Rob Bell gave an interview to Christianity Today which you can read here. Rob Bell is a guy I wrestle with. I love his heart. I believe he loves Jesus, as he understand him, and that he has deep compassion for those who are hurting and lost. I have been provoked, convicted, frustrated, and inspired by Rob Bell. But I began wondering a few years ago about his trajectory. I wondered where his shift in understanding the Gospel to be primarily one of social justice, and joining God in re-creation. Well the article has me right back in a spot of wrestling with Rob Bell and uncertain about his path.
For example here is one question and response in the interview.
All well and good, but how is this good news to people with no earthly hope? If I’m dying of aids or cancer, I probably don’t give a rip about the renewal of all things. I want to know if my sins are forgiven, and when I die, if am I going to see Jesus or not.
Yes, and I would say that central to that new creation is the problem with the first creation—death. The Resurrection is about God dealing with the death problem. And central to this giant cosmic hope is a very intimate, yes, you can trust this Jesus. You can trust this new creation. You can trust being with him when you die, when you leave this life, however you want to put it. Yes, there is an intensely personal dimension to this giant story that you and I get to be a part of.
Bell’s comments are stirring and emotively resonate with many ( I know they do with me). But I am left hanging… What is the death problem? And how does God deal with it? Fundementally there has been a split or separation in the relationship between God and humans. The death problem is that we have turned away from God in favor of our own rule and will, this is sin (Rom. 6) . I like where Bell is going in this answer but I just wish he would have finished the story like Paul did;
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:20).
Oh how sweet that through the BLOOD of Jesus on the CROSS God took care of the “death problem.”
Now for some comments that truly puzzle me.
“I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I’m really absolutely sure of some things that I don’t quite know.”
I do not want to go to far with this but I just do not know what Bell means. Is he referring to the Trinity? Context seems to suggest not. As an overall strategy of militant mysticism (which is a strong reliance on mystery) is a shabby substitute for a God who has gracefully revealed so much, not everything, but more than enough for us not to perpetually walk in the fog of questioning about central matters of the story of God’s redemptive history.
Asked to give a brief telling of what Bell believes to be the Gospel this is the response that Bell gives.
How would you present this gospel on Twitter?
I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Against you alone God has humanity sinned. And you God made him who knew no sin to be sin so that we might be reconciled to God. You reconcile us to you through the Cross so that we might be conformed to his image and that Jesus would be the first born among many brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom.
There is simply no more story or new creation that Rob Bell calls us to, without the work of Christ on the Cross. If we lose the work on the Cross we lose everything.
I implore all of you to say no thanks to “tiny slivers” of some possible great oneness, and instead choose the blood stained cross, and empty tomb of Jesus.
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