Monday, March 14, 2011

What's the Deal with Rob Bell? - UPDATED AGAIN

This is either the best publicity stunt ever by a publisher for a Christian book or Bell's on the fast-track out of orthodoxy.

Rob Bell: Universalist?

Watching the video clip is kinda scary...unless Bell is playing Devil's Advocate.

Reserving my opinions for after I read the book.

UPDATE 3/4/11: Ok, I'm still thinking about Rob Bell. Here is what bothers me about this whole situation. If the provocative marketing campaign is more of a publicity stunt than an accurate reflection of his theology, then my question is, why? It concerns me that a publisher is using a core doctrine as a marketing tool. As another blogger stated, "Universalism is a heresy, not a lure to use in order to sell books." It almost seems like the campaign was designed in such a manner as to purposefully stir up dissension in the Body of Christ and cause confusion. Those are not exactly qualities which ought to be associated with such a prominent Christian leader. I have been involved at various levels with the marketing of books at Reasons To Believe and I know how hard we work to write copy and produce media that will build unity rather than tear it down. Ours is also a controversial message, but we don't play that up as some kind of marketing hook. Is Bell's approach good marketing? Probably. And Justin Taylor's blog post fed right into the machine. It's almost like they designed the campaign tools to work this way because they knew some blogger would jump on Bell for these very issues. But sometimes good marketing doesn't make for good Christian values and it's important to know the difference.

Bell's videos are artistically superior to most Christian videos. And Bell effectively uses media to raise many provocative questions, often good questions. Unfortunately, Bell leaves so many questions unanswered and his theology is rarely clear. Many times I've had the impression that Bell's goal is more focused on subverting the traditional church than it is to illuminate and teach sound doctrine.  Here is how another blogger said it:
"Time is running out on the Emerging folks. They can play the game of suggestion for only so long. Eventually, the hard questions will be answered. Tragically, when the answers do come, as with the case of Brian McLaren, they appear as nothing more than a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism." At this point, I'd have to say, I kind of agree.

UPDATE 3/13/11: It's not looking so good for Mr. Bell at this point. Here is a rather bold review of the book from someone who has actually read it.

"Love Wins - A Review of Rob Bell's New Book"

One quote has Bell saying this:
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.
Does that really read the way I think it does? If so, that's more than a little problematic.

I think the book drops on Tuesday.


Eric Olsen said...

It's a wait and see moment for me. In the video clip, he merely addresses the question. I think many in the Christian community are way too fast in assuming his heretical conclusion.

Here's the reality (and support for the P.R. stunt argument).

He makes a video teaser for his upcoming book about the problem of Christians feeling like their primary job is to classify those going to heaven and those going to hell.

And in one united voice, the first reaction heard from the Christian commmunity post-video, was a loud classification of, "Rob Bell's going to hell."

It's discouraging that people aren't even listening anymore.

Debi said...

Yesterday, I talked to someone who actually got to read the book last summer. In his words, "Bell has gone off the reservation." It will be interesting to see what happens.

bonnie said...

And here I come from a completely different place. Is it because I am younger than all of you? Maybe.

Maybe for the last several hundred years universalism has been heretical, but I've seen others making the case that scholars as old as the NT didn't believe in "say the prayer or go to hell." People of the post-modern way of thinking need to get through these questions that generations before us took as "truth, nothing but the truth, and don't question it." Why shut down the conversation with accusations of absolute heresy?

So many people come to different conclusions based on scripture. Denominations abound. Why does(the collective you have grace on Presbyterians, but not grace on young (or at least post-modern) followers of Jesus who must get through the hard questions? And when they come up with different conclusions, just as the Catholics, why must (the collective) you call them deceived and say they have gone off the deep end?

I see the "milk and meat" that the NT uses as metaphor coming into play. We have the milk. We believe the Nicene creed. We need to chew long and hard on some of these things that have been taught, yes, but do not settle peacefully and just within out spirits. Why condemn?

Theology Mom said...

Who am I condemning?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I encourage questions. Lots and lots of questions. To me, questions aren't the problem. Ultimately, however, we must begin to draw conclusions, at least tentatively. Otherwise, we don't know where we stand. And if we're going to preach the Gospel, it needs to have some content. In order for it to have content, it needs clarity and some statements about what's true and false.