drops like bells

I’ve only read two of the blog posts about Rob Bell’s recent interview in the Boston Globe.  Jared Wilson’s and Scot McKnight‘s.

Much of the response has been extremely negative towards Bell and his failure to clearly articulate the gospel at every single waking moment.

I figured I would offer my thoughts as well.  If anyone cares.

I think that, like any piece of literature, genre and context are of key importance. And most of the people who have criticized Rob Bell’s statements here are ignoring both.

1. This is a transcription of a journalistic interview. Many people have treated it as if it were an all-inclusive systematic treatise of Bell’s theology. It isn’t; interviews are conversational, and, as in any conversation, things get left out. You have to realize that.

2. We cannot take this quote from Bell and determine things about Bell’s nature without considering the context in which it was said. First, he was doing an interview with the media. Who wouldn’t see this as a chance to change some people’s views about Evangelical Christianity? The first thing that he says is that evangelicalism isn’t what most people assume it is: right-wing, anti-intellectual fundamentalism. Naturally, he would follow that up with something that is strikingly dissimilar with what most people assume when they hear “evangelical.” And those things that he mentioned should probably be some of the natural responses to those who believe in the “evangelical Jesus,” if you will: helping the poor, caring for the environment, and extending hope to the world.

If Bell had said, “evangelicalism is all about telling people about Jesus.” The interview, in most of the readers’ minds, would have been over because they would have turned the page. They would have assumed that this guy is another religious nut job and would have ignored him.

Finally, you cannot remove this quote from the totality of Bell’s body of work and say that it somehow gives us a more clear picture of where his heart is at than anything else does.

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4 thoughts on “drops like bells

  1. Brandon,
    All I can really say is … Amen to that!!

    Rob has already, before much of the hype of his interview hit the Internet, posted on Twitter that more than half of what he said during the phone interview was omitted. I think there was some creative journalism going on, to confuse this issue, create a controversy, and raise Boston Globe ratings. As I was reading the interview, I knew immediately that this was NOT historic Rob Bell verbism. So thanks for you’re blog. Hopefully MORE people come across it.

    Grace & Peace to you!

  2. Have you heard any of the sermon on John 1 by Bell’s new co-pastor Shane Hipps? While the media may not be the best outlet for communicating exactly what you believe with clarity, I would hope that your church’s pulpit would be. Here’s a link http://www.alittleleaven.com/2009/10/shane-hipps-teaches-that-all-religions-are-valid.html (I haven’t looked at all of that website, it was the first one I googled that had a good clip of the sermon.)

    • I just listened to the clip that you sent me. I also skimmed through the full sermon.

      Two things:
      First, Shane Hipps is the pastor of a Mennonite church in Arizona. He is associated with Rob Bell, and, I’m sure they preach at and/or have spoken at each other’s churches. But unless I’ve missed something, I don’t think that Hipps is a copastor at Bell’s church. But that’s beside the point.

      Second, I don’t really have much of a problem with anything he said.

  3. I’m sitting in a library right now because of computer failure, but I can’t wait to get my computer up and running again so I can hear what Shane Hipps has to say in that sermon.

    Just as a side note: Yes, Shane Hipps and his family are indeed moving from AZ to Michigan to be the second voice of Mars Hill.

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