Rob Bell is the former Christian minister who years ago wrote a book declaring that the testimony of Scripture was wrong – that Hell is not a place where God’s righteous retribution is poured out on those who chose eternal rebellion to Him. It was a bold strategy for him, given that it left his congregation with two choices:
- Bell is right, and there is no eternal consequence for our sin, only inevitable death that comes regardless of what we do here on earth. Thus, why get up on Sundays and come listen to someone tell us how to live when it doesn’t ultimately matter?
- Bell is wrong, and therefore is a false teacher that is endangering the souls of anyone who listens. Thus, why get up on Sundays and come listen to someone who is leading them and their children astray.
Unsurprisingly, Bell’s ministry is now over. In its place, Bell has embraced an entrepreneurial strategy that combines his effective communication skills and notoriety with a marketing scheme of exploiting his heretical teachings. He is literally coming out with a movie about his own life (who does that?) called “Heretic.”
And as part of the marketing for this movie, Bell has thrust himself back into the headlines by going after Christians who support Donald Trump. They’re the real heretics, you see:
He then argued that large evangelical support for Trump has revealed what the Gospel means for many.
"One of the gifts of this presidency has been that that's all now out in the open. It said morality, it said faith, it said trust in God, it used the word 'Jesus'. But it wasn't serious: it was all a giant charade, and now way more people see it than saw it before — and that's important."
Don’t get me wrong, what Bell is saying isn’t completely false. There is an unhealthy portion of American Christendom that has equated the flag with the cross and has elevated the president to the level of demigod. It’s not Biblical. Neither is the willingness of too many evangelical leaders to downplay the seriousness of sin when it manifests itself in a leader that they have cozied up to as a political ally.
But Bell is condemning far more than just these sins. He is indicting all of evangelical Christianity which is both irresponsible and, ironically, the very offense he is condemning. Bell believes he was regarded as a heretic because he didn’t go along with the politics of conservative Christians. In response, pretending there is no room for Christian believers to renounce Trump’s sins but still support policies he is enacting that they view as good for the nation (as I wrote about here), Bell is declaring heretical those who don’t go along with his liberal politics. It’s all exhausting.
But Bell actually goes a step further this time, insulting those in evangelical churches personally:
"Even when I was a pastor in a local church, that seemed like a strange freak-show," he said.
I can’t possibly put myself in Bell’s brain to figure out what this is supposed to mean. But I can tell you that from the moment he started denying the full counsel of God to precious souls tempted with the urge toward homosexual romantic and sexual relationships, I’ve longed to see Bell’s influence deteriorate. When a man acting as a representative of the Gospel of Jesus withholds from a group of people he sees as beneficial to politically exploit and manipulate, the power of that Gospel to transform us beyond our urges and lusts, his motives and methods become immediately suspect.
Creating your own gospel and pretending it’s more virtuous and holy than the one found in Scripture? That’s the real freak-show.