Rob Bell: Salvation is Holistic


When we started Mars Hill I would say that my understanding of the gospel that Paul talks about in Colossians, my understanding was that you believe in Jesus and you go to heaven. That’s how it works. “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” So my understanding was that the goal, then, was to get other people to believe in Jesus so that you could all go to heaven somewhere else some day. And so the super fired-up Christians were the ones who could best explain to people how to turn or burn, and how to get out of here to the next place. But I realized that something really, really destructive happens when that’s how we explain the life of Jesus. Something gets missed in the process, namely this life.

What started to happen to me is that I realized salvation is holistic. That Jesus doesn’t just want to get me a ticket to heaven, but wants to heal and wants to mend and wants to put me back together here, now, today.

What happens when it all becomes about some other life is we end up being very fractured, broken people. I began to discover that you could be a Christian in a nice Christian church and be saved and be singing all the right songs and actually be miserable. And to have anger and rage and people you haven’t forgiven. I discovered it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person. I want to be the kind of person who’s pursuing wholeness and allowing every single area of my life to let the light get shone in, and let God make peace where there wasn’t (peace) before.
–Rob Bell, Directions 1.0 II, January 2005

23 thoughts on “Rob Bell: Salvation is Holistic”

  1. I have heard alot of Criticism over Rob Bell’s teaching, and it confuses me. Pastor Bell brings to light a part of Christian living that we have been missing (mainly the living part!) and other “christian” scholar’s shoot him down? Is it possible that they aren’t experinceing what Bell talks about in the above passage, (“it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person”) because that’s what these critics seem like to me. Thanks Pastor Bell for your insight, it rock.

  2. WarJianrumoeliu, I agree, Eternity is now. Not later. We dont step into Eternity, it is here and now. Rob Bell expresses this present eternity in a message called “Between the Trees” Its on Google Video

  3. um.. if life’s so great and we can become so great here on earth, why is it that we still have to die? We definantly should be living life here on earth as best as possible, God has much work for us to do around here yet. But this idea that the Earth is just very sick and needs our help to heal is rather un-Biblical. The problem with the earth is that it’s desperately wicked, and the Bible says the way evil is dealt with is that it is killed, thrown into eternal fire to be burnt away. Not given a shot of spiritual penecillin and it will get better. That’s how things work, including our salvation. Jesus said you have to be born again, having killed your sinfull self and left it in the ditch at the side of the road. And even after that we still sin don’t we? Yes we have life now, but we will never have real life, totally perfect, Holy, rightous life, real life, until we enter heaven. That’s why we look foreward to heaven so much, see?

  4. Does your faith have any kind of Biblical foundations? If not I urge you to logically realize without a firm foundation they are nothing. If they do I’d really like you to explain them.

    You seem to think Rob Bell is just the Bees Knees, but nothing I’ve heard from him doesn’t contain perversion of the truth.

  5. Superman,
    No one is saying that we can become ‘so great here on earth’. Rob Bell is not saying that we will be perfect here on earth, and so far as I know, no one else is saying that.

    However, Jesus did say that he came to give us ‘life the the fullest’. I think that means here and now, as well as in the future. We will not be perfected until the full restoration of all things on heaven and earth. (Romans 8:18-21, Collosians 1:19-20)

    From what I understand, holistic salvation means that God redeems every part of us. The way we interact with people. The way we view the poor and oppressed and marginalized. The way we relate to God (how we relate to God here and now naturally takes care of what happens to us when we die). The way that we view ourselves, others, and creation. God is interested in saving ALL of us.

    Ephesians 2:10 says “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Other Scriptures speak of us being saved to become like Christ.

    Of course, we will never be completely perfect in love as Jesus was while we are living on this earth.

    It seems you aren’t really getting what Rob Bell is trying to say, and that you are unintentionally distorting what he says. You said “nothing I’ve heard from him doesn’t contain perversion of the truth.”

    I don’t see how you could make a statement like that. Have you ever heard him preach? What is the Bees Knees anyways? Do you think he is intentionally perverting truth?

    Be careful making strong and dangerous statements like that.

    You said that “this idea that the Earth is just very sick and needs our help to heal is rather un-Biblical.”

    I don’t recall anyone saying that the earth is sick and needs our help to heal.
    BUT…Jesus did call us to be something like ‘medicine’ to a ‘sick world’. Remember Matthew 25? We are judged by how we act towards the ‘least of these.’ How can you read that and not come away with at least some vague idea of us being called to heal the world in some sort of way?

    You said we will “never have real life, totally perfect, Holy, rightous life, real life, until we enter heaven”

    Why do the Scriptures speak of us being ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’ in the here-and-now? And, yes, I believe that we do go to be ‘with Christ’ when we die…but let’s not miss the fact that God is going to redeem all of creation. We look forward to a ‘new heavens’ and a ‘new earth’, not simply to ‘going to heaven when we die’. We look forward to God putting things back together, not to escaping this world just in the nick of time before it all goes down in flames.

  6. This is the first time I read about this “Salvation is Holistic” theme… appears to be somewhat of a “slippery slope”?

    No doubt that once we accept Christ in our life, we are to grow and become more like Him. Or “work out our salvation”

    After doing a Google search on “Salvation is Holistic” and reading other blog posts related to Rob Bell one kind of get’s the impression that our “salvation” could also be “worked out” thru good works… yikes?

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    I realize that the thief on the cross next to Jesus did not “pray the salvation prayer” so to speak, but I’m guessing he believed in his heart that Jesus was the real deal and accepted/let Christ into his heart.

  7. Delay, I don’t you are quite getting it.

    Paul certainly says to work out our salvation, but no one I know who talks about salvation being about both now and eschatologically would say that that salvation isn’t the work of Christ.

    The whole thing is contingent on Christ, we can’t live any life but sin without Christ’s work and the presence of the Spirit. In that way, we are constantly seeking to live out the reality of what Christ has accomplished in our lives.

    it is not that we are saved by works, but that by doing works, we show the work God has done. Paul mentions us being designed to do good works. James says that faith without works is dead. Much of this movement in my experience is a result of Christians who have made it that you can come to Christ and don’t have to change at all.

    Instead we are constantly looking to live out our salvation and to come more and more into the knowledge of what Christ has accomplished in us now. C.S. Lewis talks about this as we live now in training for how we will live in eternity.

  8. Hmmm….
    Well I’ve been wrestling with the whole Rob Bell thing. And I don’t see anything wrong with his teaching.
    I think that salvation and works come hand in hand. Of course the we can’t buy our salvation with works. But when we are “saved”, when we receive salvation the works is just an outward display of our salvation.
    I fear that maybe people are getting angry at the so called “emergent” movement because it is stepping on the toes of comfort. Jesus called people to something better, I believe he called us to follow him, to follow His teachings, to become like Himself. Of course we can never reach the perfection of Jesus, but our life is supposed to be built on trying.
    We need God to change us from our old sinful self into what He wants us to be. We need Him to give us His nature. A nature that met needs, that offers people a better chance.

    I guess my fear is with the tradition church (not to come down on them because without them I would not be who I am today) but it seems to me that the church concept of the past has been “make them feel so guilty about their sin that they get saved. Then we’ll spend the rest of our lives arguing about theology”…the problem is when we spend time arguing about theology we get nothing done…and I wonder who wouldn’t want us to get anything done…Satan perhaps. The traditional church spends it’s time arguing while the world goes to hell.

    Works are a sign of our salvation. When we are truly saved and seek God, he changes us into who He is. And part of who He is is Jesus. So shouldn’t our lives start to reflect that as we grow? The church needs a refit. One that is based around the love that God has for us.

    I guess as i’ve written this it seems a little obscure to me how all this fits in. In the end I believe the church needs something different and I see Rob Bell and other new-thinkers trying to do that based on the Bible.

  9. @Scott
    One of the largest issues we have to look at is the fact that many in the Church are comfortable with the status quo. They believe that we can continue to “grow in Christ” through our theology, or (somewhat disingenuous) study of the Bible. It’s much easier to hear a set of defined rules and principles than a life changing revelation.

    Part of the fear of the Emergent church is that it is different. We (Emergents, Mosaics, and other such conversant groups) are trying to move the church towards a heritage of Missiology rather than trying to convert everyone to our belief system. We view our mission in life as brining the Kingdom into the world, not waiting for our arrival at the Kingdom.

    From our perspective Christ spent his time bringing the Kingdom, sharing the Kingdom, and helping others gain understanding of the Kingdom. He didn’t try to convert anyone to a religion, but instead he brought them to a better understanding of life. A faith group based upon sharing their goods and attempting to show a life which lends strength to withhold against the oppressive Empirical system that the early Church was attacked by. That was the tradition of the Church for roughly 300 years, until Constantine brought the Empire to Christianity. That is where our understanding of “holistic” salvation was lost.

  10. This man along with Brian MacLaren are HERETICS and FALSE TEACHERS of the gospel!! People – read your WORD!!! God’s word is intended for us to understand what he’s talking about and there is no such thing as HOLISTIC salvation!!!!!!!

  11. This man being Rob Bell? I’m not seeing it, Kim. I’ve read the Bible many times and grew up in very conservative churches–and attended a conservative seminary. I’m also a pastor of a theologically conservative church. Sometimes the things that Rob says throw me at first, but I haven’t discovered any heresy in what he has to say ( I’ve taken our college group through his NOOMA series and found it a great tool for discussing life and God) On the contrary, I feel that he may be uncovering some heresy that is part of the evangelical church right now. When I read about Jesus and where His heart was at as He taught…I don’t see Rob Bell being off. I encourage you to be very careful about words like “heretic”. I hope that you will extend the grace to Rob that you would like to have extended to you in your musings or beliefs. If history is any example ALL of us have a bit of heresy.
    Rather than burn Rob at the stake…let’s do what you said and read the Scriptures, like the Bereans did. I hope you’re as open to new ideas as they were! Let’s be open to the possiblity that Rob is God’s prophet for this time– and really pray/search/study and see what God shows us!

  12. Quote … there is no such thing as HOLISTIC salvation … unquote

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV

    “all things have become new” sounds pretty all-encompassing (holistic) to me. But what do we call that process that leads to all things becoming new? Salvation? Redemption? Regeneration? Sanctification? And who does this process apply to? Anyone who believes? Only a defined group called the Elect?

    I think many disagreements which are supposedly about theology are instead basic and unrecognized differences in word definitions.

    Some things in life and everlasting life are more important than others in terms of their everlasting effect. So – in the interest of putting things in perspective and setting priorities – consider that I will be rejected by God forever (the Second Death) if He finds that my name is not written down in the Book of Life at the Judgement Day. My number-one concern, then, must be – what do I do to make certain my name is written in the Book of Life on Judgement Day. My second, and lesser concern, is what is required of me after I have done whatever is necessary to guarantee that my name is written in the Book of Life onJudgement Day. There are a disconcertingly large number of answers to these two questions floating around, and many of them flat out contradict each other. There are also several different words used to define the process. implied in each of the two questions. How can you be sure you are debating / disagreeing over theology if you have not first determined whether you and your debate partner agree on basic word definitions?

    For those who are interested in seeing multiple definitions for the same word, these two links are a good place to start reading.

  13. He isn’t really saying anything new here. What he’s talking about is sanctification. Jesus saves us from an eternity separated from Him and He also saves us in this life now–I agree it’s good news, but it’s already part of Christianity–it is a fundamental truth. I’m happy for Bell that he’s had this epiphany, but what he’s talking about has been around forever. There nothing new under the sun.

  14. I was wondering if someone could help me. I am new to the nooma videos and have found them to be great productions which are connecting with younger people. His messages are quite inspiring and and the composition of theme, images, story, and principles are exceptional.
    However, I watched the Dust video. It seemed that he was proposing that one of the issues in our healing was faith in ourselves. This does not seem biblical. Can someone help me understand what Bell is proposing here?

    With great expectation and gratitude.

  15. Inquiring Mind, it has been a while since you posted and I hope you are still around. The Dust video is one of the best descriptions of discipleship I have ever seen. I have used that DVD often in teaching on what it truly means to be in the process of being saved (I Cor 1:18). Compare this to RVL’s explanation of being a disciple ( The previous comments have been based on the subject of “holistic salvation”. I am a well educated, conservative, Southern Baptist, who has had a passion for scriptures for over 30 years, and for the life of me I cannot understand how anyone who claims to be a Christian could believe anything different. We are called to be like Christ – literally. One cannot separate faith from works, an age old argument. One also cannot biblically deny the fact that the Kingdom has come with power (Mark 9:1) or that we are called to be perfect as God in heaven is perfect – right now (Matt 5:48). Jesus calls us to be like him and the Dust DVD does a wonderful job of expressing it. One last comment on another criticism of Rob Bell concerning the sufficiency of the scriptures. I believe in that with all my heart but … what bible was in use as Jesus was ministering to the people? The Septuagint. What is the most accurate version of the OT? The Tanahk. Has there been an agenda in the translations of our modern bibles (including the KJV & all its revisions). Ignorance is not bliss. As John repeated over and over as he was carried into the congregation after returning from Patmos – Love wins!!

  16. I love the Holy scriptures with all of my heart. I also love to talk about them and consider them (with others) as we face our daily lives of existence, struggle, relationships . . .etc.

    Rob Bell has opened up dialogue with those who choose to participate. This is refreshing, and keeps life exciting.

    It is so very satisfying to grow in the Lord. It seems, however, that whenever someone shares an understanding and even teaches on it there are so many who quickly dismiss any ideas as heresy.

    There are hardly any known preachers, teachers, etc, of the Word who are not labeled a heretic by someone else. Do a Google search on anyone who is the least bit known, and I guarantee that there is someone screaming: “heresy!!!”

    It’s all about discernment. One need only allow the Holy Spirit to lead as he or she considers the teachings of others.

    We all need to stay in the Word, and seek to grow in Him.
    BTW- Rob Bells “Rain” video is outstanding. The use of a parable is such a great way to teach. Hmmm, seems as though some other famous teacher was big on parables . . .

    1. I believe 1 Corinthians 13 tells us simply that Love is the greatest of all the gifts. When we begin to break each other down, what the bible says is most important seems to slip away….there is only One who is perfect…the rest of us who believe in Him, are just trying to follow Him as best we can. Sometimes, we miss it, but His Grace is sufficient for all. Maybe we should extend that to each other more often…I wonder what could happen if we did….

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