Friday, April 15, 2011


The biblically-proportioned storm currently raging in the U.S. over 'Hipper-Than-Thou' pastor Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins" looks so different from out here at the end of Africa. Don't you think? 

More like a storm in a tea-cup.

Like jealous minor celebrities squabbling over who's boss of the sand pit.

And also, like what it probably really is, a massive payday for HarperOne, Twitter, Mars Hill, John Piper, Time magazine and everyone else who's risen to the surface.

The essence of it all is Rob's new book, subtitled 'A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived'. It's Famous Pastor musing, really, and an interesting addition to a debate that began organically years ago: what does it really really really mean to call yourself a 'Christian'? 

John Piper set Twitter on fire with a three-word tweet: "Farewell Rob Bell". Neo-Calvinist (read: tone-deaf Christian fundamentalist, pretty-much-everyone-goes-to-hell-except-people-who-buy-my-books") Piper insists he meant "Fare Well Rob Bell". Dagnabit, AutoCorrect sucks hey John?

If you live in America and are an Evangelical who thinks Rob Bell rules (and of course, Brian McLaren just goes too far), then this will all feel very close to home. You attack Rob, you attack Jesus, basically. Even you, John Piper.

Out here in Africa, it looks more like a publishing war, followed closely by a social networking Event. Cynical? Moi

People's ideas about heaven and hell will change naturally. 
On their own. Over time.

We do not need to be led into a revolution by celebrities.

We can think for ourselves.

And Christianity, as with all religion, will evolve.

Yes, I used the word evolve.


  1. It's amusing... I wont get involved in the debate, since I have never read any books by any of the authors. But I can say, I don't enjoy Rob Bell and his pretentious DVD sermons. Yawn. Pop Psychology. Where's God in that?

    The time has come for us (Christians) to figure out for ourselves what we believe, because the people who have been "teaching" us about our faith, have actually been chasing profit margins.

    Thank goodness God became accessible to us through the sacrifice Jesus made in our place. If we ask Him, He will tell us what we need to know.

  2. Good blog! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They were expressed very well. We have to be careful who we judge because God is the ultimate Judge. We're accountable for everything we say and do.

  3. Nice. I think the issue is bullying religious leaders who won't let people think for themselves but have to guilt their followers into submission to their own views, and bash the opposition. It just feels like so much insecure posturing!

    I wrote this in a recent blog post:

    "You just get the feeling that this renewed surge of pushy, insecure fundamentalism would never allow for this kind of messy journey. They just hook their followers up to an IV drip of over-literal interpretations of scripture and frown on uncertainty. It pains me to think of the millions in churches who are experiencing their own ‘Dark Nights’ (I keep thinking of Batman:) and are unable to share their experiences, their doubts and fears, and be guided through because they are scared of getting the same treatment they see their leaders giving a guy like Rob Bell… before they’ve even read the book.

    A message to people in these churches: It’s great that you’re in a place that takes Scripture seriously, but don’t be bullied into conformity by this lot! Good spiritual leaders don’t demand uniformity, but with great personal security they encourage people to journey and question honestly; Scripture seems to even encourage it."

  4. DAMN IT JOHN !!! Dont tell Christians to think for themselves or research the issue presented in media, or pursue their own relationship with Jesus!

    HOW THE HELL are celebrity book writers and religious leaders of today going to make money?

    SO What if certain evangelists/pastors be cannot be questioned about their teachings on a Sunday, how else will they keep religious control on their masses!

    PLEASE let certain pastors and prophets carry on being put on a pedestal, untouchable and unapproachable, because they hear God voice better than their flock!

    DONT LET the people find out that God speaks/reveals himself to unsaved, uneducated people in rural Muslim villages as well, because if God can speak to them, he can speak to anyone!

    STOP YOUR REVOLUTION of "test - the - word - of - man - with - what - the - bible - says - and - see - what - you - believe - in!"

    You could destroy a lucrative industry.

    TBN needs all the pledges it can get to spoonfeed the lazy consumer of religious teachings...

    So what im saying is ... I have a book/DVD set concerning this topic on this blog available for a generous love gift of R450, help me to wear fancy suits and this book/DVD set can help you make up your own mind...

  5. oh oh oh.. oh OH oh oh!

    I like it too much. Im thinking I shouldn't.
    I'm also thinking I shouldn't shouldn't.

  6. John, do you consider yourself to be a good person?

  7. Well, my heart's pretty much still in Africa but i'm studying theology in Vancouver, Canada, so it's been interesting to watch some of the debate taking place. Nevertheless, I haven't read the book yet so I'm in debt to others who have and commented on it. Thanks for your blog. One particularly enjoyable response to the situation is a blog by Donald Miller... check it out if you haven't:

  8. Yes John a storm in a tea cup, couldnt agree more. If there is one thing we can take to the bank these days is that when Rob Bell releases a new book it is going to ruffle more than a few Evangelical followers feathers. However this book has upset folk more than most even a month before its release.Thats before anyone had even had a chance to read it.

    I read the book last week (had to get it via amazon as it hasnt been released here in Aus yet and most of the christian books stores are unsure if they will even stock it) and really don't know what all the fuss is about. Sure Bell doesn't package his message about heaven and hell around the typical Calvanistic expression that most South Africian church goes would like to hear.

    Bell is definately committed to seeking to bring the kingdom of God (heaven) to earth and freeing people from the hell they may find themselves in. I know that sounds like a cliche but if anyone actually reads the book they will see where he is coming from and is more in line with what Jesus actually had to say than what people give him credit for.

    A friend of mine posted a blog entitled "Love definitely didn't win" which I believe pretty much sums up you feelings John. Here is the link to Andrew's blog for those that may want to read it.


    Dave B

    PS ...Bell have dedicated that ALL the profits from this book go to building water wells in Africa, so I guess Africa should be interested in who reads it.

  9. but are you not one of these 'celebrities' yourself? seems a bit hypocritical. also - I read your U2 post - I see what you're saying. But that's how I felt about Tree63 - as a massive Overflow fan. Felt like you just buggered off to America like everyone else. Just thought you should know seeing as you seem to use this blog to tell everyone what you think.

  10. I'll have to admit, I have no idea who these people are, but then I don't have time to follow every nuance of popular christianity these days.

    But then again, I also feel that this micro focus on the personalities of popular religion is rather a trivial pursuit in vain, and a pursuit in the wrong direction.

  11. John, I take it that everyone should just take your assessment as fact or else they are just people who don't think for themselves? Sounds like your calling the kettle black...I think you need to get over your anger. It definitely continues to come through especially in your uncharitable caricature of people who believe in the Doctrines of Grace (i.e. Calvinism). BTW the truths of Christianity won't evolve- Man's ideas might- but God is the same yesterday today and forever.

  12. God is a man-made construct, and you are wasting precious time worshipping something that does not even exist. (If he were to exist he would be the biggest arsehole - so be glad he doesn't)
    Christianity, along with all other religions/faiths, has been, and continues to be one of the greatest evils ever perpetrated on this planet.

  13. To the brave "Anonymous" of May 10 (see above): are you an idiot? Please check your brain is switched to the 'on' position before using the computer. You're going to hurt yourself if you aren't careful...

  14. "what does it really really really mean to call yourself a 'Christian'?"

    I agree with C.S. Lewis on this one:

    "Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as they might say 'deepening', the sense of the word Christian, it too will speedily become a useless word."

    I think we have long passed that point. Christian used to mean simply someone who believed in Christ. Now we use it to try and say something more about the character and heart of the believer.

    "It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ." - C.S. Lewis

    I don't think Christianity is going to evolve, but rather devolve back to before the perversions of man twisted it for his own gain.

  15. I don't think Rob Bell has all the answers by any means, but I reckon his "pop-psychology" sermons (as they are referred to above) have got people talking and thinking. As a species, 99% of us are sheep, so I'd say he's made a contribution, and asked some questions that need to re-asked every few decades.