Rob Bell. You all heard of him? Yep…the Nooma guy. He’s very trendy, moreover, he has caught on to a fascinating and very effective tool for reachinga generation by way of his Nooma DVDs. The style is attractive and I can see how good they would be….
However, I believe we must sharpen our spirits when it comes to Mr Bell. His concept of salvation is worrying and typical with the rebranding of theology that is coming out of the emergant movement. I believe we need to emerge church into something new, not theology.
Anyway…a (not so) brief look at a couple of things. Bells ‘soteriology’ (understanding and teaching of the doctrine of salvation) is wonky. On page 108 of his book, Velvet Elvis, he comes out with this:
point of the cross isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something bigger: restoration
As he elaborates further,
The Bible paints a much larger picture of salvation. It describes all of creation being restored. The author of Ephesians writes that all things will be brought together under Jesus. Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and deep and big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s desire is to restore it all (ibid., 109,110)
As for many emergents (in the theological sense) salvation is all about the here an now, yes heaven is still a hope, but the focus is on now. For the Rob Bells of the world, the whole universe was redeemed by Christ on the cross when he took punishment so that God could restore it. Its not clear exacly how God is doing it, but the main point is that all people have to do to be redeemed is become ‘followers of Jesus.’ (or not, as the case may be).
You need to understand that although Bell says that “Jesus can come into our hearts”, in Velvet Elvis, he spends the whole of the previous chapter speaking against what is normally meant by that phrase in evangelical circles, so he is meaning something different.
Its unlikely to hear Bell speak about being born again because in his thinking, all that is necessary is some type of decision to believe. Its not enough just to believe, there must be repentance, faith, regeneration…regeneraton comes at the stage of repentance and faith, its not something we just gradually become until the point we make a ‘decision.’
EC has gone way too far in the opposite direction, which would not be surprising when one considers the denial of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross by virtually all of its leaders. The church must seriously begin to examine this question: How can someone even be saved by Jesus when they are denying the very means that God has established for being born again in the first place? And in 1 John chapter 2 God the Holy Spirit quite clearly tells the true follower of Jesus:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (vv.15-17)
There is very good reason for this beyond the obvious. That obvious would be that Jesus taught for one to even be born again in the first place he must “repent,” which is to turn away from “the world.” Another reason not to love the world or anything in the world is for the literal fact that everything in the world will pass away. This is what we read in The Old Testament, as evidenced by Isaiah 51:6 – Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. And this is further confirmed by the Apostle Peter, whom we must understand received this information from the Creator Himself. Whether taught in Person or by revelation Peter tells us with clarity:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:10-12)
Undoubtedly we can see here that everything will be destroyed. The only way to ignore this truth is to follow men like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren who allegorize texts such as this. However, to do so is to think as a child who covers his face with his hands and exclaims: “You can’t see me!” The fact is no matter how loud an untruth is told, it will always remain an untruth. Better that we grow up and face the real world that is passing away and let those like Rob Bell who choose to ignore warnings such as this go where they will.
So, why would the Lord destroy something completely redeemed?
And, as for the hints of universalism in his understanding of how men and women can come to the saviour, best to watch out…its not the case of starting the journey until you decide you can believe, its repentance and faith, then regneration by the Holy Spirit.
More Velvet Elvis to close:
So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.” All things everywhere. This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making. (146)
See what I mean? You’re already saved, you just have to start living as if you are. Thing is…its close to the gospel, could even be closely mistaken for the gospel, but I’m afraid it stops a little bit short.
Go on…shoot me down! :o)