Seeing Rob Bell in Nashville: A Guest Post by Jeff Goins

Today’s guest post is from my friend Jeff Goins. He lives in Nashville and recently had the chance to hear Rob Bell speak. He did not rush the stage to hug him or give him a purple nurple. Here’s his guest post.

I saw Christian pastor Rob Bell speak at Belmont University on his controversial book Love Wins last night. I’m sorry to say it, but I was really disappointed with how he presented himself.

Because he was wearing contacts.

What’s the deal, Rob?

You’re, like, known for your iconic, unisex, plastic-rimmed glasses. And then you go and stiff us? What do you stand for these days?!

In all seriousness, the truth is that Rob shared a challenging message about a God of ridiculous love and message of scandalous grace that I think we can all benefit from. Even if you’re not a Christian, you have to admit that this idea is compelling: If there is a God and he is on your side, that’s empowering.

Rob spent the evening with us, sharing stories of redemption and restoration, answering questions (and asking some), and challenging us to rethink our view of God. I found myself inspired to follow Jesus all over again. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

That said, I don’t know where Rob stands on the whole “hell” thing. And I believe that was his intention.

There’s something to learn from how Rob has weathered the storms of criticism that this new book has caused (to the extent that it was even a trending topic on Twitter one weekend). He called the past two weeks some of the hardest in his life.

Here are a few quotes from Rob:

  • “We spend our lives striving to get that which we had all along.”
  • “When am I gonna see my enemies extra crispy?!” (This was a joke.)
  • “God is on your side.”
  • “This world is good, because God invented wine.” (This was sort of a joke.)
  • “You can resist God now, and you can resist him later.”

But here is the quote that really struck me: “For it to stick you have to wrestle [with it].” He was talking about parables and how Jesus taught — not by mandating dogma, but by proposing questions and usually refusing to answer those he was asked.

I found this to be extremely compelling — especially as a communicator. What can we learn from this method of teaching? Of asking questions and not giving in to the taunts of our opponents?

Say what you want about Rob. I don’t have a clear answer on where he stands on eternity, and I’m not even sure that he knows for sure. I believe that he doesn’t want you to know.

He wants to ask questions that lead you to the truth. And that sort of sounds like another famous teacher who had his fair share of critics.

Brings two questions to mind, feel free to answer either or both:

1. Do you agree with the idea that some things are better said by leaving them left unsaid?

2. Who’s the one person you’d love to hear speak in person that you haven’t seen yet?

For more of Jeff, go check out his excellent blog: Goins, Writer

57 thoughts on “Seeing Rob Bell in Nashville: A Guest Post by Jeff Goins”

  1. Absolutely agree that some things are best said by leaving them unsaid. I leave all kinds of things unsaid in my blogging. It’s amazing how those ideas show up in the comments from other people. I just like to let people think they thought of something themselves! :)

    Great post, Jeff.

    1. Thanks, Matt. I enjoy your blog and think you do a fantastic job of initiating conversations. I recently read an article that said that the most successful blog posts actually are ones that aren’t fully written. That is, they don’t comprehensively address the topic they’re attempting to address, leaving room for the audience to fill in the blanks. I thought that was incredibly compelling. Maybe this is what Rob is doing?

  2. Totally unrelated, but I found out about Jeff’s blog via this site a few weeks ago and it’s the best thing since LOST season 2. So ridiculously good. Should I use capital letters to convey my enthusiasm for his blog? Ok I will: HIS BLOG IS SO GOOD.

    1. Yes.
    2. Chuck Klosterman

  3. 1. I love two things when it comes to communicating truth: A communicator that encourages me to think beyond what I already believe and a communicator that invites dialog beyond my sphere of friends.

    2. I find that I get the most from listening to the average Joe on the street if I really listen.

  4. 1. I feel so uncomfortable when I leave things unsaid. I don’t like doing it, but I do believe that it’s powerful.
    2. I’d love to hear JI Packer.

  5. I was there at Belmont to hear Bell speak. He asks questions, yes, but his questions don’t lead you to the truth. He doesn’t explicitly state his views on the afterlife, but his questions implicitly do. And his implications are at worst completely false or at best very misleading.

    How about the story he told of an atheist who died and saw Jesus telling him that He loved him but that he could live some more if he wanted before he came to heaven?

    Bell said, “I’m just reporting.” But don’t you think if Bell really believed this is false (which, how could this not be false!?), then he would have refuted it? So yes, he’s asking questions, but his questions are implicitly leaning his followers toward agreeing with at least the possibility that someone can believe whatever they want without having a conscious faith in Jesus Christ as the savior and payment for their sins and still go to heaven.

  6. 1. Yes, not for the sake of keeping it comfortable, but possibly to challenge people, cause them to internalize their thoughts and struggle with it, come up with their own conclusion and not base it on what I say or someone else says about the subject.

    2. Tony Campolo.

  7. 1. Questions teach. It’s possible to communicate what is wise and what is foolish in the construction of a question, even without declarative statements. Questions can manipulate and cast doubts on truth…ask Eve. It’s possible to ask questions (and not answer them as if nothing is knowable) in a way that frustrates learners and undermines Truth. Honest questions should drive people to uncover Truth. We must bear open witness to the truth, refute error, guard the good deposit entrusted to us. Those things require answers.

    2. Tim Keller

    1. Thanks, Brandon. Your #1 was a really thoughtful answer – well said! I assume that you’ve heard Keller’s teaching on hell? I found it incredibly compelling and intellectually honest.

          1. for my part…

            if i’m speaking on a spiritual level, every time i see him speak or read interviews with him, i am so bothered in my spirit, that it actually makes my stomach hurt.

            if i’m speaking on an intellectual level, people need to stop mistaking charisma and magentism for annointing. at best Bell has a very cavalier attitude toward the infallibility of scripture and at worst is a full blown false prophet. at this point, i cannot yet say where i fall in that spectrum.

            i know my thoughts are not popular. i can live with that.

  8. 1. I’d rather know exactly what people mean. It doesn’t bother me if it’s something I disagree with, I’d just like to know what’s really in their heart. Otherwise there’s all sorts of misunderstandings and false premises and that causes much pain.

    2. GK Chesterton

    1. Krista – it’s interesting that you said what you said in #1 and then said you’d want to meet Chesterton. Have you read Orthodoxy? I love what he says in there about Christianity (and anything that’s true) being based on paradox.

      I have the same struggles you have, but do you ever wonder why Jesus sometimes refused to answer his questioners (Luke 20:1-8)?

      1. I’ve started Orthodoxy, Jeff, but am not very far into it. I’m interested in seeing what he has to say on paradox. :-)

        I do wonder, but I think it’s lovely of him. I think I would be angry if he gave easy, pat answers to everything. Life just isn’t like that. I think NOT giving answers is sometimes the most respectful thing to do.

    1. Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. I’m wrestling thru a lot of this stuff myself. I’m wondering: Do you think Jesus was explicit on his views of “important stuff”?

      Btw, who’s Robert Lewis?

  9. This is good. I am really excited to read the book by Bell.

    1. Yes.
    2. I think today I would want to hear Bell speak, but really how could I not mention someone like James Galiston.

    1. Thanks, Darrell. Rob was fun to listen to in person, but it was more of a dialogue than a monologue. He’s definitely worth seeing, though. A great orator, if you like his style.

  10. 1. when you’re a pastor who has set himself as a leader of the faith and you’re asking people to question foundational doctrine? no.

    otherwise, sure.

    2. i’m in for Klosterman too.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sharideth. (I couldn’t comment above, but wanted to thank you for elaborating. I really appreciate it.)

      Btw, who’s Klosterman?

      1. Chuck Klosterman is a humor writer who specializes in sports and music. i’ve never seen his equal when it comes to pop culture references. *disclaimer* if you’re offended by cursing, he’s not for you. lol.

  11. 1) No. But I will not explain why. 😉
    2) Sure wouldn’t mind seeing President Obama speak. Doesn’t really matter what you think of him, the guy knows how to deliver a speech. Just not enough for Joe Biden to stay awake.

  12. 1. I believe that there are going always be questions that will forever unanswered until we get to Heaven and meet God face to face.

    2. I would love to hear Perry Noble sometime.

    1. I looked back at the question and realized that I didn’t answer the question correctly, pertaining to #1, I think that the attitude makes a big difference when saying something. You have to be considerate of how you say something to someone.

  13. 1. When speaking of love “You say it best when you say nothing at all,” according to Alison Krauss. So if you didn’t get a clear idea of what he believes by the words he used, then we must consider the enthymemes. Love wins!

    2. Tim Keller.

  14. 1) Yes but I do struggle with this idea. For those of you that have a hard time swallowing this pill or questions over answers, I’m with you.

    2) CS Lewis (at a pub, of course).

    Thanks for all the comments, guys!

  15. 1. Here’s where I agree with Mr. Bell: for love to be love it requires some kind of choice. God, being the perfect gentleman (see Rev. 3:20), doesn’t force Himself on anyone. Which is to say that whether we choose for, or against, Him, His love wins. He loves us enough to respect whichever choice we make (though rejecting Him may indeed break His heart).

    By the way, I pretty much loved Sex God, but didn’t really dig Velvet Elvis.

    2. C.S. Lewis or G.K Chesterton

  16. 1. It depends. In Rob Bell’s case, absolutely not. The man is a Pastor of a church. He is a leader and a teacher. He’s not teaching a philosophy class. The flock looks to a Pastor to be able to give them concrete answers on matters of doctrine. Whether it is different from the church down the street is irrelevant. He has a responsibility not to be vague.

    2. Tony Blair

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