This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do We Have to Keep Talking About Rob Bell?

…and, do we have to keep talking about homosexuality?

Good strategists know that an important aspect to winning a battle is to pick the terms on which the battle takes place. Unfortunately for Christians, we sometimes don't have that luxury. We often find ourselves forced to fight battles on terrain that we might not choose, talking about things that are not our favorite topics. We are forced to respond quickly to things that are hard to communicate in quick sound bytes.

Personally, I’m tired of talking about Rob Bell. I’m tired of talking about homosexuality. But this week, both of those topics have come front and center once again. And, whether we like it or not, it is important for the church to continue to face the issues the world demands we address.

For those who don't know, Rob Bell, former pastor at Mars Hill, recently expressed his support for same-sex marriage. I posted a few comments on a blog post that was asking whether or not we can engage in civil dialogue with Rob Bell. This is what I first posted:
If we believe that practicing a homosexual lifestyle is sinful, then there are going to be times we must break fellowship with those who disagree (e.g., Rom 1:32; 1 Cor 5:1-2). Sexual sins of all kinds are so damaging for those we love. In a sexualized culture in which any kind of deviation from God’s design is celebrated (divorce, pornography, homosexuality), may we, the Bride of Christ, clearly and lovingly call people to a better, more joyful path of obedience. 
The conversation on the blog continued and I sensed a false, emerging: will we embrace the good in Bell or will we insist on name calling? Here’s what I wrote, addressing one post in particular:

There is still a place to disagree without ugliness. Your example of area churches is good. There are issues like eschatology, baptism, ecclesiology where strong disagreements exist, yet we enjoy sweet fellowship together as brothers and sisters in Christ 
It seems that your more specific lament is: can Rob Bell still “be in the club”? Or do we throw him aside due to _____________ (fill in the blank: position on hell, homosexuality, being too cool for school). 
I think we’d all agree that there are those who articulate some truth but, by their rejection of other core, biblical truths, force us to conclude that they have fallen into the category “false teacher.” For example, let’s take the other end of the extreme. The people who are part of Westboro Baptist articulate, by their words, the gospel message. But because of their failure to have any understanding of how to rightly apply that gospel message, it is clear that they are not part of the true church. We don’t ask: “Is there still room to glean the good stuff from Westboro without all the name calling?” Their “ministry” demonstrates a blatant rejection of the character of God and lack of submission to His word. 
My opinion is that Rob Bell sometimes asks really great and challenging questions about how to relate to the culture in which we live. But after asking those questions he: (a) fails to provide any concrete, orthodox answers, or (b) attacks those who are offering orthodox answers, or (c) provides answers that are heretical/play with the edges of heresy), or (d) some combination of the above.
And while Bell’s ministry does well at sometimes exposing the ways in which the evangelical church has replaced true submission to God’s Word with submission to modernism, his ministry seems to replace submission to God’s Word with submission to a post-modern mentality. 
So what are we to do with that? Glean the good? Sure, by all means. But Bell seems to be loudly proclaiming to all who are still listening that he doesn’t want to remain a part of the church. 
Do we need to keep talking about Rob Bell? Sadly, yes. But my hope is that as we talk about Rob Bell we can expand the conversation to the Gospel…to the Good News that God’s plan for one’s life is glorious and that the obedience He calls us to is not burdensome but a blessing.

By His Grace,



  1. Rob Bell is not rejecting Jesus' teachings. In fact, show me where Jesus has ever said Homosexuals are going to hell. Rob Bell is rejecting John Calvin's teachings and you are clearly defending the teachings of the likes of Calvin. You need to make a decision. Are you going to worship the likes of Calvin or Jesus. Its your choice. Choose wisely!

  2. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I'm not really sure how John Calvin came into the discussion? Are you saying that John Calvin invented the idea that the Bible speaks against homosexuality? I think we can agree that church leaders over the past 2000 years have taken the position that practicing homosexuality falls outside the Biblical boundaries of sexual purity.

    Jesus placed Himself in line with OT teachings on sexuality and called on people to examine their hearts. Even those who may not be acting out in immoral ways may be sinning in their hearts.

    You are right about my need to make a decision. I choose to worship Jesus and pray that I would continue to make that decision day-by-day.



  3. Leviticus 18:22 states, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." Mind you, this is God speaking here. If you are a Christ follower and believe that Jesus is part of the triune God, then you must also believe Hebrews 13:8 which states, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Numbers 23:19 also aligns with this sentiment, stating "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind." Because God does not change His mind nor His character, the fact that He finds males lying with other males or females lying with females detestable on one occasion stands true for all time. I'm not trying to be hateful or unloving here, I'm just quoting God's Word. God has asked me to love all and that is what I shall way of His Word.

  4. I believe Anonymous is bringing an important question to the surface: "To what source can a follower of Christ turn in order to find answers about homosexuality (or anything)?" (Forgive me if I'm putting words in your mouth, but it seems to be this is the issue behind the issue).

    The answer, I believe, is that we turn to all of God's inspired Scripture as a source of objective truth. Indeed I value and cherish the "red letters" from the mouth of the Savior. But I similarly esteem all of the text of the Old and New Testament, for it is all authored by the Spirit of God Himself. Christ demonstrated for us this sort of high view of Scripture.

    If we, as individuals, don't start on this common ground, then it is unlikely that we will arrive at the same place on issues of sexuality, or any other number of things. The good news for all of us is that while God is a just Judge, He is also a forgiving Savior who offers a way for all sinners to be forgiven: faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  5. A recent CT review of Bell's new book is a mixed bag. See:

    Author Mark Galli does hit on the true issue of our time--epistemology. His concluding paragraph seems to me to contradict his introduction. I do not share Galli's positive assessment of Bell (and agree with Daniel's). Daniel, you might recall that I had a discussion on the topic of epistemology a few years ago at one of our CB Illinois meetings. When a person has a heretical (dare I use that word?) epistemology, hermeneutics become mental gymnastics to justify heretical theology. At that point, words lose their meaning and even affirmations of orthodoxy cannot be taken at face value because they are not meant to be straightforward communication of truth. Rather, these affirmations are intended to obfuscate the denial of the faith once delivered.