“These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” (Psalm 50:21 )

Emerging god But A Bigger Version Of Man

The following Apprising Ministries piece concerning Rob Bell, the Elvis of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church de-formation of the Christian faith—now morphing into Emergence Christianity—is adapted with permission from Rob Bell’s Abstract “Elvis”: A Critique of Velvet Elvis, a Critical Issues Commentary article by Bob DeWaay, pastor of  Twin City Fellowship.

Previously in John MacArthur: Existential Neo-Orthodoxy Denies Sola Scriptura I quoted Dr. MacArthur from his excellent book Reckless Faith: When The Church Loses Its Will To Discern:

Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth—the absolute truth and authority of Scripture—neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity… Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually.

In neo-orthodoxy, that same subjectivism is imposed on all the doctrines of historic Christianity. Familiar terms are used, but are redefined or employed in such a way that is purposely vague—not to convey objective meaning, but to communicate a subjective symbolism.

The above is critically important background as we pick up the discussion to follow below; DeWaay has just finished pointing out that, while Bell himself doesn’t use the term “neo-orthodoxy” to describe his view of the Bible, “his position on Scripture echoes it.” DeWaay then shares with us: 

The most egregious error in Velvet Elvis is found in the section where Bell offers many details about the nature of rabbinical instruction and discipleship in Jesus’ day. Much of his information about Jewish practices is interesting and accurate. But his application of the material is shockingly unbiblical. His error is to assume that since Jesus was Jewish and was a rabbi, that therefore almost everything that was descriptive about Jewish rabbis of His day is true about Him. This is a de facto denial of the uniqueness of Christ.

For example, in a section where Bell describes Jewish education and educational techniques, Bell misquotes a Scripture: “Jesus later says to his disciples, ‘Remember, everything I learned I passed on to you’” (emphasis his; he footnotes John 15:15).[1]  He then asks, “Did Jesus go to school and learn like the other Jewish kids his age?” [2] That is not the point of John 15:15! Here is what the passage says: “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). The Greek said “heard” not “learned.” Furthermore, his learning was from the Father with whom John claimed Jesus pre-existed (John 1:1). Jesus was no typical Rabbi. (Online source)

One of the problems with what Bell’s preaching is that he often takes sources concerning third century Jewish rabbinic practices and then reads them back into the time of Jesus, as if these traditions were actually taught in the first century. However, this is to assume a lot; and in addition, DeWaay is also correct in that EC teachers like Bell so over-emphasize the humanity of Christ Jesus of Nazareth that they all but obscure His Deity in the process. Yet Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus was the monogenes (Greek), which carries the meaning “one-of-a-kind” i.e. “unique” Son of God.

DeWaay then continues deconstructing Bell’s mystic-based myths:

Bell assumes that Jesus’ relationship to His disciples must be also of the same sort that was typical between rabbis and disciples of that day. But that assumes too much and fails to account for what the Bible teaches. For example, in the narrative where Jesus tells them to “drop their nets,” Bell assumes that therefore Jesus sees some sort of ability in them: “Of course you would drop your net. The rabbi believes you can do what he does. He thinks you can be like him.” [3] That is a very man-centered interpretation that assumes that Jesus believes in innate human ability rather than His sovereign power to transform.

Because ordinary rabbis took the best students based on certain criteria does not mean that Jesus did the same. For example, the commission to be made “fishers of men” in Luke 5 came after a miraculous catch of fish caused Peter to say, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” This is likely an allusion to Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6. Isaiah saw God’s glory and was convicted of his sinfulness. Peter followed suit. This was no ordinary rabbi that Peter encountered. (Online source)

No Matter What Judaism Was In His Time God The Son Was No Mere First Century Rabbi

Jesus was most certainly human; however, the Master was also God and, unlike you and me, His communion with the Father was not clouded by a sin nature. And God the Holy Spirit tells us through His vessel Luke that something preceded Jesus told some of His disciples to drop their nets:

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles. (Luke 6:12-13, NASB)

And further, in His high priestly prayer Jesus informs us that these men were not at all chosen by Christ because of any innate human ability, but rather, were given to Him by God the Father:

“I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your Word. Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You.” (John 17:6-7)

With all of this understood, now you’ll be better able to see that DeWaay is dead-on-target as he Biblically topples the man-centered musings of Rob Bell: 

One of the videos I saw of Bell preaching was about this topic of rabbis and disciples. After a very well articulated discussion of rabbinic practices, Bell came to the conclusion that the main point is that we must have faith in ourselves because Jesus believes in us. WHAT? Man is the object of God’s faith? Bell makes the same point in his book, discussing the incident of Jesus walking on the water and Peter starting to do the same. Here is Bell’s interpretation: “And Jesus says, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself.” [4] That is very bad exegesis. Furthermore, Peter did have faith in himself later on and it was a bad thing: “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You’” (Matthew 26:35a). We all know what happened.

Throughout the gospels, “great faith” or “little faith” had to do with people’s belief about Christ. For example, the centurion who did not consider himself “worthy” for Christ to come to him had a very high estimation of Jesus’ authority (Luke 7:2 – 10). He had “great faith” according to Jesus. His faith was in Christ, not himself.

According to Bell, what frustrates Jesus is “When his disciples lose faith in themselves.” [5] Bell makes a serious error when he assumes that when an ordinary rabbi chooses disciples based in his perception of their own abilities and potential to be like the rabbi himself that, therefore, Jesus must have had faith in the abilities and capabilities of His disciples. But this is not the case. No one will ever be conformed to the image of Christ because of his own innate human abilities. Bell’s humanistic teachings disregard the Biblical doctrine of human sinfulness and inability.

Bell makes it clear that we are not misunderstanding his point: 

God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. [sic] But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. [sic] But what I am learning is that God has faith in me. [6] 

Is man the object of God’s faith? Here is God’s testimony about man: 

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. (Romans 3:9 – 12) 

In John 2:24, 25 it says this: “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.” The word “entrusting” is pisteuo_ in the Greek, the word “to believe.” John 2:23 shows that this lack of faith that Jesus had in man is applied to believers. The reason for not trusting or believing in men was Jesus’ knowledge of the inner nature of man (anthro_pos, humanity). So most decidedly Jesus does not have faith in man.

We have to conclude that Bell is leading people away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints and toward a man-centered faith that believes in self as the appropriate object of faith and not to God Himself as the ONLY object of faith.


1. Rob Bell Velvet Elvis – Rethinking the Christian Faith, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2005), 128
2. Ibid. Bell leaves this question unanswered for his readers to ponder.
3. Ibid. 131.
4. Ibid. 133.
5. Ibid. 134.
6. Ibid.

See also: