Home > Christian Education, Fisks, Theology > St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church: For Whom the Rob Tolls

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church: For Whom the Rob Tolls

16 December 2009

From St. Andrew’s Sunday-School discipleship Christian Education Forums webpage: 

NOOMA is a series of short films promoting spiritual perspectives on individual life experiences. The name NOOMA comes from a phonetic spelling of the Greek word pneuma (πνευμα) meaning ‘wind,’ ‘spirit,’ or ‘breath.’ They are created and produced by Rob Bell, a pastor, teacher, musician, husband, father, and all around cool guy.

NOOMA films are short but powerful. Each film is about 10 to 14 minutes of teaching related to real-life situations. They are asking the “big questions!” Those ultimate questions about life, to which we may never discover all the answers, but in talking about them help us find meaning in the world in which we live. I am so impressed with this series and with pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Michigan.

I am so glad that you are so impressed with that all-around cool guy Rob Bell that you elected to publicize that on your webpage –  All the more material for me to write about.  Bell and NOOMA probably deserve a few more articles in their own right, but I’ll just highlight one of the NOOMA videos.  Here is the complete video for “Lump” :

And here is what one critic had to say about it:

Bell’s son gets caught in a lie and rushes upstairs. A few minutes later, Bell finds him hiding under the covers of his parents’ bed, ashamed. What he doesn’t realize is that his father is there waiting to forgive him. Bell says that given enough time, sin will always find us out, and he calls people to come out from under the covers and stop hiding in shame from God, who loves us in spite of what we’ve done. However, Bell gives no strong call to repentance. The focus is definitely on God’s love for us regardless of our sin, and not on repentance, as it is in all the videos.

My own observations:

Bell does mention that he spent some time in the doorway thinking about amends that his son would have to make.  With that said, I’d have to say that Gilbert is right – there is no strong call (and I would say, no call at all) to repentance.  If I were Bell’s son and he said the same thing to me, I would realize that there isn’t going to be any punishment.  I’d breathe a sigh of relief, “reciprocate” with love, and make the amends.. but I wouldn’t respect my father, and I wouldn’t respect the people I had wronged. 

How do I know this?  Because I went though a wild phase when I was six years old, and my whole life was getting into trouble on my bicycle.  Every day, the neighbors would call my Mother.  Every day, she would gently lecture me about my indiscretions.  Every day, I’d promise not to do it again.  I felt loved and I loved back.  But every day after, the whole cycle would repeat itself. 

What was missing? 

Punishment.  Consequences.  Respect.  

Nope. Justice is not limited to making amends. It makes me wonder if this guy ‘gets’ the realities of The Cross.  It doesn’t seem like it.  Part of the point there is that we are wholly incapable of making any amends to a Just God. 

It would be nice if we could chalk the problems with this video up to the limitations of metaphor, except that Bell himself qualifies what he means by his metaphor.  I have to take his own explanation at face-value… and there were no qualificatons about the Justice attributes of God that went with the Love attributes.  There were no qualifications about the intended audience of Romans 8, either. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”  (Rom 8:1) .. but who is in Christ Jesus, and what does that mean? 

To answer that, we’ll have to ask someone writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, like the Apostle Paul, for instance.  Oops.  But Paul is dead.  Oops again.  Paul left us a description of that…  why, in Romans, chapter 8, of all places.  Funny how these questions are resolved when we look at the context of a Bible passage. 

Other Bellisms, to follow.  After all, it’s not nice to diss an all-around really cool guy pastor like Rob Bell, all at once. 

..I’m chill.  😉

– Elder

PS – Oh yeah, St. Andrew’s prayer group had fun on a labyrinth this summer, too.  Yay!

  1. 17 December 2009 at 3:35 AM

    St. James Anglican of Newport Beach, CA showed some of the NOOMA films (not this one), and St. James is definitely not “out there.” Is it possible they are of uneven quality?

    Oh wait. Those were shown in one of their small groups at a home. Still, I don’t remember anything objectionable in the two that I saw.

  2. Elder Oyster
    17 December 2009 at 5:46 PM

    Hi Br,

    I’ve found with Bell that it isn’t so much what he says, but what he doesn’t say, that’s the problem. Typically what he’ll do is show his deconstructionist colors, then go back and affirm whatever important doctrine he’s inferred is irrelevent.

    His “metaphor” of a trampoline to describe faith is one of the ways he looses me.

    Finally, I’m not sure which audience NOOMA is appropriate for – it’s truism for mature Christians, and the format (video, rather than worshiping and/or learning with mature Christians) would be imho inappropriate for baby Christians.

    Unbelievers? I don’t see that, either.

  3. 21 December 2009 at 4:49 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to critique this video. “Unconditional love” should not mean “No consequences” love.

  4. Elder Oyster
    21 December 2009 at 11:44 PM

    I should probably qualify that the problem as I see it is that Bell mentions amends that his son is -capable- of performing. He’s comparing his son’s dilemma with the human dilemma … BUT the human dilemma is compounded with our not being able to make amends.

    Based on the video, I don’t think Bell gets the “BUT” part of the equation. I hope I’m wrong, though.

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