Rob Bell’s Change of Heart on the Women’s Issue

Pastor Rob has a fascinating report on Pastor Rob Bell’s transition from a complentarian position to an egalitarian position. The story is titled “Engaged by the culture: Michigan megachurch goes egalitarian.” The article also narrates the story of Rob Bell’s role in changing his church’s constitution so that women would be permitted to serve as elders.

A few things are troubling about this story and are in stark contrast to my previous post about Al Mohler’s change of heart in the other direction.

First of all, if this story is accurate, then Bell’s change was due at least in part to his reading William Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. This book’s influence on Bell is troubling because at the heart of Webb’s argument is the idea that Christians need to move beyond the gender-ethic reflected in biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12 so that they can realize the higher ethic of texts such as Galatians 3:28. In other words, Webb’s hermeneutic actually sets the Bible against itself. Some texts reflect an ultimate ethic (e.g. Gal 3:28), and others and inferior ethic (1 Tim 2:12). The Christian’s job is to be moving in the direction of the ultimate ethic, an ethic that may or may not be found in scripture. Thus Webb’s entire paradigm creates huge problems for the sufficiency and the authority of scripture.

Second, if this story is correct, then Bell has a less-than-orthodox view of the biblical canon. According to, Bell “belittled the process by which the canon of Scripture was decided upon by suggesting it was absurd that 300 men in some meeting could accurately tell us what books should be included.” If this is Bell’s position, then he is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels’ view of the Canon, a view that is decidedly sub-Christian.

Third, if this story is correct, then there are serious problems with the congregational vote that led to the change in the church’s constitution. For starters, the congregation never got to hear a thoroughgoing, biblical defense of the complementarian position. Moreover, members were made to feel that they needed to support what Pastor Bell wanted if they didn’t understand the issue. Also, when other members tried to verify the outcome of the vote with recounts, they were rebuffed.

I hope that Rob Bell will respond to the article because the charges made therein are very serious. We can only hope that Bell’s change of heart was not as ill-conceived as this article makes it out to have been.

(HT: Jim Hamilton)


6 thoughts on “Rob Bell’s Change of Heart on the Women’s Issue”

  1. Your qualifier is apt: “if this story is correct.” That’s a pretty big “if” to me. We have an article from CBMW whose only source are disgruntled former members who haven’t been a part of Mars Hill since 2003. Also, it’s in vogue to be skeptically cynical about Rob Bell as he pushes the envelope. Let’s just say its quite easy to question the accuracy of this article. And I’m a complimentarian, probably for the same reason you are-I can’t get by the scriptures (not that I’m trying!)

    But I do have a hard time understanding the value of an article like this that seems so one-sided and agenda-driven.

  2. In Velvet Elvis Rob misses the mark on some theological issues. This being said, I’m not surprised to hear this.

    Rob likes to dance and jump on trampolines.

  3. Hopefully we won’t be judged as less than christian if we don’t think that our scriptures “became” authoritative or “canonical” by being agreed upon by 300 men in a meeting. This, of course, is something different from denying that they are authoritative. Thanks Denny.

  4. I have a real hard time believing everything this article claims. I don’t think Rob Bell runs his church like a Nazi, and I doubt he has that view of the Scriptures. I definitely don’t agree with the guy on all counts, but this article seems very subjective to me. I’m going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt on some of this stuff.

  5. It would be interesting to hear from someone on the other side of this issue to gain perspective of what happened. In many ways is this much different than glorified gossip? While it might all be true is it appropriate to form opinions and judgements about people only on the word of very upset people? So I agree with those above.

  6. I have my reservations about Bell, but I really hope this is not true… If we can tear out 1 Tim 3, what’s next? an entire book out of the canon?

    I have read Velvet Elvis and yes he misses the mark on theological issues…

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