Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My take on Rob Bell

Commenter "Bradley" took me to task in the meta of this post. His beef is that he thinks we here at the Reformed Mafia, and I in particular, have been too quick to judge the theology of Rob Bell, a leader of the Emergent movement. Okay, that's fine with me. But I'd like to take a moment to explain why I think what I do, even without having poured myself into Bell's writings and videos, etc.

1. On the inspiration of Scripture. The Narrative Theology statement from Bell's church affirms the inspiration of the Bible. Bradley thinks that ought to be enough for me. But Bell has said elsewhere that when he was a regular sort of evangelical, he at some point came to see that the Bible is a "human work" and not a product of "Divine fiat." Those are both his terms, not mine, and I note that they are left undefined. Now, Bradley suggests that "human work" there is simply an affirmation of the dual authorship of the Scripture, as described in the Chicago Statement on the Bible's inerrancy. But my point is that Bell's defenders have to import that idea to his words. That's not what he says, and frankly that's not it looks like when you observe his methodology. See, he used to be a run-of-the-mill evangelical, and then he got this epiphany on the Bible and now seeks to distinguish how he looks at it, from how most evangelicals look at it. Most evangelicals affirm the dual authorship theory on inspiration. I think Bell was saying something else, something that would set himself apart from most evangelicals. In fact, in terms of the evangelical dual authorship theory, I think "Divine fiat" is Bell's charicature of the belief that all Scripture is God-breathed.

2. The Narrative Theology statement also affirms the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, which I'll concede that Bell says he believes. Again, Bradley thinks I ought to leave it there, and not bother for now about what else Bell has to say about it. But I can't. I have to hear his other words, too. Bell says he thinks the really vital portion of Christianity would survive if the Virgin Birth was somehow disproved. Now, as a guy who has some experience dealing with liberals, that sends up a red flag for me. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth is intimately tied to the doctrine of Christ's incarnation. You don't have one without the other. And without Christ as the God-man, fully divine and fully human at one time, Christianity crumbles. That's all there is to it. Bell thinks, though, that the really important stuff would survive. For him, the really important stuff is apparently moralism and social action. And I would agree it's true that Jesus as the God-man is not vital to that stuff. But that is not Christianity. (I note also that this discussion takes place in the context of Bell charicaturing systematic theology and distancing himself from it.)

3. Back to the "Bullhorn Guy" video. I can't get away from that, either. I think it's crystal clear what Rob Bell thinks of the preaching of the law, sin, and repentance. "I don't think it's working." Bell's pragmatic evaluation reigns supreme, I guess. I'm not convinced there was a real bullhorn guy, actually. If there was, I'd be interested to hear whether Bell confronted him personally. You wanna talk to bullhorn guy? Why do it in a video and not to his face? Well, because in a video, bullhorn guy can be a charicature as well. Bullhorn guy can stand for everything you don't like about evangelicals. You can make him look like the uber-nerd, complete with pocket-protector while you sit around looking hip and Starbucks-y.

4. Bradley cleared up his statement about being committed to reading Bell and McLaren for years before making up his mind about them. Bradley is busy, that's why it'll take a long a time. Well, okay. But here's my point: if you're a preacher of the gospel, it shouldn't take long at all to figure out where you're coming from. There are two kinds of ambiguity. The first is natural and accidental, or even careless. I can be guilty of this kind...often! I'm not always as careful as I ought to be. We can all be unclear with our words without trying to be. That's sad. It's an obstacle to communication. But it's not heretical. There is another sort of ambiguity. It is ambiguity on purpose. It is the art of the politician, where a question may be "addressed" without being answered, and certainly without alienating any voters on any side of any issue. In a preacher of the Word of God, I believe this sort of ambiguity is sinful and damages the flock of God. It is blowing the trumpet with a garbled tune so that no one hears it as a call to battle. Being ambiguous about the revealed truths of the Bible sounds hip and cool and humble to postmodern ears, but it is spiritual malpractice (to borrow a term from Todd Friel.)

5. The Narrative Theology statement contains nothing I'd call heretical, but it leaves out stuff that could actually save a soul from hell. I was ordained as an elder in the PCUSA. Every minister in that denomination still is required to affirm the Westminster Standards. And yet, the denomination has become one of the mainline leaders in apostacy worldwide. Here's the thing: Westminster is way, way more Biblically accurate than Mars Hill's Narrative Theology. So you'll excuse me if I don't simply swallow the latter as proof that Bell's theology is all hunky-dorry. Signing on to a faith statement is no proof of orthodoxy. And I see Bell using the very same key ideas and even the same wording at times as the liberals of the PCUSA did way back when. There is nothing new under the sun, and I don't think it's pompous or arrogant to think that my experience has taught me how these sorts of teachers talk, or that I might actually be able to recognize them fairly quickly.

6. We haven't even dived into the ridiculous public statements made by Bell's co-leader at Mars Hill, which have stood for a long time unaddressed and uncorrected by him. Even if Rob Bell doesn't agree with those at all, he at least ought to have addressed them, clarified them, and corrected the person in question. To keep someone in a position of senior leadership who believes such things is an indication of where Bell is coming from.

7. We also haven't dived into the area of Universalism and whether or not Bell believes that everyone on earth is already forgiven. This is a legitimate heresy, and while I think there are indications that Bell believes and teaches it, I am not prepared with page numbers. Others have cared more about this guy than I do, and the information is not hard to find.


Rhett said...

I'm just wondering if the following this typical Emergent theology?

Please listen to this interview with Emergent pastor Doug Pagitt:

part 1

part 2

Let the blogosphere Discern!

Bradley said...


1. Thanks for giving my thoughts so much attention. I’m glad your thinking things through more thoroughly, and that you have modified your statements a little. It’s one thing to say “Bell’s clearly a heretic” without being able to give a single quote from his writings that demonstrate such a claim. It’s another to say, “I think he’s a heretic, but I don’t have any evidence.” The latter is your new approach. I think it’s more charitable, although I still disagree with your reasoning. By the way … I’m open to the idea that he is a liberal. If you show me some clear quote, I have no vested interest in bending over backwards to save him. I’m more concerned about Christians treating other Christians charitably than I am about whether or not Bell is a heretic.

2. Merry [dayafter]Christmas.

3. Now Your Putting Words into My Mouth Too (not just Bell’s)

You say: “Bradley thinks that ought to be enough for me.” Another place you say, “Again, Bradley thinks I ought to leave it there.” But I never said either of these things. Just because I set his doctrinal statement forward as more likely reflecting his beliefs than all the “he said, she said” blog chatter, does not mean I’m against pulling from other sources to enlighten our understanding of it. What made you think that I would rule such a thing out? I’ve been trying to encourage pulling from sources, and likewise, I’ve been trying to discourage a discussion which does not revolve around such sources, but devolves into blog chatter.

4. Your comparison is a misleading.

Unlike most traditional protestant denominations, Bell’s church doesn’t follow a creed tradition. Therefore, he and the other leaders actually wrote the statement of faith on their own (that’s why it’s so narrative oriented). Thus, your comparison between his doctrinal statement and the typical liberal in a mainline denomination who “signs the traditional creed” (which he never had a hand in forming) is more misleading than revealing. Bell didn’t just sign off on some traditional creed. He helped craft the doctrinal statement. This makes your comparison bogus.

5. You have simply misunderstood Bell’s comment about a divine “fiat.”

Theories of inspiration which hold that God dictated the scriptures word for word (like an angel hovering over Paul saying, “Now write this. … Now write this…”) are associated with the word “fiat” (cf. the so-called divine “fiat” of creation where God virtually dictated the entire universe into being). When Bell says he doesn’t believe the scriptures to have been a divine fiat, he is most easily understood (if you follow the technical theological language of “divine fiat”) to mean that he doesn’t believe they were dictated word for word, but rather that God used the free-will decisions and literary peculiarities of humans to mediate his own Word. Since you have been trained to think of Bell as a liberal, I can understand why you would think he’s probably denying that the Scriptures are inspired. But there is where you should give more weight to the doctrinal statement which he himself helped write for his church, in which he clearly affirms the divine side of inspiration. I will indulge you yet again with a direct quote from NT:

"We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit ….this AUTHORITATIVE narrative…" [all-caps mine]

6. Bell never says what you say he says in the pnooma video.

You say that Bell’s basic message is that we shouldn’t preach repentance and hell and all, but Bell never says any such thing in the video. He’s bashing a certain kind of evangelism because he believes it’s a bad way to do evangelism. Your confusing his criticism of method with criticism of message. He’s concerned that when we emphasize judgment and hell more than grace and love, we have lost the biblical emphasis of the gospel. This does not mean he’s against preaching against sin or talking about judgment. If you read his doctrinal statement, you will see this. I shall indulge you again:

“We believe the day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the world” (NT, par 7).

7. It Shouldn’t Take Long … and it doesn’t.

You say: “If you’re a preacher of the gospel, it shouldn’t take long at all to figure out where your coming from.”

Well … it didn’t take me long to figure out what Bell’s basic beliefs were. Just one click of a mouse. That’s all.

The Narrative Theology (NT) shows he believes the scriptures to be inspired by the Holy Spirit (NT, par 1), that the scriptures are authoritative (NT, par 1), that God created the world (NT, par 2), that God created humans in his image (NT, par 1), that evil entered into the world through human sin (NT, par 2), which messed up our relationship with God (NT, par 2), that God chose Israel to be his special people through whom the messiah would come (NT, par 3-6), that Jesus was this messiah (NT, par 6), that Jesus was born of a virgin (NT, par 6), that Jesus was God in the flesh (NT, par 6), that through Jesus death we find forgiveness (NT, par 6), that God is now reconciling the world to himself through Christ (NT, par 6), that we should practice baptism and the Lord’s supper (NT, par 6), that Jesus will come back to judge the world (NT, par 7), etc. etc. etc.

You can’t blame your uncertainty on his views on him. His views are in print (see above), but you say, “Maybe he just signed off on it, but doesn’t really believe it.” Well … you can believe that if you want, but it goes against the evidence. That’s my point. Atheists can believe that the story about Jesus’ resurrection was made up too, but it defies the evidence, and reveals more about what they prefer to believe more than what best fits the evidence.

Hope your having a good X-mas,


Bradley said...


Thanks for the links. I've never heard Doug preach or read anything from his books like I have Bell. Just want to make sure I point this one thing out: If Doug is a liberal, this doesn't automatically make Bell and McLaren liberals by association.

I'm sure you knew that, I just want us to keep that in mind.

Bradley said...

I've come away from the video links with a quote. When Todd said, "I'm a good Buddhist (sp?) pastor, when I die, where do I go?" Doug responds, after a bit of knock-around, that "God will interact with them in the same way he will interact with any Christian." (loose quote from memory)

Now, if Doug just likes being controversial, and what he really means is something like, "God is impartial," then he sure has an irresponsible way of saying it. Sounds like universalism to me. I wonder if Bell would respond similarly if Todd had called him. Hmmm.....see real quotes can get us somewhere. Thanks Rhett!

On the other hand, Doug’s point that the language about heaven and hell is metaphorical in the Bible should be well taken. For example, it can't both be a place of darkness and a place of fire, for fire let's off light. Also, the way Todd presented his "case" for hell was indeed simplistic from a certain perspective. Since the biblical language is metaphorical, just quoting a string of verses out of context won't convince someone like Doug. You have to interact with the context and the meaning behind the metaphorical language. Instead, Todd just compiled a string of verses the same way an Arminian might string a bunch of verses to make his case. We all know the frustration which attends a debate when someone strings together all their proof texts like that. All too often, debates are just one proof text against another, rather than a patient hermeneutical examination of how each are understanding the anomalies to their position. Such a careful discussion was not possible in the midst of the heat of their conversation. This is unfortunate.

Honestly, I thought Todd could have handled Doug with a little more respect. Although at one point, he does ask, “Well, let’s just take one text, the sheep and the goats,” he could have done more of this kind of questioning to allow Doug to do more explaining than he allowed him to do. He could have been more inquisitive by asking questions like, “What do you mean by ‘interact the same way’? Instead, he mic-hogged a lot during the interview, talking over Doug and interrupting him with a hostile tone in his voice.

Also, since the language is metaphorical, heaven may not be a "place." It may be a "realm" of sorts. Biblical theologians will probably be good to consult for this one.

Also, Doug’s right about the fact that our destiny is not some ethereal place in the clouds—God’s gonna remake the heavens and the earth as we now know it. That’s biblical. God will restore his original creation. That’s biblical.

So ... while Todd's point was made well, I think Doug’s points were also valid. They both had valid points. In the end, however, Doug’s comment about what happens to a Buddhist after he dies certainly needs a great deal of explanation if it’s not universalism or annihilationism. On this point, he sounds unorthodox.

Rhett, got any more links to interviews with other Emerging Leaders? I would love to heart them. In fact, does Brian McLaren or Bell have a podcast of their own?

Rhett said...


I don't have anymore links man.

Just for the record, I'm not trying to say that Pagitt = Bell and McClaren. But I read somwehere that those guys are the big cheeses of the movement and I'm just curious if this interview would be typical of folks in the movement. (I'll admit, I'm probably the most ignorant of everybody when it comes to this movement.)

Btw, Do you listen to Way of The Master Radio? I love it. While they are no friends to the Emergent movement, I've heard them speak well of Mark Discoll and play snips of his sermons.

Rhett said...

About the Mars Hill Narrative Theology:

They have written:

"Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and humans. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God. God is now reconciling us to each other, ourselves, and creation. The Spirit of God affirms as children of God all those who trust Jesus."

While I believe all this is true, I think it's missing something critical: a clear explanation of what people must do to be saved. Where's repentance in all this? My lost family members would affirm all of this.

Anonymous said...

Good, informative post!

It is important to realize the split-misleading tongue of Rob Bell. I don't think it is just Bell though. McLaren and Doug Paggitt, I would say they are just as bad if not worse than Rob Bell. Paggitt is a joke, I read his blog every once in awhile and it is quite ridiculous. McLaren doesn't thrive on Scripture, he thrives on the attention he gets from misusing Scripture...

Just a couple thoughts.

Anonymous said...

But I guess if anyone wants to have fun and do some yoga we can all go hang out with Doug!

Bradley said...

Good point Rhett. If you follow distinctions of NT Wright between "the gospel" and "the results of the gospel," the former is about Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, while the latter is about what happens to people when God saves them through that message. With that kind of distinction, one might argue that although "repentance" is important, people can believe the basic gospel message and actually repent without ever believing THAT it's necessary to repent. That is to say, the bare message of the gospel (Jesus' incarnation, death, burial and resurrection) can bring effectual grace into a person's life and cause them to both believe and repent all at the same time without ever hearing the doctrine of Lordship salvation. They are granted belief and repentance without having a doctrine of “the necessity of repentance.” Do you agree with this idea? I’m curious.

Anyway ... so, based on this distinction I suppose you could say Bell's still got the basic gospel message so long as he has the incarnation, atoning death, and resurrection in his NT. The weakest part of his statement with respect to these bare bones of the gospel, however, is his lack of explanation as to the nature of Jesus’ death. His statement is woefully absent of a clear statement about the atoning nature of Jesus’ death.

Josh said...

Thanks Bradley for your posts. You are able to articulate what has been rattling around in my head but woefully ill equipped to communicate here.

I wanted to hit on one of Gordan's comments about the Virgin Mary. If my pastor would come in one Sunday morning and say that he didn't believe in the Virgin birth, I would be out the door before he finished the statement. But here is my question, although it opens up many doors and other questions, if a person does not believe in the virgin birth but has "confessed with his mouth that Jesus is the Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead" will he be saved?

Let me again preface this by reminding my friend Josh that I am not saying this is what I believe but am rather asking a question.

Finally, regarding the Narrative Theology - Bell is the founding pastor at Mars Hill. I am sure that most if not all of the NT came with his imput...

Rhett said...


"They are granted belief and repentance without having a doctrine of “the necessity of repentance.” Do you agree with this idea? I’m curious."

I think I can see that line of reasoning, though I normally like to see some emphasis on repentance and faith. That would fit more with my wife's conversion experience than mine.

Mine was a very dramatic, very monergistic, experience with LOTS of repenting going on... I was at work one night and all of a sudden it hit me that I was lost and going to Hell. Before that moment, I had been an athiest and hadn't been to a church in a long time. The only reason I was familiar with the gospel was because of tracts I read in high school about 7 years earlier. (sorry for rambling on about that)

To Josh's point:

There were some VERY essential doctrines that I had no clue about right after I was first converted. I knew I was saved, but I knew little else!

I would say there's a distinction to be made between ignorance and just plain deciding for yourself that the Bible is incorrect in what it affirms. Maybe I'm wrong...

Josh said...

But, maybe this person is not saying that the Bible is incorrect, but perhaps they just have a difficult time grasping it. Many people have a difficult time grasping the Creation story. As a matter of fact, I was listening to one of Josh' friends Mark Driscoll tell his church that he believes that there was a second creation in Genesis 1:2 that would reconcile what would seem like the earth being millions of years old.

I can see that Jesus' death and resurection being the foundation upon which our salvation is built on. I believe that the Virgin Birth is extremely important to the story and - for a lack of a better term - "qualifies" Jesus to be the Son of God. But does one's salvation hinge on it?

If someone who is on the cusp of accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior came to you and said the only thing holding them back is the Virgin Birth and after spending countless time with them trying to explain it to them and they still had a difficult time accepting it, would you tell them they can't be saved until they accept it?

Rhett said...


"Many people have a difficult time grasping the Creation story."

As did I... Remember, I was a Darwinian atheist prior to my conversion. I had LOTS of issues to deal with!

"Virgin Birth... But does one's salvation hinge on it?

When I was saved, I had no real opinion on the Virgin Birth, therefore it had no bearing on my salvation experience.

Looking back, I now see that when I was first saved there were many things I was confused about that I consider absolutely essential. Salvation hinges on God's Grace alone, not grasping the virgin birth.

I think it is very possible for a person to be soundly saved and yet confused or even doubtful about a number of important subjects. My hope for that hypothetical person would be that they come to trust God and his Word enough to accept it as such. Again, this is what happened with me on a number of topics.

I know this may be redundant, but I still think there's a big difference between a new convert (or potential convert) having trouble with these things and someone who is supposed to be a pastor standing behind the pulpit teaching people in a way that causes doubt about what God has said in His word.

We must always remember that the Bible warns that there will be wolves in sheep's clothing who rise up from within the church to draw away disciples after themselves.

Rhett said...

A friend who just emailed this to me:

I haven't looked at much of it, so "let the Blogosphere discern"...

(I love that phrase Bradley!) :)


Josh said...

I'm starting to understand both my attraction to RB and also your concerns.

As a Christian who is frustrated with the complacency of the American church, I am attracted to Rob Bell partly because I can see where his audience may not be on the lost, but the "frozen chosen." I believe if we truly want to model ourselves as the early Acts church it would include many aspects that RB emphasizes in his teaching. If our service is done in His name He will bring about opportunities to witness to others in the manner that He sees fit.

However, this shouldn't be accomplished by watering down or ignoring the gospel. I still do not believe that he is a wolf in sheeps clothing because I do believe that he is doing God's work. But, thanks in part to you all - even Josh - I am now more cautious to what he is saying and not saying. So, thank you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rhett said...


I appreciate your dialog here. I too share your frustration with the complacency in the church today. This may indeed be why so many people are attracted to the Emergent movement.

Be blessed!

Rhett said...

Hello Adam Brown.

You are correct, that link you posted is not related to anything we do here at the Reformed Mafia. I'm glad the "abs diet" worked for you, but as a gang of (mostly) Southern Baptists, dieting is something we are too fond of...

I regret to inform you that your post violated rule #1 of our Speak-Easy rules and regulations concering spam. Therefore, by the power vested in me as a blog administrator, your post will now be vaporized!

Have a nice day!

Scribe said...

Also, since the language is metaphorical, heaven may not be a "place." It may be a "realm" of sorts. Biblical theologians will probably be good to consult for this one.

Also, Doug’s right about the fact that our destiny is not some ethereal place in the clouds—God’s gonna remake the heavens and the earth as we now know it. That’s biblical. God will restore his original creation. That’s biblical.

So Todd's assertion of heaven being a "place" was/is correct.At present, I do believe that paradise is ethereal until the creation of the heavens and the earth, where God will make His abode with man.

In fact hell will be a real place seeing as how God will resurrect the bodies of the wicked as well, and they will exist and suffer in those bodies for all eternity in a place prepared for the devil and his angels.

Given the fact that emergents suffuse foreign meaning to biblical terminology (much like Mitt Romney) it is difficult to ascertain what they succinctly hold to.

Bradley said...

Josh - Glad to help.

Scribe - Good point, but Jesus' body is "at" the right hand of God even right now. It seems that even the ethereal realm is a "place" of sorts, since it has to have "space" for Jesus' resurrected body. What do you think?

Resurrected bodies will have to "be" somewhere forever, if they are truly resurrected bodies. "Place" terminology, therefore, seems quite appropriate.

When I said, "our destiny," I meant "our destiny," (the ultimate destiny of Christians) not our temporary abode during the intermediate period between now and the resurrection. Our destiny is comprised of this universe renewed; I think of it as the universe itself getting a new "resurrection body." ;)

Scribe said...

Scribe - Good point, but Jesus' body is "at" the right hand of God even right now. It seems that even the ethereal realm is a "place" of sorts, since it has to have "space" for Jesus' resurrected body. What do you think?

I believe that we are can concomitantly agree. My THEORY(don't shoot me, LOL!) is that our resurrected bodies (like our Lord's, for He is the 1st fruits of them that slept)will be comprised of a hyper-dimensional body.

Pagitt's argument was distinctly against that which we wish to affirm-that heaven is indeed a place. In fact, if you listen to the interloculation between Todd and Pagitt, you'll find Pagitt invariably contadicting himself.

When I said, "our destiny," I meant "our destiny," (the ultimate destiny of Christians) not our temporary abode during the intermediate period between now and the resurrection. Our destiny is comprised of this universe renewed; I think of it as the universe itself getting a new "resurrection body."

And you would be safe in that assumption, my friend... :D

Josh said...

I know you wish that this blog would just die, but I got my issue of Relevant Magazine today and low and behold, our man RB is on the cover.

Overall I was mildly disappointed with the interview. The only noteworthy item that I wanted to share was RB's answer to the question of "By being innovative, you face critics. How do you deal with this?" Here is his complete answer:

"First off, religious people killed Jesus because He threatened their system. So what they say is faith is actually fear, no matter what it masqueratdes as and no matter what high and lofty language they employ - it is fear that is rooted in ignorance and, actually, a lack of faith.
Secondly, I have never set out to be shocking or controversial. That is a horid goal - and, I believe, a very unredemptive goal. My interest has always been the Truth. I don't think that God honors it when people just sest out to be controversial and shocking. I don't think that's a redemptive goal. My interest has always been the Truth, and how the Truth can be most clearly and compellingly be communicated.
Thirdly, there are around a billion people in the world who don't have clean water, and 46 million Americans don't have health care. That means if they get sick, they don't have anywhere to go. Half of the world, 3 billion people, live on less than two American dollars a day, so the world is an emergency. It's on fire. It's drowning. It's an absolute crisis, and when followers of Jesus can think nothing better to do with their time than to pick apart and shred to pieces the work of other followers of Jesus who are trying to do something about the world, that's tragic, and I don't owe those people anything. The world is desperately in need of people who will break themselves open and pour themselves out for the reconciliation of all things. When a Christian can find nothing better to do with their time in the face of this much pain and heartbreak, you start realizing that some Christians need so to be saved. How a person would have energy to take shots at other Christians is just mind-boggling. You have to be totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging is somehow redemptive use of your time. I guess I have stong thoughts on that."


Scribe said...

Adrian Rogers said it best, "All we're doing is making the world a better place to go to hell from."

Rhett said...

Can anyone say "social gospel"??

Josh said...

I'm sorry Scribe, but given the context that billions of people are suffering and thousands are needlessly dieing each day in part due to the inaction of the church, I find your comments vile, disgusting and ignorant. You, me or the rest of us Americans - even the poorest - have absolutely no idea what it feels like to watch your parents die from AIDS or a brother or sister be consumed with malnutrition shortly before you yourself die.

Rhett, perhaps it is "social gospel" but let me ask you this question, it one person is saved because of what RB and others are doing, is it worth it in God's eyes? Perhaps it is not in yours, but I believe that God celebrates with His angels whenever one accepts him as Lord and Savior, no matter how one comes to him.

Is it not better to share the gospel with the living or with the dead?

Scribe said...


I agree en toto that we ought to meet the needs of fellow human beings, and you are right, I have an infinitesmal conception about the sufferings of those in third world countries...on this we agree. My issue is stopping short by just merely doing that and not conjoining that with a true presentation of the gospel.

I'm sorry Scribe

No you're not...just mere pleasantries used as a springboard to spout off invectives esconced in some humanistically motivated caprice.

but given the context that billions of people are suffering and thousands are needlessly dieing each day in part due to the inaction of the church

You can blame God...He allowed the fall. NOTE: I am not positing some level of theodicy...I doubt there are open theists in the Reformed Mafia. God allowed the fall and there is no getting around this fact.

I find your comments vile, disgusting and ignorant.

It wasn't intended that way but I can't dictate how you should feel. A little obloquy-esque though, don't you agree?

You, me or the rest of us Americans - even the poorest - have absolutely no idea what it feels like to watch your parents die from AIDS or a brother or sister be consumed with malnutrition shortly before you yourself die.

I've already divulged wherein I agreed with your assessment.

The problem with the corpus of your argument is that it is inherently nothing more than a postulate of an argumentum ad populum...humanism is so embedded in Christendom it is scarcely recognizable from the world anymore.

btw...I have no person ought against you, I just strongly disagree with your assessment of my statement and how you've seemed to have stripped it of its context.

Josh said...

Scribe said: "You can blame God...He allowed the fall. NOTE: I am not positing some level of theodicy...I doubt there are open theists in the Reformed Mafia. God allowed the fall and there is no getting around this fact."

No - I will not blame God at all because I believe that God has placed a much higher value for the poor and broken than you or I do. No, when I say "the church" I mean the people from the west who say they respresent Christ by going to a building on Sunday and Wednesday night, speak with big words so everybody thinks they are really smart, dress in their nice suite and dress and couldn't give a flip about the billions of people.

And let me say this - reformed, emergent, Baptist, Methodist, YOU and ME - we are all a million times more guilty of "the social gospel" than how you all define it. Here is the difference...

You and I spend God's money on cool youth events, advertising a new sermon series in the local newspaper, spending millions of dollars on our new churches and than thousands for its upkeep. Our churches come equipped with video and sound equipment that would make a millionaire jealous. And we make sure you are comfortable in the most padded chairs when we put on our show. We have our sports ministries in their own gyms that we have built. Our lawns stay manicured year round.

To take your quote and turn it to the truth would read "All we're doing is making our saved rear ends comfortable while watching others live in hell - before they go there after they die."

Let's say that 3 billion people will die a very early life because of disease and malnutrition and with the help of the church, non profits and governments, we increase their life expectancy by 10 years. And lets say that in those 10 years only 1 percent of those become Christians because we have witnessed and shared the gospel with them. That is 3 million people who will celebrate with us in heaven.

Now, what social gospel would you rather defend - the one that you are living in or helping someone live another day so that you can share the gospel with them?

Rhett said...


Btw, Just so you know what I mean by "Social Gospel":

I totally agree that the church in the USA is sitting around fat and happy instead of doing what it ought to be doing. I see it all the time...

I have preached against it and I have tried my best to get my youth group to see that what they have here is unlike anything the rest of the world knows. (One girl went to Peru last year and saw it first hand.)

We've had a Prebyterian missionary come in and show them slides of the relief projects they are doing in the Congo. I hoping to get the youth group to raise some money to help in those efforts as well.

You know, I spent some time this morning looking at Mars Hill's website and reading some interviews with Emergent leaders. What I see coming from these people is an almost inordinate amount of focus on social ills of the 3rd world (and those in America with no health insurance) and very little, if any, focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! If it was even mentioned, it was ambiguous at best.

Maybe it's just my own myopia, but what I see looks alot like the old Social Gospel, but sittin' on a bar stool with some hip clothes and a funky hair-do.

What you may not realize is that some of the poverty in these 3rd world nations is actually a spiritual problem!

For example: I read in a book written by K P Yohannan -who is founder of Gospel for Asia- about how there are starving people in India, and yet, they allow rats to devour thousands of TRAIN CARS FULL of grain each year because rats are considered SACRED to the Hindus!! Moreover, they allow cows to walk around everywhere while people starve because cows are sacred too.

All that beef and grain goes to waste not because of us greedy Americans are hoarding our money and/or spending it on Youth trips, but because of their own IDOLATRY!!!

According to that Indian author, it is pure idolatry is preventing them from killing rats and eating the cows: which if they would do those two things alone, would go a long way toward solving the hunger problem. The real cure for that problem is the Gospel.

(Gospel for Asia is a great example of a ministry that does a great job of helping people in need, but also makes the Gospel clear: )

Yes, people need food and medicine, and I'm all for that. But what they need most of all is the Gospel and to be discipled from a the Bible so they develope a solid Christian worldview.

I really hope and pray that your Emergent friends are staying balanced and have not jetisoned that which can truly change a sinner's heart...

I get just as irked with Christians who focus on evangelism to the point of caring nothing for the physical needs of a people.

Again, all I advocate is balance.

Josh said...

As I had mentioned before, I am also a youth director. This past summer I took our youth on a mission trip to Panama City Beach, where most of the kids go for summer vacation with friends and family. We worked at the Panama City Rescue Mission, which God is using in a mighty way. Our youth served lunches and worked in their warehouse. We also did beach witnessing each day because - like you - I feel like our faith and deeds need to be in balance. I chose PCB because I wanted the kids to know and understand that no matter where we go we cannot escape the fact that their are people who are broken and need a Savior. So I am in agreement with you that there needs to be balance.

I do believe that as the body of Christ God can use us as He has gifted us - both individually and as a church. One church's strength may be in evangelism while another may be in serving while still a third may be in missions. I totally agree with you that each has a responsibility to use their gifts while clearly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and not a watered down version of it that won't hurt anyone's feelings.

Let us pray that the work that people like RB is doing will be pleasing not in our sight, but in God's - and that those people who will live another day because of that work will one day join us praising and worshiping our Lord and Savior in heaven!

Rhett said...


How ironic! We happen to be going to Panama City Beach in June. There's an SBC "Centrifuge" camp that we will be attending there...

I really wish it was an "M-Fuge" though... M-Fuge is where there is hands-on missions work (like the stuff you all did).

The decision to go the Centifuge route was made prior to me being hired in August. Next year I intend to do M-Fuge or at least a "combo camp" where the kids will have the option to choose missions or regular camp.

Take care.

Josh said...

That's cool. We stayed at Noah's Ark which if I am not mistaken is close to M-Fuge. The place was a little run down but the staff was mainly college students on fire for Christ who would perform live Christian concerts each night in the "Ark." Our youth fell in love with the staff and the staff fell in love with our youth. It was such an awesome and eye opening experience, especially the rescue mission. Even though we live in a depressed city, our kids in the group are pretty well off. They couldn't get enough of the testimonies given by the recovering addicts whose lives were radically transformed when they found PCRM.