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As far as I can tell, any classic, middle-of-the-road Christian can offer a hearty "Amen" to a great deal of Rob Bell's theology.

The former pastor of Mars Hill Church believes God exists and can be experienced and yet cannot be contained ...

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Displaying 1–57 of 57 comments

Jane Jimenez

August 13, 2013  7:59pm

Amazing insights and bravery in addressing these important issues involving the evangelical community, and thus, is destined to offend. I encountered God in my 40s with a heartfelt question, "Are you there, God? Yes, or no, I can accept it. I just want to hear your voice say 'yes' if you are there." He answered. We have traveled through a series of evangelical churches in the past 20 years, and are currently Lutheran. Through prayer, sacraments and scripture, I have been increasingly disturbed by the "emotional-feeling" rationale for faith in God as proposed by evangelicals. Jesus said he came to fulfill OT prophecies...AND commandments. In the OT, we are "instructed-invited-implored" to put our faith in God. We are never asked to "check in with our feelings." Your essay completely expresses my heart and mind in this area. Today, I "feel" drawn to the church teaching that the Gospel good news is a call to us from God that compels our belief because of God's love for us.

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Tom Nash

May 27, 2013  2:09am

One time (early 1980's) I intensely felt God's presence. Since then I've walked pretty much by dogged faith. Sure, these days I intuit things (doesn't everyone?) and sometimes may hear (in my heart) the very small, still voice of the Spirit. But we are fallen beings with sinful flesh, prone to error. That is why Biblical truth trumps spiritual experience. That being said, we should be open to the possibility of seasons of revival, where God may make Himself known beyond the ordinary. I love to experience God's presence. I long for it. But we walk by faith, not by feeling. Meanwhile I pray, read the Bible, ask God for wisdom, obey, and look forward to heaven, where I will struggle no more.

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William Mitchell

May 26, 2013  9:55pm

"God is said to wish that no man perish." God does not wish for anything. Gods will is that no man perish. Gods will is Sovereign over ALL creation. What God will IS what gets done.

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Phillip Nash

May 25, 2013  7:15pm

Thank you Mark. A very common sense response to Rob's Bells' journey.

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audrey ruth

May 24, 2013  3:32am

Peter spoke of "times of refreshing" from the Lord in the book of Acts. I believe it is significant that Peter said this AFTER the Holy Spirit had been given from on high on the Day of Pentecost, as prophesied in Joel 3. I agree with Rick that the infilling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit are necessary for His people to truly experience His presence, guidance, and wisdom continually. At the same time, it is equally important that we not receive other spirits and experiences which are not from God (Paul warned of this explicit danger). IMHO, this is what Rob Bell has done, because he does not speak according to God's Word -- he openly and unashamedly contradicts God's Word. He who does not speak according to God's Word does not speak according to the Spirit of God, but by another spirit which is not of God. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." (Romans 8)

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Joshua Mayer

May 23, 2013  2:26pm

I have not read Rob's book. I agree with many points in this article. I believe what the Bible says about salvation, that it is by faith through grace. Those who confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in their heart, receive salvation. But I also believe that we can encounter God and His presence frequently. I have had many of these experiences, and I cannot count them. Those that are truly from God cannot be manufactured.There is more in His presence than just emotion. We cannot create the presence of God, and we also cannot force God to manifest. But it is possible to experience Him in a tangible way. We should not limit God about this, or think that it depends on what we can figure out. One thing that we must not do is make our faith in God dependent on these experiences. We can invite God, and be open to Him doing something. We can ask God.. There is a balance though, because we need the Word, and we need to trust Him and have faith in Him.

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ron rogers

May 22, 2013  6:04pm

I have often been asked by my younger 'again born'-ers, what does being spiritual feel like? And I can only respond, I don't know. I hardly ever 'feel' differently than what my circumstances would typically dictate ... elation at someone's good fortune, despair at another's pain and loss, sadness when the circumstances of my own life don't seem to meet my expectations. I am quite aware however of the truth and the reality of GOD's presence in my life and in my circumstances (expectationally acceptable or not). Life in Christ and with Christ is a life of faith in Him. Period. And the results of that faith in Christ are real, life-changing, full of joy and occasionally darkness, tough circumstances and sorrow. I love it. In spite of the fact that it's taken almost fifty years of walking with and learning from Jesus to love it all.

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Paul Catlado

May 22, 2013  12:06pm

We profess a belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior then began the made made flavor test. Yes Rob Bell is going New Age and not a fit for conservative Baptist church but we can take what it says or leave it. I'm not questioning his faith but the 5 page droning on of one up manship of Mr. Galli dressed up in a facade of love. I don't believe it's necessary for a man to wear a high hat, dress, light candles and kneel during service either. We don't need to dummy down the Gospel but we also don't need brick and mortar and time schedules. I'm wondering how Dr. Ockenga would fit in with this site today.

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John Lieb

May 22, 2013  9:57am

Mark, your proper concern about the dangers of making an idol out of "experience" apparently has led you to the opposite error. Your article reminded me of a CS Lewis quote, "We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful." Your rich, Biblical description of love is robbed of its power by diminishing the necessity of an experience of God's love in Christ that would inspire such love. Your article correctly calls followers of Jesus to demonstrate lives of selfless, faithful love but, unfortunately, your only advice for any reader inspired by your prose is, apparently, "Just try harder." I prefer the apostle John's approach, "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 5:19). A key, Biblical picture of life in Christ is that of a bride and a bridegroom. It seems like your vision of life in Christ is more like the marriage of a tired, middle aged couple grown apart after years of neglect than the tender, passionate, vital love of a bride and bridegroom. What happened to you, brother?

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audrey ruth

May 21, 2013  11:21pm

Pilgrim, why do you tell Bible-believing Christians to "go write your own book"? This is the antithesis of faith in God -- we believe His Word above all others; we need no other book. Indeed, Rob Bell and other men of his ilk are the ones who have actually "written their own books" which contradict the true Word of God.

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Aidan Herman

May 20, 2013  11:41pm

Typical CT article - finding ways to defend Bell at all possible costs. This is so sick.

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Rick Dalbey

May 20, 2013  10:49pm

Duane, what you are describing is the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, what Luke calls the Falling Upon “As Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.” or what Paul calls, “The Coming Upon” in Acts 19 “Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues.“ The Samaritans were saved, had repented, were delivered of demons, healed, baptized in water and praising God with great joy. "But When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit." This is what Mark Galli received and speaks of at the end of his essay.

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DUANE Watts

May 20, 2013  9:01pm

This is the 1st thing I noticed of the article: "He says people who abuse and exploit others and creation will not participate in the glorious restoration of heaven on earth. " That's everyone isn't it? Thank the Lord for His righteousness! Second, yes I hear "the blessed" daily pontificate on the wonders of life in Christ. I have no reason to doubt their experience. I'm left to wonder when they are going to come down, "hit the wall". Then I repent and hope they never do. I also wonder what is wrong with me, as I daily struggle with sins and ill feelings. I have come to a conclusion (to which I am not committed) that some folks are gifted with a faith that they will be happy and positive and successful in this life - rise above. The rest of us are gifted with a faith that struggles to rise above the doubts - faith that God's will will be done, whether I'm happy, or successful or defeat that sin, or not. Ours is the Theology of the Cross.

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Rick Dalbey

May 20, 2013  3:46pm

The denigration of the term fundamentalist is designed to inflict maximum scorn on Bible believing Christians. Secular journalists and sloppy historians use the term generically, as a pejorative, ie. Fundamentalist Muslim to signify the Taliban, a very unfortunate conflation. It's also used to describe the extreme judgmentalist Westboro Baptist cult. But in reality, the fundamentals are just that, a minimum set of non-negotiable Biblical beliefs. One may be fundamentalist and vote for Romney or Obama. One fundamentalist celebrates all things American while another rails against the US. One fundamentalist lays hands on the sick for healing, another is sure that the gifts of the Spirit died out in the 4th century. A minority of fundamentalists may align with the state as in Germany (most European state churches are Modernist in theology) while fundamentalists world-wide value independence and other-worldliness too much to give it up to the state. The common denominator is Biblical faith.

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Allen Wayne

May 20, 2013  3:06pm

Rick, there is a great divide to what you write about and what is really going on in the Fundalmentalist Churches. It's not just about Driscoll, Robertson, or Westboro Baptist, it's much broader and deeper than them. I travel all around the country and talk to many fundamentalists one on one. What their feeling, what their saying, it's scary. They all lean on blind literal interpretation of scripture, usally boiling it down to a few verses and always ending with, Jesus is coming back any minute now, something I heard for the last 40 years. I think we are talking about two different things here, what you say it means,and I respect you for that, to what is really happening in fundamentalist churches.

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JIM VANDER SPEK

May 20, 2013  2:09pm

The last part of this article disturbs and saddens me. Though I have lived the “dark night of the soul,” I no longer see this as normative, which seems to be implied. Our “groaning” which Paul describes in Romans 8 comes from the “bondage to decay” that our frail frames share with the rest of creation, not a heart in turmoil. As we submit to God and obey the commandments of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit become evident. This fruit is not self-generated-it surprises. Though neither “feeling” nor “experience,” this fruit is trustworthy, felt and experienced. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control come as we walk in the Spirit. These are the “first fruits” that gave Paul confidence. “Our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” is our glorious hope and is foreshadowed by our present blessed walk in the Spirit,the normal Christian life.

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Rick Dalbey

May 20, 2013  1:16pm

Allen, fundamentalism is based on a 12 volume study called The Fundamentals published in 1915. The books stressed the inerrancy of the Bible, the literal nature of Biblical accounts, especially Christ's miracles and the creation, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ and substitutionary atonement on the cross. Leading fundamentalist seminaries were Dallas Theological Seminary and Reformed Westminster Theological Seminary, formed in 1929 by Princeton Seminary professor Gresham Machen. Fundamentalism is a reaction against German Higher Criticism (which came to be known as Modernist theology) which viewed the Bible as a flawed human creation, a patchwork of literary sources full of superstition and bogus miracles added by later scribes. Fundamentalism isn't about American Exceptionalism, capitalism or religious legalism and some fundamentalists intersect politics when mass killing of infants or homosexual marriage are being promoted by our government.

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Allen Wayne

May 20, 2013  11:43am

Rick, I know what fundamentalist means. I worked forty years in lay minstry most of it in fundie churches.I am currently running a outreach minstry,with a seventy two year old retired pentacostal minister. I never said the fundamentalists were the new nazis, that tells me a lot about your comprehensiveness.I don't really care what Hitler was, other than he was evil. What happened in 1930's Germany was the ability of the fundamentalist german church to remain silent, as the mayhem went on. They felt compelled to remain silent by their literal interpatations. All fundamentalism works that way. A key to pure fundamentalism, is to have the ability to meter out discipline and punishment, which the german church let the nazi's do for them. Western fundamentalism can only use words right now, like "he's a heretic" or" he's lost" and so on. All fundamentalist groups today would fall into silience if they felt the punishment was justified by a literal interpretation.

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david ondich

May 20, 2013  11:11am

This is a great article- it begins with our desire for the emotional release of salvation ( spiritual ecstasy) and leads us back to sacrificial love- Jesus invites us to pick up our cross and follow Him- that's the enduring experience of salvation.

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Rick Dalbey

May 20, 2013  1:37am

So Allen, Just to get this straight, Bible believing fundamentalists, who accept the word of God as inspired and literally true as Billy Graham and Carl Henry, the founders of Christianity Today, are angry and judgmental and astoundingly ignorant, and now, as you reveal, the new Nazis! Are you sure you realize what fundamentalism means? Adolph Hitler was a Roman Catholic, deeply committed to a brand of eschatology called partial preterism which vilified the Jews. Most fundamentalist love the Jews, love gay people, and are not racist. Most Black churches are fundamentalist and literalist as are ALL pentecostal churches and most Baptists. I suppose we should have much to fear from you.

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Allen Wayne

May 19, 2013  9:24pm

I agree with Pilgrim, and the only thing that keeps the the Fundamentalists in check today,is our legal system, and the ability of free speech, where people can speak out and criticize and be protected by law.I just read two books on the German Church in the 1930's, that lead to the rise of the nazi's. Fundamentalism was everything, the very core of their being. However the fundamentalists are unable to cross that line today, not because they are more enlightend, but because they couldn't get the general public on side, because it is more enlightend.

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Rick Dalbey

May 19, 2013  2:13pm

Pilgrim, I’m a fundamentalist as the founders of CT were. I guess that means I am angry and judgmental and astoundingly ignorant. And a Bible literalist! I took University classes on literary criticism of the Bible, studied the supposed sources and redactions. Which is the miracle of the Bible. With all 66 books, all the influences, the wildly divergent cultures, scribes, edits and redactions there is one Editor, the Holy Spirit, and His word will stand forever. As it says in Revelation, ”If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” Jesus taught, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom."

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Pilgrim Progress

May 19, 2013  12:20am

Read ALL the comments here. You will readily see how Christian Fundamentalists, in their anger, judgmentalism, and astoundingly ignorant Certainties about the Bible, God's Will, and Inerrant Scripture, drove away honest and decent people with their behavior and decidedly enthusiastic wish to see "Others" punished. Christianity is being rescued from the Bible Thumbers and the Fire and Brimstone Crowd. God is love. Man is fearful and mean spirited. Rick Bell gives us usable insights. If you don't approve or agree.....go write your own book.

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Pilgrim Progress

May 19, 2013  12:08am

No well educated, experienced and honest Theologian considers him/herself a Biblical Literalist, nor throws around the angry, misinformed epithets like "evil, reprobate or anti-Christ" when encountering those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible cannot be, and is not consistent in any way shape or form. It is not a book. It is many books; edited, plajarized, redacted and altered by the Political and Religious Powers who had motive and opportunity to alter it in so many ways. The bible IS Inspired, but hardly literally, linguistically, culturally or historically accurate. One only needs to study the hundreds of descrepancies in the Four Gospels, which were most certainly probably not even written by the assumed Authors. For those of you throwing bombs and criticism on the insights of Rick Bell, or any other well educated Theologians, just bear in mind that they probably know more about "Scripture" than you do. Enought to know that there is Faith, but never Certainty, much less "Revealed Truth." God is bigger than our petty squabbles, denominational wars, and very limited knowledge.

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ek swenson

May 18, 2013  11:42am

Why does anyone need to read a book by Rob Bell? What is his motivation to write these books? Either the Bible is YHWH'S inerrant WORD given to us to use as our authoritative guide to life, or it is not. If it is written in the Bible, then we can easily confirm YHWH'S guidance by building scriptural precept upon precept. If we attempt to discern anything without Biblical confirmation, we are being led astray by the enemy. When we start to lean on our own "feelings" and understandings, we are creating gods that conform to our minds, instead of knowing HIM through HIS revealed Word. YESHUA came to earth so that we could know the mind of YHWH, and offer a WAY to HIM. Satan has his own agenda and it starts and ends with self: "I will make myself like the most high," Isaiah 14:14. Believers should be praying that all who are being led astray from the mind of YHWH will find the narrow path that YESHUA spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14, instead of the broad path that is seducing the majority.

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Kacee Erhard

May 18, 2013  10:31am

I didn't get the impression that Bell's book was being promoted. What seems to be missing in the views of many folk is a simple balance. Having gone from a Protestant background (most recently evangelical) to a - surprise!- Catholic conversion, I can vouch for the animosity and righteousness that pervades the spirit of so many individuals. Even within the Catholic church I find hard lines of differences. It drives me crazy! I appreciate everything this author wrote; it settles into a place where Love rules. When your spirit touches Truth, I don't believe you can be ugly and harsh in your sincere appraisal of another. Yes, as one commenter said, there are many ways to Jesus. Loving them when they fail to meet your understanding is almost more difficult than loving someone who disbelieves entirely.

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Juergen Rose

May 18, 2013  8:19am

After almost sixty years of similar experiences and conclusions, I can only concur with Mark Galli. Experiences come and go and they are wonderful when they happen, but should not be sought for their own sake. CS Lewis said similar things about seeking after pleasure. The real mark of Christian maturity is the love that serves in unobtrusive and often unexciting ways. Thank you for a balanced assessment of the issues.

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Howard Baker

May 17, 2013  11:40pm

It appears to me that most every biblical character had experiences with God to the extent that the bible could be called a record of humanity's experience with God--their creation, their fall, and their redemption. When Paul writes in Romans 14:17 that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, it sounds like an experience that is far more than the tedium and the mundane that Mr. Galli suggests believers should settle for.

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audrey ruth

May 17, 2013  10:36pm

Oun Kwon, I agree with much of what you said, just wanted to point out a couple of things: 1) The error you pointed out is not just westernized "Christianity"; it's established in Africa too, and probably other places, and 2) The gifts of the Holy Spirit have never ceased, and won't until Jesus returns (I Corinthians 13). They are God's gift to His people to enable us to carry out His work on earth.

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Oun Kwon

May 17, 2013  10:09pm

Bob tolls a different bell this time. He is the same person with the same thought and mind-set. Can a leopard change his spots? God Bell is talking about is nothing but a Baal. Mind you, the Satan never told and never tells something untrue, unlike humans - simply deceiving us to choose to become a god. BTW, For the second half of the last century, westernized Chr_stianity has offered so much things foul - prosperity gospel, possibility gospel, positive-thinking gospel, prophecy and healing peddling, shamanic gospels (Word of Faith; Pentecostal gibberish), now with new ageism, emerging churches, along with a fake bible (personal message peddled as a Bible translation by Eugene Peterson, gay-married bishops etc, What a greatest show on earth in the name of God in these Last Days.

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David Montague

May 17, 2013  8:03pm

After seminary, divorce, suffering through the Iraq debacle (opposing the US gov't and its unwarranted attack on the people of Iraq), I have given up on church and christianity. But there's much I find attractive in both Rob Bell and Mark Galli's gracious treatment. These are things I will consider carefully.

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Martin Tampier

May 17, 2013  7:18pm

Thanks Mark Galli - stick around some more time; we are in need of balanced people.

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Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  2:51pm

Bell came out of the Evangelical church. Our church used his material for years until he published “Love Wins”. This is a critique of Bell and our own evangelical movement. Mark says, “Bell believes our knowledge of God is grounded not in doctrine, the Bible, the preached Word, the sacraments, our institutions, or even what Jesus revealed (all ways theologians ground our knowledge of God), but in our experiences and our intuitions”. Mark goes on to say, “Bell aligns himself with the Romantic tradition, which arose as a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment era....this approach is very much in line with 19th-century liberalism, especially with the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), who championed in a systematic way the "religion of feeling." The point is not that Bell is nothing but a liberal. Rather, the point is that Bell's attraction to a religion of feeling has been and is shared by American evangelicals. By us.” The uncritical reliance on feelings.

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Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  2:39pm

I don’t think you folks are understanding Mark Galli’s point. Mark is no fan of Rob Bell. In fact, immediately after Love Wins was published, Mark wrote and published a rebuttal called God Wins. He wrote it to refute Bell point by point. Mark is saying that Bell is a product of the wishy washy evangelical church with its over reliance on feelings, over Biblical revelation, doctrine and orthodoxy. Galli identifies the problem as a flawed Evangelical Epistemology (how we know what we know). This flawed epistemology gives rise to Universalism, Social Justice, political progressivism and gay advocacy, all four current plagues in Evangelicalism. Visit the Evangelical Catalyst conference, read Gabe Lyons or any one of the number of Social Justice conferences that are plaguing the church. And all have their root in the theological liberalism of Schliemacher. What young Christians FEEL about gay people, what they FEEL about social justice crusades often trumps the word of God.

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audrey ruth

May 16, 2013  12:41pm

ITA, James. Well said, Kevin -- VERY well said.

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James Murdoch

May 16, 2013  6:35am

Thanks Kevin Cauley - your comment says it all. Christianity Today editorial staff, please heed the warning!

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Pop Seal

May 15, 2013  8:09pm

The Biblical doctrinal basis for teaching must never be over run by the 'authority' of experiences. That very problem was at the bottom of the Corinthian church's worship 'experiences'. Further, in his letters to Timothy, St. Paul repeatedly emphasized the necessity of doctrine. Numbers of people in the pew and budgets are not the standards for Christianity, but for pop culture religion void of repentance faith and regenerating spiritual life. The old time religion was good enough for Silas and it's good enough for me.

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Jim Hagan

May 15, 2013  7:06pm

I agree with most of the article. Disagree that Rob Bell is an evangelical. Rob Bell is more about Rob Bell than anything else. A more narcissistic pastor you will not find. Just check out his video on the book. It's all about his studying, his journey blah, blah, blah. A connection not made in this article is an obvious one. The father of "felt-experience" Christianity is the 19th Century liberal theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. He came out of a pietistic background and sought to reconcile Christianity with the Enlightenment and embraced higher criticism of the Scripture. Folks like Jim Wallis, Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are just following in his footsteps. Particularly in the area of sexuality they are just reciting what liberal theologians have been saying for years and are presenting mainline liberal theology as something new for evangelicals. Nothing new under the sun. There is nothing in their teaching one cannot find in the average unfaithful mainline church

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John Peil

May 15, 2013  5:47pm

Good article, especially the final section! However... Mr. Galli quoting Rob Bell: He says people who abuse and exploit others and creation will not participate in the glorious restoration of heaven on earth. I'm sorry but this is a truly awful, heretical statement that totally disregards the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. If Mr. Bell truly believes, as indicated by this quote, that this is the litmus test for salvation, then he simply isn't a Christian. The Apostle Paul spent the first part of his life straight-up hunting down and murdering followers of Jesus Christ and we now consider him one of the greatest men of God to ever walk the earth. A person's specific list of sins is nothing. Salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is everything!

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Rick Dalbey

May 15, 2013  5:18pm

Kevin, I didn't read this as slobbering over Bell, instead it was an inditement against a kind of evangelicalism based in feelings. Galli says in the first page, "In other words, Bell believes our knowledge of God is grounded not in doctrine, the Bible, the preached Word, the sacraments, our institutions, or even what Jesus revealed (all ways theologians ground our knowledge of God), but in our experiences and our intuitions." It seems to me he is saying Bell is very much in the tradition of Schleiermacher who claimed that religious experience was introspective, and that the most true understanding of God consisted of "a sense of absolute dependence." This is precisely the focus of Galli's discomfort with Bell, his flawed epistemology which gives rise to unorthodox doctrine.

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Kevin Cauley

May 15, 2013  1:11pm

Initially, with all the fawning and drooling all over Rob Bell, I almost stopped reading, and said, "Farewell, Christianity Today", which seems less and less like an evangelical ministry and more and more like a promotion of Schleiermacherian liberalism, which is much different from an evangelical understanding of experience. If you get beyond all the gross slobbering over Rob Bell, there is something worthwhile to think about in the article that could have been said without promoting Rob Bell's book (as indicated by the Amazon link ready to sell Rob's book). Unfortunately, this article just seems like an old time soap opera intended not to provide intellectual thought and good entertainment but a long, seedy commercial to promote the soap, which in this case is Rob Bell's book. I certainly miss the Carl Henry style evangelicalism, with serious thought and evangelical reflection and serious exploration of experiential Christianity, which Christianity Today use to represent.

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Bob Bobo

May 15, 2013  12:12pm

Excellent, well written. And sums up for me much of what I 've thought after 30 years as a beleiver. I think Bells questions and outlook as presented here by the author are right on. And the authors reservation based in good balance and "experience". One thread here, is main stream USA Christianity often try's to define, organize and package how God works. And as God often does, he cannot be held to our theroies or expectations. As John Fisher said: " Jesus is the only way, but there are so many ways to Jesus".

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Rick Dalbey

May 13, 2013  9:31pm

Nathan, the author of this article on Rob Bell speaks in tongues and believes in and has experienced laying on of hands for miraculous healing as I have. Do mean that teaching God heals today through the laying on of hands or that you can speak in tongues is false teaching? Does this mean that a false teacher wrote this article and is editing Christianity Today? Does this mean the author of this article shares guilt by association with Paula White? Does this mean the author of this article has descended into feel-good-ism? You will find no stronger Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God preaching on the dangers of hell than Reinhard Bonnke. He is not a prosperity preacher, has never written a book on it or recorded a DVD on it. He is an evangelist. Rob Bell is clearly a heretic, a universalist and has been very explicit in his heresy and Mark Galli has done a great service writing this article. Rob Bell has denied that God sends people to Hell. I am not sure what you are so upset about?

Nathan Swenson

May 13, 2013  6:58pm

Bonnke is the same false teaching as Hinn, Paula White, the fiction of the Toronto Blessing, the nonsense of the NAR, Todd Bentley, etc. I've youtube'd Bonnke and his "gospel" is the same as those I've mentioned. I dont doubt God can save a truly repentant soul despite the sloppiness of Bonnke, but for too many im afraid their latter end will be worse than the first. I pray for pureness of doctrine, but I know that I don't have it. I struggle with my sin stain all the time. My frustration is that American Christianity has degenerated to feel-good-ism and is not the Christianity of the Bible. Easy believism, prosperity preaching, what can Jesus do for me, no respect or reverence for the holiness and transcendence of God. Read the writings of the Reformers or the Puritans, they understood the holiness of God and mans place in Creation. Edwards' "Sinners in the hand of an angry God" would not be preached in an Americn pulpit today.

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Rick Dalbey

May 12, 2013  10:29pm

Huh? I quoted Mark, James and the Book of Acts. Nathan, what are you fighting against? I do not support Hinn. But Reinhard Bonnke has never been accused of false teaching. If you don't believe the numbers of Africans born again in his crusades, watch on line. You can hear the content of his sermon of well. He has led more to Christ than any other evangelist today. Isn't that the biggest miracle? You may have some kind of pristine doctrinal purity but he is leading a millions out of the clutches of hell and into the kingdom to live forever with the saints. "my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." 1 Cor. 2:4. "God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled." Acts 19:11.

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Nathan Swenson

May 12, 2013  7:57pm

Rick, you're claiming a false teacher as a credible source?! Why not appeal to Benny Hinn as well? You say that " Preaching the gospel accompanied by miracles produces an awe that is not as easily overcome as a simple mental assent." - does that mean the Gospel alone isn't sufficient to produce awe? The fact that the Creator of the universe would cram Himself into a baby, be born in that place at that time in those conditions, to suffer the effects of sin, to feel the effects of sin, to BECOME as sin to free someone like me that has warred against Him in everything I do, that is all I need. I don't need to see someone get out of a wheelchair to believe that God is God.

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audrey ruth

May 12, 2013  8:48am

Haven't read the whole article -- just wanted to say that I completely, totally, categorically disagree with Rob Bell on two crucial issues: 1) the existence of Hell (he has decided it doesn't exist) and 2) marriage (he disagrees with God's definition of marriage). He and I may (or may not) agree on other areas of theology, but these are so basic, so foundational, I am leery of his beliefs, in general.

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Rick Dalbey

May 10, 2013  4:41pm

41% of the US claims to be born again or evangelical. This means 41% checked a box but it could also mean that 41% agreed with a philosophy. Pew Forum found only 45 of evangelicals affirm that a personal relationship with Christ is essential for eternal life. So now we are down to 20%. The problem in America is that we have defined Christianity as a set of affirmations. It’s one thing to repeat a prayer in a US stadium today, it is quite another to see the power of Jesus raise a crippled man as with Peter when 5000 were saved. Paul’s statements in Romans were given in the context of a miracle rich Christianity. It is one thing to say Jesus healed the sick 2000 years ago and quite another to see it happen before your very eyes. That is why Reinhard Bonnke has led over 50 million Africans to Christ and why the center of Christianity is shifting to Africa and S. America. Preaching the gospel accompanied by miracles produces an awe that is not as easily overcome as a simple mental assent.

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Luke Mills

May 10, 2013  2:30pm

Excellent article.

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Nathan Swenson

May 10, 2013  2:12pm

Rick, I agree with you that it takes years to really discover the depths of one’s sin; I would go farther and say we will NEVER know the depth of our sin. That unfortunately is the point that I was making. Too many "evangelicals" don't talk about sin, the extent of someone's sin, they preach a "make your life better" gospel, or equally insipid, Pascal's "God shaped hole" gospel. If the sinner's prayer were truly sufficient, I would say that the gospel has no power because when you look at America and see that somewhere between 80-90% of the population claim to be Christian because they once said a prayer. In my town alone I can guarantee you that nowhere near 80% are going to church. If 80-90% of the population was Christian, you couldn't walk outside without someone approaching you to give you the gospel. Christianity is very binary - you are either a Christian or you're damned, there isn't a scale where you are almost a Christian.

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Daniel O'Brien

May 10, 2013  7:16am

The good: assessment of focusing too much on experience and not enough on faith and hope (Romans 8:20-25). The bad: it sounds like Rob Bell is given a pass on his denial of the Biblical doctrine of hell. That should be disturbing to all of us.

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Rick Dalbey

May 09, 2013  10:47am

Nathan, that is an affully low opinion of evangelists. Rom 10 says “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Then we have the record that 3,000 were saved at the conclusion of Peter’s evangelsitic semon, ““Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” How could Luke report that 3000 were saved? How could Paul declare that the Romans were saved? Besides, I think it takes years to really discover the depths of one’s sin. With every new revelation we discover the holiness of God and the greatness of His grace towards us. A relationship has to begin somewhere and usually in American weddings we say a couple is married when they repeat, “I do”. Jews signed the "ketubbah" contract.

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PETER KUSHKOWSKI

May 08, 2013  4:55pm

Re Mark Galli's opening "As far as I can tell, any classic, middle-of-the-road Christian can offer a hearty "Amen" to a great deal of Rob Bell's theology." Strikes me that the luke-warm Laodicean church was "middle of the road"... and we know what Rev. 3:14-22 says about that.

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Nathan Swenson

May 02, 2013  4:14pm

Too many "evangelists" emote people into saying "the sinner's prayer" so the evangelist can post another notch in his "saved" file. I take some issue with a couple of your points however. You say "In these circles, one is assured of salvation not because one merely said the Sinner's Prayer, but because of the experience surrounding it. Otherwise one is suspected of mere formalism." - I think saying the Sinner's Prayer alone is the farthest thing from demostrating a saving faith. Without truly understanding the depth of one's sin, there can be no true repentance. and "This need to prove one's faith by the drama of one's conversion experience goes way back. To become a full member of a New England Puritan church—to be baptized, take Communion, and vote—you had to convince church leaders of your genuine conversion experience." - you mean like Peter says to test yourself to see that you are in the faith?

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CHUCK Gianotti

April 22, 2013  4:27pm

Brilliant, insightful, perceptive and clever (you had me guessing for most of the article). Thanks for a brave articulate, painting of "evangelicalism" with a broad stroke-and deservedly so.

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Rick Dalbey

April 20, 2013  4:06pm

This essay is so funny and true. Rob Bell is not a lot different than sentimental poet Rod McKuen–theology based on feelings. Bell even uses the free verse form in his book, which is distracting. Without Biblical propositional truth, without a firm grounding in history, without a strong rational hermeneutic, Christianity is simply a dreamy, romantic poem. Yet the Bible is filled with the poetry of the soul. I don’t see feelings and propositional truth as mutually exclusive. Feelings validate doctrine. But I would also hesitate to characterize Charismatics as feeling based. Wonder, ecstasy, living each day in wild amazement is not normative for Charismatics either and just as true of Buddhists or any mystics. Charismatics (I would certainly include Paul, Peter and Moses) learn to know the supernatural person and voice of God depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance, physical healing and provision. And I am so amazed and happy to see Mr. Galli, editor of the venerable CT, in this crowd.

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Kristine Christlieb Canavan

April 20, 2013  7:28am

I grew up with a "cost of discipleship" theology--slog one's way through life and hope for something better in the next. Then along came the charismatics. Their "expect the abundant life now" teaching was a breath of fresh air. Like so much of life, isn't following Jesus somehow a balance or tension between these two ideas--along with keeping one's eyes peeled for a formula that allows one to manipulate the universe.

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