Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rob Bell Hits the Rock Venue Circuit

I am providing here a link to a New York Times article about Rob Bell's summer tour, which does not rely on multi-media pyrotechnics yet is appealing to many young folks around the land. Read the article and give me your reaction. I personally like what he is doing, having meaningful conversations with a Christian orientation to audiences in secular venues. Here is the link. The original article is in Saturday's paper.


seth richardson said...

i very much enjoy rob bell and his ministry. he has been able to ring the tunning fork at the frequency that resonates with a lot of postmodernity. his language is fresh. and i like that. the time is coming when the way that we talk about things in the church need to change.
his "nooma" serious is spectacular. i really have no reservations toward him at this point. he communicates well to my generation. in a time when many think yelling louder and slower the things they have always said will help us hear, bell is gently singing a song that captures my attention. maybe because its new, or maybe because he's communicating things a little more like the way they were meant to be communicated.
all that to say...two thumbs up.
-seth richardson
(i am also a red sox fan)

Ben Witherington said...

I reckon I must find out where this pneuma series is available and listen to some of it.



Jonathan Marlowe said...

You can find out about the series at - it is about the Holy Spirit, but it is spelled phonetically. I just got back from taking my youth group to a retreat at Lake Junaluska, and they showed one of the nooma videos every day. They were excellent! On his web site, you can see a preview of some of the videos. I highly recommend them. I could tell by watching his videos that he had been influenced by NT Wright, and sure enough on his website, he lists some NT Wright books on his recommended reading.

Mike said...

My Adult Bible Fellowship class (ABF - basically adult Sunday School) at Lakeside Christian Church has used the nooma series, and they are quite good. I would concur that Bell is heavily influenced by NT Wright, and Bell seems to have a good grasp of Jesus within 1st c. Jewish culture (and how Jesus challenges our culture today). The nooma videos are really short films more than "teaching videos," with a nice, tight (10-15 minute) narrative arc that interweaves Bell's message with a short story or theme. Beyond the artistry, Bell and the nooma team do a great job of calling the viewers to "hear and obey," not just watch.

Sports Dave said...

Ben and other commentors,

How much do you know about the historical content that Bell uses in his sermons? I know he uses a lot of material from various Jewish sources (mishnah, etc.) that dates from much later than the time of the NT. Some NT prof friends of mine really don't care for him because they feel that he takes liberties with the historical material, skewing his interpretation of (especially) the gospels. Do you feel the same?

Other than that, I think the things that he's doing, especially in working to talk about community in church, are good.

His church's sermons can be downloaded at their website, which I believe is

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for all these tips. I do not know enough about Bell's exegesis to comment. But I intend to find out.



cadaens said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for this post Cadaens--- I shall track the sitesd down you mention. Blessings on you in your faith journey,

Ben W.

RC said...

if i wanted to, i could see rob bell just down the street from me later this week on his tour...

i'm not sure if i want to/will go or not.

--RC of

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Thanks for the heads-up.

seth richardson said...

i understand your concern for Bell's exegesis. but as far as i can discern, there aren't really any "liberties" in his analysis. he does use some "jewish material" in his teachings, but only insofar as coming to a solid historical/contextual starting point in understanding what the gospel writers were trying to communicate (in my opinion). i wouldn't really say that he uses material that reflects post NT jewish thought either. though the oral torah (the talmud, mishnah, ect) wasn't recorded until several hundred years after the NT, the oral law (and its ideas and principles) has been present in jewish tradation for a long time, not to mention hundreds of years before the first century AD. Jesus was most definately very familiar with the oral law and its concepts. Bell seems to be attempting to help his listeners understand how a first century jewish rabbi thought, which would lead to a better understanding of why Jesus said the things he did.
i hope this helps.
-seth richardson

Ben Witherington said...

There is however a problem with using post 70 A.D. Jewish materials to explain Jesus' 'background'. Pharisaism for example and all of Judaism changed from a Temple centered religion to a more Torah centric one. We do not know what the oral tradition was like in Jesus' day except in so far as it is quoted by pre-70 figures, and this means the Talmud and Mishnah cannot really be used to explain Jesus without extreme caution.

Jeff Raker said...

I have been a Rob Bell fan for several years. Not sure what I think about these conversations. I would want to ask what his purpose or goal is? From the nooma videos and his sermons I think his theology is right on. His reading list is challenging, including a wide range of authors and theological viewpoints.
Not sure what to think about Andy Crouch's comment that "this is the way church will be in 20 years." (or something like that) Perhaps it will be and if so I will be challenged to adapt to the culture in order to reach it. That's the thing Bell consistently challenges me on

Sports Dave said...

As far as Ben's last comment, I'm fairly certain that is exactly the way Bell uses the talmud/misnah, especially when explaining Jesus background. He interprets the calling of the disciples and other elements in the light of the mishnah.

At least he's trying to use historical material - that's more than most preachers.

john alan turner said...

If you're familiar with Ray Vander Laan and his video series THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW (distributed by Zondervan and Focus on the Family) -- that's the kind of historical background Rob uses.

seth richardson said...

while caution is certainly in order, what evidence do we have that this is not the way Jesus thought? some of his teachings sure do make a lot more sense in light of first century rabbinic tradition (i.e. the bleeding woman and the tzitzi). can we not draw legitimate historical evidence about second-temple judaism that is not influenced by post-temple thought? i feel that this is very similiar to what Yancey did in his book. i also feel that we're speaking more in terms of a caution than a fallacy. i may just be proving my ignorance here though.

above all this, thanks for the discussion ben. i really appreciate the time you put forth to pursue random conversations like these amidst crazy schedules.
much love and gratitude,
seth richardson

Ben Witherington said...

I think it is imperative that we not be anachronistic when it comes to the Jewish Jesus. This means that we have to be extremely cautious when using later materials to interpret early Judaism and Jesus, because so much changed after 70 A.D. I will have to read Bell's stuff and see. I'm all for aemphasizing the Jewishness of Jesus but: 1) he was not a rabbi and did not teach like one, he was sage like Hanina ben Dosa; 2) he was a radical who critiqued key portions of the Law which he thought were no longer valid; and 3) he spoke on his own authority, not by citing rabbinic references or quoting other teachers; 4) most Jewish teachers and rabbis did not teach in parables, aphorisms. riddles, etc.


everettg said...


I read the article on Rob Bell and found it intriguing. We are in an extreme funk when it comes to reaching people with the gospel from traditional vantage points. The postmodern mindset of "there is no absolute truth, there is only what's true for me" makes it very difficult to convey that there is an absolute truth and it's contained in the word of God. So yes, I would say I agree with you -- Mr. Bell is on a good track and his success should be lauded.

Jeff said...

I'm confused on a point here. It seems that Jesus accepts the title Rabbi often. Certainly those around him use the title for Jesus. The gospel writers seem to think it appropriate. Why would you suggest that he was not a rabbi aside from speaking in a different way?

I am enjoying your commentary on Revelation. Thank you for your work,


Brian said...

You definately need to read Bell's Velvet Elvis to know what he is saying. Also, he got his Masters from Fuller. Not sure if it is the MDiv or the MAT.

Mr. Bill said...

Bell's theology aside, I find myself terribly disinterested in this tour. No doubt his intentions are good and some non-Christians may be reached but my fear (or cynicism) is that the crowd will be primarily Christian and in the long run this will be no more than a novelty.