But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21, NASB)

Rob Bell Tolls Seriously Off-Key On The Bible

Apprising Ministries has received many requests for critique of the false teachings of Rob Bell, the Elvis of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church de-formation of the Christian faith aka Emergent Church—now morphing into Emergence Christianity (EC). And for some time now people have been contacting me here to put together some of his teachings in a kind of nutshell for easier reference.

Time to do so has been hard to come by due to a lack of financial support but this is the first installment in what I pray will be a few pieces toward that direction. As God leads watch for this to continue to develop as we begin with the most important area concerning the view of the Bible held by EC pastor Rob Bell. People I’ve talked with who have known Bell and/or have sat under his teaching tell me that at one time he was actually quite sound as an expositor of Scripture; but now it’s clear that, at best, Bell is much closer to nebulous neo-orthodoxy.

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 see below like most in the Emergent Church, Bell has rejected Sola Scriptura. This is an irrefutable fact. For example, the following is adapted from my piece Bell Tolls on the Bible. While making the rounds promoting his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith (VE) Bell told

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 essentially 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 essentially 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 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)

The New Postmodern Cult Of A PostLiberalism

So we start here 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 Spirituality Mysticism (CSM). Bell’s highly subjective and very wrong view of the Bible 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 and then becomes the Word of God.

We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out but in a subjective i.e. existential personal experience. This heterodox position sees the Bible as “a human product” and in fact denies the perspicuity and verbal plenary inspiration of the text of Holy Scripture. However the Bible does indeed claim to be completely inspired of God in and of itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). But now you know the underlying reason why Emerging Church leaders like Rob Bell, with their hollow shell of Christianity make studying the texts of Holy Scripture far more difficult than it needs to be.

In his article Postmodern Liberalism: Repainting a Non-Christian Faith (I) A Christian Critique of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis pastor-teacher Casey Freswick gives us some important background into Bell’s faulty philosophy:

Rob Bell’s repainting of false teaching looks like a merger of the dialectic philosophy of Hegel, the liberalism of Rudolph Bultmann and the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. Rob Bell has embraced these and other errors and merged them into postmodernism, an anti-Christian philosophy teaching the impossibility of absolute truth. Both postmodern 21st century philosophy and 20th century “modern liberalism” have influenced Rob Bell.

A more appropriate title for Rob Bell’s painting, his “Velvet Elvis”, is “Postmodern Liberalism”. Rob Bell accomplishes what he sets out to do. His painting includes “every person everywhere who has asked big questions of a big God” even when their answers deny the truths of the Bible. (Online source)

Also in The Emerging Church Sowing Its Neo-Orthodox Confusion On Scripture you’ll see where Kevin De Young, co-author of the fine book Why We’re Not Emergent, points out that neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth:

argued, “The Bible is God’s Word to the extent that He speaks through it.” At the time, Barth was calling liberalism back to the Word, which was a good thing, but he pioneered a new approach in establishing biblical authority, which was not as good.

The Bible, according to Barth, was not itself the Word of God, but as God spoke in and through the Bible, it became for us the Word of God. The Bible is only “derivatively and indirectly” God’s Word, he wrote. The authority of the Word, therefore, resides not in the Scriptures that contain the very words of God, but in Him who speaks through the words of the text (78, 79).

In other words, Barth is saying that the Words of Scripture contain messages from God, whereas the proper view of Holy Scripture is that the Bible itself is the message. This is a vital difference because the critical question is: How does one know when/if a particular text has now “become” the Word of God? Answer: The reader will then decide if it does.  However, the spiritually fatal problem with this view is that what God is saying in Bible would now depend upon what the reader himself feels the Lord may, or may not, be saying.

We have already seen above that Rob Bell clearly tells us he flatly rejects the Biblical Reformed position of Sola Scriptura. In the AM piece Rob Bell Says Sayounara Sola Scriptura Bob DeWaay underlines this fact when he says:

Bell claims that people in church history (he gives Luther as an example) were involved in “rethinking.” I don’t deny that. But when he says that we have no objective means to determine whether Luther’s teachings or those of the Council of Trent are in closer agreement with the teachings revealed once for all in the Bible…

He thereby takes the same position that the Roman Catholic Church took against the Reformers: That since the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) gave us the Bible, the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) is authoritative over the Bible. Bell’s version simply expands that idea beyond Rome to any Christian group anywhere struggling with the meaning of the Bible. (Online source)

Now let’s add to this Bell’s disregard for the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible, along with his fascination with the Hebrews Roots movement, and the strong influence of Ray Vander Laan. Finally, we combine all of this with Bell’s embracing alleged postmodern [read: postliberal] theology and the Contemplative/Centering Prayer of the CSM at the core of this Emergence Christianity. You should now be able to see that Rob Bell has actually been seduced into a repainted i.e. reinterpreted version of the spiritually bankrupt social gospel of the Cult of Liberal Theology.

But in the end, just as in liberation theology, this Emergence of postmodern theology, the next de-evolution after the original liberalism’s “modern” theology, ends up largely reducing Christ Jesus to a social reformer—little more than a cause to live for—as one fights poverty, aids, social injustice, etc.

See also: