You are the Gospel!- Rob Bell and the Anathema of “The Resurrection Rescue”

Clicking a link to something called “the Good News according to Rob Bell” is like hearing an episode of Friends is on TBS– you’ve already seen the show a hundred times but you watch anyways just in case.  So, I clicked it, pretty sure what I’d get, but attentive to see if there was anything redeemable.  Alas, it’s the one where he says Rachel’s name at the wedding again.

The video opens with Bell doing what he does best: standing still in Weezer-glasses, giving a “history lesson” on Judaism and the Roman Empire, denying all of the things evangelicals say and playing the tune of oppression of the poor and powerless.  Actually, it ends pretty much the same way too.  However, I did grab a bit of the transcript just for us to look at:

The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it. And so yes, this has a deeply personal dimension to it. Jesus is saving me. He’s saving me from my sins, from my mistakes, from my pride, from my indifference to the suffering of the world around me, from my cynicism and despair. The brokenness I see in the world around me is true of my own soul, and so he’s rescuing me, moment by moment, day by day, because God wants to put it all back together—you, me, the whole world. And so he starts deep inside each of us with our awareness that we need help, that we need saving, that we need rescuing. And then he begins to show us step by step what it looks like to put flesh and blood on this gospel. Because we all fall short, and that’s the beautiful part. Broken, flawed, vulnerable people like you and me are invited to be the hands and feet of a Jesus who loves us exactly as we are and yet loves us way too much to let us stay that way.

I believe. I believe because I see. I see the resurrection all around me. If people only had your life and they were asked the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?,” how would they answer? Has he? May you be a “yes” to the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?” And may you come to see, may you understand, that you are the good news. You are the gospel.

Where to begin?  Well, let’s start at the beginning.  ”The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it.”  I wonder where he got that from?  Empty tomb?  Okay.  God hasn’t given up?  Sure.  Resurrection rescue??  No atonement??

Rob Bell amazes me.  In a day when everyone wants to attack the atonement and what was accomplished on the cross, he just avoids altogether.  Honestly, I have listened to Bell enough to know that to him Jesus’ death on the cross was just a way to get him dead.  Nothing else.  At times he tries to add some sort of atonement in there, but it’s never very sincere.  Nope.  For Bell, the rescue is accomplished at the resurrection, and now that Christ is resurrected, “[he] is saving me.”  That’s funny, since Hebrews 10 tells us that,

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (vv.11-14)

So, who’s right?  Is it Bell who tells us that Jesus is raised from the dead to go around saving us “step by step”, or is it the Bible which says that Christ offered “a single sacrifice for sins [and then] sat down at the right hand of God” waiting for the second coming?  Is our salvation is “moment by moment, day by day” rescue, or is it the case that “a single sacrifice has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified“?

Clearly for Bell there are only two options: either he out and out denies what the Bible says about the atonement and Christ’s completed work of redemption, or . . . wait, I guess there’s only one option.  If our rescuing requires Christ’s continual work, then Hebrews is false and salvation is not secured by the cross.  Is that a bet you wnat to take?

Which of course leads into my other issue, namely that “You are the gospel.”  Really?  Is that what we’re told to do?  Are we supposed to be pointing to ourselves to lead people to God?  Are the claims of the Bible only as good as my witness?  I’ll concede that there may be good intention here, but the execution is very poor.  Right from the beginning the point is to minimize ourselves and point to Christ (cf. John 3.30), so to place the final emphasis on the believer and not somewhere more biblical, like say, Christ on the cross (cf. Galatians 2.20), is probably a bad course of action.

But like I said, what do you expect?  Everyone knows they we’re on a break, and everyone knows that each new Rob Bell production brigs us one step closer to universalism.  At least he looks cool distorting the gospel though.

3 Responses to “You are the Gospel!- Rob Bell and the Anathema of “The Resurrection Rescue””

  1. Aaron Armstrong Says:

    Solid commentary, Todd. I saw that video for the first time when someone decided to show it in lieu of a devotion at a local mission here in town, and I was disgusted (although not surprised). “Christless expounding on nothing,” as a well-known preacher would say.

    Your question, “Are the claims of the Bible only as good as my witness?” is very insightful. I wonder if the issue that underlies the “social justice gospel” nonsense is that many of us have forgotten that if our lives don’t show the truth and beauty of the gospel, it means there’s something wrong with us, not the Bible?

  2. Keith Walters Says:

    As far as the “You are the Gospel” statement is concerned I think Bell is very close to a critical concept in missiology but he has not actually spent time in study to know what he is talking about and so all we get is error and idiocy. We should embody the gospel, we should incarnate the gospel, we should live out the gospel but we are definitely not the gospel. The good news is not that I am incarnating the sufferings of Christ or that I am living out the implications of the resurrection; the good news is that Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, and He has reconciled us to God.

    The problem is that I don’t think Bell has a clue what the atonement is about. He talks about being saved from all of these different things as the central aim of Salvation and completely misses the fact that everything around us is so screwed up because God is subjecting to judgment because of our rebellion. So we don’t need to be saved from this messed up world we need to be saved from an angry God who is subjecting His creation to judgment, but then again the gods aren’t angry are they. Maybe he should spend less time studying Jewish and Roman history and a little more time studying redemptive history.

  3. taylor Says:

    You are mistaken brother.

    Bell has given message upon message about the power of the cross. Read Scott Mcknights “a community called atonement” if you would like to know where bell stands.

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