What’s Rob Bell All About?

I just finished watching the “Rain” nooma video found here. I like it… in one sense… But what about Bell? What is he all about?

Rob Bell

“This is not just the same old message with new methods. We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”

Mars Hill Core Beliefs

Mars Hill is devoted to joining the God of the oppressed in the restoration of all creation.

We believe the Bible to be the voices of many who have come before us, inspired by God to continue to speak to us today. God calls us to immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative and to continue to faithfully live out that story today as we are led by the Spirit.

God, the author of all things good, created humans in his image to live in fellowship with him, others, our inner self, and creation. God is in a communal relationship with himself and his creation and he created us to be relational as well. Sin entered the world and our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation were broken and distorted.

We believe that God did not abandon his creation to destruction and decay, rather he promised to restore this broken world. God chose a people to represent Him in the world. This people started with Abraham and his descendants. God promised to make them into a mighty nation. In time they became enslaved in Egypt. They cried out to God because of their oppression and God heard their cry. He brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. He brought them to Sinai where he gave them an identity as his treasured possession, a Kingdom of priests, a holy people. The story continues, revealing God’s refusal to give up on his people through their frequent acts of unfaithfulness to him.

God brought his people into the Promised Land. They were blessed to be a blessing and called to put God on display to the nations. They made movement toward this missional calling, yet they disobeyed and allowed foreign gods into the land. In Israel’s disobedience they became indifferent and in turn irrelevant to the purposes God had called them to. They were sent into exile, yet a remnant looks ahead with longing and hope to a new reign like David’s where peace and justice would prevail.

We believe these longings found their fulfillment in Messiah Jesus, born of a virgin, mysteriously God in the flesh. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted and set captives free. He lived a perfect life proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom. He was rejected by many, crucified, buried, and rose again. His death and resurrection bring hope to all creation. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and God is reconciling us to himself, each other, ourselves, and creation. Jesus is the only mediator between God and humans. For all who accept his sacrifice he gives the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth through a communal life of worship and a missional expression of our faith. The church is called to put the resurrected Christ who lives in and through us on display to a broken and hurting world.

We believe the day is coming when Jesus will return and reclaim this world, the earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us on a new and restored creation.

And what does he believe about the Authority of Scipture? N.T. Wright’s article which is recommended on Bell’s Mars Hill website may give us a clue.

But, once we say that God’s authority is like that, we find that there is a challenge issued to the world’s view of authority and to the church’s view of authority. Authority is not the power to control people, and crush them, and keep them in little boxes. The church often tries to do that – to tidy people up. Nor is the Bible, as the vehicle of God’s authority, meant to be information for the legalist. We have to apply some central reformation insights to the concept of authority itself. It seems to me that the Reformation, once more, did not go quite far enough in this respect, and was always in danger of picking up the mediaeval view of authority and simply continuing it with, as was often said, a paper pope instead of a human one.
NT Wright

Or what authority does a story have?

But what might this appropriate response look like? Let me offer you a possible model, which is not in fact simply an illustration, but actually corresponds, as I shall argue, to some important features of the biblical story, which (as I have been suggesting) is that which God has given to his people as the means of his exercising his authority. Suppose there exists a Shakespeare play whose fifth act had been lost. The first four acts provide, let us suppose, such a wealth of characterization, such a crescendo of excitement within the plot, that it is generally agreed that the play ought to be staged. Nevertheless, it is felt inappropriate actually to write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form, and commit Shakespeare as it were, to being prospectively responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts, and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.
Consider the result. The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted “authority” for the task in hand. That is, anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that this or that character was now behaving inconsistently, or that this or that sub-plot or theme, adumbrated earlier, had not reached its proper resolution. This “authority” of the first four acts would not consist in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier parts of the play over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, which contained its own impetus, its own forward movement, which demanded to be concluded in the proper manner but which required of the actors a responsible entering into the story as it stood, in order first to understand how the threads could appropriately be drawn together, and then to put that understanding into effect by speaking and acting with both innovation and consistency.
NT Wright

If we really engage with the Bible in this serious way we will find, I believe, that we will be set free from (among other things) some of the small-scale evangelical paranoia which goes on about scripture. We won’t be forced into awkward corners, answering impossible questions of the “Have you stopped beating you wife?” variety about whether scripture is exactly this or exactly that. Of course the Bible is inspired, and if you’re using it like this there won’t be any question in your mind that the Bible is inspired.
NT Wright

2 thoughts on “What’s Rob Bell All About?”

  1. He brings up some good points as to our own place in the overall scheme of God’s story, and also the emphasis of scripture being narrative. The problem is that this “narrative” idea is a key liberal theses regurgitated in a very creative matter. The Bible of course isn’t merely narrative, it is also quite propositional. He seems as if he wishes the propositional element of scripture to either be ignored or to be superseded by the narrative. If we are at a different part of the “story” than what propositions apply directly to us? This he doesn’t say. In fact it’s hard to understand from his explanation how we are to interpret and apply the Bible or if we are supposed to apply it at all, other than simply learning from God’s story. This, I understand, is simply a result of the emergent “ooze” not wanting to be conformed to any box. It is a concern of mine as evangelical and even fundamental churches while seeing the good within such videos are also biting into the same old liberal apple.

  2. “He seems as if he wishes the propositional to either be ignored or to be subject to the narrative.”I noticed this too. He also mentions like 6 times that the Bible shouldn’t be used to put people in boxes. “It is a concern of mine as evangelical and even fundamental churches while seeing the good within such videos are also biting into the same old liberal apple.”It was N.T. Wright (the new perspective on Paul) who wrote the paper, I’m just assuming Bell agrees because he put it on his website. The rain video was a cool illustration of God’s goodness. That’s the only one that allows you to watch the whole video (as far as I can tell). The videos sure do communicate. And I really liked the illustration in the first one. He’s illustrating a real truth. I think of Edwards when I watch them, inciting “religious affections.” Is a video presentation a valid means to promoting true worship? Why or why not?

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