Where were you when you accepted Jesus as your Savior? I was in the Mojave desert under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs crying out for God to deliver me. Regardless of my experience, I refuse to tell others if they want to find Jesus, take several tabs of LSD, Mescaline and Psilocybin and He will appear to them. God forbid!
While I am aware Jesus comes to us in the strangest of places and circumstances, I am hesitant to say things like, “You can find Jesus in Hinduism, Buddhism or any religion that mentions the name of God or gods.” Quite the contrary, each encounter we experience when we find Christ needs consistency and fundamental aspects.
Different Ways People Come to Know Jesus
In Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, a work of exploratory theology, the pastor reports different experiences people had when they found Christ. One person was knocked off his chair and fell prostrate to the ground totally overwhelmed by God’s unconditional love for him (pg. 139). I encountered the same exact sense of God’s love for me in the Mojave desert. Yet as soon as I realized the depth of God’s unconditional grace, I repented of my sin before His holy presence.
I am not one to deny that God moves in mysterious ways, but I will argue He moves in consistent ways. For anyone who accepts Christ, the aspect of submission to God is part of the salvation package. Referring to their salvation, Paul told the Colossian believers, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Colossians 2:6).
Peter explained that Cornelius and those with him and all others who had received the Holy Spirit had “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 11:17), and Paul agreed that the gospel he preached involved “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). God’s gift of “eternal life” is “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23). The gospel itself is called “the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
The word “Lord” strongly points to repentance, recognition of sin and confession of sin before the one we call “Lord.: How do you call Jesus “Lord” without bowing in humble recognition of our own unholiness and His utter holy character?
Only One Way to Understand the Person of Jesus Upon Salvation
Another one of Bell’s salvation stories is about a man who fell in an accident, blacked out and saw a light in his unconscious state. The light revealed to the injured worker that he needed to look at himself and see he was not all good. The man called out to God to be forgiven of his sin (pg. 141). Sounds like a kosher salvation experience to me!
Bell wonders about these stories, “Is there a force, an energy, a being calling out to us, in many languages, using a variety of methods and events, trying to get our attention?” (pg. 141). Most of what Bell says sounds acceptable, but I would not refer to the God of the universe as a force or energy. God is a personal Lord not an impersonal force as we see in the Star Wars Trilogy. Bells sounds too new age for my taste.
Next Bell brings up the biblical account of the Israelites traveling through the dry and parched wilderness in search of water. God tells Moses to strike the rock with his staff in front of all the Israelites. He obeys and out of the rock comes a stream of water. Fast forward to the New Testament where the “rock” Moses struck is mentioned once again. Now according to 1Corinthians 10:4 Paul declares, “for they [the Israelites] were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”
The rock was Christ. To Paul the Messiah of Israel gave the thirsty Israelites the water they needed to survive.
Bell wonders from 1Corinthians 10:4 whether Paul finds Jesus everywhere (pg. 144). Here Bell is getting tipsy with his theology. For when we read Genesis 1, Moses erases all doubts on whether God is a force or energy. Instead, He presents a God who speaks and creates. In the New Testament that same God takes on flesh and blood in the person of Jesus. I like what Bell says on page 148, “Jesus, for these first Christians, was the ultimate exposing of what God has been up to all along.” In the New Testament era God is putting the world back together through His Son Jesus.
Only Response to Jesus is to Accept Him Not Simply Acknowledge Him
When we flip a few more pages in Love Wins, Pastor Rob Bel does not fail to pull the theological rabbit out of his magicians hat. Don’t miss this Scripture-defying feat, “Jesus himself, again, demonstrates How seriously he takes his role in saving and rescuing and redeeming not just everything but everybody.” To prop up this slick universalistic magic act, Bell quotes from John 12:32 – “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Does this mean that if Jesus is lifted up on a cross in dying for your sins, that no response is required to His sacrificial act? Is Bell teaching the words, “draw all men to Myself,” means all men and women are saved without needing to do anything? Bell is very confusing in this section of his book.
In John 6:51 Jesus says, according to Bell, “and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus gives His flesh – His body – for the life of the world. Bell forgot to include the preceding phrase of John 6:5, “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” So the person who enjoys the life Jesus is giving for the world is someone who “eats of this bread.” In other words, the participant in the life Jesus offers must do something. Eat the bread. Accept Him, as the Word of God says in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Coming to Jesus Means Recognizing Not All Religions Are Kosher
Bell advances to his next confusing teaching about the ever present reality of Jesus. He writes, “Jesus is supracultural. He is present within all cultures and yet outside all cultures.” I have no idea what this means? Is Jesus present in Hinduism and Voodoo? Yes, Jesus is for all people, but not all cultures are conducive to finding Christ.
Bell, a spiritual multi-culturalist, says Jesus “is not owned by anyone culture” (pg. 151). This statement can be very confusing since Jesus came to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). In fact, Jesus came forth from the Jewish people (Romans 9:4). No, Jesus is not owned by the Jewish people, but He did come into this world from within a Jewish culture. Jesus is Jewish. He’s not black or Asian or Hispanic. However, any black, Asian or Indian person can find Jesus by stepping outside their culture and reading the Word of God.
Bell cannot forget that there are many practices and beliefs in the cultures of the world that are contrary to Christian teaching and must be rejected. A Hindu who accepts Jesus must reject the idea that Jesus is one of many avatars. Jesus is the only way to the Father not one of many nor the highest of many, The Hindu must accept the fact that all avatars of the deity are false gods and to worship or pray to them ix idolatry.
When Bell teaches Jesus is in every religion, he’s getting theologically sloppy and demonstrates he has failed to think through his thinking. Bell uses Colossians 1:23 to prove Jesus can be found in all religions, “the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Is this passage saying Jesus can be found in all religions? No, all Paul is saying here is that the gospel message has been proclaimed to all the earth. Why? Because all religions are void of the saving message of Israel’s Messiah and must hear the truth as it is written in the Word of God. Buddhists who live a pristine life according to the teachings of Buddha are not saved; they too need Jesus. Christianity is unique in that Jesus claimed in John 10:14:
Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
If God is to be found in all religions, then why did the Lord have the Israelites destroy the idols of the pagan religions present in the land of Israel when the Israelites arrived? Why didn’t God say, “I can be found in the religion of the Canaanites, in the midst of cultic prostitution, worship of many gods and in the practice of sacrificing children to appease various deities.” Rather, God threw these religions out of the land of Israel since they were false religions.
I cannot imagine Pastor Bell calling any religion a “false religion” since he is so intent on his message of Love Wins. The gospel of Rob Bell is a message of love and warm fuzzy spiritual feelings, but it is not a proclamation of the truth of the Bible.