Dear Rob Bell…

Rob Bell

Because I have had people ask me if I have ever actually gone to the source to see if what I am writing about Rob Bell is true and reliable regarding his theology, I attempted to contact him via his author page at Zondervan’ website:

 Customer (Aaron Gardner) 09/29/2009 04:14 PM
Dear Mr. Bell,

I have one simple yes or no question for you: do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Thanks for your time,
Aaron

In an automated response from Zondervan, here is what I received:

Your question has been received. Our usual response time is two to three business days. A member of our Customer Care Team will be back in touch with you via email.

I have yet to receive any other response.  I have also attempted to contact him via the Mars Hill Bible Church website and both his and the church’s Twitter accounts.  No responses have been made, not even a thank you for my inquiry.

I will let you draw your own conclusion.

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

39 responses to “Dear Rob Bell…

  • Jonathan "Sigs" Sigmon

    Is the conclusion that he has bigger things to do, like help the poor in his area? Or help lead a church of 10,000 people? Or maybe tour the country telling of what God has put on his heart in a creative way? Maybe?

    Or maybe he is just really trying to avoid this question. Maybe.

  • Sabio Lantz

    If Jesus did raise from the dead, Rob Bell believing in it or not changes nothing. Oh yeah, he goes to hell if he doesn’t believe it.
    I forgot, that is why that is important.
    Right?

  • Aaron

    Well, I would expect to hear that from you, Sabio… just reestablishing your position for those who may venture here?

    And for the sake of clarity, if Rob Bell does not believe in the literal resurrection of Christ, I have a very hard time with thinking that he is a Christian at all.

    But then again, Sigs, you may be right… It would indeed take a tremendous amount of time to type the word “yes” in a reply to me… unless he would have to type “no,” and that would take some explaining, would it not?

  • Sabio Lantz

    And Aaron, it is clear that one of your primary aims is to determine who is Christian and who is not. I think St. Peter already has that job, dude. Why don’t you let your god worry about doctrine and you just help your clients.

    But I know the answer. You feel that correct doctrine (correct knowledge and belief) secure the afterlife and a good life when alive. You are a believist.

    Like you said, just re-establishing my position — or are you?

  • David

    Sabio, St. Peter doesn’t have that job. Christ does. And he calls us to exercise discernment…to know the difference between a sheep and a wolf. Men who are false teachers are wolves. And, last time I checked, Aaron has ministerial credentials, meaning that he’s supposed to be “shooting wolves” for the sake of the flock.

    Am I correct in that, Aaron?

  • Boz

    Aaron, I have been hanging around here a while, and I haven’t been able to work out where you stand on particular religious issues. Maybe i’m not paying enough attention. Can you please briefly answer these questions:

    are your religious beliefs held with absolute 100% certainty, or with only a very high (not 100%) confidence?

    Do you believe in special creation? (this is a theological doctrine which asserts that the origin of the universe and all life in it suddenly sprang into being by unconditional fiat or divine decree)

    do you believe that the water-to-wine story literally occured?

    do you believe that mary, jesus’ mother, had a baby with no involvement of sperm?

    do you believe that methuselah existed, and lived 969 years?

    do you believe that the post-ritual eucharist is actual literal blood?

  • Chad Estes

    Aaron,

    Someone asked Peter Rollins this same question. I found his response very relevant.

    “At one point in the proceedings someone asked if my theoretical position led me to denying the Resurrection of Christ. This question allowed me the opportunity to communicate clearly and concisely my thoughts on the subject, which I repeat here.

    Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

    I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

    However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.”

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Chad Estes — I originally came to Aaron’s site because he sounded like Rollins. I am still reading Rollins and trying to understand him. The loved the passage you quoted above and had seen it back when he wrote it. But I can pretty much guarantee you that Aaron would consider Peter as not being Christian and just as lost as me.

    Aaron is skilled at not confrontational dialogue at first glance — that was attractive. But if you get him to tell you what he really thinks, he is very categorical. Being categorical is a very useful tool in science. But I am afraid in theology it is mistaken.

  • Traci

    I think Chad’s quote hits the nail on the head. The point is, none of us measure up. If we have to hope in ourselves (our charitable efforts, our devotion, etc, which I think is where Rob’s teaching leads us), we’re screwed. We have no hope of being near God. We’re all too messed up.
    But if Jesus really did live & die, and if his sacrifice really did make us presentable to God…wow. My hope can rest in someone outside of myself. I don’t have to become proud of how spiritual or charitable I am – or become depressed at how spiritual & charitable I’m not. My soul can be at peace and I can love with no strings attached.

    I can’t say I’m excited about the Bible’s teaching that only those who trust in Jesus will be with God forever. But just because I don’t prefer it doesn’t make it false, right?

  • Aaron

    Ye–no… Chad, that is a beautiful quote and I agree with you, Traci, that it does say that we do not measure up, but it doesn’t answer the question at all. Instead it is an elegant turn of phrase that would suggest that the issue is one of philosophy than it is of fact. Indeed, the issue is one of fact and one of a specific question on a specific belief.

    The question was not “do we deny the resurrection when we sin?” The question was “do you believe that Jesus literally resurrected from the dead?” That has nothing to do with what I testify to when I put other things ahead of my love for Christ. After all, I cannot love Christ and I do not… because if I did I would follow all the Law, and according to Jesus himself that involves loving God with every thing that I am and loving everyone else as much as I love myself. So every time I buy a coffee at Starbucks I am taking food from the mouth of a starving child.

    No, this does not answer the question and Rollins gives the answer that I would expect from Rob Bell… an elegant way of totally dodging the actual issue.

    @ Sabio… if “categorical” does not work for you in discussing theology, then what would you find respectable?

  • Boz

    Chad Estes, as Aaron said, that quote from Peter Rollins is a non-answer. It avoids the intent of the question by talking about a different issue. It’s annoying to have one’s question not answered like that.

  • Aaron

    Boz, btw I am working on another post to address your questions 🙂

  • Chad Estes

    Okay, here is a little bit of Feedback. You will have to weigh it carefully and see if there is any value in it for you.

    I experience your question as Pharisaical- that being it is trying to trap someone into an answer that they can be judged for. Jesus wouldn’t play that game with the Pharisees, I can understand why neither Peter nor Rob are responding directly to the question, no matter what their answer may be. There seems to be too much judgement fueling the interview.

    Of course you are right that the resurrection is of great importance. I am a very simple-minded believer that takes scripture and its stories very literally. (I think that happens when you are raised in Sunday School with flannel graph Bible characters). AND… I am also coming to see that this whole walk is more than having the right doctrine.

    I just finished reading the Didache, an ancient text believed to be an early manual for the Christian life for the 1st century church. One of the interesting things is that their is very little if anything in it about having the right beliefs, it was about how to live in faith.

    It seems to be a non-ending battle when we divide over belief systems. It’s quite possible that Bell could answer the way that you would want him to on this issue, but I don’t that would be the end of it. There would most likely be another point of disagreement with him doctrinally and the challenging of his faith over another issue? Where does it end?

    So what is this behavior keeping us from? I think if we toss everyone out that doesn’t line up with our dogma that we are going to have one pretty lonely party. I think it is quite possible to learn from each other, even when we don’t agree on belief systems. Don’t we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in this? We are encouraged to prove all things, hold fast to the good stuff. I think that means that it is okay to read a book like Velvet Elvis and find the nuggets of truth that connect with our Spirit-led heart and spit out the bones.

    Anyway, I think that is why Peter responded the way he did to the question. My take isn’t that he is dodging for the sake of hiding, but that the point to the question is being presented on a spear, and it isn’t a fight worth getting into.

    We are to be known by our love- not our doctrine, not our rightness, not our ability to determine right from wrong (Adam and Eve’s temptation). We are created to love.

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron & Traci
    Since when can’t God tolerate the imperfect — Jesus hung with all the imperfect. Yhwy hung with Moses, Abraham and wrestled with one guy. This theory that god is can’t tolerate sin and won’t be around it does not seem a consistent theme in your documents. Am I mistaken? Some even feel we will keep perfecting in heaven — how could that be? So if he can tolerate sin, no killing of his boy was needed? Isn’t this all part of the Penal Substitution Theory. Or am I getting all jumbled — which atonement theory do you buy into?
    But the main question is “Can YhWy tolerate imperfection/sin”

    @ Aaron “allegorical”, “metaphorical”, “narrative” , “poetic
    Any of those would be respectable.

  • David

    Chad, none of that can be defended from Scripture. The Bereans were commended for measuring what Paul taught against Scripture. Nothing you have said holds any weight biblically.

  • David

    The only valid biblical theory of atonement is penal substitutionary atonement. See John Stott’s work…and maybe all of Romans and Galatians. Or just all of Paul’s letters period. Even the disputed ones. 🙂

  • Sabio Lantz

    David is chastising Chad for not being like Paul. Maybe some would chastise for not being like the writer of John or Revelations or Luke. Each had their own ideas. Rollins is stating his: I serve before I worry about doctrine. Jesus, to Rollins, told us the highest command is to serve, not to make theology or write scripture.

  • David

    No, I’m chastising him for not being like ANYONE worthy of emulating in Scripture. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword by his own admission. Paul was here to preach the gospel. John warned about living in a consonant way with the gospel proclamation…and Peter warned of false teachers.

  • Sabio Lantz

    Well, Aaron, you agree with your fellow Christian, David?
    Traci, do you agree with your brother in Christ, David?

    Here is where Christians could chastise each other, but usually the tribal bond is too strong for that and truth takes the back seat.

  • Aaron

    Chad, if a person does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, can they be a Christian? What is pharisaical about asking that question? Sounds similar to “confess with your mouth that Christ is Lord” to me… and if he did not raise himself from the dead then he can hardly be Lord.

    Living in faith as a Christian is all about the faith we have in Christ as Lord, does it not? Didache is not cannon, but even so it is consistent with Scripture on that point. Again I ask you how a person can be a Christian if they do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

    True, that I have other issues with Bell’s teaching, and I have not been quiet about that. But the concern here is whether or not I can even consider him a brother in Christ!

    As a side note, Chad, you are confusing Law and Gospel… Love is defined by Jesus himself as the summary of the Law! There is none who had followed the Law perfectly (Romans 3). Gospel is all about what Christ did for us, and if we deny the resurrection and make that specific truth a non-issue, then I wonder what Christianity is in the first place.

    @ Sabio

    The issue that David brings up is indeed the calling of a Christian. I would not say that we “chastize” (that being your word) but we are to be diligent about shooting wolves. If Rob Bell does not believe that Christ bodily resurrected from the dead, then he is a wolf and must be shot!

    Christians, in that respect, do not “chastize” on another… we call wolves wolves and shoot them on sight.

    Again, this is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from having theological differences. This is a matter of finding out who is in and who is out, and if they are out to pray that God might “deliver us from evil.”

    I sincerely pray that I am wrong. As I have said in other posts and other comments, I hope that someone can show me something that will prove these speculations wrong, then I will be willing to embrace Rob Bell as my brother in Christ, even with our differences.

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron
    If you are sincere about your prayer, you might want to visit this fellow and chat with him on his site. I will watch and listen. But I don’t think you will go, I don’t think you are sincere but am willing to be proved wrong. I you sincerely want to be wrong, you sincerely have to seek out some who could prove you wrong. You are right, your world will broaden and you will be more free to serve and less busy killing wolves.
    Put your rifle down a while dude.

  • Aaron

    Hmm… so sincerity is all based on my visiting another blog? I have actually been lurking around there since you mentioned it some time ago… just have not commented.

    Frankly, I am not expecting to lose sleep over whether you think I am sincere on this point.

    Wait… are you saying that you think I am a “fundy”?

  • Sabio Lantz

    No, I am sure you won’t loose sleep. But it is by engaging someone like him and not waiting for people to come to your blog or walk into your life that you will find the knowledge you apparently “pray for”. That all sounds great, and is what made me hang here for before I saw how generic your doctrinalism was. Are you really are praying to find someone to help you see differently, or are you like one of those Christians who hopes god will drop things on your lap.

    Good luck in your prayer life. I think you just say that (or maybe think it) to make yourself feel noble and open minded. But I could be wrong, I have been wrong thousands of times.

  • Aaron

    To clarify: my prayer is not that my beliefs are wrong. I have no doubts that I have many things wrong and so that is one reason that I really appreicate the dialogue with you, other atheists, and Christians who believe differently than I do. That is not the issue here.

    If we are going to define a person as being alive or not, then one of the criteria is that they have a beating heart. True there are machines that will do it for them which is just the miracle of modern science. I don’t think anyone would argue that a person whose heart no longer beats is alive, but dead.

    To be a Christian, the minimum criteria is to believe that Jesus died and was raised to live. There are many other issues up for debate within the context of a group of people who are indeed Christians who want to challenge one another. I enjoy those conversations, not because I have to be right, but because they stretch me and help me to further assess my own beliefs and pit them against what the Bible really does say. Like a person with no pulse I have no qualms with saying that they are dead. Likewise if a person denies this basic concept, that of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then I have a hard time calling him a Christian.

  • Boz

    A common theme that I have seen on this blog and other theistic blogs is to suggest that some other person is not a christian/muslim/etc. Being a reader of this blog, Aaron, your point would be clearer if you provided a definition of the word ‘christian’, instead of giving several examples of christians that aren’t christians, and requiring the reader to fill in the blanks.

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron

    (1) I agree with Boz. Not only should you give a definition, you should make your “What is a Christian” definition a Tab — so everyone can get to it. Choose your favorite creed and tell us, “The only person who qualifies as a Christian is someone who believes…”(then quote the creed– you don’t have to re-invent the wheel).

    The problem is, lots of folks who call themselves Christians will fail, so what should we call them?

    (2) So what was your prayer, Aaron. You just told me what it is not — similar move.

  • Aaron

    First, help me out. Where have I been unclear from my last comment about how to define a Christian by the most basic belief in the death and resurrection of Christ?

    Sabio, indeed I failed to finish my thought: my prayer regarding Rob Bell is that I am wrong in thinking that he does not believe in the physical resurrection of Christ. Based on the criteria for being a Christian, which is not mine but biblical, if I am wrong then Bell is a Christian who has some interesting theology.

    Is that clear enough?

  • Boz

    so, by your biblical criteria, the only pre-requisite to be labelled a christian is to belive in the resurrection? (I assume bodily and spiritually are both OK?). Or are there other requirements?

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron — It seems I was mistaken. I thought I read in other posts where you hoped your were wrong at that salvation was available to everyone. And I thought here you were again repeating yourself. But as I look at it again, I see you are saying you hope you are wrong about Bell. I guess I was being optimistic and that you saw how narrow and mean your theology was and that you were saying, “Well, I don’t make the rules. If God wants to be mean, he can — after all, he is the creator of the universe.”

  • Aaron

    Ah, but I am saying, “Well, I don’t make the rules. If God wants to be mean, he can — after all, he is the creator of the universe.” Although that statement would also take some ferretting out of what each of us mean by the word “mean.” After all I don’t want to be acused of equivocation. 😉

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%201:18-31&version=ESV

  • Sabio Lantz

    Well, as you know, Aaron, in your theology, something is right because Yahwey says it is right and wrong if he says it is wrong. If he says slaughter women and children, it is right. You know the arguments. You want the Yahwey of the OT to be the same as Jesus. In your world it all works out just fine.
    I don’t think I misrepresent you there.

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron, I love coming to your blog because you give me some good ideas for posts.
    For instance, I loved this statement from you:

    It is not mine but biblical

    I am sure you know that every Christian feels their particular doctrine is “biblical”, yet we have huge variance of interpretation held tightly by huge variety of Christians who disagree with each other about fundamental things.

    So that line strikes me as humorous. Humorous because the above fact makes it a meaningless one-liner. But to give you the benefit of the doubt, I am sure you could get some quotes to support yourself. But other biblical scholars could counter.

    There are many understandings of the resurrection — yes, a bodily resurrection is held by the majority of Christians. But then the majority of Christians also believe that Jesus’ mother was a virgin and Noah really built an ark for all the animals. Oh well. Again, quote a verse to show why this is suppose to be foolish to me — I am a pagan afterall.

  • Aaron

    Well, you didn’t click the link I provided in my last comment…
    or did you look it up on your own?

  • Sabio Lantz

    I thought you wrote a post where you encouraged Christians not to pop out Bible quotes to Atheists. Maybe I am mistaken. I fall for wolves in sheep’s clothing all the time. You’d think I’d learn.

  • Aaron

    :p

    We are discussing what the Bible says, are we not? 😉

  • Andrew jones

    I met him a few months ago. Nice guy. A Christian. I don’t like all the stupid celebrity fanfare that surrounds him but Leave the guy alone.

  • Cally

    The only thing that freaks me about Rob Bell is he claims he can love those who criticize him as if criticisim is a means to show him who is his enemy and therefore the one he needs to love.

    You really can’t love someone unless you know them and the following quote from him just creeps me out:

    “But I love everybody and you’re next!” he says, giggling. “That’s how I respond to criticism.”

    # ^ Encyclopedia.com Maverick minister taps new generation: Wheaton grad reaches out in films — is he 21st century Billy Graham?

    People don’t want to form relationships they just want to shake hands say hello and move on…that kind of stuff to me is just plan wrong.

  • Rob Bell: Resurrection Revisited « A Great Work

    […] definition of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ being an actual physical and historical event, which caused me to speculate that Bell did not hold to this belief.  This would have meant that Bell stands apart from the biblical accounts and sets himself next to […]

  • Aaron

    To you all:

    I have recently added a post that finally answers my question. There is definitely still a question about why Rob Bell would be so ambiguous about his belief in a physical resurrection, but he indeed and undoubtedly affirms this belief:

    https://lunchboxsw.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/rob-bell-resurrection-revisited/

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