Is Rob Bell a Godless Man, Condemned by God?

John MacArthur versus the Emerging Church - 2
Review of The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception

In the opening paragraphs of his book on the Emerging Church, John MacArthur cites an article in Christianity Today that included a profile of Rob and Kristen Bell.

MacArthur writes, “One dominant theme pervades the whole article: in the Emerging Church movement, truth (to whatever degree such a concept is even recognized) is assumed to be inherently hazy, indistinct, and uncertain—perhaps even ultimately unknowable…The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can’t stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body.” (pp. x, xi)

This is a bold charge against Rob Bell and other voices in the Emerging Church movement.

People reading that should hear alarms sounding. MacArthur is purposely saying that Bell is a heretic—advocating a hazy, indistinct conception of truth that comes from an insidious desire to advocate worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behaviors.

John MacArthur equates those who espouse ideas associated with the “Emerging Church” to the false teachers about which Jude writes who secretly infiltrated the First Century Christian community. As Jude fought a truth war in his day, MacArthur is calling for a new truth war in our day. According to MacArthur, Jude 4 is contending for “truth” as the basis for faith. MacArthur promises his readers that he will apply this verse to today by discussing “why Jude’s warning is particularly applicable for the times in which we live.”( pp. xxv-xxvi).

Don’t miss this: MacArthur is stating that Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and anyone else who would embrace what they teach and pass them along in today’s churches are “certain men who have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for condemnation.” They are not really seeking to be faithful to the biblical faith but are “ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.


Does Rob Bell really fit this description?

In just a quick survey of Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, I found at least ten “truth claims” that Bell makes. Bell is very interested in getting to the truth.

Here’s one reference:
“God is the ultimate reality. There is nothing more beyond 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, the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality.” (Velvet Elvis, p. 21, emphasis added)

Here’s another:
“I remember the first time I was truly in awe of God. I was caught up for the first time in my life of something so massive and loving and transcendent and…true. Something I was sure could be trusted.” (Velvet Elvis, p, 72, emphasis added)

It is certain that Bell calls into question a modernistic love for dogmatic confidence, but it is also certain that Bell is on a quest for truth.

It is certain that MacArthur is guilty of calling a brother in Christ, a fellow pastor who proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ, something that he is not - a godless man, condemned by God.

The Entire Series:
1: John MacArthur’s Post-Enlightenment Philosophical Understanding of “Truth”
2: Is Rob Bell a Godless Man, Condemned by God?
3: Is Postmodernism Primarily Concerned with Truth?
4: Straw Men – The Emerging Church is Filled with Hard Postmodernists
5: MacArthur Fits His Own Criteria for an Apostate

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thunderbeard said...

man, i'd heard that macarthur was mean-spirited in that book, but that kind of stuff goes above and beyond 'mean.' it's downright sickening. even when i have big time qualms with someone's theology (even as far as hints of universalism), i can still rest on the fact that we are both trying to live out the kingdom...but i guess if your conception of the christian faith has little to do with kingdom living and a lot to do with knowing truthful facts about jesus and the world we live in, then it's easier to be that way toward a brother.

Casey Freswick said...

I have dropped in on Vanguard a number of times now. Here is my dilemma. I agree that we should listen to what is said by those who said it. Hence, my approval of your resent post on emerging movement tied to WTSC. A seminary I know well, faculty I know personally. I appreciated the challenge to Carson's book. However, in my ignorance I came face to face with Rob Bell. I believe he is a false teacher. I concluded this after: 1. reading his Velvet Elvis 2. his new book Sex God 3. listening to about a dozen sermons, 4. watching several NOUMA flicks. I believe your response to Bell is superficial. Of course Rob Bell believes in truth claims. So do all hard core postmodernists. Everyone does. But your quotes about Bell's view of absolute truth and God present a FALSE understanding of Bell and in that YOU do Bell an injustice. Let him speak for himself. You quote from Bell: “God is the ultimate reality. There is nothing more beyond 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, the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality.” (Velvet Elvis, p. 21, emphasis added) Did you know what you were quoting. Let me finish the paragraph: "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."(Velvet Elvis, p. 21) Of course this is a truth claim by Rob Bell. But the claim is that Jesus is NOT THE WAY to God, but that Jesus lives a life we must follow that will bring us to GOD. The religion he is attacking is the claim that Jesus is the only way to the FATHER. Bell claims that all who follow the actions of Jesus will meet up with the Father. This for Bell is ultimate reality. You misquote Bell to make Macarthur look like a quack and Bell look like a propositional theologian. Read Bell, listen to Bell and watch Bell and you should come to the conclusion that he rejects, redefines and replaces Biblical truth with His own brand of truth. He is a false teacher. Or is it impossible that anyone associated with the emerging movement could possibly be a false teacher.

On page 27 of Velvet Elvis Rob Bell declares he affirms the virgin birth. However, this affirmation is not absolute affirmation. On page 26 he speculates about the possibility of the virgin birth being challenged by DNA testing and a new meaning found for virgin (already made by over a 100 years of liberal scholarship) changing his belief. He condemns and mocks (these terms are fitting with the tenor and drive of this chapter) those who hold the virgin birth as an absolute truth of scripture. Mar's Hill's statement of faith talks about "current core beliefs" because they could always change.

Of course Rob Bell holds to truth, even absolute truth, but it is not the truth of Scripture that dictates his doctrine (truth), it is the changing wind of his own imagination. For Bell an absolute believe is that core beliefs can change. I can not speak about every person associated with the emerging movement, but I have no doubt about the serious errors propagated by Rob Bell.

I am writing you because I believe you take seriously the comments you receive. I hope we can dialogue further.

Casey Freswick,
Wyoming MI, next door neighbor to Rob Bell and Mars Hill

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks for your input. I think your comments stand on their own. It is clear to you and to others that a Christian teacher must state unequivocally that they absolutely believe in certain things in order to be within the pale of orthodoxy. This is a boundary-set way of discerning who is a true teacher and who is a false teacher.

Tony said...

I sat across from John MacArthur 30 years ago and he told about certain leaders in 'the church' where just empire builders. They have all fallen and one still lives in a glass house. He also said God would deal with them and he named names. If you want to see some names he has named check out Charismatic Chaos. He knows truth. He can spot these people a mile away.

These wolves on listening to them from a distance sound good but on closer examination they show there true colors. Look at what recently happened with a certain Pastor who went on Larry King live and would not say that Jesus was the ONLY way. He suppoely has the largest church in America. Careful what you say about John MacArthur he has not been wrong yet and he has outed alot of these wolves. He is doing the work of a true modern day prophet. Ask Ahab if Elijah was mean spirited?

Rob Bell never rang true with me.

God Bless and keep us examining the truth. There will be wolves in sheeps clothing masquerading as angels of light until Jesus comes back. Then they can do whatever they want for seven years. (I go to 10th largest church in America (South Florida) that does struggle with it's charismatic roots.)

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with the comments about Rob Bell. It is very clear that the emphasis of his book Velvet Elvis is on following Christ. Yes, he talks about true faith being a way to live, but that is exactly what the bible says. There are so many passages that make it clear tht true faith is not about what you believe, but how you live. Matthew 25, James, etc. all talk about how our faith is borne out by our actions. The harshest words in scripture are often reserved for those who take pride in their knowledge. Rob Bell's message is that following Christ is obedience to his teachings and loving others. That is a message the church needs to hear and live out today --- particularly in a culture in which the church is too often is just as consumed with materialism as the world!

Anonymous said...

Rob Bell and his videos have made me want to live more like Christ. If that's a bad thing, sign me up for more. Rob Bell may be asking questions and making statements that make people uncomfortable. More power to him. How many denominations are there? Is there are 'corner on the market' of Christian truth? Apparently not. Thanks Rob. You may be off base on some issues, but you've challenged me to live more like Christ.

Brian Deyo said...

The truth claims you say Rob Bell makes are not truth claims. He is saying that someone said something. That is not the same thing as claiming it for yourself. While I agree that Bell does make truth claims, I'm just pointing out that you are not doing a very good job of finding them. Rob bell quoting Christ is not a truth claim any more than an Unaversalist quoting Christ is a truth claim.

Lastly, Macarthur may be a little harsh, but he does not call Rob Bell Godless. Why do you mis characterize his arguments so terribly. His charge is against SOCIETY. Can't you even read. He is just conserned with the way Chrstians interact with society and it is clear that he thinks his ways are better than Bell's. Your quote - "—advocating a hazy, indistinct conception of truth that comes from an insidious desire to advocate worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behaviors." is part right. Yes Macarthur does think bell advocates a hazy, indistinct conception of the truth, but HE DOES NOT accuse Bell of advocating worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behaviors. You created a straw man argument because you were unwilling to actually address the content of MacArthur's thoughts. Learn how to read critically before you attach people instead of their arguments.

Bob Robinson said...

Sorry you're so upset.

It isn't that difficult to get the premise of this book:
>There is a "Truth War."
>MacArthur is urging Christians to "fight for certainty in an age of deception."
>His main text for the book is Jude 4.
>The main culprits of this deception are those in the Emerging Church, including Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.

Anonymous said...

I learned my Christian basics by attending Grace Community Church 30 years. The pastor was a guy named John MacArthur. I have read Rob Bell and can find nothing that hinders my faith. It really comes down to how big of Jesus you worship. Is it a "Big" Jesus, or the narrow one of John MacArthur who is 100 percent arrogant, I mean certain that only he knows who is a real Christian teach and who is not. Due keep in mind, John MacArthur pretty much things everyone else, including Billy Graham are going to hell. I'm just glad I don't have to listen to his harsh voice anymore. If you ask me, MacArthur was always about a quart low on grace. Talk about projection- to name your church Grace Community and be as far from, lol. Oh well. To me Rob Bell more closely reflects the teachings of Jesus than Johnny Mac. But hey, that's just my opinion. I don't understand why most Christians still don't get that everyone is going to have their own take on what the bible means. Let it be. peace out
Donovan Moore

Anonymous said...

Love wins? What do you think about rob bell now?

Bob Robinson said...

We'll have to wait and see what Bell says in the book. It's not very Christian to jump to conclusions before all the information is available. See my post (from 3/1/11) on Love Wins here.

TLO said...

MacArthur is not the only one to graciously point out that McLaren, Bell, Warren etc. teach another gospel Warren promotes reiki and is doing a world tour w/ Tony Blair who are you kidding? Bell is a New Age teacher it's clear in his writing's and those he recommends like Ken Wilber.

TLO said...

@Thunderbeard - MacArthur is speaking the truth in love my friend. First, there is a MAJOR THEME IN THE BIBLE CALLED FALSE TEACHERS. They are "wolves in sheeps clothing" Paul told Timothy to SILENCE them. Peter warned of them. Jude said hey, I'd like to talk about our common salvation but I have to deal with this issue of false teachers! And Paul warned in the last days it would wax worse than ever so - here it is in your time to see.

Anonymous said...

Well its 2011 now and this was written in 2007. Anyone seen Macarthur's recent blogs on Rob Bell on his gty.org website. Anyone read Rob Bell's latest heresy (book). Turns out Johnny Mac was VERY right - just took Rob Bell a few years before the cracks in his false teaching became obvious to more people aye. Macarthur was wright all along...