First Things First
All good biblical theology stems from a proper Biblical understanding of the nature of God. An incorrect view of the God’s nature will inevitably skew one’s view of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the nature of salvation. When reading Bell’s new book “What we Talk About When We Talk About God”, it becomes clear that Rob Bell did not begin with a proper view of God’s nature. Rob Bell’s “god’, rather than the personal and loving God of the Bible, sounds more like the impersonal “force” professed by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy or the undefinable “consciences-bliss” called the Brahman in Hinduism.
Rob Bell begins his book by correctly citing famous physicists and astronomers such as Hubble, Penzias, Wilson and Einstein, whose research suggests that the universe began some time in the distant past with an event called the “Big Bang”. Other researchers, like Dr. Alexander Vilankin, built upon this foundation to prove that any universe which is expanding must have had a beginning. Thus, despite decades of attempts to prove the contrary, according to the most popular model, the universe is not eternal. The universe had a beginning.
Bell rightly claims that the universe, if it had a beginning, needs a cause; It didn’t just pop into being from nothing. Here he appeals to what is called the Kalaam cosmological argument. However, Bell seems to indicate that the external cause of the universe is an impersonal force we call God. To make this point, Bell constantly uses words such as “energy”, “force”, and “electricity” in describing God. (Bell Talk/God 19,109)
At this point, I think it’s worth offering evidence for a personal Creator. What does science tell us about the nature of the universe? Does this suggest a personal creator or an impersonal force? What is the evidence?
For starters, no matter what our belief about the origins of the universe, science offers us several reasons to believe that there is a creator of the universe. This creator, what Aristotle called the Prime Mover, must be intelligent, must not exist in time or space, must have unimaginable power, and should be omnipresent throughout creation. Indeed, it should be obvious that if the first cause chose to create the universe, it must be a personal being with the ability to make decisions.
The Anthropic Principle
Since we believe the universe was designed by a creator, what evidence is there to support this belief? When astronomers and astrophysicists gaze at the universe, which they do in every conceivable spectrum, what do the galaxies, our solar system, and the earth tell them about our universe? Everywhere they look, the sky speaks clearly that our universe shouldn’t exist like it does. It is so well balanced in so many ways that it appears to be designed. This is called the “anthropic principle”. And any evidence for intelligent design indicates an intelligent designer.
For example, life existing on earth is only possible because hundreds of perfectly balanced physical laws and universal constants maintain the kind of order necessary for stars and planets to exist. Given that, in order life like our own to exist, our sun needs to be stable and our planet just the right distance from the sun. That life would survive long without liquid water or protection from cosmic rays or the suns powerful rays.
In other words, many researchers readily admit that there appears to be a grand control board for the universe. All the dials on this board are perfectly set, within a very narrow range, for life to exist on earth. If any one of these grand dials for life were off just a little, one way or the other, life on earth would not be possible. This is good evidence that there is a “someone”, an infinitely intelligent someone, who set the dials.
Here are some other examples.
Let’s consider the universe itself. Just like with life, certain “dials” must be set perfectly for the universe to continue to exist. Bell correctly states the premise of the “Standard Model” that at the moment of the Big Bang, the universe came into existence. Since then, it has been in a state of expansion. If we assume this model, it is pretty amazing that the “dial” which controls the rate of expansion is perfectly set to keep a stable and life permitting universe in existence.
If the rate of this universal expansion were larger, according to the Standard Model of stellar evolution, no galaxies could have formed. Without galaxies, our sun wouldn’t have a friendly and protected environment to exist in. In turn, the safety necessary for life to exist would be absent. On the other hand, if this expansion were smaller, according to the Standard Model, the entire universe would collapse back in on itself. Stars wouldn’t form, planets wouldn’t be warmed by their heat, liquid water wouldn’t be possible, and no life would exist in the universe.
As a matter of fact, if the distance between the millions of visible stars in our galaxy were much larger or smaller, the existence of planets, including the earth, would not even be possible. (Ross Creator/Cosmos 154-157) According to the Standard Model, the size, expansion rate, and stellar distances in our universe are just right for life here on earth.
A second example is the design of our galaxy and solar system. Examining our galactic neighborhood, we discover that many more of the grand dials for life have been perfectly set. The rotation on its axis and the tilt of the earth are all perfectly set to provide even heating and seasons, something necessary for human life to exist. The amount of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and in the crust is in just the right proportions for human life to exist on the earth. There are many more of these “dials of life” that have seen set with pin point accuracy for life to occur. If you believe the Big Bang happened, is it hard to imagine that some super intelligent being is behind it? (Ross Creator/Cosmos 190-193)
Is God The Creator?
Considering the circumstantial evidence science provides, as Christians, can we trust that this evidence points to the infinite, Personal Creator the Bible writes about. Does our God meet the requirements? Is the God of the Bible a super intelligent, super powerful being who is also personal? Does God exist outside of time and space so as to be able to cause it to exist?
God is able to remember things. When we come to Him forgiveness, He chooses not to hold our sins against anymore. He no longer remembers our sins. (Isaiah 43:25, Psalms 79:8 and Jeremiah 31:20) God is able to speak to Man concerning Himself. (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 43:10-13) God is able to see what people do on earth. He heard the cries of his people Israel enslaved in Egypt. (Exodus 2:24) He heard his own people, whom he had set free from Egypt, later complaining against Him in the desert. (Numbers 11:1) God has the ability to know things, such as those who are his children and those who are not. (2 Timothy 2:19) God is a bodiless infinite Personal Spirit (John 4:24) (Martin Kingdom of the Cults 146-149)
Wrong Doctrine, Wrong Beliefs
Rob Bell’s God, the impersonal “force” or “energy” he writes about, does not sound anything like the God of the Bible. As stated at the beginning of this article, if one starts out with a false view of the nature of God, as Rob Bell has, this will trickle down into other areas of Christian Doctrine.
For example, rather than being clear about Jesus being God incarnate, Rob Bell seems to be very vague (at best) when describing of the incarnation of God. In his current book, Bell seems to use biblical terms to describe the incarnation. He states that Jesus is “the divine and the human existing in the same Body” (God/Talk 131) Yet there are other statements in his previous book “Love Wins” that seem to indicate that Bell believes that the impersonal force that He calls God became Flesh in Jesus (Love Wins 144-146) This is not the Biblical doctrine of the Incarnation.
The Biblical doctrine states that there is one God in three Persons. It was the second person of the Godhead who took on flesh and became a Man for our salvation. It is only a short step from saying that this generic impersonal force was incarnated in Jesus to saying that this generic impersonal force was also incarnated in the founders of all the other world religions.
Bell seems to do this implicitly while Bishop Spong does so explicitly. Yet in this day and age, it seems this is the politically correct thing to do. I assume he doesn’t want anyone to get offended. Following this logic, some believe today that the founders of all the major world religions are all equally valid and in some way express God to humanity.
When Rob Bell appeared on the interfaith faith panel in Seattle in 2008, he offered no comments nor defense on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Sitting in the presence of leaders of other world religions, this spoke volumes about his beliefs. You know something is seriously wrong with a pastor when the very words of Christ are set aside for political correctness.
In this second article, we have covered the unique nature of the God of the Bible as Creator. He is a Personal Being rather than an impersonal force, able to create a universe full or miracles and made just right for human life.
Despite claims Bell makes about the nature of god, only the God of the Bible is truly able to love all human beings. This Love was shown in Him personally becoming a Man, dying on the Cross and rising from the Dead on the third day to give us eternal life. This love is manifest to everyone in creation.
The god of Rob Bell might sound more tolerant and less judgmental than the traditional God of the Bible, but this “god” did not go extraordinary lengths in order to redeem Man from sin and death. His god is impotent to save.