Hope Diminishing…


I keep listening to Rob Bell in the hope that he will restore my faith and my confidence…

His podcasts were wearying for a while, but recently I started listening again as he began to adopt more of a sermonic approach to some of what he is saying, even to the point of having a biblical base for his thoughts. There’s no question Bell is at his best when he is preaching and communicating the Bible and lately he’s picked it up again.

His three latest podcasts, creatively titled God Part 1 God Part 2 and God Part 3 are all ‘based’ in scripture, and do offer some provocative and helpful insights, but they also speak more clearly to where Bell is locating himself now.

In his final session (Part 3) he uses two passages of scripture to make his point – Jacob’s dream, where he makes the point that God has ‘been there the whole time’ but Jacob just didn’t notice – ‘his consciousness hadn’t evolved’ to that point. Then he flips to Acts where Paul states ‘in him we live and move and have our being’, from which he concludes that we are all ‘in God’ and that God is best seen as the ‘connective tissue of the universe’. He goes on to argue that the trinity is the ultimate expression of this and that we are all ‘in’ God, but only some of us have been enlightened to this.

HIs first session was actually quite helpful when he deconstructed the myth of God being separate from the world – ‘above us’ or disconnected from us, but in his reconstruction he has well and truly embraced what we would call ‘panentheism‘, the belief that all is ‘in’ God.











The wiki def is this:

Panentheism (meaning “all-in-God”, from the Ancient Greekπᾶνpân, “all”, ἐνen, “in” and ΘεόςTheós, “God”), also known as Monistic Monotheism,[1] is a belief system which posits that the divine – whether as a singleGod, number ofgods, or other form of “cosmic animating force”[2] – interpenetrates every part of the universe and extends, timelessly (and, presumably, spacelessly) beyond it. Unlike pantheism, which holds that the divine and the universe are identical,[3]panentheism maintains a distinction between the divine and non-divine and the significance of both.[4]


I keep hoping he is saying things in such a way that ‘Ophra-ites’ will be able to understand, but I am increasingly coming to realise that he is now living in a different theological and philosophical space.

And I’d suggest his podcasts are best avoided by anyone without the ability to think theologically and do some rigorous discernment. There is such a subtle melding of biblical language and ‘teaching’ with new age bullshit that a newbie may well be unable to discern the flow of thinking and its implications. (I know you’re probably going to ask me ‘so what’s the problem with panentheism?’ and rather than regurgitate someone smarter than me’s thoughts you can read them here. )

I wouldn’t often use a word like ‘dangerous’ to describe someone, but I used this word the other night as I was explaining what I was hearing to Danelle. There is enough truth, combined with blazing communication skills to make him sound compelling and smarter than all the other people, but there are also clear and definite statements that locate him now in a place that is very different to where I would want my congregation to sit.

So – again – let’s not condemn the guy…

Seriously – that doesn’t help. But let’s be aware as we listen to him that he is operating now from a paradigm that is no longer within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and while some of us might have been around for long enough to be able to eat the fruit and spit out the pips that isn’t everyone’s forte.


28 thoughts on “Hope Diminishing…

  1. I so agree, Andrew. Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God was one dissapointing read for me as he has largely adopted the Life Force god – so deftly defeated by CS Lewis decades ago, but in keeping with Bell’s new orbit in the Oprah / Rohr world.

  2. It sounds as if this teaching has come just in time for the release of Star Wars – The Force Awakens. 🙂

    Seriously, I think this type of error comes from pride. Usually, these guys will believe their own press and revel in the fact that they have ‘superior gifting’. As you say “There is enough truth, combined with blazing communication skills to make him sound compelling and smarter than all the other people…”.

    They will be independent in their thinking – so new revelations will not be first pressure tested by orthodox peers. They like to be teachers but are not teachable themselves.

    This is much like TD Jakes with his peculiar views on Trinity – yet because of his “blazing communication skills” he gets invited to mainstream conferences.

  3. I love the way Bell interviews people – a recent favourite has been Alexander Shaia (spent time with him recently in Perth and his book “heart and mind” is phenomenal) but find his thoughts more inspirational and Oprah-esque than “meaty”. Having said that though, if he is going to be put in the same camp as Rohr, then he will continue to have my focussed attention for sure 😉 Rohr’s work on male spirituality is simply brilliant and has guided much of the past decade and a half of my journey (that could be rather incriminating on second thoughts 😉
    Peace for the road. Matt

    • Hi Matt – I find Rohr’s male spirituality stuff brilliant. I can’t see Bell as a Rohr type though. I think he’s in a different space.

  4. And PS – I don’t think Bell’s views on same sex marriage “trashes the bible” – I think it certainly puts him at odds with the Baptist’s latest stance of “welcoming but not affirming”, but heck, there are a lot of Christians and theologians and bible scholars and ethicists that disagree with the more traditional view that the Baptist’s (and many other denominations) hold. Diversity is part of the beauty of being a part of our Family. M

  5. I was referring to Sherridan’s comment above linking Bell with Rohr and Oprah. I see the link between Bell and Oprah re: styles, but Bell is a very good thinker not just a brilliant communicator. I don’t see the link between Oprah and Rohr at all tbh.

  6. “I don’t find his SSM views a deal breaker at all” …

    … WTH?.. . Hamo are you now batting for the other side…?

  7. Hey Hamo, I actually asked whether you believe that polyamory (should) also sit with SSM in your ‘non-essentials bucket’ …?.

  8. Hamo, it may be a mild form of aspergers in me, but respectfully I hate it when Pastors play word games.

    “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one”. Mathew 5:37

    Are you saying then that SSM and polyamorous marriages are optional but perfectly acceptable lifestyle choices for the Christian because they are not explicitly mentioned in the orthodox creeds?

    Are you saying that the Christian can effectively behave any way that the orthodox creeds are silent on?

  9. Are you serious?!

    These are not ‘word games that pastors play’. I stated clearly that I see the creeds as our statement of orthodoxy but I haven’t answered the question you want me to in the way you want it answered. That’s because it’s a flawed question

    You are wanting me to pin certain sins as acceptable and others as not. I’m not playing that game. I think it’s pharisaical in the extreme.

    I have also stated previously (to you specifically) where I stand on SSM and that hasn’t changed.

  10. Hi Hamo,

    I am sorry that I do not understand 1) Why my question is flawed and 2) what your position is on SSM and polyamorous marriage. You have just said that “SSM is not a measure of orthodoxy”.

    Respectfully I am not being is not Pharisaical. It’s a relevant issue – so let’s be pragmatic …. if your own son asked you whether a Christian Pastor should marry SSM or people in poly-amorous relationships, what would you say?

  11. OK – lets start at the top…

    1. Am I ‘batting for the other side’. I don’t see Christian friends who hold an opposing view on SSM as ‘the other side’. That’s a combative way to view a difference of theological perspective.

    2. Does polyamory belong in my non-essentials? Yes – it isn’t in the creeds. That doesn’t mean I am in favour of it, or see it as appropriate behaviour. I think it is destructive and wrong.

    3. ‘Are you saying then that SSM and polyamorous marriages are optional but perfectly acceptable lifestyle choices for the Christian because they are not explicitly mentioned in the orthodox creeds?’

    No – that’s a bizarre dichotomy and the reason I see your question as flawed. Greed, covetousness and lust are not mentioned in the creeds but are unquestionably considered as sin. I see these in the same categories. Let’s be frank – We have double standards in our churches and we accept some sins but not others. We like it that way.

    What I find disturbing is that you are feeling the need to push me for a black and white answer on all this. I don’t know why you feel I need to be so clear on these issues. Especially as I have already given you a clear answer on SSM a few posts back…

    Part of the reason I struggle to keep aligned with the conservative view is because people who hold it can be so anal about making sure others line up exactly with their views.

    I think Jesus was far more gracious than that. I am more than willing to say I may be wrong on SSM, but for now I can’t see it. In the meantime I will choose to exercise grace towards those who hold opposing views to me on the subject. I know many genuine Christians who hold the other view and they are not my enemy in any way.

    Oh and if my son asks me the question above at this stage ‘no’.

    Finally, I’m not sure why you feel the need to continue to press me for definitive answers on these issues, esp after I have already given them. It feels quite obsessive and strange.

    I hope that’s black and white enough for you.

  12. Hi Hamo – I did not mean to come across as combative – forgive my tone. I am just giving you a poke in the ribs as sometimes it is not clear where you stand on certain issues – especially when you appear to endorse questionable teachers such as Rob Bell.

    1) “I don’t see Christian friends who hold an opposing view on SSM as ‘the other side’”.

    Unfortunately, the gay-lobby, both outside and from within the broader Church does not feel too ‘friendly’ to me. It seems that when a Christian expresses a traditional Christian view on marriage is labelled as a non-progressive (at best) or an unloving homo-phobic bigot (at worst). However, when a “Christian” such as Rob Bell expresses a view that endorses gay-marriage (in the name of love) the World cheers and welcomes him with open arms (not too mention provides him with both fame and fortune).

    2) I am also not sure that all of Christian orthodoxy can be limited to just what is mentioned and what is not mentioned in the creeds – and all other elements of christian doctrine are considered ‘non-essentials’.

    Certainly, the creeds deal with the core truths (in particular the nature of the triune God) that were to designed (for a specific purpose) to refute certain heresies at particular times of Church history.

    There is enough material in the scriptures to build a water-tight ‘orthodox’ definition of marriage. In fact, the Catholics consider marriage as a holy sacrament. An alternative view that seeks to undermine this Truth (of marriage) should perhaps be considered a heresy of our times – and not just be thrown in the ‘Its OK, its really just a non-essential’ bucket. Rather, this teaching would be better thrown into a ‘dangerous and destructive false teaching bucket’.

    You assert that Jesus ‘far-more gracious’ (on these issues) … but did he not first build his message of Grace on a foundation of repentance?.

  13. I really don’t know how much clearer I can be!…

    My post is not ambiguous in any way and I have already stated my views on ssm. You know this.

    Your problem is in the way you frame your final statement. Jesus built his message of repentance on a foundation of grace. Not the other way round. Get it back to front and we finishing up in these conversations which honestly I find quite futile and nitpicky.

    While there may be some consistent theological beliefs that churches hold in regards to different practices these are not under any definition of orthodoxy. You are confusing your categories and constricting who can be considered Christian. This is equalily dangerous but in the opposite direction.

  14. It’s interesting how some can see differing views on SSM as part of the allowable diversity within our family of faith and others see it as a defining characteristic of membership or non-membership of that same family of faith.

    Another reason for the importance of safe spaces for each of those groups to have their own spaces to encourage and support one another on their shared journey, as well as the need for safe spaces for those opposing one another to have robust and grace-filled conversations along the way.

    Defining “deal-breakers” seems to be a complex task.

  15. PS – and those membership /non-membership “deal breakers” look very different depending on whether you are talking about a “family” (for eg. Baptist membership) within a broader “family” (Christianity) or whether you are excluded from being welcomed into the family at all.

  16. Hi Hamo,

    Also Jesus first words in public ministry “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

    Also Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God…”

    I am not going to argue whether people who are homosexual are “‘in or out’ of the Club” – though I can be sure that SSM and polyamory are not in harmony with the (orthodox) teaching of the scriptures.

    It is a concern that the foundations of faith are being undermined and Christians persecuted (to a degree) in this present culture of political correctness – and this “progressive” teaching pushed by so-called “Christian teachers”.

  17. Lionfish – The Christians being persecuted are presumably real Christians (due to lack of “scare quotes”), while “so-called “Christian teachers”” are not real Christian teachers?

    It would appear that you are doing a pretty good job at saying who is “in and out of the club”, while “not saying” it.

    Weren’t you asking Hamo to be more clear with what he was saying?

  18. And Hamo:

    You are correct that you have previously stated:

    “…my position is a conservative one. I don’t support gay marriage and I hold a pretty traditional theological view of homosexuality”.

    I just am not clear why all the support (up to now) for questionable teachers that support and promote SSM. The jury has been out on Rob Bell for quite some time now.

  19. Thanks for clearing that up Lionfish 😉

    I’d suggest your idea of Club however, is actually more likely representative of little-c “club”; but then again that’s probably the major sticking point of your concerns in this thread.

    Peace for the road ahead (see you in the Clubrooms one day, with the rest of the heretics 😉 )

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