Rob Bell and the Gospel without Convictions

Rob Bell has now told Christians to ‘adapt or die.’ Now, I don’t like the term ‘evangelical,’ since it is now almost exclusively used instead of ‘Christian,’ and for good reason, and even in the rising debate concerning morality and homosexuality in the context of Christianity, this very distinction has gone entirely unnoticed. While many are freaking out over Bell’s latest departure from sound doctrine, they fail to notice that as a whole, even we who are of a more conservative bent have already given up so much ground just in the acceptance of the term blanket term ‘evangelical,’ which I believe is a strong indicator of where we are in our stand for the cause of the gospel.

Now, I’m sure some of you may think I’m splitting hairs here. However, let us consider that ‘evangelical’ in and of itself is merely an adjective, though it’s now used as a noun. Any religion can be ‘evangelical.’ Islam is an excellent example of this. Mohammed and his successors spread the ‘gospel’ of Islam through war and genocide (not unlike the early Catholic Church). In the coming years, we will continue to see a shift toward the term ‘evangelical’ rather than Christian as leaders seeking greater marketability will shy away from using the term ‘Christian.’ Why does this matter? Christ continues to be taken out of the gospel as it is presented in the West, which with its emphasis on prosperity and mystical experiences looks more like repackaged Hinduism than the gospel Christ himself preached.

This need to be marketable and palatable, or ‘seeker friendly,’ as some call it, has essentially stripped the gospel of its convictions. At first, we were told that we shouldn’t ‘judge’ others, a gross misinterpretation of Mark 7:1, given that verse 24 of the same chapter tells us not to judge by mere appearances, but that we should judge righteously. The admonition of the first verse was a warning not to judge others when you’re guilty of the same or worse, not a call to throw our discernment out the window and embrace everything that comes our way. Nevertheless, once judgment was dispensed with, this philosophy took hold in regard to spiritual experiences and prophecy, and it became taboo to question anything being said or done by those in leadership. Inevitably, now that leaders were to be exempted from the annoying intrusion of common sense and discernment, the next thing to happen was that doctrine no longer mattered at all. Yes, we may have some differences of opinion on some matters, but the essential doctrines of the gospel were never a matter of opinion. The Bible is very clear in that there are only two kinds of doctrine: sound, correct doctrine, and doctrines of devils (e.g. Titus 1:9, 1 Timothy 4:1).

This move, was of course widely (and sometimes sincerely) promoted as being in the interest of unity, but the result is never a genuine unity, but rather a compromised cooperation. Doctrinal differences were never meant to be set aside. They are to be resolved. This however, requires humility on the part of whoever might happen to be wrong on a particular issue or other, and therein lies the heart of the matter. Our pride as leaders often causes us to want to hold on to pet theologies that may be misguided or just plain wrong rather than giving serious consideration to the possibility that we may have erred here or there. The fruit of this tendency has been the rise of doctrines that would have been considered outrageous, absurd, or even obscene in previous generations which had a greater loyalty to a Biblical perspective. Just in the last fifteen years we have witnessed a ‘revival’ in which the leader claims that the emphasis is to be on angels rather than Christ, a pastor who takes her breasts out when she preaches, new age gurus moving in a mysticism with ‘manifestations’ which are identical to the demonic possession of the Hindu kundalini awakening, and ‘spirit-filled’ churches whose pastors are homosexual. Still others will claim to have gone to heaven and that the apostle Paul told them that he didn’t really know what he was doing when he wrote all those epistles. Yet another pastor in Brazil declared that his penis was filled with ‘holy milk,’ and that congregants needed to perform oral sex on him to receive the Holy Spirit. We have fallen so far in this regard that a preacher can directly contradict the Bible, even to the point of contradicting Christ himself, and it is dismissed as being ‘not a big deal,’and in most cases anyone who points such contradiction out is labeled as ‘religious,’ or as some kind of troublemaker. Christ never condemned anyone for being religious, but rather he did condemn hypocrisy. Also, if the preacher contradicts Christ himself, not in the way of a mistake, or misguided opinion, but actually makes these contradictions a part of his doctrine and promotes it as God-given ‘revelation,’ then the truth of the matter is that they preach another gospel, and not that which Christ committed to the church. The Bible calls for those who do so to be accursed (Galatians 1:8). Now, I’m not referring to someone who makes a mistake or have some wrong opinions here and there. The front-runners of ‘progressive’ Christianity have gone far beyond that point, given the above examples.

The problem runs yet deeper. We have in the last few decades, created a culture of spiritual defeat within the church through the philosophy that ‘no one’s perfect,’ or that ‘we all need some grace,’ and while there is some truth in those words, rather than point to the efficacy of Christ and the Holy Spirit and their mission to sanctify the believer, these rationalizations have instead become a way of justifying a refusal to turn from sin and move on toward maturity. So rather than seeing God’s grace as an empowerment to overcome our baser nature, we have instead turned it into a crutch to support every habit of sin which we hold dear. I have heard leaders go so far as to tell people, ‘God’s not looking to change you.’ If this were the case, why did Jesus call for people to repent? Why then did Paul even bother to write to the Galatians, telling them to walk in the spirit so that they would not fulfill the lust of the flesh? If such a rationalization were true, why then would Paul have written these words:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1)

If God is not looking to change anyone, then the above fornication should not have been an issue. The connection between this and the move to promote homosexuality within Christianity may not appear obvious, but the underlying rationalizations are essentially the same. “God doesn’t need to change me, he accepts me the way I am. I’m not wrong, or broken, I’m justified,” and similar phrases are used in the attempt to claim that one can be homosexual and in right standing with God. Some even use the ‘sin is sin’ argument, which becomes absurd if you demand that a murderer be given a parking ticket, if all sins are truly equal. A big part of what makes this all possible is the fact that today’s church often lacks the power it ought to have in the area of deliverance. When you can’t cast out devils, you’ll have to coddle them, and that’s often what we do in today’s church.

Now, Bell’s assertion is that the church ought to move with the culture. He said on Sunday, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, evangelical subculture that was told, ‘We’re gonna change the thing.’ and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And I think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt.”

Did the early church adapt to its present culture? Did they forsake the teachings of Christ and convert to the Roman religion? Does a God who has said that he is unchanging (e.g., Malachi 3:6) willing to reshape the terms of relationship with him to conform to a changing culture? Mr. Bell is preaching another gospel, and it is high time that the leaders of the church take some responsibility and refute his heresy with infallible proofs.

Who among you will step up and present the true gospel with the power of the Spirit so that the oppressed are set free?