What Does Rob Bell’s Love Wins Reveal About Evangelicals?

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, one thing has given me pause above everything else, and it involves the reactions from the Evangelical Christian world.

The release of this book is a good thing for Evangelicals, and here’s why:

Thousands of us are having our faith held under a light and exposed for what it is:


It has become apparent that what has been masking as faith, as Christianity, for some of us for a very long time, is revealing itself in Twitter updates and Facebook links for what it really is:

We’re actually quite a frightened group.

Our theological systems, constructed over the years with bricks of books from authors we agree with, is being tampered with; holes are being poked in our houses of theology; a strange wind is blowing in and we don’t know what to do, and so we react in the only way we know how: attack. Make fun. Look to friends who are saying the same thing for affirmation.

“Defend” God and the Bible.

Who is this weak God needing defenders?

Amidst all the Scripture that comes to mind throughout this ordeal, one has continued to press upon me.

The setting: a few men were preaching about God in a new way, and this angered the religious gatekeepers of the day, the ones who defined Orthodox theology. So much, in fact, that they wanted them killed (they’re preaching heresy, afterall!)

And then something amazing happened.

One of the religious teachers, a man named Gamaliel, stood up to reason with his Orthodox clan. He did not point to the Scriptures in this instance; he did not cite Bible verses to back up his argument. He did not try to defend God. He simply said this: Brothers, before you continue in your tirade against these new teachers, carefully consider this:

“Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.  After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you might even find yourselves fighting against God.”

This is calming wisdom.

Not, “These are heretics!” (Though they may be)

Not, “These people are misinterpreting the Bible!” (Though they may be)

Simply this: Leave them alone. If this is not of God, it will pass away soon enough. But if by chance it is of God, your efforts are in vain. In fact, you may soon find that you could even be fighting against God.

Are there religious gatekeepers–that group that defines what Orthodoxy is–in our day?

Thinking Through the Big Picture

I’ve been thinking through the big picture of the bible and wrote down some stuff from books that I’ve been reading, and also from Adam Ellis’ summary on these blogs. Ellis’ words are in bold.


We are the people of God, created in his image. That image is distorted by the Fall but is still there.

“God created people in his own image.” 1

“You made us only a little lower than God.” 2

“They will be masters over all of life.” 3

“God made human beings precisely in order to care for the earth. We were made to serve this purpose. It is built into our very being; it is our very design.” 4

“Humans were made to reflect God’s creative stewardship into the world.” 5

“To image God, then, human beings are charged not only with care for earth and animals (‘subduing’ what’s already there) but also with developing certain cultural possibilities (‘filling’ out what is only potentially there). 6



We live in God’s world which he created and loves. God loves creation simply because it exists. We believe that this world was created “good” (in the “loaded with potential” sense) and not perfect (in the “complete” sense). We believe that God created us and this world to live in harmony with each other and with him.

“The first act in the world’s drama is God’s act of creating and sustaining ‘all things visible and invisible’ out of a generous desire to enlarge the realm of being, to bestow life and goodness on others, and to assist others to flourish in the realm created for them.” 7

“God leads a very interesting life and is full of joy. Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the universe…We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it…but God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys.” 8

“God loves creation. God celebrates creation. God even plays with his creation.” 9

“It was good…it was good…it was good…it was good.” 10


Human beings make an extremely destructive choice very early on in the narrative. That choice has far reaching consequences and knocks the entire creation project off course. The shalom, or harmony that is supposed to exist between God, people and creation is shattered. The world is not what God dreams for it to be, and all creation seems bent on moving in the opposite direction.

“The glory of God’s good creation has not been obliterated by the tragedy of the fall, but it has been deeply shadowed by it. The history of our race is, in large part, the interplay of this light and shadow.” 11


God does not give up on his dream for creation. He enacts a plan to bring about the “restoration of all things.” This plan involves covenanting with a cummunity of people to operate as agents of shalom in the midst of a broken world. God becomes a human being whose life, death and resurrection open the door for a renewed creation of shalom between a) God and human beings; b) human beings and other human beings; and c) human beings and creation. God calls a group of people to live in his reality now in the midst of a broken world. He calls us to partner with Him to make it more and more the place he always intended it to be. He promises that one day Jesus will return and that heaven and earth will be renewed. He insists that we will be resurrected so that we may enjoy the fulfillment of his promise and his dream for all creation.

“The Christian life is a quest to recover our humanity.” 12

“You have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.” 13

“The principalities and powers that kept us in exile have been defeated; they need reminding of this, and we need reminding of it too, but it is a fact – if it isn’t, the cross was a failure.” 14


“Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” 15

“The story of Scripture is the story of ‘Emmanuel’, for it describes how God progressively comes to live with us on our planet, at each appearance staying longer and in more permanent form.” 16

“Our destiny is an earthly one: a new earth, an earth redeemed and transfigured. An earth reunited with heaven, but an earth, nevertheless.” 17

“Scripture appears to teach not only that there shall be a new heaven and earth, but also that it shall be this earth, renewed. In Revelation 21 the city of God descends to us. We do not go to heaven; heaven comes to us.” 18


1 Genesis 1:27
2 Psalm 8:5
3 Genesis 1:26
4 Heaven is Not My Home by Paul Marshall pg. 18
5 The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright pg. 184
6 Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga pg. 33
7 Plantinga pg. 44
8 The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard pg. 62,63
9 Plantinga pg. 24
10 Genesis 1
11 Plantinga pg. 53
12 Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer pg. 83
13 Colossians 3:9-10
14 Wright pg. 185
15 Revelation 21:3
16 Wittmer pg. 205
17 Marshall pg. 11
18 Plantinga pg. 32

Mark Driscoll’s Lecture on the Emerging Church and Rob Bell


I just listened to Mark Driscoll’s recent yet already much-blogged-on lecture on Christianity and the Emerging Church.  Just a few thoughts.

First, Mark is funny.  I like Mark.

Second, I have a feeling Mark used every ounce of patience within him to not yell and jump up and down like he sometimes does, and the reason might be because, as he said in the beginning of his lecture, he is friends with two of the guys he critiqued and finds them to be very generous.  He said this after a long and difficult pause:

It’s really hard for me.  I don’t want to be the man who is known by what he is against.  I don’t want to be the man who is known by what he is angry about.  And I don’t want to be the man who is being unnecessarily unpleasant to men who have been pleasant to me.

Third, I don’t know if Mark’s critique of Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt is accurate.  I will leave that to people who are more familiar with these folks.  I will say that Mark is a very intelligent man and has known these two guys and their work for a number of years, so it would be hard to imagine him misunderstanding them.  Mark says this about Doug Pagitt:

(He’s) a friend of mine.  Saw him in Seattle recently; we had dinner together.  He’s a very nice guy.  He’s great to argue and debate with.  He’s as cranky as I am, and so we have a great time.  No one in our presence does, but we have a great time.

Fourth, Mark criticizes Rob Bell, whom he admits he has never met.  Most of Mark’s critique of Rob consists of contending for the belief that the virgin birth is a vital part of Christianity, which Rob in his book Velvet Elvis wonders is a necessary component of being a Christian.  Another chunk of Mark’s critique of Rob focuses on a book called A Brief History of Everything that Rob, in Velvet Elvis, recommends people read.  The author, Ken Wilber, is not a Christian, which means he has ideas that don’t fit in with Christianity, and these ideas are the ones that Mark criticizes.  The remaining part of Mark’s critique of Rob is that Bell focuses on Rabbinical interpretations of the Bible, and since this interpretation hinges on not believing in Jesus, it is therefore bad.

In my opinion, if Mark and Rob would sit down and have a long chat I think that Mark would have a different understanding of what Bell is all about.  Mark likes to talk about how Christianity is all about Jesus, the Bible is all about Jesus, and it’s a good thing to be all about Jesus.  I know of several thousand people who can say without reservation that few people are all about Jesus like Rob is.  I think it’s important to realize that some people don’t communicate in quite the same way as others, and oddly enough, Mark encourages the audience to be subversive, a technique which Rob has mastered, which has gotten him in trouble with Christian leaders.  I am going to agree with many of the bloggers out there who are saying that Driscoll was unfair in his critique of Bell.

Rob Bell has been criticized all over the blog world, and most of the critiques are laughable, so this isn’t a new thing.  But Mark’s critique concerns me a little, and here’s why: people who have not heard Rob teach or who who have not seen Rob articulate a vision of Christianity that is centered around Jesus will get an incorrect view of the man based on this lecture by Mark Driscoll, and that would be a shame. (Rob Bell: “Christ is enough.”)

All in all, there are few people in the world I respect more than Mark Driscoll.  He’s a brilliant, down-to-earth, funny guy who loves Jesus and is influencing the world.  I’m thankful for him and what he’s doing in Seattle and throughout the world, and I can’t wait to hang out with him in the renewed earth.

Other posts on the lecture: Pomomusings / CRN.info

Heaven is a Place on Earth

Michael E. Wittmer

“The new earth will be an exciting, interesting place to be. We will be always growing, always learning more about ourselves, the world, and God. We will never bottom out and become bored, for we will never know as much as God knows. There will always be some new joy to discover, some place to visit or revisit, some new dish to create, a new flower to breed, a new song to sing, a new poem to write, a new golf club to try out, a new lesson to learn and then pass on to someone else, some person to know more deeply, something new in our relationship with God. And this stretching and growing will go on forever…

Because redemption restores rather than obliterates creation, we will find that its completion in our next life will be the fulfillment of our humanity. Nothing will be more satisfying than dwelling with our Father on the earth we call home, enjoying the well-rounded, flourishing lives he intended for us all along. Our next life will look an awful lot like this one, lacking only the suffering that arises from sin.”

Michael E. Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth.

Billy Graham: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists May Be In Heaven

Billy Graham

An article by Ingrid Schlueter in ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com titled Does Billy Graham Believe in Narrow Way?, after critiquing Billy Graham for saying in a Newsweek article that he is leaving it up to the Lord to judge who will be in heaven and who won’t, ends with this sentence:

As believers, our resounding message must be, ”Escape! Escape for thy soul’s sake to Jesus Christ. He alone is our salvation!”

This is called escapist theology, which is, to my growing understanding, not what the Scriptures mean when they speak of salvation. Rather, salvation has to do with Jesus redeeming all of creation – worms, dogs, people, the earth, everything.

See also: Billy Graham’s Apostasy from WorldNetDaily.com by Tom Flannery.

Way of the Masters’ Todd Friel on Rob Bell and Salvation

Todd Friel

Todd Friel has a radio show called Way of the Master. A lot of people know him as the guy who did the Bullhorn Response video to Rob Bell’s Nooma Bullhorn. The following is a conversation with a caller named Sara on the January 12, 2007 show:

Todd Friel: So what’s happening today, Sara?

Sara: Um, well I’m wondering exactly – and I’m glad you brought up all this Rob Bell stuff because I’m just getting, like, I posted your, uh, Bullhorn Response on my Myspace, and I’m just getting this flood of comments just completely freaking out cause’ all these people love Rob Bell and they’re just flipping out on like your video. And what exactly is the line between, like, bad theology and heresy?

Todd Friel: That’s an extremely important question, Sara… (talks about T.D. Jakes not believing in the Trinity…)

Sara: What about, um, like I had an email conversation with, uh, Nate Dawson from the Mars Hill Bible Church, Rob Bell’s church…

Todd Friel: Right.

Sara: And, like, they believe in holistic salvation, and just, weird things like that…

Todd Friel: I don’t even know what that means.

Sara: Would that be heresy, like…?

Todd Friel: Is holistic salvation, that, what, he heals every part of…I don’t even…

I actually like Todd. He’s a funny guy and I think we’d have a fun time hanging out. But I also think he’d be wise to look a little more into the Bible’s broad concept of salvation rather than preaching the version that’s been passed down to him.

Nothin’ but love for brother Todd.

Joel Osteen and NT Wright

Joel Osteen

Yesterday I watched Joel Osteen talk about how our habits affect what kind of people we become.

Today I listened to NT Wright talk about the Enlightenment and being for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

The difference?

I understood the smilin’ preacher.

I’ve read several negative things about ol’ Joel, and whether they’re merited or not, we’ll find out on That Great Day, but I’m not too quick to jump on the Joel-bashing wagon. I’m not down with the whole prosperity thing he appears to promote, not least in his lifestyle choices, but I’m also aware that paths to the living God are as numerous as the individual persons that He’s created. I will take a lesson from the editor of The Christian Century magazine, who one week jumped aboard the Joel-bashing train, and editorialized it, only to come to a different opinion no less than two weeks later, which he humbly wrote about:

Any theology that promises success as a reward for faithfulness and fervent prayer is misleading at best, and it deserves a forceful critique. At the same time I’ve learned not to dismiss ministries, however different from mine, that can lead people to their vocation or to a new sense of God’s love.

I probably wouldn’t go to Mr. Osteen for an in-depth analysis of 1st century Judaism, or any theological question for that matter; no, for things as deep and important as theological issues I’d consult the kind of leaders that Jesus told the people to listen to – Pharisees, but I do wish to remove my narrow lenses and think deeply and broadly about our complex world and infinite God.

NT Wright: Christianity Is For This World


These two quotes are from an interview with NT Wright in Christianity Today on the difference between certain versions of Christianity and the one he feels is closer to the Bible’s version:

Christianity – Saving Souls?

For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human beings and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery.
The longer that I’ve gone on as a New Testament scholar and wrestled with what the early Christians were actually talking about, the more it’s been borne in on me that that distinction is one that we modern Westerners bring to the text rather than finding in the text. Because the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work.

Christianity – Not For This World?

Our Western culture since the 18th century has made a virtue of separating out religion from real life, or faith from politics.When I lecture about this, people will pop up and say, “Surely Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world.” And the answer is no, what Jesus said in John 18 is, “My kingdom is not from this world.” That’s ek tou kosmoutoutou. It’s quite clear in the text that Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t start with this world. It isn’t a worldly kingdom, but it is for this world. It’s from somewhere else, but it’s for this world.

Jesus 2007

It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, that we can do even greater things than Jesus? I wonder if this might have something to do with being “Jesus 2007.”

It’s not that we’re better than Jesus, it’s just that he is more spread out now. When he visited us he came to one plot of land, lived, taught, died, and then rose from the dead, all in that one small geographical location. But being the wise and generous friend and brother that he is, he didn’t abandon us when he left; he only abandoned us physically, so that his spirit could actually live inside of us, so that there is not now just one spirit of Jesus living and walking and talking in one body in the land of Israel, but millions of Jesuses (Jesus-i? Jesus-en?) walking and talking in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Romania, Germany, Iceland, the United States, Bolivia, Uruguay, South Africa, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, China, the Philippines, and hundreds of other countries.

Is Jesus going to look the same in Bolivia as he does in the Sudan, or the same in Turkey as he does in the United States? Did Jesus look the same in Southern Europe in the year 50AD as he looked in Israel in the year 28AD? Already, just a short while after Jesus died and sent his spirit to all the believers, we see them teaching the message differently than Jesus, in a way that the people could understand. If Paul yelled at the Southern Europeans for not obeying God’s Torah, they would have had no clue what he was talking about. So he spoke in terms that they could understand. He became “Jesus 50” to them by reading the popular poets of the day.

So I’m wondering what it would look like to be “Jesus 2007” here in our American culture. Paul’s “Jesus 50” in Southern Europe looked like this:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

Will that work for us in America? Are temples a big part of our culture? What is a big part of our culture? How about movies? Maybe “Jesus 2007” in America would start off something like this:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the best movie producer there is, and he’s writing and directing a story about a woman who falls in love with the wrong kind of man, all the while another man is pursuing her and letting her know that he would do anything for her, even die for her.

Whereas Paul said this:

As some of your own poets have said, `We are his offspring.’ Therefore, since we are his offspring…

We might say something like this:

J.R.R Tolkein and Peter Jackson wrote and produced a story about Sam and Frodo leaving the shire and embarking on an exciting, dangerous quest, involving tragedy and triumph, ferocious battles and tender love. The divine Storywriter has been writing and producing a similar story but on a much larger scale, and actually we have a role in it. It all started in a beautiful garden…

There are many ways to be “Jesus 2007.”