Analysis and Critique of NOOMA 019 – Open

I watched this video on 18 Feb 08 in its entirety when it was available for free on Facebook for 48 hours. The URL I used to watch it is http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=588666405663

This analysis and critique is provided for the purposes of discernment and truth as declared and defined by the Word of God.

Problem 1:
Rob says, “God leaves the world unfinished.” I do not believe that this is an accurate statement in light of what Scripture says about the Creation. When God created the world, He made everything good and perfect. In John 1, we read that nothing that was made was made without Him. When God created, Creation was complete and good, perfect in every way. And then man fell, introducing sin and its consequences to the world.

But I think there’s another contextual clue as to what he means by this statement. He calls Genesis a “creation poem” which immediately raises a red flag for me. Why? Quite simply, you don’t read poems literally. You read a poem as a figure of speech. So if Genesis is a “creation poem” then the whole Adam and Eve thing didn’t happen, nor the literal six-day Creation account.

What sort of agenda might there be to call Genesis a poem as opposed to referring to it as a literal historical account (which, by the way, there is no reason, historical or literary, to assume otherwise)? If it’s not glaringly obvious by this point, it’s Evolutionism. The idea that the universe and that which is in it is constantly being “created” (i.e. evolving into bigger and better) is Evolutionism through and through.

Problem 2:
God commands us to pray, and so we ought to do so. Also God is sovereign and does as He pleases, and all that He does is good and perfect and holy. But the coexistence of these two truths do not mean that somehow there is a synergistic interaction going on when we pray. Prayer is not “tapping into divine creative energy” as Rob says. To even compare the creations of man to the creation of God is blasphemous. Man creates out of what is. God created ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing.

Prayer is the submission of the will of a man to the will of God in humility and acknowledgment of his utter dependence upon the providential graces of God. Sometimes God says no when we ask for things, and He is within His right to do so! God is sovereign. To ask “Well why should we pray then?” in response to God’s sovereignty is to be so arrogant as to expect that God owes us anything. God owes mankind nothing.

How about a little Romans shall we? This passage is from chapter 9, verses 14-24, emphasis mine and in bold:

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

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58 Responses to Analysis and Critique of NOOMA 019 – Open

  1. Tyler says:

    I like what you said here. I linked to you in my post about the same video. While it seems to fit logically, it doesn’t hold well biblically in my thinking. A more reformed theology does have problems answering the question of why we should pray, but Bell is going too far with this I think.

  2. Bill says:

    Tyler, I would contend that a Reformed theology has no problem answering as to why we ought to pray, even though we may not understand the inner mysteries of it. The reason is the reason we obey the other commandments of God: because God commands us thus.

    We cannot know the inner workings nor fully comprehend the Trinity, but that does not make it any less requisite that we believe it.

  3. Tyler says:

    Bill-
    I’m not talking about Biblically. It is clear that God desires us to pray, very clear. Logically though it is less convincing to the mind that we pray to a God who has decided to outcome. This is a system I agree with, but I’m saying that prayer in Open Theism is key, because it allows us to change God. I don’t agree with it, just a more logical answer to prayer, but not biblical.

  4. Bill says:

    Tyler,

    I posit to you that it does make logical sense why we are to pray if one is able to accept the whole counsel of God. The exact working of how the prayers of men and the sovereign, providential foreordination of God works is a mystery, but we need not fully understand this mystery in order to both believe what God says is true and obey what He commands.

    To give another relevant example, according to the Bible, God also elects or chooses those who will be His followers, and not based on any merit of their own, but based on His good and perfect pleasure. God causes those whom He chooses to come to faith. But He also commands us to preach the Gospel. How does this work? It is a mystery and we are not told. But we are to both believe it and obey.

    In both of these circumstances, it is clear that God is sovereign. It is also clear that God has chosen these things which He commands to be the mechanisms by which His grace and providence are conferred. Faith is the mechanism by which saving grace is conferred, but it is God who gives to each the measure of faith which he has, and the hearing of the Word is itself the mechanism by which faith is conferred. Likewise prayer is the mechanism by which God’s providential grace is conferred.

    I humbly suggest to you, friend, that Open Theism is contrary to Scripture’s teaching about the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of salvation.

  5. dockin80 says:

    “When God created the world, He made everything good and perfect.”

    That’s all I had to read on this post. When you find a Hebrew word, phrase, or even notion for the word “perfect” in the Creation story, email me at dockin80@gmail.com

  6. Bill says:

    Would you have preferred if I only used the word “complete” to describe Creation after the sixth day? Either way, Genesis 2:1-3 implies that the work of Creation was finished, not unfinished as Bell claims.

    Is anything that God does not perfect and good by definition? Why would Creation be exempt? Since it is the case that everything which God does is good and perfect by definition, why do you quarrel over my use of the word “perfect” to describe the completed work of six days of divine creativity?

  7. dockin80 says:

    Here’s the problem with what you say:
    “Is anything that God does not perfect and good by definition”
    “By definition” isn’t “Biblical.”
    That’s a corroboration based on human interpretations and Greek Philosophy. Look up Plato and Aristotle and the origins of the “perfect” world.

    Maybe when Genesis says Creation is “finished,” he’s saying he’s created a world that functions well (it’s “good”–that’s actually in the text). So it keeps creating. Don’t we create? I mean I have a wife and a kid and we “Created.” And it was good.
    So by saying it’s “Unfinished” it means it’s not static but dynamic.

  8. Bill says:

    So God does things which are not perfect? Am I reading you correctly?

    The text has the Hebrew word “Tamim” which is rendered as whole, complete. How does the Bible describe God’s works? As good; as holy; and beyond reproach or question. To say that all God’s works are perfect and good isn’t jumping away from a biblical perspective, it’s deriving a logical conclusion based on what is said about God and His works. Don’t be daft, man. God gave us brains which have the ability to reason. Using that reason to draw on the whole counsel of God is right and proper.

    Aristotle and Plato have nothing to do with the fact that God’s fiat creation of the universe and all contained therein was complete as stated in Genesis 2:1-3. How we “create” is not even worth comparing to how God creates. We do not create as God creates, for He creates ex nihilo. Any creation we do is ex materia, out of what already is.

    Rob Bell makes God into a cosmic shaman, drawing on mana to create the world and continue doing so. He tells us that Christ was doing exactly that in the Garden of Gethsemane and that we can do the same. He makes it all about us and all the cool stuff we can do by “creating” with this mystical “divine creative energy” of which he speaks.

    It is blasphemous to even suggest that we possess the ability in and of ourselves to create as God created.

  9. dockin80 says:

    Daft, eh?

    I guess it doesn’t leave much room for fear and trembling when you’ve got God figured out and nailed down. Bravo.

  10. Bill says:

    Spare me, please. I said don’t be daft. Use the intellect which God gave you and think! Get away from this post-modern, emergent, truth-denying nonsense. It is death to the mind and soul. Flee from it and submit to the authority of Scripture, not the authority of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Doug Pagitt. They are blind guides. Be warned: do not follow them, for their path is the wide path which leads to destruction.

    But while we’re on the subject, I’m about fed up with the mush-brained Emergent Church.

    Any time someone claims to have any sort of right and true knowledge of God based on Scripture, the Emergent folk put on their best smug attitude and immediately shoot them down for being “arrogant” and thinking they’ve “got God nailed down” and “put Him in a box.”

    “Oh no!” they wring their hands and cry, “No one can know for certain what the truth is!” Anyone who makes any truth claim, however small, is immediately decried as someone full of pride. Truth be told, it is the one who denies that truth is knowable who is arrogant.

    We might not be able to know all of truth accurately (and no honest believer would ever claim such a thing), but we can and do know some truth. That truth which is given by God through the plain teaching of His Word is both knowable and has been made known to the saints of old and the saints of this age. Post-modernists from the Emergent movement didn’t arrive on the scene just in time to save us from truth claims of those musty old fundamentalists who don’t use their brains.

    If Fundamentalists are to be faulted for believing many things without reason, then post-modernists are to be faulted for refusing to believe anything for any reason if it rubs their fallen human hearts the wrong way.

  11. dockin80 says:

    You’re right, you don’t seem arrogant at all.

    If systematic truth, science and reason, has only been around for about 3% of known human history, how did people in ancient times know truth?

  12. Bill says:

    Friend, you mistake confidence for arrogance. I have confidence not in myself, but in the Word of God. The Scripture says let him who boasts boast in the Lord. I boast that He is faithful, that His Word is true and trustworthy, and that it is readily discerned by those who have been granted eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to know.

    God has testified of Himself and of His works. In this do I have confidence. Reason does not replace revelation as post-modernists might have us believe. Rather it is complimentary as a source of knowledge which is true and accurate.

    Just because the scientific method has only been around for a short while, do not assume vast superiority to our ancestors. That, my friend, is the supreme arrogance. Their superstitions are not much different from those of today. For the Greeks, it was their pantheon of Gods who governed the affairs of men and created all that was. For the atheist scientist today it is random chance plus vast amounts of time which is supposed to have the same ability to create and direct.

    Reason, science, and systematic truth have been around all along. The difference is, our fathers didn’t reject out of hand the idea of revelation as a source of knowledge.

  13. Joymansgirl says:

    Dockin80-

    What is wrong with your knowledge of God?

    Neither God, His Word, nor the Holy Spirit, is limited to any man’s “system” of explaining Theology. His provisions to man (conscience – Rom. 2:15, light – John 1:9, and creation – Rom. 1:20), as well as His work in the hearts of men, have been in place before man was even in need of redemption. Also, John 16:13 tells us clearly where ALL truth comes from – the Holy Spirit – and that he is the One who guides us to it.

  14. dockin80 says:

    “What is wrong with (my) knowledge of God?”

    Luke 18:9.

  15. Bill says:

    Take Scripture out of context much, Pete?

    I seriously hope you’re not cherry picking a verse like that to make a veiled accusation of me being a Pharisee because I identified a false teacher by contrasting his words with Scripture. You’re an intelligent man. For the sake of civility and the furtherance of this conversation, don’t resort to ad hominems, please.

    Verse 13 of Luke chapter 18 is my prayer too: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The Bible teaches that the righteousness of the believer is the imputed righteousness of Christ, not righteousness in his own estimation, that is, in and of himself.

  16. Chad says:

    Bill,

    If you have studied Hebrew than you would no doubt realize that Genesis 1 is indeed a “poem.” What evidence do you have to prove it is not? Furthermore, do you really think that a “poem” is not something that truth can be derived from? When you say that if it is a poem than nothing literal happened you are makinga false conclusion. Would you say that the Psalms are poems? If you claim that they are, should we just toss them out because they are meaningless? Of course not.

    peace,
    Chad

  17. Chad says:

    One or two other comments to make regarding the “wholenss” or “completeness” of Creation. This isn’t a pronouncement on all of creation in a static sense, as dockin righly pointed out. You have to take into account that Genesis 1 is a Priestly account of Creation and what does it end with? Sabbath. Sabbath = completness.

    The other thing I wanted to say is about pray. You take issue with the idea of prayer as “tapping into the divine creative energy.” I’m not so sure why though. This has been the orthodox, ancient understanding of prayer for centuries. Prayer is a form of theosis – a means by which we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. If prayer does not “tap into the divine energy” than what does it do?

    peace,
    Chad

  18. Bill says:

    My contention with Bell’s use of the word is that it is a subtle implication that we are not to read it as a literal historical account.

    Tapping into divine creative energy is shamanistic language. It is man-centered language and does not honor God’s sovereignty.

    Prayer is the submission of the will to God. It is the offering of supplications in the context of utter reliance on the providence of God. It is not “tapping into divine creative energy” as Bell says. That is spiritism and is reprehensible.

  19. Andrew says:

    It is only a subtle implication if you are looking for a subtle implication. Genesis 1 is a creation poem. I believe it is a creation poem describing what actually happened, but I also know many, orthodox Christians who believe that it is not a literal, six day account. This doesn’t have to be an attack on authoritative truth.

    I also agree with Chad, I find it hard not to see aligning with Christ and making ourselves more and more like Him as a different way of saying ‘tapping into divine creative energy.’ And if it sounds “shamanistic,” would it not then be an even better way to describe prayer to a society that has made individual, godless spirituality its idol? The Athenians of Acts 17 were not really worshipping YHWH in their temple, and that the pagan poets were not writing about the triune God, and yet Paul still used their idol and pagan poetry to communicate truth. Not everything Rob Bell does is good, but there is certainly merit to speaking the gospel in a manner that people can understand. Sadly, our culture is no longer one that affirms or even recognizes what real spirituality looks like. We are missionaries in our own country.

    Lastly (and frankly, most importantly) I take serious stock with your statement “To even compare the creations of man to the creation of God is blasphemous.” If God’s creation is not the basis for our creativity, then from whence does it come? Our human relationships are merely a shadow, and pale comparison of the trinity, but that certainly does not mean that the comparison is blasphemous. In fact, everything that is good that man do (hyperbole – I have not thought through every good that man can do) ought be a pointer back to God. It BEGS for a comparison. It is a difficult, murky, dark glass comparison, but if human creativity isn’t a model example for general revelation, then I would question what it means to be created in the image of God.

    Please don’t throw around the word ‘blasphemy’ so lightly. The church is in enough disarray and disunity without you claiming that those around you have beliefs condemning them to hell. While I will not call you blasphemous, I will tell you that you ought to be ashamed to treat other Christians in such a cavalier manner and quote Jesus in Gethsemane (where he prays for UNITY) at the same time.

  20. Bill says:

    Given Bell’s other statements which denigrate Scripture’s authority, I have good reason to hold the opinion that it is a subtle, albeit ambiguous attack on the authority of Scripture.

    While some may not hold Genesis to be a literal historical account, they do not do so on the basis of Scripture. They do so on external premises. Taken on its own as well as with the testimony of the rest of Scripture, the accounts read as a literal account, though certainly some poetic devices are used to express the truths therein.

    There is a subtle but important aspect of a statement like “We’re aligning ourselves with Christ, making ourselves more like Him, tapping into the same divine creative energy that made the universe.” Do you see what it is? It’s very easy to find if you will look for it. The difference between that statement and a statement you might find from someone like say Spurgeon or Calvin is that the above statement is man-centered rather than God-centered. We do not align ourselves to God. He makes us willing and gives us both repentance and faith. We can not rightly claim any part of our salvation, whether in will or deed. It is God’s work alone. So is sanctification.

    To liken prayer to tapping into divine creative energy is not analogous to Paul’s addressing of the Athenians on Mars Hill. To be an accurate analogy, we would have to see Paul telling them that Jesus is another god to add to their pantheon and it’s cool for them to continue in Greek paganism. Paul affirms their religiosity, but then completely dismantles it by proclaiming Christ as superior and indeed a negation of their gods. I have yet to hear a sermon or even hear of a sermon wherein Rob Bell has actually preached the Gospel. I challenge someone to find me one.

    Rob Bell is telling lost people what they want to hear. He is not telling them to repent of their sins and believe in the finished work of Christ on the Cross for the forgiveness of their sins. On the contrary, Bell’s message is “Come as you are. Stay as you are.” The manner in which we speak the Gospel so people can understand is not by coddling them, it’s by speaking their native tongue and telling them in no uncertain terms what their current estate is. We present them with the claims of Christ and tell them plainly to repent and believe.

    If the world in general likes your message, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong and your shipment of fail has arrived. Jesus said that the world hated Him and that if we were His, it would hate us too. Recall that He conversely pronounced woe upon those whom the world received gladly, why? “For in the same way they treated the false prophets.”

    What’s sad is not that our culture isn’t spiritual. What’s sad is that our culture no longer affirms or even recognizes what truth is. They don’t believe that there is any absolute truth (except for the self-defeating absolute truth claim that truth isn’t absolute).

    I fully intend the gravity of a word such as “blasphemy” when I make claim of it. To say that you are creating like God creates is to make yourself out to be like God, and that is blasphemous (recall the Fall and the serpent’s lie to Eve about the results of eating the fruit). First, it is incorrect. God created out of nothing. We create out of matter which already exists and is available for our use. Second, it is irreverent and impious. Man is not like God. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We create, yes. But it is not like God creates. It is as man creates. Creativity is part of God’s character and our own creativity ought to reflect God, but apart from Christ it is hopelessly tainted by sin.

    General revelation isn’t enough to save a person, you know that. It is, however, as we see in Romans, quite enough to condemn us to hell on the testimony of our own consciences which condemn us.

    Is it really so outrageous for me to claim that those claim the name of Christ and yet believe and teach things which are utterly contrary to what the Scriptures teach concerning salvation, who God is, and who Christ is are, in fact, blaspheming with their heretical doctrines and apostasy? Christ said plainly that there would be false teachers and that they would be so crafty as to deceive even the elect if possible. Paul echoed that sentiment, even saying to the Ephesian elders as he departed that even among their own ranks men would arise who would be wolves among the flock. There were, are, and will be false teachers among the true Church, and God has ordained that it be this way. It’s not a question of if there are false teachers, it’s a matter of who.

    Everyone who claims to be a Christian is not given an automatic pass to teach and believe whatever they choose. If we are wise, we will be noble-minded like the Bereans and carefully examine the Scriptures to see whether the things which are being taught by men are, in fact, true. Paul said that if any man preaches another gospel other than the one which had been preached, let him be anathema.

    As for the high priestly prayer (John 17 if you’re up for reading it in its entirety), Christ did not merely pray for unity for the sake of unity. He prayed for the disciples not only to be unified, but also to be sanctified in the truth. He started his prayer with this: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” and later on in his prayer he prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

    Unity at the cost of holiness and sanctification in truth is not what Christ had in mind.

    To say that I treat Rob Bell poorly is unfounded. I haven’t spoken a word of ill about Rob Bell the man. I have said that his teachings are contrary to the Word of God, and therefore, false. From such observations it can readily be deduced that Rob Bell has therefore abandoned the Gospel. Thus, it is rightly said that he now preaches pleasant-sounding things to men with itching ears who refuse to endure sound doctrine.

    What the Church needs is not more self-centered man-exalting teachings to entice post-modern idolaters to embrace it. What it needs it sound doctrine and teaching from the Word which destroys lofty imaginations against true knowledge of God, because it the Word is that which has the power to save souls and transform lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The truth of the Gospel is hard to accept and may offend a man, but it has the power to save his soul from hell. A half-truth presented as the whole truth may entice a man to join himself to your company, but it is ultimately a lie and will make him twice the son of hell if it is all he ever believes. Only the pure light of the Gospel can save a man’s soul from hell, and only by the power of the Holy Spirit can the call of Gospel be made effectual.

    We need less cool church with catchy tunes, smoke machines, flashing lights, and anthropocentric theology and more catechisms, confessions, and Word-exalting preaching and teaching purposed for God’s glory.

  21. Andrew says:

    Bill, I am not going to respond to everything you have said, because it will only lead to a never-ending, back and forth dialogue. I would ask you two things:

    First, understand that a simile does not imply equality. To say that our creativity is ‘like’ God’s does not imply that we can create out of nothing. It does not contradict that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. When I compare a light bulb to the sun, I certainly don’t mean that there are planets circling around my light bulb, nor am I implying that it’s movement dictates the seasons, or that the Egyptians worshiped it. I mean that it is bright. Or hot, depending on my emphasis. No need to read more into the work ‘like’ than what is really there. We create in a manner that is somehow similar to how God creates.

    Secondly, do not assume that being reformed equals being Christian. I agree with reformed theology, and I love the writings of Calvin. But just because you think that man chooses God does not mean that you do not truly believe that you are sinful and believe that Christ’s death and resurrection is the means through which those sins are forgiven.

  22. Bill says:

    The problem with the simile of “man creates like God” is that it attributes to us that which I do not believe rightly belongs to us, that is, any part of divinity. Any time you say “X is like God” you must be careful to qualify it so that the hearer or reader understands that it is only an illustration. Bell does no such thing. He’s essentially saying you can be like God and create reality for yourself through tapping into mystical creation mana. The very notion runs counter to everything Scripture teaches concerning how we are to pray.

    If we want to know how to pray, we might start with the Lord’s prayer, rather than looking at a glimpse into and intimate moment where the Son is speaking to the Father as the Son who is about to receive the full wrath of the Father and then be glorified and exalted. That’s a prayer to observe and take note of the characteristics of God displayed, not one to be emulated (other than Son’s submission to the will of the Father).

    The sort of people you describe are what I like to call closet Calvinists. With patience and gentle instruction in the Word, I believe that they may be won over.

    I know that for myself, I held a somewhat Arminian view due to my ignorance of what the Scriptures said on the subject. I was convicted by Scripture to believe the things which I now hold as truth near and dear to my heart. It is not by any indoctrination other than the Holy Spirit and the Word that I believe such things. I believe that a proper reading of and submitting the mind and heart to the Scriptures will yield at least a basically Reformed understanding of salvation. That said, I wouldn’t refuse an Arminian a spot on my pew or a chair at my dinner table.

  23. St. Anselm of Canterbury says:

    1) False Dilemma: There are not just two sides to this argument. To restrict views of Gods sovereignty/human freedom to Armenian/Calvinist is to ignore 1500 years of discussion on this subject. There are other views that can be held.

    2) There are two true compete views of God here:

    1. Cataphatic- God is in relation to man through Christ, thus he is intelligible. Scriptures speak to his qualities and characteristics as if he is human (anthropomorphism)

    2. Apophatic- God is not Good, Wise, Just, because when we say those words, we attribute ideas to God that are infinitely less than who he is.

    3. Transcendent- God is altogether beyond human intelligibility. When we say God is Good, Just, etc… We use words that fail to capture who God is. A finite being cannot describe an infinite being. We embrace both Cataphatic and Apophatic thought to reach this understanding.

    These first two views must be balanced for a proper understanding of God (the third view). To veer too far either way is to stray from the revelation given to us. Again, it is not an either/or view.

    3) Creation was made perfected, but not complete. For a biblical account of this, see Irenaeus Adversus haereses It seems to me that what God has completed cannot be uncompleted (I believe Calvinists call this Eternal Security).

    4) While the language of “tapping into the Divine Nature” may be uncomfortable for Western Protestants, Theosis enjoys orthodox status in Eastern and Western Churches, based on scripture like 2 Peter 1:4, Gen 1:26, John 17 (esp v 22). The idea of koinonoi applied to humans (in the same way Christ participates with God) is exactly that: Participation with the Divine Nature. Your own words “The truth of the Gospel is hard to accept and may offend a man, but it has the power to save his soul from hell” ring true here.

    5) You accuse Rob Bell of heresy. While I may be inclined to agree, you never state which heresy he is guilty of (Docetism, Arianism, Apollonarianism, Eutychianism, Nestorianism, etc…) Again, I might agree with you, but lets see what particular heresy he commits.

    6) I am not one to defend Rob Bell, I disagree with him almost entirely, but I still think care and charity must be used in discussing his views, as well as the views others have posted here. Ad Hominem arguments are not helpful.

  24. Chad says:

    Bill,
    You say that Bell “denigrates” Scripture’s authority. How so? Have you ever listened to any of his sermons? If not, I would invite you to go to http://www.mhbcmi.org and download some – the last 12 are free. Upon listening to him preach I can’t say how anyone would say he “denigrates Scripture” or attacks his authority. If anything I would say Bell has a very high view of Scripture.

    You say that Genesis uses “some poetic devices.” This is untrue. It does not use some devices that make it look like a poem but it IS a poem. Even a cursory look at the Hebrew would prove the point without further comment needed. It is a poem – albeit a very much inspired poem that teaches a far greater truth than a literal 6 day creation. I won’t get into that all here, as tempting as it is. I have commented on this extensively on other forums.

    As to your dislike of our cooperative work in redemption I can only chalk that up to your bias towards a particular system of theology (Reformed). I am not Reformed, as you can probably guess. But please do not make the mistake that people of the Wesleyan camp are “man-centered” or that we believe we are capable of moving towards God without God first moving towards us. Let me ask you this and put it in another form: Are you not actively seeking to “align yourself with Christ”? Are you not desiring and striving to be more like Christ? If your answer to these questions are “no” but rather you do desire to be more like Christ than what is your beef with Bell saying that we are simply trying to do the same?

    You then claim that you have yet to hear a sermon where Bell has preached the Gospel. Can you fill me in on which sermons you have listened to? Beyond that though, what you really mean to say is, “I have not yet heard a sermon where Bell preached the Gospel as I see it.” When it gets right down to it, unless Bell sounds like Calvin or Spurgeon or MacArthur or Piper than he must be a heretic.

    It is false to say that Bell’s message is “come as you are. Stay as you are.” Where do you see that? Can you quote him as saying this? Bill, it is quite the opposite and if you are going to critique someone you ought to at least give the person a fair reading first. He most certainly IS telling people to repent of their sins – listen to the last few sermons on the site I posted where he is going through Philippians verse by verse. He is preaching a Gospel that has real hands and feet, Bill – it is one that leaves us radically changed and very different from when we first encounter Christ. This Christ who died on the cross and conquered sin and death.

    Forgive me, but I find it highly ironic that you would then move to pronounce judgment on Bell based on how well the world “likes him” while you and many others in blog-land are burning him at the stake. If your use of scripture is correct on this point, and we can tell how well someone holds to the gospel based on their popularity, than what is the cut-off point? This should be a measurable thing, yes? In other words, we should be able count the number of people who like Bell and then the number of supporters for, say, Calvin or Piper or MacArthur (or whomever) and if any of them have more “fans” than Bell than that makes them the greater heretic, right? I honestly feel that the reason many in the “church” today don’t like Bell is that what he is challenging the church to be and to do is far too radical and “real.” It is far simpler if we continue to spiritualize everything so that we don’t have to get our hands dirty.

    I agree with Andrew with regards to throwing around the term “blasphemy.” Again, what you are really railing against is someone who doesn’t see the Gospel the same way you do. One thing I find as a common thread with most Calvinists is a tendency towards “we got it all right and everyone else is dead wrong.” There is a type of spiritual arrogance that comes with people who put their faith in a “system” over and against other systems. The Church could use a healthy dose of humility and a posture that says, “maybe we don’t have it all figured out.” Stanley Grenz (rip) wrote that if the Bible and faith was simply a set of propositional truths that are there for us theologians to distill and disseminate than why do we even need the Bible? Why not just take our best Systematic Theology text book and teach from that? I agree.

    That’s all I gotta say for now though….looking forward to your response.
    Peace,
    Chad

  25. Bill says:

    Anselm,

    1) I wasn’t particularly referencing Calvinism vs Arminianism. I was more referring to Pelagianism vs. Augustinianism. If that was unclear, I apologize. Those happen to be the two primary opposing views in this context, which is why I chose them. Understand also that I my bias in thrust will tend toward Reformed theology, being that I am firmly in that camp as my understanding of Scripture has dictated.

    2) Yes to all of the above. We cannot know all things about God, but we can know some things about God, and confidently because He has told us so. If God be true, then what He says of Himself is trustworthy.

    3) When I say complete it is to the understanding that God created in perfection in order to contrast with Bell’s premise of an unfinished creation which he then claims implies a synergistic universe. I believe this is in contradiction to Genesis for the premise, and Romans 9 for the conclusion.

    4) Mere communion with God is not what Bell is talking about. I urge you to read a transcript or watch the video yourself in order to understand more fully what it is that he is implying by what he says. Taken in its full context, it is heresy. What Bell teaches isn’t glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. It’s glorifying man and enjoying man’s divine spark.

    5) The most glaring heresy I see is the age old lie spread by Pelagius. In fact, what I read in his writings and hear from his sermons and videos testifies that he is so far Pelagian in his thinking that it would take a good deal of evidence to convince me to concede even Semi-Pelagianism to his account.

    6) I concur that patience and charity are to be desired in the pursuit of truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 convince me that this is a trustworthy sentiment. I have tried to be charitable in my dealings with his teachings. But what can I call teaching which blatantly contradicts the revealed Word other than false, and indeed heretical at points? Shall I pretend that a wolf in sheep’s clothing is really just a misunderstood lamb, or shall I sound the alarm so that the flock will flee?

    I don’t believe for a moment that it is an ad hominem to describe teaching as false, heretical, or apostasy if it is clear that it is such. Do you?

  26. Bill says:

    Chad, I’ll respond later (probably tomorrow since I have church tonight) when I have some more time to sit down and give a well thought out answer.

  27. brian says:

    problem 1
    I read this same phrase from Rob Bell and I had a problem with it. God leaves the world unfinished. I’m not so sure He didn’t. Rob didn’t say that God created the world unfinished. He said God left it unfinished. Consider this part of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. His complete will is not being done on earth yet. His will is complete, but it’s not being done on earth yet. The earth isn’t finished yet.
    problem 2
    Prayer is communication between God and people. It’s me and you listening to our Father and talking to our Father. Many times when I communicate with my dad, my earthly father, I’m seeking advice. Sometimes he gives me advice even though I’m not seeking it. Either way, even if he upsets me I always consider his advice. I do that because he’s my dad. He’s been exposed to situations and circumstances longer than I have. I want to tap into his knowledge and wisdom-his earthly and spiritual wisdom. I desire the same thing from God. I want to be like Him. He’s my hero. I’m in a relationship with God and He with me. I don’t think He’s analyzing every word I say or the context that I’m using my words in. I believe He’s looking at my heart and if my heart is right He knows He can work with me on the rest. I don’t buy into everything Rob Bell says. If I did I believe even Rob Bell would correct me. When I read his “stuff” I’m looking at his heart. When I hear his “stuff” I’m looking at his heart. I try although it’s difficult not to analyze every word or phrase. I’m a cherry picker. I pick the best and leave the rest. I believe God’s word when He says “a house divided against itself can’t stand”. People come to know Jesus through Rob’s ministry. People consider the things of God through Rob’s ministry. He’s no different than you or I. He’s only got a glimpse of Who God is. But there is fruit from his ministry, I’m living proof.

  28. Chad says:

    Here are just a few quotes from Bell’s last sermon Sunday titled Exalted in my Body. You can download it here: http://www.mhbcmi.org

    “I’m rescued from my condition not when I continue to try to rescue myself but when I give it up and I let God rescue me in Christ.”

    “Can you say to live is Christ or are you living for yourself? Is there anything present in your life that is not living for Christ? If there is, than it needs to be confessed and repented of. Is there anything present in your behavior or in your heart that isn’t exalting Christ?”
    Perhaps you met Christ years ago and now it has become cold and hard and you what you need is a recommittment. Paul says he wants for when people to see us that they say they see something about Jesus in us.”

    “Perhaps you are here today and you have never met this Jesus. My understanding is that we are saved when we give up the game of trying to ever be good enough. So it involves confession: God I have been working so hard to be good enough and I realize that the Gospel is that I am saved and loved because I am not good enough. So it’s confession and repentance that I want to live for Christ and not myself. It’s opening yourself up to the grace, to the free gift of grace and love that is expressed in Christ through God’s saving sacrificial power and love.”

    Rob mentions the need to confess and repent numerous times.

    Then he closes be praying…..here is part of it:

    “God for those of us who have been living for ourselves…we have been all about ourselves…we confesss that. We repent of that. God for those of us who have been working so hard to be good enough, moral enough, spiritual enough, right enough, pious enough, we give up that game. We open up and accept a free love and grace that comes from nothing we ever did but from what you have done in Christ. God for those of us who have had a spirit of pride and judgment, a spirit of superiority we ask for a fresh drowning of grace that would put everything in its proper perspective. We acknowledge that your saving love gives us a life now and a life forever. We pray for those here that have never experienced your sacfificial love and that today would be one more step towards you… And in the strong, healing, saving name of this Christ, Amen.”

    My question to anyone is this: How can a charge of Pelagianism be leveled with such teaching as above? People who say this, I believe, either don’t know Rob Bell apart from rumor and blogs, or they don’t know who Pelagius was. Bill says: “He is so far Pelagian in his thinking and writing that I would have a hard time even conceeding semi-Pelagian to his account.” Bell is neither. I mean, Rob sounds almost like a fundamentalist Baptist in the above lines!! 🙂

    peace,
    Chad

  29. Chad says:

    I was reading back through these comments and I still can’t understand why anyone would take issue with Bell saying Creation is “unfinished.” Why else would Paul say that ALL of creation is “groaning”? If it is finished and all that it every will be then there is no sense in its groaning.

    But the real issue as I see it is that you miss the forest for the trees. We have a job to do here in the created order. If it was not left unfinished then there would be no need for Adam and Eve to be told to “till and keep the land…subdue it” etc. We have work to do and much of that work (all of that work) entails working to bring “the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.” We have a part to play in the ongoing creation and restoration of the world.

    To those who disagree, let me ask you this: If Creation is “finished” and “perfect” as Bill claims, why are we here? Why, if everything is “perfect” is there so much that we see that is not perfect?

    peace,
    Chad

  30. Brian says:

    Chad,
    I think the point of Calvinism is that we as people, even if we love God with all our heart,soul,and strength are only part of His creation, and in no way credited with anything good let alone helpers in creation. I assume Paul said creation is groaning because that’s the state of things only after we sinned. I say we sinned because if the original creation had been left to any human being, more than likely, the result would have been the same. I have read some of Calvin’s stuff. I agree with parts, I disagree with other parts enough to consider it heresy in my opinion. John Calvin is not a heretic though. I realize that he was well educated and a scholar. When Jesus talked the dummies like me understood and the scholars didn’t. I would be a fool to say that I know more about God than John Calvin. Election is Calvin’s favorite topic. I believe his opinoin of election applies to angels not people. I assume God didn’t create a bunch of extra angels with the thought I’ll pick the ones I want and let the rest suffer for eternity, although those who’ve fallen will. I have accepted Jesus as my Savior & Lord. In faith I believe I’m a Christian. I don’t for one second believe that God hand picked me over someone else. I don’t remember any scripture that cautioned or instructed me to be picky with the neighbors I loved because only some of them were elected and the rest were a waste of my and His time. I assume that if God was only going to hand pick us He would have done that from the beginning, at the moment of conception. His perfect creation wasn’t created to suffer. His desire is to have perfect creation back and he will receive His desire. Those of us who are willing ot submit our will to Him will get to be part of that. Those who in full knowledge of salvation refuse to submit will suffer, but that’s their choice not His. He is the one that will leave the rest of the flock to go find one who’s lost. He’s not the one that shoves ninety of the hundred sheep off the cliff because they were created no good to start with.
    My point is this Chad. I don’t disagree when Bill says that creation was perfect. I do believe that we ruined God’s perfect plan and creation-so it’s not perfect anymore. I believe that we are the crown of creation. I believe that since were here and the only way God can be here is through us, that He needs us to help Him get back His original plan and creation. Now He could have scrapped the plan and nearly did, ask Noah. But His desire is for a family. He wants children that choose to love Him of their own free will. He is God. He can do as He wants. He could have ended it all near the beginning but He decided otherwise. That’s the only reason we’re still here. He chose to let us be a part. That’s only my opinion. I’m sure part if not all may be wrong and I’m just thankful that as small and insignificant and ignorant as I may be He still loves me. I sure do love Him, to Him be all glory for without Him nothing would be made that was made.

  31. Chad says:

    Brian,
    I can see why Bill and others would want to say that creation is “perfect.” The problem I have with that, however, is two fold: One, it’s not biblical – scripture does not say creation is “perfect.” Second, it’s not the world we experience.

    This is not to say, however, that creation isn’t “perfect” in the sense that it is how God has created it and will be perfect to complete His purposes. We do have work to do to bring creation to it’s fulfillment. Even before sin there was work to be done in the Garden. Why would any work need to be done in something that is already perfect? Why would things created be in the work of creation (as Bell puts it, trees, plants, animals, humans…we all are actively “creating”)….why would we be given this gift if everything was “perfect?” The fact is, God has created humans to be his hands and feet in the work of creation – we have a job to do just as they did in the Garden. That is one of the reasons the early Christians were so excited, among others.

    peace,
    Chad

  32. brian says:

    Just last night I read from John MacArthur’s stuff. I don’t know what to say. The message was not what I expected. I grew up in a small town Methodist church. In my late 20’s and early 30’s I attended a pentecostal church, and for several years now I’ve attended a community church in the country that’s made up mostly of kids and teens. I’ve seen and even personally prayed with quite a few to ask Jesus in their heart and attended many of their baptisms. I don’t see the possibility of telling myself, my wife and daughters, or any of the others that I have been witness to, that they aren’t saved. I will hold to the hope and confidence I have in Jesus that they are. John MacArthur’s message in just a few sermons was enough for me to decide that I’ve ended up on this blog by mistake. I have a peace in my heart that can’t deny my upbringing. I know there’s been some false teaching in what I’ve learned and even in what I said. If I knew what was false in either respect I would humbly take correction. I want to know the truth in my heart. I’m on a different page. I hope we are at least in the same Book. If you would like to remove all my comments I understand.
    Love in Christ, Brian

  33. Bill says:

    I haven’t gotten a chance to do much other than approve comments this past week, but I felt that I had to respond to yours immediately, Brian.

    Don’t ever think that you are not welcome here simply because we might not have the same understanding of some things. So long as you are respectful (and to date you have been), I invite such dialogue. If we didn’t discuss and debate rigorously (while keeping our tone respectful), then we wouldn’t be very intellectually honest. I’m not about to shut my ears or my eyes, and I hope that you aren’t as well. Never will I remove comments unless they are vulgar or disrespectful, and indeed in such a case, you wouldn’t even see them because I’d just not approve them.

    If you would allow me to do so, I would like to encourage you in one respect. Let the Bible be your guide and none other over it. Not your upbringing, not Rob Bell, not John MacArthur, not John Calvin, not the Puritans, not anyone save the Bible. If they consistently speak truth about the Word, listen to them, be instructed by them. If they consistently speak that which is not true about the Word (I have already identified those whom I do not believe speak truly concerning God’s Word), have nothing to do with them. Flee neither instruction in truth nor civil discussion concerning it, for both are of benefit to your mind and soul.

  34. brian says:

    Bill,
    I thank you for your invitation to continue. I will consider your request. Several weeks ago I had a conversation with my mother. In the course of that conversation I mentioned that I would like to erase from my mind everything that I have learned about God and start over. She was offended, not mad just offended. More than likely that was a very ignorant statement for me to make so I understand her taking offense. What I need is a washing of the water by the Word. My past is part of me. Some of it is good, some isn’t good. It’s my past. If you believe we can debate and meet somewhere closer to the truth, not the middle, but the truth, then I will continue. Other than that it’s my past versus your past and I have no desire to attempt taking that from you.
    Love in Christ, Brian

  35. Bill says:

    We seek the same thing, friend. Why not see how we might seek it together?

    I can understand how your mother might be offended, but do not take it so badly. Perhaps it is that she does not understand what you mean by that. Indeed what all of us need is a healthy dose of the Word. God is faithful to cleanse and give wisdom. Only confess that you lack it, and He will give to you understanding and knowledge and wisdom. And as I have found out, the more I learn, the more I find that I don’t know, so it is a continual process. Thankfully, God is rich in grace and full of mercy.

    Let us forsake what is behind and press on toward the prize. Our past may influence us, but let it not define us. Let the Word and our submission to it define who and what we are.

  36. Brian Kincaid says:

    Chad,

    This is always about that. It’s mixing of words in an attempt to prove a deeper truth. For example: God finished creation and said that it was very good. Very good from the viewpoint of God is well beyond my concept of perfect. I can’t even imagine very good, it is somewhere beyond perfect from a human perspective, not that perfect isn’t out of grasp as well. There are other words and mixing. Recreate, reform, finished, unfinished, chosen, elect. What does it mean if a person or group of people reformed the church? Does that mean that it wasn’t already finished? Did they recreate something that had been created before? Was the true church gone? The church that the apostles started, had it vanished, ceased to exist? Or did the reformers hold on to part of what they already had then recreate the rest from their interpretation of the scripture? And if they did recreate is it then considered finished? And if I hold to their interpretation does that infer that their interpretation is 100% completely correct? Is there any possibility that they were wrong on some things? Was there something extraordinary about people from the 15th and 16th centuries? Were they called to recreate what had already been created so those who came after them would know the truth? Did the church of the 1st century disappear all at once in the year 1506 or did the church progressively disappear over the course of time? Was the church so far gone that not even a hint of the 1st century church remained? What was God’s plan? Was 1st century greco/roman/ jewish culture suppose to remain the same? Or was the culture to change and the church to remain the same, or vice versa? The Bible didn’t change and it’s not going to. When Jesus sent the Apostles out did he want them to go into all the world and preach the gospel according to greco/roman/jewish culture or did He want them to preach the gospel applied to the culture of the area they were in? Why would the apostle Paul go to the aeropagus and preach the gospel with relation to their culture? Or is it by God’s original design that His Word has a gospel for any culture? There are more unpainted areas than there are painted ones, more questions than there are answers. So we paint and repaint, form and reform, create and recreate. Now if we do it all wrong someone will have to redo it. We can’t do it right on our own. History has proven that. We have to have God’s hand on our lives. If not, the paint is too thick or too thin. We’ll leave brushstrokes. We are going to mess up. Something is going to be the wrong color or fade over time. Along comes the next group of painters, I hope they listen to Him.

  37. Chad says:

    Well said, Brian. As creatures created in the image of God we have been given a huge responsibility and more authority than I think we sometimes want to claim. I think that over time, an over-emphasis on the wretchedness of humankind and their total depravity has made it almost impossible, both theologically and psychologically, for us to live out an authentic Christian faith the way Christ taught and intended.
    If creation is “finished” and “perfect” than why do we pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Why not pray, “thy will be done in heaven as it is on earth”?

    I love what Bell says in his first book, Velvet Elvis, about the disciples being given the keys to heaven and told that what they bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what is looosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. We have been given a tremendous amount of responsibility and it must be used wisely, in prayful dialogue, led by the Holy Spirit and wrestled with in Scritpure and community.

    My question to those who disagree with Bell is: what is your alternative? What are we here for? If creation is perfect and finished than what is our “job” while here? Are you simply going to spiritualize everything and claim all we are here to do is get “saved” so that we can go to “heaven”?

    Also, the charge has been laid (a serious charge) that Bell is even worse than Pelagius. I posted some thoughts on that above which show that Bell is anything but Pelagian. Also, it has been charged that Bell denies the authority of Scripture. How? I have listened to nearly every sermon for nearly 4 years and have not seen a higher view of scripture nor scripture used more thoroughly than I do with Bell. On what grounds do people say he denies scripture’s authority?

    Finally, Bill, you advise that we should flee from those who speak untruth about the Word, yet cling to those who speak truthfully from it. Who decides who is speaking the truth over who is not? Your post seems to imply that you have some direct line to God which no one else has (you say, “I have already identified those whom I believe don’t speak truth concerning God’s Word) that allows you to make these “lists.” TRUTH, then, under this sort of understanding, is all about what you already agree with. What if someone is teaching something you don’t agree with? Will you call them a false teacher and heretic like you do Bell or will you first consider that perhaps you have something to learn from them? I have yet to see any proof using Scripture that Bell is a heretic or a Pelagian or whatever else. I have seen much talk about how Bell is not a Calvinist (thank God) or how he doesn’t sound like Spurgeon. That is not how truth is found.

    peace,
    Chad

  38. brian says:

    Chad,
    You make some excellent points and sense.
    Bill,
    You make some excellent points and sense.

    I grew up with some pentecostal background both in the Methodist church and the church I attended after I was first married. It was common practice to bind and loose. We bound spirits of infirmity, sickness, etc., etc., etc. . We loosed the power of God, healing, sound mind, etc., etc., etc. . A couple of years ago I started studying Jewish culture. Much of what I’ve studied has been centered around the time of Jesus and the apostles. Binding and loosing has nothing to do with sickness, healing, etc., etc., etc.. Binding and loosing was for scripture. So I realize that part of things I learned in the pentecostal church were not verbatim according to the scripture and Jewish culture at the time of Jesus. Now I could have started, a couple of years ago, studying what happened in the eighth century, or the 18th century. I would have found some truth there. But I was seeking and I thought if I had a better understanding of the culture in Palestine at the time the New Testament was being written, that hopefully it might clear up some of my misunderstanding.
    The apostles wrote a letter that appears in the 15th chapter of Acts. They were trying to clear up some issues for the church at Antioch,Syria,and Cilicia. They decided what they would write and then made this statement, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us”. What they wrote is scripture. There attitude wasn’t-this is how it is. But guess what, that is how it is. That scripture is bound on earth and in heaven. The truth wasn’t the only way it could have been said. The list they made could have been smaller or bigger. But it seemed good to the Holy spirit and to them. That’s good enough for me. The tone of their writing, their heart, stands out when I read this scripture. There is a huge lesson here for me both in the spirit and letter of their writing. Scripture seems to be much like a contract. The letter of the law is there but the substance, the heart, the interpretation is what we end up living with. The question may very well be, can we ever get to the place where it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us?
    Love in Jesus, Brian

  39. Bill says:

    Chad,

    The point of creation being “finished” in the sense of Genesis and in the sense of John 1 is that we are not co-creators with God. God has created. We are created things. What we create is not even worth comparing to God’s creation. You and I can create music and poems and paintings and buildings and statues. God created galaxies and nebulas and supernovae and black holes, and yes, this Earth upon which we live and all that is in it. The “ongoing creation” of God is not something we are party to. Working the ground doesn’t mean that creation is unfinished. It means that God has finished and there are physical and chemical processes which He has set in place which are means of sustaining what is.

    We pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to say that we desire for His will to be obeyed perfectly as it is in heaven and that we will ourselves submit to this will.

    My alternative to Bell’s shamanism is that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You might look to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the second question of Benjamin Keach’s catechism to learn this truth. These are basic things, Chad.

    I listened to the sermon that you referenced, saying that Bell sounded like a fundamentalist almost. And you would be right, if Bell didn’t mean very very different things by the words he uses. If Bell is, as you claim, a preacher of the only true Gospel of Jesus Christ, then why does he then say the following:

    “The mystery is that God’s saving love is for every single human being.”

    “The beautiful thing would be if the woman filled with despair, because she is with our sister each day, and because our sister has committed herself to following Christ — The beautiful thing would be if this lady just complained a little less, and saw some hope.”

    The “beautiful thing” would be complaining less because you’re around a Christian? Never mind that she’s headed for eternity separated from God in hell if she does not repent and believe! This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is universalism dressed up in psuedo-Christian language. He has no concern for her soul, and it would stand to reason that it would only be because he does not believe her soul to be in danger. His subtle espousal of universalism lends further credence to this conclusion.

    Ask a Mormon if he believes we’re saved by grace. He’ll tell you “sure we are!” Ask him to explain what that means, and you’ll get something to the effect of “God let’s us work our way to heaven. Isn’t that gracious of Him?” Just as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses mean something very different when they say the words “grace” “atonement” “reconciliation” “repentance” and “sanctification” so does Rob Bell mean very different things when he speaks of orthodox Christian concepts. He is subtly twisting the meaning of words until they no longer mean what they were originally intended to mean by what they say.

    I laid a charge that Bell is Pelagian, not that he is “worse than” Pelagius. But one might very well make the case that he is, in fact, worse than Pelagius. Pelagius was at least honest about his heresy. Rob Bell cloaks his heresy in just enough truth to get you to bite down and swallow the hook. He “affirms” historical orthodoxy while systematically denying it with his teachings. Bell tells stories more than he reads Scripture. He tells sob stories to make you cry and while the tears are still fresh he slips in a few sound bites of Scripture, flying past both the immediate context and the context of the whole of Scripture.

    Who decides who is speaking the truth is the Bible. The testimony of the prophets and of the apostles is true, and if someone comes preaching another gospel, then they are to be anathema. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that because it might not immediately be clear who is a false teacher that we should not seek to identify them at all.

    You make a false assumption regarding my reasons for calling Bell out on his heresy and aberrant theology. I call Bell a false teacher and a heretic not simply because I disagree with him. I call Bell a false teacher and a heretic because he preaches against the Word of God and teaches heresies which have been condemned as damnable lies since ancient times. It is not on my testimony alone that he is condemned. It is on the testimony of the Word from heaven and of the church fathers as well.

    You seem to think that because I hold to a Reformed understanding that this is the rule by which I measure. It is not. The rule by which I measure all matters of belief and moral duty is the Bible. Bell fits the Bible’s definition for a false teacher and is thusly condemned.

    Bell is but one of many in this perverse generation who question the authority of Scripture and teach against it.

  40. Chad says:

    Bill,
    I will try to wade through much of the rhetoric in your last post. You seem to have made up your mind pretty much and have now decided that any and all who disagree with your interpretation are to be lumped into the same pool of heresy as you think Bell is in.
    You say: “we are not co-creators with God.” Romans 8:17 reads: Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
    We are “co-heirs” with Christ. Through whom and by whom was the world created? Christ. Paul says we share in something with Christ – we are joined to Christ in some work. You say we are not “co creators” and then you say, “what we create is not even worth comparing to God’s creation.” First, you at least admit that we do create. I agree. But who ever said anything about it being comparable to God? Bell never makes an evaluative comment like you are. Can you show otherwise? No one is trying to impinge on God’s sovereignty, Bill. The question I posed earlier is still on the table: If you don’t think we are working with God to bring creation to its ultimate fulfillment than what are we here for? Just to blog and point out heretics?
    You make an assertion about why we pray “thy will be done on earth as it is heaven” and link this with the will that is obeyed in heaven. Where do you get this idea from? The earliest Christians wrote extensively on this, and Jesus himself said “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” We pray this so that God’s rule will invade our very existence in the here and now. It has less to do with our obedience and everything to do with God’s reign and justice here on earth.
    I’m well aware of the Westminster Catechism. I teach it to my youth in confirmation. Please show me where Bell denies that our chief end is not to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I see that theme again and again in all his sermons.
    I’m glad you got to listen to the sermon I referenced. Let me address a few of your comments:
    You ask why he says, “The mystery is that God’s saving love is for every single human being.” He says this because it’s the gospel truth, Bill. I realize that your particular system of reformed theology through the lens of Calvin distorts that truth somewhat, but it is truth as proclaimed from the beginning of the church and all through the Bible. Unless you want to call everyone who isn’t Reformed (both east and west) a heretic than you need to let this one go.
    You then take issue with a very practical application of living out our Christian life in such a way that others might see Christ in us and repent themselves. Do you disagree that it would be a beautiful thing if a woman full of despair and loathing would begin to see some hope? Bill, if you are able to take off your heresy hunter goggles for a second, what do you think Bell might say that is a step towards? Could it be the very salvation that you claim he doesn’t preach?
    I don’t have time to get into your charge of universalism right now. Lets just say that Bell is not a universalist. It would take more time to explain than I have and I don’t even think you are open to hearing it.
    I’m glad you see that Bell is not Pelagian. Is it possible he is not also some of the other things you label him as? You then claim he tells more stories than he reads Scripture. Where do you get this idea from? If we are listening to the same sermons, Bell leans on scripture heavily, and it is not just to tell a story. This is a case of you seeing what you want to see, I think.
    You then say that the Bible determines truth. But who decides how the Bible is transmitted and the truth is relayed? Bell would also say that the Bible is authoritative. As do I. I asked in an earlier post if you have proof for your charge that Bell denies the authority of Scripture. Can you provide that?
    Which heresies is Bell preaching and teaching that have “been condemned since ancient times”? Which Church Fathers is Bell considered anathema? This should be easy enough to cite and name, and I would hope such info can be provided as these are serious charges and should not be thrown around with such nonchalance.
    Peace, Chad

  41. Bill says:

    Being co-HEIRS means that we are getting something, not that we are doing something. We are co-heirs with Christ because He made us children by His blood. We are not co-creators with Christ. He is the one by whom all things were made, not us.

    Bell made a direct claim that we create like God. He says we’re tapping into the same “creative energy” that created the world. That is making us co-creators with God.

    We are not here to bring God’s kingdom to earth. God is going to destroy this earth, and even the heaven that exists now and create a new heaven and a new earth. We are here for God’s pleasure. Man, in his sin has decided that he does not care for glorifying God and enjoying Him, but rather glorifying man and enjoying the desires of his flesh. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That’s a purpose. That’s a calling. That’s a mission. And it doesn’t involve co-creating with God. It involves obedience to His commands and submission to His Word in deed and thought.

    If God’s salvation is for everyone, why then does Jesus say that no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws Him? If God’s salvation is for everyone, why then does Paul say in Romans 9 that He prepared some vessels for wrath, while still enduring with great patience in order to show His mercies to those vessels prepared for mercy. I read my Bible and I find these truths. I’ve never read Calvin, and I’ve never read Luther. I’ve really only read select quotes from Spurgeon and Edwards too. My theology comes from submitting to rather than resisting what Scripture plainly says because it rubs the fallen human heart the wrong way.

    The beautiful thing would be if that woman came to Christ. If she “sees a little hope” and complains a little less, but never comes to repentance and faith, then all of that will have been worthless to that woman, for she will have lost her soul. Bell doesn’t believe you should tell anyone the offensive truth about the Gospel. It might offend their sinful minds. Talking about sin and wrath and judgment makes people uncomfortable and no one will listen to you according to Bell (see NOOMA 009). Bell says nothing of preaching the Gospel to the woman. He had plenty of opportunity to do so. Indeed, he had plenty of opportunity to do so at The Gods Aren’t Angry Tour as well. And he didn’t do it either of those times, and neither has he done it since.

    I find it hard to believe that a supposedly true teacher of the Bible would have so hard a time remembering to say anything even resembling “Repent of your sins and believe in Christ’s payment on the Cross for your sins.” and in fact discourage people from doing things like that (see NOOMA 009).

    Yeah, he’s not a universalist in the classical sense of the term. But he certainly doesn’t believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell. Heaven and hell are places here and now on earth according to Bell (Velvet Elvis and other teachings). He’s got the same New Age rejection of the New Testament testimony that Guru Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt have.

    Bell most certainly is Pelagian. It is clear that he believes that we have good in us in and of ourselves; that we are not rotten to the core because of sin. That we simply have to find out who we really are deep on the inside and that’s good. We’re reborn into new creations, not becoming who we were all along. Who we are is sinful.

    It’s clear that I can’t have a conversation about truth with you because you hint that truth is merely relative to the observer and not objectively knowable from observing what is. A proper grammatical-historical hermeneutic and the Holy Spirit’s guidance reveals the truth in God’s Word which is plain for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    Bell’s entire “doctrine is like a trampoline” spiel is an example of his low view of Scripture. His statement that the Bible is true only because it was “true” for some given people is an example of denying its objectivity. The Bible is true because it is God’s Word and God is true. It is not true because it says things which are true. It says things which are true because it is true.

    Need more proof that Bell is firmly in the camp of the Scripture-hating Emergent church? There’s plenty, but I know now that no amount of pointing out his lies and half-truths will convince you otherwise. You want to be one of his disciples? I was my hands of this matter. Here are a few links which demonstrate and explain his false teaching, countering it with Scripture. Truth be told, they’re not even necessary. Anyone who can understand his Bible can understand that Bell is telling a different story which has rather dark origins.

    http://www.sohmer.net/Velvet_Elvis.pdf
    http://plaza.ufl.edu/bcarlisl/docs/TheGodsArentAngry.pdf
    http://www.apprising.org/archives/2006/02/rob_bell_salvat.html
    http://www.apprising.org/archives/2006/03/rob_bell_salvat_1.html

  42. brian says:

    Rob Bell isn’t Pelagian. Rob Bell isn’t universalist. Ive read some of his stuff, seen some of his stuff, heard only one sermon which I hand picked for the title “Grace and Peace”. His message in all that I’ve been witness to, the heart of what he says is love, and I didn’t have to read more than a few pages, only had to watch just a clip, only had to hear a few lines to come to that more than obvious conclusion. I have seen all the clips of his Nooma videos(watched 3 to their end) and read Velvet Elvis and Sex God. Relationships with God and my neighbors, love, seeing people without my religious glasses on-that’s what I got from him. Rob Bell believes that Jesus died for the world because they were worth dying for. Rob Bell believes we should die for our neighbors because they are worth dying for. What do you believe Bill? I went to the link you left Chad for the reformed site. There’s stuff on their I believe. There’s stuff on their that’s not scripture, it’s commentary. I even believe some of the commentary. You blog on this site like your thinking for yourself. You sound like a tape recording of your reformed site to me. I realize election is a huge issue to you and me. I thought God was Love. As far as I’m concerned your reformers definition of election is taking away from God’s love. How could you even dare to say that God created the world perfect and believe that He included imperfection(a person unelectible) in His Creation. But honestly those points don’t even matter to me. There is a bigger issue. I don’t sense love in what you write. I realize you’re protecting what you believe to be true, but honestly I don’t see the love and God is Love. So if Rob Bell is wrong and a heretic you have everything to fear because people are drawn to love. You can call it a soft message, unscriptural, just telling people what they want to hear. You know the words but your missing the heart. There is a reason why people in your own congregation didn’t encourage you to consider furthering your studies at seminary. I don’t even know you and I want better for you than what your writing. I’ve seen all the hate I care to see. Show me some love Bill.
    Love in Jesus, Brian

  43. Chad says:

    Bill,
    This will most likely be my last foray onto your blog – unless some evidence of something more substantial comes forth. The reason this will be my last is because I find it very hard to get past such crazy notions like “God is going to destory this earth.” That is not true, Bill. I find it hard to even justify such comments with an response, other than to say it is obvious why you would have such a hard time understanding and appreciating Bell’s ministry and others like him.

    One suggestion and then I’ll wish you God speed. Instead of getting your theology from the Left Behind series I highly recommend you pick up everything you can read by N.T. Wright, especially his most recent release “Surprised By Hope.” I know you said you don’t get your views from anyone or anything from the Bible (which, btw, is impossible), but Wright is one of the best Bible scholars of our day and could teach you much about creation and God’s intentions for it, and our mission within it.

    To quote Rob Bell quoting Paul (over and over): Grace and peace, grace and peace.

    Chad

  44. Bill says:

    Chad,

    I should hope that it is obvious by now why I and others like me take issue with Bell and others like him: because we know what the Bible says because we study it. Because I know what the Bible says, I can recognize that what Bell teaches is not biblical. He is preying on the scriptural ignorance of the larger evangelical community in order to deceive them into believing things which are utterly contrary to the revealed Word.

    I don’t get my theology from the Left Behind series, I get it from the Bible. In fact, I’ve never read the series because I’m not particularly interested in speculating on the eschatological allegorical descriptions of Revelation (John was seeing something which cannot be described in total using ancient, or indeed any and all human terms, though what he wrote was true of what he saw). But even if we toss out the entire book of Revelation, the words of Christ give us ample cause to conclude that the earth and heavens will not remain, but that the Word of God will endure forever.

    I can’t get my theology sola scriptura? Your thinking takes the same position the Roman Catholic church did against the Reformers.

    As for Wright, it’s no mistake nor coincidence that the Emergents have chosen him as their poster boy scholar. His theological writings give them the shred of credibility of which they are in desperate need in order to have a scholarly leg upon which to stand. Though he purports to be neutral, it is quite evident from his continued writings where he stands with respect to post-modernism and the neo-orthodox Emergent movement.

    Frankly, I’ll read N.T. Wright for my theology when I read Robert Hamburger’s book to learn about the Japanese art of Ninjitsu.

  45. Bill says:

    Brian,

    Perhaps you missed the bit in Velvet Elvis where he asserts the following: “So this reality, this reconciliation, is true for everybody.” I commend to you the review of VE linked in my previous post. Read it, for he is even more “charitable” than I regarding Bell.

    He asserts that everyone is already reconciled with God without need for repentance and faith.

    Rob Bell believes that Jesus died for the world because they were worth dying for. Rob Bell believes we should die for our neighbors because they are worth dying for. What do you believe Bill?

    I believe that it turns the Bible on its head to say such things. God sent Christ to glorify Himself. He loves us, yes, but not because we are in any sense “worth” loving. What does the Word say about man? That we are (or for the Christian, were) enemies of God; haters of good, lovers of evil; self-loving, full of blasphemies and deceit. It says says that we are dead in our sins apart from Christ.

    We are loved and blessed by God not because we are owed it for being worthy. We are, frankly, worthless before a holy, just, and jealous God and all our righteous works are as clean in His sight as used menstrual rags. It is because of our worthlessness that God alone is glorified by the salvation of particular men and women. We cannot save ourselves, and so God does it from start to finish, to His glory and His alone. We love because God has loved us first. We are even able to know what love truly is because God has demonstrated it to us by giving us mercy and grace on the cross of Christ.

    As far as election is concerned, read and reread Romans 9 man. God is not unjust to choose to be merciful to some to the point of salvation and to choose to show His wrath toward the rest. We are all worthy of judgment. What makes God’s love and mercy infinite for even one sinner is precisely how worthless and deserving of judgment we all are.

    If Rob Bell is wrong and a heretic, I have nothing to fear, for my God is sovereign, able to save in spite of the efforts of deceitful, sinful men. It is not unkind to beseech men to see themselves as they truly are so that they can properly recognize the grace and mercy of God for what it truly is. It is His kindness which draws us, yes. But God can be said to be kind precisely because of how rebellious and God-hating we are and have been.

    I call Bell’s message soft and unscriptural because it does not call men to repentance and makes a mockery of the Cross and of the Word.

    You do not sense love in what I write because you do not understand what the object of my love is: the Word of truth. If men hate me because I love Christ and His truth, I count it a blessing. I have made my choice to obey Christ and love His Word, and I will not be swayed to the left of the right. Let every man be a liar and God be true.

    The reason people didn’t encourage me at the church where I am a member is because they likewise do not understand. I have been encouraged by both pastors and my mentor to continue in this path because it is true and faithful to the Word. Though they do not speak publicly regarding such matters (and they need not for the time being), they have privately concurred and spoken encouraging words to me regarding what I have written.

  46. Brian says:

    Bill,

    I think we might finally be getting to the point. I do realize that the object of your love is the Word of truth, but what Jesus said was love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength and the second is like unto it love your neighbor as yourself. All of the commandments are summed up in these. Loving His Word is a result of loving Him fully, not a seperate thing. I’m seriously not trying to mix your words. I to will count it all blessing if men hate me because I love Christ and His truth, but only if I loved men in spite of themselves. If you love someone when they hate you end up in one of two situations. They will either end up seeing the truth of your love and in turn see that your love could only come from God(they will accept Jesus as Lord and savior) or they will hate you even more to the point of despising. That is how they hated Jesus, seeing His truth in love,denying it, and hating Him anyway.

    In Sex God Bell quoted the Apostle Paul-Bell said “better to marry than to burn”. He said he liked that line, in fact that’s how he ended the topic, with that line. I like that line too, and not just for sex-I’ve told my daughter’s, and they are only 15 and 17, if they get in a situation with a young man where they can’t keep there hands off each other to come to me and let me know because there is nothing worth compromising their heart for. I would rather have them married in high school than compromise their heart. Jesus made our hearts new, never compromise for any reason. Again, listen to Bell’s message on grace and peace, listen to his brother’s testimony of addiction and salvation by God’s grace that’s included in the message.

    Our righteousness is as filthy rags, not are worth. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father knowing. But, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not for you are of more value than many sparrows. Our spirit, who we really are on the inside is dead, not worthless. And He is the giver of life. I was lost and now I’m found, I was dead and now I’m alive, I’m born again.

    We are elected in life not death. Any person can say Lord,Lord. Only God knows if we meant it or not. If we meant it He elects us, if we didn’t mean it He doesn’t elect us. He can’t elect us in sin/death because He can’t be in the presence of sin. We can only come to Him through Jesus the mediator as elected if we truly repented of our sin. Before the foundations of the world were laid he predestined us, all of us for life. His plan wasn’t for death, He is life and light and love, in Him is no darkness at all. He couldn’t plan for death because there is no death in Him. His plan wasn’t for Adam and Eve to sin. His plan was for them to live. His plan therefore was for all of us to live. But we chose death and caused Him to have to alter His plan.

  47. Chad says:

    Bill,
    Take care. I pray one day your eyes will be opened to just how damaging your attitude and words are to the body of Christ. As a pastor (one who has a degree in Bible and Theology and has studied the Bible extensively, by the way) I find your words, teachings, and caricatures of others to be contrary to the gospel. You claim to be sola scriptura but your words betray you and show that you don’t even know what means, not in a modern sense or even historical.

    I hope you will see that attacking fellow Christians and people who love the same Jesus as you do is perhaps the greatest tool of Satan yet devised. As they say, stop kicking against the goads.

    Grace and peace,
    Chad

  48. Bill says:

    Chad,

    Your certificates, papers, and titles given by men mean little to me because you have not ceased for one moment to defend the indefensible. You defend teachings which mock the Cross, mock the deity of Christ, elevate man to a level equal with God, and systematically deny or cast doubt upon the very theological roots which gave the man speaking them a chance to be placed into a position of leadership.

    How do you call me contrary to the Gospel when you either will not or else can not even articulate what the Gospel is when pressed? I humbly suggest that you either articulate what it is that you mean by “the Gospel” or else remove such utterances from your tongue.

    I understand full well what sola scriptura means. That men like Rob Bell oppose it to follow the traditions of men does not change what it meant in the 1500s (which, by the way, is the same as what it means today). According to Wikipedia (cited here as an ostensibly neutral source), the first of the Five Solas, sola scriptura, is thus:

    Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all — that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting.

    Bell (and apparently you as well, judging from your responses to my insistence upon it) reviles this doctrine because it places God’s Word in authority rather than the sinful and fickle imaginations of men. Let’s have a conversation about what it means “to me”? By no means! God spoke! The conversation is over. The proper response to “Thus saith the Lord: thou shalt. . .” is “Yes, Lord!” and immediate obedience. It is not “Did God really mean that?” and rebellion in thought, word, and deed.

    I attack the vile and false doctrines of demons, not men themselves. Men stand condemned for their sins before a thrice holy God already.

    The effeminate, that’s-true-for-you-but-not-for-me, post-modern culture would have us believe that it is a dastardly thing to be so vehement in opposition to a teaching with which one disagrees. Such a notion is worthy of ridicule and a place with other unbiblical perspectives.

    Over and over we are commanded to be alert, awake, sober-minded, contending for the faith, ready, prepared, and so on and so forth. This is a war of the mind and the territory to be won is the souls of men. It is real, it is here, and it is now. That you choose to deny its existence in favor of a life in a cozy cottage in everybody-hold-hands-and-no-one-disagree-land does not detract one iota from the reality of the war raging in the heavenlies. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear know full well what is at stake.

    Kindly tell me what Rob Bell’s gospel is and explain how it is not contrary to the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and indeed Paul and the other New Testament writers. If you are not able or willing to comply with this singular request, then I humbly suggest to you that we have no business with one another in either word or deed.

    As I anticipate your departure given your previous comment, I bid you farewell and Godspeed.


    Bill

  49. Chad says:

    Bill,
    If I thought that by answering your questions would make a bit of difference with you I would. Your last several posts, however, show little more than a desire to pontificate, and arrogantly so. It is a shame that your arrogance and lack of love towards others you disagree with betray the very Christ you so ardently seek to defend.
    You do not seek truth, only to be right at all costs. If you truly desire answers to your questions and can demonstrate a touch of humility I will be happy to engage you in further discussion. Email me at chad.holtz@duke.edu if that should come to pass.

    peace,
    Chad

  50. Chad says:

    Oh, and Brian, great posts and thoughts, friend. Feel free to email me at the address given above any time. You are so right to point out Bell’s sermon on grace and peace and his brother’s testimony. It is only people on a witch hunt who refuse to see anything other than what they have already predetermined who can’t see Bell’s message of salvation, repentance, confession, and sin.

    Grace and peace to you, brother.
    Chad

  51. cjh21 says:

    Bill,
    I have begun a review of this Nooma vid on my blog. You and others may check it out at http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com

    peace.
    Chad

  52. Bill says:

    Brian,

    The problem with that is that we can not rightly know how to love the Lord our God with all of our being if we do not know what He has commanded. It is by His Word that we know His character and what He demands of us. God has exalted His Word and His name. If we love His Word, we love Him. Loving His Word and loving Him are one in the same. They are reciprocal and one does not precede the other. For without the knowledge that the love of the Word gives, we could not love Him, and without love of Him, we could not love the Word.

    Christ said that if we loved Him, that we would obey His commands. Want to demonstrate your love for God? Then by submission to the Spirit, be obedient to all that He has commanded.

    I posit to you that I do love and have compassion for men and women, that is why I cry to them: “Repent! Believe! Be baptized into the Body!” The most loving thing you can do for someone is not coddle them with lies, but tell them the truth, even if it stings. If you were dying of a terrible disease and I hesitated to tell you that there was a cure because I knew that cure came with a great deal of short-term pain, I would not be a good physician. No, you would rightly call me a monstrous demon and a horrible physician if I did not use every faculty without my being to convince you of the necessity and efficacy of this cure. Neither would I be completely loving you if I told you of the cure, but did not tell you of the immense pain it would cause you. I would not be being honest. I might save your body, but you would have no reason to trust that this cure was absolute and lasting, for I was not even honest about the short-term pain it would bring.

    So it is with the Gospel. The Gospel grates against the hearts and minds of sinful men, who hate God with every fiber of their being, whether outwardly like the militant atheist or inwardly like the subtle, truth-denying post-modernist. But here’s the miracle: God uses His Word, preached in truth, to divide and conquer the souls of men by the power of the Holy Spirit. He rebirths, He convicts, He gives confession, repentance, and faith. And those who are called will come. None who are not called will come. None who are called will not come.

    Affirming with Paul that it is better to marry than to burn with passion is a far cry from what Bell does with the Gospel. He twists it and makes it all about us and our work rather than all about God and His work. Romans 8 & 9: it is God who justifies; it is for God’s glory that both mercy and wrath are poured out; and it is prerogative of God and God alone upon whom mercy is poured and upon whom wrath is poured. We understand that God is not unjust to punish men (whom He made) who rebel and reject God.

    God’s mercy is not merely in delivering us from the temporal; that is, addictions and other trying circumstances. These are but shadows in comparison to the ultimate purpose of the Cross. His ultimate mercy and grace are found in saving our souls from eternal judgment and wrath in the lake of fire.

    Our worth is inextricably tied to who God is. We are worth more than many sparrows because God loves us. God does not love us because we are worth something. The order is important, because it determines who is the priority and who receives glory.

    We are elected before time began, either to life or to death and according to the good pleasure of God. To accuse God of being arbitrary in doing so is false and blasphemous. Nothing that God does is arbitrary. Everything that God does is good. It is precisely because salvation is wholly God’s work and nothing of man’s work in willing to believe that we are secure in our salvation. If it depended on you and your faithfulness, then you could lose your salvation and you are never truly secure. Our hearts are fickle and unfaithful. However, because it depends on God and His will and not man and his will, the eternity of those who truly believe is secure. Read with me in Romans 8:

    28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

    37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    And again in Romans 9:

    14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

  53. brian says:

    Bill,

    I read your final response to Chad. Now I’m confused. I’ve been studying God’s sovereignty and reform views of election. I believe I understand where your coming from in your stand on those issues. Here are the issues of my confusion:

    1) Considering a passage where Jesus talks about divorce and adultery. When Jesus said, “if your right eye offends you pluck it out”. I could see me or possibly someone else saying did Jesus really mean that? My right eye and my left have offended me yet I still have both eyes. I don’t see a bunch of guys with their eyes missing, at least not nearly enough to believe that many God fearing people are taking what Jesus said literally. If it’s blasphemy to ask that kind of question then there are a bunch of men who will have to pay for their lies.

    2) God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. We wrestle against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The war thats raging is in heavenly places not our minds, my mind isn’t a heavenly place. It is here, it is now, it is real but we can’t see or hear it with our natural eyes or ears. “He that hath ears let him hear”-nearly everyone has ears. Those words are speaking to our heart(spirit). We may see physical earthly outcomes from the invisible battle that’s taking place but that’s the point of the passage in Ephesians-quit looking at the physical-you can’t win a spiritual battle using physical means. God is a Spirit therfore his whole armor is spiritual. Why would we be waging war for the territory of men’s souls if God has already elected his chosen people?

    3) If Rob Bell is a false teacher, then according to 2Peter chapter 2, he will bring destruction on himself swiftly. Then Peter encourages us that God knows how to deal with these types of people. God can take care of this without our influence or help, agree or disagree?

    Brian

  54. Bill says:

    1) If we understand the passage correctly, there is no confusion. Grammatical-historical hermeneutic helps us here, and indeed a great deal. Jesus is talking about greed and being stingy. An evil eye and hand in Jewish culture were understood to be metaphors. The same phrase is present in the literal meanings of the Hebrew in Proverbs 23:6 and the Greek in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:15. It’s not blasphemous to ask for clarification on what it means if we truly do not understand that a certain saying is hyperbolic. It is blasphemous to tell God that He isn’t just in doing as He pleases.

    2) Calling it the mind may bring some confusion, but what I am referring to is our innermost being, our conscious spirit, our soul. English is a poor conveyor of what I was getting at. “He that hath ears let him hear.” This phrase is Christ exhorting those that can understand (because they have these figurative “ears” with which to hear) to heed His words and take them to heart.

    We wage war because that is what God has ordained and commanded. It is a pitched battle, but a battle nonetheless. You would no doubt agree that the battle is already won and that from the passage in Romans we know that we overwhelmingly conquer because of Christ, would you not? If then this is true, I could very well ask a similar question: why wage war if the war has already been won? Why do you accept in your mind God’s sovereignty in conquering sin and death through the cross and resurrection, but not in electing men unto salvation through those very things? Both concepts are taught by scripture, and I would argue plainly so.

    I contend that we wage war because God has ordained and commanded it. Likewise, we pray because God has ordained and commanded it. We preach the Gospel because God has ordained and commanded it. Are you seeing a pattern here? 🙂

    3) Indeed I agree. If my assessment is correct and Rob Bell is indeed a false teacher, he will bring swift destruction on himself, as will everyone else who preaches falsely. That is why I do not intend to destroy him, nor do I focus my efforts to that end. Rather I warn the flock of God to stay far, far away from him and have nothing to do with him or his teachings. That is what we are commanded to do with false teachers: stay away from them. To that end, I contrast what he says with the truth, so that no one will be misled. If I just said “well he’s a crafty serpent” and then gave no evidence of it, you would be right to question me. But I do not want you to be uninformed. That is why I try always to reference scripture directly when making assertions of falsity with regard to his or anyone else’s teaching I believe to be false.

  55. Brian says:

    1)Listening to our hearts instead of our heads helps a whole lot more. Jesus is talking about our whole being in these verses. He is saying the intent of your heart is what matters in all things. If you premeditate to steal,murder,covet,etc. you’ve already sinned in your heart. The act of actually doing it only shows your secret.
    So what’s the blasphemy specifically? What did he say, or is it everything he says?

    2) I believe God sets before me life and death. I believe He commands me to choose life. Jesus is Life. If election were to me what it is to you He would have already chose for me and He would be breaking the commandment He Himself wrote, there would be no reason for me to choose, He would have already chosen making the commandment of no effect, His Word can not return void. He is sovereign and just and therefore there is no possibility that He can cause me to break His commandment. I believe that Jesus won the victory over sin and death, He holds the keys. If I were elected (saved or bound for salvation) prior to the foundations of the world being laid I would hold the keys from birth, He would have already given them to me. If He had already given me the keys then I would have no choice to make, but He commanded me to make a choice. So, as you say the battle is for the territory of men’s souls, me included. So my battle(only if the Holy Spirit draws me)is to choose between life and death. Men’s battle(only if drawn by the Holy Spirit) is to choose between life and death. One person sows the seed, which is the word of God(preaching), another person waters,with the word of God(teaching), and God brings the increase. But how will they know without a preacher(the Holy Spirit can’t draw them unless they’ve heard God’s word)? So without God(Father,Son,&Hloy Spirit) and His word we are helpless. God being sovereign is the only one who can win the war, it wouldn’t matter how many battles were won by men, man can’t win victory over sin or death. Without Jesus blood sacrifice winning the battle would be meaningless. If no battles were won by men, even if no man allowed himself to be drawn by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is still the victor over sin and death, the battle would be the war. I suggest that my belief in God’s sovereignty is no less than yours, that it is based on His Word just as yours is, where my belief considers the value of man to God(the very hairs of your head are numbered) and your belief considers men worthless(the fact that we deserve death doesn’t determine our worth). Only a more sovereign God could take that which deserves death and give it eternal value.

    We love(agape) because He ordained and commanded it, I see the pattern.

    3) You are correct, we are commanded to stay away from false teachers, and that’s all.
    He said He’d take care of the rest.

  56. brian says:

    Bill,

    Congratulations on your new website. I hope and pray many come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord through your new forum.
    I appreciate you bearing with me as I’ve probably gone well outside the bounds of Analysis and Critique of NOOMA 019. You obviously have studied long and hard and show much knowledge. I can remember praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand God’s word when I was ten. I like to study, reading isn’t enough for me. I’ve had to research and study just to get a base understanding of the things you write. Thirty-two years after my first study I find myself studying to defend what I believe. I think I have a glimpse of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. I am determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The things I’ve written are not with persuasive words of human wisdom. In weakness,fear,and trembling I’ve written with no faith in the wisdom of men but with faith in the power of God.
    So you and I disagree on Rob Bell,election,false teaching,and I’m sure various and asundry other things. None of that really matters to me. I haven’t even tried to contact Rob Bell. I have been corresponding with you. You have helped me see what really matters. My mission is to go into my part of the world and preach the gospel-good news, Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, come to Him all you who labor and are heavy laden and He will give you rest. I rest my case in Him, for no words can describe Him. Hope to see you There!

    Grace and Peace, Brian

  57. Joshua says:

    Hey Bill,
    Bravo for speaking the truth.

    The emergent church can twist scripture all they want and rely on their “intellect” (if you can call it that), but I prefer to rely on God’s Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God and lean not on my own understanding.

    You know you don’t have to answer them a.k.a throw your pearls before “swine”. They are most likely not truly born-again (unfortunately) and are CLEARLY unable to comprehend spiritual things. Besides, it’s your blog. 🙂 (oops was that statement not in “love”?)

    Keep on keepin’ it real brother. 🙂
    JB

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