Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan was recently called “The Hipper-Than-Thou-Pastor” by Time magazine. (Dec. 06, 2007).
ON THIS PAGE
Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and Seeds of Compassion
So What is Seeds of Compassion?
Compassion and Buddhism
Who is The Dalai Lama and What Does He Teach?
Rob Bell’s Platitudes
The Gods Aren't Angry
Rob Bell and Ken Wilber
Beware The Dogs... Hypocrisy Unlimited
Rob Bell and Seeds of Compassion
A March 13th, 2008 entry on Doug Pagitt’s blog said
I will be part of the Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle April 14-17…. I am extremely excited about this event. Rob Bell is the only other friend who is part of the portion of the event I am part of, but the other panelists look terrific. 
So What is Seeds of Compassion?
According to the SOC website it was an event…
“Anchored by the deep wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this community–focused event celebrated and explored the relationships, programs and tools that nurture and empower children, families and communities to be compassionate members of society”. [Emphasis Added]
On April 15 the Youth and Spiritual Connection Day focused on “ the common theme of compassion that lies at the heart of the world's spiritual traditions”. Moderated by Roshi Joan Halifax, Zen Buddhist Master…The panel consisted of 
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Episcopal Archbishop of South Africa,
Dr. Rob Bell, Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, Michigan.
Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine Catholic nun,
Jasmit Singh Kochar, a Sikh representative,
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America,
Rabbi David Rosen, Chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, Pravrajika Vrajaprana, a Vendanta nun.
There are those that would argue that this was a secular event. However the Dalai Lama is unquestionably a religious leader and innumerable sources describe the event as an interfaith event. Not just a conversation between people of different faiths, but an effort to bridge the gap and make spiritual connections. For example one attendee, the Rev Katie M Ladd, a United Methodist Pastor in Seattle, Washington described herself as “fortunate to attend the closing event on Tuesday” and said she spent… [Emphasis Added]
… “the whole day listening as the panel discussed compassion, interfaith dialogue and respect, hope in the midst of despair and destruction, and the inviolability of the self”. 
The collaborative wiki website has a section on Seeds of Compassion. In A Vocabulary for Deepening Our Dialogue about Compassion, it says… [Emphasis Added]
Interfaith - Bridging religious traditions, interfaith dialogue seeks to deepen understanding and to find common ground.
Interspiritual - We come together from many wisdom traditions, seeking to elevate the value on compassionate action that is a part of our shared moral core. Interspiritual is broader than interfaith in that it recognizes that our hunger for morality and meaning is not bounded by our religious heritage though it is deeply manifest there. We cherish the deep spiritual struggle and insights that are present in many people who subscribe to a specific religious or philosophical tradition and in many who simply see themselves as members of a broadly human wisdom heritage. 
The LiveDaily News Blog says [Emphasis Added]
Matthews, the Dalai Lama and others will enter a dialog during the event on the role of music in helping to build cultural, racial and religious bridges and how emotions experience through music unify and ultimately serve to create global compassion. 
In an article entitled Dalai Lama starts five-day "Seeds of Compassion" event, Michael Rollins of The Oregonian tells us…[Emphasis Added]
“Amidst swirling controversy on several continents, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has started a five-day conference in Seattle that focuses on children learning about compassion… The Seattle appearance by the Dalai Lama is focused on his teachings, with the politics of the Olympic games in the shadows”. 
But perhaps the last word should go to the Dalai Lama, whose web site carries an article entitled Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu Join Seattle Interfaith Discussion, which says [Emphasis Added]
“On the last day of the Dalai Lama's visit to Seattle for a gathering on compassion, he joined Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other Buddhist representatives — along with some young people — for a panel discussion on spiritual connection” 
Additionally on Monday, April 14 [Children & Youth Day] an “An Evening of Music, Art & Dance” was held at McCaw Hall. The “acclaimed group of artists” that donated their time included [Emphasis Added]
“Mystical music from the Middle East, with the Yuval Ron Ensemble (led by the Oscar-winning composer), Qawwalli master vocalist Sukhawat Ali Khan, dancer Jewish-Moroccan Maya Karasso, lead singer Najwa Gibranand, and the Sufi Whirling Dervish Aziz. 
And these performers are... ???
The Yuval Ron Ensemble “includes Arabic, Jewish and Christian artists who come together to unite the sacred musical traditions of Judaism, Sufism (Islamic mystical tradition) and the Christian Armenian Church into an unusual musical celebration. Composer and world-music record producer Yuval Ron imparts the ancient and deep inter-cultural connection between these three traditions and the musical influences they share.” 
Sufi Whirling Dervishs: The whirling dance or sufi whirling that is proverbially associated with dervishes, is the practice of the Mevlevi Order in Turkey, and is just one of the physical methods used to try to reach religious ecstasy. Almost all dervish groups trace their origins from various Muslim saints and teachers, especially Ali and Abu Bakr.
Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in South Asia, particularly in areas with a historically strong Muslim presence, such as southern Pakistan, and parts of India.
Maya Karasso: “Maya traveled globally while collecting an abundance of knowledge of from indigent cultures such as the Sufis in Turkey and the gypsies in Spain. While living in India, Maya taught belly dancing workshops and "the dance of life" (Native American dance and prayer),” 
Compassion and Buddhism
Please do not get me wrong here.. The Bible talks in innumerable places about compassion and love for one’s fellow man. Without mercy, compassion and love the world would be a far worse place to live than it already is. However there is a significantly different slant to the Buddhist view of compassion, which is more than simply feelings for others. A Buddhist site which teaches “Dharma” (protection) says.. [Emphasis Added]
Our compassion is our Buddha seed or Buddha nature, our potential to become a Buddha. It is because all living beings possess this seed that they will all eventually become Buddhas … Human beings, though, have a great opportunity to develop their Buddha nature. Through meditation we can extend and deepen our compassion until it transforms into the mind of great compassion – the wish to protect all living beings without exception from their suffering. Through improving this mind of great, or universal, compassion it will eventually transform into the compassion of a Buddha, which actually has the power to protect all living beings. Therefore the way to become a Buddha is to awaken our compassionate Buddha nature and complete the training in universal compassion. Only human beings can do this… Unlike our present, limited compassion, which already arises naturally from time to time, universal compassion must first be cultivated through training over a long period of time. 
Universal compassion huh? Why does this sound so much like the New Age teachings of “The Universal Consciousness’, which goes hand in hand with the teachings that it is a time for “breakthroughs” and for the fulfillment of our “destiny” that we are in the midst of a great “transition” that will result in a “paradigm shift”.
Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose believes and teaches that when most people are operating from their true essence rather than their egos, we will have drastic social and physical upheavals on this earth resulting in a whole new world order; that is, “a new earth.” [See Eckhart Tolle and A New Earth]
What few seem to see, is that this Universal Compassion / Universal Consciousness is going to do exactly what the New Agers say it will (although they will probably not like the details they are wrong about). The Bible has already told us of drastic upheavals which will result in a “New Earth”.
Who is The Dalai Lama and What Does He Teach?
The Dalai Lama is considered to be...
“His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet…. At the age of two [he] was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity”. 
When asked what his commitments are.. the Dalai Lama answered that he has “three commitments in life”, the first being “the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline”, the second “promotion of religious harmony and understanding amongst different religious traditions”, and the third is the Tibetan issue. 
The sentiments are very certainly very appealing. Who can deny that the world could use a hefty dose of kindness and compassion. However when one digs a little below the smiling exterior, it becomes all too clear that, whether he realizes it or not, the Dalai Lama is not exactly what he says he is and certainly not what he is popularly made out to be.
“The Dalai Lama has met with countless heads of state and religious leaders in numerous countries. He has great influence and commands a great deal of respect and has been given numerous awards including one from a holocaust survivor foundation.. Yet he counts among his friends and acquaintances at least two Nazis, one murderous Japanese cult leader already sentenced to death and a dangerous Chilean lunatic who claims to have been in astral contact with Hitler.
He regularly consults the Nechung Oracle, in ceremonies during which the oracle goes into a trance and his face transforms and becomes “rather wild”, puffs up with “with bulging eyes and swollen cheeks” and he starts to hiss violently.
On the one hand, travelling the world, the Dalai Lama preaches a message of peace, compassion and interfaith cooperation. On the other hand he also has initiated thousands of people into the Kalachakra initiation, part of which is the Shambhala myth which prophecies and promotes, on an ideological basis, a “holy war” (Shambhala war) by Buddhists against non-Buddhists, in which “supremely ferocious warriors will throw down the barbarian hordes” and “eliminate” them.
The Kalachakra texts say that the 25th Kalki king will emerge from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish "Dark Forces" and usher in a worldwide thousand-year Golden Age. And who are these ‘Dark Forces’? Shri Kalachakra I. 154 says “Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mani, Mohammed and the Mahdi” are characterised as the “family of the demonic snakes”
The Dalai Lama believes in and teaches on the coming of the Maitreya..
The concept of a coming World Teacher (Maitreya) who sets up a Golden Age on earth can be found in many world religious systems as well as in the literature of the occult. Some talk of The Ascended Masters, while others look For The Coming of the Maitreya, who is believed to be the 1st and 2nd initiations who "prepares the way" for this "Lord of the World" - "Sanat Kumara", the third initiation. Some Muslims look to the coming of Imam Mahdi or The 12th Imam, whom Shiites believe will reappear when the world has become full of oppression and tyranny. Even some South American cultures look to the return of the serpent god Quetzalcoatl.
And who is this world leader and teacher?. Although he is called by different names there is little doubt that all traditions refer to the same being.. The one the Bible warned us about thousands of years ago.. The "Man of Sin," "the Son of Perdition," he that opposeth and exalteth himself," "the Wicked One whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth". In other words..
As respected as he is, not many people will believe that the Dalai Lama has anything to do with evil, yet we greatly fear that the Dalai Lama is one of those sent to smooth the way for “he whose coming is after the working of Satan". And what a great job he is doing.” . [Read Article]
Rob Bell’s Platitudes
So what did our emergent apostates have to say at the event. Did they remember Jesus’ warnings about denying Him before men? Did they share Jesus as the only way to salvation with the pagan audience? Sadly no!
Adding to the fact that Bell addressed the Dalai Lama as “his holiness.” He did little more than spout spiritual platitudes, making ‘profound’ statements like love, forgiveness and compassion are a 'better way'.
It is beyond my understanding how any one can rattle on about compassion when addressing a non Christian, unsaved audience, then neglect to tell them of the salvation offered us. Where is the compassion in not making the attempt to save these people from hell? Where is the love you claim to have when you miss a grand opportunity to present influential non believers with God’s saving grace.
See Video Clips of Rob Bell’s Comments at SOC
On reflection, perhaps that was a little too much to hope for considering that many of the emergent leaders do not even share the Gospel message with members of their own congregations. Actually, on further reflection, it is extremely doubtful that they even know what the Gospel message is. For example in an interview in November of 2007 Rob Bells says…
“The issue is not saving the poor—it's saving us. When Jesus uses the word hell, He does not use the word with people who are not believers or not believing the right things. It is a warning to religious people that they are in danger of hell because of their indifference to the suffering of the world. So the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not what heaven and hell are like. It's a parable to rich people warning them that their apathy has them in danger. Heaven and hell are present realities that extend into the future.” 
And while there is little doubt that some of Bell’s views on church are absolutely correct. For example he says in the same interview…
The question is, "Who do you call when your brother ODs on cocaine? If your mom is in the hospital, who comes and sits in the waiting room with you? When you cannot pay your rent, who do you go to and say please help me out?" That's your church. 
While community is certainly a very important aspect of the church, without the foundational message of Scripture, no amount of community is going to help you in the long run. And if you foolishly believe (and teach) that the gods aren’t angry.. But then what can one expect from a so called pastor who allows this to be preached in his church..
best-selling author and the founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly and a friend of the emerging church, spoke at a communion service at Rob Bell’s church (Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI) early in 2009. She said in part [Emphasis Added]
“As we’re about to do that, let us remember what we are doing. We not only celebrate that death and that promise of return, but we’re feeding by eating God, which is what we’re doing here, by eating the body and blood of our God, we are feeding the God within us. For as we take those elements, the Spirit also feeds within us, and is reinvigorated as he, or she, or it is by our faith.”
Watch video HERE...
Incidentally, Tickle likens Brian McLaren to Luther who helped to bring about a reformation. Tickle says McLaren might be instrumental in bringing about a “new reformation” through the emerging church. The comments were made at the “joint annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR),” in which Tickle and McLaren were speakers. [15b]
The Gods Aren't Angry
Here is what one blogger had to say about the San Francisco stop on Bell’s "The gods aren't angry" tour. Apparently the very foundation of the tour is the idea that
“the God of the Bible isn't angry and, therefore, we're all okay, everybody is okay-- we're all okay with God. Well, as I read my Bible I simply don't see this. My Bible tells of a God who rightfully remains angry, angry over sin. My Bible tells of a God who is so holy, glorious, just, and loving that he hates sin and is committed to doing away with sin. As I look around at a sinful, broken world, I find my only hope in the fact that my God is indeed angry at sin and has promised to do something about it”.
Describing Bell’s delivery as “exceptional and engaging” he goes on to tell how Bell “spoke about the sacrificial system as recorded in Leviticus” and “the corruption of the Temple/sacrificial system and of how Jesus confronted this corruption and claimed to be the true Temple, the true sacrifice of exchange between God and humanity” However Bell began to then concern him..
As Rob repeatedly emphasized that through the sacrifice of Jesus God has reconciled and made peace with all things, I began to see that Rob wasn't going to talk about a foundational biblical truth that runs from Genesis 3 straight through to the end of the Bible, the biblical truth which makes the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross both necessary and amazing, the biblical truth that makes the good news of the gospel so good: Sin.
Though Rob spoke articulately and personally about the guilty, shameful, inadequate feelings we all have and the false ways we go about dealing with those feelings, Rob never articulated humanity's sin problem. As Rob told the story of the Bible, he left out a central plotline. He left out a central doctrine. He left out the plotline of the Fall, the doctrine of sin, the tragedy of humanity's severe separation from God due to the distance between God's holiness and our sin. As Rob sought to convey the message of the Bible, even the climax of the Bible--Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, he failed to articulate the truth of the human condition, the complexity and depth of what's wrong with the human heart--where all of our guilty, shameful, inadequate feelings come from: our separation from a loving, holy God due to our massive sin problem. 
While Rob Bell was promoting his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith [See Review Below] Bell he dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions and told BeliefNet.com that The Bible itself…
“… is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted…. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader's bias and current realities… The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises… This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true… When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true” 
“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,”
Strange! The Bible seems to feel that it is possible to do what it says.
In his book, Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality Rob Bell promotes the universalist’s view of salvation and totally ignores “ the problem side of the doctrine of sin. His view is steeped in humanism and the exaltation of man and seemingly ignores the whole idea that Christ died for us because we are lost in sin and are “enemies of God” (Colossians 1:21; James 4:4)”
“You can’t be connected with God until you’re at peace with who you are. If you're still upset that God gave you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God in a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way. You’ll be at odds with your maker.
And if you can’t come to terms with who you are and the life you’ve been given, you’ll never be able to accept others and how they were made and the lives they've been given. And until you’re at peace with God and those around you, you will continue to struggle with your role on the planet, your part to play in the ongoing creation of the universe. You will continue to struggle and resist and fail to connect. (Sex God, 046, emphasis mine).
In the words of Stephen T. Roberts Apprising Ministries
“Within context, Bell is speaking of accepting our “lot in life” and basically being content with it. While an element of truth is there, it’s blindness to the big picture—all of it—that makes his statements dangerous. It’s fine to say we need to come to grips with the life we have been given; however, if I am still in my sins, no matter how at peace I am with myself, there will be no connecting with God unless His peace has been given to me. And that comes only because of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on my behalf and my being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, where by the grace of God, I place my faith in Jesus Christ.
God is not a therapist trying to help us accept what has happened to us and lead us to peace and happiness with who we are. That message leads us down the broad road to destruction. It does not deal with the problem of sin and the absolute holiness of God. It ignores the fact that regardless of our circumstance of life we are all sinful, and “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3)”.
In his book Velvet Elvis, Bell says (On Pages 41-42)
“So for a little over ten years, I have oriented my life around studying, reading, teaching and trying to understand the Bible. I continue to find the Bible the most mysterious book.. the more insight I gain, the more I realize how much I don’t know. It inspires and encourages and provokes.
The Bible is a difficult book.
We al understand that ethnic cleansing is evil, and when someone announces that God has told him or her to kill certain people, we thing that person is crazy. And yet there are passages in the Bible in which God orders “his” people to kill women and children. The famous story of the people marching around the wall of Jericho, blowing their horns, and then the walls falling down is also a story about slaughter of the innocent. The text reads “ They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it-men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” The section ends with this verse: “So the Lord was with Joshua”.
God was with Joshua when he killed all those women and children?
Is God really like that?
What does a thinking, honest person do with a story like this?
Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism referring to the imprisonment and/or expulsion, or the deliberate and systematic killing of members of one ethnic, racial, religious, or national group by another. In other words getting rid of the group (from a defined geographic area) one way or another because they are in some way ‘different’ or a possible threat.
So for someone who not only is supposed to be a Christian, but also a pastor who has supposedly spent ten years studying, reading, teaching and trying to understand the Bible to mention the phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the same breath as a the God of the Bible is beyond belief.
Asking a foolish question or making a foolish comment can be accomplished in a very few words, however providing a sensible answer often takes a lot more time, space and effort. In this case there is more than one issue that has to be addressed.. therefore I am going to address a few key points with links to more detailed versions, since all these questions have been covered in different sections of this site. The first question is best answered by a couple of paragraphs from Greg Koukl’s excellent article Can God Kill the Innocent?.
Does God have the right to allow or command the taking of life of a person or people? Part of the problem here is that we want to hold God to the same standard of morality He holds us to, as if the standard is above us both, and man and God are on equal terms when it comes to behavior. Whatever we can't do, God shouldn't be allowed to do either. But every parent knows that such an arrangement is just plain false. Therefore the short answer is.. Yes! God, being the Author of life, has the absolute right to take life away whenever He wants to. Simply put, He gives life, He takes it away. Life is His to do with what He wants. He can give it, as the Author, and as the Author, He can take it away again. And regardless of whether or not we are comfortable with the idea, there is nothing patently immoral about the Creator of life taking away life.
Can we take life? Absolutely not! It's immoral for us because when we take life, usually we are exercising a prerogative reserved for God alone. However there are a few circumstances where He delegates that power to us, specifically in my view, capital punishment. We know this intuitively, folks, because when men seek to make life and death decisions for others, what do we tell them? We say, "It's not right for you to 'play God.'" Well, of course it's not right for man to play God, but it implies that it is right for God to play God.
Using the term ethnic cleansing in the same paragraph as Joshua’s slaying of the Canaanites gives one the impression that they were killed just because they were Canaanites or possibly non Israelites. And certainly gives me the impression that the person asking the questions knows absolutely nothing of the God they claim to serve.
Unlike many humans, God does not get act because of the “heat of the moment” or because He gets emotional. On the contrary, God’s retribution is a direct, calculated response to sin”. The Bible labours the point in both Old and New Testament that God is good to those who trust Him and is terrible to those who do not. Both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath. As an example… in 2 Cor 5:11 Paul refers to the judgment seat of Christ (where every one will be judged according to what he has done) as the terror of the Lord. [The Wrath of God]
In the above paragraph we emphasized God’s right to remove an innocent person. However were the Canaanites innocent? Were they akin to the peace-loving, civilized folks of different religions living in our suburban neighborhoods and working in our colleges, hospitals, and fire departments?
Critics of the Old Testament's claim that God ordered the killing of whole tribes in Canaan typically neglect the reason expressly stated in the Old Testament: those tribes were depraved beyond redemption (Gen. 15:16; Lev. 18:21-30; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:29-31; etc.). According to the Old Testament, the Canaanites and other tribes in the land widely practiced child sacrifice, incest, bestiality, and other behaviors that almost everyone in history, including today, rightly regard as unspeakably, grossly immoral.
In fact Moses warned Israel that they were not to claim that God drove out the pagans because Israel was righteous, but that He did so because the pagan nations were so wicked (Deuteronomy 9:4-6). Additionally He did not give the Israelites carte blanche to do whatever they wished. The rules restrained the greed and lust typically exhibited by victors in ancient warfare in ways that were far ahead of their time. In fact, at other times, Israelites were forbidden to wrong a stranger or oppress him (Exodus 22:21; 23:9). Anyone who took the life of any human being was to be executed; this standard applied for the stranger as well as the native (Leviticus 24:17-22).
Which brings us to the thorny part. No sane person has not squirmed when reading that the Israelites' killed everyone and everything, including the youngest children, which certainly is the most difficult aspect of the account for us to understand. However there is one other factor that most people do not seem to be aware of and which is more than likely to be the overriding reason God ordered the annihilation of certain people. [Read Article Joshua's Conquest: Was It Justified?]
Besides which, the destruction of the Canaanites was not exactly an isolated incident.
A perfect example of God’s retribution is the slaying of the first born in the land of Egypt. If you have never thought about it too deeply, you may never have realized that the Egyptians enforced a barbarous system of infanticide that must have brought untold suffering to the families of Israel. (Pharaoh decreed that every newborn Israeli boy was to be cast alive into the Nile River) People who kill other people’s babies deserve to die. Still, God showed them mercy for years, giving them time to repent. Finally He acted.
[See Why Did God Allow the Killing Of All the First Born of Egypt?]
Genesis 6:5 tells us that when God saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”, He quite simply wiped almost everyone off the face of the earth.
Yes Rob, the Lord was with Joshua. And guess what? Not only is He really like that, you have to realize (if you haven’t missed the entire book of Revelation) He is going to do it again.
The answer to Bells’ question... “What does a thinking, honest person do with a story like this?” is this... Take it as a historical narrative, try to look a little more deeply into thorny issues, realize that there are some things that we simply do not understand and finally trust in a God who does not indulge in “Ethnic Cleansing”..
Velvet Elvis.. An Overview
The following is a review of Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis, written by Pat Abendroth, the Senior Pastor of Omaha Bible Church.
Time magazine recently called Rob Bell “The Hipper-Than-Thou-Pastor” (Thursday, Dec. 06, 2007). This, along with the fact that his influence seems to only be growing, led me to read his book Velvet Elvis. Since it has been done, there seems to be little need for a comprehensive book review. But as I read Velvet Elvis I became personally motivated to do my part and duty as a pastor and expose some of the dangerous content lurking behind Bell’s hip veneer.
Based upon what I read in Bell’s book, he is both funny and hip. I say this because he made me laugh and because he does cool things like play in a punk band and surf (even the infamous Trestles!).
Continuing on with the positives, Bell seems sincere and appropriately calls for Christians to love those in need (not just fellow Christians) as is called for in the second greatest commandment. This is a great point and something that needs to be said and re-said before being said once more.
So with a hip rock dude writing a book addressing the need for Christians to act more like Jesus, why the anger on my part? Here are some of the reasons:
Rob Bell makes me mad because he preaches an anti-gospel.
He craftily does this by portraying the essence of Christianity as following Jesus and treating people the way Jesus did. While this is important, living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Missing this is no small oversight by Bell. It is missing that which is of first importance! Over and over again he talks about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus’ work! This is scandalous.
Rob Bell makes me mad because he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as non-essential (pp. 26-27).
You heard right, he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as not essential! To state the obvious, this is entirely out of step with the Bible. Sure, one can redress and then mimic once-trendy quasi arguments by unbelievers about the word used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 possibly meaning young woman. But the New Testament leaves no wiggle-room on the intent and therefore meaning of the word. We know this because the Isaiah text is quoted and essentially interpreted in the New Testament. In Matthew 1:23-25 the word virgin is used twice and shown by the context to mean virgin in the classic sense of the term. To ignore this is to show gross negligence which seems to depend upon an assumed biblical illiteracy by his readers. Far from being not essential, the biblical reality of Christ’s virgin birth is vital to His unique status as the sinless God-Man. As troubling as this unorthodox teaching by Bell is, he commits a more dangerous foul. Bell continues with arguments against the virgin birth of Jesus followed by an attempt to defuse would-be critics by slipping in a token affirmation. Bell professes to be a Christian. But given his disregard for Christian doctrine, the name “poser” comes to mind (borrowing an old title from the punk rock scene).
Rob Bell makes me mad because he downplays the vital role of conversion. In a horrible overreaction against professing Christians wrongly not being compassionate, Bell says “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…” (p. 167). He then proceeds to establish a supporting argument that would surely set well with most anyone who is either ignorant of or ignoring what Jesus says in John 3—unless someone is converted, they will not see the light of day in the kingdom! Bell’s tactic is entirely unacceptable and irresponsible, but dare I say, fits with his mimicking the likes of the quintessential theological liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969). Certainly Christians must love those in need if they are going to truly follow Christ. But such love is to augment the need to proclaim a gospel of repentance which calls for conversion according to Jesus.
Rob Bell makes me mad because he does violence to the clear words of Jesus.
On page 21 for example, when he talks about Jesus’ claims of exclusivity in John 14:6, he spins them to mean something other than what they clearly say and have been recognized as saying by Christians throughout the ages. At first I was surprised at how much Bell sounded like a radical theological liberal like Marcus Borg, but then I saw that the very first endnote in the book was an unqualified recommendation of a book by Borg! Bell’s recommended reading on his church’s web site promotes reading by John Dominic Crossan, the former co-director of the Jesus Seminar, so endorsing Borg is not a matter of isolation. Such men have a reputation for shamelessly doing violence to Jesus and His gospel.
Rob Bell makes me mad because he is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church. I am not suggesting that churches with “Bible Church” in the name are anything special per se, but historically they have not been places where things like the virgin birth is considered non-essential. In my estimation this is downright deceptive.
A New Dress
Simply put, Rob Bell is a theological liberal resembling the mainline denominations of the early 1900s. The difference is that Bell is sporting a fashionable new dress or in his case, a new pair of geek-chic glasses.
If J. Gresham Machen were alive today, I suspect he would do what he did with Bell’s theological predecessors. Machen would remind him that while he has the freedom to start a new religion, he really should call it something other than Christian given that his religion does not resemble what Christ actually established as recorded in the Christian book, the Bible.
In my opinion, the reason this book is resonating with so many is because we have seen the evangelical church abandon the Evangel Himself. Yes, much of evangelicalism is empty because the Evangel of our evangelicalism is gone or as David Wells so aptly put it: He has been dislodged from its center. Couple this with a general ignorance of the Bible and church history and you have a book like Velvet Elvis actually seen as publishable by a “Christian” publisher and selling as if it were something novel and good.
Because I love the Evangel of the Bible and therefore historic Christianity, I guess it is off to anger management class for me. [Pat Abendroth. Rob Bell makes me angry: a pastoral response to Velvet Elvis]
Rob Bell and Ken Wilber
It is also in Velvet Elvis that Rob Bell recommends his readers study Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. In his words..
“For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.” [Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 192, endnote 143]
And what is this book that Rob Bell would have his readers study.. Sadly it is little more than what one reviewer on Amazon called “preaching ignorance to the ignorant”. Here is what this ‘mind-blowing introduction to divine creativity’ actually believes.. [Emphasis Added]
And yet "For Wilber, the ultimate reality is the Kosmos, not just the cosmos"... and believes that "the Big Bang brought everything into existence from nothing, yet rejects the teachings of "religious creationists" who find in this evidence for the biblical deity. Instead he views the source of the Kosmos as "Emptiness", which is "unbounded and unqualifiable" (27; see also 133). Wilber takes the mystical experience of Emptiness to be the highest state of consciousness. In this state, the subject-object relationship drops out and one realizes that he or she is one with the non-dual reality. At several points, Wilber claims the nature of this state is both the ground and goal of evolution (43,104, 120, 339)."" [Douglas Groothuis. Critique of A Brief History of Everything]
In one place Wilber says..
"So we have some very popular theorists who, tired of the burdens of postconventional and world-centric rational perspectivism, recommend a regressive slide into egocentric vital impulsive polymorphous phantasmic emotional revival."
[Read More about Ken Wilber]
Beware The Dogs..Hypocrisy Unlimited
Excerpted from a Dec 7, 2008 article by Ken Silva of Aprising Ministries. 
In his Saturday, October 18, 2008 sermon “Beware the dogs” Rob Bell, a popular icon of the Emerging Church, says:
Beware those dogs. Now, uh… this week, I’m out running; and I run by a church and the church building out front has one of those backlit signs where they change the letters each week to tell you the name of the sermon. These signs are hard for me…I don’t find them clever, I find them horribly annoying; they are a stench upon my nostrils. (audience laughter) And, uh, in the summer…“this church is prayer conditioned” not funny. (audience laughter) Um…“sign broken, message inside”.
Or my personal love/hate non-favorite is “ch - - ch, what’s missing? U-R”. (audience laughter) You know, we always say Americans…we won’t stand for torture…yes, we do.
(audience laughter) As I’m jogging by and I’m reading the sign, I literally have this thought, “that sermon sounds so insanely boring…I mean this would make people take up golf.” (audience laughter)
Beware of that dog. Beware of that dog that tells that your tribe is better, that your church gets it, that your theology is more progressive, that your budget is more fiscally responsible, that your building is all about the people and God and not about the…beware of that impulse. Now, substantive discussion about what it means to be a follower of Christ in 2008…brilliant, let’s have it.
But that impulse, that says, “We get it” Not boring like that…our tribe is a little more relevant, our tribe cares more about the poor, we understand the context of the Scriptures better, therefore….we….beware that dog. Paul says, “We boast in Christ Jesus and nothing else.” My response jogging by the sign should be, even me God’s love and grace, God’s peace for even me, even you, even us, God has saving love for the whole world and we get to be a part of it.
Any whiff of superiority, condemnation, judgment against some other sub-tribe of the tribe, is absolutely, totally, diametrically opposed to the beautiful life-giving grace and peace that boasts in the resurrected Christ and nothing else. Are you with me now? Beware of that dog. (audience applause) 
Well, I for one agree with Rob Bell that we should beware of those who would say the kinds of things highlighted above… like well, Bell. It’s pretty clear Bell’s confessing that he personally is guilty of the very same bad things he’s just finished telling us “those dogs” do. As a matter of fact, Bell’s been canine-like before.
For example, in “Rob Bell Tells It Like It Is” for Relevant magazine, Bell slams pre-mil, pre-trib Christians e.g. Tim LaHaye for, “preaching horrible messages about being left behind and this [earth] is going to burn-absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture.”
But wait a minute, “against the teachings of Scripture”; I thought the Bells are the ones who told us to embrace mystery because we really don’t want the Bible to be so black and white. Especially when in his book Velvet Elvis (VE) Bell says:
I was in an intense meeting with our church leaders in which we were discussing several passages in the Bible. One of the leaders was sharing her journey in trying to understand what the Bible teaches about the issue at hand and she said something like this: “I’ve spent a great deal of time recently studying this issue. I’ve read what the people on the one side of the issue say, and I’ve read what the people on the other side say. I’ve read the scholars and the theologians and all sorts of others on this subject. But then, in the end, I decided to get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says.”
Now please understand that this way of thinking is prevalent in a lot of Christian churches,…but this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least… The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective- free…This perspective is claiming that a person can simply read the Bible and do what it says – unaffected by any outside influences… When you hear people say they are just going to tell you what the Bible means, it is not true. They are telling you what they think it means (053, 054, emphasis his).
So when it comes to Bell’s hating one of the views within the legitimate differences Christians have concerning eschatology it would seem we now have to realize that Bell understands “the context of the Scriptures better” than the rest of us do when he tells us “what the Bible means.” Now I don’t personally take LaHaye’s position but I’m sure not going to judge and condemn those who hold to a pre-mil, pre-trib eschatological position by saying they are preaching “absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture.”
All of a sudden Rob Bell rolls up the Emergent mystical mystery tour and now knows for sure that the pre-mil, pre-trib position is against the teachings of Scripture as “a stench upon [his] nostrils”? Which would now mean we’d best beware of those dogs like Rob Bell who would hold that their eschatology is superior because, well, he’s apparently exempt from his own teaching in VE. Can you see it now; when Bell tells us “what the Bible means,” it is then true, whereas someone e.g. who happens to be pre-trib, pre-mil is only telling us “what they think it means.”
IPS Note: Please note that neither do we agree with Tim LaHaye’s pre-millennium, pre-tribulation position, which is not only a dangerous position to hold since it will leave people totally unprepared for the turbulent last days, but is NOT taught in Scripture. Some say it really doesn't matter if Jesus is coming before or after the tribulation, as long as we are "ready." They think we should all just agree to disagree, and love one another. But, "ready" is a relative term! It begs the question, "ready for what?" There is a huge difference between being ready to be gently whisked away to heaven on a pillow, and being ready to become a martyr at the hands of Antichrist! For more information, please see section on The Rapture which includes the Left Behind position at the end of the page.
Rob Bell seems to have the idea that breathing (deeply) somehow puts us more closely in touch with the Divine. In his Nooma DVD “Breathe” Rob Bell, says
we’ve been breathed into by the Creator of the universe, and this divine breath is in every single human being ever. Like it’s written in the Psalms… Psalm 8 says that, “God has crowned us with glory and honor.” Glory and honor in this passage isn’t referring to God, it’s referring to the people God has made. We’re these sacred, divine, dirt clods…
So what does the Bible tell us about this Divine breath “in every single human being ever”? For an answer we have to turn back the pages of time, returning to the account of the creation of man in Genesis 2:7
“And God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”.
The word translated breathed in the verse above is nâphach, which means to puff or blow hard, while the word translated breath is not ruach (the common Hebrew word for "spirit), but neshâmâh. While one might infer that God's ruach is involved, it is not explicit in the text.
Moreover after God breathed into the man the breath of life, he became a "living being" (nephesh chayyah). However in Genesis 1:24, God says re: the creation of animals: "Let the earth bring forth living creatures." However the words used are identical in both instances. Nephesh chayyah is translated living being in Genesis 2:7 and living creature in Genesis 1:24, which means we can not rule out the possibility that God breathed the breath of life into animals as well as humans.
Additionally Psalm 104:29, talking about “small and great beasts” uses the word ruach, which has been translated into breath.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; Thou takest away their breath, they die, And return to their dust.
It certainly appears that that the primary difference between man and animal is not in the breath of God, but that man was made in the image and likeness of God. Additionally Scripture does not tell of any human, other than Adam, being brought to life by the breath of God.
In a sermon Bell did on “breathing” back in 2005, he tells us
“ I love how Nelson Mandela puts it in one of his writings. He says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” And then he concludes by saying, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to manifest the glory—put on display, to show—the glory of God that is within us.” He says, “you may be a dirt clod, but there is greatness and power and glory that resides in every singe human being.” (Week 330 05/29/05, audio sermon 12:27-13:28, transcription on file. 
While I have no earthly idea whether or not Mandela actually said these words, it doesn’t really matter because they are an eerie reflection of those of Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles“:
‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us the most.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just some of us; it’s in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. And as we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (PGS. 190,191, emphasis added)
While the Course in Miracles claims to be a revelation from Jesus Christ Himself, and is intelligently organized and simply written, It appeals to personal pride and can become almost addicting emotionally. It is carefully designed for radically restructuring a persons perception against Christian faith and toward New Age occultism. The fact of the matter is that it was transmitted by a fiend from the neter regions.. a spiritual underling of Satan.
(See Critique of A Return To Love and more about The Course in Miracles)
Also, in his Sunday November 16, 2008 sermon Bell says
It’s interesting how many traditions (pause) When you read the great enlightened ones; meditation, centering prayer, reflection—in every tradition you can find the mystics—and what’s always at the heart of the spiritual lives, the everyday lives of the great ones was always a period of time. Whether it’s prayers, chanting, meditation, reflection, study—whatever you call it—what is it essentially; it’s taking time to breathe. Because when you’ve been breathing, (slight pause) in a proper sort of way, you’re far better equipped to handle what life throws your way. (I will say it again, and again, and again, [5:41-6:23])
Traditions maybe, but the Scriptures say absolutely nothing about “taking time to breathe”, being a required or even recommended spiritual discipline. It is however a spiritual discipline for Hindus, Buddhists etc. And who exactly are these “enlightened ones”? Is Rob Bell by any chance talking about the Catholic mystics who seemed to have few, if any, qualms about turning to the religions of the East, learning from and promoting the integration of pagan practices such as Zen Buddhism and Hindu yoga with Christianity. Just because the mystics learned various forms of breath control and meditation does NOT mean they were right.
[For more on the subject see Contemplating The Alternative and
Roots of Evil.. History and Origins of Contemplative Prayer]
And in one of Bell’s sermon I recently listened to (hopefully the last I will ever have to listen to), he says
“Central to the Christian tradition for thousands of years have been disciplines of meditation, reflection, silence and breathing. It was understood that to be a healthy person, to be fully connected with God, to be fully centered, you would spend significant parts of your day in silence, breathing, meditating, praying allowing the spirit of god to transform you, touch you…
Again he seems to be talking about the Catholic mystics. As pastor Gary Gilley says.. “The problem (or at least one of several problems) is that every mystic describes his experience in line with his belief system. Hindus believe they have union with the Hindu deities, the American Indian thinks he has contacted the Great Spirit, and the Christian mystic believes he is receiving revelation from God. Of course they cannot all be correct”. See Contemplating The Alternative
“Now from way back when our ancestors understood there is something divine about our breath… there’s something sacred and holy about the very act of breathing.. in the same way the ancients come to understood that God would actually dwell inside of people.. so one of the reason they used Ruach and Pneuma the way they did is that they believed that the God who made everything actually lived and dwelled inside of people. Later writers began to refer to people who were aware of this as temples and their gathering would be the temple of God. Meaning God lives and dwells in, and in the midst of, His people”. [Emphasis Added]
It is absolute poppycock that later writers began to refer to people who were aware of God actually living and dwelling inside of people because of there being something sacred and holy about their breath. In the Old Testament the whole congregation of Israel were considered the temple and habitation of God, because God dwelt among them. However after Pentecost Jesus’ followers were (and are) baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them during their remaining time on earth, for which reason they are called the temple of the Holy Spirit… where God is, there is his temple.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 2:38]But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. [Romans 8:9]
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. [Romans 8:11]
Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye. [1 Corinthians 3:16-17]
That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us [2 Timothy 1:14]
Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; [1 Corinthians 6:19]
The indwelling of the Spirit is not speaking of the Spirit moving into a literal physical location inside our bodies, nor of physical breath, but a working relationship the Spirit has with all Christians. Consider that Romans tells us that sin also dwell within us….
But now, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me. [Romans 7:17]
And last, but far from least… Bell now draws on Yoga to prove a point.
In Yoga, one of the central tenets of Yoga, is your breath needs to remain the same, regardless of the pose...In yoga one of the things you learn right away is no matter how difficult the pose is… It's not how flexible you are, it’s not whether you can do the poses, it’s not how much you can bend yourself.. its can you keep your breath consistent through whatever you’re doing. … It is your breath being consistent, it’s your connection with God regardless of the pose you find yourself in. That's integrating the divine into the daily." 
Yoga? For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and even healing or preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But if we inquire into the history and philosophy of yoga we discover that, much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is an ancient path to spiritual growth. [See Are Yoga & Christianity Compatible?]
In the words of Terry Hollifield (What&Why blog)… Quotes by Bell are from Relevant magazine’s article on the emergent pastor on pp. 64-69.
“… I am saying that what Rob Bell is teaching his congregation of 10,000 at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, as well as millions who hear him across the country via podcasts, and through his extremely popular video productions (like the NOOMA series) is a totally different religion - not Christianity”.
Bell who says his interest has always been the Truth”, has his own version of what “the Truth” is.
That is that all people will eventually be conformed to perfect relationship with God. When asked about his involvement in environmentalism Rob says the following,
“It was great. There were all sorts of really interesting things that came out of that. We understand that every person is a priest, and so a church is where all of these people are essentially having their inner priest evoked out of them.”
So, the job of the church is not to help people recognize their default condition of being separated from God, rather all people are priests by default and the church is the place to discover that.
2. Eastern-Inspired Monism:
In other words, God is all and all is God. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” is how the Beatles put it. In the follow-up question of how his faith leads to his being environmentally conscious, Bell emasculates Scripture to make his point that, as the eighties song says, “we are the world”. Bell’s answer: “It’s always been rooted in the very nature of God. The central Hebrew prayer, Deuteronomy 6, says, ‘Hear O Israel the Lord your God, the Lord is One,’ so we live with awareness that all of reality is one. We are connected with all things everywhere…” This is clearly far from the Christian (and biblical) view of God, the universe, and man.
3. Behaviorist Naturalism:
When asked about his The Gods Aren’t Angry tour Bell discussed the focal points of the tour being,
“…how humans invented religion to make themselves feel better, …and how those gods evolved over time, …I’m thrilled with how the content came together. For me everything is about content.”
I agree with Bell that everything is about content, but listen to his content! If man created “the gods” rather than the real God who is there creating man, what makes Bell’s rhetoric any different than that of Hitchens, Dawkins, and the myriad of other popular atheists of our time?
4. A Negation of Christ’s Redemptive Work:
Bell says, “The world is desperately in need of people who will break themselves open and pour themselves out for the reconciliation of all things- that’s what the world needs.” This is more popularly known as the “social gospel”. He takes Christ’s work of “making all things new” to an entirely twisted level. True to the aforementioned atheistic views, Bell has placed the onus on man to “reconcile all things”. And obviously this isn’t even reconciling man to God since Bell does not believe that man is separated from God in the first place. So in essence, what he is saying is that the world does not need to be restored from the Fall by accepting Christ as God, Lord, and Redeemer…not according to Bell, all the world needs now is love sweet love. 
One cannot possibly call someone who holds these beliefs a Christian..
 Michael Rollins, The Oregonian April 11, 2008 08:20AM. blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/04/amidst_swirling_controversy_on.html
 As quoted in Rob Bell, Divine Dirt Clods, And The Coming Global Family Of “God”