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Rob Bell Loves The Gospel of Thomas

February 23, 2018

As I read the Gospel's of Peter and Thomas, especially Thomas, I was struck by how much they remind me of the current "Emergent Church" and folks like Rob Bell or Brian McLaren. Peter and Thomas both touch on truths from the Synoptics and John, but paint a picture of Jesus that is both subtle and significant. Thomas has a handful of sayings that are found in the Synoptics; "..The harvest is great but the laborers are few. Beseech the lord, therefore, to send out laboreres to the harvest." (Thom 73), "...whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes the against the holy spirit will not be forgiven.." (Thom 44). The rest of these sayings however are either redacted to support gnosticism, or completely unique to Thomas. For example in Thomas 70, "Jesus said, 'That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have within you will kill you if you do not have it within you.'" This is unique to Thomas and promotes this inner power/inner knowledge that Rob Bell is renowned for promoting "in the name of Jesus." Thomas even starts with a different thesis for salvation; "Whoever finds interpretation of these sayings will not experience death." (Thom 1). This runs contrary to the Synoptics and John, the place salvation on forgiveness of sins through belief on Jesus as the messiah. 


This trend continues in the Gospel of Peter, we have a parital Passion narrative that has a lot of shared elements, but subtle and significant differences. One is what Jesus cries out before he dies on the cross, "my power, my power, O power, you have left me behind." (Gosp Peter 19) instead of, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:45-46, Mark 15:34) or "Father into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46). "Peter" is inserting gnostic belief that Jesus was just the human vessel that the divine inhabited to fulfill its purpose, running counter to the canon (Ehrman 229). Peter also has the extraordinary claim that when Jesus and the two angels are leaving the tomb their heads reach the sky and Jesus's goes beyond. This is more hyper-spiritualized language. 

These non-canonical gospels fit well with the emergent church teachings, which are essentially Christ-centric New Age. In the Gospel of Thomas you have the affirmation that Jesus was a teacher of great mysteries, and he that the eternal is in everything, we just need to unlock that knowledge in ourselves. Thomas is the Emergent's version of Jesus's parables, while Peter is their Passion Narrative. Both affirming the counter-canonical stance that Jesus did not care about the physical world, Jesus was never truly human, and salvation can only be found through spiritual introspection and sly interpretations. 


The Emergent Church is exactly what happens when charismatic leaders indulge in pride. Rob Bell didn't like the doctrine of hell, and he especially didn't want people not to like him for preaching it. So he deleted the historical Jesus, made his own myth about an ethereal "Christ", and repackaged New Age-ism inside his homemade Jesus wrapping paper. These men have made the same errors as the authors of these false gospels. They didn't want to submit the way Jesus saves and sanctifies, so they hijacked His work and framed themselves as "saviors" to satiate their hubris.

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