Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Do Fundamentalists Hate Rob Bell?

From the title of this post, I probably have alienated all of my Fundamentalist reader(s), but that wasn’t my intension.  If you’re a Fundamentalist and still read my stuff, you must really hate me.  I imagine you are taking notes on everything that I’m wrong about, and you are waiting for the perfect time to spew many comments of disapproval all over my blog.  Or perhaps you are a Fundamentalist with an open mind and, therefore, a walking contradiction.  And so, if you are still reading this post, let’s get onto the meat of the subject: Rob Bell…the heretic?

What you shouldn’t expect from this post: the equivalent to a Rob Bell TeenMag article stating, “Rob Bell is SOOO dreamy… and available! XOXOXO”; statements why he is theologically superior to everyone else; or any claims of “Modern Day Prophet” or the equivalent. 

I like Rob Bell, I like Nooma, I like Rob Bell’s books, and, Lord willing, I hope to someday attend a service at Mars Hill Church in Michigan.  Now I’ve liked Bell for a while.  I was first exposed to the Nooma videos at the National Youth Workers Convention in Anaheim in 2006.  What was presented was Nooma Video 14, “Breathe”.  What struck me were the compelling implications of such a simple idea.  It’s like the message was there the entire time and was just waiting to jump out and grab me.

Since I’ve been working in the church, I have used a few Nooma videos on occasion.  What follows are deep conversations about aspects of faith, what it means to love, what it means to serve, and other topics that sometimes get swept under the carpet or not fully explored.  I’ve had youth ask when we’re going to do more Nooma videos.  So not only do I enjoy the videos, but the youth enjoy them AND the deep conversations that follow.

Enter Nooma video #9, “Bullhorn”.  I was screening the video before youth group sometime last year.  I liked it; Bell made some good points.  Just for fun, I decided to do a YouTube search for Rob Bell videos.  What I found was a bunch of copycat videos done to look like Nooma videos, but they were avidly against Bell’s videos.  No problem—everyone that “creates” is due some critics.  But then I got reading the comments—some funny, others disturbing, and yet others made you wonder how they figured out how to use a computer...  Upon further research, I noticed more and more people exclaiming their dislike of Bell’s teachings, even going as far as to say he’s a heretic.  One particularly funny comment I noticed on an iTunes audio book review for Bell’s book, Sex God, went on to say, “Rob Bell is a heretic.  He takes away and adds to the truth of scripture to make his point…” But yet the reviewer still must have liked the book enough to give it three out of five stars.  So he absolutely hated the message; but it was still an above average book?

My question is this: Is it really that easy to throw around the H-word in Christianity?  Just because someone disagrees with your theology (but probably not so much your theology as your implementation of your faith), you feel obligated to drop the H-bomb on someone?  Really?  My question is what gives you the right?  Where in anyone’s understanding of Christianity is arrogance and pride-filled name-calling acceptable?  Is calling someone a heretic really focusing on the things above?  Is getting the courage to write a poor review of his work really working towards the Kingdom of God?  Have you ever wondered how even the Evangelical Champions haven’t called Bell a heretic?  Do you ever think that maybe, just maybe, calling someone a heretic isn’t the best first step?  Moreover, perhaps there’s a small possibility that you misunderstood their words?  Do you think that possibly the reason that you have no credibility is because you’ve allowed yourself to fall into the 3rd grader-mentality of name-calling?

Doing a short Google search, I found a small quotation that will sum up probably 90% of the arguments against Bell.  I found it here.  And I quote:
Here’s a sample of Rob Bell’s heretical theology taken from his book, Velvet Elvis:
Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is full of forgiven people.

Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.

The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. Ours or God’s.
So there you have it, everyone is forgiven! All you have to do to go to heaven is live in God’s story (whatever that means).
See?  Do you see it?  You have decided to take an active stand against something when you don’t fully understand it.  You have decided to pick a side without fully knowing what the opposing side stands for.  But I would argue that there IS NO opposing side.  I ask you to do this: Desperately seek out the meaning of the message before you make your judgment.

So there it is—the answer…whatever that means…

My 2¢.                                                                                                                                                      


Betsy said...

I have heard some people again Rob Bell, and others that like to explain the Gospel without using all the Christianese.

Thank you for the "example," it's perfect for showing the people don't sit and figure out what Rob Bell means. I thought it made total sense.

Honestly, when you strip away the Christianese "Christians" have a hard time knowing what they believe. Sad, but true. Because it doesn't "sound right" to them. Hell is full of forgiven people. Jesus died for the world, and everyone in it. If they choose to not take part in that forgiveness (and thus live in God's story), then they choose their own path...

Hardly heretical.

I am sure there are more "issues" with him. But let's not judge on the subject unless you have read their material first hand.

Jay Miklovic said...

I read your blog and typically like it and think you do good work. I am not a big Rob Bell fan, I am not against him either, I do think he is way overrated, but all in all I am indifferent to him.

The disappointing part of your post to me was the first paragraph. You assume your title alienates 'fundamentalists' (which btw I would love to hear your def. of a fundamentalist) and then proceed to make sure that if the title didn't alienate, then the first paragraph would.

Is calling someone a 'walking contradiction' or calling someone hateful any less offensive than dropping the 'h-bomb'?

(PS, I did not take notes, or wait to find a perfect time to spew comments.)

Seriously you do good work here, and don't be discouraged by this comment for your blog as a whole, however the first paragraph of this particular posting truly does negate the rest of the post.

KaGe said...

E-cookies to Jay for calling me out. You're right Jay. I apologize for the stereotyping. I shouldn't have. I hate it when I get stereotyped, and I hope I didn't push that on someone else.

The first paragraph was supposed to be tempered with a sense of humor, but alas sarcasm is difficult to get across in writing. The 'Fundamentalist' I was thinking of was a person that is on the extreme end of the spectrum...more of a cartoon than a real person. And as such I don't think that someone like this would even read my blog because of various past posts...hence the irony and humor.

But you're right (and there's no sarcasm in these words)...I am wrong from time to time (probably more than I know). I don't claim to be the final say on anything...that's not my job.

Jay Miklovic said...

I love e-cookies, hopefully this comment will get me some e-milk to rinse it down.

I guess what I have found on the internet is that we get most of our information about various positions from people who are against that position.

The progressive gets painted as biblically illiterate, the fundamentalist gets labeled a pharisee, the Calvinist gets accused of making God the author of sin, and the Arminian gets accused of 'works righteousness'.

We all have a tendency to build a strawman of the opposition and joyfully tear it to shreds.

I do agree there is some dead fundamentalism out there. Just as there are some progressives who have allowed the 'conversation' to become and idol that has replaced God.

I think it is sad when we are known more by what we are against than by what we are for. (Which I think you did a good job of pointing out with regard to the Bell critics.) I will say that many of Bell's critics that I do read are actually thought full lovers of God do mighty things for the kingdom... others, well they just want to be against something.

I'll chat at you later, I have some Bob the Builder to go watch with my son. (I do think that Muck, Lofty, and Dizzy are all heretics by the way.)

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