I recently finished the audiobook version of Sex God by Rob Bell, and to be honest I tried to read it with especially discerning ears (not eyes in this case) while still trying to give Bell a fair listen. I’m weary of Rob Bell for a few reasons that I’ll list:
1) He has had a known open-theist, Greg Boyd, preach at his church.
2) He has acknowledged Brian McLaren as an influence.
3) Mark Driscoll has cited several disturbing facts about Bell’s theology.
None the less, I feel it’s important to stay somewhat abreast of current issues and popular teachers such as Bell because, like it or not, they are influencing many people.
I want to say that there are many parts of Sex God that are really well stated, and honestly the book contains some important Biblical teachings that many Christians could benefit from hearing. However, I cannot recommend this book because I believe it is flawed in some rather dangerous ways. Here are a few concerns I have:
1) In chapter 1, Bell defines heaven and hell rather peculiarly. He says heaven is “not a fixed, unchanging, geographical location somewhere other than this world. Heaven is the realm where things are as God intends them to be…(heaven) can be anywhere, anytime, with anybody (minute 16).” And hell he defines as “a realm where things are not as God wants them to be, where things aren’t according to God’s will, where people aren’t treated as fully human (minute 17).” While I have questions about both these definitions (and questions about relating these specific definitions of heaven and hell to the meaning of Jesus words in Matt 5:27-30), I’m most concerned that “hell” in Bell’s definition nowhere mentions God’s punishment of evildoers. While I’ll grant that “hell” in the English language has a wide semantic range, and that Bell’s definition fits perfectly within that semantic range, it is downright misleading to simply define “hell” in a Biblical since as anything less than a place of God’s punishment that is justly deserved. In fact we all deserve punishment in hell, but thankfully God has redeemed all who will call on His name. I find Bell’s definition of heaven and hell convenient for his subject matter, but an obvious oversimplification. In fact, in my observation, Bell often oversimplifies theological teachings when he preaches.
2) In chapter 5, Bell says that because God chose to love humans, people who can break His heart by their actions and disobedience, that God took a risk. According to Bell, God risks by loving. This sounds poetic and great, and yes we can grieve God with our actions, but it is a misunderstanding of the Bible to see God as a risk-taker. God knows beginning from end. He knows the elect from the foundation of the world (Eph 1), He has already planned the defeat and punishment of Satan, and throughout the Bible prophecies always come true because God is pulling the strings. People do make real choices, but these choices in no way infringe upon the sovereignty and rule of the King of the Universe. Bell sounds more and more like an open-theist (heresy) the more I hear him speak. And while I’ll grant that issues of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are confusing, it is a lie to attest that God doesn’t know all things. A God who knows all things cannot by definition take a risk. (John Elderidge proposes this same sort of “God the risk-taker” idea in Wild at Heart, and he is mistaken as well).
3). In chapter 6, Bell proposes the idea that the husband and wife are to be mutually submissive towards one another. While there is some truth to this statement, it is not a good representation of the Bible’s teaching about husbands and wives. Mutual submission does appear in statements like 1 Cor 7:4, and the Bible does teach that both husband and wife equally give and work in the marriage relationship; however, the wife is to submit to the husband in a way that the husband does not submit to the wife. It is not as if the Bible is chauvinistic toward women, but clearly the husband has a leadership role within the marriage that is his alone (Eph 5:22-24 – Christ is not mutually submissive to us is He?). I fear that Bell has slightly misunderstood the Biblical teaching about the roles of men and women, and this is dangerous to Christian marriages. I’m also pretty sure that he misunderstands the Greek usage of verbs when he discusses this topic.
I’m sure there are other issues that could be discussed in regards to Sex God, and like I said above, “there are some good points in the book,” but I have deep concerns about Bell’s underlying theology. I believe that some of his fundamental thoughts about God are flawed. Most notably, I am concerned about his open-theistic tendencies. The last thing Christians need is a weak and heretical view of the sovereignty of God.
Addendum (added later on):
I want to be really careful not to intentionally offend anyone with this review. I believe Rob Bell is doing a lot of good and has an unbelievable heart for people. At the end of the day though, I just have to call theology the way I see it. In fact Bell invites this sort of discussion in the beginning of Velvet Elvis. I’m simply trying to call attention to some problems I have with the theology he seems to be portraying. I hope this is received in a winsome way. I don’t hate the man, and I don’t want to have closed-ears, believing that I know it all. I’m appreciative for a lot of what Bell has done, but I still worry about what I perceive to be some dangerous trends within his theology.