I’m part of this global, historic stream of people who believe that God has not left us alone but has been involved in human history from the beginning. People who believe that in Jesus, God came among us in a unique and powerful way, showing us a new kind of life. Giving each of us a new vision for our life together, for the world we live in.
And as a part of this tradition, I embrace the need to keep painting, to keep reforming.
By this I do not mean cosmetic, superficial changes like better lights and music, sharper graphics, and new methods with easy-to-follow steps. I mean theology: the beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, the future. We must keep reforming the way the Christian faith is defined, lived, and explained. (Velvet Elvis, 22, emphasis added)
I appreciate how clear Bell is being here, but look at what he’s saying. We need to change things. Not just in what we do, but in what we believe about God. The Christian faith needs to change our central beliefs about “God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, the future.” That’s pretty much everything.
What about Jude 1:3? “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude seems to think there is a set content of the faith– that if you split from that content, you’re no longer talking about the same thing. Also, this faith was delivered— it was revealed by God and is passed on to each ensuing generation. It’s not a product of humans creatively imagining things about God.
There’s a lot I want to agree with in Bell: that we need to be open in asking questions about God, that we need to take a hard look at how our faith should make us live in the world, that we need to have a place for mystery. But his willingness to innovate is dangerous. What we absolutely do not need is to change, repaint or reimagine what the Church has always believed about God, his Son, or his Word. The church today needs to return to historic orthodoxy, not reinvent it.
One thought on “Rob Bell on Reinventing Theology”
Jake, I have not read either of Bell’s two books, so I will go just from the quotes you’ve given and what I’ve heard him preach. First, in his sermons, I’ve never heard him say anything that is un-scriptural (though there are a few interpretations that I disagree with- homosexual leaders in church being ok & the actual role of pastor). Second, I almost (almost) agree with him in the quote, for this reason. In a book by one of my professors I’m reading this semester on philosophy and theology, he says “Theology is a fallible undertaking, and that is why each generation of believers must reconsider its language about the self-revelation of God to be sure that its speech is responsible representation of the original witness of Scripture” (Larry Wood, God & History, 31). In this sense, I think it’s crucial for us to re-investigate Scripture and make sure we’re faithful to it, however, I can’t see any reason to make up new theology or add to it in any way. So, I ALMOST agree with him.
Hope these thoughts add to the fuel.