Setting Himself Adrift By Rejecting The Sola Scriptura Of Protestant Theology

Pastor Rob Bell is pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church and is still perhaps best known in the mainstream evangelical community through his Nooma videos. In a remarkable impression of Richard Nixon, who became famous for his protest: “I’m not a crook”, Rob Bell also insists he has no connection the cult of new liberal theology which is the Emergent Church. However, his theology and associations are well within the Emergent camp whether he wants the association or not.

We begin with the most important area which concerns the view of the Bible held by Rob Bell. At best Bell is now neo-orthodox although at one time he was actually quite sound as an expositor of Scripture. As one who used to hear Bell back in his Calvary Church days told me recently, think MacArthur. However, after Bell and his wife read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, as you will now see like most Emergents Bell has rejected sola Scriptura. This is an irrefutable fact.

The following is adapted from my piece Rob Bell In A Nutshell: The Bible. While making the rounds promoting his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith (VE) Bell told BeliefNet.com:

The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.

“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes.
(Online source, emphasis added)

Then in VE, after laying out a neo-orthodox understanding of some of the Biblical writers, Bell specifically says:

This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true… When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true (067,068, emphasis mine).

In the Christianity Today article The Emergent Mystique we find out that Bell is another McLaren disciple. CT has now put it into archive and one must register to read it, so the version I’m referencing comes from Brian McLaren’s own website and complete with his comments. Also the following material is condensed from my own article Seeing Bell in a New Light.

Please keep in mind here that Bell happens to be the pastor that writer Andy Crouch chose to use as he opens his article on the Emergent Church. Crouch tells us:

The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself–discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

“I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the Bible,” Kristen says, “that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel like life is big again–like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color…”

The Bells, who flourished at evangelical institutions from Wheaton to Fuller Theological Seminary to Grand Rapids’s Calvary Church before starting Mars Hill,…[felt] that very world, as the Bells tell it, became constricting–in Kristen’s phrase, “black and white…”

And how did the Bells find their way out of the black-and-white world where they had been so successful and so dissatisfied? “Our lifeboat,” Kristen says, “was A New Kind of Christian.”
(Online source, emphasis mine)

Embracing Contemplative Spiritual Practices Originating In Roman Catholic Monasteries

I started with Bell’s teaching about the Bible because without this anchor of sola Scriptura Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy (being quite lenient) has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] liberalism. And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism.

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of God’s Word would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

This heretical view sees the Bible as “a human product” and in fact denies the plenary inspiration of the text of Holy Scripture which it claims for itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). Now you know the underlying reason why Emergent men like Rob Bell make studying the texts of Holy Scripture far more difficult than it needs to be.

Next we combine this with Bell’s embracing alleged postmodernism and the contemplative spirituality at the core of the Emergent Church. This next information is from my piece Rob Bell In A Nutshell: Contemplative Mysticism.

From the article The Emergent Mystique, again which appeared in the November 2004 issue of Christianity Today:

Rob Bell: We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.

This next quotes comes from an audio sermon on “Breathing” dated 5/29/05, 17:10-17:45, transcript on file at Apprising Ministries:

Rob Bell: Central to the Christian tradition, for thousands of years, have been disciplines of meditation, reflection, silence, and breathing. It was understood that to be a healthy person, to be fully connected with God, and fully centered (pause) you would spend significant parts of your day in silence–breathing, meditating–praying (pause) allowing the Spirit of God to transform you and touch you.

The following is taken from The Parish podcast, 08:46-09:38, transcript on file at AM:

Rob Bell: [The Christian tradition]; It’s symbols, it’s rituals, I think that I want to be as traditional as possible, heh, the future is behind us. Um, there’s this beautiful rich tradition of sacraments and practices and disciplines and silence . . . it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

And the finally on the subject of Contmeplative Spirituality/Mysticism comes this from the Zachary Lind podcast at FindingRythym.com . What is important to note here is that Lind speaks of a book that ostensibly Protestant evangelical Bell “recommended” to him by Richard Rohr.

The website of the Center for Action and Contemplation tells us under the section Our Founder that “Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan of the New Mexico Province.” You should also know that this Roman Catholic priest also happens to be another Living Spiritual Teacher along with Contemplative Guru Richard Foster.

Also you may recall that in that same CT article referenced above that Emergent Church theologian Brian McLaren himself said that Richard Foster and Dallas Willard were “key mentors” in this Emergent rebellion against the Bible:

Rob Bell: I stare at my wall. I stare out my window…

Lind: I don’t know what else but I mean…I just kind of find that and like the book you recommended to me a few weeks ago, Richard Rohr. It talked about contemplative prayer, and he talks about how, and didn’t really know what he meant by it, like you know…what is that? He doesn’t really…you read half of the book and still don’t really know what his definition of that is. But he starts getting into it. An’ he says, well you know you have to at least sit for you know…you have sit past 20 minutes.

Bell: Yeah, yes.

Lind: Because when you’re quiet and silent and you’re just trying to communicate with God and understand you know maybe what’s going on in your life at the time or whatever…

Bell: Yeah.

Lind: It takes a certain amount of time before you’re sort of selfish things get aired out. Like you might be all about you for 20 minutes, but then after that it’s like, you’re kind of a blank slate. You know…

Bell: uh-hum.

Lind: You’re kind of ready to intake anything. He talks a lot about in that book about a beginners mind, and you know being kind of like a child and coming up to Jesus, and really just ready to be written on. And you know, I don’t know…maybe I’m wrong, but I kind of feel like most from what I hear, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of that going on in terms of…

Bell: Yeah, well you have to essentially discipline your life around forming the depths and that takes just phenomenal discipline that I don’t even pretend to have. (23:43-25:14, transcript on file at AM)

Teaching Christian Youth: Just Say “No” To Rob Bell

You have clearly seen above that Rob Bell has kicked out the Reformed Biblical doctrine of sola Scriptura in favor of a more contemplative mystical and existential view of God’s Word. This highly subjective approach to the Bible is causing Bell to quickly drift further from orthodoxy, and I have talked with sources close to him who corroborate this. So now you should be able to understand why Rob Bell has been seduced into the new kind of repainted social gospel of the Emergent Church, which just as in liberation theology, reduces Christ Jesus to a social reformer–little more than a cause to live for as one fights poverty, aids, social injustice, etc.