as sacred, beautiful and mysterious?

Do you love tacos, or baseball, or your pet…the same way you love people?

What else is there inside you aside from your physical body? How do these invisible parts of your body love?

Have a great week! Next week we move on from this LOVE TALK and onto something else….phew!

For any of you who may not know who Rob Bell is, let me begin by saying that he is perhaps one of the more creative, out of the box, and relevant deep thinkers in the Christian faith that I have seen in the last few years. He seems to package charisma, oratory skill and decent content all in one package that truly makes a person want to re-evaluate their life and to come to know God in a fresh way. Bell is also the writer of the NOOMA videos, short videos about topics in the Christian faith that are structured in such a way to make you think for yourself. I first encountered these videos as a seminary student and have used them multiple times in youth ministry to spark discussions.

Bell is an author too. He has written numerous books including Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and others. His most recent book, Love Wins, was just released on March 15th, 2011, and has sparked an amount of controversy in Christian circles. The controversy is twofold: (1) the claims that the book makes appear at times to step outside of what would be considered Christian orthodoxy, and (2) Bell’s reputation (especially with the emerging generation) coupled with his charisma is such that I suspect he could convince a drowning man to buy a case of aquafina…or dasani…or both

Rob Bell’s influence on our culture is what it is; it cannot be changed and we cannot fault the man for being who he is. Some of the content of this new book however makes me squirm. I say that I am almost defending Rob Bell because I don’t think the book is as bad as some are making it out to be; however, it certainly does push the boundaries in several areas.

Lets start with the good stuff. There are some really great things in this book. First, Bell encourages us to rethink our talk about heaven and hell. The full motivation and mission for our Christian life here and now ought not be to escape hell and get to heaven as fast as possible (contrary to some of those great old hymns of the church…and this comes from someone who still does enjoy hymns!). The hope of the New Testament Christians was not to escape earth and go to heaven but rather they looked forward to participating in a new kingdom on earth that was governed and lead by Jesus Christ. When Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and went back to heaven, their desire was for the approaching day of his return where they would participate in a new kingdom on a perfected earth that was governed and lead by Jesus Christ. Bell wants us to recast our thinking about hope so that it not so much about ‘there and then’ but participating in something ‘here and now’.

Jesus said it best himself: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15, NIV). Jesus Christ’s presence on earth changed things; it brought the kingdom of heaven closer than ever before. From this point on we see an increase in spiritual things on earth: healing, resurrection, gifts of the Spirit. There is a dynamic feature of the kingdom of God that is presently breaking into our world on a regular basis and participation in that kingdom ought to be our greatest motivation and mission…not just getting out of here as quickly as possible.

The journey is as important as the destination.

Now, lets dig a little deeper. Bell is accused of being a universalist in his theology (i.e. all will end up in heaven at some point, love will win). He denies this and I (think) I believe him. He does spend time in his book talking about human existence apart from God and what that looks like…I can only assume he imagines that some will continue to choose this existence?

There are two things however that he indisputability argues for that I am not quite so sure about: Bell speculates about the possibility of repentance even after death and speculates about the fact that many people from other faith groups (Islam, Buddhism) will be given equal position in the kingdom of God when Christ returns. Bell actually does more than speculate: he attempts to convince his readers to consider the idea that life could be this way. He calls it a ‘better story’…

Neither of these thoughts is new in Christendom and space does not permit a full examination of either of these here. The first is complete speculation and does not seem to have biblical merit. The second is more murky; most Christians would suggest that though we are all born into sin Christ will accept unto himself those souls who die before having the ability to choose or not to choose God. We talk of an ‘age of accountability’ although attempting to place a firm number on this is difficult and likely not useful. What I believe that Bell is appealing to here is the notion that some people in some parts of the world and in some faith groups may recognize that there is a higher power than themselves but not know exactly what the nature of this higher power is; they have never heard of Jesus. Bell speculates that if a person has not had an opportunity to hear of Jesus, despite their age, God will look favorably upon their spiritual pursuits. I think however in our world of information and social networking that this case very much a minority. Most Muslims follow Islam not because they have not yet heard of Jesus but because they choose Allah over Jesus. This is a fatal flaw in Bell’s argumentation.

Bell’s unique writing style, almost poetic, and confident way or writing (without any citations or references except a list of ‘you should read this’ books at the end) gives somewhat of a false authority to what he has to say; the fear is that Bell’s compelling style and the voice that he has in the young adult generation of the present day is going to lead to spiritual confusion en mass. I must say that I am concerned about the same thing.

This book is not for the faint of heart or the easily influenced…but if you can read critically and are ready to exercise your faith (and perhaps clarify some aspects that you were a little rusty on) I would encourage you to analyze what Bell has to say here.

Shane Bertou is facilitating a discussion of this book chapter by chapter on his blog at http://www.shanebertou.wordpress.com. They are currently on chapter 1 and will be moving to chapter 2 this week. I am going to try and follow this conversation and perhaps add to it. I invite you to do the same.