II Pet.2: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
Oprah Winfrey interviewed Rob Bell which will air in November. About Bell’s views she said, "The ideas Rob sets forth in his books Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God opened my heart and my mind.”
That is probably the most revealing and accurate critique to date.
Beware. Sometimes friendly and winsome and intriguing are conduits for error. Many cults have adopted a hyper-friendly approach in proselytizing and many are very effective in so doing. People like Joel Osteen and Rob Bell and Rick Warren and Joyce Myers and others have leveraged their affable ways in order to draw people to themselves. Although a believer should not be quarrelsome and unfriendly, just a friendly and winsome approach does not always lead to truth. Personalities can be very powerful and often attract a large following, but strong and persuasive personalities also can lead people far astray.
You see, in these days where people demand more and more excitement and become quickly disinterested with almost everything, the old paths are not only unappealing, but they are now looked upon as the spiritual dark ages. So men like Rob Bell provide thought provoking philosophy which titillates the mind and makes people feel superior in their view of Christianity and Jesus as well. Instead of digging deeper into Biblical truth and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ Biblically, we now have more and more people making their own path which accommodates their flesh and their intellect.
And one of the residual effects is that men like Bell and Warren and Osteen become extremely wealthy. One wonders just how energetic and perseverant these men would be if their ministries were overwhelmingly rejected and led them into poverty or worse yet nailed them to a cross. I believe we already know the answer to that question. But the three men I mentioned represent three distinct wings of the progressive movement which still calls itself Christian. Rob Bell leads the philosophical wing, Rick Warren leads the utilitarian wing, and Joel Osteen leads the hedonistic wing. Let me explain.
The philosophical wing of Christianity (the religion) loves to surmise and question any and all foundational truths, and in the end it presents a string of never ending thoughts with no absolute answers. In fact it suggests that absolutes evolve over time and within different cultures. It tears apart any and all doctrines that seem to be completely supported by Scripture because in the end this wing questions the Scriptures themselves. And when the eternality, validity, and immutable exclusivity of Scripture as it pertains to truth is compromised then truth becomes up for discussion and is at the whims and thoughts of each individual. Cultural reason is the prism through which this kind of theology arrives at truth.
This kind of approach to Christianity strips it of any power and renders it little more than a never ending revolving door of questions which make people feel intellectual. The cross is no longer the path to redemption and in fact the cross is almost ignored since men like Bell have a difficult time bringing such a violent act into these modern times. This growing phenomenon has become a cathedral of western intellectualism attempting to find a place for eastern mysticism. It is dark and poisonous but like Jonestown there are many thousands if not millions who swear by Rob Bell and all he stands or doesn’t stand for.
The utilitarian wing strives to make Christianity a religion which is designed as a tool in the hands of man that is like a Swiss knife with all the attachments needed to make your life a success. It makes friends with all other religions and seeks to build muddled bridges to other spiritual practices. In essence this kind of teaching is a western religion which accommodates democracy and capitalism and is a partner to patriotism. This kind of utilitarian religion eschews the deeper life and any hint of mystery.
Rick Warren is considered the champion of such teachings. And yet men like John Piper have had Warren speak at their conferences. Yes, men like Warren wear all kinds of hats and are adept at being camouflaged as to their true beliefs. It also helps to be friendly and affable and have very few enemies because you literally stand for very little and even what you do stand for you present in nebulous and smooth sounding words.
And the hedonistic wing is an open appeal to the greed of men. It makes no pretence and it does not hide its carnal appeal. In fact it changes the very nature of God and makes Him the servant of man and a cosmic Santa Claus. Behind designer suits and wide smiles this theology offers people a life of health and prosperity brought to you by the divine power and will. It is quite astonishing and revealing in these last days that we would even have to refute this kind of diabolical nonsense. This prosperity message used to be confined to very small corners of Pentecostalism but it is now mainstream in many churches and it permeates “Christian” television.
God Himself is a hedonist in this teaching and He exists to help sinners achieve a superior portfolio. New houses and new cars and growing bank accounts are supposedly gained by giving. Can there be any greater deception? And can the motivation for such a teaching be any more exposed? And yet the greedy heart of men is so strong that they, like a compulsive gambler, keep pouring money into the slot machine in hopes that God will hand them their pot of gold. And all the while men like Joel Osteen become extremely wealthy and present themselves as examples of what can be gained through faith and giving.
These are three of the major wings of western evangelicalism. They are all illusions which bear the name of Christ and pretend to represent the faith but which ultimately are elaborate and appealing deceptions. They continue to lead millions astray.