“Somewhere along the way the Jesus movement got hijacked,” Rob Bell says in a new documentary about him that is set to release March 1, 2018.
The documentary, called The Heretic, is directed by Andrew Morgan and will release on Amazon and iTunes.
Showcasing the polarizing effect Bell has had on the evangelical church, the official site for the documentary describes Bell’s career this way:
“Once a pastor of the fastest growing church in America and heralded as the next Billy Graham, that all changed when he began challenging the traditional understanding of hell and suggesting that heaven might be open to all.”
Using Bell’s life and work as its backdrop, the film delves into questions about whether faith and science can coexist, whether religion is insufficient for explaining our modern, complex world, and whether spiritual traditions divide the world or offer help.
Rob Bell After Mars Hill
These are all questions Bell has explored since his departure from being the lead pastor of the megachurch Mars Hill in Michigan. Bell left his post (and, essentially the evangelical church) to “talk about the Jesus message to a world of people who aren’t currently listening.” Still, some suspect part of his reason for leaving was due to the backlash he received from his book Love Wins, in which he questions the modern evangelical church’s views on hell and salvation. Further aggravating his evangelical peers, Bell also affirmed gay marriage in 2013.
Currently, Bell speaks to a diverse audience whom he doesn’t assume are Christian or familiar with the Bible. In 2017, Bell published What Is the Bible, which was essentially designed to be a field guide for readers familiar with the good book or to explain who wrote the Bible, how we got it and what Bell believes some of the main themes are. One way to summarize Bell’s conclusions about the Bible is that it is a narrative written by different voices in different periods of time, yet within the context of Jewish thought, all attesting to one thing: God designed humanity to progress—in thought, word and deed. Again, evangelicals took issue with some of Bell’s conclusions in the book. Among those critiques is Bell’s advice to read the Bible “literately” versus literally.
On Bell’s podcast, which he affectionately calls the Robcast, he frequently has guests from various faith traditions (or people from no faith background at all). When he refers to Jesus, Bell sometimes gives a sort of disclaimer, acknowledging that not everyone listening will know who Jesus is or want to hear what he taught, but to keep an open mind and consider that Jesus may not be who you think he is.
Morgan’s documentary will not be the first to explore Rob Bell and his curious career path. In 2016, “The New Yorker” made a 14-minute video giving a brief history of Bell’s rise in the evangelical world and his subsequent fallout. What Morgan’s film does promise to do, however, is provide “new language for a bigger, more expansive conversation about faith.”
You can view the trailer for The Heretic below: