Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Leaving Velvet Elvis in the Dust of the Rabbi


Cameron Beuttel is a name I am familiar with who attended the Deeper 2008 Conference (not as a speaker) in Atlanta and is a gifted teacher in discerning the scripture. In this short video Cameron breaks down Rob Bell’s most famous teaching (Dust of the Rabbi) shown in an abbreviated form (Dust) in the Nooma video series. I watched this quite awhile back and it nails down the biblical issues with the “Dust of the Rabbi” message that many people love to hear Rob Bell preach.

Rob Bell is a very well known national figure among Christian leaders and his teaching is very influential. The question is whether the influence is biblical? Here is a list of problematic quotes from Rob Bell as found in his very popular book Velvet Elvis:

Inspiration and Hermeneutics

· "The Bible is a collection of stories that
teach us about what it looks like when God is at work through actual people. The
Bible has the authority it does only because it contains stories about people
interacting with the God who has all authority." p65

Sola Scriptura

· "...it wasn't until the 300s that what we
know as the sixty-six books of the Bible were actually agreed upon as the
'Bible'. 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. In reaction to abuses by the church,
a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only
need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from
the church voting on what the Bible even is. So when I affirm the Bible as God's
word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was
somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we
need is the Bible, it is simply not true. In affirming the Bible as inspired, I
also have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to
choose those books." p68

· "Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master." p25

Heaven and Hell

· "Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people.
Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of
forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we
choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality
we trust. Ours or God's." p146

· "When people use the word hell, what do
they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires
things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death,
slaughter--they are all hell on earth. Jesus' desire for his followers is that
they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. What's disturbing is
when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here
and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to
earth." p148

· "The goal of Jesus isn't to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here." p148

The Fall

· "I can't find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners. Now this doesn't mean we don't sin; that's obvious. In the book of James it's written like this: 'We all stumble in many ways.' Once again, the greatest truth of the story of Adam and Eve isn't that it happened, but that it happens. We all make choices to live outside of how God created us to live. We have all come up short." p139

Ultimate Reality

· "For a Christian, Jesus' teachings aren't to be followed because they are a nice way to live a moral life. They are to be followed because they are the possible insight into how the world really works. They teach us how things are. I don't follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When
Jesus said, 'No one comes to the Father except through me', he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are
at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God." p83
The Virgin Birth and the Trinity

· "What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry's tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of
Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that
time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that
in the first century being "born of a virgin" also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” p26

· "…is the way of Jesus still the best
possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?...if the whole faith
falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn't that strong
in the first place, was it?" p27

Rob Bell does claim to personally believe in the virgin birth of Jesus but he does not view it as an absolute truth and an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. Casey Freswick is the pastor of Bethany United Reformed Church in Michigan and he wrote the following assessment:

He (Rob Bell) claims that denying the virgin birth is not outside the Christian Faith. What matters is how we can best relate to the culture of our day. But the Bible declares, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of theHoly Spirit" (Matthew1:18). The angel does declares, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).

Christians confess in the Apostles Creed that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was "conceived by the Holy Spirit" and "born of the virgin Mary." Rob Bell claims this is a flexible interpretation of the Bible. He teaches that people claiming that Jesus had an earthly father who understand the apostles' words about the birth of Jesus as a cultural myth (lie) to get the followers of Mithra to embrace the Christian faith is not a denial of the Christian faith. We may deny the virgin birth as long as we continue to live in the reality of God's love. Doctrine is not that important. "Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master."

Rob Bell is absolutely wrong. The virgin birth, like the doctrine of the Trinity, is a doctrine of Christ essential to having God. These doctrines are not horrible masters but blessed truths. The truth of the virgin birth is stronger than Rob Bell's feeble attempt to distort the nature of Biblical truth. The virgin birth is true because God's Word reveals it as true. This is not an interpretation of Scripture; it is the clear teaching of the Bible. If this makes me arrogant according to Rob Bell, then it makes Paul and John and the Word of God arrogant as well.

So how important is the virgin birth of Christ? If Jesus were not born of a virgin, then the Scriptures cannot be reliable and He would not be God conceived in the flesh by the Holy Spirit but a mere man with a biological father and the human sinful nature that comes from being the son of “Larry”. If the Scriptures are not reliable and Jesus is the biological son of “Larry”, then we are of all men most miserable, our faith is in vain and we are dead in our sins. Please test all things and hold fast to that which is true.

Love, Rob-roy