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Slice Goes After Rob Bell

John on August 4, 2006 at 12:21 pm

Update 8/05: I’m putting this up here so nobody misses it. After reading Ken’s revised attack on Rob Bell, I contacted the individual he quoted, Patrick Hanley. Patrick is a youth and college pastor who was not aware how his words were being used. I encouraged him to clarify his comments and he has done so below. Here is the key bit:

This Ken guy, whom I don’t find very fond, has taken my words and made them say something I did not intend. I like a lot of what Bell says. I saw him speak last week in Indy and it was pretty good. My only wish is that he would be more cross-centered. I would not call him a heretic or a wolf seeking to devour.

[End update]

Both Ken and LadyDoc have some issues with Acts 17. Something about that chapter just doesn’t GROK with them.Rev. Ken Silva (one of the primary authors over at Slice of Laodicea) and I have had some frank but polite exchanges recently on the topic of pastor Rob Bell. Last week, Ken wrote a post on his own blog criticizing Bell for a statement he found on the Willow Creek Assoc. website. He then highlighted this over at Slice in this post titled Rob Bell: A Very Poor Christian Communicator. Here is the Rob Bell statement Ken reacted to, including Ken’s use of bold for emphasis:

“I just finished reading Marilyn Manson’s autobiography,” he says. “I will read books on design and art, how things are arranged. I’ll go to Barnes & Noble and get a stack of 25 magazines–some that have nothing to do with what I care about just inhale them. I’ll read books on stuff I don’t know anything about ”

“I’ll read a Yoga book, and realize, ‘Hey they are searching for something here! They are trying to get this experience. Why? Well, because God wired them that way to seek Him.’ Try reading a book on Buddhism, and see if it doesn’t bring Scriptures to life. What are Buddhists looking for? Enlightenment. Ahh, Ephesians 1–enlightenment!”

From this bit of a three year old interview, Ken goes on a whole riff about the absurdity of what Bell has said:

Is he serious? If we’re reading this right, and based on the blurring of spiritual lines through Contemplative Spirituality I suspect that we may be, Bell would have now just made the Lord responsible for atheistic heathen striving to unleash their Kundalini serpent power and pagans seeking to go deep within themselves in an attempt to find their divine True Self.

And just to be doubly clear, Ken repeated exactly what the problem was in a comment at Slice [slice doesn't have permalinks for comments, so I can't link directly]:

I read him saying of pagans, “God wired them that way.” As such then he is telling me that it was the Lord Who is responsible for their pagan worship. He wired them that way. This is ridiculous.

Of course, the real problem is Ken isn’t reading Bell right. As I pointed out, Bell isn’t saying God is responsible for paganism at all:

I see a complete thought that begins with “They are searching for something…” he then states that the reason they are seeking something is because “God wired them that way…to seek him.” In other words, they are not wired to do Yoga, they are wired to seek God. In the absence of truth they have filled that need with error, but the desire itself is God-given. This fits with both my understanding of scripture and my experience. Everyone wants God, some of them just don’t know it yet.

Bell repeats this thought in the next few lines saying “What are Buddhists looking for…” [or seeking]. He answers his own question and again makes the connection between pagan error and a kernel of God-given desire: “Enlightenment. Ahh, Ephesians 1 – enlightenment!” He’s not blaming God for pagan error, he’s noting that even pagan error contains bits of God’s truth.

We then had a whole discussion about the proper interpretation of Acts 17, the highlight of which (for me, anyway) was when a commenter named LadyDoc argued that Paul’s preaching model was a failure:

Oh, his sermon didn’t go over too well, by the way. Only a few people really took to it; the rest mocked him. I guess that model doesn’t work very well for Mr. Bell’s purposes…you know, trying to be “culturally relevant.”

Sort of sounds like she got halfway through that sentence and realized she couldn’t say what she started out to say. Notice she starts talking about Paul (“his sermon” is the one in Acts 17) as being a failure, then shifts midway to a criticism of Rob Bell. Well, I guess she’s on record as disagreeing with Paul’s methods of evangelism. Good luck with that.

New and Improved?

I had no intention of recapitulating any of this discussion here. In fact, I thought it was over, given that Ken closed the comments on his post at Slice. Then, yesterday, Ken revised and expanded his criticism of Bell (now with new accusations!) and created a new post at Slice highlighting it. Strangely, he left the bit about Bell blaming God for Yoga basically untouched. Since he recycled the same argument, I left a comment last night recycling the same reasons why he’s mistaken. I’m sad to say my comment seems to have vanished into the Slice ether. Apparently, it’s one thing for Ken to recycle the same bad argument, but it’s something else for me to recycle the response. Casual readers should note that Ken [Correction: Jim Bublitz of Slice] and I have had discussions about the Slice comment policy before.
Fortunately, I have my own blog so the idiosyncratic Slice comment policy isn’t a problem. What I find most strange is that, although my comment from last night never appeared at Slice, commenter LadyDoc seems to have read my mind and offered this pre-emptive strike:

Pastor Ken,

As a means to head off another round of “Rob did not say God made people worship false gods,” could I suggest…?

Facts disprove the premise Mr. Bell propounds: the heathen do not ‘seek God’; they seek knowledge, power, and control–but not God as He has revealed Himself. Him they reject. Every religion outside the Bible seeks personal empowerment–either the ability to overcome oneself or to overcome one’s circumstances. Salvation and purification by works is the gospel of every religion of men.

While I’m a believer in free will to a very limited extent (and we can argue about that someday *grin*), I will say that outright Arminianism is a heresy, and that is what Mr. Bell is proposing. One cannot “seek God”–or even want Him–unless God draws one. To say that heathen “seek God” is to undermine the Gospel and trivialize God’s role in salvation!

I challenge anyone to prove that one who contradicts the Truth is “with Christ”–as He is the Truth!

Here is my response to LadyDoc, which, again, may or may not materialize at Slice:

You wrote:

To say that heathen “seek God” is to undermine the Gospel and trivialize God’s role in salvation!

So I guess when Rob Bell said:

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

He was undermining the Gospel and trivializig God’s role in salvation?

Oops, that wasn’t Rob that was Paul, Acts 17:27. Your argument needs some work.

It’s interesting that both Ken and LadyDoc have some issues with Acts 17. Something about that chapter just doesn’t GROK with them, so it’s no surprise Rob Bell — who named his church Mars Hill based on this passage — doesn’t make sense to them either.

Update: My comment to LadyDoc was approved, the first one is still MIA. I also can’t resist a sample of the sympathetic responses Ken is getting:

He is obviously a blind leader of the blind. – Esther

Rob Bell is confusing many. He needs to stop and repent. – Kenny

Rob Bell is a heretic, his Nooma videos are trash, and his messages are void of value. – Jay

Well, no one has compared him to a child molester yet. I guess Rob Bell isn’t in Rick Warren’s league.

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