My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (Colossians 2:2-4)

Bell Rings An Uncertain Sound

On the back cover of his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith (VE) Emergent pastor Rob Bell writes:

We have to test everything. I thank God for anybody anywhere who is pointing to the mysteries of God. But those people would all tell you to think long and hard about what they are saying and doing and creating. Test it. Probe it. Do that to this book. Don’t swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it.

Just because I’m a Christian and I’m trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn’t mean I’ve got it nailed. I’m contributing to the discussion. God has spoken, and the rest is commentary, right?”

Elsewhere on the back cover of VE it also informs us that, “Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill, one of the fastest growing churches in American history.” So now we can see that in the case of Rob Bell we are not dealing here with a novice, or someone who should be immature in his Christian beliefs. No, in fact it really is to the contrary because Bell himself is pastor of a local church. And as such then he needs to be “tested” as one.

I can tell you that as one of the Lord’s undershepherds myself I immediately take issue with the idea that the pastor is only “contributing to the discussion.” The job of the pastor-teacher is to faithfully proclaim those “mysteries of God,” the chief of which is Christ Himself. This is also quite certain from our text above:

that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3, ESV)

The Pastor Must Be Able To Teach

What Bell has apparently missed in his education is that the pastor-teacher is to emulate the original Apostles. Paul instructs Timothy – And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). In fact 1 Timothy 3:2 says the pastor must be able to teach because teaching is a main qualification for the pastor in the first place. And by definition a teacher is an instructor and not the one instructed.

The more I look into Rob Bell’s work–which is actually quite tentative and nebulous–the more it becomes clear he falls short of these qualifications. Titus 1:9 also tells us that the true pastor cannot sound uncertain because – He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. And obviously this is going to be impossible to do unless he comes to understand what sound doctrine is in the first place.

So now you should be able to see that the pastor is not so much to “contribute” to “the discussion,” the truth is the pastor-teacher sent by God must do more than simply be “trying to articulate a Christian worldview.” He is to teach, which is to impart knowledge and not more questions, to his hearers concerning how to come to a complete understanding of this worldview. This of course is going to be a hopeless task for one who doesn’t believe 1) that it is even possible to reach complete understanding of anything and 2) that a Christian worldview has even been articulated clearly.

Jesus Says We Can Know What He Taught Us

Since leaders in the Emergent Church question the concept of absolute truth then no worldview–including a Christian one–can ever be articulated with certainty. Well how convenient for these spiritually spineless emerging Hollow Men afraid to pay the price of absolute commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. O, but we’re told that this ambiguous idea of questioning truth inherent within eastern religions is…well, true. It is? Not according to verse 2 of our text it isn’t – that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

Jesus Himself also refutes this mistaken idea that Truth can’t be known as He says – And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3, KJV). And then God the Holy Spirit instructs us through His inspired Apostle John – We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him Who is true. And we are in Him Who is true–even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

But such is the postmodern problem with milquetoast men like Rob Bell who are sowing confusion so they won’t personally have to make a stand. For this requires a faith in Christ, which he obviously doesn’t have and further it requires a commitment to the absolute Truth of God’s Word that Bell obviously doesn’t make. And yes Rob, “God has spoken, and the rest” of your job as a pastor-teacher ostensibly sent by Christ is to provide “commentary,” which then helps your congregation grow up into knowing Christ. You are not to go on and deceive them by your fine-sounding arguments thoroughly rooted in your own postmodern bias.

God Reveals Himself To Those Who Seek Him

Again, another Emergent argument is that no one can say they know the Lord because this would be akin to the foolish fallacy of the sin of presumption of the apostate Church of Rome. When I tell you that I know Who sent me and I know what He has called me to do I am completely in line with Holy Scripture:

Good and upright is the LORD? therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way… Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. (Psalm 25:8-9, 12-14)

Pastor A.W. Tozer put it this way:

I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence…

Revival and blessing come to the Church when we stop looking at a picture of God and look at God Himself. Revival comes when, no longer satisfied just to know about a God in history, we meet the conditions of finding Him in living, personal experience…

Modern mankind can go everywhere, do everything and be completely curious about the universe. But only a rare person now and then is curious enough to want to know God. (Men Who Met God, 121-122,127)

What the Spirit speaking through Tozer and myself is telling you also rings certain with what the LORD God Almighty in human flesh, Christ Jesus of Nazareth Himself tells His disciples as recorded in the eyewitness testimony of His Apostle John – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). And no one in their right mind is going to argue that Jesus didn’t know God the Father and God the Holy Spirit or what was expected of Him.

The Master even goes on to tell us – “If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (vv.15-17). And then Jesus says to His disciples again – “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21, KJV). So you should be able to see that the Christian has every right to expect that he can know God and what the message is that the Lord has given His Church to preach for Him.

Bell Is Clearly Both Postmodern And Emergent

Now in all fairness, what Rob Bell says on the back cover of Velvet Elvis could possibly serve as an initial argument with which to approach an unbeliever. The problem is however, that neither Bell’s VE, nor his public work period, ever really gets beyond this point. And it is here that Bell’s vociferous and obsequious disciples argue that this is his point. But that isn’t borne out at all by the words which Bell uses here. When Bell talks about the so-called “mysteries of God” he is clearly doing so within the context of his postmodern worldview and the Emergent idea that God cannot really be known.

Bell leaves no doubt by saying, “Just because I’m a Christian and I’m trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn’t mean I’ve got it nailed.” First of all, no real Christian ever walks around claiming to know everything. This is simply a straw man argument which has now become a classic with Emergents. And although Bell is doing his best to distance himself from the Emergent Church he gives himself away when he says, “I’m contributing to the discussion.” Because anyone familiar with the Emergent Church knows it is referred to as “the conversation.”