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Boaz

I don't know anything about Rob Bell's theology, but I think you go the wrong with with this.

You say Bell misses clear lines and definitions. Lutherans often accept that the plain truth that the clear lnes and definitions the Bible gives us are mysterious. Lutherans embrace mystery in Baptism, Christ's real presence in Holy Communion, God's election of the saved, the power of the Word to do great things, and in God's nature as the Holy Trinity. These are incomprehensible, illogical doctrines that are at the center of our faith. They are clearly laid out in Scripture, but that doesn't mean they lack mystery.

These paradoxes are only truly embraced in the Lutheran church, where they are not explained out of existence by human reason. And, the mysteries are allowed to exist only insofar as they arise in the Bible. We do not create mystery for our emotional needs or for the sake of obtaining a sense of fulfillment, which sounds like Bell's real problem.

Chris Rosebrough

Boaz,

You're commtting a category fallacy.

It is one thing to say "it is a mystery how God forgives and washes away sins in Baptism yet it is clearly taught in scripture" and something completely different to say that "The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up"

I do not know how the mystery of the combustion engine works yet I embrace this mystery every time I hop in my vehicle and turn the key. I can define a car with very clear neat lines and hard definitions.

Bell's version of 'embracing mystery' on the other hand would have us believing that we can't even define what a car is or how it works. That would be tantamount to putting our cars in a box.

Brian of the Hill People

Here is the most difficult thing for me to understand with those who preach some form of gnosticism, whether Rob bell or anyone else in history:

If we can't really know much of anything about God, and everything is hopelessly mysterious, (which is not the same as denying that there is much unrevealed by God to us or implying that I have a complete comprehension of everything He has revealed) what is the point of anyone at all preaching or teaching God?

(using rhetorically the word 'you' below, not actually addressing anyone in particular)

If I am to assume you have no real, vetted knowledge of God from God (i.e. His Word), but only mysteries, then in essence, you have nothing else to teach me. To attempt to teach me anything would only be your opinion, which cannot be verified by a mystery no one can know, and in the end, useless. My own opinion would be just as valid as yours, no matter how much it differs from or even contradicts your own opinion.

If you question my stance that my opinion is just as valid as yours, where is the standard by which we could judge between them? We would need some form of known measurement, a true standard, yet all we would have is mystery, therefore no footing would exist in which to promote your own opinion as superior or correct or true.

By default winning my case for the validity of my own opinion because you are left with no tangible way to refute it without collapsing your entire premise, I can therefore rightly state that anything you have to state about God or teach about Him is useless because it hangs solely on unknowable mystery. You are, in effect, a useless teacher because you cannot, by your own premise, reveal anything else beyond the fact that I cannot know or be sure of anything concerning God that I can rely on as true or useful.

God revealed much about Himself in His Word. Some of those things are that there is no darkness in Him, His Word is truth and settled forever, and that He is eternal, just, perfect, and holy. This only represents a little of all that He revealed about Himself but if I read His Word and He reveals these to me, I can now know what was unknowable and a mystery before. I now have some clear guides, definitions, and knowledge concerning God.

Is it a totality of everything there is to know in an eternal, infinite, omnipotent, and omnicognisant God? Of course not. There are still mysteries and secret things that belong to Him alone. But if He is truthful, then I now have learned some things for a fact and can share them as fact, without fear that I am wrong or lying.

Embracing mystery... what does that even mean? Does it mean "I love not knowing things dearly"? It sounds a lot like "ignorance is bliss".

MProps

Since converting to Orthodoxy, I've come to understand that much of what the Emergent Church is seeking is really a change from the traditional puritanical approach to church. Yet, without moorings in Orthodoxy, they navigate a dangerous path littered with heresy. Having formerly been Reformed, I placed most of my emphasis on the teaching portion of my Ecclesiastical life. I was a staunch Calvinist and determinist. My lines were clear. Then I discovered the Fathers and Orthodoxy and the view of Scripture + Tradition. All of a sudden, the reason the emergent church is what it is has started to become immensely more clear. The baby is looking for its mother, yet, because it is a baby, it is easily prayed on by the foxes. Have mercy on the emergent church, and take great care, that you have not missed the true meaning of corporate worship and mystery for yourself.

Mike Ratliff

Chris,

When I was a new Christian back in the mid 1980's I remember an ad in every issue of our local newspaper that had the title: "Esoteric Christianity!".Then in smaller letters a bit further down in the ad there was the word "Gnosticism." Then there was a phone number which I never called. However, when I took to my Pastor at that time to ask him what it was. Then I got the education as much of the New Testament to be written to teach believers and warn them of the dangers of the mystery religions which claimed to be true Christianity. They were all lumped together into what came to be known as Gnosticism.

I have been wondering on Rob Bell and other emergents in the past of them falling into the deception of this evil. Thank you for this post brother. Our role is to continue to shine the light of God's Truth into this present darkness. Let us pray that God uses this to draw many out of it into repentance and salvation.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Mike Ratliff

Chris,

When I was a new Christian back in the mid 1980's I remember an ad in every issue of our local newspaper that had the title: "Esoteric Christianity!".Then in smaller letters a bit further down in the ad there was the word "Gnosticism." Then there was a phone number which I never called. However, when I took it to my Pastor at that time to ask him what it was I got the education that much of the New Testament was written to teach believers and warn them of the dangers of the mystery religions at that time which claimed to be true Christianity. They were all lumped together into what came to be known as Gnosticism.

I have been wondering about Rob Bell and other emergents for quite awhile about what they were doing in the past of them falling into the deception of this evil. Thank you for this post brother. Our role is to continue to shine the light of God's Truth into this present darkness. Let us pray that God uses this to draw many out of it into repentance and salvation.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Dr. Neill H. Payne

Rob Bell, like every other preacher of another Gospel, reminds me of one of Mark Twain's quotes on the Bible,
"It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." They all love to avoid the clear parts of Scripture while emphasizing the parts that are less clear. Thereby they avoid having to deal with clear doctrines by hiding in the incense clouds of mystery.

I, for one, am a Reformed Christian Calvinist and I very much appreciate the element of mystery in the Holy Mysteries of our common Faith. There is perhaps some validity in the criticism of the Reformed that they can be hyper-rationalist. However, as one who began his Christian walk in the Greek Orthodox Church, I am very leery of any formulation that equivocates Scripture and Tradition. Without meaning to offend my brother MProps, I see historically that every time anything is elevated to an equal level of authority with Scripture, Scripture inevitably takes second place, be it the Book of Mormon, or Mary Baker Eddie's Science and Health with key to the Scriptures or the Magisterium of the Church. Jesus always appealed to "it is written" not "thus sayeth the Tradition of the Elders."

Neill H. Payne

Boaz

I typed to fast in my first post. You go the wrong way with this by implying there is something wrong with embracing mystery or that we should try to conquer mystery. I'm all for embracing mystery. We just need to make sure that we are only embracing mysteries that arise from what God says about himself in Scripture.

You say there is something wrong with this: "The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up." By itself, I think that statement is fine. God does not fully reveal himself in Scripture. We aren't supposed to look for clear definitions or try to figure him out. Anytime a church adds to what God says about himself in Scripture, the church ends up with a God that is not the God of the Bible. We stop where Scripture stops, even if that ends in paradox.

Bell's problem is that he is not using the Bible to learn what God says about himself. He sees it as a "human product." He then makes up his own mysteries to embrace, based on whatever he will find subjectively fulfilling. He has a sola scriptura problem. The gnostics also rejected scripture, so I think that comparison is holds.

We are probably talking past each other. I just wanted to point out that running from mystery can lead to major errors. Lutheranism does not go looking for mysteries where Scripture is clear. But it does not resolve mysteries where Scripture does not completely reveal God's nature and works; it embraces those mysteries.

lDAY

If God is a mystery then how can I know God and how can I be sure God is the right God. In a quest for truth instead of trusting in the truth as written in the Holy Scripture of the Bible I am left with three possibilities, fashioning my own piece of wood and calling it a God,disregarding God and believing that I am the god and possibly becoming polytheistic,not believing in God at all because I have no sure answer,belief that all religions are the same and lead to God( the Dennis Prager View).

We cannot believe in option 1 because statues don't answer prayers, bestow grace, or provide comfort when boats are sinking. In statues there is no assurance beacuse one knows that they created the idol. Option 2 leads me no where except hell because I am in a quest for truth that is always staring at me. Rob Bell, is in similar quandry. Option 3 is invalid because all religions do not have the same beliefs or desire the same results. This is what happens when all things become a mystery.

There are things are inexplicable in Scripture and sometimes it is because it is more knowledge than we can tolerate and some things are a matter of faith(Sacraments as water and word and not representations, They are Sacraments because Christ says they are.)In otherwords, let us not go beyond what is written.

what Bell is doing is just that and the circle he is walking in leads to the same place, the broad road that leads to destruction( Hell for apostates.)

I can say more about this but my time is limited.

gary d.

Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis claims that, "The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up." (as quoted by Chris Rosebrough). How does Bell know that? He's asserting that he's "figured out" God enough to know no one else can. He says he's crossed the uncrossable gulf and seen God and come back to tell you your clear understanding of Him is a manmade idol. Bell is asserting he knows what is inside everyone's understanding of God. Bell says he knows what you think. Bell is also limiting God's power to make Himself known to us. But Isaiah had no knowledge of Bell's ignorance, He "saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne" with the angels worshipping Him (Isaiah 6:1-4). And neither did Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Job who said to Him, "But now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I take back my words and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:1-6). Perhaps the best reproof for the prophet of merciless uncertainty is John: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life - that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us--what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" (1John1-4). "And not only that, but we ourselves have the Spirit as the first fruits..(who) joins to help in our weakness..The Spirit intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirits mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:23,26-27). Bell statement is meaningless and hopeless, the exact opposite of God's word. He is no match for Christ.

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