The obligatory Rob Bell post

I’m pretty opinionated here. Which is why I’m always a little surprised I don’t get negative comments. I mean almost never. In fact, the only truly angry comment I’ve ever received was for this post way back in May of 2008:

image courtesy of

Is it just me, or does watching a Rob Bell video remind anyone else of “The Chris Farley Show” of SNL fame? Here’s what I mean:

Do you remember the story,

when Jesus walks up to those dudes,

and says,

“Follow me,

and I will make you fishers of men?”

and then,

the dudes, like

drop their nets,

and follow Him?…

That was awesome!

Now before anyone shoots me a comment about how Rob Bell is just the coolest, most relevant dude of the 21st century, and shame on me for making fun of him, I’m not dissing the message, just the delivery. I only say this because I once shared this observation with a youth pastor friend of mine and he looked at me like I had just said, “Jesus sucks!” And let’s be honest…he does kinda talk like that! Thoughts?

image courtesy of

Even though I made a disclaimer that I was not dissing Rob Bell’s message, I still got the following comment from your friend and mine, Anonymous:

How can you crack a joke on Rob’s excellent video series if you’ve never even met him or even watched any of them? Maybe you were just having a little fun, but it defies all logic and makes you look like a ignorant babbling fool! I need to get back to my Nooma videos, you know, something that will actually add value in my life!

The ironic thing is, I expected a comment like that. Because some fans of Rob Bell are so completely, rabidly devoted to him that they go around looking to defend him from any and all detractors. At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who believe Rob Bell is the anti-Christ and a heretic leading countless followers to the fiery pits of hell.

And speaking of hell… (Excellent segue, katdish)

Rob Bell has a book coming out on March 29 entitled Love Wins which is causing quite a firestorm. Here’s a video trailer for said book:

“Millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. So what gets subtly taught sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that? That we would be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How can that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?” – Rob Bell

Predictably, many in the Christian community were quick to challenge Bell’s (presumed) declaration that a loving God would not send people to hell. Justin Taylor penned a blog post entitled Rob Bell: Universalist?, which John Piper tweeted prefaced by the words: “Farewell, Rob Bell”. It pretty much snowballed on twitter and Christian blogs after that point.

I’m not going to defend either side of the argument here. Do I believe there’s an actual, physical hell? Yes, I do. Do I think the entirety of Rob Bell’s teachings should be dismissed because I happen to disagree with him about certain interpretations of scripture? No, I don’t believe that either. Because this is what I know to be true:

Rob Bell is not

Justin Taylor is not

John Piper is not

Francis Chan, Erwin McManus, Pete Wilson, Vince Antonucci, Alan Hirsch, Matt Chandler, Matt Smay, Neil Cole,Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Brennan Manning, Donald Miller, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Andy Stanley, Charles Stanley, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Lee Strobel, Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, John Calvin, Oswald Chambers, Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis…

are NOT

Jesus Christ

And their books and writings may inspire you or enrage you. They may cause you to question your faith or confirm what you’ve always believed to be the Truth, but they

are NOT

The Word of God

The Bible is.

And you have the same access to it as anyone else.

Equip yourselves to defend

The Gospel of Christ


“The only thing worse than the joke you don’t get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect. And so, here I go — me and a dozen thousand other people — trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put faith in Him, and what all of that won’t mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may be fine as far as it goes, it doesn’t go far enough…

So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation of a joke you’ve already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain.

Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.”
~ Rich Mullins

Editor’s Note: In case anyone’s interested, I thought I would let you know that I belong to an independent, non-denominational Christian Church. If you’d like to know what we believe, you can find out at our website. I figured if this turned into a theology debate, you may as well know where I’m coming from. Not that I necessarily want this to turn into a theology debate, mind you. Just didn’t want y’all assuming I was a Baptist. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

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49 Responses to “The obligatory Rob Bell post”

  1. Alise March 2, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Great post.

    You jerk.


    I had to giggle this morning because I got my first ever fairly obnoxious comment about my Rob Bell/John Piper post. Unfortunately, they didn’t say whose side they were on, so I guess I just have to be content with being annoyed with everyone. Which seems to fit me pretty well anyway.

    And for serious, totally right on here.

  2. Tony Alicea March 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Only you could manage to insert a Seinfeld quote in a theological discussion. I heart you Kat.

  3. Jason March 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    ” Just didn’t want y’all assuming I was a Baptist. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)”

    I actually laughed out loud at that. 🙂

  4. Cassandra Frear March 2, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I bet you ARE a Baptist. Secretly.

    Yep. I’m sure of it.

  5. T. Anne March 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Excellent post. I like you even more. And it’s pretty hard to argue with words right out of Jesus’ mouth such as Mark 9:48.

  6. Doug Spurling March 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    You’ve got ….courage. I know I’m living a sheltered life because until this morning at our little Club House Bible study the local paster mentioned um- what’s his name? Bob Bell oops Rob Bell and said he has a ginormous church and just stated that he didn’t believe God would send anyone to hell. Well, I don’t know what he believes, but I’ve talked to folks that have said that same thing to me. I just tell them – you’re right. He doesn’t matter of fact he never created hell for man. It was created for the devil and his angels, and God doesn’t send folks there – they send themselves. I’m proud of you Kathy. You just keep on being You-nique you.

  7. Amy Sorrells March 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    You just so ARE, katdish. You just are. And I love you for it. (In case a moron reads this and thinks I’m implying you’re Jesus, I’m NOT. I’m just implying I love you and think you so totally PREACH IT and RAWK!!!)

  8. Scott Sorrells March 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Great thoughts…I wonder how many Christ followers, if asked what their favorite book was/is, would respond The Bible. Seriously, if the “body of Christ” spent as much time helping the least of these (which I am pretty sure is a MANDATE from God)as we do attacking each other over doctrine, how much closer would the Kingdom of God be realized “on earth as it is in heaven.”
    Anyway, I always enjoy your perspective…

    • A Simple Country Girl March 3, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      My 7-year old son and I were discussing favorite books yesterday. We were on the topic of children’s books, when I said my absolute favorite short read for kids is “You Can Do It, Sam” by Amy Hest.

      I looked at him and waited for his reply. He just wrinkled his brow and said, “Oh, mom. You are so silly. The Bible is your favorite book. It is mine. My favorite.”

      I said, “You are right.”

      And he ended with, “Well, isn’t it everyone’s favorite book? I mean, really, it’s just gotta be.”


  9. Robin Arnold March 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    See, I knew you’d cut through the yadayada! Thank you.

  10. James Williams March 2, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I’m not one to slam Bell the way some have, calling him a heretic and all. But I am puzzled why many of the people who say we shouldn’t call out Bell for bad doctrine have no problem calling out Pat Robertson or Osteen for their bad doctrine. Varying standards tend to bother me.

  11. Larry Hehn March 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    Wow. Maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t understand why some people are so upset about the contents of that trailer.

    It seems to me that what is said in that trailer is simply some questions and concerns that have been brought forth to initiate a discussion. Nowhere in there do I hear any sort of theological declaration. I think some people are way too anxious to fill in the blanks for themselves and to be offended by shadows of their own making.

    I think I’ll just wait until I read the book before I decide for myself what I think of its content. And only then will I decide whether or not my opinion needs to be shared. I think we could all benefit from that kind of approach.

  12. Michael March 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Brilliant segue

  13. seekingpastor March 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Hey–I’m baptist. You’ve offended me. I know–I’ll boycott you. Yeah–that’ll show you. 🙂

    Good post.

  14. Bob G March 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Nice post Kat. But I was thinking…

    Rob Bell is not

    Justin Taylor is not

    John Piper is not


    I do miss Farley. And I’m with Larry, “what’s the big deal” above. It’s a trailer that says we’re going to grapple with a difficult question.

    My uncle is a Baptist minister who does understand if I personally choose to…error on the side of grace…on that topic.

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Bob – If I ever meet any of those guys, I’m going to say to them, “You, sir are no Chris Farley!”

      I miss him, too. I like to think he’s not really gone, but living happily in a van down by the river.

  15. Ron McKee March 3, 2011 at 9:24 am #


    Preface on photo shown: Wow, I don’t know why your “blog comment form” pulled up that ancient Facebook profile picture!! It was my profile pic in honor of the 11 who died in the Deepwater Horizon non-accident tragedy.

    RE: Rob Bell: I agree Bob G. that the released video’s real message is, “It’s a trailer that says we’re going to grapple with a difficult question.” Rob Bell raises many questions to cause us to think and grapple to draw our a listener’s mind into a personal involvement in what it means to be a Christian.

    I believe the publisher’s, and Rob Bell’s, intent in creating this video was just that. Of course, even Christian publishers have marketing objectives in the build-up to the release of a a new book from a widely read, semi-controversial Christian author.

    I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, found the Mars Hill Bible Church, where Rob Bell is one of the two “teaching pastors”, was a warm, open, and accepting community of “non-denominational” Christians. My belief is, if every critic sat in the church weekly in-person hearing each of Rob Bell’s teachings, they would have a different picture of his message than the one they have chosen to select from selected excerpts of his books and the NOOMA video series.

    Over the past weekend, when, “John Piper tweeted prefaced by the words: “Farewell, Rob Bell”. It pretty much snowballed on twitter and Christian blogs after that point.”; I found myself pulled into the raging Tweet discourse. One of those Tweets became a “Top Tweet” (a badge to wear if you are a Twitter geek) chastising John Piper for his post. However, one of my other posts pointed out that both Christians authors, Piper and Bell, both wrote books about “God’s Love”.

    Jesus is central to Rob Bell’s personal beliefs he speaks about in his church. Rob and I both find no use, or positive benefit, from categorizing labels like, “Universalist”, and “Emergent Church”.

    Notice while his supporters may get caught up in expending time and energy in his defense —like I got sucked in because of my personal respect for Rob Bell)Rob’s Twitter account, @realRobBell, was silent.

    He didn’t have any response he wanted to put energy into the “Twitter fire”, national trending Rob Bell great debate. He would rather focus on what another Christian (all member of the body of Christ — the fellowship of believers) and he can agree on in discourse and our mission as Christians. When he is speaking to someone who holds views different than his, rather than expend that energy fruitlessly in an angry battle of “I’m right–so you’re wrong” argument. My goal is strive toward that model the next time I am tempted to sound like a “rapid fan” of Rob Bell, defending with a verbal sword.

    My thoughts and comments,
    Ron McKee

    • Debbie March 5, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      Rob Bell’s marketing crew have said that Rob is going to remain silent till after his book is released…he doesn’t score browny points for that in my opinion.

  16. A Simple Country Girl March 3, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I don’t even know any of the folks you mentioned… except for a few (Graham, Chambers, Luther & Lewis) of the ones listed in the last paragraph of names. Sometimes it’s simpler not having a TV, aye?

    And I must say, the “followers” gadget on blogs/social media annoys me to no end. Like you, I may get some inspiration from certain authors, but the only one I claim to follow is Jesus Christ. So, for all the many, countless really, folks wondering why I haven’t “followed” their site, that is why. I ain’t following you cause you ain’t The Man.

    Maybe it’s because I’m only a 7-year old Christian, but I thought God gave us free will; He doesn’t send us to hell in a hand-basket, or a slow, simmering crock pot for that matter. I thought we stamp our own boarding passes…

    Never heard of Jesus saving us from God. Just saying that tastes like rotten eggs. Blech.

    Psst, I am a non-denominational girl too, but our pastor warned us and then went a little “Baptist” on us last Sunday. I rather enjoyed it. He literally drop-kicked sin into the street. I wonder what the cows and neighbors were thinking?


  17. Jeff March 3, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I always assumed you were Baptist. I can’t say why, because I don’t know for sure. If I had to guess, I think it’d be because you live in Texas.

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 10:05 am #

      Jeff – It’s a common misconception that all churches in Texas are Baptist. Probably because it seems like MOST of them are. At least where I live.

      • Jeff March 3, 2011 at 10:09 am #

        I can say for sure that I never believed Joel Osteen to be a Baptist. No way. I grew up Baptist, and he was on the official banned book list.

  18. Sarah March 3, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Kathy, wow. YES. Thank you.

    I love the way you worded the “is NOT” and the “are NOT” and I think that it’s something we really all need to remember sometimes.

    Great post!

  19. Marni March 3, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    We’re an Acts 29 church. The Baptists accuse of worshipping Matt Chandler. I don’t worship him, but I’m totally gonna try and get a pic with him this month when I go to Church Planting Bootcamp. I’ll put it on my Facebook next to my Jon Acuff pic. Billy Coffey, you’re next.

    You know what’s cool? Any given day, I either love me some Rob Bell, or I really…don’t. It depends on what he says and whether it ruffles my smooth concept of God and His ways. Here’s where it gets cool…whatever comes out of Rob Bell’s mouth, always causes me to think, then pray, then seek what God says in His Word. Even when I vehemently disagree with Rob Bell, he always seems to point me back to God to check his work. How can challenging what we know ever be a bad thing as long as we strive to defend it based on Scripture?

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 11:06 am #

      Wow, Marns. That’s exactly right. I think the problems arise when we forget to go to Scripture.

      • Debbie March 5, 2011 at 5:21 am #

        It has been my experience that those who suggest a loving God will not send anyone to hell also have big issues with the written word of God…they seem to go together…therefore as soon as a person tries to quote scripture to support ‘the word of God’ the ‘first type’ dazzles you sideways with all the reasons why our current translations are corrupted. Rob Bell has already done this with ‘the virgin birth’, so I am guessing he will do it again with the ‘hell’ word.

  20. Jeanne Damoff March 3, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Love this post. Love the comments. Love Rich Mullins. Love you.

    Marni’s comment reminds me of what Paul said about the Berean believers — that they were more noble, because they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

    I think I’m going to have to write a post about this. Your fault.

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Jeanne – Sorry/you’re welcome, and I’m looking forward to reading it my friend.

  21. Ryan Tate March 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Love the Rich Mullins quote. Awesome post Kathy and it’s funny that I did my obligatory Rob Bell post today too.

    I saw Rob Bell on his “everything is spiritual” tour five years ago and I loved his presentation and his teaching. It was captivating, really. But he’s just a man. Just like me and all those others you listed above. I can’t fully trust any of them. You are right. Get the word, equip yourself, and pray for the Spirit to teach you the things of God.

  22. Leann March 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Love this post.

  23. Leann March 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Oh, and I’m Baptist. I hope we can still be friends. 🙂

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      Oh, for sure. Some of my best friends are Baptists.

  24. Jim F March 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Good post – I tracked along with thoughts that were being molded into a witty comment and then you hit me with the — Not that there’s anything wrong with that… I laughed hard then forgot the witty comment – so then simply Good and thoughtful post.

    • katdish March 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

      Jim – I sent a draft of this post to my pastor yesterday. But I didn’t add the editor’s note until later. When I told him what I wrote he said something to the effect of “You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Snort! No, it’s who I am. Ridiculous.

      • Jim F March 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

        I think it is cool that you sent him a draft – must be an independent, non-denominational Christian Church thing because it certainly is not a baptist thing! 🙂

        • katdish March 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

          Nah, he’s just a good friend as well as a pastor. I wanted to know what he thought. Maybe I wanted his approval. Hence, the leaving off the editorial comment. Not that it would surprise him in the least.

  25. Michelle DeRusha March 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    I love when you rant and rave. And I mean that in a good way.

    I totally love Rob Bell on the page…but when I saw some of the Nooma videos, I cringed. Didn’t like the edginess. Probably because I’m so not edgy.

    Love what you say about all the Christian big wigs and what they say about God and Jesus. You are right on sister.

  26. Debbie March 5, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Yes ‘fishers of men’ – the bait and hook has been tossed out into the sea, now we get to choose whether we will line up in the christian market place and hand over our cash for…what?

    I mean – do we really think unbelievers are going to read his book? Most would have never heard his name.

    Good blog btw.

  27. Frank March 6, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Kathy, late to the debate. I’m now sad I missed all the drama. I was wondering why there were so many blog posts about Rob Bell last week though!

    You’ve seen my $0.02 on Francis Chan, but I’ll put it up here too. My wife and I read Crazy Love and saw its message as exactly meeting the needs of our church at this time. But you’re right, it does not and cannot replace Jesus. Because we’ve been so gung ho about the book, we’ve been accused of “worshipping” Francis. There’s a difference between worship and admiring when someone draws a line in the sand. But because of that, I’m intentional in our small group to include as much Scripture as possible. (When I started, I googled around for others’ thoughts. One person said they did a small group on the book and didn’t open the Bible once. That’s wrong on so many levels.)

    I appreciate you including a link to your church. I dig your doctrinal statements and what your church stands for. Of course, we’re not judged by the name above the door, but it looks and sounds like your church is at least trying to live as disciples of Christ (versus, say, disciples of Bell or Chan.. or Luther or Calvin).

  28. Jake March 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Kathy, I bit my tongue, and I withheld writing a post about all of the mess that’s been going on (with the exception of one hilarious tweet). You communicated this BEAUTIFULLY, as you’re apt to do. Everyone needs to shut the hell up and read God’s word. See what it has to say.

    I will say this. I love that Rob Bell pisses people off because the ones who get mad at him seem to get mad at everything. The neo-reformed rat pack of Driscoll, Piper and buddies seem to think they have a stranglehold on truth even within the body of Christ and they’re relatively unpleasant about other peoples'{divergent} viewpoints.

    Ephesians 4:4-6 says,

    There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    You’re right. None of them is Jesus Christ. None of them is Yahweh and none of them wrote the Bible. Kathy, you’re one of my favorites!

  29. Jake March 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    By the way, just went to your church’s site. Please tell whoever designed it that I think it’s beautiful 🙂

    • katdish March 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Thanks, Jake. I’ll let Dorothea know you said so. She’s a very talented graphic designer who is also a member of C3. If you’d like to see some more of her work, check out her website:

  30. Dysfunctional Parrot October 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    The more I listen to Bell the more I wonder why people actually do listen to him outside a very narrow demographic. He’s a hipster trying to extend his 15 minutes of fame by selling the theological equivalent of an iPod.

  31. Kevin Oldspan October 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Great post! I am a fan of holding people accountable to how they deliver the message. Someone of his stature represents more than just himself to the larger community. So yes, a little ribbing now and again is important.

    Good job.


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  3. book review: mere christianity, c.s. lewis - writer, reader, dreamer - writer, reader, dreamer - March 9, 2011

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  4. Assholiness | - September 15, 2011

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