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My Top 10 Favorite Rob Bell Quotes

by Carson T. Clark on August 2, 2012

Captain Obvious statement of the day: Rob Bell is a polarizing figure. Because he’s so controversial it’s important I be clear about my intentions and perspective, so here’s a series of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ statements that could hardly be more clear:

• Yes, I like much of what Bell has to say.
• No, this post isn’t to be understood as some sort of wholesale endorsement.

• Yes, I think Bell genuinely means well.
• No, I don’t think he has always selected the wisest illustrations.

• Yes, I’ve read all of Bell’s books.
• No, I wouldn’t recommend all of them.

• Yes, I think Bell often leads more with his heart than his head.
• No, I don’t think he should be stoned for being more F than T on the ol’ Myers-Briggs.

• Yes, I share many points of doctrinal alignment with Bell.
• No, I don’t affirm all of his theological beliefs or methodologies.

• Yes, as an Anglican whose faith is rooted in church history I have serious concerns about Bell’s commitment to historic orthodoxy.11.Please don’t presume I was careless with my word choice. I wrote “commitment to” rather than “adherence to” for a reason. Big difference.
• No, I don’t think he’s a heretic.

• Yes, I think Bell has an important ministry to the twin demographics of the “de-churched” and the wounded “churched.”
• No, I don’t think everything he has written or said has been helpful to them over the long-term.

• Yes, I appreciate Bell’s unique style.
• No, I don’t necessarily resonate with his aestheticism.

• Yes, I think Bell needs to be read critically and discerningly.
• No, I don’t presume he’s innocent until proven guilty nor guilty until proven innocent.

• Yes, Bell is a Fuller Seminary guy.
• No, he isn’t “good, safe, and conservative” nor a raging liberal.22.I’d much prefer to avoid having a hell debate just now, but if you want to read my take on the book here’s a link: A Moderate Evangelical’s Assessment of Love Wins.

• Yes, I’ve grown weary of the sloppy assertions and brazen ignorance voiced by Bell critics and supporters alike.
• No, I don’t anticipate this trend abating any time soon.

I know it can be hard to believe that such a perspective exists, but when it comes to Rob Bell I’m neither an ardent supporter nor an impassioned critic. I’m a hardlining moderate as per usual. All of that having been said, here are my Top 10 Favorite Rob Bell quotes:33.I’ve tried to set this up in a “Bellian” manner. I hope his fans will appreciate the nod to both his content and style.


“The problem… is that the phrase ‘personal relationship’ is found nowhere in the Bible.”


“‘Christian’ makes a poor adjective.”


“The really warped thing is when the church is where secrets are kept and not unloaded.”


“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”


“I’ve heard pastors answer, ‘[Heaven] will be unlike anything we can comprehend, like a church service that goes on forever,’ causing some to think, ‘That sounds more like hell.'”


“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.

This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”


“But sometimes those individuals’ rejection of church and the Christian faith they were presented with as the only possible interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus may in fact be a sign of spiritual health. They may be resisting behaviors, interpretations, and attitudes that should be rejected. Perhaps they simply came to the point where they refused to accept the very sorts of things that Jesus would refuse to accept.”


“Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death.”


“Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god, either.”


“The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick.”

In my opinion, all of these are




  • Brambonius

    oh no, Robs enter-key addiction



    • Carson T. Clark





  • Art Going

    Good stuff, Carson. I appreciate the nuance and fairness. I just wish Bell et al. would disavow the whole celebrity pastor culture scene, instead of cultivating it, lapping up the adulation, moving to Hollywood to run with it. It is possible to be a challenging and provocative thinker without so patently enjoying the attention. Probably can’t escape it altogether, but …

    • Carson T. Clark

      “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.” – Oscar Wilde


    • Carson T. Clark

      To clarify that comment, I agree with your every word.

    • Leo Staley

      Can I just say that I disagree with your every word? well, a little. As an Avid Rob Bell fan, This is my interpretation of him. He DOES disavow the whole celebrity pastor thing. In his talks on preaching, and his talks to other pastors, he repeats himself repeatedly (see what i did there?) about the need for churches to not be centered on an individual, and to focus on the community. He talks at length of his own weaknesses and his luck for being where he is. If i landed in his position, i don’t know how i would do it differently. I don’t see him lapping up adulation, i see him question/answer sessions saying “thank you. Very much” humbly, and trying to get to the actual question.

      Moving to Hollywood is a different issue. for a long time, he’s had a vision for communicating truths about God through narrative, through new media strategies. He got an amazing opportunity to do so in hollywood, and he took it, deliberately abandoning his pastor status, hoping to see it come to fruition.

      Perhaps I’m wrong. But this is what I see when I look at Rob Bell, and I have been looking very closely for a while.

  • Dustin Shane Mantz

    Well done, Carson. Except for the end. I like a lot of what Rob Bell has to say, but I cannot stand the way he says it.

    • Carson T. Clark

      You’re referring to “enter-key addiction” that your fellow commenter mentioned?

    • Leo Staley

      I really think that your problem is that




      Postmodern communi


  • Wright

    The prolegomena is very third-way of you. Kudos.

    • Carson T. Clark


  • Leo Staley

    “The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick.”

    Shane Hipps, his best friend and the pastor he brought on board to Mars Hill Was a Marketing professional for years before going into the ministry, and utilizes there his skills learned in marketing. :)

  • Wright

    Also, what precisely do you mean WRT “commitment to historic orthodoxy”?

    • Carson T. Clark

      Wright, Do you have a first name?

      “Orthodoxy & Adiaphora: Finding Grounding in the Church’s History”

    • Stephen

      Wright is a pseudonym – this is the Internet, after all. My Christian name is Stephen, but you can call me Steve. Thanks for the link.

      Also, does the difference between “commitment to” and “adherence to” fall somewhere along the lines of, “adhering to something means you affirm it but are open to exploring other options, while commitment to means you have planted your flag in a particular position”? Yes, no maybe? Out of curiosity, you understand. New and helpful terms are things to be cherished.

    • Carson T. Clark


      Yeah, you got the basic gist of it. I don’t know the first thing about you, including your educational background, but the more technical answer is that I have concerns about this unchecked postfoundationist epistemology. For an approach that I find more helpful, see the following:

      “Uneasy Bedfellows: Finding a Home in Two Conflicting Theological Movements”

    • Stephen

      I’m a college freshman.

      As to the post-foundationalism issue, I admit that I haven’t read extensively on the subject. From what I understand, the strength of the position lies in the willingness to concede that systematizing theology is never going to give a complete picture. The weakness that I see is that one can end up withholding all judgement, because ones knowledge is finite. I don’t, for the most part, see Bell exemplifying this, but I do notice that he has an annoying tendency towards never giving straight answers. I get that that’s his approach to things, but it doesn’t really sit well with my Aspie brain.

      What books could you recommend for a more thorough introduction to post-foundationalism, both as it relates to theology and otherwise? It sounds a bit like some of Pete Rollins’ stuff , but he may be more post-modern than anything else. So, any recommendations?

    • Carson T. Clark

      Shoot. A freshman? You’re obviously far more well read than I was. Good job… Did you click over to that link? There’s a list of recommended works on the bottom of the page.

    • Stephen

      OK, now I do. My faculties clearly aren’t working at full capacity, it being midnight and all. Thank you.

  • Jeff K. Clarke

    Great selection, Carson. Definitely some of my favorites as well!

    • Carson T. Clark

      Thanks, Jeff!

  • alishadefreitas

    Great post! I totally agree with your synopsis. I’ll be sharing it.

    • Carson T. Clark

      Hey, thanks!

  • Dan Martin

    Love ’em, Carson, and agree with your qualifiers above too…most of them anyway! Sharing…

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  • Markajbennett


  • Steven Krout

    I’ve been wanting to pick up a Bell book for some time now. I didn’t know about him until after Love Wins and so I avoided him after that. Although, whether I agree with him or not, I think I should read the book and see what he has to say. These quotes have pushed me further in my desire to read his books.

    • Carson T. Clark

      I suggest starting with ‘Velvet Elvis.’

  • Stuart

    Just come across this blog and wanted to say thanks. I am tired of the narrow-minded who can’t seem to see that you don’t have to cross every ‘I’ and dot every ‘t’ of Bells writings in order to be blessed by the refreshing truth that God might just be bigger, more unpredictable and more gracious than we could ever grasp. Too many evangelicals have seemingly changed God’s comment ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts’ to read “I’m so glad that my thoughts seem to be directly in line with your C18th evangelical doctrines-which is a great relief to Me”
    You bring a refreshing objectivity to the fore…….

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