I went to see Rob Bell last night as he made a short stop in Louisville for the gods are not angry tour. This was the first time I had heard Rob speak. Let me just say up front that not many speakers can engage an audience like he can. He is a master storyteller with an articulate, almost dramatic delivery that's very personal and relational. That being said, there were many disturbing aspects in terms of the content of his message. He began by walking rather nonchalantly onto the stage and started by telling a funny, fictional story about a cave man and cave woman which led into a detailed survey of ancient cultures and their gods. His aim was to show that from the beginning of time, mankind has always been dependent on forces outside of themselves, forces they cannot control. And the impulse within us is to get these forces on our side, to please these forces (or gods) so that they would bless us with things like rain, fertility, good crops, etc. In order to get these forces on our side, human beings would set aside or offer up some kind of sacrifice to these gods on a high place or altar. But the altar brought with it a "primal anxiety" because humans would never know where they stood with the gods. So the sacrifices became greater and greater even to the point of offering up one's own children to appease the gods.
It is here that Rob made a bridge into the Bible as he spoke of Abraham in Genesis 12 and 22. This story showed how the Bible is not detached from culture and human history. As he spoke of Abraham's calling and near sacrifice of his son, Rob correctly explained how the God of the Bible did not need a sacrifice because he himself provided the sacrifice. He himself would bring peace with man by reaching down to him.
Rob continued on into the book of Hebrews highlighting Jesus' words, "Someone greater than the temple is here." I loved how he continued this sacrifice motif in the Scriptures with Jesus being the climax of the story. Likewise, I appreciated his desire to show that Jesus came to take away our guilt and shame and bring peace and reconciliation. He fleshed out this truth with personal stories that showed the beauty of God's love for those who are suffering in silence with burdens they can hardly bear. In fact, he concluded his message in dramatic flair as he repeated parts of these stories and left us with one last statement, "This God is not angry. This God is love." That's how it ended.
As I got up from my seat, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. In many ways, Rob told a great story with an exciting introduction and memorable conclusion. But as a storyteller, he left out the central problem of the story. In a word, he left out sin. He never even mentioned the word. How can one speak of Christ's sacrifice for us without speaking about our sin problem? His whole tour is called the gods are not angry. That statement is true for the believer. God is no longer angry at us because he has done something for us in Christ. Christ has taken God's anger and wrath against us on the cross and bore the punishment we deserve for our sin. Our response is to repent and believe. Rob's response was to simple realize what God has done to bring peace and reconciliation for everyone. Rob's message to the world is that this God is not angry with you. He loves you now because of Jesus. A half-gospel at best.
The crazy thing is that Rob mentioned a personal encounter with an unbelieving man who asked him the name of his tour. Rob, replied, "It's called, the gods are not angry." The man said, "They are with me!" The man simply said what is true according to the Scriptures. Romans 1:8-19 says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them."
All people know there is a God, and they know deep down that this God is angry with them. Our job is to remind them of this truth and then show them the love of God through his Son Jesus Christ. Because this God, our God, was willing to offer his Son as a sacrifice to die in our place on the cross. And the cross only makes sense if sin is real.