Skirting Heresy with Rob Bell
Embracing uncertainty, the good side of dogma, and the blessings of not leading a church.

What is Rob Bell talking about when he talks about God? A lot of people would like to know. Bell sparked a nationwide conversation with his last book, Love Wins, by challenging popular Christian assumptions about heaven and hell. He's ready to do it again with his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I was able to read an advanced copy of the book and ask Bell a few questions about it. Although he draws a lot of attention among evangelicals, and his roots are within that stream of the church, Bell's theology and cultural messages seem increasingly in sync with more liberal traditions of the church. That was affirmed this past weekend when, for the first time, Bell openly endorsed same-sex marriage. As he continues to move farther away from conservative theological and social positions, will evangelicals follow him?

Early in the book you write, "God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment." How have you seen this tendency to project your ideas onto God, and how do you guard against it?

We guard against such things by always coming back to what Jesus came back to: How does your understanding of God shape you? Is it making you more compassionate and courageous and honest and less judgmental and more likely to love your neighbor? For Jesus this wasn't an interesting intellectual exercise in which we get our mental furniture properly organized, this is about the kind of people we are becoming right here and now. Some ideas shape us some ways, some ideas shape us another. That's one of the central themes of the book: I began to realize in the depths of doubt that some beliefs made me a better person and some didn't...because we all believe something. The question is: What is that belief doing to you?

You reference Helmut Thielicke's statement that those who speak to the hour's needs will always skirt heresy, but they'll also gain the truth. How can you tell when you're "skirting" heresy and when you've crossed into it? And does that even matter.

This is why I find Eucharist so powerful-you gather with others to center and ground and remind yourselves of the body and blood given for the healing of the world. The Christian faith is ultimately an incarnated reality in which the mystery of God is born in flesh and blood–love your neighbor, as Jesus would say. Jesus comes to give us actual lived life in a whole new mode of being. So yes, it matters. Certain paths are destructive and others make the world a better place.

March 20, 2013

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments


April 23, 2013  3:25am

I see some of you attack Rob Bell for supporting Gay marriage. Presumably you also support these: Old Testament For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him." (Leviticus 20:9) Imagine what would happen today if we killed every child who was disrespectful to his parents. Most preachers conveniently choose to ignore this verse.. "If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has discovered her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from her people." (Leviticus 20:18) Imagine what would happen today if we deported every man and woman who had ever had sex together while the woman was having her period (which is exactly what the above verse commands). Most preachers choose to ignore this verse. "At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts." (Deuteronomy 15:1) Imagine the chaos that would befall the economy if the Government decided to "cancel" all debts every seven years. It would be an unmitigated disaster, which is probably why most anti-gay preachers quietly choose to ignore this verse, too. But you say we are under the New Testament: So what about these Timothy 2:11-12 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. How many churches now allow women preachers but these same churches condemn homosexuality. The wealthy will be condemned James 5 Warning to Rich Oppressors Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you 1 Peter 3V3 no makeup or jewellery Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. Matthew 5 Adultery 27 "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.'[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. How many Christians say it is ok to divorce if partners are abusive? How many destroy body parts if they sin!!!! If you get attacked and sued turn the other cheek and give the attackers more!!! Matthew 5 Jesus again!!! Eye for Eye 38 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. As Jesus said! in Matthew 7 Judging Others7 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3

Report Abuse


March 27, 2013  11:04pm

Mr. Bell insists that words have meaning. Yet he is more than willing to allow opponents of the faith to continue to re-shape and redefine how we use words and language to uphold our values. Case in point is his supposed acceptance of "gay marriage." Amongst other things this is an attempt by proponents of gay marriage to "redefine" how our society interprets marriage. Mr. Bell sounds double minded...

Report Abuse

Pastor T

March 26, 2013  8:58pm

She who has ears, let her hear.

Report Abuse


March 23, 2013  1:40pm

Rob Bell has reached the point of having absolutely nothing whatsoever to say. My mother used to refer to this kind of speak as being "mealy mouthed" or "nothing but mush in there". I think most readers will just move on at this point.

Report Abuse