Is Velvet Elvis, the popular book by emerging pastor, Rob Bell, being recommended by your teen’s Christian school? In Rabun-Gap, Georgia at the Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School, the answer to that is yes. A Book List for 9th through 12th graders includes Bell’s Velvet Elvis. Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School is a Presbyteran-based private school.
At Bellevue Christian School in Clyde Hill, Washington superintendent, Ron Taylor, says this of Bell’s book: “Velvet Elvis is a great book that will stimulate much conversation among your friends and family. It certainly has in my household.”1
Greater Atlanta Christian School (also in Georgia) has Velvet Elvis on a Bible Department Summer Reading List. The list is not optional. A notice states: “Please note that all books are required for all students.2
The list of Christian schools, which are requiring students to read Velvet Elvis, could go on and on. And some may ask, “What’s so bad about that? It seems like a harmless book.” But is it? We at Lighthouse Trails believe Velvet Elvis and Bell’s Noomas are a trojan horse that will deliver to young unsuspecting kids from Christian homes a hearty helping of the New Age (i.e., mysticism and panentheism). And if they are introduced to the New Age under the guise of Christian literature, many of them will be seduced by “doctrines of devils.”
Strong statement? Yes, but well justified (and documented). Listen as Roger Oakland explains (from (Faith Undone):
In Bell’s Velvet Elvis, in the “Endnotes” section, Bell recommends Ken Wilber … Of Wilber, Bell states:
For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity [meaning we are co-creators with God], set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.
Ken Wilber was raised in a conservative Christian church, but at some point he left that faith and is now a major proponent of Buddhist mysticism. His book that Bell recommends, A Brief History of Everything, is published by Shambhala Publications, named after the term, which in Buddhism means the mystical abode of spirit beings. Wilber is one of the most respected and highly regarded theoreticians in the New Age movement today.
Wilber is perhaps best known for what he calls integral theory. On his website, he has a chart called the Integral Life Practice Matrix, which lists several activities one can practice “to authentically exercise all aspects or dimensions of your own being-in-the-world.” Here are a few of these spiritual activities that Wilber promotes: yoga, Zen, centering prayer, kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), TM, tantra (Hindu-based sexuality), and kundalini yoga. There are others of this nature, as well. A Brief History of Everything discusses these practices (in a favorable light) as well.
For Rob Bell to say that Wilber’s book is “mind-blowing” and readers [of whom many will be teen-agers] should spend three months in it leaves no room for doubt regarding Rob Bell’s spiritual sympathies. What is alarming is that so many Christian venues, such as Christian junior high and high schools, are using Velvet Elvis. (Faith Undone, pp. 109-110)
In light of Rob Bell’s attraction to the mystical (see our report, “Will the Next Billy Graham Be a Mystic?”), and his obvious admiration for a New Ager like Ken Wilber, handing teenagers a copy of Velvet Elvis for summer reading could have disastrous effects.
Ken Wilber isn’t the only one with New Age spirituality that Bell resonates with. In Velvet Elvis, Bell recommends a university professor named Marcus Borg. If you aren’t familiar with Borg’s belief’s, you may find them rather disturbing. Again from Faith Undone:
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God…. I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say:
Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.20
If what Borg is saying is true, then we would have to throw out John 3:16 which says God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and we would have to dismiss the theme of a blood offering that is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. (Faith Undone, pp. 196-197)
What does Rob Bell have to say about Borg in Velvet Elvis? It’s favorable. On page 180 and 184, he praises Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity. Bell also makes reference to Borg’s panentheist views (p. 19).
As emerging spirituality is sweeping into Christianity at an alarming rate through many avenues, perhaps the biggest victims will be our kids. Let’s not allow that to happen.