Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Dale Van Dyke

By all accounts, Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, is a very "hip" guy. As Andy Crouch, a writer for Christianity Today remarked, "You could say he puts the 'hip' in discipleship."[1] Bell's recent book, Velvet Elvis, is a hip attempt to help Christians "re-paint" the Christian faith in a way that helps people connect with Jesus today. The title of the book is inspired by a decidedly out-dated painting of Elvis in Bell's basement. The painting becomes a metaphor for old, out-dated ways of thinking about Christianity and the goal of the book is to "repaint" the Christian message in a way that is culturally relevant and meaningful today. The content of the book is inspired, in large part, by Brian McLaren, widely considered the leading figure of the amorphous emergent movement. As stated by Crouch, Bell and other emergent pastors are "looking for a faith colorful enough for their culturally savvy friends, deep enough for mystery, big enough for their own doubts."[2] Velvet Elvis is a bold venture in that quest. On the back cover of his book, Bell invites the reader to "test everything." This review is an attempt to do just that; to examine Bell's rendering of the Christian faith and life in light of the Word of God.

I believe that Rob Bell is well intentioned. He is passionate about helping Christians break out of the drudgery of a tired, traditional religion into a vibrant, culture-transforming relationship with Christ. He earnestly desires to help people live out the commands of Christ. This is commendable and explains in large part his appeal to the largely churched Grand Rapids community. We should learn from Bell here. It would be easy to take pot shots at Mars Hill Bible Church and Velvet Elvis without acknowledging that "Christianity as usual," in this country, and even in our own West Michigan community, has fallen short of a vibrant, biblical faith.

Bell's prescription, however, for the ills of the contemporary evangelical church, is not a healthy one. The emergent church soil from which Bell's ideas spring is not healthy soil. Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and other leaders of the emergent church desperately want to "redefine" Christianity. However, as D.A. Carson points out with great clarity,[iii] these men seem to have confused the unhealthy fundamentalist and/or mega-church circles they have come out of with historic Christianity. Consequently, instead of a careful, biblical, critique of contemporary evangelicalism and a pursuit of a biblically sound, full-orbed Christianity, they have uncritically adopted an intentionally postmodern model of Christianity, a model which, being married to the spirit of the age, is doomed for quick widowhood. [iv]

Interestingly, though emergent church leaders disagree with the seeker-sensitive, church-growth model of the church, they share the same underlying principle of pragmatism. The reason we need to "re-paint" and "rediscover" Christianity is because the old model doesn't work anymore. It may have worked for the old world, with its modernistic assumptions regarding epistemological certainty and objectivity. But, authors like Leonard Sweet argue, we need a new kind of Christianity, a post-modern Christianity, if we have any hope of reaching a post-modern world. [v] Behind the subtle arrogance of such a proposition lies the soul of pragmatism. The driving question is "what will work?" rather than "what has God said?" In the pursuit of "relevance" and "authenticity" - the very same goals of the seeker-sensitive movement and the liberal church before that - this movement also is taking departure from Biblical Christianity.

It seems the emergent church is stumbling down precisely the same path the liberal movement traveled over one hundred years ago with only a slight twist. The liberals were saying that the key to understanding real Christianity and the "real" and "relevant" Jesus was through a higher-critical, scientific analysis of the Bible. This pursuit was seen as essential for reaching out to a more enlightened age. The emergent movement seems to have replaced higher criticism with Jewish studies and post-modern epistemology. Now the key to understanding the true Jesus is by analyzing first-century Jewish thought and practices, which supposedly embraced mystery and doubt and preferred questions to answers. Both movements, however, end up undermining the Bible as the authoritative word of God, both undermine the gospel, and both, in the name of "enlightenment", end up devastating the church.

Specific Concerns

1. Bell's View of the Bible as Metaphor

Bell seems to view the Bible not primarily as the revelation of God's historical words and acts but as the "expression of the spiritual experience of God's people through the ages."

"We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God. Doubting the one true God." [vi]

The Bible is a "human product....rather than the product of divine fiat".[vii] Consequently, the Bible is helpful not primarily as the factual revelation of God's real acts in history but as a metaphor to help us understand our own experiences:

"Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve that it happened or that it happens? This true for us because it is our story. We have all taken the fruit. We have all crossed boundaries....This is why the Bible loses its power for so many communities. They fall into the trap of thinking that the Bible is just about things that happened a long time ago."[viii]

Bell is appealing here in his desire to make the Bible alive and dynamic. But he doesn't square with how the Bible represents itself. The Biblical writers do not use the Bible primarily or even secondarily as a metaphor to interpret one's own personal experience. The Bible is the account of God's acts of redemption. These actions matter, first and foremost, because they are historically true - they really happened! Luke and Paul, for example, emphasized the historical detail and accuracy of the gospel events.

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke 1:1-4

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." 1 Corinthians 15:3

The Biblical writers obviously believed that the purpose of Scripture is to tell us what God has actually done for us, not to provide stories to be used as metaphors of our own experience. Contrary to Bell, the primary importance of the fall is not that it "happens to all of us" but that it "happened" - it is the historical and theological reality behind all the rest of the Bible, including Christ's coming. We are not asked to experience these stories metaphorically but to believe in the redemption to which they point. The experiential link between the reader and the text is not metaphor but faith!

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:21

In other words, the key to experiencing and engaging the Scripture is not trying to discover a comparable experience in one's own life but in believing, and trusting, and learning from the experiences of Jesus' life. The Bible is, after all, a book about Him.

2. Bell's Understanding of the Christian Faith

Rob Bell, as a postmodern believer, emphasizes mystery and doubt as the keys to genuine Christian experience. Objective truth and concrete doctrinal propositions concerning the nature of God, the Bible, and even Jesus Christ are seen as secondary issues at best, and at worst "bricks" that hinder a lively faith. In speaking with Christianity Today writer Andy Crouch, Bell's wife Kristen confesses, "I grew up thinking that we've figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what it means. And yet I feel like life is big again - like life used to be black and white and now it's in color."[ix] The core elements of post-modern Christian faith are not "knowledge, assent and trust," but mystery, doubt, and doing. This, of course, shifts the focus of faith from its objective content, Christ Jesus and his crucifixion, towards the individual's experience of faith.

Faith, according to Bell, is a trampoline with doctrine functioning as the springs. Springs are helpful but not the focal point. The problem with many Christians is that they are so wrapped up in the nature of the springs they can't enjoy the real "point" of Christianity: the experience of jumping. Bell compares these doctrinally minded people to masons who build their faith as a wall of bricks, each brick of doctrine carefully laid on top of the other. The problem with this view of faith, Bell believes, is that if you pull out one of the bricks, the whole wall collapses.

Someone recently gave me a video of a lecture given by a man who travels around....saying that if you deny that God created the world in six literal twenty-four-hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross. It hit me while I was watching him that for him faith isn't a trampoline, it's a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like a individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite strong, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger....Remove one and the whole wall wobbles." [x]

Now, obviously, on many matters of faith Christians need to allow for differences of interpretation. And Bell is correct to point out that being theologically correct is not the same as being a Christians. But then he takes a disastrous turn by arguing that orthodoxy simply doesn't matter!

"What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry's tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if, as you study the origin of the word 'virgin' you discover that the word 'virgin' in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word 'virgin' could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being 'born of a virgin' also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?"[xi]

Bell's answer?

"If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn't that strong in the first place, was it?"[xii]

In other words, Bell advocates a faith that can embrace heterodoxy. This faith can "go on jumping" even if it were shown that Jesus was born of Larry and the gospel writers knowingly "threw in" myth.

There are two points I would like to make in response to this. First, it is important to realize that Bell himself believes in a literal virgin birth.

"I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more." [xiii]

The issue of orthodoxy, however, is not simply what one personally chooses to believe concerning Christ, but what he considers is necessary to believe concerning Christ. The church has historically understood the creeds to be a summary of what is necessary to believe in order to be an orthodox Christian. The Apostles and Nicene creeds both clearly profess that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit as a necessary component of true faith. A literal, virgin birth, as a necessary doctrine, is not simply a hang-up of modernistic evangelicalism. It has been a part of the universal church's profession throughout the ages. By failing to insist on a literal virgin birth as part of what it is necessary to believe, Bell has taken the well-traveled road of liberalism. Many of the 1,293 Presbyterian ministers who signed the Auburn Affirmation of 1923 personally affirmed the literal truth of the 5 fundamentals,[xiv] though they did not believe a literal interpretation should be deemed as necessary in order to be a minister in good standing in the Presbyterian Church! As they wrote:

"Some of us regard the particular (literal[xv]) theories contained in the deliverances of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship."[xvi]

The line that divides heresy from orthodoxy is not fixed on what one personally believes concerning Christ, but on what one understands as necessary to be believed. Bell, here, is simply on the wrong side of orthodoxy.

Second, Bell is not only adopting the liberal's methodology, but is doing so for the very same reasons. He wants to strengthen faith by resting it on the Christian's experience of Christ rather than upon certain historical facts. A faith that needs a literal virgin birth was "not that strong to begin with"[xvii]. In the onslaught of the Scientific Revolution, well-intentioned but misguided liberal theologians tried to protect faith from nosy archeologists and persistent scientists by suggesting new "theories" to explain things like the resurrection in a more palatable way. In their minds, the meaning of the resurrection of Christ should not be bound to a literal resurrected body. After all, what if archeologist actually discovered his body? What then? And was a literal resurrected body that important to the Christian faith? Wasn't a subjective experience of the life of Christ really the only resurrection that ultimately mattered?

That was the liberal argument. Unfortunately, Bell seems to agree with it.

"We live in metaphors......The tomb is empty because we have met the risen Christ - we have experienced Jesus in a way that transcends space and time. And this gives us hope."[xviii]

So, according to Bell, what gives us hope? A historically, literally, resurrected body of Christ? No. Rather, the foundation of our hope is a personal, subjective, "experience of Christ that transcends place and time."

First of all - what does that mean? As with all subjective basis for assurance, the questions that immediately arise are: what exactly is the experience Bell is positing as the foundation for our hope and how do I know if I've had the correct experience, or not, so that I may have hope?

Secondly, what does the Bible really say about all this? Does the resurrection matter as a metaphor or as a historical reality? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul responds to those who wanted to take out just that one pesky "spring" concerning a literal resurrection from the dead. With no appeal to metaphor, he says:

"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your are still in your sins." I Corinthians 15:13-14

Is a literal virgin birth any less essential to a true Biblical faith? Would not Paul say the same thing to Rob Bell as he says to the confused Corinthian believers? A faith that does not need a literal virgin birth is not a biblical faith, it is not a faith that saves because, in the end, it doesn't need an historical Jesus at all. It is just about jumping.[xix]

3. Bell's View the Nature of Sin

Bell speaks of a time in his life when he was getting burned out trying to be a "super-pastor." He reveals the advice of his counselor that helped him come to grips with the essence of his sin.

"He said, in what has become a pivotal moment in my journey, 'Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. Anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it'."[xx]

Once again this sounds appealing and may have good motives. Bell hopes to help people rid themselves of an idealized version of what they are supposed to be, accept who they are, and realize that this is an important part of accepting God's grace.

Yet, the Bible speaks of sin and grace in so much more profound and accurate terms. Where does the Bible ever suggest that our primary calling is "the relentless pursuit of who God has made us to be"? Bell makes it sound as if the essence of godliness is self-realization. His "sin" was that he was trying to be a "super-pastor," something that went contrary to his personal make-up. Apparently, he was too creative and spontaneous to fit that mold. His "repentance" was a matter of deciding to "kill super-pastor" and be true to himself.

Bell is simply baptizing our cultural morality; in which the greatest "sin" is the failure to be true to ourselves. But this is NOT how the Bible speaks of sin. When did Paul ever suggest that his primary calling was to discover himself or be true to his own personality traits? He refused to be one of the "super-apostles," not because it wasn't true to his personality, but because it was untrue to the gospel! They, the super-apostles, relied on their speaking gifts; Paul relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul boasted of his weaknesses, not of his unique abilities, so that the power of Christ would be evident in and through him. [xxi] When Paul tells the church to live according to what they are, "children of the light," [xxii] he is not calling them to be true to their unique self but to imitate God their Father and His Son, Jesus. [xxiii] The critical issue isn't whether one is being true to his personality traits or interests, but whether he is being true to his calling in Christ! What separates and distinguishes Christian morality from all other morality is precisely the person of Christ.

Why doesn't Bell talk about sin the way the Bible does? The Bible speaks of sin and godliness with an intentional, consistent, God-ward reference. Sin is anything and everything that falls short of the glory of God. Holiness is speaking and thinking and being motivated by a pure love for and fear of God. Isn't this the message a self-saturated culture like ours needs to hear?

4. Bell's View of God's Faith in Man

The self-ward bent of Bell's teaching continues when he speaks of God's faith in man. Bell adopts the teaching that Jesus chose his disciples just like every other rabbi of his day - because he believed in their innate abilities. In one of the most shocking parts of the book, Bell reminds us of the story found in Matthew 14:22ff where Peter rushed out of the boat to meet Jesus walking on the water. Peter began to sink and Jesus rebuked him for his lack of faith.

"Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus' life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves..... Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus' life he gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of how capable they are. He sees what they could be and could do, and when they fall short it provokes him to no end. It isn't their failure that's the problem, it's their greatness. They don't realize what they are capable of....God has an amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I've been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I'm learning is that Jesus believes in me....God has faith in me."[xxiv]

In fact, according to Bell, Jesus had such great faith in the native abilities of his disciples that he

"¼left the future of the movement (the church) in their hands. And he doesn't stick around to make sure they don't screw it up. He's gone. He trusts that they can actually do it."[xxv]

This is a profound and poisonous reinterpretation of the relationship between God and man. When the gospel becomes the message of God coming to earth and dying on a cross to help men realize how great they really are - something is horribly amiss. A teaching that claims that God trusts his glory and sovereign purposes to the abilities of sinful man has the stench of blasphemy.

Even a cursory review of what the Bible actually teaches shows the utter fallacy of Bell's view. What does Jesus mean when he rebukes Peter? "O you of little faith - why did you doubt?" There are two pointers in the story to help us. The first clue is what Jesus did as he said these words. "He reached out his hand and caught Peter." My sense is that Jesus lifted Peter back up on top of the waves and lead him back to the boat. What is evident at this point? Is it not the fact that Jesus power alone was keeping the two of them afloat? It was Jesus' power which had allowed Peter to walk on the water in the first place, and it was Jesus' power leading them back to the boat. Don't you suppose that point is crystal clear in Peter's mind? Do you think he was remotely tempted to let Jesus go and give it another try on his own? I imagine him clinging to Jesus hand with a death-grip as they moved back to the boat. The saving hand of Jesus, as he rescued Peter from drowning, is the first clue here as to who Jesus thought Peter should have faith in.

The second clue is Peter's response. When Peter heard Jesus' rebuke and was rescued by him, what did he do? Did he apologize for failing to realize his full potential? Did he confess his self-doubt and promise to be more confident the next time? No. He worshiped Christ saying, "Truly you are the Son of God. This is the same Jesus who told his disciples, "Apart from me you can do nothing!" [xxvi] This "new teaching" simply fails the Berean Scripture test.[xxvii]

Whenever the Bible speaks of why God chooses people to follow him, it never suggests that it's because God believes in us. It always reminds us that it is God's power that assures the success of God's purposes. What did God tell Joshua when the people were ready to move into Canaan? "Be strong and very courageous because I know you can do this? I chose you because I believe you are capable of amazing things?" No. What does the text actually say?

"Be strong and courageous ....... for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

The whole story of the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan is intended to highlight God's amazing abilities, not man's. In fact, whenever the Bible speaks of why God chooses people, it always highlights the inabilities of man so that GOD receives all the glory!

Deuteronomy 7:7 " The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples."

Deuteronomy 9:5-6 "It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people."

John 15:5 "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

1 Cor 1:26-31 "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Bell has erred in taking a practice of the rabbis and ascribing it to God, who says, "My ways are not your ways." He directly contradicts what God himself actually says. This teaching robs God of the glory of his condescending grace in salvation and actually ascribes glory to the sinner. It is a tragic misstep, for the Living God takes his glory very seriously. [xxviii]

5. Bells View of the Nature of the Atonement

Bell teaches that Jesus died for everyone, in turn reconciling everyone to God. Everyone is already loved by God the Father as a reconciled, forgiven sinner in Christ. Each person must simply choose whether or not to live in that reality.

"So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling 'all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. This reality then isn't something we make true about ourselves by doing something (like repenting and believing - my comment). It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.[xxix]

According to Bell, Jesus' death actually and really accomplished the forgiveness of everyone's sins and the reconciliation of everyone to the Father. In other words, God's wrath has been propitiated for everyone. He now loves all people in the same way and sees everyone as robed in the righteousness of Christ. All that is left is for people to "live in this new reality".

But, again, how does that match up with what the Bible actually says? Jesus says:

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."[xxx]

Peter shared Jesus' belief that apart from faith and repentance, people are not yet forgiven by God nor reconciled to God. When the crowd at Pentecost asked Peter, "What must we do to be saved?", he did not assure them that they were already forgiven and reconciled. Rather, he called them to "repent and be baptized" in order to receive the forgiveness of their sins. He pleaded with sinners "to be reconciled to God". [xxxi] Peter clearly believed that God's wrath was a remaining reality and present danger for all those who had not yet confessed Christ. In fact, he told the Jews that:

"because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." Romans 2:5

These are hardly the words of a man who believed "everybody" was already reconciled. Rather, Peter called people to "save themselves from the wrath that is to come" by repenting and believing.

How can you square Bell's reading of Paul's ministry with Paul's own description offered in Acts 26:19-20? Paul, defending his ministry before King Agrippa says:

"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Once again, Rob Bell is teaching something directly contrary to the Word of God. This doctrine is not only erroneous, but it has disastrous results. It robs the church of any real reason for gospel missions. After all, if the nations are already reconciled to God because of Christ, why bother them with pesky, fundamentalist missionaries who demean them by telling them they still need to be saved from the wrath that is to come? If Bell's teaching is true, think of all martyrs of the faith (such as Stephen) who needlessly died because they insisted that people needed to repent in order to be saved? How many missionaries could have escaped martyrdom if they had only invited people to "live in a new reality?" Where is the offense in Bell's gospel? And if it isn't there, how can it possibly be the gospel of Christ?


If nothing else, Velvet Elvis serves as a terrific wake-up call to the Reformed community. The enthusiastic support Bell receives in the "Reformed bastion" of Grand Rapids needs to stir us to action. Well-meaning people are being influenced by Bell's ministry simply because they are looking for a vibrant faith. The spiritual lethargy and too-common spiritual dryness of confessional Christianity has left great numbers of believers open to the enthusiasm of Bell's ministry. While we need to stand against the errors of Bell's theology, we also need, with equal vigor, to pursue vibrant, Spirit-filled, Biblically sound ministries of our own. The best argument we can make for the truth that the gospel is good news about Christ Jesus, and that Christ sovereignly saves sinners and builds his church is to be vibrant examples of that fact. As is so often the case, false teaching is the heritage of lethargic orthodoxy. May God forgive our failures and make us faithful; faithful to proclaim the glorious sovereignty of God and the supremacy of his grace as alone sufficient for the salvation of the lost and the edification of those who belong to Christ.


Soli Deo Gloria!

Dale Van Dyke

Pastor, Harvest OPC

Rob Bell - Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005
Review by Dale Van Dyke




[1] Christianity Today, November 2004, page 38.

[2] Ibid. page 38

[iii] Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, Zondervan, 2005. This is an outstanding reflection on the Emergent Movement. A must read!

[iv] Oz Guinness has a terrific discussion of this in his book "Dining with the Devil" (Baker Book House). While emergent church leaders would almost certainly agree with Guinness as he challenges the mega-church's unwitting adoption of Modernism, it seems they have committed the same errors in relation to Post-Modernism. The core problem of cultural compromise remains.

[v] The subtitle of his recent book, "Soul Tsunami", is telling ... "Sink or Swim in the New Millenium Culture". (Zondervan, 1999) In Sweet's view, the church has two choices; either become emergent or disappear into cultural irrelevance. As Sweet explains, "The Dick-and Jane world of my '50's childhood is over, washed away by a tsunami of change....While the world is rethinking its entire cultural formation, it is time to find new ways of being the church that are true to our postmodern context. It is time for a Postmodern Reformation." (pg 17)

[vi] Velvet Elvis, 062-063

[vii] Christianity Today, November 2004, 38

[viii] Velvet Elvis, 058-059

[ix] Christianity Today, November 2004, page 38

[x] Velvet Elvis, 011

[xi] Velvet Elvis, 026

[xii] Ibid, 027

[xiii] Velvet Elvis, 027

14 The Auburn Affirmation was a protest against the perceived "Fundamentalism" in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. The document claims that while a "literal" understanding of the virgin birth, miracles, inspiration of Scripture, substitutionary atonement and Jesus' resurrection is acceptable, it should not be the only accepted "theory" of interpretation allowed in the church. A literal interpretation of these things was not necessary for true faith.

[xv] Edit mine

[xvi] Quoted from an article by Gordon Clark entitled "The Auburn Heresy". Available online at

[xvii] Velvet Elvis, 027

[xviii] Ibid, 061

[xix] It is astonishing that Bell, a product of evangelical bastions such as Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary, cannot discern the rank liberalism flowing off the tip of his own pen. His evangelical fore-fathers fought those who had adopted his current position. The liberals insisted that emphasizing a literal virgin birth, real miracles, an inspired inerrant Scripture, substitutionary atonement, and the physical resurrection of Jesus, would leave the faith vulnerable to the attacks of science. But in their attempts to "strengthen" the faith, they gutted it. Now, as the evidence of that failed experiment in heterodoxy are more prevalent than ever, why would Bell want to head down this same path?

[xx] Velvet Elvis, 114

[xxi] 2 Cor 11-12

[xxii] Eph 4:17 and following.

[xxiii] Eph 5:1-2

[xxiv] Velvet Elvis, 133-134

[xxv] Ibid, 134

[xxvi] John 15:5

[xxvii] Acts 17:11

[xxviii]For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. (Isaiah 48:11)

[xxix] Velvet Elvis 146

[xxx] John 3:36

[xxxi] 2 Cor 5:20