Credit where credit is due. Rob Bell’s chapter on holistic Christianity and the need for leaders not to seek validation through their ministry is better than the earlier chapters of the book. But still the questions linger about his understanding of the Christian faith.
For example what does he mean when he speaks of ‘a new kind of Christian faith…for the new world we find ourselves in’? What is wrong with ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’? If the world is changing rapidly does that mean that Christianity has to change with it? Is there something wrong with my faith because I do not see things the way Bell does?
Then there are the New Age type of comments, ‘The energy in the place was unreal.’ What exactly does that mean? Whose energy? Where did it come from? Or ‘We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying.’ Do we? I’m not sure that’s a biblical category? Surely our need is to listen not to ourselves but to the voice of God.
Also there are the statements which play fast and loose with doctrine, ‘It is possible for the cross to have done something for a person but not in them.’ That is not an interpretation of either the atonement or the Christian life that I find anywhere in the Bible- that a person can be truly justified and yet not have their life transformed by the power of God.
It seems to me that there are several possible to understanding Bell’s throw-away lines. One is that he is theologically ignorant-which I doubt. Two, these really are throw-away lines and Bell does not realise what he is saying. But his work is too well-crafted for that. Thirdly, and most likely, Bell is trying to reinvent the historic language of the Christian faith. He is either doing this because he is trying really hard to be hip- yuck! If that is true he is arrogant and deliberately seeking to alienate other Christians. Or he is reinventing the language because he is reinventing the faith. Only time will fully tell where Bell is going.