Some people have asked me recently what I think about a famous preacher who is about to publish a book on hell, which some say teaches universalism and questions whether anyone will be punished by God forever. Why have I not already posted on this, after all I have been known for calling out neo-liberals before?
- I have not been sent a pre-publication copy of the book so if I was to comment it would only be on the basis of videos I have seen of Rob Bell talking about his book and reviews written by others. Somehow this seems unfair.
- I am genuinely concerned that all this controversy does is whip up more enthusiasm and sales for his book. It is a real shame that human nature being as it is, if someone writes a book that causes so much controversy, people are eager to read it. I was hoping not to do my part in generating that frenzy. There are many books that defend the Christian faith as it has been understood for generations that people would be better off buying.
- Although this is being sold as a “new” idea, as Mohler points out, attempts to make the gospel more palatable are not new, and to be honest, are a little boring to me these days. Ultimately they do not work. If Bell is indeed waving goodbye to mainstream Christian doctrine, I predict now that eventually his church will shrink and that any who buy into the ideas as a way to attract more cynical unbelievers to their church will also fail. You can call me a prophet if you like when that happens. But don’t call me a false prophet for a few years, as it may well have the opposite effect initially (i.e. short term growth could be the result). We have seen it all before. Liberalism can make a stir for a while, but it lacks the backbone to sustain believers in the long-term. Ultimately, if it really does make no difference to our future how we respond to God in this life (and it is far from clear that is what Bell is actually saying!) then why bother going to church at all?
- I would rather spend most of my efforts on speaking about things that I am for rather than things that I assume I will be against. Again, I am trying not to pre-judge, but there is nothing about the publicity for this book, or the comments I have read from others that makes me think I am going to like this book if I read it. After all, Jesus himself provides us with so much teaching on hell. I would rather take him at his word, and am very wary of anyone who trys to muddy his clear teaching. Perhaps that is not what Bell is doing, but the publicity and uproar sure makes it sound like it is.
- I am busy reading some books that I intend to review positively on here. I really wish that some bloggers would give more prominence to good, helpful books that they want their readers to actually go out and read.
Why then have I written this post at all? Simply because some people who I care about have started to ask me what I think. As such, in this limited way, how can I not respond?