Monday, November 24, 2008

Rob Bell Part 2

Here is part 2 of our look at Rob Bell. The article was written by Eric Mire.

Rob Bell Part 2


Rob Bell begins his teaching by explaining how he has recently learned more about himself through the story of Jesus walking on the water and rebuking Peter for his lack of faith found in Matthew 14:22-33. Rob doesn’t simply expound on the text but takes the listener on to a historical understanding of Jewish Rabbis. He explains how in Jewish culture, young children around the age of 6 would go to school to learn the Torah, in what was known as “Bait Torah.” They would be taught by a local rabbi until the age of 10, and upon completion would have the entire Torah memorized. Most of the children after the age of 10 would move on to learn the family trade, but the “best of the best” would move on to the 2nd level of training called “Bait Talmud.” At the conclusion of “Bait Talmud,” around the age of 14 or 15, the child would be able to memorize all of the Jewish scriptures—Genesis to Malachi. From this group of kids, the “best of the best of the best” would move on the next level of education known as the “Bait Midrash.” In order to be accepted into the “Bait Midrash” the student would have to find a specific rabbi to apply to and become the rabbi’s disciple. Rob says that a disciple is “deeper than a student” because the disciple “wants to be like the rabbi, and do what the rabbi does.” Each rabbi would have different interpretations of scripture, known as the “rabbi’s yoke.”

A disciple would want to take on the “rabbi’s yoke in order to know what the rabbi knows, to be able to do what the rabbi does, in order to be like the rabbi.” The rabbi would then “grill” the student with questions and testing to see if the student could be a valid follower. If the rabbi doesn’t think the student can follow him, he gently releases him to go back and learn “the family trade.” However, if the rabbi thinks a student can be a good follower, the rabbi would invite the student to “follow me.” The young 15 year old kid would then leave “family, friends, synagogue, and village to devote your entire life to being like your rabbi. This is what it means to be a disciple.” So the student would daily walk with the rabbi through the hot desert terrain and by the end of the day “you would be caked in whatever your rabbi stepped in.” Rob explains that there was a saying among the sage’s and wise men of the day—“may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” Hence the title “Dust.”

Rob moves on to explain how Jesus began His ministry as a rabbi at the age of 30 (which is the common age of a new rabbi), and how Jesus was revolutionary based on the fact that He went to fisherman to call them to be His disciples instead of a young, bright child who was schooled in the “Bait Talmud.” They are not the “best of the best.” But the rabbi Jesus who is the “best of the best of the best” calls them to be his disciples. This explains why they would be so eager to “drop their nets at once and follow him.”

Back to the story of Jesus walking on water; why would Peter’s first response be, “if it’s you Lord tell me to come to you?” Rob’s explanation is because as a disciple Peter has organized his whole life around Jesus, “he’s dedicated his whole life to do what he sees his rabbi doing.” So as Peter sees his rabbi walking on water, he too wants to walk on water. Peter begins to walk on water and then starts to sink and calls out for Jesus. Jesus’ response was “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

*HERESY ALERT* Now this is the most crucial part of Rob’s whole lesson, and even though the historical context can have some validity to it, this is where Rob takes you into heresy. Rob states that he always assumed “that Peter doubts Jesus, but Jesus isn’t sinking. So who does Peter doubt? He doubts himself. He loses faith in himself that he could actually be like his rabbi. Jesus wouldn’t have called him if he didn’t think Peter could be like him, Jesus even reminds his disciples at one point when he says, ‘You didn’t choose me, I chose you,’ the rabbi doesn’t choose you unless the rabbi thinks you can do what he does, that you can be like him. All my life I heard about people believing in God, but God believes in us, in you, in me. Faith in Jesus is important, but what about Jesus’ faith in us? He must have faith in us because he leaves it all in the hands of the disciples… He leaves it in the hands of these anybodies and they do it. What if we could actually be the kind of people that lived like Jesus lived?”

Now this is incredibly dangerous. Rob Bell is a great communicator and teacher. However, when he comes to his conclusions on a passage using his understanding of historical contexts, they end with a self-exaltation of interpretation. What is completely missing from this study of Jesus and Peter walking on water is the doctrine of total depravity, man’s need for salvation, the doctrine of sanctification, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I’m not going to critique Rob Bell’s explanation on Jewish education and culture because it is not detrimental to your eternal salvation as much as the “believing in yourself” worldview is.

Let’s start by explaining what the parable is supposed to show us. This parable is supposed to show us that Jesus is the Christ. He is all-powerful over creation and He can do what we can’t do. Peter sinking shows us our need for a savior.

I honestly do not know why Peter would have been so bold as to want to get out of the boat in the first place, but it is a good illustration for us today to understand that we are to keep our faith on Christ alone. There will always be trials; we do not seek Jesus for the absence of trials because inside and outside the boat the waters were fierce, but Jesus is Lord over all creation and sovereign over all life’s happenings. This is not an illustration of a disciple following a rabbi, but of Christ being a savior, a call to perseverance, and our Lord’s ability to deliver us. It is the complete opposite of “having faith in ourselves.”

Here are a few scriptures to show us that we are to not have faith in ourselves, please read them carefully and understand that this is God’s Word written to you: Jer. 17:7-9; Isaiah 64:1-7; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10-18; Romans 5:12; John 6:44; Ephesians 2:1-10. All of these scriptures were given to us by God to show us our sin and need for a savior. Because we are sinners, then there is no way we can be like the rabbi through our own strength, wisdom, or abilities. Jesus has come not show us a better way to live, but to quench the wrath of God brought on by our sinfulness. The only one we are to believe in is Jesus Christ, because without Him you are dead in your trespasses. Your walking on water is really a bloated body faced down if you believe in yourself.

The next error that needs to be refuted through scripture is the idea that we can be like Jesus because “he chose you.” There is some truth to this because this falls in line with the doctrine of sanctification, but Rob Bell does not explain it as such. He does not explain our total dependence on God to make us holy. Sanctification is an ongoing process that Christians must go through, and cannot do so by believing in ourselves. In my honest opinion, I don’t think there is many people out there today who don’t want to be like Jesus, believers or non-believers. Who wouldn’t want to command nature to do what they want it to do. Who wouldn’t want to have the power that Jesus had. Who wouldn’t want to have a following like Jesus attained. But this is not the Jesus that sanctification aims us to become like. Sanctification aims at producing fruit in our lives. Read Galatians 5:16-26. If your idea of the outcome of following Jesus does not line up with the fruit of the Spirit, then you do not have a proper understanding of God’s will in sanctification for you while here on earth. Read Romans 7. By this point in Romans, Paul has already addressed the depravity of mankind, our need for a savior, how to attain salvation, and now begins to speak on how sanctification works in the life of a believer. We will always struggle with the sin nature, but must “walk in the Spirit to not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” And realize that sanctification will not be complete until we die and go to be with Him (if in fact you are saved). Read 1 Cor. 15:42-29. This shows us that you will not be able to fully be like your rabbi here on earth, but we must wait for the day that our heavenly body’s “bear the image of the Man of heaven.”

SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS FROM THE WORKBOOK: My answers will be in italic.

1) Have you ever thought about Jesus as your rabbi? Not in the historical context that Rob uses.

2) Would you consider yourself a disciple? A biblical disciple; I strive to be… A “belief in myself” disciple; God forbid.

3) Have you ever thought about your faith as being an interpretation? What?!?

4) Is it okay to have different interpretations of the Scriptures? No because there is only one truth, and truth is not relative.

5) What message was Jesus sending us by not choosing the best of the best? It wasn’t to show us that He believes in us… it was to gather a group of men that had not been corrupted by the “leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And also to show us God’s election not man’s election, so that no one could boast of being worthy.

6) What impact are Christians today having on the course of human history? We’re making the top 50 influential lists and teaching a different Jesus.

7) How big of a role do your insecurities play in your life? I constantly need a hug and someone to validate my worth and increase my self-esteem.

8) Do they ever affect your faith? If my faith revolves around myself, then my faith is already negatively affected.


10) What does it mean to be like Jesus? To be sanctified according to scripture, not try to be all-powerful like He is. He is God and I cannot be God too.

11) Can you do it? He alone can do it. He alone is my Savior. He alone justifies and sanctifies me. I am not and never will be God. All people should be careful of this teaching because it leads you to self-exaltation, self-glorification and finally the condemning sin of self-deification.
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Blogger Renny said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 9, 2008 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Renny said...

Thank you for your entry, and glory be to God. I pray for Rob Bell's salvation. Or, if his faith is already in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, that God will raise up one of his labourers to teach Mr. Bell "the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26). No matter what, may God's people denounce the emerging (or, emergent) heresy that somehow God brings himself to "believe in you". Praise God that he will only save those who plead "have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13-14; 1 Tim. 1:15).

December 9, 2008 at 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrible review...have an open mind. You can believe in yourself and still believe in God. If you have no self esteem then you are worthless. Hints love your neighbor as yourself. Don't be so quick to throw this message out. You are reading into it too much. If he's not against you he is for you...that's what JESUS SAID!

December 17, 2009 at 11:05 PM  

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