I like Rob Bell. He's a neat guy. A guy I would have wings and a beer with, to talk about the things that matter. He's passionate about finding meaning and purpose behind why we believe what we believe. He wants to help humanity, fund causes, and fix this broken world through humility and love.
I listened to him - There was a time when I saw him as a teacher, a guide, an explainer of things. Listening to his sermons he delivered at his old church (http://marshill.org/teaching/) gave me some clarity about merging the old world saints and dogma with the modern world. He made the Old Testament interesting and relevant.
I watched his videos - NOOMA videos changed my mind and heart. They got to the core of topical ideas that I struggled with. I bought them, I showed them in small groups, sermons, and lent them to friends. Cool music, visually creative, and relevant.
I read his books - "Love Wins", "Sex God", "Jesus Wants to Save Christians", "Drops Like Stars", "What We Talk About When We Talk About God"
It was through his books that I first sensed a change. A progressive (I chose that word purposely) shift in his great teaching into something more like opinion happened. Rob seemed to be working out his view of Christianity in a paradigm shift. At first there were nuggets of questioning whether his statements were for shock value or carefully placed hand-holds that would guide a follower off toward a different peak of understanding - Rob's understanding. Something that slowly gnawed the edges of Absolute Truth into a more universally (another carefully placed word) free explaination of the Gospel raised flags and caused me to more carefully consider every sentence and word that he chose.
Examples - Rob Bell with David Crowder (20 seconds in): "No one takes the Bible literally. No one." Even taken in the context he is speaking of the Bible as poetry, a lament, a saying, the Gospel - it's an incorrect absolute statement. Then he collects his collective agreement when he asks, "Are you with me?" and everyone says, "yes". Well...no, Rob...many of us are not with you.
I still read his blog - Rob is a dynamic voice in modern Christian discussion. One of his latest blog posts discusses the Flood. He says:
"Much of this cynicism is due to the way stories like these have been told-often by well meaning religious people trying to prove that there actually were two animals at a time that went in to an ark.."I presume "well meaning religious people" is a compassionate description of those poor mis-guided souls who take the Word of God literally. He goes on to say:
"What this stilted literalism does, in its efforts to take the story seriously, is often miss the point of the story."So we're not to take the "story" seriously? The narrative in the Bible goes into detail about the ark's dimensions, features, types of wood used....and what we're supposed to get out of these details is that it's a piece of fiction designed to give people a "more relational understanding of the divine"?
I don't buy it.
Start picking and choosing what is literal and what is intended for illustration purposes only and you backslide into not needing your Bible at all - especially if you rely on progressive Biblical scholars to explain it to you.
I'd still have those wings and beer with Rob and talk about life, humanity, love, and theology...but I'm no longer "with him".