Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Rob Bell: friend or foe?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:27 am on Friday, February 22, 2008

Rob Bell, a founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, is becoming an influential figure in the Christian world; some even call him the next Bill Graham. But he has also been accused by some of heresy, while others associate him with emergent church.

Rob is most famous for a series of short videos entitled “Nooma” (from Greek word “pneuma” meaning spirit). When I first watched some of them, I was quite impressed. But searching the web revealed a lot of negative opinions which suggested the series were not representng the gospel correctly. My personal opinion have swayed back and forth on several occasions, but I think I have finally reached some conclusions I would like to share with my readers:

1) The videos are packaged and presented in a such way that suggests their evangelistic use. However, this should be done with extreme caution. Presentation of Christianity in this videos is rather one-sided, as follows from this three part scoop by Greg Gilbert. In particular, Rob has chosen to focus on God’s love rather than God’s judgment, on what God does for us, rather than what he requires us to do for him. Important to note that I am not completely objecting to this – I very strongly believe in contextualization, which can be defined as giving people a one sided story (to capture their interest) with the intention to come back and tell the rest of the story later. The danger comes when we don’t come back, when we forget to challenge people’s beliefs, to tell them how much God hates sin, how the cross of Christ saves us, and so on. Not doing that amounts to over-contextualization.
2) The videos are great for Christians. D.A. Carson’s recent comment helped me to see this. If you read in all the Christians suppositions into the videos, you will enjoy them. So if you are familiar with and accept all the truths of Christianity but don’t feel it’s real in your life, if all you have is a head knowledge, you might benefit from watching the series. The videos are very well produced and Rob Bell has a gift for “making it real”. I completely agree with Carson that vidoes are empty in the sense of knowledge, but would phrase it in a more positive way – the videos are empty in the sense that they don’t add anything to the head knowledge. Yet they are good at touching you emotionally, making the knowledge get into your heart – something very few other things can do.
3) Despite what I said in point 2), I don’t think Rob’s is only way to make knowledge real. In fact, it’s wrong to think that knowledge and emotion must be separated. I know of plenty good teachers/preachers who can excellently combine the two: C.S. Lewis, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, to name a few.

If you have never watched any of the clips, “Rain” is a good place to start:

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