Rob Bell's theology is moving in a very disturbing direction. I've never been much of a fan of his theology but now I feel compelled to throw the Galatians 1:6-9 Card. Why? In Rob Bell's latest interview with Christianity Today he couldn't even give a simple, concise or Biblically correct definition of the Gospel.
Here is the exchange from the interview that needs to be highlighted and scrutinized:
CT: 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.
Rob Bell: 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.
CT: You're essentially reframing the gospel—at least the gospel you inherited, the gospel we have known as the gospel in North America for the last couple hundred years.
Rob Bell: I am leery of people who have very clear ideas of what they're doing from outside of themselves: "You have to understand that I'm doing this and doing this." I would say that for 10 years, I have tried to invite people to trust Jesus. You can trust this Jesus. You can trust him past, present, future; sins, mistakes, money, sexuality. I think this Jesus can be trusted.
I often put it this way: If there is a God, some sort of Divine Being, Mind, Spirit, and all of this is not just some random chance thing, and history has some sort of movement to it, and you have a connection with Whatever—that is awesome. Hard and awesome and creative and challenging and provoking.
And there is this group of people who say that whoever that being is came up among us and took on flesh and blood—Andrew Sullivan talks about this immense occasion the world could not bear. So a church would be this odd blend of swagger—an open tomb, come on—and humility and mystery. The Resurrection accounts are jumbled and don't really line up with each other—I really relate to that. Yet something momentous has burst forth in the middle of history. You just have to have faith, and you get caught up in something. I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I'm really absolutely sure of some things that I don't quite know.
CT: How would you present this gospel on Twitter?
Rob Bell: [pay attention to Bell's answer/non-answer] 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.
CT: Not quite down to 140 characters.
Rob Bell: Well, you can't really tweet the gospel. I'm convinced that I am not doing anything new. I am hoping that I'm in a long tradition.
Bell's claim that you 'can't really tweet the gospel' is VERY TELLING. I think it fundamentally shows that Bell has either rejected the Biblical Gospel or that he actually doesn't know what the Biblical Gospel is.
Oddly enough the Biblical Gospel CAN be tweeted. I accomplished this easy task while on the air yesterday. Here's the Gospel I Tweeted in less than 140 characters.
The Gospel: Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised on the 3rd day & he appeared to Peter then to the 12 http://bit.ly/3Wpqm
Notice that this Gospel Tweet even contains a bit.ly link to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. This passage of scripture gives the Biblical gospel in clear creedal simplicity. In fact, Biblical scholar and theologian Gary Habermas has written extensively on this passage of scripture. He is convinced that this passage contains one of the earliest Christian creeds. I think Habermas makes a great point. The very structure of this passage is creedal, especially the opening phrases.
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
he was buried,
he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,
he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive
he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
More important than the creedal nature of this passage is the Apostle Paul's clear claims that this creed comprises the very essence of the Gospel that he preached. Paul told the Corinthian church that this creed IS the Gospel that he preached to them, which they received and it IS the Gospel they are standing on and it IS the Gospel by which they are being saved:
1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved,
It's clear from this passage that so concisely defines the Gospel that the Apostle Paul would have had no trouble AT ALL tweeting the Gospel in 140 characters or less. The fact that Rob Bell couldn't even come close and then claimed that it couldn't be done is disturbing at best.
Even more problematic is the content of Bell's "gospel". It doesn't communicate the good news that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, came to earth, lived a perfect life under the Mosaic law and died in our place as our substitute on the cross for our sins and that salvation is a free gift offered by God to all who would repent and believe this good news.
Bell's "gospel" isn't really good news at all. It is convoluted, hard to understand and doesn't touch on any of the real Biblical themes and content of the Biblical Gospel.
Sadly, I think Rob Bell's "militant mysticism" has caused him to wander off the Christian reservation and he and those foolish enough to follow him with this UNgospel are adrift at sea without a rudder.
It's time to pray for Bell and call him to repentance and the forgiveness of sins offered in Jesus' name through the true Biblical gospel found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6.