By Luke Moon (@lukemoon1)
Rob Bell has been making a lot of videos lately. These videos are not like the great Nooma videos he made back in the 2000s, but rather videos promoting his latest writing adventures. The new videos are perhaps an unintentional story of how a once popular and promising pastor could drift into embracing old-time heresy while decrying old-time religion.
An article in the New Yorker late last year explores Rob Bell’s journey of faith. The article describes how he built his church through strong preaching and combining “emotional appeals with straightforward interpretations of Scripture.” The article explains further,
“[Rob Bell] did a series of “blood and guts” sermons, which explained sacrificial laws of Leviticus in gruesome detail. On the topic of sex, he warned dating couples against doing “things that only are proper within marriage.” And, in his eagerness to win new souls, he didn’t always avoid threats. “Jesus is your only hope, and God cannot accept casual, passive worship of him,” Bell told the congregation. “You either are headed to Heaven or you’re headed to Hell. It’s just that simple.”
However, it was Rob’s doubts about the inerrancy of scripture which caused him to question his faith. The New Yorker author rightly understands Rob Bell “belatedly discovered liberal theology”
Rob could probably have continued to pastor Mars Hill and live with the doubts and struggles, but instead he authored Love Wins. Perhaps his first book after embracing “liberal theology” it seemed largely a rant against those who believe hell is a place of eternal torment and separation from God. While many on the Religious Left celebrated his “coming out” as a hell denier, it proved too much for his church. In September 2012, he stepped down as pastor of Mars Hill.
Like other pastors who have led large congregations only to leave them behind as they doubt their faith, once Rob was out from under the accountability of his church elders he drifted further from orthodoxy. From the promotional videos for his new books it is certainly evident that he has continued to drift.
Rob’s video produced by his publisher Harper Collins for the release of Love Wins: For Teens is a celebration of his new faith in a new God.
The title of his book should not be Love Wins: For Teens, but rather Fun God: Saying “Yes” to the World. While Rob seemingly calls these teens to say, “Yes” to the world God calls us to reject that which the world loves. The World lusts after money, power, and sex, but we are called to generosity, humility, and self-control. The path that God has modeled in Jesus is not easy, but good. Jesus doesn’t say do what you want, he says follow me and obey my commands. The message given in this promotion is as divisive as his accusation on the Church. Yes, God invites everyone to his party, but joining his party will earn you hatred from the world.
The second recent promotion is for his upcoming book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
As in Love Wins: For Teens the basis of his video is that it’s time to leave the past behind. Rob says, for a lot of people “God is a bit like an Oldsmobile” and Oldsmobile is a relic of the past which couldn’t keep up with the times. “It’s part of the past, not the future; for them, not for us; for then, not for now.”
While the Rob Bell of the Nooma videos came across as hopeful and optimistic, the Rob Bell of the Harper Collins promo seems condescending to everyone who values the traditions of our Church. For Rob it seems God is not found in the past. The old “tribal God” is “mean” and “not very intelligent.” For him, it’s our (Rob, et al) turn to create God. Our new God won’t be mean, narrow, and stupid. No, our new God will be enlightened and modern…like us. Our new priests and priestesses will preach love without justice, they will affirm alphabet sexuality, and they will recognize that religion is rightly second to science. The new will not be like the old with institutions, structures, traditions, and authority.
In these videos Rob Bell comes across as intelligent, kind, and welcoming. But don’t false teachers often have that appeal. The reality is that the new God Rob is offering is not new at all. It is as old as the story of humanity…as the serpent told Eve, “you will be like God…”