In his Saturday, October 18, 2008 sermon “Beware the dogs” Rob Bell, a popular icon of the Emerging Church, says:

Beware those dogs. Now, uh… this week, I’m out running; and I run by a church and the church building out front has one of those backlit signs where they change the letters each week to tell you the name of the sermon. These signs are hard for me…I don’t find them clever, I find them horribly annoying; they are a stench upon my nostrils. (audience laughter) And, uh, in the summer…“this church is prayer conditioned” not funny. (audience laughter) Um…“sign broken, message inside”.

Or my personal love/hate non-favorite is “ch – – ch, what’s missing? U-R”. (audience laughter) You know, we always say Americans…we won’t stand for torture…yes, we do.
(audience laughter) As I’m jogging by and I’m reading the sign, I literally have this thought, “that sermon sounds so insanely boring…I mean this would make people take up golf.” (audience laughter)

Beware of that dog. Beware of that dog that tells that your tribe is better, that your church gets it, that your theology is more progressive, that your budget is more fiscally responsible, that your building is all about the people and God and not about the…beware of that impulse. Now, substantive discussion about what it means to be a follower of Christ in 2008…brilliant, let’s have it.

But that impulse, that says, “We get it” Not boring like that…our tribe is a little more relevant, our tribe cares more about the poor, we understand the context of the Scriptures better, therefore….we….beware that dog. Paul says, “We boast in Christ Jesus and nothing else.” My response jogging by the sign should be, even me God’s love and grace, God’s peace for even me, even you, even us, God has saving love for the whole world and we get to be a part of it.

Any whiff of superiority, condemnation, judgment against some other sub-tribe of the tribe, is absolutely, totally, diametrically opposed to the beautiful life-giving grace and peace that boasts in the resurrected Christ and nothing else. Are you with me now? Beware of that dog. (audience applause) (Online source)

Well, I for one agree with Rob Bell that we should beware of those who would say the kinds of things highlighted above…like well, Bell. It’s pretty clear Bell’s confessing that he personally is guilty of the very same bad things he’s just finished telling us “those dogs” do. As a matter of fact, Bell’s been canine-like before. For example, in “Rob Bell Tells It Like It Is” for Relevant magazine Bell slams pre-mil, pre-trib Christians e.g. Tim LaHaye for, “preaching horrible messages about being left behind and this [earth] is going to burn-absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture.”

But wait a minute, “against the teachings of Scripture”; I thought the Bells are the ones who told us to embrace mystery because we really don’t want the Bible to be so black and white. Especially when in his book Velvet Elvis (VE) Bell says:

I was in an intense meeting with our church leaders in which we were discussing several passages in the Bible. One of the leaders was sharing her journey in trying to understand what the Bible teaches about the issue at hand and she said something like this: “I’ve spent a great deal of time recently studying this issue. I’ve read what the people on the one side of the issue say, and I’ve read what the people on the other side say. I’ve read the scholars and the theologians and all sorts of others on this subject. But then, in the end, I decided to get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says.”

Now please understand that this way of thinking is prevalent in a lot of Christian churches,…but this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least… The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective- free…This perspective is claiming that a person can simply read the Bible and do what it says – unaffected by any outside influences… When you hear people say they are just going to tell you what the Bible means, it is not true. They are telling you what they think it means (053, 054, emphasis his).

So when it comes to Bell’s hating one of the views within the legitimate differences Christians have concerning eschatology it would seem we now have to realize that Bell understands “the context of the Scriptures better” than the rest of us do when he tells us “what the Bible means.” Now I don’t personally take LaHaye’s position but I’m sure not going to judge and condemn those who hold to a pre-mil, pre-trib eschatological position by saying they are preaching “absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture.”

All of a sudden Rob Bell rolls up the Emergent mystical mystery tour and now knows for sure that the pre-mil, pre-trib position is against the teachings of Scripture as “a stench upon [his] nostrils”? Which would now mean we’d best beware of those dogs like Rob Bell who would hold that their eschatology is superior because, well, he’s apparently exempt from his own teaching in VE. Can you see it now; when Bell tells us “what the Bible means,” it is then true, whereas someone e.g. who happens to be pre-trib, pre-mil is only telling us “what they think it means.”

Or how about in that same interview when Bell’s asked about dealing with critics and says:

When a Christian can find nothing better to do with their time [than criticize]…you start realizing that some Christians need to be saved. How a person would have energy to take shots at other Christians is just mind-boggling. You have to be so disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging is somehow a redemptive use of your time.

How does Bell in a sudden “whiff of superiority” now know that someone who is critical of him finds “nothing better to do with their time” and needs “to be saved” because they’re supposedly “so disconnected” from the new reality? Answer: He doesn’t. Bell has no way at all to know what God may be doing with someone’s writing and/or ministry on the Internet. Then there’s the December 21, 2007 story over at ABP “Rob Bell: Christians shouldn’t fear controversy over doctrine” by Drew Nichter who pointed out that with Bell’s “success has come plenty of controversy.”

Nichter then tells us that Bell “does not pay attention” to this criticism because he doesn’t “Google my name.” However, Nichter does go on to mention that if Bell did “he would find a Rob Bell archive on a website called Apprising Ministries.” This would make me one whom Bell called “disconnected” from life because in his fickle fantasy I would only be thinking about how “blogging is somehow a redemptive use” of my time. But instead it looks like Bell’s entered the doghouse yet again feeling he’s just “a little more relevant” because he and his “tribe cares more about the poor” etc., etc. while buying into the myth that those who hold the doctrines of grace like me don’t have any such concerns.

And Nichter also writes:

When asked whether he is an emergent-church leader or claims any affiliation with the movement, Bell simply said, “No.” But he said he understands the movement to be “simply a conversation asking, ‘What does it mean to be the people of Jesus?’” Addressing anyone who is critical of such a movement, Bell said, “I wonder whether that person is a Christian. That seems like a conversation they ought to have”…

Bell had much stronger words for those who are frightened by such an approach to theology [as the Emerging Church], comparing them to Pharisees. “They’re obsessed with absolutely minutiae issues surrounding, ‘What words do you use to define the Bible?’” he said.

“They absolutely obsess about people who, in their minds, don’t use the exact proper definitive language they’ve agreed upon somewhere.” Bell insisted he is not worried about offending “fundamentalists,” adding that each time he does so, “there are a thousand [new] people who are now listening.” (Online source)

Again the spiritual pride comes emerging as they dream those like myself, who are critical of Bell’s postliberal mystic musings concerning a reimagined non-gospel of social reform in some restored creation in the here and now, just aren’t as enlightened as the super spiritual ones in Emergent Church rebellion against Sola Scriptura. O, poor pitiful souls are we, hopelessly disconnected from reality as we “obsess” over stuff like the vicarious penal substituationary atonement and preaching against sin, even if it’s of the homosexual variety.

Sad-sap dolts insisting on maintaining the purity of the geniune Gospel of Jesus Christ in prayerful hopes that people will repent of their sin thus sparing them from enduring the wrath of God, which all of unregenerate mankind is already under. Alas, if we old-fashioned un-enlightened ones dare to criticize Rob Bell and his Emerging Church friends like Doug Pagitt they will now “wonder whether [we are] a Christian.” Well, I say: Good, now they are finally coming to understand what’s really at stake. And in the end, I heartily agree; beware the dogs like Rob Bell.

See also:








Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Spencer Burke: More on hell and universalism