Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell – How DARE you question God?

Adrian Warnock has been writing a lot about Rob Bell and his book. Much as I disagree with Adrian on a number of issues I have avoided commenting on this sos far. However, this one hit me too hard to ignore.

Adrian begins his post Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell – How DARE you question God? with:

Bell asks, is it unjust for God to not save everyone? I reply: how dare you question God? Rob thinks he is God, that he can somehow help the whole of humanity

How dare you question God?

This is so unbiblical and so far from most (even all?) Christian theology that I was shocked to read it.The Bible has numerous examples of people daring to question, to challenge God. 

The Hebrew Scriptures have so many examples that I will limit myself to exclaiming in wonder "Has Adrian never read the Psalms or the book of Job? Has he not read any of the Prophets or stories of 'heroes' like Gideon?"

In the New Testament we even have examples of Jesus questioning God (at least that is one way of understanding the Garden of Gethsemene). The disciples are always questioning Jesus, not just those who stand against him but his closest followers.John the Baptist sends his followers to question Jesus, to challenge him because Jesus is not doing the things John expects of the Messiah.

To say "How dare you question God?" to someone sets you against the witness of Scripture. To do it while claiming that the other person is rejecting Scripture is appalling and Adrian does not limit his accusation to rejecting or mis-understanding Scripture but goes further saying "The following quotes from Bell’s book are in my view verging on blasphemy". 

how dare you question God? Rob thinks he is God

When these two are juxtaposed then the irony is that Adrian appears to do exactly what he accuses Rob Bell of doing. Adrian comes across as entirely certain his understanding of God is correct and completely confident that he can speak for God. There is no "in my opinion" or "in my understanding" or "it seems to me", or "in my tradition we understand", no humility but the confident belief that Adrian speaks for God and that in this area Adrian fully knows the mind of God. At what point does a confidence that you understand God completely, that you can speak for God become you thinking you are God?

A very sad post in a long line of sad posts.

11 thoughts on “Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell – How DARE you question God?

  1. PamBG

    Bell’s book is written in the format of a reflection. If it’s anything, it’s more like a sermon than a theological treatise.
    Bell asks a lot of questions OF God. But I don’t think he defies God as Adrian’s rhetoric seems to suggest.
    I think Adrian needs to get a good night’s sleep and then re-read this text and imagine that it was directed at him.
    I suggest that he also does some basic research on how cults are defined. One way is when they have spiritual leaders who ask “How dare you question God by disagreeing with me”?

    Reply
  2. sally

    well said Dave, and Pam, I wonder really what Adrian is critiquing…
    his reaction is understandable given his theology, and it shows him in his true colours…
    sad indeed

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  3. Dave

    Pam,
    Your description of the format helps make sense of Pete Philips frustrations with the book and the lack of properly referenced theology.
    It seems to me that asking questions of God, even denying God has an authentic place in every part of the Wesleyan Quandrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience). I went for Scripture only as Adrian likes to give the impression he follows Scripture.
    As for the nights sleep, I think the issue is that Adrian believes that when he knows someone is wrong then it is appropriate to talk to them in this way.
    New Frontiers has been accused of being a cult more than once. In this case it is not “How dare you question God by disagreeing with me”? but “How are you question God by disagreeing with God who I fully speak for”. —- scary!
    Sally,
    “I wonder really what Adrian is critiquing.”
    It seems to me that behind a lot of the New Reformed movement is fear, especially fear of uncertainty, fear of diversity & fear of freedom.
    Hence the need to lock everything down in simple absolutes. It is one reason why they are so committed to male headship, allowing all people to lead presses all their control buttons.

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  4. PamBG

    I think the issue is that Adrian believes that when he knows someone is wrong then it is appropriate to talk to them in this way.
    Not just Adrian but a number of individuals in absolutist theological systems. The neo-reformed being the most obvious to most of us but conservative Lutheranism also has very similar rhetoric.
    The conservative Lutheran denomination in which I grew up is also classified by a number of sociologists as cultish because of the same approach.
    I question God because God is my loving Parent. There are plenty of biblical examples of individuals questioning God.

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  5. PamBG

    Hmm, now that I think about it “How dare you question God?” has some potential as a fruitful sermon seed – planted in the right way.

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  6. Dave

    Pam,
    I agree that planted in the right way there are few things that have no potential as a sermon seed or a discussion starter.
    But it requires an openness and a feeling that it is safe to disagree, a feeling that it is ok to ask questions. So frustrating when people respond to questions with condemnation.
    Adrian could have dealt honestly with Rob Bells questions and made his own understanding clear. He could have provided a loving presentation of the neo-reformed view to encourage Rob Bell towards what Adrian considers the right view. Now instead he burns bridges and hardens attitudes making reconciliation and progress much harder.
    That makes me sad.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    Dave,
    Interesting post, thanks.
    The God who lurks behind Jesus is an interesting concept.
    However, with some of the teaching that we see (for example in the loud support of Penal substitution) my more immediate concern is not the God lurking behind Jesus (because that is made very visible in the huge focus on the wrath of God) but instead the lack of Jesus at all (consider how little the book “Pierced for our Transgressions” refers to the gospels as one symptom of this).
    All this is one reason I love the vastly increased focus on the Trinity (at least within the Methodist Church compared to when I was growing up).

    Reply
  8. Dave

    Sally,
    It would be surprising if you spend a lot of time talking about a wrathful God and the reality of hell without ending up somewhat fearful of that God.
    On the other hand I can’t look at Jesus and be afraid :-) The Syston Junior Church had a wonderful telling of the passage where Jesus welcomes the little Children at their anniversary. Had me in tears – absolutely beautiful and so true to the Gospel.

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  9. PamBG

    I certainly see this whole system as fear of God. And I don’t mean “fear” in the theological sense.
    I grew up in “How dare you question (our ideas about) God?” There is fear there. How could you not be afraid of a “loving” God who wants to torture you for eternity for not believing that he tortures people for eternity?
    The anger that individuals in totalitarian systems display demonstrate the fear. And it’s also obvious that the subtext is “How dare you disagree with me?”

    Reply

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