When I first started here five years ago Rob Bell was much discussed on the religious pages. Mostly he was condemned. He had started a church in Michigan which became huge. Later he became a personality who writes and lectures. He was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the U.S. Now he is traveling the South.
While I have not heard him nor read his books, so much is written about him I’ve developed my own view as to what he is all about. He does not take the Bible literally, none of it. He believes the faith is about accepting and caring for those around you.
The link discusses his lecture where a young man had learned his wife’s pregnancy will end in a dead baby, “What should we do?”
“You experience will be a difficult one,” Bell responded (paraphrasing). “Don’t allow people to quote scripture and tell you this part of God’s plan. Surround yourself with people who support you. Time will pass and usually things become better…”
Joel Osteen has been drawing mega crowds for years preaching the prosperity gospel and using the Bible very little. Rob Bell has another angle, the love of those around you, which also makes little use of the literal Bible.
These two approaches skillfully avoid the big pitfalls of the Bible, its cruel Old Testament and its New Testament with not believable dead people coming back to life. Perhaps this is how Christianity will survive in a changing culture.