One Time Rob Bell…

2 Aug

One time Rob Bell said this:

“Be careful of people who grab a line from an interview with me and wave that one line around. “What about this? He said this.” Understand that an interview is hours of talking, and that the media can write anything they want. Does that make sense? Please understand that you can take any line, isolate it from its context, and make the person be saying all kinds of things that they never intended to say. Or at least isolate it from the context of the words.

Please understand that there are blogs, and rumors of blogs, and people on blogs can write anything they want. People can write anything they want, and they can be as unbelievably hurtful because the internet is a safe, anonymous place for cowards.

And so please be careful of taking things that are being said as if they’re etched in stone. They’re not. It’s a website. It’s an review. That’s all it is.

We need to be careful that we don’t get dragged into things.

For those of you who take heat, here’s a phrase that I think is very helpful. Four words: Historic Orthodox Christian faith. Perhaps a simple line that would be helpful to people is, “At Mars Hill, we are trying to live out historic orthodox Christian faith. Where do you see that we’re not…”

“Well, you talk about questions.”

Show me where questions aren’t central to the Scriptures. Show me – whatever you’re talking about – where it’s not part of historic orthodox Christian faith.

So the real question is how are we going to respond, because we’re just getting started. There will be more praise, and there will be more Pharisees. I would respond with two words: love wins.

I deeply appreciate some of you who have entered into the public fray. I don’t read any of this, I’m told that some of you have written letters to the editor, you’ve gone on the internet, and your love and support for this place and for me personally, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Some of you are like, “Come on, what are you saying about us?” That means more to me…but I might ask you to reconsider, simply because I don’t know how much it helps. Some people, no matter what you say, have a hardness of heart and aren’t going to change.

Please be very, very careful who you engage with.

Some people simply have questions, and simply want to discuss. Wonderful. But some people are miserable, and they use religion as a crutch to avoid dealing with their misery and their pain. And what gets masqueraded as Christian faith is not. And we need to be careful spending all sorts of energy engaging with people who don’t have any interest in coming along on the journey with us.

I would ask you before you engage – and there’s nothing wrong with engaging – to perhaps ask, “Could I redirect the energy I’m about to spend towards somebody who’s never, ever heard that God loves them?” And let us be the kind of community who engages in the right kinds of discussions, but otherwise we’re too busy loving people with the transforming love of Christ to engage in the mudslinging that goes on. You are too valuable to me, and your time and your energy, you’re too valuable in our community to end up in some sort of theological kung-fu with somebody who ultimately thinks they’re right. There will always be Pharisees. God’s on the lookout for disciples.”

–Rob Bell, 9.11.05

I actually think that most of it is brilliant and flows nicely.  He is after all a near genius communicator.  Here is the problem though: isn’t it all rather easy to silence your critics by calling them all pharisees?   I mean isn’t it rather simple to pop in and say “I was taken our of context, my critics are loser fundies…I’m out.”  I mean after all this is a man who is quoted nearly weekly by the local press here.  If the comments are that far out of context why keep giving the interviews?  And what if those who are critiquing aren’t pharisees but rather fellow Ministers of the good news to a post-Christian world?  What if they aren’t people who hate everything new, but rather people who just love the King and His book and just think that Rob is plain old wrong about some things?  What if they are people who care deeply about justice and mercy and the poor,  about the fact the the Christian life is made to be lived now,  about the fact that our lot of of forebearers reduced the good news to a formula for how to get to another world..what if they are all those things and still disagree?  Do they then become Pharisees?


18 Responses to “One Time Rob Bell…”

  1. Matthew August 3, 2007 at 1:45 pm #

    Yes, my friend.

  2. poopemerges August 3, 2007 at 1:50 pm #

    So Matt…are you saying that genuine disagreement and critique makes one a Pharisee?


  3. Billy Chia August 4, 2007 at 12:49 am #

    “Do they then become Pharisees?”

    Is your implication that Bell is calling everyone who disagrees with him a pharisee?

    That seems to be taking his words a bit out of context. 🙂

  4. poopemerges August 4, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    that is an odd comment, because I have read it over several times, and given that the context was people who disagreed with him, it seems that I a reading straight from the context….

  5. Billy Chia August 4, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Dear poop,
    First off, I’d like to say I think you’re blog is hilarious and insightful. I’ve been enjoying your feed for a week or two now.

    Although I never have been one to turn down a good discussion. Here’s my take:

    It’s like an SAT logic question:

    “There are oranges in the bowl”

    If this is true what else is true?

    1. There is fruit in the bowl.
    2. There are bananas in the bowl.
    3. There are no bananas in the bowl.

    The fact is that only #1 is logically deducible from the information given.

    Bell says,
    “there will be more Pharisees”
    “There will always be Pharisees”

    Based on this information Bell is calling some pharisees, but not all who disagree with him.

    If your implication is that Bell calls everyone who disagrees with him a pharisee then I think you are effectively claiming there are bananas in the bowl. 🙂

  6. poopemerges August 4, 2007 at 7:44 pm #

    I suppose you are right and that I may be going all ultra-emergent and deconstruction Bell..perhaps even “repainting” him for my own context. But to me this is the proverbial “banana” in the bowl:

    “Be careful of people who grab a line from an interview with me and wave that one line around.”

    To me he is preemptively trying to discredit anyone who would want him to answer honestly for what he says. He then goes on to the Pharisee comment which I would assume looks back rhetorically to this…


  7. jonathanbrink August 9, 2007 at 6:24 pm #

    I’m trying to figure out why you are having such a hard time believing that Rob is simply saying, “Be careful of people who grab a line from an interview with me and wave that one line around,” and that he’s calling these people Pharisees. Why do you need to assume he is calling everyone Pharisees? Is it possible he’s talking about the people who pull lines out of an interview? Is it possible that there are people who spew hateful stuff at him? He lives in a fishbowl with so many people who are so easy to hide behind their websites. Rob is out there. He’s putting it all on the line every week. At least give him that credit.

  8. poopemerges August 9, 2007 at 11:30 pm #

    A bit of context: I regularly rip on Rob for stuff that he says in interviews with the Grand Rapids Press…My point in general is that it is nice for Rob to say he is about the orthodox Christian faith, but from where I sit he is not, am I free to disagree or am I a Pharisee? What about actually dealing with what he says instead of telling people to ignore those who question him.

    Secondly: You are right…Rob is out there! Way out there. And I almost shed a tear when you made it sound like he was the only preacher who lives in a fish bowl…

  9. zonked August 31, 2007 at 12:06 am #

    I think you are right poop I’m a pastor who has concerns about What rob is saying and the way he is saying it i have a deep desire for God And to engage a changing society with love, forgiveness, acceptance,and grace. Our church is contemporary, relevant and filled with young people looking to discover God in a meaningfully way. The bible is a book that has absolutes in it and if love wins, then where’s the love when it comes to me. I am no Pharisee But i have questions. 2 Tim 2 :2 Paul said to Timothy stay with proven truths you have received of me among many wittinesses that word means judicial Judgment even prophecy Gods word says must be judged by prophets. My scriptural mandate is to rightly divide the word of truth there is a right way and there is a wrong way, but if you relegate scripture to a work of man and not divine authority then i guess anything goes including calling people like me a pharisee
    where,s the love IN THAT ROB?

  10. iah August 31, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    Great feed.

    Zonked, love is not best mafinested when comparing doctrines. I certainly understand concerns about doctrine or suggestive doctrine, but I have never heard Rob Bell attack or undermine anyone specific persons perspectives directly. I certainly do not want to be the one to throw the first stone at anyone. If I look in the mirror, I have enough work to do to become Christ like without adding on the addtional pressure of figuring out what that looks like for eveyone else. I know that you don’t want to draw a proverbial line in the sand and classify God’s creation into “US” and “THEM”. I know thatGod loves his creation and see’s you, Rob, and even me as PRECIOUS. With that in mind, can we just love each other? When we find ourselves frustrated with one another can we simply ask God to show us how he loves this person? Just my two cents.

  11. poopemerges August 31, 2007 at 11:26 am #


    That is good advice on how to get along with one another in the church and extremely naive
    advice on how to deal with false teaching in the Bible…The fact is Rob is as teacher and teachers are held to a higher standard. Beyond that Paul tells us over and over to watch our doctrine closely. And Jude tells us to contend for it.

  12. iah August 31, 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    Great points and perspective.

    I am simply curious as to why any denomination or specific perspective thinks that they have a monopoly on truth and interpretation of scripture. If anyone had God figured out he wouldn’t be God. People are conservative for the same reason that people are liberal. People are “emergent” for the same reason that people are Baptist or Catholic or Muslim for that matter. They believe that their opinions are right. Does this make everyone’s opinion, doctrine or theology correct? Obviously not, but if we look at intentions first (in love) and then deal with the things that we disagree on, we will have a much greater chance of effecting change by not getting in God’s way with our own pre-suppositions, judgements, and lack of understanding. People seem to have an easier time listening to you when they feel like you are not attacking them. Love first, then doctrine. Good conversation.

  13. poopemerges August 31, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    I agree no one has a monopoly on the truth…I do however think there is a such thing as orthodoxy. One can be Baptist or Reformed or Wesleyan and while I will disagree with some, they will still be within orthodox bounds and I am fine with that. The issue with Roberto is that he often falls outside those bounds…

    You are making a false separation between love and doctrine, as though they can not coexist…In my opinion standing against false doctrine islove. It is love both for Rob and for those who might be lead astray by his teaching. He is after all a teacher and therefore held to a higher standard…and what do you mean by love? Is it being happy smiley? In the general sense I love Rob Bell, as for his teaching I think it is crap…and dangerous crap at that…can I love him and say that at the same time?

    Leave a Reply

  14. iah August 31, 2007 at 1:26 pm #

    I mean God. I am certainly not talking about being smiley happy. Did Christ attack his attackers? Was he smiley happy on his way to the cross? He was sympathizing with THEM. He was praying for THEM. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He was not being condescending, I believe that prayer was a genuine pleading with God on behalf of these people. Can you imagine? This perspective is invaluable for me. It is priceless. Of course we can disagree (“think it’s crap”) and still love each other. We have been called to do just that. There is a healthy place for debate, but not when the debate becomes about personal attacks. It’s not just a “general” sense of love. It is an action, a difficult decision, a creed to live your life by. This is how I want to live my life. This is my ultimate goal. Not to propogate my perspective on orthodoxy. We probably agree on more doctrinal points than you realize.

  15. zonked August 31, 2007 at 8:57 pm #

    The only personal attack to be true to what is really happening is the personal attack by rob bell on anyone with a different opinion re the position of the authority of God’s word by calling them pharisees. If you fit his description, it is personal. Not that i take offense I don’t But i love God’s word and will always contend for it’s authority. It’s interesting that he and those who follow this line of thinking are open to truth being from God where ever it is found except if that person believes in the authority of the word of God. Much of the bible is not up for interpretation it is so clear a 5 year old could understand it’s clarity. That was God’s intention in the first place unless you become as a little child you can not inherit the kingdom of God.2Ti 2:15 Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that dose not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
    2Ti 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: because they will increase to more ungodliness.
    rightly dividing – mean to make a straight cut. which means defined lines can be drawn and clearly the responsibility there is on workmen making it clear and definitive. If you play around with the clarity of God’s word it is not Good for you and everyone who you influence. My love for Rob is not in question I love him unconditionally, but love is not to sympathize with him only, but my love for him can also be expressed in correction. I love my two boys with a love so great it hurts sometimes but if they are doing something wrong I will tell them they are wrong, and when expressed in an atmosphere of unconditional love of which they have no doubt,can be my greatest expression of love for them because i run the risk of hurting them. Correction is an important principle in God’s word as important as love is because correction is sometimes the greatest expression of love.
    One of my best friends claims to be a “Christian” homosexual activist with the expressed desire to bring the homosexual Christian back to the pentecostal churches he is a best selling author on the subject and is called on in the main stream prime time media to speak on the subject of gay rights i disagree with him but our friendship is never brought into question because of our strong disagreements.I never find our conversations ending up in an interview on a television talk back show because he respects our friendship.

  16. Mike Greiner September 5, 2007 at 1:33 pm #

    I admit, I find Rob Bell’s “I’m a nice guy, why are people being mean?” to be a bit immature. He has influence. He should expect all kinds of interaction with his words.

    However, I would say at times he engages in what C. S. Lewis termed Bulverism. This is where instead of dealing with a person you simply label the person unworthy, and therefore can discount all they say.

    Let me give three examples (two from the quoted text).

    1.”There will be more praise, and there will be more Pharisees.” This dichotomy is implicitly pejorative. In other words, the prima facia reading says, “I have people who like what I say, and I have Pharisees.”

    2. “Some people simply have questions, and simply want to discuss. Wonderful. But some people are miserable, and they use religion as a crutch to avoid dealing with their misery and their pain. And what gets masqueraded as Christian faith is not. And we need to be careful spending all sorts of energy engaging with people who don’t have any interest in coming along on the journey with us.”
    What kind of arrogance would be engendered in me if I looked at life like I am being encouraged to do? I can do away with any detractor by dropping him into the “miserable crutch-religion masquerading as faith” category, and then write him off.

    3. Listening to the God is Green sermons, Bell described a detractor’s point of view by saying that anyone who thinks that particular thing has co-opted the “exploitative” mindset and can’t see the truth. What a convenient way to dispatch with one’s detractor.

    one other comment on the word, “Coward.” Yes, the internet does allow anonymous communication, and no doubt some are cowards (although I wonder how Rob can so easily judge another’s heart?). However, as a fellow pastor, perhaps there is something known as a bully pulpit, with a capital bully. Bell need only defend himself on blogs or in sermons and he’ll have a 1000 supporters to rush to his side and say how misunderstood he is and how he is right. Most of your singular voices don’t have an army of slathering groupies to support them. 🙂

    Finally, to Rob, I’d say, if you want to run with the big dogs, learn to lift your leg. we live in a public forum. If you insulate yourself too much from your critics, you might start swallowing only what your supporters say –and that is a dangerous position for any pastor.

  17. Chris Wagler July 7, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    OK, this is for Zonk, I know very little about the discussion, but I heard the same message you all are talking about and I have a question. you keep saying you love th word of God and I get the feeling you are saying that Rob Bell doesn’t (which maybe he doesn’t I am not Rob Bell I don’t know) Any way at the start of his message he says, “we affirm everything the bible affirms” so I not getting where you think he doesn’ really like the bible. this maybe a dumb question but o well.
    Thank you much love

  18. mikevandrie July 8, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    Just because he says that he affirms everything the Bible affirms that doesn’t mean that he does. In fact if you read the things he has published and his sermons he doesn’t affirm everything that the Bible affirms.

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