Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Love Wins: A Cage Fight for Truth, Rd 2

Round 2, Chapter 1: What about the flat tire?

Rob Bell enters Round 2 exactly like we knew he would open up at least one round. He fires questions and returns no answers. He does this in interviews. He gets asked questions and he doesn’t answer them. He responds with another question that doesn’t help at all.

This chapter is no different. In fact it’s worse. Bell fires off over 100 questions in this chapter. Many of which are phrased in an insinuative ways so as to communicate an answer without actually giving one and then being accountable for it. Almost all the questions he asks go unanswered he just let’s them hang in the balance.

So the hope and the dream is that Bell will answer all or at least most of these 100 questions over the next 7 chapters. Because if he doesn’t, we have a major problem. Why? Because you can’t ask questions about weighty things that the Bible clearly answers (i.e. the character and nature of God, salvation, and hell) and then just leave people wandering aimlessly for truth. Especially after you make grand claims in the Preface of your book that Christianity is about answering questions and not shirking them. So it would be embarrassing if you shirked questions.

So just based on those facts alone we can consider Bell to be somewhat irresponsible if he doesn’t accurately answer these weighty questions from Scripture in this book. Also, it’s just bad as a communicator to ask 100 questions before addressing a single one of them clearly and thoroughly.

Sidebar: Now there were some bright spots: Bell had a few really good paragraphs that I thought were really insightful—but unfortunately he doesn’t clarify those things. With guys like Bell, we must beg for definition. For instance, in a recent media sound bite, Bell claims that he does believe in “hell.” He’s responding to those of critics who accuse him of not believing in hell. Well, he says does believe in ”hell.”

Okay? Wait…it’s Rob Bell. What do you mean by “hell”? Because if he believes in “hell” and his definition of “hell” is a bunch of people hanging out playing shuffleboard and eating cashews—then clearly we don’t have the same idea of “hell” and so although he may claim to believe in “hell” it’s still possible that he really doesn’t. So a clarification of terms is totally necessary. Unfortunately, he didn’t clarify and so all of my “orthodox” friends who have read all of Bell’s previous stuff got really excited over Bell’s proclamation that he “believed” in all of these cool little phrases and words that appear really Biblical and historical.

Calm down and for goodness’ sake, use some discernment. He said nothing. He said a whole bunch of stuff that literally means nothing given his track record.

Back to the book…

Here’s the summary of chapter 1:

-Bell asks 3 questions about hell and God and words them in such a way that indicts the character of God until he actually answers them from the Bible. Don’t ever indict God. It always ends with him powning you. Read the book of Job.

-He asks some more questions, he doesn’t answer.

-He mentions “the age of accountability” and then drops the ball.

-Plays on the hearts strings of readers and unwittingly pits people against the justice and holiness and sovereignty of God. Sweet move.

-He finally says some things that make sense.

-Then he reverts back to things like: claiming that the term “personal relationship” isn’t in the Bible when referring to our salvation and relationship with God. Which is true but the idea is very clear in scripture, so although the term isn’t explicitly in the Bible, it is quite implicit and the textual exegesis of this idea is everywhere.

-He then claims a woman wrote the book of Hebrews. I literally think he only believes that to bolster his edgy, emergent image.

-Bell then displays an incorrect understanding of Luke 18.

-He rips Matthew 10 out of context.

-Oh and then he does the same to 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 2.

My favorite part of the chapter is when Bell writes, “But maybe all of these questions are missing the point.”

My thoughts were literally: “Oh thank goodness.”

But then he spends another whole page asking questions.

But once again…a glimmer of hope!

He writes:

“But this isn’t a book about of questions.

It’s a book of responses to theses questions.”

Once again I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Overall, this chapter is bonkers. I highly doubt he’ll answer all of these questions because he literally asked over a hundred of them. But I’m hopeful!

I’m forced to initially award this round to “Love Wins” for this chapter due to the thoroughness of Bell’s questions and concerns as well as his promising ending. But he gets penalized for ripping Scripture out of context so much, which brings the round to 9-9. But he gets penalized another point because he leaves a potential indictment of God hanging in the air. Round scored 9-8. Lastly, Love Wins gets deducted one point for practicing such poor exegesis in a few, but basic texts. Round 9-7.

So, on a 10-point must system I’ll give Round Two a score of 9-7, NOT in favor of Love Wins/Bell. I have high hopes he can easily turn this thing around with some shockingly strong arguments and exegesis of Scripture to completely flip he’s current standing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

This is probably good news...

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Love Wins: A Cage Fight for Truth, Rd 1

Round 1, The Preface

Bell comes out in his typical stance. Not Southpaw, but still “Unorthodox.” If you’ve ever read a Bell book, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you haven’t read a Rob Bell book before, this is what I mean:

Rob Bell

writes most

of his


like this.

He writes

in such a way that


have to follow

a pattern of reading

that defies

common sense

and a normative

reading flow

in general.


most people


it’s edgy,

and really


In fact, they get so caught up in how awesome and different Bell’s “style” is that they forget that they might actually need to cross check his words with the Bible. You know, that thing that has become a coaster for their Starbucks latte.

Side Bar: Actually, the hardcore Bell fan doesn’t go to Starbucks. They’re usually the kid that will give you a 15 minute spiel on how Starbucks is “evil” and it would be better if the entire world abandoned Starbucks and went to the cool, low-key, local coffee joints like they do. But all the while they secretly hope nobody listens because they really like the fact that they have that “indy” coffee shop all to themselves and if everyone abandoned Starbucks for the local joint, then their own patronage would no longer be cool because then “everyone would be doing it” and they find their identity in being “rebellious” and talking about how much they want to stick it to “The Man.” So, of course, if too many people show up to “their” coffee shop where they hangout and listen to John Mayer while wearing TOMS, their good time will be ruined.

By the way, I own a pair of TOMS and I love them. My anti-Starbucks friends introduced me to them and I couldn’t be happier. End Sidebar.

So that’s what’s going on. Typical Bell print style as expected. No surprises. To be honest, it’s cool for like 10 pages and then it’s just annoying.

As far as the content of the Preface goes…it’s not a great start for Rob Bell, but it could get worse in the pages to come. I’m hoping it doesn’t.

So far, in less than four full pages, Rob Bell has:

-Read John 3:16, but failed to mention the rest of the passage, which he could make up for later.

-Failed to read John 18 and therefore he has wrongfully stated the purpose of Jesus’ entry into human history.

-Called a basic teaching/doctrine of historical, orthodox, Biblical Christianity “misguided and toxic.”

-Failed to mention justice, wrath, and holiness alongside love, peace, forgiveness, and joy as attributes of God, which is not surprising given the previous point.

-Said that our faith isn’t one that “skirts” the big questions. Let’s hope he doesn’t do what he just said our faith was not all about.

-Failed to read 1 John 2:19 and numerous other passages to mold correct theology and doctrine on those who are “Christians” and then dip-set from (leave) the faith.

-Correctly stated that others have taught what he teaches in this book for years and years. The only question I have is: Were his predecessors heretics?

That’s in less than 4 pages. I’m sure the next 200 pages should be a real blast. But that brings a close to a short Round One. It’s too early to tell whether or not Bell will make some sort of epic turn around in the next few rounds so out of the generosity of my heart and being the kind of writer that would like the benefit of a doubt to be given to me, I’ll call Round One: A Draw.

The good news is: it’s still early in the rounds for Bell.

The bad news: he’s in the cage and dealing with a Big subject here. This is no Bantamweight he’s staring down. It’s much bigger.