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Rob Bell: Universalist and False Teacher – A Warning

March 3rd, 2011
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

Rob Bell has become very popular with his NOOMA videos. He continues to wander further away from Biblical Christianity, and in this video promoting another one of his works, he embraces what is known as “universalism” — the belief that ultimately all human beings will be going to heaven. WARNING to those who are using Bell’s materials. He preaches the Gospel of Christ, falsely. Pastors should not be using his materials in their ministry.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

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Categories: Liberal Christianity
  1. Jeff K
    March 3rd, 2011 at 07:27 | #1

    I may be one of the few Cyberbrethren readers who has actually heard Rob Bell in person. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that he is the hippest, coolest young preacher on the evangelical megachurch circuit. Although he certainly knows and has preached the gospel, his turn toward universalism (if true) is not entirely surprising. My own experience in a megachurch gave me the nagging sense that that’s where the megachurch movement was ultimately heading. After throwing open wide the gates of heaven, it’s hard to imagine God closing them to anyone.

  2. March 3rd, 2011 at 08:35 | #2

    I laughed at first when I saw this, because I know that our mutual friend Dr. Jackson will be crowing on his website later in the that universalism is what you and I believe in too!

    The irony of Rob Bell (a local minister for me here in GR!) is that his universalism (which many, including Dr. Jackson fears leads to antinomianism) actually leads to legalism. In other words, if forgiveness is communicated to everyone apart from the Word, then preaching it changes nothing. What’s the mission of the Church then? Obvious to give a peep-talk to everyone each week about how they need to do the law- what else would the Church do? This works out in his church very nicely in practice with his endless seminar style preaching about “godly finance” and parenting and whatnot. If you read volume 14 of Church Dogmatics and see fragments of what Barth was going to do with the sacraments and the doctrine of the Church had he lived, you pretty much get the same thing. Universalism in theory makes for legalism in practice!

  3. Matthew Carver
    March 3rd, 2011 at 14:06 | #3

    I would like to see how Rob Bell dismisses the relevant passages of Scripture. For instance, in Mark 3:29 Jesus says that the condemned will never receive forgiveness, and in Matthew 25:46 Jesus calls hell an “everlasting punishment.” One would do well to remember this in opposition to the delusions of Origen, the universalists, and the so-called “teachers of mercy.” (alley oop from VH)

  4. Patrick Kyle
    March 3rd, 2011 at 15:25 | #4

    Hang on a minute folks. Let’s exercise the 8th commandment and put the best construction on things. This is a promo video designed to pique interest and generate buzz. In the video, he only asks questions, which he presumably answers in his upcoming book. Let the man have his say before we accuse him of universalism. Has anyone here read the book yet? Is Mr. Bell on record anywhere as affirming universalism?

    We need to approach these things with a calm and cool head to avoid being swept up in some kind of controversy prematurely.

    • March 5th, 2011 at 08:27 | #5

      Patrick, you have to have your head inserted rather deeply into the sand to be able to post this kind of comment. Rob Bell is a false teacher misleading people into a false Gospel, and has been for a long time. Nothing new about that. Wonder why a guy who supposedly is a fanboy for Lutheranism would be unable to see this? But then again you keep selling those silly “Weak on Sanctification” t-shirts, so….

  5. Randy Keyes
    March 3rd, 2011 at 15:43 | #6

    This is actually quite sad. While I clearly disagreed with much of his Baptistic teaching, his grandmother was my favorite Sunday School teacher from elementary school, and, again, while a Baptist, she would have vehemently disagreed with such universalism.

    You know, I’d rather these folks just go straight pagan then “half-truth” everything into a “whole lie.”

    Randy

  6. March 3rd, 2011 at 16:07 | #7

    The sad thing is that some of his NOOMA videos are actually helpful and I have used a few – at least some of the early ones. However, since he has gone further and further from orthodoxy I agree that to use his materials now would be too difficult to add a disclaimer to it at the beginning that he is now off the rails.

  7. Rev. R Salemink
    March 3rd, 2011 at 16:37 | #8

    While I in NO WAY agree with this man’s teachings, he does make a point. What if someone walked into your office and said, “Let me get this straight. Anyone who dies not believing in Jesus as their Savior will end up in hell, right? The Bible says Jesus died on the cross for my sins, so that the Father will not punish me (1 John 2:1-2), right?”

    The paradox is that it is true, Jesus saves us from the wrath of God by suffering that wrath on the cross. And Jesus is God. So Jesus saves us from himself by sacrificing himself to himself (I know, I’m being facetious).

    Now, how would you respond to that? I think this is an issue that the church needs to address, because people are asking these questions, and we the faithful, who understand and hold the Bible to be truth, take these things for granted. But not so for those who were not raised in a Christian home or were exposed to Christianity.

    • March 4th, 2011 at 05:22 | #9

      A Lutheran pastor can, and should, answer these questions faithfully and he does not need Rob Bell videos, which are misleading, vague and doctrinally wrong to do so.

  8. Earl Baugh
    March 4th, 2011 at 07:17 | #10

    I went and watched the video. I don’t see how one makes the jump from the video to “universalism”. I see Rob talking about a very hard question that many, many non-Christian’s struggle with… and I’d be at least curious to see what conclusions he reaches before I’d make such a large blanket rejection of everything he has done. I know that Rob doesn’t always present things the way that a traditional Lutheran pastor does, but I find that he does “challenge the envelope” in how he presents Christian teachings. I have never seen a Lutheran Pastor even address these types of questions in a message. I find his videos useful, but like any person who presents teachings that are attributed to Christianity, I find that one must challenge them with scripture, prayer and faith.

  9. March 5th, 2011 at 00:03 | #11

    Even people who do not see theological problems with Rob Bell’s various books and videos (though I do not see how this is possible!), should not use them.

    Once you get past the slick presentation, banal moralism, and his razzle-dazzle delivery, you find that many of the videos are just historically, textually, archeologically, and factually misleading to the point of being hopelessly inaccurate. He often rehashes old liberal myths and urban legends about Rome, mystery religions, the early church, and ancient Judaism that have been properly rebuffed by qualified academic research. In many other cases he engages in wild speculation, creative storytelling and finds interpretations and meanings where none exist. It is impossible to actually learn anything constructive from the videos because one simply does not know when Rob Bell is speaking fact and when he is expressing opinions or making inaccurate statements.

    For these reasons alone one should steer clear of Rob Bell. I would say that he left orthodoxy years ago… but, even if you disagree with me, sufficient research will uncover that, in the vast majority of cases, he’s not even truthful, clear, or accurate enough to be used as any kind of study resource. It is the equivalent of teaching chemistry with a book where several of the formulas are wrong and many of the chapters contain factual errors that teach molecular properties that simply do not exist in nature. Why use it at all?

    To quote Rob Bell himself: “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up.” By his own admission, Rob Bell is a man who promotes ambiguity and doubt rather than revelation and clear, objective truth. Who could have use for such a teacher?

    …and let’s not forget that Rob Bell’s co-teaching pastor over at Mars Hill Bible Church, Shane Hipps, is on record as saying that the Greek and Jewish themes found in John chapter 1 teach us that we need to keep our various religious identities and structures but move beyond them, that all religions are valid and it is just that some religions “are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God” than other religions, that the Spirit does not need religion in order to work in the world, and that even Osama Bin Ladin has the “divine spark” within him so long as he draws breath.

    The Universalism charge is appropriate and has been that way for quite some time.

  10. Wally Schiller
    March 5th, 2011 at 00:21 | #12

    Well, I have watched the video on Vimeo. Sad, but very clever! All along, questions and emotive phrases are used which lead people to think that universalism is the way, but he never says so. Then, to conclude: two words of Gospel – love wins! If that is preaching the Word with accuracy, I am a monkey’s uncle! If you are going to raise so many questions, and be so emotive, then you need to go on and provide some better answers from Scripture to set the soul at ease. Bell has not done that!

  11. March 5th, 2011 at 17:40 | #13

    @ptmccain

    No head in the sand here. The fact of the matter is that the video is a marketing ploy, and to accuse him of Universalism without having read the book is premature because the video is nothing but a set of questions.

    • March 5th, 2011 at 17:50 | #14

      Patrick, one more time. Bell has been a false teacher for years, this video and the book is but on more example. You don’t have to read his forthcoming book to make these assertions. Sorry that you can’t, or won’t, understand it.

  12. Ron
    March 6th, 2011 at 15:44 | #15

    Bell has been a false teacher for years?

    Promoters of the Church Growth Movement within the LCMS would beg to differ. My LCMS church is a member of Willow Creek Association and has all of Bell’s Nooma DVDs. Have those LCMS churches (and there are many) been promoting a false gospel all these years?

    • March 6th, 2011 at 15:47 | #16

      Yes, they have. I would not use Rob Bell videos in a Lutheran congregation.

  13. March 6th, 2011 at 17:25 | #17

    Pr. McCain,

    Thank you for warning us about Rob Bell. I have written about Rob Bell’s false teachings over the past few years and I am always surprised by those who willfully ignore his universalist message. Yes, Bell is a universalist and has openly held that position since as early as 2008 when he praised the Dalai Lama at the Seeds of Compassion event which was held in Seattle.

    Here is a comment from Bell as posted at “the OOZE,” which is a popular Emergent Church website and online magazine:

    “[OOZE]You recently preached a sermon called “God wants to save Christians from hell.” I was discussing the message with a guy who after hearing this message was a bit disturbed and somehow came to the conclusion that you didn’t believe in a literal hell. Let me ask you, do you believe in a literal hell that is defined simply as eternal separation from God?

    [Bell] Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?

    I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.” ( http://theooze.com/church/an-interview-with-rob-bell/ )

    Bell doesn’t believe in a literal hell and he rejects the idea that God would eternally separate Himself from any of His creatures on the basis that they have rejected Him. Of course, universalism is not a problem for Bell who rejects sola scriptura as early as 1997 in his book “The God We Never Knew” where he claims that the Scriptures are fully a human cultural product and the Scriptures do not come to us either directly or indirectly from God (p. 27 of his book). Indeed, in his book “Velvet Elvis” Bell recommends to his readers Marcus Borg’s view of the Holy Scriptures. Borg teaches that the Scriptures are NOT God’s revealed truth or the absolute truth for that matter.

    When you reject the truth of the Holy Scriptures, you can make it up as you go and this is precisely what Bell does as a false teacher whose teachings should be marked and rejected by Christians.

  14. Patrick
    March 7th, 2011 at 00:30 | #18

    I have to agree with Pastor McCain. I bought a Nooma DVD a long time ago on someones recommendation to use it for a Bible study. After this, I did a lot of research on Rob Bell and was extremely dissapointed and sorry I put money in his pocket by buying this DVD. Ron, I hope that you would stay away from Rob Bell and keep it out of your LCMS church. If you do the research you will see the dangers in Rob Bell’s teachings.

  15. David
    March 7th, 2011 at 10:06 | #19

    I appreciate your comments and warning about this.
    I was a student at Concordia University Wisconsin earlier this decade, and the Nooma Videos were heavily promoted there at that time. They were regularly used at “The Haven” (the contemporary Sunday night service). It was kind of shocking to me because of the obvious dangers of Rob Bell’s theology. I bring that up simply because his influence runs deeper than some may want to admit.
    I don’t know if there are still used at CUW or not, but I hope that your (and others’) warning is reaching many!

  16. Dave Edsall
    March 8th, 2011 at 10:19 | #20

    Romans 3: “3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.”

    Chapter 14 of Romans describes Paul’s critique of differeing opinions- and how we should deal with them-

    So- let everyone stand strong in their beliefs, ours it not to judge, each is faithful in his convictions- singing praise to the Lord

    (Romans 14) “4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. “

    • March 8th, 2011 at 10:54 | #21

      Dave, you are very dangerously selectively quoting from Scripture. We are not talking about “opinions” in this blog post, but about articles of the Christian faith. St. Paul would never advocate the view that regarding the articles of the Christian faith we let everyone just have his/her own opinion.

  17. Dave Edsall
    March 8th, 2011 at 13:17 | #22

    Pastor McCain- I enjoy reading your blogs very much-!

    I hear you about dangerously selectively quoting from Scripture- but how does one account for the entirety of Romans Chapter 14? Can an entire chapter be selectively quoted? Paul says our differences should not separate us- for at the end of the day is it God who judges- AND that in God we will stand, for God is able to make us stand.

    I believe Paul is saying for us not to be in judgement of others’ beliefs- opinions- in fact he contends that those who place restrictions on such earthly things, i.e. eating meat on Fridays, are actually weak in their faith- that they must adhere to Laws in order to make themselves justifiable- instead of leaning on the Grace Jesus imparts. But, Paul says, if one man does this in order to praise God, another should not condemn his action, or cause him to stumble by imparting his own faith, belief, – opinion- Paul says each man should be convinced in his faith, that whether we eat meat or not, each does so to the Lord.

    If one man’s ideas bring Christ’s message closer to someone else, is there cause for rejection of those ideas? I believe Paul is saying the opposite- don’t let your own faith be a hinderance upon someone else. Condemnation of others is not ours to impart- to his master each must stand or fall- Paul says they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

    What is impossible with man, is possible with God. My Grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness. I believe Paul is saying those who need more than just faith- needing laws, rituals, etc- are the weak in faith- they don’t lean on the actions of Jesus, they need something more.

    Rob Bell takes this notion further- that is to say we all are in need of this Grace- and all receive God’s redemption, because God saves humanity, not simply individual humans. We all fall short, like Paul says in Chapter 5 of Romans, because of Adam; we all are justified because of Jesus.

    I haven’t read much of Rob Bell’s writings. I don’t agree with all that he says. His views are not all that unique, however. Paul offers that we don’t have any pre-requisites to Grace- it is poured out freely to humanity, just as condemnation was bestowed upon men by the action of one man, reconciliation is poured out upon men by the action of one man; Jesus.

    I do truly enjoy your blogs, thank you for taking the time to prepare them.

    In a helplessly self promoting stance, I did author a book “What If No One Believed?” which delves into questions such as these- that is what interested in me in this particular blog-

    thanks for the opportunity to speak my piece- and I look forward to future illuminations as they present themselves.

    • March 8th, 2011 at 13:28 | #23

      Dave, the section of Scripture you are quoting is dealing with matters of adiaphora, not matters of eternal doctrine. St. Paul is adamant in matters of doctrine that there is not to be any compromise, no concession and that we should all be united in doctrine. He is very harsh in Galatians about those who are compromising the Gospel, and would be harsh with men like Bell. It is very important that we keep clear distinctions in mind, in this case, between adiaphora and doctrine. I hope that helps.

  18. DDM
    March 10th, 2011 at 13:34 | #24

    I find all this very interesting. As most of you have stated above, I also am not a big Rob Bell fan. I find him to be interpreting scripture and teaching it in different ways that are small at first and then add up to BIG changes. People are not led astray overnight. It’s a little here, a little there. And I don’t really even think he is trying deliberately to lead people away from the truth. What he sees as enlightening and elevating christianity to the age we are in others see as taking a sledge hammer to the base of it.
    He seems to be so enamored with asking questions all the time. What if Jesus was not born of a virgin? Would you quit believing in God? What then would happen to the entire set of beliefs you had if one major block was to fall out? But the problem is that we don’t have all the answers. We may have some, but we will NEVER have them all. And especially when it comes to matters of the heart and some being saved and others not and some people’s hearts hardened and others not and why God would allow that.
    The bible warns about false teachers- and whether they mean to lead people astray or not – they are still false teachers.
    The thing is that the stuff he is questioning is biblical basis stuff. Not extra stuff like end times prophecy interpretation. It’s all important but I’d have to say that not believing there is a hell(or insisting that this does not have to be a core belief where you ‘put your stake in the ground’ if this is what he says) is quite different from believing the church will be raptured before during or after the tribulation.
    Thank God He has a purpose and no matter what we do or false teachers, bible thumpin’ teachers or anyone in between does, He will still accomplish His purposes.
    If anyone has any other statements or interviews or teachings that further questions the legitimacy of his teaching, I’d like some more to look at as I am a local and have friends at his church.

  19. March 12th, 2011 at 20:35 | #25

    @DDM ,

    “I’d like some more to look at as I am a local and have friends at his church.”

    Here’s where Rob Bell derails eight as he leaves the station: Rob Bell Absolutely Wrong About Scripture: http://tiny.cc/3nqae

    And I wrote these a couple of years ago, they’ll give you more than enough. Is Rob Bell Evangelical: http://tiny.cc/xw6n3 and Rob Bell And Christian Universalism: http://tiny.cc/6ddz6

  20. Rev. J. Quast
    March 14th, 2011 at 19:18 | #26

    Wow. I must admit that I have never even really heard of Bell before (being from a small parish in Canada), but his video was very….interesting. I can see where he certainly appears to have a genuine interest in reaching people who are asking hard questions – but any answers that are given which are contrary to God’s clear Word of Scripture must be rebuked. As Christians, we must, along with St. Paul, declare that were anyone, even an angel, deliver to us a message other than the clear Gospel that Paul preached as Christ crucified for sinners – let him be anathema! Bell appears to have serious issues with understanding the inherent human condition of original sin in conjunction with a misunderstanding (or complete lack thereof) regarding the justice of God (i.e. God must punish sin to be just to Himself and His Word). Thanks be to God that He meted out His justice on the cross upon His own innocent Son. Without these key doctrines understood, the Gospel itself becomes less than what it truly is – a help for someone who is sick – rather than life for one who is dead. As a Lutheran pastor I would be greatly distressed to see these videos used in my congregation for teaching purposes (unless they were used as an example of what to be wary of and warned against).
    Finally, let me just say this. Though I can in no way know the mind of God regarding the salvation of Ghandi or anyone else, yet God’s Word is clear. It is through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved. “Love wins” is not the Gospel. Love is not the Gospel – unless it is understood in the light of and in connection with Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for sins on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the dead. Romans 5:8 says it well, “God shows HIs love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  21. DDM
    March 14th, 2011 at 23:04 | #27

    @ken silva- thanks for the links. very helpful. I watched Bell talk about his book in an interview in NY. It’s on his website if you’re interested. I have updated my personal belief after watching that to be that he IS indeed what matt 7 talks about- the false prophet and a wolf in sheeps clothing. It is so deeply concerning to me. Many are being led away. Everyone no doubt should be able to ask questions and hard ones at that. But he doesn’t even attempt to answer them with scripture. And now I know why. Scripture alone is not good enough. (thank you ken silva).
    Most of the questions he answered were ” I believe that” and at one point said “I think that at the core of faith is trust and… I would use childlike very intentionally…. Childlike trust that God is good and that ultimately we are ok.” That seemed like he hijacked the Bible and made it seem like his own idea. And my personal favorite was this- when talking about something Jesus said, he said, “if you’re not against me you’re for me” Again, last time I checked I think that was “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.” Oh, well it must have been an error. Ha ha! That little “error” turns out to change the entire meaning of the text. Lord have mercy on this generation. There are so many pitfalls.

  22. anon
    March 15th, 2011 at 13:58 | #28

    While we are at it, could someone comment or link to info on H20 videos? I say that our youth or college were going to look at one of those. Does anyone know anything about them?

    Thanks

  23. March 16th, 2011 at 12:44 | #29

    @DDM

    You’re quite welcome, and thank you as well. :-)

    There’s a bunch of links to helpful material on the mythology of Rob Bell that I just gathered together today here: http://tiny.cc/pcrnq

    Please feel free to pass that link around as it has links e.g. to Al Mohler’s latest piece on Bell and Kevin DeYoung’s exhaustive review of Bell’s book “Love Wins.”

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