“Therefore everyone who hears these Words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the Rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the Rock. But everyone who hears these Words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

A Redefined Tolerance And “Brickianity”

Let me begin by pointing out one of the great fallacies now being put forth by those who are caught up following the reimagined social gospel promulgated by the leaders of the Emergent Church, which itself is the simply the new repainted cult of liberal theology. The image portrayed before the general public is that the Emergent is so tolerant while those of us who steadfastly hold to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, also known as the historic orthodox Christian faith, are in contrast so harsh and unloving.

O, for those who happen to agree with them the quiet air of tolerance appears, but just as soon as one differs suddenly they are derogatorily painted as a “fundie.” I talk about this a bit further in Emergent Church: You’re “That” Christian. But the truth is that everyone actually has a belief system and this includes the postmodern Emergent themselves. And what I have been trying to get people to examine in my writings on Rob Bell and the Emergent Church is the horrible mistake they have made by choosing to approach the Bible with a neo-orthodox (at best) view as taught by Karl Barth.

Men and women we also need to be honest here and come to understand that people have an innate desire to share and yes, even to defend their beliefs. So you see the huge decision one has to make here while they are on God’s earth breathing God’s air is whether in fact one’s belief system is correct. In the case of Jesus Christ of Nazareth what you believe about Him will determine where you spend eternity. And I do mean to burst your postmodern bubble; you can whine about this not being fair, you can opine that God should simply include everyone, but in the end this universe belongs to the Creator and He is free to do with it whatever He chooses.

So Rob Bell can misstate the proper Biblical Reformed view of Christianity held by someone like myself as “brickianity” as he does in his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith (VE) if he wants to. But then it really ought not surprise him when I will also vigorously defend the historic orthodox Christian faith that he so easily tries to dismiss. In his review Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith Dale Van Dyke of Reformation 21 discusses Bell’s view on the subject of faith.

Van Dyke brings out Bell’s idea concerning the difference between the old inferior “fundamentalist” Christianity and Bell’s new superior postmodern version:

Faith, according to Bell, is a trampoline with doctrine functioning as the springs. Springs are helpful but not the focal point. The problem with many Christians is that they are so wrapped up in the nature of the springs they can’t enjoy the real “point” of Christianity: the experience of jumping.

Bell compares these doctrinally minded people to masons who build their faith as a wall of bricks, each brick of doctrine carefully laid on top of the other. The problem with this view of faith, Bell believes, is that if you pull out one of the bricks, the whole wall collapses.

Stretching The Truth And The Faith

Let me also say that Rob Bell does state he affirms “the historic Christian faith,” which he then defines vaguely. Bell postulates, “But if the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?” The problem we immediately confront is that in the postmodern mindset nothing can be stated absolutely which then rules out a priori something being strong in the first place. In this philosophy of relativism we are going to be caught up in “reexamining” and “rethinking” everything anyway. So one is left wondering, if this repainted Emergent gospel really is the “historic” faith Jesus taught, why would He have been crucified?

Then using the concept of a brick Bell attempts to show how having fixed beliefs is so harmful to “the historic Christian faith” he says he affirms:

This is because a brick is fixed in size, it can’t flex or change size, because if it does, then it can’t fit into the wall. What happens then is that the wall becomes the sum total of the beliefs, and God becomes as big as the wall. But God is bigger than any wall. God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith (027).

One can almost hear the applause. But before we begin taking our bows too soon there are a couple of glaring flaws in reasoning here as we egin to take Bell’s trampoline apart. I mean who says every brick (doctrine) is of equal importance or how do we know if any should be ready to “flex” and/or “change”? What if God wants the “wall” to be His unchanging and immutable Word in Holy Scripture? And He does as evidenced in our opening text. Rob, who then decides which bricks should be flexible? Or which ones should be changed? And what if God has definitively said the Christian faith is as big a representation of Him as anyone needs to come into a saving relationship with Him? You see, we “fundies” can ask questions too.

Personal Bias And Faulty Postmodern Philosophy

The point becomes where do we go to answer these questions and what do we tell those in other religions about God. Now we certainly have no trouble admitting here that this idea espoused by Rob Bell does sound good to those who are drawn in by Bell’s clever style. This acceptance also is aided by his or her own bias toward the faulty philosophy of postmodernism, but when all is said and done Bell’s speculations don’t really change anything. You see I happened to grow up in a family where my dad was a physical education instructor for the local high school and because of this I personally ended up well acquainted with trampolines.

And I know firsthand why Bell’s metaphor still doesn’t work, even if we grant it, because just the same as pulling bricks out of a wall would inevitably produce a collapse, so removing springs from the trampoline would eventually cause one to fall through it to the ground. This means that either way, as one removes bricks or removes springs the “wall” of fixed doctrine or the “trampoline” of subjective experience, each would end up providing erratic beliefs along the way. Then through the removal of enough of each, albeit bricks or springs, the same end result is still a collapsed belief system.

But herein lies the palpable problem with Bell’s Emergent style over substance “Christian” message. Much like the style of any artist, if someone happens to like a performer suddenly his or her performance seems to take on a quality in that person’s eyes that makes it appear better than it may actually be. To use an example that Rob Bell would understand one can easily see this with music groups. It appears obvious enough that many bands in whatever genre of music have become successful based largely on looks and personality where other more talented groups have been ignored.

Without a doubt Bell does resonate very well with the younger set, as well as twenty and thirty-somethings ensconced with postmodernism, and they do tend to uncritically accept his largely vacuous teachings such as this trampoline metaphor. They accept doctrine such as this without noticing that it actually proves nothing as I have just shown you here. And the bottom line with the historic orthodox Christian faith remains the same: Who is God and how do we come to know Him? And as we have spiritual experiences by what means can we test them as to whether we are encountering God or the Devil?

And this is why the Word of God in the Bible is of the utmost importance because it is in Holy Scripture that we are told God cannot change. “I, the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The absolute Truth is the LORD God Almighty–our Creator–has determined that the only way mankind may come into a relationship with Him is by His grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone. But there is something else here of vital importance which is very often over looked in regard to being forgiven of sin and thus rescued from an eternity in conscious torment in a literal place this Creator–Christ Jesus of Nazareth Himself–called Hell.

Followers Of Which Jesus?

God’s inerrant and infallible Word in Scripture puts forth with crystalline clarity that it is quite possible to follow the wrong Jesus and also tells us Satan has sent forth false ministers. Consider this from 2 Corinthians 11 – For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough (v.4). And further such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ (v.13). So here we see that there is indeed such a thing as a Jesus other than the One that the Apostles preached.

Those of us trained in Comparative Religion and who have experience in the mission field of taking the genuine Gospel to those trapped in non-Christian cults end up learning this very quickly. When someone tells us they believe in Jesus we will often immediately ask: “Great, but which one?” Take for example that the “Jesus” of the Mormon Church is said to be the spirit child born first to a resurrected man named Elohim who later becomes a god. Another Jesus you will frequently run into is the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who is allegedly Michael the Archangel and the first and greatest spirit creation of Jehovah God.

Or you instead you may end up meeting the Jesus of the Mind Science cults and the New Age Movement. He is supposed to be the man who best demonstrated how to go within himself and tune in to the divine Christ-consciousness principle, which is supposedly a divine spark inherent in all of mankind. So in essence the idea here would be man is already in God and God in man. Frankly, this particular one isn’t that far off from where those being consumed in the deception of the so-called “Christian” mysticism of Contemplative Spirituality are headed in their concept of being “followers of Jesus.” For more on this idea I refer you to The Emergent “One”.

So you should now be able to see that claiming to be a follower of Jesus really doesn’t mean much in and of itself. And there is a huge and eternal danger in listening to men like Rob Bell who demonstrate a rather immature understanding of the critical importance of protecting the Gospel of the Lord he claims to serve as a pastor:

I am far more interested in jumping than I am in arguing about whose trampoline is better. You rarely defend the things you love. You enjoy them and tell others about them and invite others to enjoy them with you (ibid).

Earnestly Contend For The Faith

So what are we to do as one by one foundational truths of Christianity are systematically being attacked by other religions and unbelieving skeptics? I know as a pastor myself I don’t like conflict. But when an entire generation is being twisted through warped and toxic teaching like this from Bell I have no choice but to follow the command Christ has given to His pastors 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 (Titus 1:9). Well Rob, here let me tell you that I love the Biblical theology recovered by the Reformers and so I am telling you about it and inviting you to enjoy it with me.

Obviously this kind of approach employed by Bell and other leaders in the Emergent Church works only with those predisposed to it and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Bells then continues with a reasoning bent toward man:

Have you ever seen someone pull a photo out of their wallet and argue about the supremacy of this particular loved one? Of course not. They show you the picture and give you the opportunity to see what they see (ibid.)

Men and women, if with Jesus of Nazareth we were talking about a mere man then this analogy would hold up. However, we most certainly are not. No, in the historic Christian faith here we are speaking about the LORD God Himself–the Creator of the entire universe–Who condescended to become man in order to satisfy the justice of God through undergoing the indescribable horror of what happened to Him while being punished for our sin at the Cross. What then are we supposed to do if someone pulls a “photo” of Buddha out of their “wallet” and gives us the “opportunity to see what they see”?

And you can’t go crying intolerance here because Bell is clearly suggesting above that telling people about Jesus will make them want to follow Him. So I ask then why wouldn’t this approach “tolerant and loving” approach work equally well for the Buddhist or the Musilm? As a final example, are men like me just supposed to sit idly by as Bell draws more people into the vapor of Emergent postmodern pseudo-Christianity through the following kind of non-reasoning, “The first Christians announced this way of Jesus as ‘the good news.’ That tells me the invitation is for everybody” (028). Whoa there Rob. That’s one huge leap of a-logic.

Now we need to understand that just because the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” it doesn’t logically follow that it is an all-inclusive proclamation. And it isn’t. While the invitation might be extended to everyone, the Gospel is good news only for those who accept it and repent (turn around) of their sin and believe (totally commit to) that Jesus Christ is Lord, which is to say the Eternal God Himself in human flesh (see–John 8:24,28). For the many who won’t, remember Jesus said “few” accept it, their sad fate is to remain excluded from the Kingdom of God because the wrath of God remains (John 3:36) upon them.

And we need to help people to understand that the only “Jesus” Who actually has the power and authority to change someone’s eternal destiny is the Creator Who entered into the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born into His Own creation as the God-Man:

“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, Whom God raised from the dead–by Him this man is standing before you well.

This Jesus is the Stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the Cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12, ESV)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)