Well again with a book review. Let me say from the outset that i am not convinced that the best way to approach the emerging church movement is by discrediting and trashing their claims (see my blog series ‘emergent detergent’), however, for those who are interested, and some of those emergents who are open to conversation with anyone and not just other emergents who say what they want to hear, maybe this can be useful for you (forgive my viscousness there).
I would prefer someone to read the ‘book of shadows’ (Wiccan Bible) or the ‘Koran’ or listen to a Marylin Manson cd then read this book. Why? Well, at least those others let you know that they are bad, at least you know what you are in for, but this book, is so shneaky, so deceitful, it is way more evil (please don’t let that comment put you off from reading further).
Strategically throughout the book Bell reconstructs Christianity in such a way that makes him believable, those of us who are evangelical, reformed, conservative (but however, not this new brand of blind fundamentalist) will half agree with parts of what he says, so for example on pg 21 Bell mentions the time that Christ said that He is the Way, truth and Life, then Bells says that ‘Jesus was not claiming one religion is better then another’. Thats a half truth, there is a negativity connected with religion, however, that does not mean that that is all religion is, James at the end of chapter 1 of his first epistle seems to be very pro religion. However, like the serpent in Eden, (I hope that is not unfair for me to say, just drawing a parallel, not saying Bell is the devil, although I am pretty sure he is inspired by the devil, there is a difference between being mistaken and not having everything right, and teaching outright apostasy)
His entire fist chapter bell uses the analogy of a spring, however, he then takes the analogy of truth and his connections with truth and thus says that doctrines doesn’t really matter, eventually saying that He could still be a Christian if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin (although he claims he still believes that Jesus was). This is terrible, listen, if God did not invade the real world and be yet different, then there is no hope! If all Christainity is, is a bunch on pretty imaginations and good concepts, then we are doomed, because death and suffering and all other consequences of sin are real life things, not imaginations!
Then on page 27 he says things like God is bigger then the Christian faith. Well that is true, however, that is the only place He has revealed Himself specifically (for a further investigation on this I encourage you to do a study of Psalm 19, notice the change in thought that occurs in the second half of the Psalm).
Bell later talks about questions (pg28), says they are good and healthy, goes on to suggest that churches are generally against people asking them. I am not sure what churches he has been to… However, he stays at the question, he suggests that we relish the mystery of not knwoing things, instead of presenting peeople with the Word of God and godly Bible teachers who God has given as gifts to the Chruch to help us walk and find answers to what God has revealed. I am not saying all answers are easy, but if we stop at just asking qustions that is celebrating our ignorance, and people perish for lack of knowledge.
He misquotes and reinterprets most scriptures, there is not historical-grammatical method happening in his book. In his second chapter he suggest that when Jesus gave the command to bind and loose to the Church, Jesus was telling the church to interpret and reinterpret Scripture. This my friends is the problem, there is no way that is what Jesus meant, now I can go into a whole exegesis of the text with you, or I can just tell you to go and read 200 commentaries by godly men and find one that even hints at that. Actually no, wait, I think i will reinterpret that Scripture now, binding actually means giving a tattoo and loosing means to remove bracelets from people. 2000 years of Church history and this is still the kind of stuff that deceives the church, wow! This is a proof of the doctrine of ‘total depravity’.
on page 67, Bells attacks the teaching of Sola Scriptura, that Scripture alone is our guide, that really tells us where he stands, and I say this respectfully, how he misunderstands Church history. The serpent in Eden also said, did God actually say….
There is much more I could write about this book, however, there are many good crits on it available for those who want to take a deeper look. For me the main point was Bells stance on Scripture, and since thats out, so is anything he writes really. If you have questions or would like me to expand on anything I have written here or elsewhere, just drop a line.
let me close by quoting the Westminster Confession on Scripture:
4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
6. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and [PCUS that] there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.