musings on ministry
Posted onAugust 1, 2009AuthorStewart7 Comments
Well, I am not a Rob Bell fan (no surprise for anyone!) but some of the historical context here is interesting. It is also not surprising that the numerous man-made religions visit universal themes of death, life, blood and rebirth. The most prominent story of Mithras birth is he had no human mother or father and came from a rock! As the Mithras cult moved westwards from Persia it became adapted particularly by the Romans and the adapted version borrowed from *gasp* Christianity (http://www.comereason.org/cmp_rlgn/cmp070.asp).
Bell’s message is a little cloudy other than the ‘you are the Gospel’ punchline so sorry if I get the wrong end of the stick from this one! I am a witness to the Gospel but I am not the Gospel. The central message seems to be ‘well your Jesus story is pretty common so just build nice communities and forget preaching the Gospel’. Trouble is there are many great loving, peaceful communities out there that are not Christian but so often do it bigger and better!
I am so grateful to the few Christians who simply proclaimed the message on the street, sang a hymn in public or gave me at tract. I didn’t know how many hours in the soup kitchen they had worked or how many trees they had planted or how nice a person they were but I got the message and saw their personal witness. Having the conviction and courage to expose their beliefs, to stand out, to simply say it, is a better testament to the power of the Gospel rather than have protective shield of uncriticisable charity work to back it up. Those works are admirable and of course our deeds should match our doctrine but they are not a distinctive. I wish I proclaimed more (first) and build a great community more (second).
Finally getting to my question (lol!) which is why I wanted to comment – how can we make good works distinctly Christian when many other are doing the very same works?
Thanks for posting the video – good chance to talk about it.
Sorry link was mangled 🙂
Hi Stewart. Wow! It’s a nicely presented message. I’m not really sure I recognise the gospel in this monologue… It has a focus on human response to the extent that it seems to play down the idea that God raised Jesus from the dead, as though it were merely an example to people of how God can make things better for us if we trust Him.
Bell seems to be trying to recast the idea of God becoming man as more likely a myth (like Mithra) and not really the important part (without explicitly saying it, just leaving enough wiggle room to let you believe that angle if it helps get you to sign on the dotted line). His dying for our sins is not really explained, and what we are rescued from doesn’t seem all that significant. Are we destined for hell except for the gospel? Or is that an unmarketable concept?
An underhand dig at “political” Christians is evident, Bell seems to be recruiting supporters by taking potshots at the Religious Right (though not in so many words). They’re usually an easy target because they are, by and large, straw men, concocted baddies for the morally self-righteous to feel justified in hating. Of course, it feels good to expose hypocrisy in other people (while clonking them with our own eye-logs).
It’s almost as though Bell is trying to rebrand Christianity to be something more acceptable to society: highlight what people can easily agree with, then cast doubt on, or downplay the other difficult stuff. And gain support by setting up cartoon enemies who we can rail against…(Who is the big bad Roman Empire in your life? Maybe it’s the church! Maybe the government! Become a “radical” Christian and rain down sanctimonious pity/scorn on the institution of your preference!)
To what extent does Bell’s message incite heartfelt, life-changing gratitude? I mean, it sounds nice, in a “take it or leave it” or “dip in and out” kind of way.
When it comes down to it, I’m not sure that for Jesus “making the world a better place for people” was the primary priority, and any message that suggests that this is the extent of the remit of the Gospel is missing a major piece of the puzzle. Of course, renewal of all things is part of God’s plan… But why is he doing it at all?
Cheers for your comments on my blog: thought I’d return the favour 🙂
Build me Up Buttercup indeed LOL
Thanks for the comments!
I didn’t say anything about this when I posted it because I didn’t want to colour it anymore than the fact that it was Rob Bell would. And I don’t think expecting someone to change your life in an 11 minute video clip is likely.
I find all the social and political context fascinating. Shane Claiborne’s ‘Jesus for President’ is well worth a read. And I think that that context helps us to understand something we have lost, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is subversive and revolutionary, not just because it was different but because it went against the prevailing political thought.
I don’t think he’s digging at political Christians because I think all Christians should be political. I think he’s digging at self-serving politics, like the discusion on health care for all in the USA at the moment. Why would the church be against that? Sure, argue about how but is a system that leave millions without health care Good News to the poor?
I don’t think Bell is presenting something easy at all. This revolutionary Gospel is still in opposition to the prevailing society and we are still challenged to live a different way. That’s not easy.
I think he’s saying that Jesus is saving me from my sins through his resurrection, not some time in the future, but now. And why? To save the world. Isn’t that the heart of the Gospel? And if you and I are not proof of that, if you and I are not making the world a better place for the poor and the hungry and the lonely and the naked then what are we doing?
That sounds like Good News to me. That sounds like the Gospel. Or am I missing something?
Hi Stuart, thanks for the reply!
You’re right, it does sound like the effects of the gospel: but I think there’s still something bigger that’s not being covered by Bell’s vision. The gospel is revoloutionary, and does solve sociological problems, but that’s not all it’s there for: and to limit it to that is to significantly reduce its blast radius!
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