The following quote is from Part 1 of Greg Gilbert’s three part deconstruction of the Nooma videos by Rob Bell, a hugely popular “teaching pastor” in the emerging church at 9 Marks. For those who don’t know, Apprising Ministries points out that in addition to his work with 9 Marks Gilbert is also “the director of research for the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

As one who has studied the neo-orthodox and semi-pelagian (man-centered) theology Rob Bell and the Emergent Church for three years now I can tell you Gilbert is dead on target when he says that:

The gospel as Bell communicates it in NOOMA runs something like this: All of us are broken, sinful, selfish, and prideful people. We carry around the baggage of our hurts, our resentments, and our jealousies. As a result we are just a shell of the kind of people God intends us to be. But our God is a loving God who accepts us and loves us just as we are. He can comfort us, heal us, and make us whole, real, authentic, living, laughing people. Not only that, but Jesus came to show us how to live revolutionary lives of love, compassion, and acceptance. By learning from his teachings and following him, we can live the full and complete lives that God intended.

And that’s about it. That’s not just the introduction that leads to an explanation of the cross, atonement, the resurrection and salvation, either. So far, at least, that’s what NOOMA holds out as “The Gospel.” Full stop.


In the videos I watched, there’s almost no exposition of the cross. I only remember it being mentioned twice, once to say that Caesar killed Jesus and once when Bell says, “The cross is like God saying, ‘I don’t hold your past against you.’” Well, kind of. But that hardly exhausts the meaning of the cross, does it? At the very least, he ought to have continued that sentence by saying something like, “I don’t hold your past against you, because I held it against my Son.” But then I suppose that sort of uncomfortable thought would have destroyed the smoothness of the presentation.

Even the resurrection—which usually plays an enormous role in Emergent theology—doesn’t get much emphasis here. NOOMA is all about “Jesus’ teachings,” but only a select few of those. You won’t hear Bell talking about the teachings of Jesus that focus on ransom, blood, new covenants, and rebirth—much less judgment, sheep and goats, and “Depart from me.” For Bell, Jesus’ teachings are apparently limited to his ethics, and Bell’s gospel is evidently limited to a call for people to embrace those ethics and “live like Jesus.”

I have a theory about why Emergent church types seem to be able to communicate so well with “our generation,” why they’re able to relate so well to people who have always been hostile to the gospel. You can chalk it up to some kind of “authentic” style if you want, but I’d contend that a big part of their ability to communicate the gospel without offense to people who have always been offended by it is that they leave out all the offensive parts!

You can read Gilbert’s entire review right here.

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