Frustration. Ambiguity. Error. Danger. Argh.
Those are the things I think when Rob Bell talks about “What We Talk about When We Talk about God.” Actually, they are the things I think when Rob Bell talks about anything. But this time he’s talking about God and that is the tongue-twisting title of his new book, which will be released next week.
My twitter friend @ZooKeeper_Kevin tipped me to the latest promo video from HarperOne and postmodern, former pastor Rob Bell. In the new video (Rob Bell – What We Talk about when We Talk about God), Bell slams traditional/orthodox views of God as “a little like” an Oldsmobile. He tells the story of his Oldsmobile, nicknamed “The Sled,” which “served me well for those years.”
The obvious implication is that the car no longer serves him well. “Oldsmobile couldn’t keep up with the times,” Bell points out. And because Bell loves to use metaphor it doesn’t take long to figure out what he’s driving at: his (and other people’s) way of talking about God must be irrelevant and in need of an update.
“For a growing number of people in our modern world, God is a bit like Oldsmobiles. Things have changed. We have more information and technology than ever … the tribal God, the only one many people have ever heard of appears more small and narrow and irrelevant. And in some cases, just plain mean, and other times not that intelligent,” Bell says.
Of course he doesn’t say he’s criticizing orthodox views. Instead, Bell sets up the straw man argument with anecdotes about his friends who have been told that women shouldn’t “teach and lead in faith communities,” another who heard a sermon about homosexuality, or another who took issue with a Christian saying that if you don’t believe in six-day creation “then you have to get rid of the Bible as well.” Because he didn’t include specific details about any of those incidents it is impossible to know for sure if the messages were given in a biblically-accurate way or not.
But the Bible certainly has things to say about such issues and what it says is often unpopular. It does say that pastors should be men. Just read 1 Timothy and Titus. It affirms that God is the creator not only in Genesis, but throughout the Bible (Psalm 89, Psalm 104, Psalm 19, Job 38, Isaiah 42 and 45, John 1 and more). And as touchy a subject as it is, homosexual acts are clearly labeled sin by the Bible in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter if the truth is popular. We should expect many will reject it. As 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 states:
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
What Bell appears to be doing is claiming that society is more evolved and we need to come to a newer, better understanding of God. I think he’s wrong. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the LORD, I do not change.” Hebrews 13:8 also says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
2 Timothy 3 says, “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” So if we have any questions about who God is, what He is like, and how we can have fellowship with Him, we must be turning to the Bible for our answers.
Instead, Bell seems to putting the wisdom of men above God, not to mention people in our day and age over all others in history. To me this seems like incredible arrogance. Of course that won’t be completely clear before the book is released, but if the promo video is an accurate glimpse into his book, I think that is precisely what readers are in for. Of course, it is possible the publishing company is counting on our outrage to sell this latest book, as Tim Challies suggested happened with Bell’s last book.
- Rob Bell is back to tell teens that “Christian beliefs about hell are Toxic”! (atwistedcrownofthorns.com)
- Bell’s Inferno (Grace to You)
- Video: Wretched Takes on Bell and Love Wins (Wretched TV)
- Love Wins: A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book (Challies.com)