Ever wondered what happened to Rob Bell?
In 2006, the Chicago Sun-Times wondered aloud whether the Michigan megachurch pastor could be the next Billy Graham.
Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.
“The Rob Bell Show” will premiere Dec. 21 on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a one-hour show that features Bell and is co-produced by him. He also recently toured the country with Winfrey on a “Life You Want Weekend.”
In many ways, some elements of typical evangelicalism are a good fit for Oprah’s lineup of public confession and personal transformation, said Kathryn Lofton, author of “Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon.” The difference, however, is that The Church of Oprah incorporates as many religious concepts as possible, while evangelicalism commits to exclusivity.
“I think an interesting way to think about Bell and Oprah here is to observe how easily she incorporates him into her pantheon of spiritual advisers. She remains, as ever, the determining corporate deity,” said Lofton, a professor of religious studies at Yale.
“One way of looking at this is less a merger of two equal powers than it is the acquisition by one large corporation of another small business.”
“She [Oprah] has taught me more about what Jesus has for all of us, and what kind of life Jesus wants us to live, more than almost anybody in my life,” Bell said.
Last year Rob Bell described conservative evangelicalism as a “dying subculture.”
Quite the contrary, Bell represents a form of religion that defines itself by what it rejects. In a previous generation is was known as theological liberalism. Today it’s known as progressive Christianity or Emergent. The outcome will always be the same. It always leads to the decline and decay of Christian movements.
TS Eliot’s critique applies equally to this new generation of progressives.
In religion, Liberalism may be characterized by a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack. But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and nowhere to go.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Is 40:8).