The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and … Rob Bell?

This week Rob Bell took part in the Seeds of Compassion conference in Seattle, WA. The purpose of the conference was to “celebrate and explore the relationships, programs and tools that nurture and empower children, families and communities to be compassionate members of society.”

On Tuesday Bell was part of an elite panel of “spiritual leaders” which discussed “the common theme of compassion that lies at the heart of the world’s spiritual traditions.”

Included on the panel were the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; as well as Sister Joan Chittister (Benedictine Catholic nun), Jasmit Singh Kochar (a Sikh representative), Dr. Ingrid Mattson (President of the Islamic Society of North America), Rabbi David Rosen (Chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations), Pravrajika Vrajaprana (a Vendanta nun). The discussion was moderated by Roshi Joan Halifax (Zen Buddhist Master).

I’m sure that Bell’s participation in an interfaith conference in Seattle must have caused Mark Driscoll to spontaneously combust. But any time you can hold court with the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu it’s pretty darn impressive.

Props to Rob on what must have been a tremendous honor!


31 thoughts on “The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and … Rob Bell?

  1. is driscoll closed off to the idea of interfaith dialogue? it’s disenheartening to me when people are not willing to realize what can be learned from others and that there’s even things that perhaps their own faith does not address that they can find answers to in other belief systems. says someone who has the ironic position of saying i got a degree in comparative religion from an evangelical college! (ironic to most, not all)

  2. It was a (loving) cheap shot at Driscoll. Remember, I really like Mark Driscoll alot.

    But Driscoll is a doctrinal hard-ass. And he’s a big critic of Rob Bell’s and all things “Emergent.” He often pokes fun by saying they finger paint their doctrinal statements.

    So I’m just assuming that when an evangelical he’s highly critical of participates in a touchy feely conference on “understanding” and “compassion” with a wide array of other religious leaders – without trying to convert them – it’s the kind of thing that might throw him into fits of rage.

  3. I’ve done a complete 180 on Bell and Driscoll, personally. I read Velvet Elvis and was intrigued, until I started reading my Bible more and then Bell began to lose me. I used to think Driscoll was a punk, until I actually started listening to his sermons and realized he’s the real deal – at least doctrinally. He’s got personality issues, but he’s a damn good teacher of the Bible.

    Anyway, I know that wasn’t the point of your post. I do think it’s cool that Bell had this opportunity. Even though I wouldn’t personally choose him to represent evangelical Christianity.

  4. dude i thought driscoll & mars hill was emergent! now, in all honesty i’ve listened to about 5 minutes of him, but that was certainly the first impression. wacky.

  5. Watching those videos mudpupy posted made me think that instead of treating an event like this as an opportunity to convert people, Rob approached it as a way to put Christ on display. Everyone there knew by the virtue of what Rob does that he represents Christianity. Instead of trying to argue and convince people with his words/statements, I think Rob’s approach was to put Jesus’ love on display. Where do you think these concepts of compassion came from?

    And the Driscoll spontaneously combusting comment cracked me up.

    Also, I’d like to know what contradictions between book Velvet Elvis and the Bible you found Josh. I found things that challenged my original perceptions of the scriptures, but nothing that I would say contradict them. Then again maybe I’m blinded to the truth. Dunno.

  6. I should clarify that my comments are about personal preference and not my perception of biblical truth or contradiction. I don’t think Velvet Elvis contradicts the Bible, it just doesn’t illuminate it in a way that speaks to me. It made me think, a LOT, but I realized in the end that it didn’t make me think about Jesus as much as about myself. I just prefer the “through the Bible” approach to teaching of a Mark Driscoll to the “how do you feel about it” approach Bell takes. But I stop short of getting on a high horse and saying that one is more Christian than the other. I know Bell strikes a chord with many Christians, and angers others. Same’s true of Driscoll. I try not to have a divisive view, I just look for the guys who make sense to me. And more importantly, who help me understand the God of the Bible (Jesus).

    Hope I didn’t sound condemning of Bell. Not intended.

  7. Thanks for the clarification. I’ve hear lots for and lots against Rob’s teaching. I listen to his podcasts often and hear him sharing the gospel in almost every sermon in some fashion. I do think that he brings up some provocative issues and theologically, he’s probably more on the liberal side (although his view of scripture is incredibly high, I must say that).

  8. I got to go to a non-advertised event in N. Seattle with Rob and Doug Pagitt after the seeds of compassion event. That was cool. I took a ton of notes (as usual with those guys), but I must say it was kind of disappointing when they were asked why they follow Jesus. I think they were put on the spot and didn’t want to sound cliche probably, but the answers were pretty weak.

    That being said, I’ve went to Mark’s Mars Hill for a long time and I do appreciate his approach to teaching through scripture, BUT sometimes it comes at the expense of the whole picture. He also never seemed to teach through the gospels which is because, I think, you have to go through a six session class on the gospels to join the church… AND because he is a reformer and Romans is the new gospels… for those systematic calvinist types. I appreciate their perspective, nonetheless.

  9. I have to agree somewhat with Josh Way.

    I have been cutting back on my Rob Bell diet these days. Mostly because I was becoming ALL about Rob Bell…and not Jesus, and so…I felt it was only right to just cut back. Rob Bell’s Nooma videos, and his books are very thought provoking, but spiritually light at best and meant for an audience needing milk rather then meat. His sermons online however I do think present more meat as the audience is his church. While I haven’t hearc a ton of Driscol I can see that he does have a “meatier” approach.

    I think it’s funny that Driscol has an anti-emergent approach while others in the church would say his church is one of the most emergent churches out there. Just shows you that the term “emergent” is really quite subjective.

  10. Thanks Tim. I actually tune in to Bell’s sermons every week.

    Regarding Bell and Driscoll. I think the key is to know what you’re getting with each dude.

    Driscoll named one of his kids after John Calvin. That should tell you quite a bit about his theology. You’re getting a heaping dose of reformed theology whenever you listen to him.

    Bell relies alot on rabbinical interpretation, which is actually one of Driscoll’s criticisms of him. With Bell you’re going to hear a theology that is heavily influenced by eastern thought.

    I find both to be fascinating and immensely valuable. They both challenge me in vastly different ways.

  11. What always strikes me is how Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell are discussed as opposite sides of a single debate, as though they were the leaders of two opposing teams. They are not opposites, they rarely talk about each other, and they do not represent the only two approaches to the Bible available. I guess it’s just that they are both very accessible to young Christians, and they are both dynamic. I think they are both blogged about without proper context far too often (not by our host, of course!).

    I like Shane’s approach of getting the good stuff wherever it’s found. I think people are too eager to join a team, wear its colors, and slap on blinders so they don’t get distracted or confused. If you listen to enough teaching from a wide variety of sources and pray for discernment, you’ll have no trouble weeding out the wacky, problematic stuff. (I’m speaking to the collective “you” here, which includes “me”.)

  12. I think they are both blogged about without proper context far too often (not by our host, of course!).

    I don’t know Josh. I dig drag Driscoll’s name into a post which had absolutely nothing to do with him at all just for the sake of positioning him against Bell. It was pretty shameless. 😆

  13. Does anyone know if there is a video available of this forum discussion? I’ve seen bits and pieces on websites that offer their own brand of commentary, I just want to see the whole thing. Any ideas?

  14. rob bell is like splenda:
    it seems like the real thing…but then there’s this weird aftertaste.

    just had to throw an inflamatory comment in after a year or so of silence.


    ps…driscoll is not really a hardcore calvinist…he’s a “4 pointer” which all the “5 pointers” will immediately dismiss as blatantly arminian.

    pss….i reference bell from time to time in my sermons in a positive light.

  15. I’m just glad to see you’re still alive!

    I’m not totally in love with the Splenda analogy. I think it’s clever, and probably holds a certain degree of validity. But it also kind of implies – to me anyway – that Bell’s teaching is somehow an artificial substitute to the “real thing.”

    But then again… maybe the analogy works for me on a different level. Sometimes I add cream and sugar to my coffee. Sometimes I’ll add Splenda or that powdered non-dairy nastiness. Sometimes I drink it black. Occasionally I’ll sprinkle in some cinnamon. Once in a while I’ll rock an espresso or a latte.

    Just don’t give me Maxwell House.

    Kinda like my theology. 😆

  16. here’s the phenomenon with bell (for me)
    he says all these great things…many things i’ve said myself.
    but i always come away from his stuff feeling like God’s word is secondary. like it’s not really a priority..couldn’t give you a specific reference…it’s just a feeling. an emerging, existintial, conversant, missional feeling. 🙂

  17. @stem: I believe the reason you’re getting that feeling is because there are so many people who can’t stand him and speak their voice, then there are a bunch of people who really like his thoughts and speak their voice. Through it all, it comes out sounding like it’s all about Rob, when all he ever does is point us toward God.

  18. mudpuppy…
    you may be right…
    but i gotta say, somebody in my church gave me velvet elvis the month it was first published…my gut reaction was YES! THIS IS GREAT! tempered with HOLY CRAP, IS THIS JUST A BUNCH OF POST MODERN GIBBERISH WITH A LOW VIEW OF HOLY WRIT? i honestly feel like it’s a mix of both.
    like i said, i reference it in church; it’s not like it’s “a generous orthodoxy” or anything.

    i like the methedology of rob bell…i really like the nooma videos…but some of his political stuff and his wishy washy emergent theology bothers me.

    but, i’m still a neo con at heart, so what do i know? 🙂

  19. Actually I think the the statements of Rob Bell are more fundamentalist than Mark Driscoll.
    Bell opposes empire and stands for peace. Driscoll seems to just want to christianize the american dream. Big house, nice car, good job, wife kids… Bell actually is pushing people to journey with God into marginalized places. Picking up our cross is very unAmerican.

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