What do You Know About Rob Bell?

I just started reading Velvet Elvis tonight. I have been hearing more and more about Rob Bell and wanted to find out for myself how good his material and writing is. I have been pleasantly surprised with how well this book has been written. He does a good job of integrating a large amount of information from a variety of fields of study – anthropology, sociology, theology, etc all the while stringing together his points with illustrations that pull it all together in a way that holds your attention.

People of all maturity levels will get something from it. It is conversational enough to draw in the unchurched and answer many questions that Christians and non-Christians have asked themselves. He has enough depth and well placed insights to give the mature Christian something to think about as well. This book seems like a guarded pendulum swing. Bell is pushing forth an understanding of Christianity and Christian movements that pushes the envelop of doctrine and some of the core tenets of our faith (the trinity, inspiration, virgin birth, etc) without having an air that “this is it.” He is humble enough to acknowledge that this is just one more piece of the theological discussion that needs to live on past this book and past all other books.

I am looking forward to reading more and also previewing some of his NOOMA videos. Do any of you have any opinions of his material or NOOMA videos? Have any of you used any of this material? What did you think? All input is welcome…as always!


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

43 Responses to What do You Know About Rob Bell?

  1. evangelicalblogger says:

    Hmm. Is it just me- is reading books like this part of mature Christian growth, or is there a lot of celebration of authors of books secondary to the Bible these days? For example, I’ve enjoyed Donald Miller’s books- but for some people he’s a leader of a new movement. Do we need a new movement? Safer to enjoy great Christian authors who’ve passed on because they can’t become idols in quite the same way. It seems a similar thing happens with worship musicians- on Christian radio, at times it almost sounds the radio station thinks we should worship these people rather than Jesus. I’m sure they don’t think that consciously, but it’s easy to forget about the actual point, the essence. It’s about Jesus and the cross, not some musician or author.

  2. Ken Silva says:

    Hello Matt,

    As one who has studied Bell’s ministry for going on three years now I will respectfully submit this piece for your consideration:
    Rob Bell Controversy Over Doctrine

  3. jambastic says:

    I like Rob Bell’s videos. I love how he gets to the heart of the matter in refreshing and unique ways. Like an inspirational speech by a football coach before a big game, Rob Bell gets you fired up and thinking about the topic, however it is up to us (the individual), after being inspired, to figure out and live out God’s word.

    P.S. Ken… It’s easy to take a quote out of context. I am not saying the quotes off the link you sent aren’t true but I it appears to me the writer has a “slight” agenda. Do you have a link to the entire interview?

  4. Ken Silva says:


    First, no offense taken, k. 🙂

    “It’s easy to take a quote out of context.” True. But it’s just as easy to use them in context as well. Just as it’s entirely possible, as an ex-football coach myself, for players to misunderstand the importance of the game plan and think they know the plays when they really don’t.

    You said: “I am not saying the quotes off the link you sent aren’t true but I it appears to me the writer has a ‘slight’ agenda.” What about you though Jam; don’t you have an agenda to promote Rob? Are you so sure that you’re unbiased?

    And you asked: “Do you have a link to the entire interview?” Like any good researcher I put the link right within the piece itself when I wrote the post, which allows the reader to see the context for themselves.

  5. johndobbs says:

    Hi Matt. I read Velvet Elvis. I have friends who LOVE that book. I LIKED that book, noticing some of the same doctrinal dilemmas that you noted. I haven’t ever opened it back up … so I guess I’m just cool on the book. The NOOMA videos, though, I’m red-hot on! Just go ahead and get them all. You won’t be sorry.

  6. jambastic says:

    Thanks Ken

  7. Rick says:

    Rob Bell for learning doctrine? No way. Rob Bell as a fellow believer and prompter of thinking and discussion? Absolutely – one of the best.

    I love the NOOMA videos. I’m bothered when people tell me they learned a lot from Bell or that they are using NOOMA as a base for Bible study (in fact it is a NOOMA study – not the same). But for a group to watch and then discuss, challenging each other to use Scripture, etc., NOOMA is excellent.

    Like many things, if Rob Bell material becomes the bulk of your diet, I would be concerned. If it’s used as some seasoning, you are in for a treat.

  8. Donna says:

    I like Rob Bell. I even traveled to Atlanta to see his new tour. I love his Podcasts. His sermons are thought provoking and much longer than you typically hear.

    I think he is a fine brother, a fellow seeker, who like me is fuzzy on a few things….I think God loves that he (Rob) loves to tell people about Him (God).

    Nooma’s are great….

  9. goodinfo2 says:

    Your great post hits upon an aspect that troubles me about depth of christianity, including the core christian teachings. People are dynamic. Our views change and evolve. Positions we hold at one point in our lives and actions taken from those positions may be radically different ten years later, or even three years later. New information and insights can dramatically alter one’s view point and life. We should be judged by who we are today, by recent actions, our hearts and sincerity not by a point in our past. I must say I find this blog very interesting. i invite you to http://www.hi5christian.com wich is another great site where you can meet beautifull people. To join go to http://www.hi5christian.com/join_form.php I’m sure I’m not off the topic but I also have one more thing I have to share my own opinions and my own favourite sites with fellow christians.There are little quality websites on the internet.

  10. Mark says:

    So far I don’t know that much about Mr. Bell. I purchased the Breath video to kind of check him out. Honestly, after seeing the video, I haven’t decided if I like it or not. He makes some interesting theoretical observations, but I don’t think the content lived up to the hype. It is very postmodern feeling.

    I’d like to see another few of his videos before I decide to give them a thumbs up or thumbs down.

    So I guess I’m ok with Rob Bell so far. I’m not a fan, but I’m not convinced that what he’s doing is bad. As you learn more about him, I’d like to hear your opinion. I’m concerned with what you’re saying about laxity in doctrinal stances, but I’m willing to give him a fair hearing first.

  11. Joe Martino says:

    Well, I can say I have never seen Rob lie which is more than I can say for Ken Silva.

  12. Robert says:

    What actually concerns me is that Rob Bells theology is so far off…when you can figure out what he’s saying that is!

    this is a quote from RB:

    “So this is reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.” All things, everywhere.
    This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making. ”

    What? Does that bear any resemblance to anything in scripture?

    “It’s already true?”

    Has RB not heard that those who aren’t believers are “God haters” and are currently “under God’s wrath”?

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that their is a disparity there….


  13. Joe Martino says:

    You’re absolutely right! He made up Paul and the whole book of Galatians.

  14. Ken Silva says:

    No Joe, you are in covenant community and attend Bell’s church, but to those of us who are not under the spell of Bell what you said above actually goes like this:

    “You’re absolutely right! He made up [his own version of] Paul [meant] and [his own warped and toxic view of] the whole book of Galatians.

  15. Joe Martino says:

    You forgot the word, “meant” there Ken. I’m disappointed in you.

  16. Joe Martino says:

    By the way Ken, I was shocked, and I do mean shocked to see you had linked to your own blog, here. Really, quality research you got going on there.

  17. Joe Martino says:

    Have you repented about being dishonest yet? My five year old was just explaining to me how exaggerating (you should hear how she says that word, it’s so cute) is still not telling the truth. You haven’t been exaggerating lately have you, Ken?

  18. Joe Martino says:

    BTW, I’m off to bed. Happy New Year to all! Ken, I see it isn’t the “meant” up there but another word. Either way, you take care. I’m sure we’ll be “seeing” each other around the blogosphere in 2008. Ken, thanks for the “I am not a fundamentalist post” today. That cracked me up. I just can’t help but think of Nixon when I read that. I would have left this on your blog but….oh wait no comments and the last time I emailed you, you called me names.
    John 13:35 Ken, John 13:35 unless you’re questioning my salvation now. You got all upset about others questioning yours. Here’s to you living by John 13:35 next year Ken.

  19. Rick says:

    Matt – in case you haven’t noticed in this small snippet, one of the things I like about Bell is that he causes reaction … much more so than many people on either side of the Christianity.

  20. Mark says:

    Wow…this has gotten rather ugly. You’re right, Rick…very touchy subject, that Rob Bell is.

  21. mattdabbs says:

    Try to stick to the issues rather than name call others. I know that’s hard not to name call and accuse when speaking to other Christians but let’s try our best.

    I think something that is thought-provoking and discussion generating for a Bible class, blog, or just talking with a friend is important. I don’t think it is very helpful if most of them have the tone this one has had.

  22. Joe Martino says:

    I apologize. Ken and I have a long history. We’re coming up on one year since the first time he called me apostate and told me I was on my way to Hell. I don’t really think I called him any names but if I have offended you, I apologize.

  23. Ken Silva says:


    You’ll have no problem from me. I don’t plan on speaking further with, or about, Joe because in my view he has a real problem with reading comprehension.

    May the Lord guide as He wills.

  24. mattdabbs says:


    That is not really the issue you have with Joe.


    You haven’t offended me. I just don’t think talk like that is normally very productive. I am also coming at this not knowing your long history. I wish you both the best and hopefully we can all realize that we need to try to find things to unite behind like Jesus Christ rather than be divisive.

  25. Ken Silva says:


    Careful now. You admit: “I am also coming at this not knowing your long history”; but also said: “That is not really the issue you have with Joe.”

    So you are correct, you really don’t know what is involved with the “issue.” Best we let it drop here. 🙂

  26. Joe Martino says:

    I can offer links where Ken has called me apostate, if you’d like. 🙂 I also can offer lots of other links…

  27. mattdabbs says:


    Unless Joe has a learning disability in reading, which I seriously doubt, then I am – guessing – that his comprehension is not the real issue. I will leave it at that.

    Here is where I would like to see this conversation go:

    “I think Rob Bell is helpful because…”

    “I have a problem with what Rob Bell teaches because of X,Y,Z…”

    I am trying to get a feel for what others have experienced with his material, more similar to the comments John Dobbs and Rick have commented above. If no one has anything like that to say then the conversation stops here. Thanks to all of you who have commented, submitted links, etc. It has been helpful to me and I hope to others as well. God bless,


  28. mattdabbs says:

    Oh and Joe,

    Those links aren’t necessary. That is not what we are after here. God bless.

  29. Joe Martino says:

    I think Rob is helpful because of XYZ. I’m not being a smart alec. That is the name we’ve given to our initiative at our church (as Ken has pointed out, I have chosen to live in covenant with other like minded followers of Christ at Mars). I believe Rob is one of the best teachers I’ve every heard. I’ve read both books and think they are spot on. I don’t think he’s God and there’s even some stuff I disagree with him on, if we both agreed on everything one of us wouldn’t be necessary.

  30. Matt,

    I have watched a half dozen or more Nooma vids and liked them all very much. These were my first introduction to Bell. What I continue to wrestle with is the apparent discrepancy between Velvet Elvis, which to me seems very fuzzy on truth, and everything else I’ve experienced from Mars Hill, including conversing with members and ‘fans’, one of their Pastors, the Nooma vids, and the numerous missional initiatives and their excellent results.

    Re: Rob’s writing style – I guess it’s a matter of taste. I found it completely annoying.

    Re: Ken Silva – if you moderate your comments, I suggest you delete his entries until he opens comments on his own blog. Unless someone has a “John MacArthur Certified!” sticker on their books and foreheads, he’ll tear them down, ignoring the good and exaggerating the bad… just a suggestion. 😉

  31. mattdabbs says:


    Would Rob say either one of you are “necessary” or would he say they are just two different voices in the theological dialogue that has been happening for thousands of years? 🙂


    Comments are always open here unless they are inappropriate. Thanks for the concrete feedback. I will be having a look at some of the videos this week. I will post on how that goes.

  32. Mark says:

    My last post seemed to disappear? Where did it go? I don’t see it on the list?

  33. Mark says:

    Here is a great online video of Rob Bell. Lets see if it posts or gets lost in the spam filters

    Its called “covered in the dust of your rabbi”


  34. Mark says:

    Here are the last two videos by Rob Bell. Sorry for the multiple posts but when I tried to put these links all in one post it got lost in spam-o-world.

    This one is called “Jesus and Domitian”


    And this last video is my favorite. Its called “Between the Trees”. I’m sure that Rob turned this teaching into his NOOMA called “Trees”


  35. Mary says:


    Ok, your comment about “Unless someone has a “John MacArthur Certified!” sticker on their books and foreheads, he’ll tear them down, ignoring the good and exaggerating the bad… just a suggestion.”

    Who cares about John Arthur? regardless of who is telling you things, be it Rob Bell, or John MacArthur, or even your own pastor, you NEED to see if it matches up with scripture. After all scripture does warn about false teachers, who will lead people astray. And those false teachers will come through the church. I have looked in Rob Bell’s teachings and beliefs, and most of what i have heard, seen, or read does NOT match up at all with scripture. I find that scary.
    For those (i don’t think anyone on here mentioned this) who compare Jesus being relevant to his culture as the same as Rob Bell being relevant to our culture, but being relevant to your culture doesn’t make you like Jesus, especially when you preach against His word.

  36. Chris says:


    I am late here, but I am thankful for Rob and his willingness to “push some buttons.” I am the guy who got Dobbs watching the Nooma’s. Velvet Elvis, to me, was an excellent book simply due to the fact that Rob wasn’t afraid to ask some tough questions and challenge anyone who might read it. I have found great value in the book and his videos, his newest book Sex God has been a challenging read as well.

  37. Mark says:

    Mary wrote:

    >”I have looked in Rob Bell’s teachings and beliefs,
    >and most of what i have heard, seen, or read
    >does NOT match up at all with scripture. I find
    >that scary.”

    Mary, just exactly what is Rob saying that “does not match up with scripture”?? Please be more specific.

  38. Dave says:

    I have read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, and I found it useful in provoking questions about my understanding of Christianity and the church. A recently trend has seen the church become the centre of Christian life, whereas we are called to be salt and light in the world. Also questioning truth is absolutely vital be it the ‘prosperity’ truth or the ‘post-modern’ truth (ironic). How do we cope with conflicting truths on christian tv? How do we cope with truth that is found outside of the bible? How do we cope with truth that is found in other religions? I think these are valid questions to ask, and Rob Bell pushes us to have an authentic faith without the cliches.

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