Bock

In Conclusion: Rob Bell on Love, Jesus, and Judgment

Rob Bell's final chapter is on the love of Jesus and an invitation to enter into the same love he has experienced since he was a young boy. This chapter is simple, short, and well said. 

Rob Bell's final chapter is on the love of Jesus and an invitation to enter into the same love he has experienced since he was a young boy. This chapter is simple, short, and well said. 

The chapter brings us to the end of the book. I hope this chapter by chapter review has been of value to you as it calls for reflection on a very important topic Rob Bell's book raises. My summary on the book reflects what I have posted in full earlier. Here it is in a nutshell:

The book as a whole is a very mixed bag. Much of what is included has value. What is omitted is the start of where the problems lie. It is a one-sided, lop-sided book. What is said about the gospel is clear in terms of drawing people to Jesus and the significance of his unique work. What is said about judgment and hell is so poor that it ends up leading into a serious distortion of God's grace, justice, and character, not to mention how much of the call of Scripture to our accountability to God in this life becomes moot if what Bell claims is true. Half truth can mean little truth. Unfortunately that is the case for the major point Bell wishes to make about God's character, love, justice, judgment, and hell.

Against his rendering stand several texts that we have pointed to: Luke 16:19-31, Rev 20; Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 13:15-24, plus one text a blogger noted in his comment Hebrews 9:27-34 (Thanks to E for this one).  This life counts with God. What we decide about him here leads to how God responds to us in judgment. Once we are dead, the door is shut and the book is closed. Is this harsh? Only if one decides that God sending Jesus, His son, to die for us, take our place, and offer us the free gift of his saving grace if we will only receive Him and His gift is not good enough for God's creatures. There is nothing harsh about the offer of the gospel–or its consequences for rejecting it. There is only tragedy if one refuses to accept God's gracious way of salvation that we cannot make happen for ourselves on our own work or strength anyway.

40 Comments

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    ekerwin

    Thank you for a fine

    Thank you for a fine summation of Rob Bell's book and consequently his theology.

    I agree with you that the judgment of God is not harsh. But it is, in fact, in line with his Holy character.

    By the way to get a little more insight into Bell's Theology you can check out his church's web site. Here is the site explaining what they believe: http://marshill.org/believe/  

    As noted by Dr. Darrell, it is the omissions within the narrative rendering of what they believe that concern me the most. It hardly does justice to the full glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures.

    It hardly does justice to our Sovereign God.

    Wonderful gospel words such as the cross and the blood of Christ, are never used.

    And even though Jesus is referred to as one coming to judge, it almost appears that no one will really be judged but rather will be reconciled and restored to God.

    One might get the idea that Rob Bell must have a hard time reading the portions of the Old Testament (or the New Testament, i.e. Ananias and Sapphira) where God gives out swift judgment.

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      RyanH

      It is helpful to understand

      It is helpful to understand God's judgement as setting things right. We often tend to see judgement primarily as a negative thing. In the example of Ananias and Sapphira, that you mentioned, it may have been harsh but it was a way to set things right. If judgment is separated from the concept of reconciliation and restoration (putting things right) then it is easy to see how people get distorted views of God's judgment— such as God just likes to punish people.

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    Michael07

    The Big Question

    Dr. Bock,

     

    So the big question for me is, in your opinion,  is Rob Bell guilty of heresy?

     

    Thanks,

    Michael  

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Big Question

    Michael:

    I do not think this is the big question. The issue is not Rob Bell, but what he is teaching. What he is teaching is seriously flawed and theologically off in several areas as noted above, so if one does not embrace it than that is the big question answered. 

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      Michael07

      Cannot divorce the Messenger from Message

       

      Dr. Bock,

      With all do respect I do feel it is about Rob Bell. How does one divorce the man from the message he presents? We are not talking about some "untrained" person using a faulty analogy of the trinity (which ends up being a heretical illustration)! We are talking about, what the NT refers to as a "false teacher."

      I know you feel the tone should be that of respect, and I agree. Yet it seems to me that Peter had no problem warning the church that false teachers were going to come and would bring heresy (2 Peter 2:1-3 and context!) And so when those false teachers such as Bell arise, it is our job to label them as such. As a pastor, I am more concerned that my sheep are well aware of the fact that Rob Bell is a false teacher than to "poison" some discussion regarding Bell. He is a Wheaton, Fuller Grad who knows exactly what he is doing. Do you honestly think that he will read your review and say, "Oh I forgot to include those things in the book! Let me go and revise it?" He has an agenda, a teaching that he is presenting to the masses and it is not just wrong, it is deadly, it is false! 

      This is how the Jerusalem counsel handled situations of false teaching and I believe is the method presented of the apostles and that of the Lord Jesus Himself. The reformed crowd has done a great job of this. I think history will mark the "Farewell Rob Bell" tweet by Dr. Piper as a significant event (and who would have ever thought a tweet would say so much!) The wishy-washy evangelicals have treated Bell with a desire to "dialogue," to "understand him" to consider the "good that he has presented." While there may be some things Bell writes that are correct, does not deception work best when it's mixed with error? So I do not commend Bell for the "good parts" of his book. He is a false teacher. And if that label presents poison to the discussion, then at least people know to stay away from poison.  

      I hope Bell sees the error of his ways. I hope he repents. But I do not think that playing theological footsy with him will be anything other than acceptance in his eyes and to those whom we watch over. I do not desire to be mean or unkind. But the NT warns repeatedly of false teachers, and unfortunately Rob Bell fits the bill! 

      Respectfully,

      Michael

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    ekerwin

    BIG QUESTION

     

    Dr. Bock, this is an interesting answer to Michael's question. To put it in another way, if I understand you correctly, if one follows the flawed unbiblical teachings of Rob Bell he or she could, and most probably would, be in grave danger. If this is the case then Rob Bell could be accused of teaching heresy, thus ultimately putting the label of heretic on him. 

    Therefore how one responds to these flawed unbiblical teachings is what matters.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this review and the true scriptural teaching on God's character, Heaven, Hell, and Love that you provided in opposition to the teachings set forth by Rob Bell.

    Thank you very much!

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Response

    E:

    I made no specific comment on how to classify Bell's teaching other than it is very wrong and not worth following. I did this on purpose. Labels poison a discussion like this and can make us forget Rob Bell is a brother in Christ. Just say that the teaching is not orthodox and explain why. I hope and pray that he will hear all the reaction his teaching on this has generated and think again about it.

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      ekerwin

      RESPONSE TO RESPONSE

      Thanks again, Dr. Bock. I see the wisdom in not labeling. I also appreciate your love and concern for Rob Bell. I also appreciate the love and concern for your readers, demonstrated by you, in your teaching.

      I am reminded of two passages of Scripture that describes your work and attitude: <2 Timothy 2:14-19> and <2 Timothy 4:1-5>.

      Lord may you bless Dr. Bock with continued wisdom and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

      Lord, Holy Spirit, may you gently correct Rob Bell. Open his eyes to his errors.

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      GBMayes

      Labels

      Every Christian should have a concept of what beliefs stand so far outside Biblical revelation as to be a gospel contrary to what we have received and a desertion of him who called us by the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). Throughout the history of the church, such beliefs have been called "heresies." While we may disagree on whether a particular belief is or is not a heresy, the fact remains that we should be able and willing to place every propositional statement or belief regarding the faith in one of three categories. We can say it is heresy, it isn't heresy, or we don't know. It's true that labels can be hurtful and are too frequently tossed about carelessly and in a mean-spirited way. Properly used however, they accurately reflect truth. The old-fashioned skull and crossbones "Poison" label on a bottle of Arsenic may have seemed a harsh evaluation of the bottle's contents. But, it was accurate, and no doubt saved physical lives. How much more so should theological error be clearly labeled when spiritual lives are at risk?

      • Avatar

        Darrell L. Bock

        Labels

        GB:

        I agree with this. There are things that clearly are heresies, such as denying Jesus is divine or died for sin or saying works save (the situation of Gal 1:6-9). There are many gods. That is a heresy. They need to be labeled. There also is serious error that may not be full blown heresy but is wrong. Which is Bell's error? That is something I will let each reader judge. Either way, the point is do not go there.

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Message and Messenger

    Michael:

    Sorry, I do not think it is theological footsy to say to someone that what you wrote is seriously flawed and not orthodox. I could hardly be clearer. How could that be acceptance? It is saying what you taught is wrong and false. It is saying to people who read this: do not go there. But I am not after Rob Bell; I am concerned about what he taught. So my main goal is not to label him, but evaluate the teaching. My sense is if someone gets what I am saying then they will not accept or embrace what he teaches in this area. Now if this view persists, after some time and warning, and he continues to make this an emphasis, then we could well have a different situation. It took years after Peter's initial encounter with Gentiles before the Jerusalem council reacted more strongly (and the same with Paul in Galatians, written at least a decade after that event). Yes, I know the teaching itself is old and Bell should know better, but the goal is to identify the problem and appeal, at least at first, for a change in direction. So yes, be on the watch for false teaching and call it out, but do try not to lose one who has gone astray (See Matthew 18:10-14, which is about those associated with the community; Gal. 6:1-5; 1 James 5:19-20).  

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    iMark

    Damnable?

    Dr. Bock,

    I assume that since you called Rob Bell a brother in Christ you do not believe that he is teaching a damnable heresy if he is teaching heresy at all. Along this same line of thought it would seem you believe that Bell gets the gospel right.

    Am I correct?

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      Darrell L. Bock

      Damnable? Response

      I have already responded to the heresy question with Michael above. I call him Bell a brother because he believes in Jesus for his salvation in the context of grace. I think Bell gets the gospel on its positive side mostly right in terms of Jesus making an offer in his life and death of life for others with goals that include death for sin and cosmic effects. I wish he would say more about sin and death for sin than he does in discussing the gospel. The overall teaching is seriously flawed with major problems as the blog entries noted. Brothers can teach error, even serious error. That, in my view, is what this is.

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        Michael07

        Questionable

        Dr. Bock,

        I guess this is where we disagree. From what I have observed, I do not see Bell as a brother. You said Bell "believes in Jesus for his salvation in the context of grace." What does that mean? Context of Grace? I understand Jesus for salvation for the forgiveness of sins or his substitution, but I am not understanding what you mean him to mean. 

        As I have watched him make the news show circuit (MSNBC, FOX, ABC), I hear nothing of redemption of sin. Have you watched them? Now, the interviewers get the gospel right! They know what it is! Yet, I see nothing from Bell in terms of Jesus being the propitiation of sin, etc. What I hear is, when we shed a tear, God sheds a tear, and heaven and hell are the here and now not some place we go later. Perhaps he refers to Jesus as his salvation but that means salvation from what? Himself? The hell he would put himself through now because of Christ here and now?

        Just because Bell names Jesus and salvation does not mean that he is a brother. I know you know that many will say Lord Lord on that day. Leaders, especially pastors, have a responsibility to be clear. And what does one need to be clearer on than the Gospel itself. Yet you yourself state that Bell is "mostly" right on the positive side—Mostly! So in terms of the positive and negative sides of the gospel, he is  100% wrong on the negative and only mostly right (80, 75%???) on the positive. Can someone who claims he is writing such things because he is first and foremost a pastor (stated in an interview) really be admonished as a brother when he fails on what the gospel really is? It seems to me that he is to be treated as a false teacher.

        We are not talking about church polity, or gifts, or baptism, or Lord's Table, or election. We are talking about the foundation: The Gospel! If we can't get the gospel right, we are lost. 

        I hope you are right. And I hope he repents. I will be more than happy to admit I am wrong if this happens. But the sad part is, how many will have been led astray by one who is supposed to be watching for their souls. And I would be willing to give a decade as they did in the NT if information traveled as slowly today as it did then. He is spreading heresy at lightning speed, so swift action is deemed necessary. Had Peter and Paul been blogging or on twitter, I doubt they would have said, let's give these false teachers a decade! 

        Respectfully,

        Michael 

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          Darrell L. Bock

          Questionable

          Michael:

          Yes, we agree to disagree here. I hope you read the book and are not just responding to media interviews. He does talk about sacrifice and the work of the blood in chapter 5. He just believes that these ideas do not resonate as well in our current culture. Whether they resonate or not, they are biblical ideas that need affirming. So I think his lack of emphasis is misguided. He does not just name a name. He articulates a variety of things he believes the cross accomplished. Still there are serious flaws in his overall view. I think that warns people sufficiently. God will make the final call. I think we are done going back and forth on this.

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    Leslie Jebaraj

    Thank you!

    Dr. Bock:

    Thank you for your wonderful review. I liked both your content and your tone; so characteristic of you!

    While most attacked the man, you attacked his content!

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    Chris R.

    Bell’s Publishing and Peter’s Practicing

    Dr. Bock,

    Thanks for the chapter-by-chapter review. Useful and helpful. I think this comment interaction at the end is very helpful and raises good questions on how to handle the man and the message.

    I wonder whether we are comparing apples and oranges to  try and compare what Bell is WRITING and PREACHING to what Peter was DOING and PRACTICING. One man is promoting a false gospel; the other man is wrongly applying the true gospel.

    I think that is a major difference that calls for a different response. I think our repsonse to Bell and those who follow him and affirm him should be simialr to Paul's letter to the Galatians: the only letter that had no time or space for an opening thanksgiving, since the situation was so dire and the consequnces so damnable.

    In any case, thanks you for spending one Thanksgiving break taking a small group of us through Colossians and Philemon one year at DTS. One of my best times of study and worship at DTS! The message of Colossians helps with this current controversy as well!

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    TheDude

    Bell and False Doctrine

    Dr. Bock,
    I think a few people have misconstrued what you said because of the language you used. On one hand you said:

    " Bell's final chapter is on the love of Jesus and an invitation to enter into the same love he has experienced since he was a young boy. This chapter is simple, short, and well said."

    and

    " Much of what is included has value."

    However, you then go on to say:

    "What is omitted is the start of where the problems lie. It is a one-sided, lop-sided book. What is said about the gospel is clear in terms of drawing people to Jesus and the significance of his unique work. What is said about judgment and hell is so poor that it ends up leading into a serious distortion of God's grace, justice, and character, not to mention how much of the call of Scripture to our accountability to God in this life becomes moot if what Bell claims is true. Half truth can mean little truth. Unfortunately that is the case for the major point Bell wishes to make about God's character, love, justice, judgment, and hell."

    I think the problem that many Christian have, is the way you are wording your review. It seems like you are attempting to separate the bad from the good.  Rob Bell is correct on one issue but incorrect on another. If you apply that rationale to all views, Christian cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses would be correct one one issue and incorrect on another.

    Most Christians have the opinion that you can not do that. That is how people are deceived. If people are being deceived, they are not saved. If people are being deceived, the pastor is the one responsible for deceiving them.

    From that point of view, the pastor can not be a brother in Christ not matter how sincerely they believe what they are teaching. If you apply the same rationale, Mormon and Jehovah's witnesses pastors are brother's in Christ too.

    That is clearly not biblical. The first sign Jesus gave of the end times was the prevalence of false doctrine. The new testament is full of passages that ring alarm bells of false doctrine.

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

    “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2).

    “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch you life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

    “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

    “Rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14).

    You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1a).

    In 2nd Corinthians 11:1-4, Paul also warns that with a false doctrine comes a false Jesus and a false spirit. Jesus also spoke of people who thought they were following him but Jesus said  "I do not know you."

    In acts 16:16, a possessed woman followed Paul, Timothy, and Luke around. She said, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."

    However, the late Walter Martin pointed out that the translation should have read "a way of salvation" not "the way." Martin pointed out that the length that evil would go to in deceiving people was as far to say that Jesus was a way of salvation but not the only way.

    In other words if you have a sandwich that has cold cuts, bread, and mayo with a little bit of poison, the sandwich is still poison. You can not say that they have the meat, bread, and mayo right, but the poison part is wrong. If you eat it you will still die.

    "He does talk about sacrifice and the work of the blood in chapter 5. He just believes that these ideas do not resonate as well in our current culture. "

    One thing I have learned looking into the different beliefs of Christian Cults and the beliefs of the occult is that the same words  mean different things to each perspective. The lord became flesh means different things to evangelical Christians and Mormons.                          

    If you don't define what the words mean, they appear to have the same meaning with both groups, when the reality is they are totally different. You have pointed out that Bell omits things from this book. The only way to see what he believes, is to look at other sources.

    In one interview Bell refused to to answer a question of whether or not you have to believe in Jesus to get into heaven and if you can be saved after you die.

    The host pressed him on it but he didn't answer the question. In anther interview, Bell clearly did answer this question. He believes that any religion will get you into heaven. In other words, Bell might believe that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind but the rest of his position is not biblical.

    Bell believes that God has already forgiven us whether we ask for it or not. Bell writes, “Forgiveness is unilateral. God isn’t waiting for us to get it together, to clean up, shape up, get up—God  has already done it” (189)

    He denies that he is a Universalist but writes:

    "endless opportunities in an endless amount of time for people to say yes to God. At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God."(107)

    The emergent Church is a mix of new age occult teaching with a christian veneer coupled with liberalism. There are some who are more on the political end of the spectrum and others that are more into the new age theology.

    Bell was also teaching new age meditation and talked about how great Yoga masters are. You can not have it both ways either Christianity is true or Hindu beliefs are true. Either there is a hell or there isn't. Jesus is the only way to salvation which is a narrow path or Christianity is wrong. Spiritual relativism is illogical. Bell clearly is not teaching christian theology.

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    Darrell L. Bock

    False Doctrine

    Dude: The review precedes in a sequence. It is not done until all is said. Is that too difficult for people? I do not think so. I still do not understand why telling people there is serious error is not enough. I would say the same thing about cults but there is one key difference. For them, the person of Jesus is not who he claims to be or salvation is by works. Bell does not make those errors the best I can tell. His serious (yes, false) teaching is some can be saved without choosing Christ by faith. I think that wrong, even seriously so and false, but I do not see it as a denial of the person or work of Jesus as are the other cases. That is where I would draw the heresy line. He is too generous with Jesus, not too limiting. One can make a case that opening up salvation may deny Christ's work. That may be so. I see it as applying his work too broadly, error but not heresy.

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    TheDude

    Re:False Doctrine

    Dr. Bock,
    Let me put it this way: You said that Rob Bell is a brother in Christ. Which version of Jesus are you brothers in? The Jesus that Bell believes, is in all cultures but goes by a different names because of" baggage" associated with Christianity. He believes Jesus can not be confined to one religion and transcends all labels including Christianity. He believes that we are already saved, whether we realize it or not. This view is a new age occult view of Jesus.

    Bell said,"[In Yoga] it’s not how flexible you are, it’s not whether you can do the poses, it’s not how much you can bend yourself, it’s can you keep your breath [breathes in and out] consistent [breathes out] through whatever you are doing. And the Yoga Masters say this is how it is when you follow Jesus and surrender to God. Is it’s your breath being consistent. It’s your connection with God regardless of the pose you find yourself in. That’s integrating the divine into the daily."

    Which version of the Holy Spirit is Bell talking about? The New Age spirit, where you feel connected to everything or the Holy Spirit of the Gospel? They are not the same spirit. One of them doesn't come from God. Is Hindu pantheism consistent with Christianity?Is Hindu pantheism just an example of Jesus in another culture?
     
    Bell is teaching another version Jesus that isn't biblical. If a person listens to Bell and thinks that you get a second chance of salvation after you die and this is false, what happens to that person? If a person listens to Bell, starts doing Yoga, has many mystical experiences but thinks those experiences are just another way to get to Jesus, what is going to happen to that person? Jesus ends up telling that person that he doesn't know them.
     
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    Darrell L. Bock

    Re: False Doctrine

    Dude:

    So you are upset that I call Rob Bell a brother because he trusts Christ for his own salvation and yet I see him erring severely for how he tells others about that Jesus. I do not think your description of Bell's Jesus as having different names in different cultures is correct in terms of what he teaches. Did you read the book? Now he does hold to a Jesus that saves people out of all cultures without trusting Jesus as you say. That is wrong, seriously wrong. On that you and I agree. Nor do I agree with what he says about Yoga and that we should pursue it, but he does trust for himself and urges others to trust in Jesus, dying for his sin, redeeming him into new life, bringing a reconciliation to the world. Is that a different Jesus? I think that makes him a brother one who is erring but who James 5:19-20 discusses.

    As I see it, that is where he lands. He is a brother at risk because of what he teaches and the accountability he has as a teacher (James 3:1). So I chose to engage him and challenge what he teaches.  Check some of the texts you cite.1 Timothy 4- forbidding marriage and arguing for abstinence from foods. Not discussed in his book. ! Timothy 6 is about what is taught about responding to masters as slaves. Not in his book. Jewish myths are the issue in Titus. I do not think he goes there either. The relevant texts you cite are in 2 Cor 11 and Acts 16 (and I agreed with Martin's rendering in my Acts commentary). But Bell is saying Jesus is the way of salvation (but then argues his provision is broad). He is not arguing salvation comes outside of Jesus. His argument is wrong. His Jesus is not the Jesus who taught judgment in the gospels or in the book of Revelation. Sad but true. False teaching, yes. Error, yes. But not the denial of Jesus we see in these texts in that salvation comes another way by other means. Rather a distortion of Jesus and God that needs rebuking and correcting as was noted.

    Now Paul engaged people over some time before coming down hard on them. Just look at how he engaged the less than stellar Corinthians. Yes, Paul anathematizes those who say Jesus is not enough as in Galatia where the Law was said to be needed alongside Jesus. Bell's problem is wrong but different. His Jesus does too much in his saving work– and Bell can only get there by underestimating what Jesus taught about judgment. Again, wrong, seriously so, but in my reading not quite in the category of these NT texts where heresy is raised. Not every kind of wrong teaching is heretical.

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    TheDude

    Re: False Doctrine

    Dr Bock,
    "So you are upset that I call Rob Bell a brother because he trusts Christ for his own salvation and yet I see him erring severely for how he tells others about that Jesus."

    I wouldn't say I am upset. To me, it looks like you are unfamiliar with new age occult terminology and it looks the same to you but it has a totally different meaning.
     
    "I do not think your description of Bell's Jesus as having different names in different cultures is correct in terms of what he teaches."
     
    What I cited was basically a direct quote. The direct quote I used to back up that claim was about Yoga. Yoga masters experience Jesus by meditating?
     
    "Now he does hold to a Jesus that saves people out of all cultures without trusting Jesus as you say. That is wrong, seriously wrong. On that you and I agree. Nor do I agree with what he says about Yoga and that we should pursue it, but he does trust for himself and urges others to trust in Jesus, dying for his sin, redeeming him into new life, bringing a reconciliation to the world. Is that a different Jesus?"
     
    Yes, that it a different Jesus. Jesus died for our sins, we need to have faith in him and repent to be saved. If you don't, you are in trouble.That is totally different from Jesus dyeing for our sins and we are already saved. If you don't get it right in this life, you will get it right in the next. There is no need to repent and you might believe in Jesus but he might be a Hindu pantheistic Jesus or a Buddhist Jesus. That is new age theology that is using Christian terminology and totally different from the Jesus of the bible.
     
    "But Bell is saying Jesus is the way of salvation (but then argues his provision is broad). He is not arguing salvation comes outside of Jesus."
     
     If Jesus is in all cultures and goes by many different names, he can can be Hindu or Buddhist. He is essentially bringing all theologies into Christianity. By doing that he can say Jesus is the way because Jesus is also a Yoga master or maybe a Jedi.
     
    As far as the biblical passages I referenced, my purpose was to show that there is a false Jesus and a false holy spirit. People can honestly and sincerely believe that they have the correct Jesus when they are in error. The other passages is to show that the Jesus and the apostles were very concerned about false doctrine.
     
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    TheDude

    Bell ,FalseDoctrine and the Occult

    Dr Bock,
    We both agree that his teachings are flawed. We disagree on how flawed they are. There are several times in this thread where you wanted to limit the scope of the discussion to only Rob Bell's current book. However, one of your problems with Bell is what he omits. If Bell omits something or we want more clarity on a point he made, Bell's other books and interviews should be looked at.
    To amend my last comments, my problem is if you are unfamiliar with Rob bell and they way he weaves new age occult terminology with Christianity,  it looks the same or not that far off but it has a totally different meaning. If this book is all we are able to look at, Bell's teachings might appear that they are wrong but do not raise to the level of heresy.
    Here are some of Bell's thoughts on salvation:
    "Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker….But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems….God's desire is to restore all of it….The goal isn't escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work."
    Bell also highly recommended Ken Wilber's book, A Brief History of Everything. Wilber is knee deep in new age philosophy. Bell also quoted verbatim a passage from another new age author, but said the quote was from Nelson Mandela.
    Bell  gave his interpretation of the story in the New Testament of Jesus walking on water and Peter getting out of the boat and it was almost a text book new age interpretation.

    " And the Yoga Masters say this is how it is when you follow Jesus and surrender to God."
    Bell is saying the Yoga Masters are in fact following Jesus. Are they? No. Are you following Jesus and surrendering to God by doing new Age meditation? That is a different Jesus and a different god.

    He Said:

    "It’s interesting how many traditions (pause) When you read the great enlightened ones; meditation, centering prayer, reflection—in every tradition you can find the mystics—and what’s always at the heart of the spiritual lives, the everyday lives of the great ones was always a period of time."

    "Whether it’s prayers, chanting, meditation, reflection, study—whatever you call it—what is it essentially; it’s taking time to breathe. Because when you’ve been breathing, (slight pause) in a proper sort of way, you’re far better equipped to handle what life throws your way. "

    Has Bell came forward and told people he longer believes this? As far as I know, he has not.

    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

    The goal of a counterfeit is to deceive. The goal of a counterfeit isn't to be spotted from a mile away.The goal of a counterfeit is to be as close to the original as you can get it.

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Dude

    We are working our way to better understanding each other. 

    On Cosmic reconciliation: This is not just a new age idea. Paul taught a cosmic reconciliation in Romans 8:18-25 (See also Colossians 1:20). The restored creation is a point in Revelation 22. 

    On meditation, etc: This also is not merely new age. There is a tradition of meditation among early Christians from the fourth century on. It is rooted in the Psalter among other texts. This far predates any new age ideas and combinations. The idea of spiritual breathing is not necessarily new age. 

    As for citing Galatians 1. I think Paul is speaking of those who look to works of the law to save and say Christ alone is not good enough. On that point we have already gone back and forth. No need to do it again.

    We already agree on the problem with his use of Yoga masters. I suspect that part of what is going on here is that Bell is trying to connect with people by showing associations with other categories they may know. (Like Paul citing a pagan prophet about we all being children of God in Acts 17:28, and citing him favorably). To do something like this is not to agree with all they say or teach. Bell is sloppy in doing this, but i am not sure it is heresy. I think we have just about exhausted this effort to classify Bell. We may have to agree to disagree here. 

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    TheDude

    Re:Dude

    Dr Bock,
    Even if we limit this conversation to Bell's book, it still has dire consequences for anyone who listens to him. He is essentially a Universalist. What happens if a Hindu criminal listens to Bell? The Hindu criminal doesn't have to change religions or repent. He is going to end up in the same place as Christians eventually.   

    "On meditation, etc: This also is not merely new age. There is a tradition of meditation among early Christians from the fourth century on."

    The question is not whether or not there is a tradition of meditation, but is meditation biblical.

    As far as the desert fathers who started christian meditation: Their experiences mirror the mystical experiences of the the "great enlightened ones" or the masters of meditation. With these mystical experiences it is very easy to mistake them as coming from God. The reality is, it likely comes from the opposite direction of God.

    "This far predates any new age ideas and combinations."

    New age ideas and meditation go back much farther than the fourth century.

    "I think Paul is speaking of those who look to works of the law to save and say Christ alone is not good enough."

    Would Paul only object to a theology that contended that you need the laws of Judaism and Jesus to be saved? Of course not. If some one came into the Church that combined Christianity and pantheism but affirmed that you need Jesus alone, would Paul have objected? Yes he would have.

    "I suspect that part of what is going on here is that Bell is trying to connect with people by showing associations with other categories they may know."

    If you theory on Bell is correct, why would he be recommending new age books to people? Bell has also led people in meditation breathing exercises. Read the quote about the Yoga masters again:
    "And the Yoga Masters say this is how it is when you follow Jesus and surrender to God."

    He is saying that Yoga masters are following Jesus and surrendering to the God of the Bible. He has made other comments that supports that theory.

    "like Paul citing a pagan prophet about we all being children of God in Acts 17:28, and citing him favorably"

    Paul was using the cultural language of the Greeks to get them to understand what he was saying. He also rebuked them. If Bell was teaching this in India, there might be case for that idea. However, Bell was teaching that here and he didn't rebuke Hinduism. What Bell did would be the equivalent of Paul worshiping an idol while in Greece.

    "On Cosmic reconciliation: This is not just a new age idea"

    I wasn't saying that Cosmic reconciliation in the biblical sense is a new age idea. What I was saying was that Bell's language is indicative of someone who seeing the bible threw the prism of a new age philosophy.

    He said:
    "The goal isn't escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work"

    We are not going to make this world a place that God can come to. In fact, before God comes back to this world there is going to be hell on earth.

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      ekerwin

      DUDE – “IS MEDITATION BIBLICAL”

      "The question is not whether or not there is a tradition of meditation, but is meditation biblical."

      Dude, if I understand this statement of yours, you are questioning whether meditation is even biblical.

      If that is what you are questioning, then I suggest you do a biblical word search on the word meditate. You may be surprised to find that it is something that is highly recommended.

      If that is not what you are questioning then I give you my apologies. I may have misunderstood because of the way the sentence was structured.

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Dude

    I sometimes wonder if you are listening. I have not said one should follow Bell, not even close. We simply disagree on how to label the severity of the error. Paul would have objected,yes, but is it the heresy of another gospel? Maybe, but I am not as sure as you are and so do not use the term. I save it for errors that match the categories I see Scripture use it for. The world and the cultures of the world have come to the USA, so I am not sold on the only in India argument. We agree there are types of meditation, some of it is bad, but the use of spiritual breathing language is not automatically new age. I guess meditation on Scripture or God is not permitted in your view. I am about done replying. We both have our takes on this.

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    car62

    NT Categories for Heresy

    Dr. Bock your comment to "Dude" included:

    "…is it the heresy of another gospel? Maybe, but I am not as sure as you are and so do not use the term. I save it for errors that match the categories I see Scripture use it for."

    Would you be willing to list those categiries specifically with NT references?

    I think this would be helpful. Thank you in advance.

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    TheDude

    Re:”IS MEDITATION BIBLICAL”

    EKerwin,

    I believe the connotation of the word meditate that was used in the bible means to contemplate not to go into deep levels of mind. That is the eastern definition of the word.

    As Dr. Bock pointed out, the eastern way of meditating was not used into the fourth century. This was implement by a group of monks who went into the desert essentially to beat down their flesh. They are some times referred to the desert fathers. As I pointed out, the experiences of the desert fathers are pretty much exactly the same as the enlightened masters that Bell refers to.

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    TheDude

    Re:Dude

    Dr Bock,

    I am listening to you. As I said before we agree that Bell's teachings are seriously flawed. We disagree on the severity of the flawed teachings. I think you are coming at this from a perspective of whether or not Bell stated something overtly heretical that would explicitly deny the deity of Jesus, Faith in Jesus alone, or the resurrection.

    My argument to that point was that Paul clearly stated that there is a counterfeit gospel and spirit. The goal of a counterfeit is too look exactly like the original but be fake. One way that would be accomplished is to say Jesus Christ is the only way to God but Jesus is present in all cultures under different names. In other words all religions are the same.

    When someone questions that, they can say that Jesus is the only way to God and it sounds like Christianity. That equivocation technique is exactly what Bell is doing when some one calls him a Universalist. He denies that he is and points out that he believes in Hell.

    In my opinion Meditation is not biblical and should not be done by Christians. There are different types of mediation. There is passive meditation which is like transcendental meditation. There is a active or dynamic meditation that uses meditation coupled with visualizing. There is no Christian mediation in my opinion. As I pointed out the experiences of the desert fathers are the same as the experiences as Hindus or any other Eastern religion.

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    TheDude

    Re:IS MEDITATION BIBLICAL”

     Dr Bock and ekerwin,
    I would also like to point out that I have not been a Christian my whole life. It was only recently that I became a Christian. Prior to that, I was deeply involved with meditation. This is not a case of a Christian telling others "thou shall not…"

    I can tell you unequivocally that meditation is not biblical and is deceiving. Mystical experiences can be incredibly mentally overwhelming and are easily conflated as being from God. Dave Hunt wrote several good books on the subject. Check out The Seduction of Christianity and Occult invasion

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    ekerwin

    BIBLICAL MEDITATION

    Dude,

    "I can tell you unequivocally that meditation is not biblical and is deceiving."

    If you are referring to Mid/Far Eastern or New Age meditation as not being biblical I can agree with you. But, if you are saying as your quote above says meditation of any kind is not biblical then I do not agree with you. God's word is not in agreement either. Check out the following verses:

    Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 4:4; and Psalm 119:15,23,27,48,78,99,148

    The object of our meditation determines what is biblical or not. According to God's word we are encouraged to meditate on God, His word, and His works.

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    TheDude

    BIBLICAL MEDITATION

    ekerwin,
    As I said before, to meditate in the bible sense means to contemplate not to meditate like Hindus. When the bible tells us that we should meditate on God's word day and night, does that mean you should be in a trance from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep? No, it means you should contemplate God's words all day and night.

    There is no Christian meditation. If you repeat a phrase from the bible over and over again, you are going to get the same result as if you would using a Hindu mantra calling one of the Hindu god's essentially to posses the person meditating. Read the experiences of the desert fathers. There are the same experiences that Zen or Hindu meditation gives you.It's like saying there are Christian Ouija boards or you are going to use a Ouija board to get clarification on God's word.

    Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    This was around before Jesus was alive. Jesus didn't meditate nor did the apostles.The premise here is a occult one. We are separated from God because of our consciousness is at the wrong level. To connect to God, all you need to do is meditate. If that's the case why are there a myriad of biblical examples of prophets waiting weeks for God to tell them something?

    My sense is that you are going to disregard everything I am saying. Let me reiterate that this comes from personal experience. Read Dave Hunt's book The Seduction of Christianity.

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    ekerwin

    “CHRISTIAN” MEDITATION

    Dude, actually I will not disregard what you say because I agree with what you said. You said it clearer this time.

    However, I do have one difference with you. You, because of your past you understandably have a problem with the word meditate. I do not have that same problem, so I do not have a problem using that word, meditate, to describe what I do at times. It is a word in the bible, so I should be able to use it. But you may ask, and rightfully so, what do I mean by it.

    So what do I mean by it? Here is a simple definition that I just read,

    "…to meditate in the bible sense means to contemplate…"

    In case you didn't recognize it, I got the quote from you. Thanks! Endless mantras, vain repetitions, and mindless trances have nothing to do with it. You and I are in agreement.

    So is there such a thing as "Christian" meditation? It depends on how someone understands the word. So to further define I would say it this way, "to meditate in the bible sense means to contemplate" on God (His character and attributes), His marvelous word, and His awesome works. This is the essence of the biblical word "meditate".

     

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    Got2Fly

    Willful, intentional disregard for clear Biblical teaching

    Dr. Bock,

    With all due respect, you come across in this review as naive.  

    To start with, Rob has a history of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  This is his method.  He tries to get you to question orthodoxy, and then he turns around and says he subscribes to that othodoxy he just led you to question.  In Velvet Elvis he questioned the virgin birth:

    "What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

    But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?"

    And then on the next page he said he believed in the virgin birth.  It leaves you asking, why then did you write what you wrote?  It is as if Rob wants it both ways.  He wants favor with the unbelieving world while retaining his believing listeners.  LOVE WINS is just a continuation of this method he has long embraced.

    Rob Bell has made clear his willful, informed, intentional disregard for Biblical Teaching.  This is not a mistake.  This is a choice to distort the truth by someone who has been entrusted with the gospel.  It is not appropriate to compare him to the immature saints in Corinth.  Rob Bell grew up in a strong Christian home, graduated from Wheaton and Fuller Seminary.  He has been a pastor for years.  He knows what he is doing, and he is doing it intentionally.  It is not as if he is unaware the the scriptures he ignores.  He has simply made a choice to ignore a vast segment of Biblical teaching about the wrath of God and judgement and hell.  That fits the definition of false teacher.  That is serious.   And these are not sideline issues.  These issues are at the heart of the gospel.  If sin doesn't require judgement, then the cross wasn't really necessary.  If we all aren't so bad as scripture says we are, then Jesus didn't do as much for us on the cross as he really did.  In Acts 20:27, Paul says "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."  Bell has chosen not to declare the whole counsel of God.  He has decided what part he likes (and will be accepted by the world) and what part he would rather leave out.  

    We learn from the same passage in Acts that false teachers always arise from within the church (Acts 20:29-30).  The only way they can be a danger to the body is that they can mix truth with error.  If they came from outside we would ignore them.  When something is all error, it is obviously error and is ignored.  The danger of false teaching is that there is enough truth mixed in to make it look good in some ways.   I know plenty of people who think Mormons are Christians because of their stand on moral issues and they like to emphasize they are the Church of Jesus Christ.  There is some truth in Mormonim, and that is how it dupes people.  You appear naive when you commend the good in the book and while noting the error.  

    Paul said in Galations 6:12 that those of the circumcision party were teaching what they were teaching "only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ".  He compared his own position in 5:11, "if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?  In that case the offense of the cross has been removed."  Paul was saying that our message is an offensive message, and false teachers will find a way to soften that offense so as to avoid persecution.  Rob has succeeded in removing the offense.  He is welcomed on every talk show and TV news venue in the nation.  Why?  Because Hell is offensive.  The narrow road is offensive.  The doctine of eternal punishment and Jesus being the only way to God are common points of departure from orthodoxy and entry points into Liberal Theology because they offend the world.   To say that Rob isn't a false teacher because he gets some things right is down right naive.  All false teachers get things right.

  • Avatar

    Darrell L. Bock

    Willful, intentional disregard for clear Biblical teaching

    Got2Fly:

    No need to communicate respect and then call me naive. I can take criticism and recognize people disagree, even vehemently, on how to classify Bell in light of his work–and for good reason.  (Just read the comments above) I fully understand that some see the error as worthy of the term heresy– and even appreciate why.

    I hope you read my review and the comments carefully. I say this because certain things you say about the review do not reflect what I said in the review or in subsequent comments. In the review the teaching was quite clearly said to be false and the rebukes were full. The errors were said to be serious as well. I have no doubt Bell has thought through what he says (Most authors do. And Bell knows he is controversial). The only thing I have hesitated to do is call the teaching outright heresy (and the word hesitate is important. It is a word I use carefully. That means I can see why some people would use the word, but I am not certain the term fits completely in this case, so I hesitate to call it that.).

    Distinguishing what is said well from what is said poorly is part of a review, as books are not all or nothing. If you weighed what I said he said well versus what he said poorly and how the book as a whole was assessed, the poors far outweighed the positives. The book was hardly endorsed. In fact, it clearly was the opposite.

    If you read carefully, I did not say that he was not a false teacher because he got some things right. I said his flaw is to make Jesus' grace too extensive while claiming to hold to and affirm the uniqueness of Jesus' work (so not the error of Galatians, where more than Jesus is asked for). If you read Bell, he is not denying sin or the cross, he is overapplying Jesus' value and work. (There is a difference). I can agree the effect takes away from Jesus' death, but most especially it makes faith a rather empty concept.  Now I think he is wrong, dead wrong and seriously wrong and said so. I am still not quite sure we have to have the term heresy to affirm that point and argue the book is seriously misguided and of no real help to the church. It is not a thesis a pastor or teacher should hold or defend. It does not commend him at all as a teacher but shows his teaching to have severe flaws. That steers people away from him and the very flawed teaching. I absolutely agree with you that Bell has trouble with the real offense of Hell and to do so is to disregard a wealth of Scripture (and I noted some of those texts). Thank you for taking the time to express yourself so directly, just be sure the charges you make are really fair. We can agree to disagree about what to label Bell's work without overstating the nature of the difference we may have. 

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      ekerwin

      Dr. Bock – Naive?

      Not that you need defending, but I would like to encourage you. I totally understood you when you criticized Bell. You were hardly walking on egg shells when you did so. I feel forewarned concerning this man and some of his dangerous teaching. I read all of your review and I came away with this thought: If you are serious about the Theological Truth and if you really want to know the true character of God – Don't go to Rob Bell!

      Without labeling him you sufficiently warned the church concerning this man's teachings.

      I also would like to commend you on how you answered those who did not think you went far enough by  not labeling Bell. Not all men are able to be so kind in their responses to critics. You are teaching me. Thanks!

      God may you bless this man with grace upon grace in his ministry to his students and the church at large.

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    Got2Fly

    Thank you for the clarification

    Dr. Bock,

    Thank you for the clarification, and for your patience with my strong wording.  I did indeed read your entire review, and have just gone back and re-read all of your responses on this page.  I have a follow up question.  What exactly is heresy, if heresy is not equal to false teaching?   If I understand you correcty, you stated that Rob is guilty of false teaching but not heresy.  

    Now I think we agree that he is not merely guilty of false teaching on peripheral issues.  He is guilty of false teaching on issues at the heart of the gospel itself, the very central, foundational issues of our faith.  His position makes the cross of Christ moot.  Who needs the cross if "Love Wins" in the end?  His teaching sounds like unbelievers go to some eternal purgatory where they will eventually be won over by God's love.  Furthermore, as I metioned above, I think we agree that:

    "Rob Bell has made clear his willful, informed, intentional disregard for Biblical Teaching.  This is not a mistake.  This is a choice to distort the truth by someone who has been entrusted with the gospel."

    I would even add that this that it is a calculated choice.  This is not just a mistake.  He has been doing this for some time and has thought this through, and you indicated you agree with that.  So my question is, if making a deliberate choice to disregard scripture and teach things contrary to scripture at the level of the truth of the gospel and our eternal destiny is not heresy, then what is?  How do you define heresy?  

    You said he "makes faith rather an empty concept".  Well, if faith becomes an empty concept, then how does one get saved?  And if his teaching makes it impossible for people to get saved, you still think this is not heresy?  Please clarify that for me.

    You said:

    "His serious (yes, false) teaching is some can be saved without choosing Christ by faith. I think that wrong, even seriously so and false, but I do not see it as a denial of the person or work of Jesus as are the other cases. That is where I would draw the heresy line." 

    Am I really understanding you correctly?  You admit that he teaches that some can be saved without choosing Christ by faith, and yet you believe that is not heresy?  If that is not heresy, then what is?  Forgive my naivite, as I am a common laymen.  Never been to seminary.   Please forgive my brashness and overstated remarks and inform me; why this isn't heresy, and what is heresy?

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    Darrell L. Bock

    Clarification

    As I said he overapplies the work of Christ versus denying it. I suspect he would say the value of faith in Christ is an even better experience with God than without faith. In that case, this also is not a denial of faith, but a reapplication of it. To me heresy is severe false teaching that says Christ is not enough. In Bell's view, Christ is the basis of all he argues for, and his error is to make Christ too much in applying his work indirectly to people beyond any act of faith (if that distinction is clear).