News has always traveled fast but in the age of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) it seems to fly like lightning right into your hand. Two weeks ago I picked up my phone glanced at my twitter feed and read a few strong comments about Rob Bell. The first came from Joshua Harris (@HarrisJosh) he said, “There’s nothing loving about preaching a false gospel. This breaks my heart. Praying for Rob Bell. http://bit.ly/gsE4Gl
The linked article revealed that popular pastor and creative church leader, Rob Bell, had announced the release of his new book Love Wins by producing a video advertisement where some pretty serious questions were raised about the Biblical teaching and Evangelical understanding of Hell. The next lightning bolt struck when @JohnPiper tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Ominous right?
At this point, I sat back and asked myself the questions that most people would ask: who is Rob Bell and what has he said to get this kind of response? The first question is simple enough to answer, Rob Bell is a pastor, author, creative force behind the Nooma videos and he is a man of significant influence among young spiritually interested Americans. Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, MI and he has authored a number of books that have pushed the envelope of orthodoxy but, none of which have caused this kind of storm.
The book calls into question the Biblical teaching on Hell and in the process a host of theological truths get thrown into the pot for discussion. The nature of God is at stake, the condition of man, the seriousness of sin, the validity of Jesus teaching, Jesus life and Jesus death; all of these are in the cross hairs in Bell’s new book.
Should we have seen this coming? I think the answer is yes thanks in large part to an article that was written in 2008 by Mark Driscoll identifying the different streams within the Emerging/Emergent church discussion. Some of you reading this have no idea what I am referring to, while others may know the terms and still have no real idea what they mean. Driscoll’s article is a first-hand account of how this Emerging/Emergent conversation began and I highly recommend it to you, in fact I think you should start by reading it.
Most of this firestorm erupted before Bell’s book was even published, which drew harsh criticism from his fans who accused many outspoken leaders of jumping to conclusions. But, when the book came out it was clear that those leaders were spot on in their assessment. Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed church in Michigan, author and blogger was one of the first to publish a review of Bell’s book that is generous, consistent, thorough and Biblically accurate. It is lengthy but a great work for all of us and you can read it here.
There is a ton of stuff that you can read and watch regarding this debate. Evangelical leaders from all over the country have published reviews and made public statements (click here for a chronology of this), even Martin Brashir from MSNBC has gotten into the act by challenging Bell in an interview done just after the books release. My conclusion to this saga is that Bell has laid the truth aside and I would caution that his teaching on many articles of the Christian faith will lead to shipwreck.