Ask Doug: Rob Bell and Arrogance

In this Ask Doug segment, Pastor Wilson responds to the question:

“Following up on your response to Rob Bell, how would you respond to the many Christians who are offended by those Christan leaders (John Piper, Justin Taylor, yourself, and others) who respond to bell in a decisive way? It seems common to be offended and angry by the “arrogance” of asserting what you think is orthodoxy over heresy; how do to you respond without seeming arrogant yourself?”

Watch Doug Wilson’s initial response to Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins.”



  1. I believe why people consider Doug Wilson, Piper, and others to be arrogant is because they take a modernist approach to Scripture. They say, “This is what the Bible says. This what Rob Bell says Scripture says. Rob Bell is wrong.”

    People want them, at the very least, to recognize the role of interpretation. That is, people would like them to say, “This is how I interpret the Bible. This is how Rob Bell interprets Scripture. I believe Rob Bell’s interpretation is wrong.”

    If you don’t take this approach, then in our North American culture you will be perceived as being arrogant and strident.

  2. Will S says:

    I have a couple questions:

    1) Is it wrong for a pastor to utilize rhetorical skill in his preaching? Sometimes personal anecdotes and stories are effective ways to engage the congregation’s mind….not to make the sermon about the preacher but to then hit them with scriptural truth.

    2) How much Bell have you listened to? I disagree with Bell on hell and I think he has a tendency to be wishy washy on some important things. I don’t think he is a good pastor. But with that being said, his sermons tend to be extremely exegetical and he is extremely effective making complex historical and New Testament scholarship (often NT Wright stuff) understandable to the congregation. He often starts his sermon with a personal anecdote but the sermon almost always is a powerful exposition of the scripture.

    I am wondering if we are all enjoying piling on an easy target right now?

    • Tiago Trinidad says:

      What I believe is that Rob’s gone too far placing doubt in God’s love. He clearly ask if a loving God could condemn someone to eternal punishment, instead of doing the contrary that is trusting God he’ll do whatever is best. This is why he claims most Christian’s view of God is wrong, because his own is biased. So I can’t see how this distrust in God’s justice and His love of justice and glory does not taint the rest of his theology, and I hope I’m wrong for his Church good.

  3. Neil says:

    While interesting, how is it not a disservice to the flock to ignore inconsistencies and confusing texts within the word of God?

    The Bible says many things, but there is stuff within there that is NOT consistent with modern theology. Some of modern “conservative” theology derives from pagan beliefs or novels, like perceptions of what hell is or what heaven is. While I take Rob Bell with a grain of salt, at least he’s willing to confront modern theology head on by bringing in what the bible actually says rather than rehashing what theologians in the dark ages interpreted it as saying. He may not always be right, but at least he admits as such. I know of no pastor that merely “speaks from the word of god alone,” because, as I mentioned, there are thoughts on new testament writings that don’t match up with hebrew testament writings. Theologians merely gloss over these inconsistencies or use fishy logic to claim that the whole bible is true except for some things that don’t completely match up; such as stating many parts of leviticus are no longer true because “we” claim they are. How is this not arrogance also?

    I realize I’m rambling and it’s still early so my logical flow isn’t really quite “logical” yet, but it seems to me that “conservative” pastors are claiming that they alone preach directly from the bible, although they are interpreting it, just like Rob Bell. Main difference: their interpretation has been mainstream since 600 c.e.

    God gave us a brain. We all have the power to discern; let us use it to bring truth to light. God is as merciful as he is just. Let us pray for mercy and grace as we discern.

  4. Will S says:

    Hi Neil, I would like to commend Pastor Wilson as someone who doesn’t simply interpret 600 AD*. He is willing to look at inconsistencies and address them.

    I believe that my comment is a testament to my desire to be fair to Rob Bell. I recognize that he is not the caricature that he is often made out to be. I have listened to many of his sermons and he is, in general, pretty committed to preaching from the Bible. With that being said, his error on hell is not a small one. He is teaching something that has been rejected by almost every conceivable group of Christians. Maybe he is right and everyone else is wrong…..but I don’t think so. The reason he is in such a minority is that the Bible is pretty clear. Remember that the book of Revelation ends with some people outside the city looking in (Revelation 21:27).

    *Note: Regarding the use of “CE” and “AD” in calendars. Prior to our current placing of the year 0 at what was thought to be approximately Christ’s birth, the Romans used to place year zero at whatever the birth date was of the most recent Emperor. It was a way of saying that the world changed at the birth of that man. When Christians became the majority, instead of doing like the pagans and placing year zero at the next secular king to take power, we placed the year zero at Christ’s birth day. It was a way of saying that the world belongs to the true King, Jesus Christ. AD stands for “Anno Domini” which means “the year of our Lord”. Modern day secularists have recognized what the emperors of old realized: the dating of the calender is important. So they changed it to “Common Era”, CE. It would not do to have the calender proclaim Jesus. So they are attempting to change it. I am sure they would change the date to Darwin’s birthday or Galileo’s or Nietzsche’s if they could find a way to do it without making the study of history impossible. For these reasons, I will continue to use AD in my dating of the calender. Of course, you could do like Pastor Wilson does and simply state that CE stands for “Christ’s Empire” which I think is very funny.

    • Neil says:

      I apologize if my tone came across as bad; twas not my intention. I didn’t mean to say that the pastor only looks to a certain era to interpret the bible. It’s only that I often have feel that many pastors from 1500 years ago until now claim that they only follow what’s “directly from the bible,” when it appears to me they are following their *interpretation* of what’s in the bible. traditional/conservative preachers do this as much as rob bell. I guess my point (which was overly long winded for what it is) is that bell at least admits what he says is his interpretation, of which he tries to back up through the text and through historical facts. I just get aggravated (slightly) when some of the more confusing passages of the bible are interpreted (by man) and those interpretations are concluded to be the final say in all interpretations (i.e. “the true will of god!”). Again, this seems to be me rambling. Apologies. I have nothing against Pastor Wilson, I just want all pastors to admit that much of our theology is interpreted, b/c it’s not clear in many places.
      Re: a.d./c.e., I have no preference. I began using it merely because it’s slowly becoming accepted. Also, when things traditionally christian become so secularized they lose much of their meaning. While not the same, I almost view it as a cross necklace. Does a cross necklace have the same meaning when a death metal band screaming of atheism wears it around? Or madonna? By using “ce” it’s a small way I try to keep certain spiritual things separate/sacred. But I have no qualms with anyone who disagrees. There are much larger struggles to care about.

  5. Tiago Trinidad says:

    This just reminded me of Rick Warren’s speech at the last Desiring God conference. He, and I’m not trying to exaggerate, referred a lot to him and his church, I believe way to much, and at least as much as here referred to scripture. What baffled me was in the end when posited the question as what some pastor should do if he was burned down, instead of referring to Jesus, he just talked about a book he has written that this people should read.
    And Peter, if the Bible says something like in Rev 14 where it says that “[i]f anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” then the one denying that, like Rob Bell does have things to explain, not the one affirming that. And to just rely in personal opinion as a doctrinal, like I believe Rob Bell does is the definition of heresy, which means a choice of beliefs, personal opinion.

  6. Jobey says:

    Love the bottle of Old Rasputin on the shelf. Tasty beer. But what’s the other one?

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