Progressive Theology

Rob Bell and Gems Need to Meet at the Table

Turning the Gem

Rob Bell wrote a book a few years ago called, “What is the Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything”. Yes, it’s really is a long title.

In the book Rob states, “In rabbinic tradition, they talk about scripture having seventy faces so when you read it, you keep turning it like a gem, letting the light refract through the various faces in new and unexpected ways. The Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote a book called, “God was in This Place and I, Did Not Know” in which each chapter is a different interpretation of the same passage in the Bible. You keep turning the gem, seeing something new each time.” (What is the Bible?)

This seems pretty good right? Multiple interpretations, no one is right and no one is wrong. This is an idea that seems very inclusive, but looking deeper will show that we cannot read the Bible in this way.

Turning a Gem Does Not Change the Center

Gemologists call the center of the gem the table. The table of the gem is what all the various faces are refracting from.

This means that at the core of the gem we find truth. There is a central point of truth. Rob Bell states that we can have different interpretations because we are looking at different angles of the gem, but the issue with this is that we are all looking toward the center.

If we are all looking at the center we may have some parts that we emphasize more, but the central focus will be the same. This is where we talk about open and closed issues in the Church.

Jeremy Howard posted this helpful chart. Instead of using the terms primary, secondary and doubtful you could use the table, faces and reflection of faces. The table, or primary doctrines, are things that identify Christians. The faces, or secondary doctrine, are things that we can have differences, but we should strive to have communion with other Christians. The reflections of the faces, or doubtful things, are conscience matters. They need to be thoughtful of others and are a matter of personal conscience.

Progressives like Rob Bell blur these doctrines and say that they are all reflections of the faces or doubtful things. If everything thing is up for interpretation then Christianity is pointless and a basic reading of the scripture will show that the Christian faith is exclusive.

5 comments on “Rob Bell and Gems Need to Meet at the Table

  1. Madeline Neufeld

    Fascinating about gems having a table at the center of its faces – it really works as such a great metaphor to see Christian doctrines. Great post!


  2. How do you know what truth is? I love the point you are making. I just am curious what is the truth? And how do we distill the truth from the Bible? Especially since it has been edited from the original texts that includes scriptures written by women. This is something I turn over and over 🙂


    • Leslie,
      This is a great question. What is truth? Truth is that which best reflects reality. That means when we look at the world, we view it as it really is and that makes it true. I see that the God and the Bible best reflect reality. If you want to parse that out, we can. Shoot me some questions and I explain how these questions are best answered by a Christian worldview. On the subject of original text were edited, is interesting to me. How do you know that the text were edited? I am really curious because I have not heard someone argue that they were edited. We have a lot of non-Christian sources that stand by the reliability of scripture. Josephus was a now Christian that has supported the history that the bible lays out. We also have Euesibus that support the Bible.


  3. Craig Cook

    Great article! Thank you!

    Just one clarification. You say, “If everything thing is up for interpretation then Christianity is pointless and a basic reading of the scripture will show that the Christian faith is exclusive.”

    Shouldn’t that be, “If everything is up for interpretation, then Christianity is pointless; however, a basic reading of the scripture will show that the Christian faith is exclusive.” ?


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