As I continue my look at the vacuous doctrine of Rob Bell in this article I will demonstrate further his connection to the Emergent Church. There are those who would would why I would do so because Rob Bell makes no claim to be Emergent. But what Bell teaches is so right in line with the eastern concepts purveyed by the larger Emergent Church including a denial of the historic orthodox Christian view of the Christ’s vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross that Rob Bell is firmly within the camp of Emergent whether he likes it or not.

Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19-21)

Do Not Be Unequally Yoked With Unbelievers

Now let’s approach this issue of men like Rob Bell who are teaching things completely in line with what has grown into the Emergent Church from another angle. I have pointed out numerous times elsewhere that this emerging church movement, begun by Leadership Network in the late 1990’s, is no longer emerging it has now emerged complete with its own identifiable leaders and theologians. Among these for example would be men such as Brian McLaren, his friend Leonard Sweet and Living Spiritual Teacher Richard Foster.

Whether a given church choosing to identify itself as an “emerging church” even likes it or not this movement can be easily traced back to the Young Leaders Network that Brian McLaren tells us was “also briefly known as the Terra Nova Project” (A Generous Orthodoxy, 275). You see this is the actual root from which the tree of the emerging church movement originally sprang and men like Dan Kimball and Doug Pagitt, who were there at the beginning, Richard Foster’s partner in teaching alleged Spiritual Formation Dallas Willard and theologian Tony Jones, who are now identified with it, will soon have to come to grips with 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. This is especially true as it relates to Emergent’s penchant toward interfaith/interspiritual worship which as you can see above is expressly forbidden by God.

You should also know that this same choice lies before all of the churches who have made the decision to align themselves with this corrupt spiritual tree that has since grown into the Emergent Church. Remember it was Jesus Himself Who told us – “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). This means they’ll look like believers, and then the Master said – “a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit (v.17, KJV) “and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (v.18). And by far the most dominant group in what has now fully blossomed into the new cult of liberal theology is Emergent-US, of which most of the men above are identified and/or friends with.

What is critical for you to understand here is at the very least Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren, his friends Foster and Willard–whom he calls “key mentors” of the Emergent Church–and Tony Jones are all very heavily involved in the apostate and heretical “spiritual disciplines” of so-called “Christian” mysticism that comprise Contemplative Spirituality, also known as Spiritual Formation. And considering the obvious pagan roots of this Gnostic mysticism the whole of the above was more than enough to taint and corrupt the entire emerging church movement as a whole.

Men and women, it is simply beyond all question that this practice of Contemplative Spirituality, which is actually the very root of the anti-Reformation sentiment now running rampant in new evangelicalism severely infecting the Body of Christ, actually originated with the so-called “Desert Fathers and Mothers” of the fourth and fifth century. These apostate hermits living in the desert region of the east then borrowed from religious “disciplines” used to practice and/or worship in pagan so-called “faith traditions” such as Buddhism and Hinduism. The most notable of these practices would be transcendental meditation, which these apostates then “adapted” into an alleged “Christian” version of mysticism and a type of meditation often referred to today as Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

”Evangelicals” Attacking The Atonement

Now at this point you might be wondering what all of this has to do with Rob Bell. After all, many will say, he doesn’t even claim to be part of the Emergent Church. And to the best of my knowledge this is correct, he doesn’t claim to be. However, the clearly postmodern version of the Christian faith Bell teaches is so right in line with the watered-down eastern concepts of what it means to be a Christian, “followers of Jesus” in their parlance, purveyed by the larger Emergent Church that he undoubtedly is within the camp of Emergent whether he likes it or not.

As a matter of fact I will bring to your attention that writer Andy Crouch even begins his article The Emergent Mystique which ran in Christianity Today a couple of years ago describing his trip to Mars Hill Bible Church, which just happens to be the church where Rob Bell is pastor. Crouch describes what he sees as being somewhat typical of an emerging church and then goes on to quote Bell as saying, “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an eastern religion.” So if Bell’s teachings weren’t so compatible with the Emergent Church itself then obviously he would not have been included in this article about the emerging church movement by Crouch. Bell may have a unique twist on it with his dependence of what he calls “ancient rabbis,” but his inclusive doctrine really isn’t all that far from McLaren’s.

And the reason that the Emergent, and quite corrupt, version of the Christian faith is being reimagined and repainted “as an eastern religion” today is because of the spiritual deception which inevitably comes upon all those who dabble long enough in the pagan practice of so-called Contemplative Spirituality. What happens is that it turns the practitioner backward as they actually become blinded to God by an inflated love of man. It is the supposed rediscovery of these alleged “spiritual disciplines” by mentors like Foster and Willard that is at the very core of this neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church. And these disciplines now act as fuel for this spiritual blindness, and chief among the deceptions is the rejection of the proper Biblical understanding of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Christ.

I have previously shown in Brian McLaren in Denial and in Rob Bell: Gospel? What Gospel? that amazingly enough we are actually seeing “Evangelicals” Attacking the Atonement right from within the Christian Church itself. This would be line with 2 Peter 2:1 – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (NASB). So let me ask you a question here: If God did pay the penalty of our sin Himself on the Cross and we who call ourselves Christians reject this, then how do you think He’s likely to feel about that?

Well, there are many who have contacted me to inform me that Rob Bell doesn’t reject that Jesus died for sin on the Cross. Let me state for the record here that I am well aware that no, technically in those terms he doesn’t. But this is all the more reason why it has become so imperative today to define the words we use with those we are talking with. As I point out in Emergent Church: Hollow Men Emerging men like Rob Bell and the Emergent Church have been redefining cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith for years now. And in this case while Bell might mention the Cross, in his theology there is no need for someone to actually repent of (turn away from) their sin in the proper Biblical definition to appropriate the forgiveness offered only to those who believe in (truly surrender to) Christ.

Bell’s Universal View Of The Atonement

We will now turn to Bell’s book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith. As near as we can tell through the vapor of the postmodernism in which he couches his version of Christianity what Bell himself believes–consistent actually with most in new evangelicalism–is that on the Cross Jesus reconciled “[a]ll things, everywhere” (146) referencing Colossians 1:20. However, this isolated verse cannot not mean that Christ saved all of mankind because Jesus Himself tells us only a few find [the narrow gate] of salvation (see–Matthew 7:13). Yes, Bell does use the evangelical language that Jesus “dies on the cross in our place” (107) but then creates a straw man by saying the “legal-transaction perspective” is only about what Jesus “has done for us (108, emphasis his).

But as Dr. Walter Martin would often say, “the historic orthodox Christian Church has never taught that.” And according to Rob Bell–here consistent with the Emergent Church itself–all people have to do in order to be “saved” is to understand that through Christ’s crucifixion they have already been forgiven by God. As such they need only begin living in this new “reality” that they currently, albeit unknowingly, possess. Counter to Biblical theology in Bell’s view of the atonement, which denies what Christ Himself taught about salvation, no one needs to do anything to appropriate God’s forgiveness as he tells us:

This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.

God is retelling each of our stories in Jesus. All of the bad parts and the ugly parts and the parts we want to pretend never happened are redeemed…God retells our story… The fact that we are loved and accepted and forgiven in spite of everything we have done is simply too good to be true (ibid).

Then to make sure it’s understood that by “we” above Bell is not just speaking of Christians–the Body of Christ–he will go on to say:

And this reality extends beyond this life. Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. (ibid.)

So now our Lord’s work on the Cross was a failure because if there are “forgiven” people in Hell “whom Jesus died for” then it would mean that Christ was not actually able to save them. But this is yet another example of the new evangelical non-gospel which is centered on man. This past year I put much time into intensive personal research concerning Contemplative Spirituality and mysticism. And I can tell you for a fact that this is virtually the same view of the work of Jesus Christ, if it is even acknowledged at all, which is always the end result for all who engage in transcendental meditation. The truth is that the longer one performs this pagan practice they eventually open themselves up to becoming participants with demons.

And the deception they eventually receive is reaching a state where they begin to feel a distorted sense of “love” which they will usually attribute to God. Now whether or not Rob Bell himself is a practitioner of these disciplines, and based on his familiarity with the work of Dallas Willard I suspect he is, would actually be irrelevant to this work. Bell’s teaching on the atonement is another reason why his version of Christianity ends up aligning him with the Emergent Church. And this wishful musing by Bell that God has simply forgiven everyone just because of what Jesus did on the Cross would in itself be enough for us to seriously question whether he is a pastor sent by Christ.

The Scandal Of The Cross

We resist wrestling with the snake here and ignore the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate because neither group has such a watered down and virtually nonexistent view of the Cross as Bell’s above. Certainly Bell’s concept of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross has absolutely nothing at all to do with a George Whitefield or a Charles Spurgeon. It actually has much more in common with the heretical Brian McLaren and Richard Foster, who is a Quaker, than it even does with a John Wesley and an A.W. Tozer. In Bell’s Emergent theology we have essentially done away with any need to really even mention the Cross, which is the whole idea.

In order to please the world the Ecumenical Church of Deceit rising within new evangelicalism, of which Emergent is a part, has deemphasized and even obliterated the Cross of Jesus Christ. But the Bible flatly states that the real meaning of what Christ Jesus did on the Cross is always going to offend the natural man – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). And then God the Holy Spirit further tells us that the preaching the Cross is actually a stumbling block (v.23). The Greek there is skandalon, where we get our English word “scandal.” This is why Emergents like Bell have worked so hard find a way around having to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The Master tells those who would come after Him – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27, ESV). Tozer himself put it quite well explaining that when Jesus told His followers they must take up their cross and follow Him they knew exactly what He meant. They has seen thousands carrying a cross to their own executions and then hanging on the tree. True followers of Jesus knew they would have to die to self because the cross was rugged, it was effective, and whoever went to it was not coming back. The reason why Bell’s and the Emergent Church’s own rejection of the historic orthodox Christian view of the atonement is so critically important should become clear as I tell you about “What’s Next.”

This just happens to be the title of an article from the fiftieth anniversary issue of the rather liberal Christianity Today which interviews “114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years.” And included among these labile “leaders” we have such notables as Emergent “prophet” Tony Campolo, Emergent pastors Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith and Doug Pagitt of Solomon’s Porch, amazingly enough author Donald Miller, as well as other Contemplatives such as Mark Oestreicher, who is president of Youth Specialties and Pastor Eugene Peterson author of The Message a terrible travesty of a translation of the Bible. Add to this Emergent leaders Leonard Sweet and Erwin McManus are appearing at this year’s National Religious Broadcasters Convention’s Reach Conference and things do not look good for the genuine Gospel of our Lord.

But germane to our topic of the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified on the Cross and being punished in our place the CT article does mention the following concerning “the greatest challenge to theology” facing evangelicals:

“The scandal of the Cross has always been there. The pressure of the culture has always been to have diversity,” said Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “But the scandal comes across now as much more arrogant and elitist in a world that diminishes the role of truth.” (October 2006, 78)

The article also goes on to point out that the challenge to preach the genuine Gospel in this world “bridges geography. Muslims argue that we have too many gods. Hindus complain we have too few. Postmodernists don’t care as long as we refrain from imposing our beliefs on them. But sometimes they do care, and seek to suppress Jesus’ intolerant claims.” And it is at this very point where Rob Bell and the Emergent Church by suppressing “Jesus’ intolerant claims” are crippling true evangelism and instead are shutting the door to the kingdom of God in people’s faces. Rather than being willing to carry the Cross of Jesus Christ into the cultures around them, they have instead compromised the Word of God in a misguided–though probably sincere–attempt to placate the world.

For the sad fact is that these ministers of the social gospel with their fictitious “Jesus of the cause du jour” are simply not telling people the absolute Truth. For what ever reason, my personal belief is they are afraid of the conflict, men like Rob Bell have become involved with another religion which is ashamed of the scandal of the Cross. But the Bible teaches that right now the only way anyone anywhere and anytime (how’s that for inclusivism) can possibly hope to avoid an eternity in the conscious torment of a literal place that Christ Jesus of Nazareth called Hell is to totally surrender their lives to Him. Because we must never forget that upon that old rugged Cross hung our very Creator Himself the LORD God Almighty in human flesh.

And A.W. Tozer was also telling the sad truth when he was moved by God to look down the corridor of time to write of the current infestation into the Church of man-pleasing and cross-denying men of the Emergent Church like Rob Bell:

We cannot buy God’s favor with crowds or converts or new missionaries sent out or Bibles distributed. All these things can be accomplished without the help of the Holy Spirit. A good personality and a shrewd knowledge of human nature is all that any man needs to be a success in religious circles these today (Born After Midnight, 059).