Rob Bell Shares Gospel at Seeds of Compassion Event

At an event titled Seeds of Compassion on April 15 in Seattle there was a panel discussion involving representatives from different religions. Rob Bell, one of the Christian representatives, had this to say when asked how spirituality can be used for compassion rather than destruction:

“When somebody wrongs you, when they commit an injustice, when they do evil, whether it’s something petty or whether it’s the oppression of millions of people, it’s as if they have handed you this injustice, or evil. And so you can hand it back – that’s called revenge, that’s when you take the wrong, the evil, the injustice, the hurt, the betrayal, and you simply respond in kind. There is, next to revenge, another option, which is not to hand back the pain, which means that you’re going to have to bear that pain.

And when you choose not to respond with revenge or retaliation, but you choose to respond with forgiveness—and you choose to take it and bear that pain—it is going to be heavy, but it is going to lead to your freedom. It is going to feel like a death, but it is going to lead to a resurrection. It’s gonna feel like a Friday, but a Sunday is going to come.”

According to some, this was not a fitting response for a Christian because “there is nothing distinctly Christian about what Bell says.” The problem some will have with this opinion is that it assumes Christianity is tied to a certain language, and more specifically, to a few choice words rather than a way of life. The religion that says we must proclaim the name of Jesus continually, or to announce a certain sequence of words like “Jesus saves” or “Accept the Lord Jesus” is not based on the Scriptures but on a worldview that has little to do with the Jesus who walked along 1st century Israel’s dusty roads, and actually has more in common with witchcraft than with historic Christianity.

John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of Desiring God Ministries, has this to say about preaching the gospel:

“It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth.”
(Desiring God pg. 55)

And on February 25, 2003, John Piper spoke these words at Northwestern College:

“We must imagine ways to say truth for what it really is, and it is not boring…The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth.”

So when Rob Bell paraphrases 1 Peter 2:23-24 at an interfaith discussion panel, is he denying Christ, or is he taking John Piper’s advice and calling up new connections to say old truth?

Rob Bell: God wants to come down


For many people, entire theological systems are built around us getting out of here. And so many presentations of the gospel are, “Do you wanna know how you can get outta here?” And yet the Scripture is the story not of people going up, the Bible is the story of God coming down. God wants to come down and he wants to take up residence in the midst of his people.

See, we have whole theological systems built around scaring the hell out of people so they won’t be left behind.

Alright…nobody got out a stake and set it on fire…I’ll keep going.

Be honest. Let’s be honest. Many presentations of the gospel are, “Hey, do you wanna know how to get outta here?” And the center of Jesus’ teachings is bringing God here.

Maybe you could say it this way (and this is not like either/or): Is the question, “How do I get into heaven” or “How do I get heaven here?” See, you have whole theological systems that are built on, “Some glad morning when this life is o’r, I’ll fly away.” Now what happens – and if that’s your favorite hymn, I’m sorry…kind of – what happens? And obviously we believe that when we die we go into God’s presence in heaven, this is obviously not some sort of denial of heaven, but nevertheless, if your theology is getting out of here, what subtly happens over the years?

And we need to just be brutally frank about this. What happens over time is this life becomes irrelevant, correct? If our message is “Hey, do you want to join us in getting out of here?” then what happens subtly over time is our message is really about some other places and we really have less & less to say about life now. And we have less & less the kind of eyes to see a whole world right here within this one, right here, right now.

And so we have to understand that the Bible is the story of a God who wants to come down and wants to inhabit this place, and take up residence in the midst of his people.

–Rob Bell, We’re Over Here teaching at Willow Creek, November 14, 2002

Tim Keller: If you think you understand the gospel, you don’t

Tim Keller

If you think you really, really understand the gospel, you don’t. If you really think that you haven’t even begun to understand the gospel, you do. Gospel theologizing isn’t anywhere near enough if we’re going to change the world with it. There has to be a lifelong process of more and more deeply realizing the wonder of the gospel.

Tim Keller, Desiring God Conference 2006 (mp3)

This is part of a new way of life: to learn more and more of the deeper things and understand less and less, and to be caught up in wonder.