Rob Bell and Karl Barth’s Neo-orthodox Soteriology

Let’s play a little game of comparison. Many of you are quite familiar with the following quote by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Velvet Elvis.

“Let’s take this further. As one writer puts it, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were unable to do anything about our condition, while we were helpless, while we were unaware of just how bad the situtation was, Christ died. And when Jesus died on the cross he died for everybody. Everybody. Everywhere. Every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every people group. Jesus said that when he was lifted up, he would draw all people to himself. All people. Everywhere. Everybody’s sins on the cross with Jesus. So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth to God.” This reality then isn’t something that we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.

As I read the following from one of Karl Barth’s volumes on reconciliation, I was shocked that Rob didn’t even take the time to footnote Barth.

Barth writes concerning the reconiliation passage of 2 Corinthians 5 (page 76 of Volume IX, Church Dogmatics),

The conversion of the world to God has thereofre taken place in Christ with the making of this exchange. There, then, in Christ, the weakness and godlesness and sin and enmity of the world are shown to be a lie and objectively removed once and for all. And there, too, in Christ, the peace of the world with God, the turning of man to Him, his friendship with Him, is shown to be the truth and objectively confirmed once and for all. That is the history which Paul has to narrate. And such it is the history of God with Himself, as he has already said in v. 18. But now it is also the history of God with the world, as we are told in v. 19. And notice that in this respect too (and the two cannot be separated) it has taken place once and for all, the history of a decision which has been taken and which cannot be reversed or superseded. That is how He was in Christ – we might say with Jn. 3:16 that is how He loved the world – and it is the fact, and it is so, it is in force, and must and will be, whether there are few or many who know the fact, and whatever attitude the world may take to it. The world is God’s. Whatever else we may have to say about it (e.g. that it perishes) we must also remember that it is God’s – not merely because it is His creature, not merely because God has sworn to be faithful to man, but because God has kept His oath, because He has taken the world from a false position in relation to Himself, becuase He has put it in that place which belongs to it in relationship with Himself. The reconciliation of the world with God has taken place in Christ. And because it has taken place, and taken place in Christ, we cannot go back on it. The sphere behind it has, in a sense, become hollow and empty, a sphere which we cannot enter. The old has passed away, everything has become new. The new is conversion to God. In v. 18 Paul said that this had happened to him personally in Christ. In v. 19, and as the basis of the former verse, he says that it has happened to the world in Christ. It was a definitive and self-contained event.

As one of my professors, Dr. Saxon pointed out to me recently, Barth believed that monergism was only monergism if God actually had already reconciled the entire world unto himself. My question is what then would the purpose of faith be? Isn’t faith how salvation is received?

Barth and Bell confuse the availability of salvation to all men with the objective reality of the salvation of all men — there is a huge difference. Salvation is available to all, but not true already for all.

If man is already reconciled to God, then why does Paul command the Corinthian readers to be reconciled to God? Aren’t they already reconciled? Instead, shouldn’t he have commanded them to live their lives in this new reality?

The greek καταλλαγητε (be reconciled) is an imperative — a command — Paul is telling them to be reconciled to God. Verse 19 teaches that the ministry of Christ was not a ministry of condemnation (Jn. 3:17), but rather, God was acting through Christ to reconcile man to Himself. If man wants to remain a hostile enemy, he will (and without God’s further working in his life, he will). However, the Christians are now the ones who speak for God — we are the ambassadors who bring the demands of our King. What are His demands? Simple: be reconciled to God. Reconciliation to God can only occur by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scripture alone — this was made possible to all when God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself _ on the cross.

Barth, however, manages to mess the gospel up further,

Against this understanding of the statement we cannot appeal to v. 20 of the same passage, in which Paul singles out as the content of his activity in the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ the entreaty: ‘Be ye reconciled to God.’ This does not refer to an extension of the atonement in the form of something whcih man himself can decide. We recall this in Jn. 3:16 there is a corresponding mention of faith in the Son gifted, or offered up by God. The Pauline concept of faith is perhaps too narrow to permit us to equate the ‘Be ye reconciled to God’ with a call for faith. But it does point us in this direction. We can put it generally this way. It is a request for the openness, the attention and the obedience which are needed to acknowledge that what has happened in Christ has really happened, to enter the only sphere which is now left to man, that of the new, that of the conversion to God which has already taken place in Christ.

It is evident that Rob’s soteriology has been highly influenced by Neo-orthodoxy. When are so-called “conservative evangelicals” and fundamentalists, for that matter, going to stop showing his films and passing out his books? It seems that a current trend in Christianity is that nobody will separate over anything unless the gospel is being compromised. If that’s your position, fine. However, now that the gospel is at stake — and brothers and sisters, it is! — where are the strong Christian leaders who will, like the fundamentalists of old, stand without compromise for the doctrines of the Scripture?

  1. #1 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 5:43 am

    The trouble seems to be that what is obvious to you and I is just not obvious to others. Bell gets excused as a bad writer, or it is suggested he can not possibly have bad theology because of where he went to school… he cannot possibly mean what we think he means… Frustrating logic. I think Christians equate numbers with success, and if a church is growing, it is because God is blessing it.
    I weep, when I see these videos in my church….

    You are a blessing and encouragement – there are days where I feel like Elijah “I am the only one!” – God protects His remnant, and there continue to rise up men and women unwilling to be apathetic! Well said again Clearly.

  2. #2 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 5:52 am

    Verity, thanks for the encouraging comment. Where do you go to church? Do they really show Rob’s videos there?

    About being excused as a bad writer, I agree with you completely. A man as brilliantly smart as Bell, knows exactly what he is saying with his words. I have his intellect, but twice the word-choice awareness with which his readers credit him.

    There is no question in my mind that when one starts tinkering with a form of neo-orthodox, universalism that the gospel is at stake.

    There will be some who will now try to create a false dichotomy between Rob’s position and classical limited atonement. However, it doesn’t have to be that way!

  3. #3 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 7:25 am

    I attend a Baptist church in Ontario. The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists, Ontario, of which my church is a part of, supports the use of the videos in our churches, if they are for the purpose of generating discussion.

    The gospel is definately under attack, from within.

    Can you elaborate on your last paragraph? I know what false dichotomy means, and limited atonement, I am just uncertain about what you are saying….

  4. #4 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 7:47 am

    Some of those who are sympathetic to emergent theology will try to pit Bell’s view against classic limited atonement, as if there is no middle ground, that somehow it has to be classical limited atonement or universalism. Those aren’t our only two choices. Obviously, the work of the cross is only credited to those who believe — but I believe the work of the cross was directed towards the entire kosmos and not simply the elect. Provision has been made for the sins of all — however, justification/reconciliation aren’t true for everyone just because Christ died — salvation must be received personally and by faith.

    Is the leadership in your church aware of all the doctrinal problems with Bell?

  5. #5 by Henry (Rick) Frueh on September 22, 2007 - 8:16 am

    This sounds like universalism. I do get tired of trying to unravel these different head scratching teachings from some emergents. And I have much more patience with issues of methodology that issues that speak to a seeming expansive redemption.

    Without faith it is impossible to please God.

  6. #6 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 8:23 am

    I sent you an email to the account linked on here….

    Thanks for the clarification – I wasn’t thinking things through clearly first time around. I think most people would say they fit somewhere in the middle – but I can see exactly what you are saying – even Phil posed a similar dichotomoy in another discussion – there is Hypercalvinism, or Open Theism… that sort of thing….
    The pendulum is in constant flux – and I find it so hard to not overly compensate on a personal scale, to balance a universal scale. Probably why some of us come across as uncomproming…..

  7. #7 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 10:20 am

    Amen Rick…I have much more patience for difference in method as well, although I believe it to be quite important.

    Verity, my email is . I never received your email — sorry.

  8. #8 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 10:22 am

    Scrap that Verity, it was in my junk email folder by accident. Thanks…I will get back to you.

  9. #9 by Ken Silva on September 22, 2007 - 12:49 pm


    If you don’t mind my saying so, very nice work here. I don’t know if you saw it but I have shown another parallel between Bell and Barth in their neo-orthodox view of Holy Scripture.

    Rob Bell and Karl Barth

    And people really shouldn’t be surprised with Bell’s penchant toward man-pleasing doctrine because his masters degree is from Fuller Theological Sewer home of the Church Growth Movement. The truth is Rob Bell is just CGM for the pouty postmodern set. Same spiritual bankruptcy.

  10. #10 by theologien on September 22, 2007 - 1:06 pm

    The problem that I see with the post is that you discuss Barth’s idea of grace, and his concept of God’s freedom as well as human freedom. As you discuss Barth and Bell (who only has a surface reflection of anything Barthian), you are making salvation a human accomplishment, a human work, something that Barth found abhorrent.

    My take is that you need to do a fuller and deeper of Barth, and to do justice to what Barth says, and not ascribe to him what he does not say. This is evident by what you have Bell saying. Yes, surface similarities, but little else.

    As for your numbering system of Barth’s writings, I’m not sure what you are using. Barth wrote his CD in four volumes, with multiple parts for each volume. I want to read what he says in context, but this reference doesn’t help.

    Sorry if I seem harsh, I have spent 10 years reading and re-reading Barth, and I think he deserves a careful reading of his writings before we wrestle with his ideas. Writers from Carl Henry and on were guilty of that.

    He’s not perfect, but he has taught me more about theology and how to be a Christian.

  11. #11 by theologien on September 22, 2007 - 1:09 pm

    Sorry, I need to correct the first line, it should have read “that you do not discuss Barth’s idea of grace, and his concept of God’s freedom as well as human freedom.”

    Sorry for the mistake

  12. #12 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 1:31 pm

    As per my surprise at his theology – I must plead ignorance to the current climate of schools – I only knew Bell’s two schools to be the same ones Piper went to – and hear that sort of an argument in my own circles I guess….

  13. #13 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 1:40 pm

    Ken, I hadn’t seen the article — thanks for pointing it out to me. I trust your family is doing well after your time of rejoicing loss.


    It may be that my understanding of Barth is underdeveloped. I can admit that I am young and not particularly well-read. However, your problems with my short observation seem to flow from an argument from authority. I haven’t read Barth for ten years (wouldn’t want to either), but I think I do have the ability to understand language. Could you be more specific in how I am making salvation a human achievement? I am attempting a very hard task in my own soteriology of not becoming a raging hyper-calvinist or a universalist while entertaining accusations of being both!

  14. #14 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 2:34 pm

    I’m so in over my head! I know my Bible – I do not know definitions for some of the terms you are using ie. neo-orthodox. I looked at Ken’s comparison – and I think that while Bell clearly seems to emulate Barth, I think N.T. Wright needs to be considered as well – as his article on the inerrancy of Scripture is on Bell’s Mars Hill website.

    I am wondering, for all of you, why Bell? Do you think him the most likely to be the poster-boy for the emerging movement? Or is it that you just come across him most frequently? Do you view him more dangerous than others, because he is so unwilling to commit to any truth?

    I think it interesting that theologien says Bell is a surface reflection of Barth…. I think Bell has made a conscious effort to be nothing more than a surface reflection of alot of writers, while understanding them quite well… He is making accessible dangerous doctrines for those who simply cannot see what is in the depths of the water.

  15. #15 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 2:55 pm

    Verity, we have discussed the document in question on this blog earlier this summer. The NT Wright article generates a lot of controversy itself.

    “He is making accessible dangerous doctrines for those who simply cannot see what is in the depths of the water.”

    Very well said.

  16. #16 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 5:44 pm

    Oh, since this is a game, can you guess who said this? It’s not Bell… but Bell quotes him in Velvet Elvis.
    “I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.

  17. #17 by Phil on September 22, 2007 - 6:23 pm

    You seem like you are asking genuinely honest questions. Personally, I do not know why Bell has become the whipping boy. I don’t think he’s perfect, but I don’t think he’s heretical. I would encourage you to do research for yourself. A few years ago, I had to make a decision to basically almost accept no one else’s judgment or reviews on a book without reading it myself. It can be a bit overwhelming, but in the end it is the only way to find out the truth.

    You seem to be saying that Bell is a universalist. Is that what you are implying?

    I guess the thing that I would say is that people are not saved by doctrine. The understanding of doctrines come and go. People are saved by knowing Christ. When we talk about standing up for doctrines, I get a little antsy. It’s not that there aren’t some core issues, but one’s view of limited verses unlimited certainly isn’t core. Why make that a litmus test of orthodoxy? I just don’t get it. When did this become the issue that decides who and who isn’t heretical?

  18. #18 by Phil on September 22, 2007 - 6:29 pm

    When you say, “He is making accessible dangerous doctrines for those who simply cannot see what is in the depths of the water”, Luke 5:4 sprang to mind.

    When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

    Maybe some Christians have been in the shallows for too long, and they need to dive into those depths for themselves.

  19. #19 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 7:16 pm

    Verity, I guess Marcus Borg.

  20. #20 by clearly on September 22, 2007 - 7:43 pm


    Without fail, every time I write about this issue, you accuse me of making a big deal between limited and unlimited atonement. Phil, we are not talking about dividing over Calvinism here. This is biblical soteriology verses liberalism. I don’t believe in a limited atonement in the sense the Calvinist does, but I also think Rob is pushing a liberal gospel that if carried out will not save anyone. The atonement is limited in the sense that is only operative for those who believe, although in the atonement, Christ made provision for the sins of the whole world.

    I recognize the fact that Christ ultimately saves the sinner, but the sinner cannot know Christ apart from the the Word of God. We get doctrine from the Word of God. The gospel is doctrine. Phil, go online to Biblegateway or use a Bible program on your computer and search for the word “doctrine.” You will find that it is important in Acts 5, the apostles actually risked their lives for it. In Acts 2, the people continued in the apostle’s doctrine, etc. When people preach the gospel, they are proclaiming doctrine!

    Phil, a gospel that doesn’t require faith is another gospel (Gal. 1:8-9). That is why this is such a big deal.

    Now as far as your destruction of Verity’s comments. You completely missed what she was saying…but I will let her clarify. I don’t want to put words in her mouth.

  21. #21 by jhorneck3723 on September 22, 2007 - 8:58 pm

    I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding your quotation from Luke 5. First of all, “the depths of the water” is clearly not a metaphor for false teaching. I’m pretty sure that there is no biblical basis for dabbling with false teaching. In fact I believe that Paul is quite clear on multiple occasions what to do about false teachers. I would say that there is no biblical endorsement for believing aspects of false teacher’s doctrines.

  22. #22 by Verity on September 22, 2007 - 9:42 pm

    Robert Bell Capon. Good guess though…. : )

    Phil – I do my own reading. My saying that I don’t know what neo-orthodoxy is, does not mean that I am not well-read… I have read Velvet Elvis, parts of Sex God, all the Nooma discussion books (plus watched half a dozen) and have listened to a few sermons by Bell… I am not trying to defend Bell, just curious as to why Silva and Clearly spend as much time on him as they do… I “enjoyed” Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God (see my own blog) and was just wondering why Bell is so much the soup de jour. Bell is an issue for me, because he is in my church – as well as the church of my brother, my brother-in-law’s best friend’s church…. and is usually most popular among younger people. For me, it is personal I guess, and wondered what makes others tick, regarding him.

    And I think you did miss my point… I believe that Bell offers a soft version of alot of dangerous teacher’s doctrines, mixes them with Christianity, and presents it as God’s truth. He makes a point of scaring people off of reading his original sources: “take Three Months out of your life to read Ken Wilber!” (Buddhist) and I think does an all-around stupendous job of making the whole thing feel safe – regardless of where you sit. Anyone who can say “well, hypothetically if you took out this brick… oh, but wait, I really do believe in a virgin birth” is brilliant. You can nail him for nothing concrete, because he has managed to not only sit on the fence, but sit on both sides of it. (sorry, more analogies)

    There are too many Christians who are not Bereans, too many who are still on the milk of the word when they should be on solids. Absolutely, they should be treading the deeper waters of the Bible, but, they are ill-equipped, in their infancy, to swim the waters in Bell’s pool. There is a false bottom there, and I think, upon looking at guys like Barth, and Wright, and Wilber, and Canon one can see how dangerous things run.

    More tomorrow, if some of the issues have been unaddressed – it’s way too late for me!

  23. #23 by Joe Martino on September 23, 2007 - 4:15 pm

    When you’re done here I have a brick wall in my back yard for you. Let it go, man. Let it go.

  24. #24 by clearly on September 23, 2007 - 8:07 pm

    Joe, if you were take the brick called “the atonement” out of your wall, would it still be a wall. Would it still be the best way to construct a backyard? Or would the whole wall fall apart? Just wondering:)

  25. #25 by Verity on September 24, 2007 - 3:19 am

    lol. He might be more comfortable expending his energy on a trampoline. : )

  26. #26 by Phil on September 24, 2007 - 6:15 am

    I know I should let it go, it’s hard sometimes. I guess I have an impulse to defend people who I fell are being misrepresented.

    I know the verse in Luke was taken out of context, and I definitely wouldn’t use as my main defense. All I was saying is that I think we under-estimate the Spirit’s ability to keep someone (which is odd if one holds to the doctrine of Eternal Security, but that’s another argument for another day).

    It doesn’t really bother me that much that Bell recommends some questionable authors. I don’t equate a citation or recommendation as a complete endorsement. Obviously, there are books referenced in the back of VE that would clearly be at odds with one another. I think Bell is goading people to think on their own, not just accept what a pastor or author tells them as a fact. Also, I find it odd that you would include Wright and Barth in the same category as Wilber. I can see how they would anger some fundamentalists, but they both are still well within the mainstream of Evangelical thought. I’ve seen both Wright’s and Barth’s work cited by all kinds of conservative writers.

    The whole issue of soteriology is something that seems sort of odd to me. The ‘how’ of salvation seems like a secondary question to the ‘who’ of salvation. If Christians were truly being Christ to the world, I believe many of these arguments would take care of themselves.

    When I read the Barth quote the Dave cites, I honestly fail to see what’s wrong with it. I guess the thing that irritates me, and why I seem to take it personally, is that most Christian I know would read that and not have a problem with it. It seems the assertion is that if you don’t accept this narrow definition of someone’s interpretation of the Gospel, then you believe in a false Gospel. That assertion has big implications. It implies that those who have come to Christ with such a belief are not really saved, and that is what drives me to fight back.

  27. #27 by clearly on September 24, 2007 - 7:23 am


    What if my interpretation of the Gospel is, “You know what, sin is the breaking of God’s law — but, since in this age, we are no longer under law but under grace, I don’t think God really counts sin against any one, rather his grace overcomes the weaknesses of the world and in the end, grace wins and all are saved.” Would that interpretation of the gospel send anyone to hell?

  28. #28 by Phil on September 24, 2007 - 7:33 am

    Have you heard anyone you are referencing in this conversation actually say that? Of course that is wrong, but it appears to be a strawman. I’ve never heard Bell ever say “all will be saved”.

    All I see Bell saying is that salvation is available to all, which is what millions of Christians have believed. Whether or not people choose to be reconciled to Christ is a decision that is up to them. The work is done, they have to step out in faith into it.

  29. #29 by Verity on September 24, 2007 - 8:03 am

    “Heaven is full of forgiven people.
    Hell is full of forgiven people.
    Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
    Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
    The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.
    Ours or God’s.” (VE pg 146)

    And then try to understand his definition of hell. Or, which people please God…
    “Jesus at one point claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life”. Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are.” (VE pg 21)

    Not all issues we have been discussing are salvific issues – Calvinism and arminianism are not. Universalism is. You cannot tell a Buddhist to go on being a Buddhist, just add Jesus. Nor should one ever say that when Jesus said “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life” He didn’t actually mean He was the only way.

    I have actually been surprised, in all of the online reading I have done of Bell which quotes from VE get used, and which don’t….

  30. #30 by Phil on September 24, 2007 - 9:53 am

    I probably will not continue this much longer, because like Joe pointed out, I feel like I am trying to get through a brick wall.

    Doesn’t even the fact that Bell says, “Hell is full of forgiven people” imply that he believes in Hell? Whether or not they are forgiven or not is where the question of limited atonement comes, which is a secondary issue. I know the next question would be, “how are they in Hell if they are forgiven?”. To me that answer is pretty simple. Isn’t it possible for us to forgive someone without them accepting that forgiveness? Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.

    Based on what I’ve read and heard by Bell, I do not believe he is a Universalist. If you are going on the assumption that he is, it seems that you are ignoring much of his other writings and sermons. Much of what he said would be a total non-sequitor if he believed no-one would go to Hell. Talking about things like deliverance, healing, and reconciliation if he were really operating in the framework of Universalism.

  31. #31 by Verity on September 24, 2007 - 10:30 am

    Sorry Phil – not trying to frustrate!

    Bell will not answer the literal hell question:

    Vic Cuccia:”You recently preached a sermon called “God wants to save Christians from hell.” I was discussing the message with a guy who after hearing this message was a bit disturbed and somehow came to the conclusion that you didn’t believe in a literal hell. Let me ask you, do you believe in a literal hell that is defined simply as eternal separation from God?”

    Rob Bell:”Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?

    I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.”

    Is not referring to Jesus as “a way” not a good start on the road to universalism? and saying that all men are forgiven? Romans 9:13 makes it fairly clear that God does not view us all equally: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” More can o’ worms I am opening here – sorry – so many things are intertwined!

  32. #32 by Phil on September 24, 2007 - 11:06 am

    But he didn’t refer to Jesus as “a way”. He says Jesus is “the best possible way for a person to live”. If we take the descriptors “best” and “possible” out of that sentence, we’re left with, “Jesus is the way for a person to live”. Even if you don’t buy that, I don’t see how saying Jesus is the “best, possible way” is an less exclusionary than saying “Jesus is the way”.

    Also, isn’t Bell’s answer here – “So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”.” saying he believes there is some sort of separation? In Sex God, he talks a little more about heaven and hell.

    As far as the Jacob and Esau thing goes, I would say it doesn’t make sense to equate the way God interacted with OT Israel with the way He came through Jesus. It seems the whole point of Jesus dying was to make God’s covenant relationship with Israel available universally, as in Romans 5:13 – “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”

  33. #33 by Verity on September 24, 2007 - 12:17 pm

    But the OT God is the same God as the NT God. And this is quoted from the NT – Paul is telling us we have no right to question God – as per His grace and mercy, and who He bestows it on.

    What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”

    It just does not seem fair! I think what we are missing, in our modern gospel, is the fact that God owes us nothing. If He had chose to redeem no one, if He had chosen to reveal His glory through vessels of wrath only, He would still be a just God. It is grace, because it is so very, very unmerited.

    I honestly do not understand Bell when it comes to hell. He mostly talks of hell on earth that man creates for himself… I cannot speak on what he actually DOES believe, he is so ambiguous.

    And, “the best possible way” doesn’t cut it for me. It is black and white in Scripture. If Bell had said Jesus is the way, I’d agree. But he chose to add Best and Possible. Which still suggests there are degrees. But, there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Christ…..

  34. #34 by Phil on September 24, 2007 - 12:44 pm

    When I read that passage in Romans, I do not see Paul defending that God is randomly sending people to Hell. He is explaining why God can choose to offer salvation to Gentiles, and not just Israel. You are coming at from the perspective of God choosing to show wrath on some while electing to not on others. I am coming it at from the side that God has chosen to make the special covenant that was only available to Israel available to all. From Israel’s perspective, this was “unfair”. They were given the law, and many of them were trying to live by the law. Jesus comes and basically offers what they were promised as a reward for free to everyone. A good book that explains this is Ben Witherington’s The Problem with Evangelical Theology.

    As far as Bell goes, I would say that you and other critics are acting as if Velvet Elvis was the sum of everything he has said. I have heard him affirm numerous times in sermons that he believes Jesus is the only way. There is plenty of evidence out there. It seems people attack Velvet Elvis more for what it doesn’t say than for what it does.

  35. #35 by Sam on September 24, 2007 - 1:28 pm

    Phil, I am with you in that Bell gets a lot of feedback for his books, where people want to know everything he has ever thought or the entirety of what he believes. These books, VE and Sex God are not his autobiography or books of his theology; he is trying to help people understand the gospel and knock the cobwebs out of people’s heads. Too many Christians are spoon-fed the Word in church but do little digging on their own. He even concludes his books by asking the reader not to take all of his words as absolute truth, but to wrestle with them. When we decide to wrestle with the Word of God, we find truth. It is easy to look to other authors or pastors for truth, but we all have access to the Truth, in the Word.
    There comes a time when talking about a man and his beliefs is time wasted. I know and understand that it is important to roll ideas and thoughts off of other people, but we all must realize that to learn and grow, time must be devoted in the Word.
    The reason I even found this website was because I am looking for verification about Bell. I heard that in The Truth War, by John Macarthur, Bell is quoted to have said that the Bible is not the Divine Word of God. This seemed strange to me and I want to know if he truly said that, and if it was taken out of context. Does anyone know?
    Also, alluding to a previous comment, I find comfort in the fact that Bell has read so many different books, and I think it is great that he recommends that Christians do the same research. It is easy to say “I don’t believe in that” but it is unfair to point a finger without understanding what you don’t believe, and what other people in this world believe. If you come across an idea that is different from your own, and you truly wrestle with it, even if don’t agree with it in the end, it will solidify what you do believe.

  36. #36 by Henry (Rick) Frueh on September 24, 2007 - 3:42 pm

    If what Mark Driscoll claims about the teachings of MacLaren, Pagitt, and Bell is true, then every believer has a responsibility before God to pray for them and reject their teachings openly.

  37. #37 by Verity on September 25, 2007 - 11:05 am

    Sam wrote “Bell is quoted to have said that the Bible is not the Divine Word of God. This seemed strange to me and I want to know if he truly said that, and if it was taken out of context. Does anyone know?”

    The following are all from VE regarding Bell’s thoughts on Scripture:

    It is possible to make the Bible say whatever we want it to, isn’t it? (pg 44)

    Which for me raises one huge question: Is the Bible the best God can do? (pg 44)

    It has to be interpreted. And if it isn’t interpreted, then it can’t be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people. (pg 46)

    “The Bible is a collection of stories that teach us about what it looks like when God is at work through actual people. The Bible has the authority it does only because it contains stories about people interacting with the God who has all authority.” – p. 65

    This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” (pg 67)

    “When people say that all we need is the Bible,it is simply not true” (page 68)

    I think that there is alot of truth in the saying “to recognize a counterfeit, you need to know the real thing.” I am cautious about how much time I spend reading and researching authors who present different truths. The best thing to be wrestling with is the Word of God.

    Hope the quotes help some…

  38. #38 by Phil on September 25, 2007 - 11:47 am

    OK, point to why those quotes indicate Bell doesn’t view Scripture as authoritative. What do you disagree with?

  39. #39 by clearly on September 26, 2007 - 4:47 am


    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

    You wrote, “Dave,
    Have you heard anyone you are referencing in this conversation actually say that? Of course that is wrong, but it appears to be a strawman. I’ve never heard Bell ever say “all will be saved”.

    I wasn’t trying to recreate Bell’s message in that post. Actually, I was trying to prove the point that at some point someone’s flawed interpretation of the gospel means that they don’t know Christ and are not justified/reconciled, etc. You heartily affirmed that my fake interpretation was wrong.

    You said, “All I see Bell saying is that salvation is available to all, which is what millions of Christians have believed. Whether or not people choose to be reconciled to Christ is a decision that is up to them. The work is done, they have to step out in faith into it.”

    Phil, I would agree with you completely that the salvation is available to all. However, if that’s what Rob wanted to say, he should have used different words, words that meant that. Rob was actually saying that the work of reconciliation had already taken place and was already true for everyone — in other words, the entire world is reconciled to God already, we just now need to “live in this new reality.” It may seem like splitting theological hairs to you, but his view takes away the call for faith.

    Now you may say that if I had listened to every sermon and every podcast, I would know…

    Phil, how many books do I have to read? How many sermons do I have to listen to? Shouldn’t the language of this book speak for itself? Rob is brilliantly smart. He crafts words — he knows exactly what he is saying. Read his bibliography — he reads a lot. He knows the subtile nuances in theology and he exploits the lack of knowledge in his readership.

    I will have to agree with Verity. The best thing that a believer can do is to dive into the depths of the Word, not into the depths of Barth or Bell or anyone else.

  40. #40 by Verity on September 26, 2007 - 5:02 am

    so well said!

  41. #41 by Sam on September 26, 2007 - 8:20 am

    Verity, I have read Velvet Elvis, and the quotes you pulled don’t say anything to me that Bell doesn’t think the Bible is the divine Word of God. I am saying that I heard him to be directly quoted as saying the Bible was NOT the divine Word of God. That was my question, has anyone come across that? I’m not interested in how his comments in his own book could be taken, I am looking for something difinitive.

  42. #42 by Sam on September 26, 2007 - 8:24 am

    And…I think some of those quotes are taken out of context to make a point, like the first one from pg. 44. He isn’t disputing the authority of the Bible there or in any other of the quotes, he is simply making the point that if we put all our eggs in one basket and fail to seek a relationship with Christ, the Word alone is going to fail us. Without the relationship, the Bible is merely an interesting book. I whole-heartedly agree with him on that. I do think you have a good point that digging in the Word is the best way to spend your time. If you are going to wrestle with anything, wrestle with the Word.

  43. #43 by Phil on September 26, 2007 - 10:21 am

    There’s also this endnote (64) in VE.

    I understand the need to ground all that we do and say in the Bible, which is my life’s work. It is the belief that creeps in sometimes that this book dropped out of the sky that is dangerous. The Bible has come to us out of
    actual communities of people, journeying in real time and space. Guided by a real Spirit.

    That seems like he is affirming the Authority of Scripture to me. I think one thing that becomes an issue is that Bell is trying to explain things to readers using words they’ll understand instead of religious jargon. It seems problems arise when Christians start expecting him to use their code words, and he doesn’t.

    By the way, here’s the entire book in PDF format, for anyone’s reference. It’s from Zondervan’s site, so I guess it’s legit.

  44. #44 by Phil on September 26, 2007 - 10:30 am

    Oops, I was mistaken with that link. It just the first two chapters and the endnotes, I guess. I thought there were more pages in that file than there are. Anyway, it’s still somewhat useful for copying and pasting purposes.

  45. #45 by Sam on September 26, 2007 - 10:45 am

    I am not at all agruing or impying that Bell fails to affirm the authority of Scripture. When I read Velvet Elvis, I never got that impression. I completely enjoyed VE and think people are stretching to make his words offensive to the Christian faith. Bell is trying to get us all thinking. I am a fan of Bell, and trying to sift through all the accusations that have come because of his book. I feel like people are distraught over things that he didn’t say. The virgin birth, is touchy, and I don’t think that was the wisest decision on his part, which I know was intentional. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I also think that if you look for people who you will completely agree with you will look forever.
    Again I pose the same question I have asked: Did anyone hear or come across Bell saying that he believed the Bible was not the divine Word of God? I don’t care what he wrote in VE, I have read the book and I understand where he is coming from and what he is saying! Just want to know if anyone else had heard about his comment, apparently in The Truth War by John Macarthur.
    Henry, I appreaciate the link, but I don’t think he said anything about Bell that changed my view of him. I am all for understanding the Bible in the historical context that we are provided through rabbinical studies. I heard it this way once, if we don’t know the significance and/or meaning of the stories and phrases in the Old Testament how are we supposed to share it with other, let alone apply it in our own lives. When you can study the OT by understanding the historical backdrop that framed everything, new understanding will surround every saying and story. This is available through rabbinical studies; there needs to be no reversion to Judaism, but Christianity was birthed out of Judaism, it makes sense to understand the significance of the OT to gain a deeper understanding of the OT and the New Testament.
    What he had to say about MacLaren and Pagitt was jarring, and does make me scratch my head at what those men are thinking.

  46. #46 by Verity on September 26, 2007 - 11:36 am

    Hey Sam – can you tell me which page that Truth War quote is on? I can’t find it, and wanted to reread it before I commented further. I will have more time to write later….

  47. #47 by Sam on September 26, 2007 - 12:03 pm

    I’m not sure. I heard a preacher say that Bell was quoted as saying that in the book. I haven’t read the book, which is why I was wondering if he indeed made that statement.

  48. #48 by Verity on September 26, 2007 - 1:27 pm

    Here’s the link

    The second of these two paragraphs is the one used in The Truth War.
    But it quickly becomes clear that these Wheaton College sweethearts have more on their minds than just cultural adaptation. “This is not just the same old message with new methods,” Rob says. “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life. Legal metaphors for faith don’t deliver a way of life. We grew up in churches where people knew the nine verses why we don’t speak in tongues, but had never experienced the overwhelming presence of God.”

    In fact, as the Bells describe it, after launching Mars Hill in 1999, they found themselves increasingly uncomfortable with church. “Life in the church had become so small,” Kristen says. “It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working.” The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—”discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.”

    To be fair – we must be careful about how we read the quote – as the quotation marks clearly indicate which part Bell did and did not say. I could not find anything online, as yet, that would suggest he actually outright said anything against the Word.

    But then, Rob Bell does not say anything outright against anything. He suggests we could do without the virgin birth, and then affirms it. He implies through his sourcing, and a couple of the above quotes I gave, that sola scriptura is nice, but simply not true. And then supports the Word’s sufficiency in the back of the book. He will not speak clearly on hell, nor on homosexuality. And it is like Driscoll said of McLaren – “Do you think he has no idea what his position is?”

    Bell is either brilliant, charasmatic, popular and precise in his way of encouraging people to follow the best way to ultimate reality with “questions, questions, questions”; or he barely scraped by college, has no concept of how to write a book so that someone else can understand him, and is actually not that bright after all. I don’t think there is a whole lot of room for somewhere-in-the-middle…

    I vote former. How do you not love a guy who says “You’re a wicca! That’s fantastic! God loves you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!” You can follow Bell and be gay, or a witch… you can deny the virgin birth or the Trinity, for even though BELL affirms these truths, has he not given those that don’t the license to keep on believing that that particular spring is unnecessary? Questions without answers is dangerous business.

  49. #49 by Joe Martino on September 26, 2007 - 3:33 pm

    No one here or anyone anywhere else has ever heard Rob say that the Bible is not the Word of God. Anyone who says they have is lying.

  50. #50 by Phil on September 26, 2007 - 6:28 pm

    I feel like you keep on building strawmen by attributing quotes to Bell that he never said. I’ve never heard Bell say anything positive about Wicca or witches. You are completely extrapolating ideas from him that aren’t there.

    I’ve gone over the Virgin Birth thing so many times, that I don’t feel like doing it again. If you think Bell is saying the Virgin Birth isn’t important, I think you need to look at that section more carefully. The whole point of that chapter has to do with what the point of doctrine is. Is doctrine meant to be a defensive wall to keep us safe, or is it meant to spur us on to something?

    By the way, though, I would agree with statement that “God loves you just the way you are”. If we start saying God’s love is conditional, then we all are in trouble. If we promote the idea that people have to change for God to love them, that is not the Gospel. God’s love is the only thing that can ever really change a person.

  51. #51 by Verity on September 27, 2007 - 4:14 am

    If you disagree with “God loves you just the way you are” then my point re. wicca, etc. is moot – allow me to clarify….

    The wicca quote is from VE – where he told a girl to keep on coming out to Mars Hill, and that God loves her just the way she is.
    I think that the modern gospel has totally denied the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the justice of God, the fact that we are born enemies of God…. Righteous men of faith were absolutely terrified in His presense – Isaiah cried “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips!” John fell at His feet as though dead (Rev. 1:17). Moses could not see more than His backside, or he would have died….
    The gospel of Bell is the join him on the path to ultimate reality, not to repent of sins in sackcloth and ashes…. we have No concept of our own wickedness, nor our desperate need of salvation.

    Back to Romans 9:10-13
    “when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in oder that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told. “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    See also Malachi 1:2,3 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.”

    I think the emerging church god is a wimp. Realising I have not heard every Bell message, I have yet to hear God presented as anything but good, and loving – like the ultimate hippy.
    “God loves you” was not the basis for Peter’s message in Acts 2, nor Paul’s message in Acts 3 – they were about who Christ is, what He accomplished, and our response: repent, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come.

    The emerging church is getting some of this right! It is what is so confusing. They are finally showing the love that many Christians, dead in their pews, have not done in a long, long time…..

  52. #52 by Phil on September 27, 2007 - 5:53 am

    It all comes down to context. Who was Peter talking to in Acts 2 & 3? It was Jews who all had a base knowledge of who God was. They should have been following God. To tell them to repent makes sense – they should have known better. They were like disobedient children.

    I would say the God you are presenting is schizophrenic. God is not like 90% love and 10% wrath. He does not randomly choose to be merciful to some and not to others, at least not in the New Covenant (and a good case could be made for Him not doing so in the OT, as well). I believe that God’s wrath and His love are essentially the same thing. His wrath is not born out of vengeance, it is a purifying and exposing thing.

    I guess I would put it in terms of this analogy. Light can be seen as helpful and lifegiving or unwanted and scary, depending on who you are. To those who have nothing to hide, shining the light on their deeds brings joy and life. To those who are living in sin, the same light brings shame. It may feel like wrath, but in reality, it is God’s love exposing them.

    As far as the Wiccan girl goes, what do you think Bell’s reaction should have been? Should it have been don’t come back unless you accept Christ? How would you suggest handling such a case.

    I had something similar happen actually just last week. The campus ministry I oversee has a bi-weekly coffeehouse and open mice nite. We have all types of performers come in, and last week we had a bunch of first time visitors. The one guy got up and played guitar (it was all instrumental with no lyrics), and he was very good. One of the guys on our leadership team started talking the guy. Well, it turns out he is the president of the atheist and agnostic club here. Should we have told him to repent right there, or should have continued to welcome him back and trust that Holy Spirit will work on his heart and guide conversations accordingly?

    Romans 2 says it God’s kindness that leads men to repentance. It actually says that those of us who misrepresent this to others by passing judgment on them are, in fact, the ones who need to worry about wrath.

  53. #53 by Verity on September 27, 2007 - 6:41 am

    Phil…. honestly, I think it’s the little extra words that say alot…. adding “just the way you are” or “best and possible.”

    You have to read verse five with verse four – God is merciful to mankind, and the point is that when man abuses the gifts of God, and His patience and kindness to Him, they are storing up Wrath for themselves. God will basically say, on the day of judgement, “I gave you this, this, this and this, and instead of acknowledging your Maker, you had a hard heart that did not open to Me. You have increased your guilt by not turning to Me.”

    Show me in Scripture where I am wrong. God is not schizophrenic – He does everything He does for the purpose of glorifying Himself. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and to keep saying the God of the OT and the God of the NT as though He has changed is an unfair representation of Him. We are now under grace, and no longer under the law, but that does not mean God, at the moment of the cross, started to view man differently….

    I don’t understand how much context you need for “I love this guy, I hate that guy.” I don’t know how you can say God does not randomly choose to be merciful to some and not others. It’s not easy truth, but the use of the words foreknew, chose, predestined, adopted…. are all throughout the NT.

    I do believe we need to show the unbeliever love. Undoubtably. But sometimes love looks like an intervention – and we must be careful what we choose to condemn and condone. I am not saying Bell should have said “repent! Right now, or never return!” We all need to show the unbeliever a ridiculous amount of love, and goodness, patience and charity, but not to leave people feeling comfortable living with their sins….

    I do not think God does not use even our poor attempts to bless and glorify Himself, and draw men to Him. I do not believe that only those who have studied for years ought to witness, or that we ought to hammer out some sort of “you all suck” message to everyone. I just think that love ought to be mingled with more depth than the current gospel message presents….

  54. #54 by Phil on September 27, 2007 - 7:17 am

    For God to say he hated Esau, does not mean he “hated” him absolutely. If you look back in the context of that story, you will see God still blessed Esau. The other thing I would say is that Jacob and Esau in that passage in Malachi are talking about nations more than individuals. It talking about Isreal (Jacobs line) and Edom (Esau’s line). God is stating that he hates the deeds of Edom, and that he is being gracious to Israel for no other reason than he said so. It is not because they deserve it.

    The words elect, predestined, foreknew, etc much of the time are used in a collective sense. I don’t think they refer to individuals’ eternal destinations.

    You are coming from the side that God is wrathful to anyone he chooses. I would say it is more accurate to say that God is merciful to whom He chooses. I do agree we all deserve death, but by dying on the cross, Jesus took all that wrath. So Jesus’ death did change the way God sees humanity. It also would seem like an “unfair” thing for Jews that the Gentiles were now included.

    I just do not accept that God created some people knowing that they would burn in Hell forever. To me that does not bring God glory.

  55. #55 by Texas Ron Linebarger on September 27, 2007 - 8:11 am

    It seems the clouds of theological storms rage. I’m not a theologian or a very smart person. I guess I don’t know many things. I do know this: I know that by the age of 15, I had been shot three times, stabbed three times, I burglarized homes and businesses, I was involved in attempted murder and etc. I know that by 17 suicide was an option that I attempted several times. And then, once again someone told me about Jesus and I realized it was not nails that held him on the cross, but it was his love for me, a sinner–like others. I can ‘t tell you very much–But I can tell you that Jesus loved me and changed my life forever. I can tell you that when he spoke from the cross and said “it is finished or paid in full”–it was. I don’t know much, but I know that.

    Ron Linebarger

  56. #56 by Verity on October 1, 2007 - 8:26 am

    I should clarify? I am not sure I can really… I just want to say how much I appreciate the “debating” here – I love being challenged to dig into the Word. I find myself learning more about God when my own beliefs are put to the test – and I am not too proud to admit that some of my own doctrines get reworked in the process…

    Clearly – I should probably apologize for highjacking your blogs, and for taking them in directions not intended…. Keep writing – and I will do my best to be faithful to your original intents! Aren’t you due for a new post?

  57. #57 by clearly on October 2, 2007 - 4:45 am

    My school and work schedules are getting the best of me. However, I have been doing a lot of emergent reading and I have plenty to talk about — I’m just not ready to bring it out yet. Give me a little more time…

  58. #58 by thegreatapostasy on October 22, 2007 - 11:00 am

    I tend to think that Rob Bell is the whipping boy so often because he seems to appeal so much to “regular” evangelicals … not just the emerging types. His videos show up everywhere, but I find that a lot of people don’t have a clue who he is.

    The small group that I attended from our former church would loan out the Nooma videos to everyone, but even the group leader who owned the videos didn’t have a clue who the man was that was speaking in the videos. I quote: “I think he’s maybe a youth pastor or something.”

    Because Rob Bell seems to have slipped into mainline evangelicalism without anyone having a clue who he is or what he believes, I tend to feel that’s part of the reason why he’s “picked on” so much. He seems to show up everywhere.

    I dug around on Rob Bell’s church website awhile back and found his “doctrinal” statement. It’s not a doctrinal statement. It’s a spiritual “narrative,” and the important doctrinal details that are missing from it are staggering. You can find it linked here, if you’re curious:

  59. #59 by Phil on October 22, 2007 - 12:03 pm

    That’s some name, by the way.

    What exactly do you think is missing from that?

    It affirms the authority of Scripture, the Trinity, original sin, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the Second Coming (including a final judgment).

    It’s not a bulleted list, but I actually think it is more helpful in the format it’s written in.

  60. #60 by thegreatapostasy on October 23, 2007 - 10:52 pm

    Hmm … you know what? It’s been changed since I first read it. Previously there was no mention of sin … no mention of the need for a savior … no mention of the atonement or what Jesus accomplished on the cross. I agree that the points seem to be covered much more clearly now than they were previously. Perhaps changes were made in response to questions received about it? I withdraw my previous comment about things missing … things USED to be missing … they don’t appear to be any longer. Which is a good thing. 🙂

    ~”Ed” (by the way, my name isn’t really Ed but I started feeling weird about signing off on comments with “The Great Apostasy” … it made me feel like the personal embodiment of heresy or something) lol 😉

  61. #61 by thegreatapostasy on October 23, 2007 - 10:54 pm

    I don’t know why my name doesn’t link to my blog in your comment section. It does elsewhere. Hm. A mystery.

    ~”Ed” at

  62. #62 by Joe on October 24, 2007 - 5:50 am

    Why not just sign off using your real name. Anonymous blogging where you critique others seems rather cowardly.

  63. #63 by Heather on November 24, 2007 - 6:32 pm

    Someone please explain the beliefs behind universalism, neo-orthodox, and any other beliefs contrary to simple biblical teachings that you say Rob Bell is following. I am a teenager who wants to make a decision by herself if Rob Bell is a heretic but I don’t understand the different teachings being discussed. It makes deciding if he is a heretic difficult.

  64. #64 by clearly on November 24, 2007 - 8:02 pm


    Universalism = everyone goes to heaven.

    Neo-orthodox = the Bible is inanadequate to convey spiritual truth.

    Some may feel these definitions are too simplistic, but honestly, those are the bottom lines.

    If you have more specific questions, you can email me at

  65. #65 by Verity on November 25, 2007 - 4:09 am

    I would add Heather, that you do not need to decide whether he is a heretic or not – it is more important to know what you believe, and why you believe it, and determine from there whether you feel his teachings fall in line with your own understanding of God’s Word.

    You are going to have a difficult time making broad brush strokes on him and others in the emerging church, because, for the time being, they will deny a universalistic doctrine; and still declare a belief in Scripture’s authority….

  66. #66 by clearly on November 25, 2007 - 10:18 pm

    Very well said Verity. Heather, it is so important to know what you believe! When all others run to videos of a certain teacher….you be the one to run to God’s Word and study it for yourself!

  67. #67 by gbfluteman on April 10, 2008 - 8:33 pm

    Rob Bell:”Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?

    Sorry, know this is an ages old discussion, but wasn’t really blogging for months. Perhaps this quote was addressed and I just missed it. However, from what I do remember seeing, it seemed that no one hit on this thought: The answer that Rob Bell gives regarding a literal hell and why a person goes there is based on a false premise of the reason for going to Hell. A person is not condemned to Hell because he/she has rejected Christ (though, Christ does seem to indicate this in John 3:16-18, Christ is saying that the rejection of God’s Son seals the judgment with no way out of a judgment which was already forth coming).

    A person goes to Hell simply because they are a sinner by birth (thanks, Adam) and by practice (thanks, self). God didn’t have to send His Son to die for my sins. He would have been perfectly justified in not doing so and sending me straigt to hell the moment I was born. However, God- who is just- in His love, grace, and mercy, sent His One and Only Son to take my place on The Cross of Calvary, to pay my infinite sin debt, and take the wrath of God upon Himself so that God’s Justice could be served without my having to face the infinite debt I owed for not properly worshipping and revering an infinite God every moment of my life.

    God is so good to us, is He not?

  68. #68 by Nicole on April 11, 2008 - 7:05 am

    grace grace God’s grace! Grace that is greater than all my sin!

    He would be just if He had condemned us all to hell. That He has not is grace alone…. oh, that we would see His holiness and our sins as they are!!

  69. #69 by Stephen on April 28, 2008 - 8:46 am

    There are a couple things you misunderstand. First,it is always dangerous to read a couple pages of Barth and think you have a handle on any of his doctrines, let alone his doctrine of reconciliation. Second, trying to describe Barth and Bell as Neo-Orthodox is problematic. I haven’t read or heard Bell but these typological categories are dangerous. People of every camp try to create one for Barth or put him in one to the point at which he is in 8 different camps and there could be evidence for such a placement somewhere in his vast corpus. But I would not call him a Neo-Orthodox keeping his entire work in mind. Thirdly, (I won’t say lastly there are many other things wrong) you wrongly maintain that reconciliation and salvation are interchangeable terms (or at least that is how you come off). For Barth these are not one in the same. One may be reconciled to God without fully receiving and accepting the benefits of salvation. Barth agrees that faith is the vessel in which we receive Christ and the way in which we respond. The Christian response to Christ’s action is very prominent in Barth and should not be overlooked.

  70. #70 by Stephen on April 28, 2008 - 8:51 am

    Ok ran out of room. I would recommend reading all of Volume IV of dogmatics and then move onto the fragments. These are not easy ideas that can be understood by reading a few sections. And you argue that people should stand up for the doctrines of scripture in the false and a bit naieve belief that scripture only contains one doctrine about soteriology. Even fundamentalists throughout history have disagreed and pointed to scripture. The Cappadocians, Athanasius, Anselm, Augustine, Abelard, Torrance, Baille, Aquinas, all had different understanding based on scripture. Were they all just errant in their scriptural understanding and now the world is graced with your presence to come and explain it all to us?

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