Yesterday, as of this writing, Dr. James White of the excellent apologetics work Alpha & Omega Ministries tweeted the following concerning Rob Bell, the Elvis of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity (EC):

So you think @realrobbell would direct me to a listing of his sources for his “What is the Gospel” video? Esp. his claims about ekklesia? (Online source)

Below is the video to which Dr. White refers:

Earlier in the Apprising Ministries post Deconstructing The Gospel-less Gospel Of Rob Bell I included the segment of the Fighting for the Faith podcast where apologist Chris Rosebrough, Captain of Pirate Christian Radio, does a serious and thorough deconstruction of the gospel-less gospel preached by EC icon Rob Bell in the above video.

Rosebrough is right when he says:

Not only are there doctrinal errors in here; there are historical errors in here, and he’s engaging in something here called deconstructionism. This is a very, very dangerous “gospel” that he’s preaching. And I am not going to back off from my assessment; I’ll tell you ahead of time, this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not the Gospel that the Apostles preached. This is something completely different…

I am willing, at this point, to stand by my assessment; unless I hear otherwise from Rob Bell, which I seriously doubt, I’m going to basically make the charge this is not Christianity. This is a rehashed liberalism, if you would; kind of an interesting spin on liberalism, the liberal social gospel, if you would. This is seriously, seriously, dangerous and heretical stuff… 

And to make it easier for you to be like the Bereans ala Acts 17:11, following below is a transcript of the video in question:

Sometime in the 1st century around the year 30A.D. a movement was started by a group of Jews who insisted that their rabbi, a man named Jesus from the Galilee region in Israel, had risen from the dead after being crucified by the Roman Empire. They claimed that after His resurrection they had seen Him and that they had had conversations with Him and had eaten meals with Him.

And then they said that He had ascended to heaven, and that someday He would return. Now, the world at this time was ruled by the Roman Empire; this giant, military, global superpower, from England to India, the Roman Empire ruled the world. 

And one of the most popular gods of the Roman Empire was the god Mithra. Mithra’s followers believed that Mithra has been born of a virgin, that he was a mediator between God and humans, and that Mithra had ascended into heaven. Another popular religion at this time centered around the god Attis. The followers of Attis believed that Attis had been born of a virgin; and each spring they gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Attis. 

Which takes us back to the Roman Empire, which was ruled by a succession of Emperors called Caesars. The first one, Julius Caesar, when he died, a comet appeared in the sky and people said: “Well, of course, that’s Julius Caesar, the Son of God, ascending to the right hand of the gods of heaven.”

Soon after this Julius Caesar’s adopted son, Caesar Augustus came to power, and Caesar Augutus believed that he was the Son of God sent by the gods to Earth to bring about a universal reign of peace and prosperity. One of his popular propaganda slogans was: “There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved than that of Caesar.” Caesar inaugurated a 12 day celebration of his birth called the Advent of Caesar. 

Another popular phrase at the time, people would literally greet each other on the street by saying “Caesar is Lord”. So, in the first century, to claim that your god had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven; well, it just wasn’t that unique. The claims of these first Christians weren’t really anything new. 

Everybody’s god had risen from the dead. What makes yours so special? Now, these first Christians believed that Jesus’ resurrection had implications for the entire universe. Their tradition had taught them that the world is broken and desperately in need of repair and that at some point in the future, God was going to put it all back together. Now, for them, this future restoration had nothing to do with leaving this world, it was all about restoration, the renewing and the reclaiming of this world. 

And so they saw in Jesus’ Resurrection the beginning of this universe-wide movement to put it all back together. Well, this, of course, brought them into direct conflict with the Roman Empire, because remember, for the Caesars, it was all about Caesar’s belief that he was making a new and better world through his power, through his armies, and through his wealth.

And so when Caesar wanted to send out a message to let everybody know of his latest military conquest or his latest accomplishments, he would send out a royal pronouncement telling the masses of his latest achievements. These pronouncements were called in the Greek language “evangelions.” An “evangelion” was like a “gospel” or a “good news.” In English “evangelion” spells “evangelical.”

Now,these first Christians believed very passionately that the world was not made better through military power and political coercion. The Gospel they were living had nothing to do with using political force to force people to live according to your laws. For them, this Gospel was about serving the world, especially those on the underside of the Empire. For them, it was about serving not ruling.

And so they took this Empire propaganda term “gospel,” and they used it to describe this new world that Jesus and His followers were making right under the nose of the Empire. Because their way, the way of Jesus, was totally opposed to the way of Rome. And so, when we read accounts of how they lived, we read they shared their possessions, they fed the hungry, and they carried each other’s burdens. 

Well, it’s because the Gospel for them was a whole way of life. A whole new world, right in the midst of this one. Now, Caesar had a particular word that was used for a city or a village or a province that worshipped Caesar as the Son of God, that acknowledged Caesar as Lord. So Caesar would conquer, with his armies, a new land and then demand that all of the people would confess “Caesar is Lord.”

If people didn’t, well, then they were crucified as a way of showing everybody what happens when you refuse to submit to the power of the Empire. But if a group of people did, if a city or a village of a region did acknowledge and worship Caesar as the Son of God, Lord, if they did accept Caesar as their savior, then the area became a worshipping center of the Caesar. These worshipping centers were called, in the Greek language, “ekklesias.”

The word “ekklesia” translates in English, “church.” And so these first Christians took this empire propaganda term “ekklesia,” and they used it to describe their gatherings, the ones where they confessed “Jesus is Lord”. Well, obviously, the way they were living it raised all sorts of questions for those around them. Who do you believe?

Caesar, who thinks that a new world, a better world, is made through his brut military and political power, by forcing people to do what he says? Or Jesus, who invites you to make a new and better world through loving acts of compassion and generosity? Caesar, who killed Jesus on an execution stake, or God, who raised Jesus from the dead? Whose way do you think is better? Who do you think is Lord? Jesus or Caesar? Whose kingdom do you find more compelling?

For them, the Gospel was an invitation to a whole new way of life. And they lived this way because they had this profoundly mystical understanding of what they were doing in their lives. They called themselves “the body of Christ.” And they believed that in their communities, in these loving, compassionate, generous, peace-loving communities, they believed that Jesus was present in a way that went beyond words.

So they’d invite people to join them, to eat with them, to celebrate with them, to suffer with them, and then they’d ask them, after they’d seen the hungry fed, the lonely loved, and the poor honored, they’d ask the people, “Well, do you think Jesus is here?” Or, more specifically, “Who do you think is Lord? Who’s making a better world, Caesar or Jesus?”

They believed that a church was a living, breathing display of a whole new world God was bringing about, right here, right now. Because some people, some people are fierce with reality, aren’t they? They don’t have to spout off about how they’re right and everybody else is wrong because there is something going on inside of them so powerful, so tangible, you can’t help but ask questions. You’re dying to know why they are the way they are. You want them to explain the reason for the hope that’s within them.

It’s because when you’re around people like this, you have this sense that you’ve in some way been with Jesus, and that is church. This group of people who by their compassion, their generosity, the grace that they extend to others, you find yourself believing when you’re around them, that God hasn’t given up on the world. That’s the Gospel. That’s it.

 The Gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you can be a part of it. And so, yes, this has a deeply personal dimension to this. Jesus is saving me. He’s saving me from my sins, from my mistakes, from my pride, from my indifference to the suffering of the world around me, from my cynicism and despair.

The brokenness I see in the world around me is true of my own soul, and so He’s resuing me moment by moment, day by day, because God wants to put it all back together. You, me, the whole world. And so He starts deep inside each of us with our awareness that we need help, that we need saving, that we need rescuing. 

And then He begins to show us, step by step, what it looks like to put flesh and blood on this Gospel. Because we all fall short, and that’s the beautiful part. Broken, flawed, vulnerable people like you and me are invited to be the hands and feet of a Jesus who loves us exactly as we are and yet loves us way too much to let us stay that way. I believe. I believe because I see. I see the Resurrection all around me.

If people only had your life and they were asked the question: “Has Jesus risen from the dead?”, how would they answer? Has He? May you be a “yes” to the question “Has Jesus risen from the dead?” And may you come to see, may you understand, that you are the good news. You are the Gospel.

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