Archive for August 18th, 2008

Saturday night, after spending some much-needed time in conversation with my wife in the wake of our oldest son leaving for his sophomore year at Purdue, I turned to the Olympics to watch Michael Phelps’ swim into the record books. Sunday morning, though, I heard a good bit of buzz in church about another event that occurred on Saturday evening – the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, where Rick Warren sat down and gave essentially identical interviews to both major Presidential candidates. On the advice of many, I watched the replay on Sunday night…

…and I was impressed. Perhaps my expectations were already low (since I’m pretty skeptical on the mixing of politics and faith), but I was very pleased and surprised at the service done for the church in America by Dr. Warren’s church. And – if public reaction can be taken as an indicator – he may have provided an excellent example of how the church can play a non-partisan way in political involvement and improvement of public discourse. [After all, with Obama's official cheering section (i.e. the MSM) being sure to note that the Saddleback crowd was stacked to favor McCain, and the anti-Obama spokesfolks (i.e. the Armchair "Discernment" "Ministries") grousing about audience applause for and Warren's non-condemnation of the Democrat, the truth is bound to be between the two interpretations...]

Some highlights and thoughts…

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[Repost: Apparently it's a slow news day at CR?N, as Ken has recycled a slander-filled hit-piece from February 2007 (which was actually a slander-filled hit-piece from a year or so before that) against Rob Bell without, of course, letting anyone know it was just warmed-over trash with no new "information" and about as much "research" as he normally puts into his writing.  So, in the spirit of reposts, here's our reposted response from the first/second/third? time Ken's hogwash was vomited up as "discernment"...]

Issue: Rob Bell’s view of scripture and Ken Silva’s misuse of the Name of God.

CRN’s Take: The one-man vendetta against Rob Bell continues. Ken has published an article “Rob Bell in a Nutshell”, which makes a number of claims about Rob Bell, including one Amy asked about:

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

My Take: Rather than just reprint Ken’s article, I will critique sectons of it, piece by piece, strawman by strawman, fallacy by fallacy.

The Lord apparently has His reasons as to why He chose to position Apprising Ministries as the “go to” ministry for critique of Emergent Church Pastor Rob Bell. [blah, blah, blah]

In Exodus 20:7, it states

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

A number of Christian (and Jewish) scholars have commented that the intent of this commandment is not about misusing the name of the Lord in anger (which would be included), but to misuse the name of the Lord by attaching it to something as an endorsement of something that is of man, or to justify sin. Or, to put it more bluntly, we are not to presume upon God.

So, before we even get to whatever it is Ken has to say, he’s already disregarded scripture in a way that suggests that the end justifies the means. Besides which, Bell has, on numerous occasions rejected the label of “Emergent” or “Emerging”, as Ken has also noted on a number of occasions; yet “pastor” Silva has still decided to characterize Bell in a way contrary to what even Ken has even recognized as reality.

Time to do so has been hard to come by due to a lack of financial support but here now is the first installment in what I pray will be a series toward that direction. As God leads watch for this to continue to develop [...blah, blah, blah].

Exodus 20:7 (and related verses and curses) applies yet again… Perhaps a possibility could be considered that the lack of financial support and the aim of this “ministry” are somehow connected. While it is also possible this is not the case, I do not believe that God sends messages/prophecy via sinful or highly-errant means.

At best Bell is now neo-orthodox although at one time he was actually quite sound as an expositor of Scripture. As one who used to hear Bell back in his Calvary Church days told me recently, think MacArthur. However, after Bell and his wife read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, as you will now see like most Emergents Bell has rejected sola Scriptura. This is an irrefutable fact.

I’m sorry, Ken, but just because you website says it and isogetes it doesn’t make it ‘irrefutable fact’. (Realize, as well, that the definition of sola Scriptura, and how people interpret the usage of this extra-Biblical doctrine has a good deal of variance in how it is applied.)

Irrefutable: adj. “Impossible to refute or disprove; incontrovertible”

Let us see how ‘irrefutable’ Ken’s “facts” are…

[Quoting Belief.net] The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.

“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes. [Emphasis his]

Oddly (or prehaps not all that much so) Ken does not finish Bell’s quote in the article, instead giving this the appearance of a complete thought on the part of Bell. Here is the remainder of the quote:

“We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”

In one of the sermons from which Velvet Elvis was developed in 2004, Bell used the example of Paul’s comments about women covering their heads and not wearing braided hair. He said that we first had to see what this meant in the time it was written (basically – “women – don’t dress the way prostitutes do – you’re not a prostitute!”). Next, we had to look and see how we would apply this now, in Grand Rapids 2004. He mentioned the name of a brand or a store I didn’t know, but his jist was that women shouldn’t dress in ways that say they are sexually available to other people.

So, Ken’s use of contextomy in this case fails to prove anything, other than Ken’s predisposed inclination to malign and misuse Bell’s words to say things they just don’t say.

Next, Ken writes:

Then in VE, after laying out a neo-orthodox understanding of some of the Biblical writers, Bell specifically says:

This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true! When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true [emphasis Ken's]

Aside from Ken’s predeliction for esoteric terminology (neo-this and hollow-that), this is just another example of contextomy. In this section of Velvet Elvis, Bell is discussing the First Century practice of “binding and loosing“, that is the practice of church or synagogue leaders forbidding (”binding”) or permitting (”loosing”) specific practices or interpretations based upon the community’s understanding/interpretation of scripture.

In Ken’s quote, he excises the actual purpose of this discussion to give Bell’s words an appearance and meaning he did not intend (which would be, well, the definition of a “straw man” – which most anyone who has read a miss-ive from Ken has become readily acquainted with). Here is the full quote from Velvet Elvis, along with continuation from the chapter.

This is part of the problem with continualling insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true.64 In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during the time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is. So, when I affirm the Bible as God’s word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true.

In affirming the Bible as inspired, I have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to choose those books.65 Where they binding and loosing the Bible itself?

At some point we have to have faith. Faith that God is capable of guiding people. Faith that God has not left us alone. Faith that the same Spirit who guided Paul and Peter and those people in a room in the 300s is still with us today. Guiding us, showing us, and enlightening us.

Binding and loosing can only be done if communities are willing to wrestle. The ultimate display of our respect for the sacred words of God is that we are willing to wade in a struggle with the text – the good parts, the hard-to-understand parts, the parts we wish weren’t there.

The rabbis even say a specific blessing when they don’t understand a portion of the text. When it eludes them, when it makes no sense, they say a word of thanks to God because of the blessing that will be theirs someday. “Thank you, God, that at some point in the future, the lights are going to come on for me.”

The rabbis have a metaphor for wrestling with the text: The story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis 32. He struggles and it is exhausting and tiring, and in the end his hip in injured. It hurts. And he walks away limping. Because when you wrestle with the text, you walk away limping. And some people have no limp, because they haven’t wrestled. But the ones limping have had an experience with the living God.

I think God does know what He’s doing with the Bible. But a better question is, do we know what we’re doing with the Bible? And I say yes, we are binding and loosing and wrestling and limping. Because God has spoken. [emphasis mine]

So, Bell is not questioning whether or not scripture is inspired – he is illustrating that when we affirm the authority of the Bible, we are also affirming that we believe that God was leading the people who created the canon. Bell has commented in a couple of sermons I’ve listened to that he believes that the Bible is inspired but that doesn’t mean that some people’s interpretations of portions of the Bible are equally inspired. In a different part of Velvet Elvis, Bell refers to this bad habit of assuming that your interpretation of some passage is as inspired as the text you are intepreting as “warped and toxic” (another phrase Ken has taken a liking to, in a perverse – or perhaps a ‘warped and toxic’ – sort of way).

The only sola Scriptura being deined by Bell here is the strictest interpretation of this extra-Biblical doctrine which suggests that the Bible is completely independent of the context in which it was written and the manner in which it was canonized. Most peoples’ views of sola Scriptura are not quite so narrow, though.
In footnote #64 from the above section of VE, Bell states:

64. I understand the need to ground all that we do and say in the Bible, which is my life’s work. It is the belief that creeps in sometimes that this book dropped out of the sky that is dangerous. The Bible has come out of actual communities of people, journeying in real time and space. Guided by a real Spirit.

So, once again, by examining the actual context, rather than Ken’s isogetical ’slice’, we see something different, something that shows Ken’s premise to be incredibly, shall we say decidedly

refutable: adj. Admitting of being refuted or disproved; capable of being proved false or erroneous.

Next, Ken decides to venture in the realm of Guilt by Association (GBA).

In the Christianity Today article The Emergent Mystique we find out that Bell is another McLaren disciple. [blah, blah, blah]

What we learn from this section is that Bell was influenced by MacLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian”. What seems to be asserted is that Bell is a disciple of MacLaren who, thus, agrees with everything MacLaren say. I am familiar with at least two rather large topics on which Bell has expressed opinions which disagree with MacLaren – the practice of homosexual sex and universalism – both topics which have given me the most trouble with Brian, as well.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy (being quite lenient) has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] liberalism. And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism.

Woah! Hold the phone. Here we have a classic example of Ken’s most common creation of a straw man. Let’s deconstruct this to see how it is comepletely false, misleading and slanderous.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura [not proven, irrefutably or otherwise] Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy [never proven, and refuted by a number of comments from Bell about the Bible being inerrent, but people's intepretations not being so] (being quite lenient) [not proven] has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] [Once again, defining a term for Bell in a potentially inaccurate manner] And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism. [Wow! TOTAL 100% speculation/fabrication by "pastor" Silva. Let's see, 1) Bell claims nothing to do with Emergent; 2) Bell doesn't teach contemplative mysticism (which itself is very loosely defined); and 3) A number of times where Bell has talked about 'mystery' in this manner, it has been in the Hebrew sense of the word that allows wonder with and unknowableness to many aspects of God and how He works.]

So, now Ken has taken a shaky premise about Bell and sola Scriptura and extrapolated it to mean something miles apart from anyting EVER stated by Bell.

Slander in its purest form. Way to go Ken!

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

This entire paragraph is a fabrication of Bell’s theology, thoroughly unsupported by anything written or spoken by him. Rob Bell isn’t neo-orthodox. Reading the wiki entry on Neo-orthodoxy, I cannot find a single point that would be supported by Bell’s teaching. In fact, his sermons and parts of VE (and Sex God) directly contradict a several of the points. As noted above, Bell believes that Scripture is inspired and that we have to trust that the men who wrote it were inspired by the Spirit when they did so. What is not necessarily inspired is how men choose to use/interpret scripture, particularly for selfish ends.

What Bell frequently says in his sermons (as noted above) is that before we can interpret scripture and apply it, we have to first understand what it meant when it was written. As he says on a number of occasions, “the Bible didn’t fall out of the sky – it wasn’t created by fiat [out of nothing]. It was written within the context of a culture and a people who lived and breathed in a specific time and place.” Once we understand its cultural context, we can apply it to the time and place and culture in which we live. What Ken wrote above is utter baloney. To be blunt – Ken is lying and slandering. Period. [Seems not much has changed in 18 months since this was first published - CL]

But he continues:

This heretical view sees the Bible as “a human product” and in fact denies the plenary inspiration of the text of Holy Scripture which it claims for itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). Now you know the underlying reason why Emergent men like Rob Bell make studying the texts of Holy Scripture far more difficult than it needs to be.

So now, Ken is defining a heretical view he has foisted upon an upstanding Christian man, based on a false attribution of disagreement with an extra-Biblical doctrine. Ken proves nothing, because he is now writing complete fiction.

Next, Ken gives a quote from a long, incoherent rant against Velvet Elvis by a pastor in Wyoming, Michigan (a church near Mars Hill, where Bell teaches, and most likely impacted by the large number of folks who attend Mars Hill), who throws around a lot of pseudo-intellectual jargon. However, when you read the actual article Ken pulls his quote from, you quickly realize that the criticism are first and foremost, in response to Bell’s writing about people’s interpretations being fallible and not Holy writ. Secondly, you can’t help but notice in the linked article, that there is a lack of logic and coherence even worse than Ken’s usual screed.

We have already seen that Bell clearly tells us he flatly rejects the Biblical Reformed position of sola Scriptura. So now we add Bell’s disregard for the plenary inspiration of the Bible to his fascination with the Hebrews Roots movement and the strong influence of Ray Vander Laan.

Well, Ken, no we haven’t seen Bell flatly reject sola Scriptura. We haven’t seen anything from Bell to suggest that he disregards the plenary inspiration of scripture. In fact, we’ve seen the exact opposite. Finally, Ken randomly pulls in Ray Vander Laan and the research of the Hebrew Roots of scripture. I’m not exactly sure what his point is in doing so. RVL has intense respect, reverence and faith in scripture, and has done a great deal in bringing conservative first-century scholarship to laypeople within the church.

As we then combine this with Bell’s embracing alleged postmodernism and the contemplative spirituality at the core of the Emergent Church you will now be able to see that Rob Bell has been seduced into its new kind of social gospel, which just as in liberation theology, reduces Christ Jesus to a social reformer–little more than a cause to live for as one fights poverty, aids, social injustice, etc.

Let’s see, here we have a small platoon of straw men. Bell hasn’t ‘embraced alleged postmodernism’, and Ken hasn’t even set out to prove so. Bell hasn’t said anything about contemplative spiriturality, and the only connection between the two is in Ken’s imagination, as noted above. Bell’s not Emergent. While a number of Bell’s recent sermons have been about social ills and the church’s response, it is not the only focus at Mars Hill – it is a balance of scriptural grounding and social action. Liberation theology gets pulled in here randomly, along with the making Jesus in to little more than a social reformer. None of these have been proven in any manner that couldn’t be disproven by an eighth grader, fresh from the ‘logic’ unit in AP English.

As for Ken’s pulling in the ’social gospel’, I am reminded of a recent quote I read that is quickly becoming one of my favorite. It is similar to a comment by Bell last summer:

An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost and the other a corpse. – E. Stanley Jones

Grace and Peace,

Chris L

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Apparently Ken Silva has taken it upon himself to exegete Rob Bell and give the world a packaged and opinionated systematic theology of the man. Apparently there has been a growing demand for this, but Silva has been hindered “due to a lack of financial support.” But, he found some time and cash to begin the series with Bell’s belief on The Bible.

Now, many of us know the research methods that are used at CRN and Apprising. It basically consists of google-ing the name of a guy the author already doesn’t like, and finding a snippet from an interview or book that fits the author’s preconceived notions. Here is a classic example of Silva attempting to show how heretical Bell is by using this quote from an interview

The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.

“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes.

ok, now here are the important missing pieces of the quote that give the context

The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.
“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes. “We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”
Noting the Bible has been used to defend slavery and mistreat women, he writes, “sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up.”

I know we have been over this before, but one of the very first things you learn in theological training is to look at historical context for scripture, and adjust interpretation accordingly. I mean, the same guys who get mad at Bell for talking about historical context would probably thing twice when it came to verses like “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” All those polyester/cotton blend suits are making the preacher man sin! But, this is not important when bashing your man on the internet.

This was just one example of how the ODMs continue their battles at all costs, against all rational thought. The end goal is not sola dei gloria… it’s sola smear your enemies in the mud.

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