Does God need a makeover?
Many of you may remember Rob Bell from his popular Nooma videos from years ago or more recently his controversial book, “Love Wins“. In that book, he denied the existence of a literal, eternal hell, believing that in the end, everyone ends up in heaven. This is known as universalism. Since the fallout over that book, he has left his church “in search for a more forgiving faith.”
Now he’s back and touting a new book, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God”. Part of the promotion for this book is a Youtube video in which Bell compares God to an Oldsmobile. (Click here to see it.)
I have not read the book, but the message of the video should be of concern. While at first lauding the Oldsmobile he used to drive, he declares that they are extinct because the company could not keep up with the changing times. What worked then does not work now. What worked for them does not work for us.
From there he attempts to draw the same correlation to God. People have a view that God is outdated as well. Bell believes that our ever growing technology and diversity require us to have a new way of relating to God. God needs to be more accepting and cosmopolitan because to many, he appears narrow, mean and frankly not that intelligent.
So the question is, how do we relate people in an ever changing world to God? How shall we describe him? The short answer: As he describes himself. Is it really any surprise that Bell is saying these things? Once you begin to redefine the words of God, the redefinition of the person of God is only a small step away. Any attempt to redefine God is no longer describing God.
Recently I read of particular Hitler ideas as written by one of his closest associates and confidants, Joseph Goebbels (the Reich Minister of Propaganda):
“The insanity of the Christian doctrine of redemption really doesn’t fit at all into our time. … It is simply incomprehensible how anybody can consider the Christian doctrine of redemption as a guide for the difficult life of today. … A church that does not keep step with modern scientific knowledge is doomed.”
Understand, I am not trying to be sensational nor am I calling Bell a Nazi. What I am exposing is the similarities of mindset, namely that the beliefs of the church must change for the changing times. This is not about a matter of style, but content.
Bell aside, this does give us the opportunity to think through how we think about faith. It exposes whether our faith is a firm foundation for us, or it crumbles in the sands of culture. Does our faith define us or do we define it?
The Christian faith is a historical faith. It is not shifting in its demands. It sets the highest standard, to be holy as God is holy. This is impossible. That is why the coming of Jesus is so important. He paid the penalty that we deserved so that all who put their trust in him could be saved. Forgiven. Freed. The Christian faith is the story of God bringing a people back to himself for his glory ensuring they would enjoy him forever.
Hebrews 13 in particular helps us as we travel through cultural junkyards.
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods which have not benefitted those devoted to them.”
Notice, the author does not delineate between the past, present or future. He is not saying that the present supersedes the past. The faith of those who taught the word of God is to be followed and clung to for each generation. Why? Because Jesus does not change. The need for and hope of Jesus is constant.
Culture’s continual rejection of the message is not cause for redefinition. It exposes the need for repentance. Redefinition does not lead to repentance, it leads to false converts. Where there is no biblical truth, there is no conviction. Our desire to redefine says more about us than is says about God. It touts the appearance of godliness, but denies its power (2 Tim 3:5).
Better decide which vehicle you’re going to get in. Many of them promise great things but leave you with an empty tank and stranded. God won’t be the one left behind.