Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Rant: Rob Bell and An Evangel-less Evangelicalism

Maybe he didn't mean to do this. Maybe he was taken out of context. Maybe the interviewer chopped his words up to better reflect a different agenda.

One can hope.

The title of the (very) short interview is "[Rob] Bell aims to restore the true meaning of evangelical."


Bell's printed definition is this:
I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That’s a beautiful sort of thing.

I'd like to buy the world a Coke.

This definition is worthless for evangelical meaning. It could easily be the mission statement of Greenpeace, the United Way, your local vegans' co-op, or even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It is a definition of evangelical that contains zero evangel.
If you are unclear on why this is the case, the word "evangel" comes from the Greek word that means "gospel." An evangelical is a "person of the gospel." Or should be. Bell's definition contains no gospel.

"Well, sure it does," some are arguing in the comments at Out of Ur's post on the interview.
One of the commenters there, in appreciation of Bell's definition, writes:
We've gotten so used to reading the Bible without its historical and cultural context, that we've largely ignored its impact on its original hearers

Yes, because when first century readers read Paul's claim of the gospel's "first importance" in 1 Corinthians 15 and what comes after, they heard in their original context and culture that they really should recycle more.

That was sarcasm.

The problem with Bell's definition is not that it outlines a practical faith or that anything he's highlighting is bad or wrong, only that what he outlines contains no object of faith and highlights work to do rather than work completed. And I don't know about you, but work completed is always better news than work undone.

His definition of "good news people" lacks two very important good news ingredients: News and a Good Person.

Keller and Carson remind us to not speak of the gospel as if it is advice. That's good advice.

And there is no Jesus in Bell's evangelical outline. No work of Jesus. Just us bein' awesome.
Here's some bad news: we are not awesome.

The good news is that Jesus is.

At this point someone always wants to get to gospel definitions. Doesn't the gospel entail renewal of creation, etc.?
Yes, but it necessarily entails the announcement that it is being done by the great Renewer.
We're not seriously going to debate about whether Jesus' name and his finished work on the cross and out of the tomb should be in our definition of the gospel, are we? Is that where we are in evangelicalism? The cross and tomb are part of a "yes, but"?

The interviewer asks Bell about Jesus: "I’m struck by the fact that I don’t hear a lot of explicitly religious language, or mentions of Jesus, from you."

(Just to interject here, but this should always be a huge stinking red flag. People, if your preacher rarely mentions Jesus, ask him why. A preacher who does not preach Jesus is not a Christian preacher. By definition. I don't mean he isn't a Christian. I'm just saying he's not a "Christian preacher." He's probably a great motivational speaker or spirituality coach or something, though.)

Here is Bell's response to the interviewer's keen observation of Jesuslessness:
I don’t have any embarrassment about my religion, and it’s not that I’m too cool, but I would hope that the Jesus message would come through, hopefully through a full humanity.

I really don't even know what this means, but I think it means this:
a. You're right, I don't use Jesus' name that much.
b. That's okay because that can turn people off.
c. Nevertheless I still hope that somehow the Jesus message slips through.

Hey, how about we don't "hope" that to happen, but we just actually do it? If the Jesus in your preaching is subliminal, you're failing. I don't care how many people are in your church or buy your books or watch your videos. An implied Jesus is a FAIL.

And this is why this shade of the emerging thing -- and I know I can't lump them all in together; in some eyes, I'm a part of the emerging church and so is Mark Driscoll and so are McCoy and Thorn up there in Chi-town and so is Neil Cole, et.al. -- is really just our Boomers' seeker church metrosexualized. And why many of the seeker church guys are now embracing this shade of the emerging thing. It's their deal, only cooler. The feel-good legalism is still there and Jesus makes cameo appearances. That's an ecclesiological reconstruction FAIL. (Thank you, Jim Belcher.)

Jesus doesn't need you or me to be embarrassed for him or his followers. He doesn't need our help. We don't have to butter people up before we bring him out. He's not a time share or Amway or something.

If I get hit by a bus just after preaching a Jesusless exhortation to hold hands and be sweet to change the world with positivity, you have my permission to wish the bus had hit me before I preached.

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And woe to you too, Rob Bell.


Phil said...

Hey Jared.

I'm pretty sure that was excerpted from this article http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles_of_faith/2009/09/rob_bell.html Earlier in the article was this exchange:

Q: Is religion a part of that?
A: At the heart of the Christian story is resurrection, the belief that this word is good, and that, as a follower of Jesus, a belief that God hasn’t abandoned the world, but is actively at work in the world. Even in the midst of what can look like despair and destruction there is a new creation present.

That might help frame some of his other comments.

Jared said...

Good to know. I hope Rob would write the Globe about the truncation.

Still troubled by the guy basically saying "You don't mention Jesus that much" and Rob acknowledging that, and his defining evangelical without bringing in the atoning work of Christ.

The Navy Christian said...

An implied Jesus is a FAIL. That is very true. I got through half of the interview and couldn't take it anymore. I'm telling you that this smells fishy...

Bill Kinnon said...

Preach it, bro.

It may well be bad editing, but Bell more and more appears to be a creation of Zondervan - "pastor" as rock star.

Jared said...

Phil, I read the whole thing.

There is more mention of Jesus but at the prompting of the interviewer. The more I read from Bell the more distressing it is, not less. I would hope context would alleviate the confusion. It doesn't. :-/

He says the right things that captivate and capture the imagination. But I have yet to read him saying something that saves.

Open to more info, though.

Sonja Andrews said...

At "Out of Ur" a guy named Nate made an interesting comment in which he distinguished between evangelical theology and evangelical culture ... and speculates that Bell might be reacting/responding to evangelical culture in this interview. Nate makes some good points (I think it's third from the last), not that I agree with all that he writes.

For myself, Bell (and the other super pastors like him) are the practical result of our consumer-driven culture. I think it would take super-human strength to withstand the gravitational pull created by a Zondervan or what-have-you. The sooner we stop paying so much attention to them and worry about what's going on in our own neighborhoods instead, the easier it might get for guys like him. But ... ya know ... someone is buying the tickets to his "concerts."

Nate D said...

Bell also tweeted, I think in reference to the article in question:

Ever done an interview and then read it and realized they left out most of what you said? Maddening.

fake said...

Before you're too critical of Rob Bell, know what he tweeted earlier today: "Ever done an interview and then read it and realized they left out most of what you said? Maddening."

The next few tweets might be related, and I'll let you judge them for yourself:

"A bit of history: the word evangelical comes from the Roman Empire propaganda machine- it was an announcement proclaiming Caesar is Lord...

"The first Christians took the phrase and tweaked it, saying "Jesus is Lord." That, of course, could get you killed. No one challenges Caesar

"To confess Jesus is Lord was to insist that peace does not come to earth through coercive violence but through sacrificial love...

"That is still the question, is it not? Whose way? Jesus or Caesar? Power and might and domination - or bloody, thirsty, hanging on a cross?"

Jared said...

Aidje, I did read all those.

The history lesson was not news to me, and I don't think it alters the thrust of his interview responses (even in the fuller piece).

fake said...

I'm puzzled as to why you would direct this criticism at Rob Bell when you *know* that the interview was severely truncated.

Jared said...

His responses are illustrative of a serious problem facing evangelicalism (and those hovering near the boundaries).

I have seen the full interview, as I mention in the comments. I do not think the full interview relieves the problem. For the reasons I stated in the comments.

The portion where he defines "evangelical" maintains the same meaning from full version to truncated version. A definition of evangelical which does not include the evangel begs for criticism.

doxpete said...

Apparently Rob has been converted to the belief that no one should try to convert others to their beliefs and now he's trying to convert everyone to believe that too.

Jason Jasperse said...

Full disclosure: I attend Rob's church.

While I understand that to established Christians this may seem like a "watering down" of the Gospel, or not preaching it, or merely "implying it", I think that to the many people that hear and interact with Rob, through his books, his sermons, his nooma series, and his other talks, the message of Jesus shines through bright and clear.

Perhaps the reason he doesn't mention Jesus outright all the time is because his teachings do not really leave much wiggle room to come to any other conclusion.

Say what you want about his theology and his preaching style, but the man is firmly rooted in Christ, and I believe that this comes through extremely clear to those who hear him and interact with him.


Jared said...

Wingnut, thanks for commenting.

Elle said...

Front end load the comment...I am a fan of Rob Bell and his work. I won't hide that nor deny it. I would be curious to know what was cut from the interview. But having said that...I try to listen to the podcasts from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids quite regularly, and I truly and honestly see a rich gospel centered message. Unlike some other large churches that seem quite satisfied to play Dr Phil Sunday mornings with self help rhetoric and get rich playbooks...I just don't hear that from Rob's church. Maybe I missing something? Whatever was articulated in that interview, and the poor definition of evangelical that ensued, I think before we throw baby Rob out with the bath water, wouldn't it be wise to take a look at what happens at Mars Hill?

Er no?

the Reporter said...

Seriously? "He's not a timeshare. Or Amway." Seriously? Have you lived in the same world that I have for the last 30 years? These are exactly the things the modern church has made Jesus into, and exactly the reason that Rob Bell has to walk on eggshells when he speaks. Of course Jesus isn't Amway...but if the church has brought upon Him the perception that He is Amway, we're going to have to be aware of that when we speak.

Jared said...

Elle, I think my opening statements are meant to convey I'm not throwing Rob out with the bathwater. I don't want to see Rob naked, anyway. ;-)

Also: See subsequent comments. I am not trying to throw him under the bus.

At the end of the post I don't exempt myself from the woes.

Based on even the full interview, Rob's opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with osmeone clearly asking questions about it is an opportunity squandered.

Jared said...


Have you lived in the same world that I have for the last 30 years?

Yes. I have ministered in it. I did the Trojan Horse Jesus thing for more than a decade.

I know what Rob is doing is a reaction. I'm saying it's an overreaction.

The answer to evangellyfish's marginalization of Jesus is not to keep Jesus in the shadows until people feel safe. That's the same tactic, just with different "politics."

Let's look at what Jesus did and said and let's do that. All I'm saying. And Jesus wasn't afraid to make everything about himself. So we shouldn't either.

I think it's weird that this "straight whisky Jesus" message is so radical to both mainstream evangelicalism and the emerging church. But maybe that means we're on to something . . .

Drew said...

Right on Jared! Preach it! I've been concerned about a friend of mine who used Bell's videos in her high school Sunday school class. I'm gonna send it to her. I hope she doesn't hate me for it.

Drew said...

It just occured to me how ironic it is that Bell is located in the old-time Reformed stronghold of Grand Rapids, MI. What is God doing? I find it amusing.

Jason said...

First, I appreciate the folks who say they go to Bell's church or who are Bell fans at the start of their comments. I tend to give more ear to someone who admits a potential bias up front than someone who hides it so thanks to all who did that.

My confession: I used to be someone who listened to Bell. He had a lot of good, motivating messages and he seemed to genuinely care about people. Then the more I listened, the more I realized that Bell seems to only be interested in part of Jesus and not the whole of Jesus. The things he says about caring for the environment, etc. are part of Jesus but the whole of Jesus includes telling people He is the ONLY way to eternal life. If you have reporters pointing out that you barely mention Jesus then you might want to check as a pastor if you're really teaching the whole of Christ.

I see Bell as little more than a motivational speaker who brings in Christian elements to his talk. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that but a pastor needs to at least stand on the one truth that there is no other way to God than through Christ Jesus.

nhe said...

Fascinating discussion....really - and I hope that many who have shown up will come back to Jared's blog - it's what virtual bookmarks were invented for.

Jared - I think you're a tad hung up on Bell's style. He's intentionally indirect, and it can be maddening. I don't see that as an "overreaction" though, I see it as a style preference for the purpose of pointing out the centrality of the gospel to those who refuse to look for it through the traditional lenses. Much like we see the gospel in Tolkien and Lewis novels, I see it in Bell's preaching style - he's a story teller. He would rather infer through story than say directly.

Its not my preaching style preference either, but I think its a net positive.

However, here's the "woe to" I'd direct at Bell. It seems that many who listen to/read Bell and like him do so because they want to hold onto Jesus AND some form of a more virtuous moral-relativism, which is almost as destructive as the moral-absolutism that the same folks have bristled against for so long.....which is one reason why I love Keller - he rejects both.

anonymousGuy said...

I also listen to the Mars Hill podcast on a regular basis. If you believe Rob is little more that a motivational speaker, you obviously didn't listen to his series on Phillipians. His message on the first Beatitude a couple of weeks back was a thing of beauty; he has a great respect for the scripture, and has a gift for communicating how the Word tells of of the deep love of Jesus. I contrast that with a recent video series on sharing Jesus I viewed in a church; it was all about "closing the sale", you could have changed the word Jesus to any other product and it would have worked as well. I think your tone was harsh and judgemental.

Seminarian Steve said...

Bell has done more for the gospel of Jesus in the 21st century then anyone I've heard. Jared, we need you to be a pastor not a theological policeman. Especially, when your persecuting one of the great evangelists of our time. Keep your theological bent to your flock and spend your energy on seeing lives transformed. Bell doesn't fit into your box, but your box isn't the great model for orthodoxy. Especially, after reading your tired old rhetoric. Through Bell, a disciple of Jesus, lives are being transformed, and yes, lives are being saved. How's your ministering going today? I would start with repentance and a quick awakening with how your spending your energy behind your computer screen as the orthodox policemen. Our ministry should always been done in love, not fear. Especially fear towards a champion of the true and living God - (even if you disagree, it doesn't take away from what's actually happening). Grace and peace,

Jared said...


I think your tone was harsh and judgemental.

You mean the grace didn't come through inferentially?

Jared said...


Jared, we need you to be a pastor not a theological policeman.

The two are not mutually exclusive, Steve. Pastoring means protecting sheep from wolves.
I am not saying Rob is a wolf -- please hear what I'm saying -- but I am saying that, contrary to your false dichotomy, and in keeping with Paul's constant harping on the heresies infiltrating the church and his encouragement to Timothy to watch is life and doctrine closely, that theological policing is exactly what pastors should do many times.

when your persecuting one of the great evangelists of our time

Persecuting? Seriously?
Go to www.voiceofthemartyrs.com and read about persecution.
If you think intramural criticism is persecution you need a paradigm shift.

I think this is one reason Bell and his fans take a lot of flack: they cannot stand critical appraisals.
A pointed critique is not persecution. It's even biblical.

How's your ministering going today?

I didn't think Bell's tribe played the "how big is yours?" game.

But in any event, it's going pretty good, thanks for asking.

Not as good as Joel Osteen's, though, so I have a lot to learn. He's transforming a lot more people than Bell and I put together, so he must be on to something.

I would start with repentance and a quick awakening with how your spending your energy behind your computer screen as the orthodox policemen.

Says the guy policing my policing through his computer screen.
We could play this game forever. :-)

Grace and peace


fake said...

I do like Rob Bell--sorry, I wasn't trying to hide anything.

I don't go to his church, but I have seen some of his NOOMA videos, read one of his books, and listened to several of the sermons available on his church's podcast.

It seems to be becoming increasingly popular to criticize Rob Bell, and yet every criticism of him that I see seems easily debunked by just listening to a few of his sermons. (I'm not suggesting that you are criticizing him because it is popular to do--I'm simply saying that more and more people are criticizing him.)

An example: in his sermon "One Mind," Rob Bell talks about divisions in the body of Christ--the disputable matters that people often worry about so much. Near the end of the sermons he says this:

"Two questions to reflect on as we head towards communion:
1. Can we agree on Christ's body broken and blood poured for the healing of the world?
2. Can we agree on our need for the grace and peace of Christ?"

He says (not in these exact words) that these two questions show that at the heart of the matter we really are one in Christ, even when we find ourselves wanting to argue about things that are *not* at the heart of the matter.

Maybe it's just my bias, but that seems pretty Christocentric.

(By the way, from my perspective--which I admit is that of liking Rob Bell--it does not seem that *either* of the provided links are the *full* interview. They both seemed truncated to me. If they are complete, then I agree that Rob Bell should have said something more. Based on what I have heard from him in other places, I think that he does believe something closer to what you are saying he should, and that those beliefs are not reflected all that well in the statements provided by the Boston Globe. Because of what I have seen elsewhere I am inclined to give Rob Bell the benefit of the doubt in this particular instance.)

Jared said...

nhe, thanks for your comment.

I don't think being indirect on these sorts of matters is helpful.

But clearly that's just me. My ministry's probably not going well. ;-)

Jared said...

Aidje, thank you for being a calm, reasoned, thoughtful, non-reflexive counterpoint. Much appreciated.

If I regret anything about my post it's not making it more clear that Bell's "bad answers" are only illustrative of a problem that is bigger than him (and that he may not even really fit into). But his answers to the questions posed to him are still problematic and I think they are indicative of an ongoing problem for evangelicalism, whatever forms it is taking.

It is "personal" because it is a rant (which I haven't done in a loooong while), and for my new readers who are assuming I must be in a certain camp b/c of this criticism, I hope you will stick around a bit and find out a bit about me and more of the context of my writing/ministry rather than just assuming based on this one post who I am and what I do.

Nobody's above criticism for saying dumb things, including me.

But I think in the same way I'm being urged to see these lacking answers from Bell in the light of the context of the rest of his message, maybe those popping in to tell me "in grace and peace" that I'm a judgmental jerk :-) could see this lacking post in the light of the context of the rest of my message.

Again, Aidje, thanks.

Jason said...

Aidje, thanks for the intelligent counterpoint to the discussion. Enjoyed reading it. I do have a question on that sermon you quoted...at any point did he say Christ was the only way to the Father?

fake said...

I'm not sure if he used those exact words. His mention of "our need for the grace of Christ," which to me sounds pretty on track with the idea of there being only one way.

I'll see if I can find anything closer to your wording (which I realize is biblical).

JON said...

I thought this was a good post you wrote and I have to say I agree with it. People here have expressed views on both sides of the issue. If you'll allow me just a moment I'd like to comment.

When I was a new Christian I read Bell's "Velvet Elvis" and was so inspired by it. He said everything so well. He was so agreeable. Maybe to agreeable, maybe a little soft. What's important to note here is that Bell's musings got me hooked and in a way helped my walk.

However what is also to be realized is that we as a Christian community have begun levitating towards His message of love and acceptance while drifting further from His equally important message of sin and repentance. I think we've become afraid. Afraid of being rejected by the non-believers.

Jesus was not a pacifist, he didn't candy coat His message. He most certainly didn't dance around the issue of sin and salvation. Many times when we speak to people we only have a few minutes to help them. Now, we can't be all fire and brimstone but when asked we have to bring Jesus to center stage and not shy away.

In the end, Bell's ministry helped lead me to salvation and faith in Jesus Christ but only as a primer. I had to look deeper elsewhere. Comments like these by Bell and others are concerning. I shutter when a man of God is interviewed by the Globe or CNN and he sidesteps Jesus. There's no salvation to be found there and in reality what can be less loving than that?

Unknown said...

"A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of “believe and live.” Charles Spurgeion

Bill said...

I thought it was a great post, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Keep it up Jared.

D.Glasner said...

I do not know much about Rob Bell, but I do know his NOOMA videos. This comment may be a bit off topic, and I don't wish to jump too far into this discussion, but I do want to speak briefly about my liking of his video series.

I am the Chaplain of a Chapter of a national social fraternity at a college in Virginia (I won't get into the 'can I be in a fraternity and still be Christian conversation here, though I'd love to have it with someone any other time). For our house ministry, I use Bell's NOOMA series to help lead and focus discussion.

As several others have pointed out, he's more of a motivational speaker with a Christian message than a pastor. And for my purposes, this is great - it opens up the discussion about Faith without being too 'religious'. I know this may sound hokey, but when you have many individuals unsure of their Faith, easing them into discussion is the best way to go - and the NOOMA series provides this outlet.

Very interesting article - and very genuine, well-written responses. Thank you for the post!

Seminarian Steve said...


Thanks for the response. I truly enjoy critical appraisal, that's why I critiqued your post and am responding to your last one.

First: I'm not in Rob Bell's tribe. I'm in the diverse Christian tribe, who personally has been been pierced by the living and true God, brought to my knees, declared Jesus as Lord, and now as a new creation (to quote Paul) has a mission to bring continued glory to the all saving, all merciful, all loving, living and true God. The Rob Bell tribal language/fans of remarks is representative of something that I see many people who raise questions about Bell miss; this is about a lost and disenchanted generation coming to a fuller understanding and a life saving daily decision, to follow the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Christ (amongst other things). This is happening.

Secondly: The reason why I separated a pastor and a policemen, is because your policing a fellow disciple that is preaching the resurrected Jesus. You take issue with some of what he says (fine) we can go back and forth on our disagreements in regards to a tour/book interview, which I wonder if you've even seen? Disagree with him... fine! But to even indicate (indicate not persecute... forgive my hyperbole) that he's a wolf in sheep's clothing is a serious call for rebuke. This gets to an even bigger issue in regards to your fear that your flock (though I'm sure it's not fellow bloggers) might be misled.

The bigger issue is this: Is there a line drawn in regards to what should or shouldn't be policed? Pastor Mark Driscoll in relevant magazine in 2007 said "I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up?" Worthy of policing? Missing the heart of the crucification in an overreaction against his fear of his old emergent friends? This is fundamental to our faith! We worship a mighty messiah who instead of beating people up, or picking up a sword, or becoming a prize fighter, died and rose for you and I because resurrection, not insurrection is true power and strength. As Paul says it "I preach Christ crucified." Your right about the inclusive role of a pastor when it comes to policing/protecting, and as a pastor to be, I would truly challenge any flock that I'm serving, to not forget how God can still use Mars Hill Seattle; but to be very careful for the sake of the gospel of Jesus when it comes to this dangerous, divisive, overreaction, false, and misleading rhetoric. Now, you're advertising Driscoll all over your blog, yet I see no posts warning the flock against one of his many remarks? As you said; Joel O, has a huge flock, so clearly a flock doesn't represent how orthodox you are, right? So, where do we draw the lines when we all have different skepticism's?

Even in your tag line for your blog, i don't see the resurrection mentioned... "Cross-Centered, Grace-Laden, Christ-Focused, Gospel- Driven: Towards reform of the discipleship culture of the American Church" AMEN... Yet, as you know... many people in the 1st century died on a cross, yet no one defeated the cross in bodily resurrection. Resurrection gives life and hope to the sacrificial and substitutionary atonement of Jesus.

Does this mean that I'm skeptical of a pastor who doesn't emphasis resurrection enough? Yes. Does that mean that you or whoever else doesn't care about seeing people come to a fuller understanding and life saving daily decision to follow the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Christ? No, not at all. Does this mean that your apart of Driscoll's tribe then? No, we're apart of a much bigger tribe, right? Does this mean that we all have some ways to go when it comes to preaching the fullness of the gospel? Yes.

So let's be fair and careful with the lines that we draw as we realize that we're apart of the bigger historical orthodox christian faith tribe. Even as we all have certain skepticism's and questions to those who have certain platforms or popular podcasts.

Grace and peace,

Jared said...

Steve, long comment. Much I could say but won't.
Two things:

I pointedly said I was not calling Rob Bell a wolf. Was using that situation as a defense of pastor as occasional policeman.

Secondly, you write: yet I see no posts warning the flock against one of [Mark Driscoll's] many remarks

I don't know how deep you looked, but I have a post on this very site called Dissin' with Driscoll, or something to that effect in which I disagree with his perspective on not ministering with friends, and another which covers the significance of his ministry but begins with several paragraphs of disagreements/cautions.

I have also disagreed with him publicly on the matter of stay-at-home dads on another blog, which picked up quite a bit of press from the iMonk and Bill Kinnon, etc.

Two days ago on the same radio interview with Brant Hansen where I criticized Bell's remarks (without mentioning his name), I also criticized the caricature of Jesus as an "ultimate fighting champion."

That said, I love Mark and his ministry. I proudly and gladly call him a brother. And further, his preaching was the first instrumental ingredient in the gospel renaissance in my own life that began about 4 years ago. I love him dearly.

But I have disagreed with him on more than one occasion. (If that matters, as it appears it does.)

In any event, I find it interesting that taking someone to task for defining evangelical without the evangel gets interpreted to mean I'm putting him outside Christianity or calling him a wolf or a heretic or being judgmental.

There's a way to contend for a viewpoint and then there's thin-skinned, self-defensive sensitivity.

seminarian Steve said...

Jared, I would of hoped that you would have understood the questions that I was raising, I guess not. This isn't about thin skinned sensitivity, this isn't just taking someone to task for a definition? You ended your original post with this:

"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And woe to you too, Rob Bell."

I'll repeat myself "let's be fair and careful with the lines that we draw as we realize that we're apart of the bigger historical orthodox christian faith tribe. Even as we all have certain skepticism's and questions to those who have certain platforms or popular podcasts."

I don't think your being careful or wise in your rants. This isn't just some random conversation to waste time on a blog. This is an important discussion. You see Driscoll as a champion of Christ, I see Bell, but we don't follow them, we're learning to follow Jesus. We're apart of a larger tribe that is diverse and leaves room for a variety of voices. I just don't seeing you say "woe to Driscoll", even though you have greater reason to.

Again read my post (sorry for the length, we can switch this conversation to email or something).

Your words:
"I find it interesting that taking someone to task for defining evangelical without the evangel gets interpreted to mean I'm putting him outside Christianity or calling him a wolf or a heretic or being judgmental."

Your words:
"I am not saying Rob is a wolf -- please hear what I'm saying -- but I am saying that, contrary to your false dichotomy, and in keeping with Paul's constant harping on the heresies infiltrating the church and his encouragement to Timothy to watch is life and doctrine closely, that theological policing is exactly what pastors should do many times."

Bell, is the reason why your suggesting this, for me Driscoll would be. So what do we do? First, not belittle this discussion, and secondly, find unity amongst the larger christian tribe, and be careful of becoming theological policemen when we have a lot of holes in our own proclamation of the gospel (one that doesn't include resurrection). Driscoll is your brother, Bell is your brother; even though you would attend Mars Hill Seattle. Yet both are hopefully doing what we're doing, learning to follow Jesus in the context that we live in.

In our post resurrection generation this needs to be the spirit behind all that we do and say; while being careful of the lines that we draw in our blog rants, against someone who is preaching powerfully the gospel of Jesus, no matter the questions or suggestions that remain.

Jared said...

I would of hoped that you would have understood the questions that I was raising, I guess not

Steve, this is condescending.

My decision not to engage at every level or point of your comments is not for lack of understanding. It is lack of time, lack of interest, and need of attending to other matters, namely my work and ministry and family.

I don't think you're understanding me.

For instance, you see me citing woes at the end of my post.

You write: I just don't seeing you say "woe to Driscoll", even though you have greater reason to.

I didn't say woe to Driscoll but I did say woe to me.

Why aren't you asking why I'm being hard on myself too? ;-)

If it helps: Yes, Woe to Mark Driscoll if he does not preach the gospel.
Woe to all of us, if we don't. That was the point of the last two paragraphs of my post.

this isn't just taking someone to task for a definition

I don't believe this isn't about taking Bell to task. If his name wasn't in this and it was just a boilerplate rant against gospel-less gospel (which is all over my blog), you wouldn't have said anything. I know this because you haven't. You are here for the first time b/c of my mentioning Bell. :-)

Fwiw, I agree with most of your other statements about unity and following Christ and the vital importance of the resurrection.
We perhaps differ in that I think contending for the gospel and reforming the body means jostling brothers who put them in the background. I didn't make this up. I see it all over Jesus' ministry and all over Paul's letters.


Seminarian Steve said...


I do see "jostling with brothers" all over Jesus' ministry and all over Paul's letters. That's why I decided to specifically take you to task over your mislead overreactions towards a fellow brother.

Again, I believe the gospel is powerfully being spoken through Bell's ministry, that's the reason why I'm calling you to task. I believe your misleading readers while advocating other pastors who continue to show attributes of false teaching. This is critical appraisal, I believe creating a blog post rather then emailing Bell or seeing the actual tour, is unwise and unbiblical; not to mention that I disagree with your original remarks on a fellow brother that I wonder if you've even met or gone to him personally (biblical).

My wife and ministry is important to me as well, this discussion has taken up very little time, I usually just roll my eyes to these blog rants, but for the sake of the gospel, i thought it was very important to have some clarification and jostling.

"I agree with most of your other statements about unity and following Christ and the vital importance of the resurrection."

In that spirit, I hope we can continue to learn to minister in the fullness of the gospel, amidst our diverse historical orthodox christian tribe.


Jared said...

your mislead overreactions towards a fellow brother

We're not going to agree here. I re-read my post for the umpteenth time. There's nothing I would change.
I am not throwing Bell under the bus, outside orthodoxy, or anything of the sort. I don't tell anyone not to read him. I don't question his salvation. I even, in my opening lines, say I hope he was taken out of context.

Nevertheless, his responses to direct questions are seriously lacking and deserving of criticism. And that's what I provided.

I didn't mislead anyone. They can plainly see his words and follow the link(s) to see the rest and see, as you have, whether I'm misrepresenting his words or not.

advocating other pastors who continue to show attributes of false teaching

Now, that is a serious charge, one I have not thrown at Bell. I won't tolerate it. Even if Driscoll's ministry is rough around the edges, even if his portrait of Jesus sometimes reflects too much his own preferences, that does not false teaching make. Or even "attributes of false teaching" approximate.
And I won't allow that sort of charge any further. (Feel free to say whatever you like about the man on your own blog. Just not on mine.)

I believe creating a blog post rather then emailing Bell or seeing the actual tour, is unwise and unbiblical

Unwise is probably in the eye of the beholder, but unbiblical . . .
His words were public, not personal against me, so I am not bound by biblical injunction to address him personally. That's a ridiculous suggestion. Anytime anyone disagrees with something someone says publicly, they can't disagree publicly but must contact the guy?

Fwiw, I did address a tweet to Bell using his @name about this matter. I don't know if that qualifies, but I don't think it needs to.

If Bell had harmed me personally and privately, I would be obligated to address it personally and privately (at first). But if he is in an interview saying something generally, it's okay to address it in an equally public forum.

I think in all of this, you've missed the point of the rant. Bell is illustrative. As I said before, I think if I hadn't named him or quoted him but just "ranted" about someone hypothetically defining evangelicalism without the evangel non-negotiables of cross and empty tomb, you either wouldn't have commented or would have agree with me.

Do you even think Bell's answers to these questions are good? Are you willing to say that? My "judgmental" rant aside, can you agree that he could've (should've?) answered the questions better?

If so, then I know this conversation is a personal thing about your affinity with the man, and I get that.
If not, then I know the divide between us is bigger than a blog conversation can probably bridge.

Seminarian Steve said...

Jared, you questioned if someone is preaching the gospel, i questioned someone as well. You proved my point. You said "you won't put up with it". This is the same reason why I've posted on this blog. I took issue with your rant that I thought was misguided and narrow.

So again, where and how do we draw these policing lines?

I actually saw the tour that brought about the interview. I saw the gospel in illumining display. In the interview specifically, I read answers to a variety of questions, along with his clarification after being "mad" about an interviewer only printing a certain portion of the interview. Either way his over reaction to the reality that the word evangelical has been hijacked by the right wing is filled with valid reason. I would of liked him to say in greater detail in regards to what he later brought up- Jesus is Lord, the history behind it, etc. People can take it different ways, we just need to understand that a variety of questions were asked in regards to a certain tour and book (the main reason why he got the interview before his talk was in Boston). The whole tour and book is centered around understanding the reality of suffering and the truth that Christ has gone before us, amongst other things.

We need to look at the whole picture and the whole work of a man, while being cautiously slow when posting rants and woes.

I don't have a blog (seminary keeps me busy) or any desire to be Bell's great advocate, he doesn't need it and told me personally that he doesn't need me to do it. Yet, in this case I thought you weren't looking at the whole picture within it's whole context (shortened interview, a specific book/tour, actually going to the tour, a whole man's work, the other answers within the interview, the reality that not one man has perfected the articulation of what evangelism is; which is the reason why my whole evangelical seminary is having a gigantic conference on understanding what evangelism actually is anymore - this from a leading evangelical seminary, etc).

If I'm going to advocate for anything or anyone it's going to be for Jesus, but from time to time (even in the blog world) I'll support a fellow brother who has, and is, championing (used as a verb) the resurrected Christ.

RC said...

It really is too bad it's such a Jesus-less definition & that's what got published. Who knows how this fit into context, but what was published is a sad boat that was missed.

Jared said...

Yet, in this case I thought you weren't looking at the whole picture

We're in agreement. His terrible answers are illustrative. The post is not about his ministry or his books or his tour. They were about gospel-less gospel and his remarks in this interview were illustrations.

I don't think you've gotten that yet. You have made it more about Bell's reputation than I have in the post, honestly. :-/

If I am indeed proving your point, I expect you won't need to return to make it again yourself.

Seminarian Steve said...


I don't know what your reading but they weren't terrible answers. Did you read my answer to what I thought about them? We already know what you think... I gave you my answer - we've reached an end in this area. I believe your post was misguided, narrow, unfair, rash, etc and you think they where terrible answers; agree to disagree. Your post was about an answer within the interview, I'm taking your post to task. while bringing to light that your wasting your energy on Bell and need to spend your time taking some real debatable pastors (in my view) that you support to task. Which is why it's hard to draw lines, or just points to the reality that we all have skepticism. Just as I stated that your tag line is gospel-less gospel to me (leaving out the resurrection, the reason why we have good news, the GOSPEL). Yet your the theological policemen?

Again, in my view the only thing terrible about this discussion was not Bell's interview but your misguided rant. As the conversation progressed I began to point out that your supporting of a pastor that said he "cannot worship a guy he can beat up," is terrible theology and worries me. That's a gospel-less gospel (a gospel-less gospel that was given to a Christian interviewer). Again, this came out of disagreements with your original rant.

This isn't about Bell's reputation, it's about my disagreement with your narrowly guided rant towards a fellow brother and comments that have followed.

Yet, in what we do agree on that you mentioned; is an even greater end that we've reached:

"I agree with most of your other statements about unity and following Christ and the vital importance of the resurrection." Let's get to it!

That's it on my end, It's been informative and continued blessings as you minister to today's generation... sincerely. The "jostling" has been well worth it.

Grace and peace,

Jared said...

I don't know what you['re] reading but they weren't terrible answers.

Disagree. They were terrible.

Did you read my answer to what I thought about them?

Yes. I disagree with your thoughts.

agree to disagree


you['re] wasting your energy on Bell

One post. He was illustrative, not the main point. Been a looong time since I've done a critical piece. It's not the general aim of the blog and if you read more of it you will see that.

That said, it's never a waste of time to contend for the evangel in evangelical definitions to point out that words like Bell's are not helpful when they could equally apply to Greenpeace.

Yet you['re] the theological policem[a]n?

On my blog, I am.
Or I suppose you have been the last few days.

"I agree with most of your other statements about unity and following Christ and the vital importance of the resurrection." Let's get to it!

Steve, I have been. Honestly this post was not a waste of time, I thought it was important, it was in the genre of "rant" so it has the emotion and sarcasm inherent to that genre, and it's just a blip in the big context of everything else I'm talking about, but it has not been as much a time-sucker as interacting with you, which I've been willing to do because the NT tells us to rebuke with patience and all teaching.
But enough's enough.

You think my rant was misguided and narrow. I hear you.
You think Bell's answers were great. I hear you.
You think Driscoll is dangerous. I hear you.
You think I need more words in my slogan. LOL I hear you.

You are heard.

You can now go here:

They actually call Bell a heretic, so you should have a good time policing them.
They also hate Driscoll, so figure that one out . . .

Further comments from you will likely not be approved; just a head's up. I don't have the time or energy to replay the same exchange indefinitely. That's called "insanity." :-)

Anonymous said...

Disagree with this blogger or not, but what he has uncovered about Bell is disturbing:


These are also enlightening:



Anonymous said...

FYI, this is typical MO among Bell defenders:

"I believe creating a blog post rather then emailing Bell or seeing the actual tour, is unwise and unbiblical"

So Bell can rag all over the church, but if you happen to call Bell out...well, now YOUR the unbiblical jerk...

- bustral

Daniel said...

You really stepped in it, huh?


Daniel said...

You really stepped in it, huh?


Like a Mustard Seed said...

This article/interview of Bell is only the latest tidbit in a long, long string of statements, which have already led me to believe that Jesus has no real part in Bell's "gospel". Reading these things here only further confirm what has already been plain to see.

The fact that he's leaving out the name Jesus is really only symptomatic of the fact that he gave up the real teaching of Jesus some time ago...

This "social-gospel" is no gospel at all, in fact in runs completely counter to the true gospel. There is no meeting in the middle. Like you so eloquently put it, this is essentially a gospel that says deep down, we are all really pretty "awesome". It basically is the lie that we can save ourselves, from whatever we deem to be our real predicament as the human race. Therefore there is no need for the cross, no need for the kind of Savior that Christ came to be. He did not die for "the environment", he did not die so that we can buy the world a coke. He died that those who put their trust in Him might enter into the Kingdom that is to come...

I only pray that more people have the courage to wake up, and call a spade a spade, and cling even more tightly to the Truth.

Peace to you, Daniel

Anonymous said...

The liberal Social Gospel worked so well in the early 20th century...

...just look at the Mainline churches today...the pews are overflowing...

Jared said...

New Anonymous, I didn't approve your comment because it was both anonymous and accusatory.

Nobody's crucifying Rob. To suggest criticizing a man is witchhunting him and nailing him to a cross is an insult to Jesus.

Some people need to get a grip.

I'm about to be really blunt:
I think Rob Bell's message would spread a lot better if so many of his fans weren't a bunch of babies.

Anonymous said...

Okay so maybe I am missing something here. I have no doubt that Mr. Bell is sincere (sincerely wrong), I have no doubt that he is reacting to a version of Christianity that is "too heavenly minded" to be any earthly good (over reacting though).

But regardless of what we think of his preaching / performance style (his words not mine) it is his definition of the Gospel (the evangel) that is disturbing even frightening.

He defines an evangelical without the gospel. The closest he comes is an implication of Jesus from our lifestyle (see the entrie interview). To be quit frank, Mr. Bell cannot be classified as an Evangelical, not in the classic, historic sense. Maybe in the Post-modern, emerging, lack of foundations, denial of scriptural authority definition he can be an evangelical.

How did Paul define the Gospel, the Evangel? 1 Cor 15:3-6 is very clear.
1. Christ died for our sins
according to scriptures
2. He was buried
3. He was raised on the third day
according to scriptures
4. He appeared
to 500
to James and apostles
to Paul
Now I noticed that none of that was in Mr. Bell's definition. I also noticed that there was no mention of environmentalism, world change(meaning what?), generosity or kindness to the poor (a biblical response to all not just the poor but not the gospel), a hopeful outlook (hope for what? this present life or a hope for eternity?).
In short Mr. Bell's gospel is no gospel at all, well that is wrong, it is actually the old "Social Gospel" wrapped in some 21st century technology and jargon but still a social gospel. There is no redemption there, the resurrection is simply a "good word" that God hasn't abandoned the world. Hmmmm... no he hasn't and it is the Sacrifical death of Christ on the cross, his resurrection for our justification and promised return that prove it, not an environmentally conscious or politically active church.

Look it is time that real evangelicals grow a backbone and some courage and begin to call these so-called evangelicals what they are - purveyors of a false gospel. I fear that many won't given the "rock star" status and sales figures of these guys.

My hope and prayer is that Mr. Bell would return to the biblically defined gospel, that he would make that the center of his ministry and all that he says and does. It may not sell as many videos, books or "performance tickets" but that will truly give hope to those without hope, it will redeem and transform people such that we begin to live like kingdom citizens and are generous, kind and good stewards of all that God has given us, to the glory of God.

Anonymous said...

been reading this blog for about a year now and the last thing Jared is... is a policeman. Just finished reading the exchange with the dude who has first hand instructions from Rob Bell and I think the beef Steve (assuming that's his name) has with Jared is that he has a beef with Bell (please add the resurection to your title Jared for goodness sakes like the rest of us have)--for all the emphasis on new life Bell speaks and writes of I think its worth pointing out that with no cross there is no empty tomb or new life to speak of. Why has the concept of Jesus' work on the cross (I dare not say "atoning" work... since Paul says it for me again and again) become so taboo today among the postmodern guru preachers, that's what I want to know?

We all stick up for those we have an affection for, sticking up for someone we see as a smuck or a criminal not so much. I liked the Nooma dvd's as well several years back, about the same time I stumbled unto the young and imperfect MD myself--I have some of the same issues with MD jared lists (but I have larger ones with myself... I can assure anyone who is curious). If Steve wants to read the policemen, Jared has listed a good place to start--there he'll find some red meat. I thought Jared was respectful, and considering the nature of the disagreements with Bell's comments, that's not easy. No "preacher" or "speacher" or "tweecher" is above being questioned... the rest of us need to be challenged and corrected from time to time, so why can't Bell be? (He is or was on a "national" tour after all). Its worth noting that Jared leveled no personal attacks either.

Unknown said...

Is this about Evangelicalism or "Evangelical Christianity". Defining Christianity without Christ would be a definite problem. Bell seems to be simply commenting on the word evangelical on it's own. I know if he was defining Christianity he would include Christ...it is the root of the word.
If you're frustrated with Rob and worried he is doing damage to our faith, find out how to contact him and legitimately ask him what he meant. Unless you know him personally and have seen his actions, you would not be able to determine his motivation...don't forget we're all in this together!

Jared said...

Sean, thanks for your comment.

I believe the injunction to contact someone directly, privately refers to interpersonal conflict/disagreement. Public words should be open to public critique.

Wells said...

Bell's new book is par for the course with everything wrong about him in this discussion 2 years ago.