The staff of LWCC had a "first" discussion of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins. A book that the senior leadership of the church believes falls well outside the boundaries of historic, evangelical faith.
That is not an unkind, uncharitable statement, for Rob Bell refers to that historic, evangelical faith as toxic and a view that has hijacked the real truth about Christ.
Frankly, when Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Spencer Burke and Peter Rollins made similar statements, we never felt the need to address them. They just are not very relevant to the large majority of people in our congregation.
Here is a pdf for the PowerPoint outline and images. It is not a very creative PP, but it does provide an outline for what we talked about.
Download Ppt RobBell
Make no mistake, Rob Bell believes truth matters. It is just that his spin on truth shows he is the hijacker, rather than the hijacked!
Here are several documents (reviews) in PDF format, that we made available to our staff. They can also be found on the web. For the most part, we believe these reviews are accurate. Depending on the reviewer, they may have a different flavor, but in the end, their assessments are pretty similar.
(1) This is by far the longest (20 pages) and most critical, but I do not think it is unfair. He shows the many biblical gymnastics and inadequacies of interpretation in this book. It also hints at the historical exaggerations scattered throughout as well. Rob Bell has thrown down the gauntlet and is very critical of historic orthodoxy on many levels. He has set the tone for this discussion when he says evangelical theology is wrong on these many vital matters.
Download Bell LoveWinsReview
(2) This is a review (5 pages) by Mark Galli, a senior managing editor of Christianity Today, which has been a mainstream journal for the evangelical movement for many decades.
Download Bell CT Review
(3) This final review (2 pages) is by Ed Setzer and can be found on their website at Christianpost.com. Ed is kind but clear in stating that Rob Bell is much more standing in the tradition of mainline liberalism. And this has been shown to be a historic dead end.
Download Bell Setzer Critique
We did several things in our discussion.
TWO: We looked at Augustine's dictum: "In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity." This launched our discussion of what is core and what is periphery in the Christian faith. And how different groups adjust the size of the core.
THREE: We spent time talking about what is actually ESSENTIAL to make a saving profession of faith in Christ. For example, while we may say that the doctrine of the Trinity is core for the faith, must one understand that doctrine to cross the line of saving faith?
FOUR: We looked at a model of plotting where various churches, writers and theologies fall on the spectrum of Change in Message - Change in Methodology.
FIVE: We defined the terms of this discussion: Orthodoxy, historic, traditional, apostolic, reformational, evangelical and the one main terms standing in opposition - Liberalism.
We walked people through an explanation of church Creeds, Catechisms, Confessions and Statements of Faith. The first document is a short explanation for defining terms. The others are all documents easily obtainable on the web. We simply provide them here in a PDF format.
SIX: We looked at the issue of FALSE TEACHING (which the Scriptures talk about often and forcefully). For example, see: Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 23, 1 Timothy 4:1-10; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:10-45 and 2 Peter 2.
We looked at the issue of a "spectrum of false teaching" (is it unbalanced, distorted, bad, heretical or apostate) with the fact that there is an increasing seriousness with these words.
We then asked an important question: How much bad teaching needs to be in a book (or a sermon) until one concludes - this is just a bad book? By way of comparison. How much urine can be added to water until one refuses to drink the water, since it can no longer be called water? 5%... 10%... 25%... Or, how many times can a spouse commit adultery until you feel justified in saying, this spouse is not a faithful spouse but is an adulterous spouse?
One of the reasons we did this is from hearing people say, yes the book has a lot of problems, but there are things we really like in the book! (Just worth thinking about . . .)
SEVEN: We looked at the theological positions of classic liberal theology, compared with classic orthodoxy and asked - where does Rob Bell fall on these matters?
EIGHT: We spent some time talking about the missiology behind all this. We live in a time, once again, when Christianity has its many cultural despisers. In a cultural season of pluralism, relativism and tolerance as the greatest value (except for orthodox positions), how do we function as missional servants in the world?
When it comes to the spectrum of the gospel in the world, we can be:
(1) irrelevant (faithful to the gospel, but hopelessly unable to connect and communicate to the culture.
(2) contextualized (faithful to the gospel, but skilled in connecting with the culture and communicating in ways that create dialogue and interest).
(3) syncretistic (where we are unfaithful to the gospel, seeking to accommodate its message so it does not offend the culture.
And we didn't yet look at particulars of Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. This was mainly to set the stage for how one reads, thinks, assesses and responds to books like this.
Brian K. Rice
Living Word Community Church