In 1941, Rudolph Bultmann published a very famous essay on “demythologizing” the New Testament. For Bultmann, the New Testament was filled with myths of miracles that no modern person could accept. Thus, in an effort to save Christianity, he attempted to strip it of all its supernatural elements. After all, we don’t want the concept of “God” to become out of date.
Rob Bell’s recent book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God (HarperOne, 2013), brings up many memories of Bultmann. While Bell is not trying to take away the supernatural elements of the faith, he is trying to purge it of elements that he thinks will make God out of date. Unfortunately, these happen to be core doctrines of Christianity–sin, God’s wrath, the cross, atonement.
When the dust settles, Bell has given us a God that is no longer distinctively Christian. We are left with just vague spiritualism. Whereas Bultmann demythologized Christianity, Bell has detheologized Christianity.
Reformation 21 has just posted my full review of Bell’s book (see here). Here are my closing paragraphs:
In the end, my overall concern about this volume is a simple one: it is not Christian. Bell’s makeover of Christianity has changed it into something entirely different. It is not Christianity at all, it is modern liberalism. It is the same liberalism that Machen fought in the 1920’s and the same liberalism prevalent in far too many churches today. It is the liberalism that teaches that God exists and that Jesus is the source of our happiness and our fulfillment, but all of this comes apart from any real mention of sin, judgment, and the cross. It is the liberalism that says we can know nothing for sure, except of course, that those “fundamentalists” are wrong. It is the liberalism that appeals to the Bible from time to time, but then simply ignores large portions of it.Bell’s book, therefore, is really just spiritualism with a Christian veneer. It’s a book that would fit quite well on Oprah’s list of favorite books. What is Rob Bell talking about when he is talking about God? Not the God of Christianity.
Mary Lou says
And it will be a bestseller. That’s the saddest thing. Heresy always seems to sell better in the marketplace of ideas than God’s truth.
Thanks for this insightful review.
Thank you for this review!
Why hasn’t Rob Bell been making the TV interview circuit like he did with Love Wins? Have all the Piers Morgans of the world figured out that there is nothing new in Rob Bell’s embrace of liberal theology, a theology that has been around for over 100 years. Perhaps it is because Rob has pretty much been disowned by most orthodox Christian’s and his postmodern beliefs (if there are such things) are no longer a challenge to traditional Christian belief, and since no one of any consequence cares about Mr.Bell the TV talk hosts don’t see the ratings advantage to interviewing Rob Bell about his Oprah like belief system.
Kate Snyder says
I read your insightful review and have read others as well. Yours is excellent, thank you! I don’t think I’ll read Rob Bell’s new book. I read “Love Wins” and could barely get through it — such disrespect for Jesus and His Word — it shocked and saddened me.