Enough is enough! Rob Bell’s newest book is like his others: a vague jumbled mess of confusing conflicting ideas with no real rhyme or reason. It isn’t that what Bell writes is deep; it’s just flat stupid. Or, he knows that the brain-dead Christians who read his garbage will lap it up without gagging or flinching. This is his worst book ever, and it was a waste of money. I have wasted too much time already on it and I will end my review with one last entry. If you do read the book–and I would recommend that if you do you borrow it and don’t funnel any more money to this joker–here is a heads up, as close as I am able to discern, as to where Bell is going in this book.
I already told you how he starts off with a chapter called Open in which he tells us that we need to be open to new ways of thinking about God because we are ever learning and evolving. What was good enough in the superstitious pre-enlightened Bible times will not cut it in our advanced technological world.
The next chapter is built around the word Both. Here Bell tells us that God is so transcendent and unknowable that human language cannot accurately describe him. Scripture is a feeble account of people who encountered God and then tried the best they could to write an account of their experience. These sacred stories point us to God but they are not God. Mind you, I have never heard a single theologian ever say scripture is God. Basically Bell is repeating the Neo-Orthodox view of revelation espoused by Karl Barth and Emil Bruner, who said that the Bible is not the word of God, but rather points us to God, becomes the word of God when we existentially experience God through it as a vehicle of revelation. Bell does not come right out and say this, but allows you to draw your own conclusion. For that matter, Bell doesn’t come right out and say anything that could be used to label him for the heretic he is.
Bell says we need to learn how to embrace paradox and mystery in our faith. When you hear people talking like this it is code for unbelief, plain and simple. Bell says we need to see opposites like faith/doubt and conviction/uncertainty as dance partners rather than enemies. Square that one with Hebrews 11 if you can.
Next Bell builds a chapter around the word With, and talks about the immanence of God. However what he is referring to is not the biblical concepts of general revelation and divine providence. In fact he never mentions these. Instead he rambles on about how God’s Spirit is present in everything and how God is encountered in the somber heavy experiences of life, such as in witnessing a death or the birth of a baby. Or through a realization of the oneness and interconnectedness of all things. Or through our collective sense of hope, purpose, and direction.
In a short chapter developed around the word For Bell talks about how God is for everyone and desires that all reach their highest potential as human beings and experience meaning and joy in their lives. Pure onward and upward humanism sugar coated with Christian-ese jargon.
These other chapters bring us to the word Ahead. God is ever pulling us ahead to join him and understand him in new ways more in keeping with our evolutionary development. We live in an enlightened technological age now, and we cannot go back to the old categories of describing God characteristic of a more magical, superstitious time in history. It is obvious in reading Bell that he holds to the Big Bang theory and standard Darwinian evolutionary theory. In tandem with this he seems to hold to a view of religion espoused by 20th Century liberal German theologians called the History of Religions School, or religionsgeschichtliche. For example he claims that religions developed as man evolved and tried to find explanations for the phenomena they observed. They attributed fertility and crop growth to gods, who were in control of the rain, sunlight, temperature, etc. They built altars and offered sacrifices to these Gods in an attempt to please them. A good crop meant they were pleased, and if you pissed them off they would send drought and famine. The problem with this view, not to mention it is based on a humanistic cosmology, is that it flies in the face of the biblical facts of creation, revelation, and man’s suppression of the knowledge of God, as manifested in the false religions of the world.
A couple other items to keep in mind. Bell talks about holism–the belief that truth must be understood as an organic whole and not by the breaking things down into their component parts for examination. For this reason he seems to eschew disciplines like exegesis, systematic theology, creeds and confessions, etc. I say seems because Bell gives you enough to get impressions of what he believes, but he never just comes right out and says it. He is a slick weasel.
Another telling thing is that Bell makes frequent reference to the Jesus story. This is an expression used by theological liberals who talk about the events described in the gospels but in fact view them as sacred myth with no objective historicity. I have no way of knowing where Bell really stands on this or virtually any other subject because he is a master of saying as much as he needs to say to screw people up without hanging himself.
In the end I have to say I really cannot tell if Bell is a genuine Christian. I can tell you this: what he says and doesn’t say in his books can in no way be contained in the pale of Christian teaching. The sad thing is that millions of unsuspecting believers will read his shit and think it’s great. Pastors will simply ignore it in hopes it will blow over without their having to denounce Bell, thereby appearing unloving, intolerant, or divisive.
OK, I’m done.