i heart rob bell, and i think he’s a heretic


“We’re cracked pots,” as my uncle Reed likes to say, “but we carry the treasure…”  That’s my Skogerboe family paraphrase of 2 Coronthians 4:7, “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  I believe in Jesus.  That makes me a cracked pot.

And Rob Bell is a cracked pot, too.  And so is Billy Graham.  John Piper.  My Mom.  All of us have beliefs that we are wrong about that we hold on to with a white-knuckled passion.  Me, too.  The availablity of coffee Haagen Daas and mom’s hot fudge in heaven, for example.  It only stands to reason that this blessed dessert pairing will make it to the heavenly feast table, but in my quiet moments alone… I can’t be sure.

So I have some problems with Rob Bell (lead Pastor of Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI) and I think some of his theology is dangerous.  But I haven’t yet had a chance to do a Matthew 18 with Rob and call him out on those things one-on-one. So my concerns need to stay with me for now.  Suffice it to say, I believe he’s on the Jesus Team, AND he kinda freaks me out.  I see the kind of influence he has as a leader.  And I just don’t agree with him – on many fronts.

But he has also been my pastor and teacher (via podcast).  Listening to him teach about the Good Samaritan impacted me deeply.  I believe God has used Rob as a truth-communicator, and His Word pierced me.  Rob has fueled my fire for “social justice,” even though I’d rather just call it “loving hurting people.” So he may be a heretic. And he may be a genius.  And he may be wrong.  But he’s just a cracked pot.  It’s the treasure He carries that makes him my brother, too.

To all my good friends who think I’m somehow flirting with disaster – entertaining dangerous alliances with flimsy (or heretical) doctrines, I love you guys.  You stalwart defenders of truth and the inerrancy of Scripture – I need you and the church gains strength from your conviction.  But please consider Matthew 18 when and if you are compelled to level your righteous shotgun at Rob Bell.  Or Bill Hybels.  Or Andy Stanley.  Or the pastor up the street. Or at me.  Go to the source.  The interwebs blog comment sections are full of the Church’s philosophical subdivisions firing salvos at other subdivisions – with righteous indignation and a belief that God is only on one side.  People!  We’re all cracked pots.  Invest your energy in exalting Jesus – willingly crucified and risen again for you!

Right before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed passionately in the garden for His believers.  “Father, please help my kids see that the Baptists (or Lutherans… or Epitholupians… pick your flavor) are the only ones who are gonna make it to the party…”  Nope.  “…that they will all be ONE, as You and I are ONE… so the world will know You sent me.” (see John 17)

WHAT?!?  You mean, if all of us cracked pots unite around Jesus Christ, the world will believe?!  I’m in!  I heart you Rob Bell!  (…even if you ARE kinda a heretic.)

And with that, I don my bulls-eye tee-shirt and prepare for the oncoming deluge.  Fire away. (But I warn you…  I am a Lutheran drummer, so I’ve had some practice wearing this get-up.)

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“i heart rob bell, and i think he’s a heretic” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.


~ by jskogerboe on July 1, 2009.

13 Responses to “i heart rob bell, and i think he’s a heretic”

  1. a very good word josh. thanks for sharing your heart and speaking the truth regarding a potentially volatile and sensitive issue…
    from a fellow cracked pot :)- keep seeking Jesus.

    • Thanks Ben. You’re a good man, brother. I KNOW we need to sharpen each other (iron on iron) with vigorous debate about doctrine and the intersection of church and culture, but it makes me sad when one group of my brothers starts beating on another group of my brothers from afar.

  2. we’ve had many conversations on this stuff – I like to think I share some of the blame for your heresy ;)

    I’ve always thought the Emergent church was flawed, (as are all churches) but that it was primarily a knee-jerk reaction to the Americanized “Me first” nationalized version of Christianity which almost looks like heresy itself. (you know, that Christianity which still pervades today that justified our killing Indians cause God gave us their land cause they’re heathen) –

    Sorta like driving on one side of the ditch and swerving across the road to the other side, but I can dig it.


    • Russ! I miss lunches with you, my crazy leftist brother! I’ll post another day about the Emergent Church, but I can’t let this one go… How exactly is my local church justifying killing Native Americans?? Oh, man, I love you – but that’s some crazy talk you’ve got going there. Let’s keep in touch!

  3. Thanks, Josh! Well written!

  4. I didn’t say YOUR local church ;) – besides, I’m not a liberal – I’m a moderate non-conformist who refuses to vote for every rotten egg that someone stamps a “Jesus” stamp on and tries to convince me doesn’t reek.

    have a great 4th –


  5. […] to be “used” by God in the best sense of the word.)  This divide breaks my heart.  (click herefor an earlier post on this stuff…)  One side stands their ground as righteous defenders of […]

  6. […] ala Jeremy:  Take a tech sabbath.  This is SO HEALTHY.  I remember learning something from my heretic friend Rob Bell.  He talked about how before the people of Israel were freed from slavery, their value was […]

  7. Yes, Rob Bell is a cracked pot, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I wouldn’t presume to put him in the same category of ‘error’ as Billy Graham, John Piper, et al.

    You need to compare apples with apples.

    Public false teaching needs to be confronted publicly, not privately. Rob Bell did you no personal offense. Matt 18 is not applicable to false teachers and public hypocrisy. Peter was not approached privately by Paul. Paul publicly named false teachers and warned the church about them.


    James Macdonald in the comments section: “Lance:
    The Mt. 18 passage deals with personal offenses. I think if you are ‘personally’ offended by a false teacher you should at least attempt to talk to him prior to talking about what he teaches. I think it unlikely that most false teachers with broadly known messages are actually available to discuss it with everyone who would object. By making there message public in broadcast or book, they invite accountability to the scriptures. If the issue is minor it is best left alone, if it is major warning becomes the higer priority. Warning your own flock is your first obligation, not resolving a point of disagreement with a wolf.


    • Paula – great points.

      (A) You’re right about comparing apples to apples. Rob Bell makes me more and more concerned every time I hear him, read his teaching, look at his books, etc. I was serious when I said I think he’s a heretic. He is not in the same camp as Billy Graham or John Piper (or my mom!) in many ways… but I do believe he is saved. Wrong in many ways, but saved nonetheless. In that regard, I am in his category, too.

      (B) And you’re exactly right about Matthew 18. In fact, I’ve counselled other people on the personal nature of this passage – whereas Rob Bell’s ministry is public in nature, and, therefore, his ideas are open to public scrutiny and criticism where appropriate. I was a little fast and loose with that reference. My basic point was, I’m not posting this to air a list of doctrinal challenges to Rob Bell. I’m encouraging Christians to spend less energy attacking other Christians, and spend more time loving people and worshipping Jesus.

      By the way, I appreciate this kind of challenge. It is to the point and Biblically sound. Thanks – it helps clarify my own thoughts. It may help you to know that as a church, we have had small groups asking about the Nooma videos that Rob Bell and Mars Hill have produced. Because of our grave concerns about his teaching, we have told all of our small group leaders to avoid those videos. I think it is possible to protect our own flock when necessary, but not expend too many calories going public on an attack when we’ve got our own congregation to shepherd.

      Does that make sense?

  8. It’s a straw man to bring up Matthew 18 regarding public statements by public people such as Rob (makes me barf) Bell. Matthew 18 is for when someone sins against you – it’s a personal sin; it does not relate to public doctrinal statements.

    This is why anyone is free to criticize “The Purpose driven Life” or “Your Best Life Now” or any book by a real pastor.

    When someone sins against YOU, Matthew 18 – and 1 Cor 5 – come into play.

    • Hi again, Manfred. I agree with you, actually. Look at my comment immediately above yours. It was a poor use of Matthew 18 – I admit that freely. Thanks for commenting.

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