Issue: Rob Bell’s view of scripture and Ken Silva’s misuse of the Name of God.

CRN’s Take: The one-man vendetta against Rob Bell continues. Ken has published an article “Rob Bell in a Nutshell”, which makes a number of claims about Rob Bell, including one Amy asked about:

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

My Take: Rather than just reprint Ken’s article, I will critique sectons of it, piece by piece, strawman by strawman, fallacy by fallacy.

The Lord apparently has His reasons as to why He chose to position Apprising Ministries as the “go to” ministry for critique of Emergent Church Pastor Rob Bell. [blah, blah, blah]

In Exodus 20:7, it states

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

A number of Christian (and Jewish) scholars have commented that the intent of this commandment is not about misusing the name of the Lord in anger (which would be included), but to misuse the name of the Lord by attaching it to something as an endorsement of something that is of man, or to justify sin. Or, to put it more bluntly, we are not to presume upon God.

So, before we even get to whatever it is Ken has to say, he’s already disregarded scripture in a way that suggests that the end justifies the means. Besides which, Bell has, on numerous occasions rejected the label of “Emergent” or “Emerging”, as Ken has also noted on a number of occasions; yet “pastor” Silva has still decided to characterize Bell in a way contrary to what even Ken has even recognized as reality.

Time to do so has been hard to come by due to a lack of financial support but here now is the first installment in what I pray will be a series toward that direction. As God leads watch for this to continue to develop [...blah, blah, blah].

Exodus 20:7 (and related verses and curses) applies yet again… Perhaps a possibility could be considered that the lack of financial support and the aim of this “ministry” are somehow connected. While it is also possible this is not the case, I do not believe that God sends messages/prophecy via sinful or highly-errant means.

At best Bell is now neo-orthodox although at one time he was actually quite sound as an expositor of Scripture. As one who used to hear Bell back in his Calvary Church days told me recently, think MacArthur. However, after Bell and his wife read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, as you will now see like most Emergents Bell has rejected sola Scriptura. This is an irrefutable fact.

I’m sorry, Ken, but just because you website says it and isogetes it doesn’t make it ‘irrefutable fact’. (Realize, as well, that the definition of sola Scriptura, and how people interpret the usage of this extra-Biblical doctrine has a good deal of variance in how it is applied.)

Irrefutable: adj. “Impossible to refute or disprove; incontrovertible”

Let us see how ‘irrefutable’ Ken’s “facts” are…

[Quoting] The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.

“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes. [Emphasis his]

Oddly (or prehaps not all that much so) Ken does not finish Bell’s quote in the article, instead giving this the appearance of a complete thought on the part of Bell. Here is the remainder of the quote:

“We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”

In one of the sermons from which Velvet Elvis was developed in 2004, Bell used the example of Paul’s comments about women covering their heads and not wearing braided hair. He said that we first had to see what this meant in the time it was written (basically – “women – don’t dress the way prostitutes do – you’re not a prostitute!”). Next, we had to look and see how we would apply this now, in Grand Rapids 2004. He mentioned the name of a brand or a store I didn’t know, but his jist was that women shouldn’t dress in ways that say they are sexually available to other people.

So, Ken’s use of contextomy in this case fails to prove anything, other than Ken’s predisposed inclination to malign and misuse Bell’s words to say things they just don’t say.

Next, Ken writes:

Then in VE, after laying out a neo-orthodox understanding of some of the Biblical writers, Bell specifically says:

This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true… When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true [emphasis Ken's]

Aside from Ken’s predeliction for esoteric terminology (neo-this and hollow-that), this is just another example of contextomy. In this section of Velvet Elvis, Bell is discussing the First Century practice of “binding and loosing“, that is the practice of church or synagogue leaders forbidding (”binding”) or permitting (”loosing”) specific practices or interpretations based upon the community’s understanding/interpretation of scripture.

In Ken’s quote, he excises the actual purpose of this discussion to give Bell’s words an appearance and meaning he did not intend (which would be, well, the definition of a “straw man” – which most anyone who has read a miss-ive from Ken has become readily acquainted with). Here is the full quote from Velvet Elvis, along with continuation from the chapter.

This is part of the problem with continualling insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true.64 In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during the time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is. So, when I affirm the Bible as God’s word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true.

In affirming the Bible as inspired, I have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to choose those books.65 Where they binding and loosing the Bible itself?

At some point we have to have faith. Faith that God is capable of guiding people. Faith that God has not left us alone. Faith that the same Spirit who guided Paul and Peter and those people in a room in the 300s is still with us today. Guiding us, showing us, and enlightening us.

Binding and loosing can only be done if communities are willing to wrestle. The ultimate display of our respect for the sacred words of God is that we are willing to wade in a struggle with the text – the good parts, the hard-to-understand parts, the parts we wish weren’t there.

The rabbis even say a specific blessing when they don’t understand a portion of the text. When it eludes them, when it makes no sense, they say a word of thanks to God because of the blessing that will be theirs someday. “Thank you, God, that at some point in the future, the lights are going to come on for me.”

The rabbis have a metaphor for wrestling with the text: The story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis 32. He struggles and it is exhausting and tiring, and in the end his hip in injured. It hurts. And he walks away limping. Because when you wrestle with the text, you walk away limping. And some people have no limp, because they haven’t wrestled. But the ones limping have had an experience with the living God.

I think God does know what He’s doing with the Bible. But a better question is, do we know what we’re doing with the Bible? And I say yes, we are binding and loosing and wrestling and limping. Because God has spoken. [emphasis mine]

So, Bell is not questioning whether or not scripture is inspired – he is illustrating that when we affirm the authority of the Bible, we are also affirming that we believe that God was leading the people who created the canon. Bell has commented in a couple of sermons I’ve listened to that he believes that the Bible is inspired but that doesn’t mean that some people’s interpretations of portions of the Bible are equally inspired. In a different part of Velvet Elvis, Bell refers to this bad habit of assuming that your interpretation of some passage is as inspired as the text you are intepreting as “warped and toxic” (another phrase Ken has taken a liking to, in a perverse – or perhaps a ‘warped and toxic’ – sort of way).

The only sola Scriptura being deined by Bell here is the strictest interpretation of this extra-Biblical doctrine which suggests that the Bible is completely independent of the context in which it was written and the manner in which it was canonized. Most peoples’ views of sola Scriptura are not quite so narrow, though.
In footnote #64 from the above section of VE, Bell states:

64. I understand the need to ground all that we do and say in the Bible, which is my life’s work. It is the belief that creeps in sometimes that this book dropped out of the sky that is dangerous. The Bible has come out of actual communities of people, journeying in real time and space. Guided by a real Spirit.

So, once again, by examining the actual context, rather than Ken’s isogetical ’slice’, we see something different, something that shows Ken’s premise to be incredibly, shall we say decidedly

refutable: adj. Admitting of being refuted or disproved; capable of being proved false or erroneous.

Next, Ken decides to venture in the realm of Guilt by Association (GBA).

In the Christianity Today article The Emergent Mystique we find out that Bell is another McLaren disciple. [blah, blah, blah]

What we learn from this section is that Bell was influenced by MacLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian”. What seems to be asserted is that Bell is a disciple of MacLaren who, thus, agrees with everything MacLaren say. I am familiar with at least two rather large topics on which Bell has expressed opinions which disagree with MacLaren – the practice of homosexual sex and universalism – both topics which have given me the most trouble with Brian, as well.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy (being quite lenient) has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] liberalism. And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism.

Woah! Hold the phone. Here we have a classic example of Ken’s most common creation of a straw man. Let’s deconstruct this to see how it is comepletely false, misleading and slanderous.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura [not proven, irrefutably or otherwise] Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy [never proven, and refuted by a number of comments from Bell about the Bible being inerrent, but people's intepretations not being so] (being quite lenient) [not proven] has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] [Once again, defining a term for Bell in a potentially inaccurate manner] And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism. [Wow! TOTAL 100% speculation/fabrication by "pastor" Silva. Let's see, 1) Bell claims nothing to do with Emergent; 2) Bell doesn't teach contemplative mysticism (which itself is very loosely defined); and 3) A number of times where Bell has talked about 'mystery' in this manner, it has been in the Hebrew sense of the word that allows wonder with and unknowableness to many aspects of God and how He works.]

So, now Ken has taken a shaky premise about Bell and sola Scriptura and extrapolated it to mean something miles apart from anyting EVER stated by Bell.

Slander in its purest form. Way to go Ken!

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

This entire paragraph is a fabrication of Bell’s theology, thoroughly unsupported by anything written or spoken by him. Rob Bell isn’t neo-orthodox. Reading the wiki entry on Neo-orthodoxy, I cannot find a single point that would be supported by Bell’s teaching. In fact, his sermons and parts of VE (and Sex God) directly contradict a several of the points. As noted above, Bell believes that Scripture is inspired and that we have to trust that the men who wrote it were inspired by the Spirit when they did so. What is not necessarily inspired is how men choose to use/interpret scripture, particularly for selfish ends.

What Bell frequently says in his sermons (as noted above) is that before we can interpret scripture and apply it, we have to first understand what it meant when it was written. As he says on a number of occasions, “the Bible didn’t fall out of the sky – it wasn’t created by fiat [out of nothing]. It was written within the context of a culture and a people who lived and breathed in a specific time and place.” Once we understand its cultural context, we can apply it to the time and place and culture in which we live. What Ken wrote above is utter baloney. To be blunt – Ken is lying and slandering. Period.

But he continues:

This heretical view sees the Bible as “a human product” and in fact denies the plenary inspiration of the text of Holy Scripture which it claims for itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). Now you know the underlying reason why Emergent men like Rob Bell make studying the texts of Holy Scripture far more difficult than it needs to be.

So now, Ken is defining a heretical view he has foisted upon an upstanding Christian man, based on a false attribution of disagreement with an extra-Biblical doctrine. Ken proves nothing, because he is now writing complete fiction.

Next, Ken gives a quote from a long, incoherent rant against Velvet Elvis by a pastor in Wyoming, Michigan (a church near Mars Hill, where Bell teaches, and most likely impacted by the large number of folks who attend Mars Hill), who throws around a lot of pseudo-intellectual jargon. However, when you read the actual article Ken pulls his quote from, you quickly realize that the criticism are first and foremost, in response to Bell’s writing about people’s interpretations being fallible and not Holy writ. Secondly, you can’t help but notice in the linked article, that there is a lack of logic and coherence even worse than Ken’s usual screed.

We have already seen that Bell clearly tells us he flatly rejects the Biblical Reformed position of sola Scriptura. So now we add Bell’s disregard for the plenary inspiration of the Bible to his fascination with the Hebrews Roots movement and the strong influence of Ray Vander Laan.

Well, Ken, no we haven’t seen Bell flatly reject sola Scriptura. We haven’t seen anything from Bell to suggest that he disregards the plenary inspiration of scripture. In fact, we’ve seen the exact opposite. Finally, Ken randomly pulls in Ray Vander Laan and the research of the Hebrew Roots of scripture. I’m not exactly sure what his point is in doing so. RVL has intense respect, reverence and faith in scripture, and has done a great deal in bringing conservative first-century scholarship to laypeople within the church.

As we then combine this with Bell’s embracing alleged postmodernism and the contemplative spirituality at the core of the Emergent Church you will now be able to see that Rob Bell has been seduced into its new kind of social gospel, which just as in liberation theology, reduces Christ Jesus to a social reformer–little more than a cause to live for as one fights poverty, aids, social injustice, etc.

Let’s see, here we have a small platoon of straw men. Bell hasn’t ‘embraced alleged postmodernism’, and Ken hasn’t even set out to prove so. Bell hasn’t said anything about contemplative spiriturality, and the only connection between the two is in Ken’s imagination, as noted above. Bell’s not Emergent. While a number of Bell’s recent sermons have been about social ills and the church’s response, it is not the only focus at Mars Hill – it is a balance of scriptural grounding and social action. Liberation theology gets pulled in here randomly, along with the making Jesus in to little more than a social reformer. None of these have been proven in any manner that couldn’t be disproven by an eighth grader, fresh from the ‘logic’ unit in AP English.

As for Ken’s pulling in the ’social gospel’, I am reminded of a recent quote I read that is quickly becoming one of my favorite. It is similar to a comment by Bell last summer:

An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost and the other a corpse. – E. Stanley Jones

Grace and Peace,

Chris L

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 24th, 2007 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Commentary, Ken Silva, ODM Responses, ODM Writers, Original Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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15 Comments(+Add)

1   Glenn    
February 24th, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Interesting take on what Ken has to say. I’m curious as to what is the proof for the whole “binding and loosening” concept. I have not researched it fully, but it seems to me that it something that Rob Bell picked up on and decided to run with it.

I will admit that I am not a fan of Rob Bell, but I have to agree with you that Ken does pull the contemplative mysticism out of the air. Bell does talk about contemplative mysticism but not in this text. I understand why that happened because usually when you have a dedicated ministry who start to see everything through those lenses.

2   Chris L
February 24th, 2007 at 10:06 pm


I’ve been familiar with ‘binding and loosing’ for about 3 years now (prior to the publication of Velvet Elvis). It is referred to in a number of Journal articles and books:

Jesus refers to it in Matthew 16:19 and elsewhere:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Josephus wrote about it in Antiquities

“Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus” – Bivin & Blizzard, 1994, is an obvious choice…

Also, you can find it in the Encyclopedia Judaica, based on talmudic works.

And also the Jerusalem Perspective journal.

It’s not something ‘new’ at all – but Christians didn’t pay attention to the Jewish sources until they started studying again in Jerusalem after the re-establishment of Israel in 1948.

3   Chris P.
February 25th, 2007 at 10:09 am

Wish we could “bind” this blog.
What is this fixation with Ken? Knda like a drink eh….. can’t leave it alone?
I always interpreted bind and loosen in the way your links describe, even before I knew about talmudic rabbis and Josephus, i.e many years ago. It’s the Holy Spirit that leads us into all Truth not 1st century Judaism. Bad exegesis is a multi-front battle.

4   Chris L
February 25th, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Chris P,

I was actually just gonna let it go (since it’s just a retread of Ken’s old stuff), but Amy asked specifically about the issue with neo-orthodoxy, and as I dug in, I just decided to be holistic about it this time.

You’ll note I didn’t say that First century Judiasm ‘leads us into all Truth”. Binding and loosing, though, DID come from that culture, and I believe the Spirit is leading us to go back to original intent in a number of cases, so that we can understand how we can apply that meaning in context with our lives today.

5   Joe Martino
February 25th, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Chris P.
What is Ken’s fascination with Rob? I guess what I’m asking is what do you expect us to do? Just sit by and watch him spew fallacious thinking and attack a man who I believe is Godly?

6   Coop
February 26th, 2007 at 11:15 am

Let me get this straight, Chris P… Chris L’s defense of Rob Bell is somehow a fixation with Ken Silva, but Ken’s obvious fixation and vendetta against Bell are perfectly OK?

Thanks a lot, man. My hypocrisy meter just blew a fuse.

7   Chris P.
February 26th, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Coop, the love of Christ constrains me from saying what I would like in response to your comment.

What’s hypocritical is attacking Ken on the basis he violated the third commandment(?)
The same could be applied to Bell, or any of you. Presenting yourself as a minister in minsitry, which would include pastoring, writing, teaching, preaching etc, has no validity, unless one believes that he is called by the Lord to do so, and that he is doing this in the name of the Lord who calls him. Therefore your arguments are nothing but sour grapes, and your obsession with Ken borders on the immature (I am being nice). Doesn’t Bell believe that he is doing God’s work under the calling and unction of the almighty, or else why is he bothering at all.
Aren’t you stooping to the same level that you accuse Ken of?
Let me also set the record straight in that I am not saying that I agree with you or Bell in any of this. I am merely following your arguments to their logical conclusion.
The real hypocrisy is the feigned humility and “righteous” indignation demonstrated here. You must believe that you are “right”, or as I said why bother blogging?
The real issue is who is actually doing the predestined work of faith. Eph 2:10

8   Joe Martino
February 26th, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Chris P,
You still didn’t answer my question. What would you have us do when we believe that Ken is attacking a Godly man who is called by God to do what he is doing. Further, as you can see from Chris L’s post we believe he uses faulty reasoning. Why are we hypocrites if we post why we think he’s wrong? I don’t understand.
What does being called have to do with this? Yes, I am called by God to be in Ministry. Can you answer me without attacking me?

9   Chris L
February 26th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Chris P,

You said:

What’s hypocritical is attacking Ken on the basis he violated the third commandment(?)

The same could be applied to Bell, or any of you.

Actually, no, you’re wrong.

Unlike Ken, none of use presume to suggest that our words have been given to us by God. We believe that we speak in a manner in agreement with God, we would never suggest the reverse – which is what Ken does above (and does regularly).

This is not ‘righteous indignation’ – it is just a suggestion that a plank-eyed person has little room to complain about imagined specks in someone else’s – especially when (as is the case here) the plank is being put on display.

So, no, we’re not stooping to Ken’s level. Yes, I believe I am acting in accordance with what the Lord would have me do. No, I do not presume that my words carry His stamp of approval, unless it is a direct quote from scripture (in which case, my interpretation – as is any human’s interpretation – is mine, and thus, may be fallible).

The third commandment is about giving God’s stamp of approval to something that is of man (misusing His name), which is why I pulled it in…

As for “predestined work of faith”, I will not bite on the ‘predestined’ bit (which is subject to interpretation), but I will say that I would not assume that it is God’s will or work to further the kingdom via sinful means, which would (at the very least) exclude the referenced ‘miss-ive’…

10   amy    
February 26th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

I would have brought up the statement about Rob Bell no matter who on CRN said it. Discussing the statement doesn’t have to be viewed as a personal attack on Ken.

I wonder if everyone could try simply try addressing the question I brought up: that is, the truth or falsehood of Ken’s statement, “Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.”

What has anyone (other than Chris L) read by Bell that gives credence to or falsifies this statement?

As for the “binding and loosing,” passage, it is a good example of a passage where it is critical to look back and see, if possible, what it originally meant. It is a passage that is, in my opinion, taken out of context by many people who believe they have the authority to bind demons and Satan. If that were so, surely the Christian life would not be such a struggle, and surely the Lord would not need to instruct us in how to do battle with such things as the Word of God, prayer, and so forth.

Also, what is the purpose of Ken’s placing some shadow on Ray Vanderlaan? Even if I were to come to the conclusion that Rob Bell is a false teacher, I would have to have a totally new perspective on Ray Vanderlaan to begin questioning his teaching – not that I have always agreed with his conclusions but I have gained a lot of insight from his teaching.

11   Chris L
February 26th, 2007 at 4:32 pm


I suspect Ken’s attack on RVL stems from Rob giving (almost verbatim) RVL material at Willow Creek (both the Domitian lesson and the one Ken posted yesterday are 100% RVL lessons spoken by Rob Bell. I posted about it over on Fishing early this morning.

12   Chris L
February 26th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Also, I should note that it was RVL who suggested subscribing to Rob Bell at one of his seminars that was my first introduction to Rob…

13   nathan    
February 26th, 2007 at 5:07 pm

This was an AMAZING breakdown of Ken’s logic. Great Job Chris L. I absolutely hate it when Ken cuts out quotes to match what he wants to make them say. Sometimes I wonder if these guys understand context within writing. I makes me afraid to think about what these guys actually preach on with literary skills like that.

14   Coop
February 27th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Chris P, where exactly did I even *TOUCH* the issue of Ken’s violation of the 3rd commandment in my comment? How you got so much out of so little really blows my mind. But I suppose I should expect as much of you by now.

15   Brendt
March 5th, 2007 at 1:59 pm

To his credit, at least when Ken takes the Lord’s name in vain, it’s not flippantly, like on of his co-Slicers does.