Tag Archives: emerging church

Rob Bell and Don Draper – The Ad Man’s Gospel

As I was finishing up my blog post comparing songwriter Mark Heard to popular evangelical author Donald Miller, I was trying to figure out how to handle Rob Bell. Bell has been the most explosive figure in progressive evangelicalism today, though within the past few years he has gone out even further than many of his progressive evangelical colleagues are willing to endorse. Theologically speaking in my view, a confused ecclesiology is what unites the contemporary triune fellowship of Bell, Miller, and Brian McLaren. It is difficult for me to say this, because while I still know that these folks love Jesus and I can still learn some things from them, there have just been some other things there that continue to bug me. However, there could be more to the analysis. I think I have stumbled onto an idea, but I had to look “across the pond” to find it.

While some evangelicals in the U.S. still puzzle over the Rob Bell storm in recent years, a fire is currently raging in Britain. Recently, a debate between progressive evangelical Steve Chalke and more classic evangelical Andrew Wilson has intensely engaged thoughtful Christians. In reflecting on the debate, Andrew Wilson pointed to a specific problem in Steve Chalke’s argumentative method. In a nutshell, Wilson claims that Chalke sets up a type of “straw man” noting some extreme case, and therefore reacting to it with a different extreme case as THE solution, without acknowledging that there might be more moderate and alternative solutions that are being sidestepped. Wilson likens this to what Rob Bell is doing as a communicator of the “Ad Man’s Gospel”. Strangely, however, I do not think Rob Bell is alone in this. You can find folks equally on the more “fundamentalist” side of the evangelical movement who do EXACTLY the same thing in reverse. Wilson cites this post by Alastair Roberts as evidence. It says it better than I can.

On the downside, it does make me seriously question how viable the Internet; e.g. blogging, serves as an effective vehicle for thoughtful communication and dialogue. I am still doing it, but I have my doubts. Veracity readers: Are Andrew Wilson and Alastair Roberts right?

If you follow the whole line of thought, you will never think about Oldsmobiles the same way again….

Alastair's Adversaria

I find Rob Bell fascinating.

Sure, I disagree with his theology, but when it comes to engaging communication, the man is virtually without peer.

If you want to see a masterpiece in clever communication, look no further than a promotional video for a Rob Bell book.

This is Bell in his element.

Attention-grabbing.
Engaging.
Dynamic.

Take, for instance, this recent offering:

The dislocated camera shots.
The fractured statements.
It’s all there.

You start with the evocative image of the Velvet Elvis, reminding you of that summer you read through that book as a teen.

How that book resonated with you at the time!

Rob begins by telling us that a lot of people in our culture ‘can’t do the God-sort of belief system or idea.’ A ‘very, very popular movement’ tells us that this is all that there is. However, lots and lots of people, when they experience vaguely defined…

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Following the Emerging (Jazzy Blue) Heard

Back some years ago, one of my favorite singer-songwriters was (and still is) a guy named Mark Heard. Long before “Contemporary Christian Music” became an industry, Mark Heard was with his guitar singing folk songs about life and Jesus. But Mark was out there on the edge. In those days, his style of music was not as acceptable in the mainstream of evangelical Christianity as it is today. Yet neither was he welcome that much in the secular world of music.

From his 1981 album, Stop the Dominoes, you can get a flavor of his existential angst in the song “Stuck in the Middle“:

Well my brothers criticize me
Say I’m just too strange to believe
And the others just avoid me
They say my faith is so naive
I’m too sacred for the sinners
And the saints wish I would leave

Here is one of my favorite Mark Heard songs, “Dry Bones Dance“, harkening back to the vision of the prophet Ezekiel. Someone has put together a collection of all of Mark Heard’s lyrics, including Dry Bones Dance if you want to read along as he sings.

From time to time, I love to spin up one of Mark Heard’s albums, but over the years I have come to see also a darker side to Mark Heard’s spirituality. And I think a brief look at his story can show us how often stories like his can get repeated today and relatively few seem to notice.
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