A review of Rob Bell’s Everything is Spiritual

Rob Bell has received acclaim for his Nooma videos, criticism for a weak soteriology in his book Love Wins, and is perhaps one of the most controversial figures in Christian circles today. His DVD Everything Is Spiritual has been around for several years now, but it still warrants a review because of his influence, particularly among the youth in the church.

To fairly critique Bell, one has to realize that he never really claimed to be a scholar or a serious exegete. He’s primarily a communicator—his messages seem more like performance art than sermons. In a way, his popularity in the church is more an indictment of the church’s discernment than on Bell. But when Bell speaks publicly and makes money from bad teaching, we have a responsibility to critique that teaching when it’s warranted.

Bell opens by quoting Genesis 1—unfortunately Scripture doesn’t feature as heavily throughout the rest of the video. And almost as soon as he starts interpreting Genesis, things go badly awry. He calls Genesis a poem—despite the lack of essential characteristics of Hebrew poetry—and he promotes the framework hypothesis.

He also displays a fondness for numerology, highlighting recurrences of 3, 7, and 10 in the creation narrative. However, some of them (such as words in a particular verse) are artificial constructions (because the chapter and verse divisions were added thousands of years after the original text was composed), and others seem coincidental. To put it another way, if I took a chapter from Anna Karenina at random and made four my ‘special number’, I’m sure I could find it in all sorts of significant places. It seems mainly a product of the human mind’s tendency to look for patterns. Interestingly, Bell doesn’t cite the most obvious seven in the creation narrative—the seven days (which incidentally are responsible for nearly all the other sevens)!….

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