People argue that Lewis suggested similar things to what Bell has said BUT 1. He did believe in Punishment, but stressed mans role in choosing that punishment and 2 He suggested these things tentatively as possibilities rather than boldly and 3. he didn’t mock the other view as hopelessly inadequate and “a bad story” and finally 4. Unlike Rob Bell, Lewis did not claim to be an Evangelical insider. He was a broad C of E churchman who Evangelicals listened to but did not expect to agree with on everything – a bit like N.T. Wright today. Lewis stressed the idea .
Most evangelicals today are happy to sift Lewis, reject some of his “interesting” ideas and cling onto the pearls that are there. I will be honest, I didn’t find any pearls in Love Wins, I found lots of very highly skilled communication for sure, but nothing that gave me that “aha!” moment.
Similarly Stott is obviously someone who still trembles at the Word of God. He may have concluded that annihilationism was the best theological conclusion (see for example this quote). But he did so without changing his whole approach to the Bible. And he did so, aware that decisions in this life had consequences forever, so for example he said:
Similarly, Jesus taught that the easy way, entered by the wide gate, leads to destruction. He did not define what he meant by this, and presumably the precise nature of hell is as much beyond our finite understanding as the precise nature of heaven. But the terrible word ‘destruction’ (terrible because God is properly the Creator, not the Destroyer, and because man was created to live, not to die) seems at least to give us liberty to say that everything good will be destroyed in hell—love and loveliness, beauty and truth, joy, peace and hope—and that for ever. It is a prospect too awful to contemplate without tears. For the broad road is suicide road.
By contrast, the hard way, entered by the narrow gate, leads to life, even to that ‘eternal life’ which Jesus explained in terms of fellowship with God, beginning here but perfected hereafter, in which we see and share his glory, and find perfect fulfilment as human beings in the selfless service of him and of our fellows.
-John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) : Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible speaks today (Leicester [Leicestershire; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-varsity Press, 1985), 195.
And also, when speaking of 2 Thessalonians 1:
For example, the punishment will be ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord’ (RSV); they will be shut out (NIV) or ‘cut off’ (REB) from his presence. Do these words throw any light on the debate between biblical Christians about the nature of hell? That the final state of those who reject God and Christ will be awful and eternal is not in dispute. But the question whether their exclusion-destruction means conscious torment or ultimate annihilation cannot be settled by an appeal to this verse and its vocabulary, since the apostle does not here clearly allude to either.
In contrast to the appalling nature of hell, Paul goes on to portray the glory of heaven.
- John R. W. Stott, The Message of Thessalonians : The Gospel & the End of Time, The Bible speaks today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 148-49.