Valuing ‘Relevance’ more than ‘Truth’

Last week, former Pastor of Mars Hill church in Grandville, MI Rob Bell made headlines again by making some statements that many Christians find ‘concerning’, at best.

This is nothing really new to Rob Bell…he has not been a stranger to controversy within Christian circles. One book he wrote recently, LOVE WINS postulates the theory that ‘everyone is o.k.’ after death. Since ‘God is Love’, then it’ll all work out. Don’t sweat it. He actually reaffirmed this to Oprah Winfrey on her “Super Soul Sunday” show recently.

When I posted a blog by Matt Walsh which called Bell–and others–out for ‘watering down’ the Gospel in order to be popular, several Believers and friends that I care a great deal about shot back at me that I should not have posted that blog. It was harsh, and quite possibly untrue.

As I looked more at the blog, I had to agree with some of their points–It did “Paint with a broad brush” that ‘Mega-Church pastors’ were all doing this–seeking Relevance over Truth. The blog lambasted some Pastors that I respect and have learned from, even though I don’t support every position they’ve taken and every thing they’ve done (I’m sure none of them are losing sleep over my opinion, but…).

Anyway, I apologized for the offense and said that I agree–we Christians DO need to offer grace and love–even when other believers go astray. I promised to look into it more, and I did.

What did I find?

I spent several hours looking into the interviews between Rob Bell and Oprah on her network, and found that yes, indeed–he did say that the church was very close to embracing ‘gay marriage’. He thought this was/will be a very good thing.

What was his reasoning that the Church should change it’s understanding of marriage now, after thousands of years understanding it as ‘one man, one woman joined together by God’?  He reasoned that People are lonely, and we should change so that they wouldn’t be lonely anymore. That’s it. It really does come down to a ‘faith of feelings’.

In fact, Bell went  on to say that the Church would continue to be increasingly irrelevant if it continued to cite ‘2,000 year old letters’ as its only argument against something (like gay marriage) that the culture is embracing.

Did you catch that? Rob Bell really did make a recommendation: Throw out the Word of God if you want to remain relevant–as though ‘relevance’ is our main goal!

Any Bible-believing Christian knows that our goal is not to be ‘relevant’, but rather, that our goal is to please and honor God.

We do that by loving Him, worshiping Him, submitting ourselves to Him and reflecting Him to this world. The only way we really know Him though–Who He is, What He established as a moral order, what His will is for us and the world–is through The Word Of God! If we jettison that in order to pursue ‘relevance’,  then we will not really be reflecting Him; rather, we’ll be reflecting our own version of Him–a version based on many things, from our feelings to our culture, to our culture’s desires and values, etc.

That is not historic, Biblical Christianity, and that is a serious breech.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

There was another thing that concerned me as I watched these programs.

In one series, Oprah asked Mr. Bell for quick answers about complex things: What happens when we die? What is God like? What is the purpose of faith? And many more…

On several occasions, he had ample opportunity for directing the answers toward Jesus–something that I would expect from a Christian pastor. True, there were times when he cited Jesus’ words, but not once did he give any sort of indication that Jesus is ‘the Key’, or that–in Jesus own words, “I (Jesus) am the Way, the Truth and the Life; No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) This disturbed me as much as the other things. Honestly, I tried to put myself in his place. If Oprah was giving me an opportunity to explain ‘What happens after we die’, I would certainly talk about the promise of eternal life and the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord in order for our sins to be forgiven. I would certainly not try to give the impression that ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe–everything’s going to be o.k.!’

In the end, I came away disturbed and grieving for Mr. Bell.

In the past, some of his teaching was fresh, insightful and helpful…even inspirational to myself and many others.

Unfortunately, I believe that he has gotten off track, theologically, and that I need to pray for him, that he be restored to the true faith. In the meantime, I will not be taking his advice or theological counsel, and I would recommend that others avoid it too.

I know that this will be disturbing to some, who have been moved and helped by Bell’s teachings in the past. Some may have even been helped by his ministry on a personal level, and this will be hard to read.

For those who say it’s ‘unloving’ to call someone out like this, I would simply ask this question: What is more ‘unloving’–seeing someone who is way off track, theologically and letting them continue on that path without warning, or caring for someone enough to warn them of the dangerous track that they’re on?

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer  is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Galatians 6:1)

Honestly, I take no ‘pleasure’ in writing these things…but I believe them to be true.

What you do with it, is up to you.

In the end, this is about much more than whether or not you’re a ‘Rob Bell fan’ or a ‘Rob Bell detractor’.

What matters is your response to the Word of God…as the inerrant, inspired authority for faith and practice.

That’s much bigger and more important than any one person, no matter how gifted they are.

Published by Pastor Dave Johnson

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Lori, Proud Father to 6 great kids, Co-Pastor of Kalamazoo Community Church. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan.

5 thoughts on “Valuing ‘Relevance’ more than ‘Truth’

  1. Dave, I saw this article too, and was so deeply saddened. This is what the Bible is talking about false teachers. I believe Rob Bell has lost his direction. This proves that Satan is alive and well and will use anything he can to pull us from our relationship with Christ. We must read the word for ourselves, and study with other Christians so that we are prepared for the fight which will definitely come.

    1. I agree, Joyce! I do think that we have a tendency to resort to ‘throwing stones’ and casting people like Rob aside, and my intention is to pray for him–that the Lord would remove the blinders and deception from him and he’d be able to see clearly that he’s creating ‘a god in his own image’. My concern, even more than him as an individual is the number of people who follow him because of his past influence. I pray that their eyes would be opened as well!

  2. There is a very dangerous movement in the church which is the lie that God’s word is not relevant and that we should question it rather than trusting its validity. It is the same tactict used by Satan in the garden of Eden. God’s word is the truth and spans the ages with relevance regardless of culture because the inward man will always need the unchanging message of Jesus. We do need to pray for the Rob Bells of our time. We also need to purpose in our own lives to stay on the narrow path as it will only continue to become less traveled as this age progresses.

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