All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Denying The Actual Gospel Of Jesus Christ

I’ve mentioned on a few occasions that in his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith (VE) Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church gives a first hand account of the distortion and denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ currently going on within the Emergent Church exacerbated by their wrong view of the mission Christ gave His Church. The job of the real followers of Jesus is quite plainly spelled out in our text above:

He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (vv.19b-20).

If one needs to be reconciled then it becomes obvious one has not already been reconciled simply from Christ dying on the Cross alone. Because it is only after someone has been reconciled to God through His grace alone by a personal commitment by faith alone in Christ alone that they will even be in the Kingdom of Heaven to begin with. And this has always been the Gospel preached by the true historic orthodox Christian Church. The Emergent Church however, is certainly obscuring–if not outrightly denying–the essential work done by Christ in the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross, which then leads to their huge misconception concerning the primary mission our Lord has given to His ambassadors to seek and save the lost (see–John 20:21).

Bell then illustrates this eternally serious misunderstanding of the work of the true Church of our Lord currently propounded within the Emergent Church when he writes:

True spirituality then is not about escaping this world to some other place where we will live forever. A Christian is not someone who expects to spend forever in heaven there. A Christian is someone who anticipates spending forever here, in a new heaven that comes to earth. The goal isn’t escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work.

The remaking of this world is why Jesus’ first messages began with “T’shuva, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The Hebrew word t’shuva means “to return”. Return to the people we were originally created to be. The people God is remaking us into (151, emphasis his).

We Are To Repent Not Return To

As you will see there later is a reason why Bell uses the Hebrew above. I’m not going to go into great depth here but this is extremely careless exegesis by Bell regarding what this text actually says in the Greek version of canonical Scripture, which uses the word metanoeo. This is then tranlated “repent,” as in to turn around from, and as such clearly carries a meaning diametrically opposed to what Bell is teaching here. Used in a military sense metanoeo would then give the word picture of a company of soldiers marching and suddenly the command is given, “About face!” Immediately the whole company spins one hundred eighty degrees around and then begins moving in the opposite direction. However, there’s something else rather startling here that also immediately emerges from Bell’s musings above.

While undoubtedly there is an aspect in which one day Heaven will be “here,” what Bell is actually doing by the statement: “True spirituality is not about escaping this world to some other place,” is playing to a stereotype created by theologians within the Emergent Church of a “traditional” Christian who is supposedly neglecting “the gospel of the kingdom” and simply waiting around for Jesus to rapture him home to Heaven. These people are often derogatorily referred to as “fundies” because the supposedly tolerant Emergent is not really so tolerant in practice as I show you in Emergent Church: “You’re ‘That’ Christian!” But this is what Bell means when he says that the goal of the Christian isn’t “escaping,” but rather we are to make “this world the kind of place God can come to.”

Yes, in Matthew 4:17 the Lord does tell us the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (KJV), in fact what He actually says is – “Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” But now there is this growing confusion being spread by the Emergent Church movement as to what this actually means. To help clear this confusion, and we know that God is not the author of confusion (see–1 Corinthians 14:33), we also need to keep in mind that the first thing Jesus says is, “Repent, turn away from your sin,” which is also what His forerunner John the Baptist had been preaching before Him (see–Mark 1:4). Even Dr. David Stern, who knows a good deal more about Hebrew than Rob Bell does, translates Matthew 4:17 – “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” (Complete Jewish Bible). For our purposes here let it suffice to say that the Kingdom is near (NIV) because God the Son had brought it “here” to earth now when He had come to die for the sins of His people.

But the grievous misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God which is taught today by Emergent leaders such as Bell, Living Spiritual Teacher Richard Foster and Guru Brian McLaren does not take into account that this Kingdom of Heaven is only still here on earth right now in the Church–the Body of Christ–that is made up of regenerated men and women who are the called out ones that assemble to worship God in Christ. Here is where the denial of the Gospel and with it the need for the true follower of Jesus Christ to personally repent and surrender to Christ in order to literally have had a new nature created inside him has its deepest effect. You see it is only after someone is born again–this is what it means to be in Christ–that this follower is then prepared to go out and join the fishers of men here on this earth and lead others into the Kingdom of Heaven itself which right now is there (see–Philippians 3:20).

The Social Gospel

If you want to know what the Emergent Church is truly all about at its rotten core, and why it is they are the ones leaving the Church, then you will need to know that what these Emergents mean when they use the phrase “the gospel of the kingdom.” We are dealing with a redefinition of terminology that the average Christian is simply unaware of. It’s so important for you to understand that “the gospel” in their theological system has been “repainted”/redefined back into the old Social Gospel of what Dr. Walter Martin referred to as “the Cult of Liberal Theology.” This secular humanistic distortion of Christ’s true Gospel, which at its core assumes that mankind is basically good, was originally taught by Walter Rauschenbusch and is more about making the world a better place than it is about preaching the need for the new birth and a new nature.

This is the reason that Bell’s “Christian” message ignores the need for repentance because in his theology mankind just needs to rediscover the inherent goodness that God originally created him with, which was supposedly automatically restored to him when Christ died on the Cross. So now it should become obvious why Bell has gone to the Hebrew and away from the Greek metanoeo in order to tell us the “Hebrew word t’shuva means ‘to return’.” But even here within Jewish theology the word means to return as in repent. However, counter to what the Greek text actually says Bell is telling us we need to “return” and is not saying that we are to repent from sin and give our degenerate selves to Christ. This is critical to understand. So what is it he thinks we are to return to? Bell then informs us:

Return to the people we were originally created to be. The people God is making us into. God makes us in his image. We reflect the beauty and creativity and wonder of the God who made us. And Jesus calls us to return to our true selves. The pure, whole people God originally intended us to be, before we veered off course. Somewhere in you is the you whom you were made to be (150).

Can you see now why I have been telling you that in the non-gospel of the Emergent Church, and most of postevangelicalism, they are blinded by the Gnostic mysticism of the “inner light” teaching of the Quakers that inside mankind is a spark of divine nature aka the true self. What Rob Bell is saying here is completely consistent with the mysticism of the apostate Roman Catholicism as stated here by “Father” Thomas Keating, yet another of those Living Spiritual Teachers, when he says the, “spiritual journey involves an inner change of attitude beginning with the recognition of being out of contact with our spiritual nature and our true self, and taking means to return.” But all this really amounts to is the reemergence of an old heresy called pelagianism which Geoffrey Grogan tells us in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary was named after “Pelagius, the teacher who saw the grace of God simply as an aid to the self-reformation of man.”

A Peek Inside Mars Hill Bible Church

The following personal eyewitness testimony from someone who had attended Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Bible Church will prove helpful here. This person contacted me on their own and told me they “live in Grand Rapids, of which Grandville is a suburb where Rob’s church is located.” They further informed me they had “attended Mars on and off for a few years and regularly for about a year, so his ‘style’ is familiar to me and also his ‘agenda’.” We’ve corresponded a few times now and what this person has to say sheds much light on my work in refuting Rob Bell. At this point one need keep in mind here that I’m writing as a pastor-teacher and not simply as an apologist. Let me also clear up a misunderstanding prevalent within the Church today. Teaching happens to be a gift given to someone by God for the benefit of the whole Body of Christ and is not simply a function for the local church (see–Ephesians 4:11-12).

The Bible also tells men like myself that we 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 (Titus 1:9). This is why I have been writing so much lately about Rob Bell as his status grows within the largely undiscerning Christian Church. While so many senior pastors sleep the youth pastors under them are infecting the young in their flocks with the warped and toxic teachings of Rob Bell through his Nooma videos as well as VE. This is also why I’ve invested so much time and money studying the vague and vacuous doctrine of this particular viper. Although I had never heard of the person who wrote me the Lord be praised I was very encouraged to be told that I “most definitely have a very firm perspective of him.” And then in one letter they also said:

I don’t want Rob to be part of the emergent church. I know that he is, but I hate it because he has so many followers who have been turned onto a new life with meaning, and feel that they are for real living the “message of Christ”.

I have to admit that he is false. I have to because I cannot let personal feelings get in the way. He is very “charismatic” in personality – vibrant, enthusiastic, aggressive, respected, honored. I was at many of his services where his visuals were outrageous. One time he lit up a blow torch on stage.

He did two things that made me leave his church. One was that he was trying to play act herod being revered by all, so he asked the audience to stand and “pretend” to bow to herod and worship him. Most of the people really got into it – screaming and shouting glory to herod, etc.

I sat in my seat stunned and sick to my stomach. I never went back after that. 2nd thing, is that he believes that the church has to usher in the Kingdom of God by changing the world for God – making it a better place = rick warren: the next chapter.

There Are Two Aspects Of The Gospel Of Jesus Christ

We’ll have more from this person another time but this is the idea of dominion theology and it is deep within the eschatology of the new evangelicalism and the three major pillars of the Ecumenical Church of Deceit–the Purpose Driven Church, the Emergent Church and the Word Faith Church. But the Emergent Church and Rob Bell continue to spread the falsehood that those of us who hold to Biblical Reformed theology are not concerned with this present world. Bell says things like “this new kind of life is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now” (148) Well, whoever said the Christian faith was simply “about escaping this world”? Certainly not the Body of Christ. For example there is absolutely nothing in Reformed theology which would prevent someone from doing any of the kinds of social work now being done by many Emergent Churches. We simply don’t need to abandon what the Bible defines the Gospel to be in order to assist our fellow man.

I have pointed out before that the fact is the historic orthodox Christian Church has always taught that there are two aspects to Christ’s Gospel. First and foremost, there is the preaching of the need for someone to personally surrender their lives to Jesus Christ of Nazareth as Lord and Savior as the only means for any person of any race or any religion to be forgiven their sins (see–Acts 4:10-12). And this is the travesty of the non-gospel of man’s inherent goodness and the universal atonement preached by Emergent Church Rob Bell pastor as well as others within the new evangelicalism. As I point out in Rob Bell and the Emergent Church in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ they have done away with the need for someone to even be born again. If when Christ died men are automatically reconciled then we no longer have any actual need to call them to repent, we would need only to convice them that they are already forgiven by God. And this is precisely what men like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are preaching.

But by doing so they have slammed the door to the Kingdom of God in men’s faces because the Bible does not teach that we need “to return to our true selves”, quite the contrary, God’s inerrant and infallible Word in Holy Scripture teaches that we are beseech men to repent (turn away) from their sins and surrender their corrupt selves to Christ by faith. Only when God Himself judges this to have been done will He say – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:20) And it is only after this event takes place in a genuine believer’s life that he is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit and is then fit for the work of the second phase of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is to go and make disciples of all nations,…teaching them to obey everything [Christ Jesus has] commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

Before this new birth takes place the Bible is quite clear that –Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires (Romans 8:5). The words sinful nature there in the NIV, rendered flesh in the KJV, translate the Greek word sarx. It is a crude word carrying the meaning of the flesh of an animal stripped of skin. God the Holy Spirit uses it to get to the base of mankind, what we truly are. In and of ourselves this passage goes on to tell us that we cannot ever even hope to be pleasing to God:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

Now you have just seen what God Himself thinks of your true self. No, it isn’t very pretty is it? You see this cuts right straight across mankind’s pride in himself. And it is pride that is the root of all sin and this originated with Satan himself. However, we can’t very well get someone to see the Good News until they first realize this bad news. According to God there is no such thing as a “good” person and there aren’t any people who are seeking God on His terms (see–Romans 3:10-12). But now you’re ready for the Good News that even while this is who we actually are, and even though we thought God was our enemy Christ Jesus–our Creator Himself–came into His world and went to that Cross exchanging His perfect Life for…well, what you just read above:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10, NASB)

I cover these ideas more fully in The Power of the Cross, but for now the tragedy is that Rob Bell denies the Gospel because the very perception of mankind’s true self that he espouses is exactly what it is we are to repent from in order to accept this Good News.

When I continue this look at Rob Bell and his denial of the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ in Part Two I’ll show you a bit more about this social gospel which is being repainted by Emergent Hollow Men like Rob Bell, who through their misunderstanding the true nature of man are simply reimagining all over again the very “Cult of Liberal Theology.”