Richard Mouw on Rob Bell's New Book

The following is the President of Fuller Seminary’s  blog post today on Rob Bell.   See what you think.

The Orthodoxy of Rob Bell

I told the USA TODAY reporter that Rob Bell’s newly released Love Wins is a fine book and that I basically agree with his theology. I knew that the book was being widely criticized for having crossed the theological bridge from evangelical orthodoxy into universalism. Not true, I told the reporter. Rob Bell is calling us away from a stingy orthodoxy to a generous orthodoxy.

Let me say it clearly: I am not a universalist. I believe hell as a condition in the afterlife is real, and that it will be occupied. I think Rob believes that too. But he is a creative communicator who likes to prod, and even tease us a bit theologically. Suppose, he likes to say, we go up to someone and tell them that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for their sins. Accept Jesus right now, we say, because if ten minutes from now you die without accepting this offer God will punish you forever in the fires of hell. What kind of God are we presenting to the person? Suppose we told someone that their human father has a wonderful gift for them, offered out of love for them—and then we add that, by the way, if they reject the gift that same father will torment them as long as they live. What would we think of such a father? Good question, I think.

If I were given the assignment of writing a careful theological essay on “The Eschatology of Rob Bell,” I would begin by laying out the basics of C. S. Lewis’s perspective on heaven and hell. Lewis held that we are created for a relationship with God as human beings who bear the divine image. When we rebel against God and commit ourselves to evil ways, we move further away from this positive relationship with God—and, thereby, further and further away from our humanity. Our ultimate destiny, then, if we do not change directions, is to cease to be human: we end up as monsters who have chosen to live in an outer darkness, removed from God and from other humans.

So, here is Rob Bell: people who refuse a “vital connection with the living God” are given over to a “kind of life [that] is less and less connected with God” (Love Wins, 66). And this is no mere theoretical state of affairs, “because it is absolutely vital that we acknowledge that love, grace and humanity can be rejected”(my italics)—and if so, “God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it” (72).

And I certainly do believe that some folks choose that hell. The Hitler types. The man who kidnaps young girls and sells them into sexual slavery. They are well on their way to hell, to becoming inhuman monsters. To be sure, as the hymn rightly reminds us: “The vilest offender who truly believes/ that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” But for those who persist in their wicked ways, eternal separation is the natural outcome of all the choices they have made along the way.

In a book I wrote several years ago defending the basics of a Calvinist perspective, I told about an elderly rabbi friend who struck me as a very godly person. He would often write to tell me that he was praying for me and my family. When he died, I said, I held out the hope that when he saw Jesus he would acknowledge that it was Him all along, and that Jesus would welcome him into the heavenly realm.

Some folks zeroed in on that one story to condemn me as a heretic. I find their attitude puzzling. Maybe they think that folks like Rob Bell and me go too far in the direction of leniency, but what about folks who go in the other direction? I just received an angry email from someone who pulled a comment out of something I wrote a few years ago in Christianity Today. A prominent evangelical had criticized those of us who have been in a sustained dialogue with Catholics for giving the impression that a person can be saved without having the right theology about justification by faith. My response to that: of course a person can be saved without having the right theology of justification by faith. A straightforward question: Did Mother Theresa go to hell? My guess is that she was a little confused about justification by faith alone. If you think that means she went to hell, I have only one response: shame on you.

Why don’t folks who criticize Rob Bell for wanting to let too many people in also go after people like that who want to keep too many people out? Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess?

In August 2006, Newsweek did an extensive report on an interview with Billy Graham. Graham made it clear that he is still firmly confident that Jesus is the only way to salvation. When asked, though, about the destiny of “good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people,” Billy had this to say: “Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t … I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

Billy Graham is no universalist. But he has come to a theology of salvific generosity, a perspective that he combines with a passionate proclamation of the message that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For me—and I am convinced for Rob Bell—it doesn’t get any better than that!

  • http://www.portergreek.com Charles Puskas

    Yes, nice review! Regarding the afterlife, yes I believe that there is either a blessed life with God or one alone without God (not speculating on the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell/hades) but I have pondered
    the “apocatastasis” of Origen of Alexandria (250): “all fallen intelligences will be restored to God who made them.” Clement of Alexandria (initially), Gregory of Nyssa, some Moravians, the Christadelphians, Friedrich Schleiermacher, (maybe) Karl Barth, and (yes) Paul Tillich entertained similar ideas. Nevertheless, Augustine of Hippo attacked this doctrine and it was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in AD 543. But here’s a nice quote from Barth: “I do not preach universal salvation, what I say is that I cannot exclude the possibility that God would save all men at the Judgment.”

  • AStev

    I’m uncomfortable when people say things like, “Those are decisions only the Lord will make…” because hasn’t God already shown us the criteria in his revealed word?

    For us to argue that he might do something other than what he has said he will do seems to suggest God may be lying to us in scripture – a risky accusation indeed.

    Yes, God certainly CAN sweep everyone into heaven, regardless of whether they believe or not. It is within the scope of his power. God certainly CAN extend the opportunity for repentance to people even after death. But he has already showed us in scripture that he will not. For us to continue to suggest that he might demonstrates overconfidence in our own wisdom, and underconfidence in God’s.

  • http://www.jonrising.blogspot.com Jon Rising

    Another good Barth quote, this one from Larry Hart’s book, Truth Aflame (Zondervan):

    “Dale Moody loved to tell his students about a conversation he had with Barth in which he tried to corner him on this question. Moody asked, ‘Dr. Barth, do you believe God is going to save everybody?’ Barth replied with a wink, ‘You wouldn’t get mad if he did, would you?’”
    ;-)

  • http://www.joshcrain.com Josh Crain

    Thanks for sharing that review, Ben; I found it very helpful. I received my copy of Love Wins last night and plan on knocking it out sometime tomorrow.

    @ ASteve:
    Bell specifically said in an interview conducted last night that he didn’t believe God would sweep everyone into heaven against their will. Orthodox (not my favorite word, but we’ll roll with it) Christians typically say that Jesus is still the mechanism by which salvation comes to anyone. But many Christians still cling to the hope that God is casting a net much wider than simply those of us who have been privileged to hear the Gospel and that there may even come a time subsequent to death when we are allowed to choose for or against God.

    I believe Greg Boyd had a very balanced take on this hope. A few years ago he stated that he had the hope that there will be more people in heaven than many of us expected, but that he had to share the Gospel as if that weren’t going to be the case.

  • http://baptismandthebigpicture.blogspot.com/ Matt Viney

    Frankly, this post disturbed me. Especially this bit:

    “Why don’t folks who criticize Rob Bell for wanting to let too many people in also go after people like that who want to keep too many people out? Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess?”

    I completely reject the wording here: “salvific generosity”? ALL salvation is generous! Even if God chose to save only one sinner, it would be love beyond measure. Should God have been more ‘salvifically generous’ in Eden? God booted them out and cursed the world after after ONE sin! To me, the mere possibility for salvation IS salvific generosity.

    The reason why so many Bible believing Christians seem to major on “salvific stinginess” is called THE BIBLE. A truly biblical soteriology tells you that by default, all sinners will justly receive recompense in hell for their sinful actions against a holy God. A biblical anthropology tells us that if we portray God the way that Bell suggests, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and indulge in theological and ethical equivocation. We can get back to the important stuff like ‘being a nice person’ and getting my career going. After all, love wins, right?

    I think that there is a real place for focusing on God’s love and grace, and the work of Christ on the cross. But unless we stand firm on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, the reality of a hell whose gates are wide (Matt. 7:13), and the necessity of total-life discipleship, I fear that we evacuate the Gospel of its good news.

    Dr Richard Mouw is no doubt a bagillion times smart than me (who isn’t?!), but with all due respect, I think this comments move us towards sounding ‘nice’ to a post-modern world that wants to be reassured that everything is going to be OK. The Bible that I read (and presumably Bell reads) compels me to proclaim a sovereign Lord who commands that unless we repent and believe. we will perish eternally, and rightly so. All are without excuse before God’s justice.

    I couldn’t say I loved a person, and give them Bell’s book. It just doesn’t tell it like it is.

    The bottom line is that in the eschaton, love DOES win. So does justice. God’s love never operates in opposition to his holiness.

    Anyway. There’s my 2 cents worth.
    Peace.

  • B. Rob

    @Matt:

    “The bottom line is that in the eschaton, love DOES win. So does justice. God’s love never operates in opposition to his holiness.”

    Those who make out positive in the eschaton seem to have slipped past the rope of deserved justice, wouldn’t you say?

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Excellent. A good discussion is emerging even without any of these folks have read Rob’s book. I think Greg Boyd is right that Rob is an artist and a great communicator, and his job is indeed to help us ask the right questions, and discuss them. Rob is clear enough that he is not a theologian, not a scholar, and he should be evaluated for what he is. Some will see him as an agent provocateur, others will see him as calling us to better understand a God who is both holy and loving. If you watch the video here (http://livestre.am/F4gw) and skip the first ten minutes which is filler, I think it becomes clear that Rob does believe salvation comes only through Jesus, there is a hell where people who insist on it will go, and that he is not a universalist. But he keeps stressing over and over, that there is a lot of room for discussion about the particulars on these issues, and we need to allow for that.
    BW3

  • aaron

    The only exclusivist claim the bible makes is that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through him. That means who goes to heaven or hell is decided by Jesus, not us. Furthermore, he gives us a clue to give us confidence that he will pardon us. that is, whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. What is it to believe though? is it to assert the right doctrine or to proclaim that Jesus is Lord? Demons do this and yet they shudder! No to believe in Him is to obey his commands. To love the orphan and the widow, to love our enemies, to worship God. Even a pagan who has never heard of Jesus can do these things because of the minimal light we have all been given. Therefore, even a pagan can be accepted into heaven by our gracious Lord and Savior.

  • http://www.jonscorner.net Jon Beck

    It is an interesting debate, to say the least. For all of the Reformed theology that Mouw might claim, he seems to draw heavily upon Lewis, who was an Anglican.

    I have been toying with this idea a lot recently. I think that the “orthodoxy” that Bell and Mouw are espousing is certainly a different take on it. Throughout my life I have grown up with the theology that says if one doesn’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they go to hell. I am beginning to wonder (and a lot of my fellow seminarians will likely jump on me for this) if God is more merciful than we are allowing him to be. Must “accepting Jesus” look like our western American conception, i.e., the “sinner’s prayer?” Moreover, is the end-goal of salvation simply “going to heaven?” I understand that Paul says that salvation comes in “calling on the name of the Lord”. Interestingly, “the Lord” can also stand for the tetragrammaton, i.e., YHWH.

    All of this is mere speculation on my part. Ultimately, this much is true: I can work out a theology of salvation (and death) as best I can, but as an imperfect human being, I know I will come up short. We are foolish if we say we can completely understand the ways of God (although we should certainly try to understand as much as we can). It is not MY JOB to judge the eternal destination of one’s soul, as Graham says. It is only God’s job – he is the only one who is qualified to do it. I know what I believe about the situation, but might I be wrong? Certainly. I think if we make a claim of certainty in this matter, we are arrogant and presumptuous.

    Again, this is just me thinking out loud. Some of the stuff I said here might be unconventional, but I’m certainly allowed to speculate, right? :)

    Jon

  • Steve

    Actually, I don’t think Mouw is as “generous” as he supposes. Otherwise he would not have implied in his interview with USA Today that theological conservatives take pleasure in the thought of people going to hell. I have moved in conservative circles from my youth, attended many a revival meeting, and have NEVER heard anyone say they are glad that some people are in hell. Mouw’s insinuation otherwise is not generous. It is a cheap shot, and unbecoming a man in his position.

  • graham veale

    I’m sorry, I can’t see what the fuss is about. Rob Bell may or may not be a universalist. Why should I care? Unless you go to his Church, why should you care? And why did we need Rob Bell to ask the questions? And why are we concerned if one evangelical moves towards Centrist Protestantism?

    And why the uncertainty? These are old questions. I can’t know what Bell means. So how can I know if he’s wrong?

    This is great news for Bell’s publisher, I suppose. But it’s just another example of the Evangelical obsession with celebrity preachers.

    It’s all very discouraging.

    Graham

  • graham veale

    We could leave Bell aside, and look at views from AH Strong back to Justin Martyr.

  • Dan

    I watched Bell’s Q&A in New York last night. While I do think he’s right in that we will be surprised at who gets into heaven, I’m disturbed by his flat out evasiveness. The moderator asked him if heaven was a real place, and he said yes, that in some ways it’s here and now, and in some ways it is a future thing. That I can agree with.

    However, someone in the audience asked him if hell was a real place – and he didn’t answer whatsoever. He started talking about heaven again, and talked about the hell we create on earth for each other. While I think what we do to each other here on earth could be a foretaste of hell, biblically, hell is not merely something we do to each other. In fact, I think it would be hard to prove scripturally that hell is at all something we do to each other. Bell entirely evaded the question. I’ve always been a big Rob Bell fan, but I think he’s avoided scripture entirely.

    While “only God can judge” sounds like a nice, deferential view, I think that we often throw scripture out the window when we say that. Yes, only God can judge the heart and our true motives and intentions, but the bible is clear that Jesus is the only way, that His is the only name by which we must be saved, and that he who has the Son has life and he who does not have the Son does not have life.

    I don’t think heaven is about who has the right theology and who understands the technical definitions of justification, but I think the bible is clear that heaven and hell depend on whether or not we follow Christ.

  • graham veale

    Dan
    My problem is the evasiveness. If we put aside the cartoonish search for the good guys and the bad guys in this debate, and stop worrying about the views of one pastor, we can begin to ask serious questions.

    For example. Start with the death of infants. Are they in heaven? Does Scripture give a clear answer? What precisely did the Old Testament saints have faith in? Does Scripture give a clear answer? Then move to Jethro and Melchizedek…

    I think that there is some wisdom in Billy Graham’s reply.

    Graham

  • http://baptismandthebigpicture.blogspot.com/ Matt Viney

    @B. Rob

    Sorry, but I don’t understand your question. :-(

  • alison

    Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess? Because the risk is so great.

  • Andy

    I would not suggest Bell has left the Christian faith. In fact, it seems he has done a decent job of drawing attention to the fact that salvation is always in God’s hands, not ours. Jesus is the only way to the Father, and perhaps Jesus will reveal himself to some upon their death…whatever the case, God is good and Jesus is the way to Him,

    This being said, how can Bell be a pastor without being a theologian and a scholar? This makes no sense to me. Also, in his writings he asserts himself in such a way (going all the way back to ‘Velvet Elvis’) as to lead the reader to think he has done some scholarly research, etc. I don’t agree with him on everything he says. I don’t disagree with him on everything he says. However, his theological writings/musings/whatever should not be excused based on the idea that he is an artist and not a theologian or scholar.

    Again, how can one be a pastor and NOT be these things?

  • Josh Mueller

    I did read the book today and found nothing in there that doesn’t have solid biblical backing. Some minor details may remain disputable – for example the “gnashing of teeth” as a reference to what people would hear from animals feasting at the edges of the garbage dump “Gehenna”, but I personally believe Bell captured the essence of the story. God’s love simply IS and both heaven and hell are related realities to the extent we come to trust or refuse this love.

    And why should we label a trust in those Scripture references that DO give us hope that God’s love ultimately will overcome all rebellion, mistrust and human misconceptions as “heresy”? The biggest heresies the NT writers fought were gnostic spiritualizations of Christ and legalism. Nothing in Bell’s book comes even close to that.

  • Benjamin

    Anybody got the number for Bell’s publicist? :)

  • Danny D

    “Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess? Because the risk is so great.”

    And is there not a risk in proclaiming a ‘gospel’ built extensively on fear? Is a gospel that many times piggybacks the work of Christ on the fear of death effective? I feel a distinct difference in proclaiming that a fear of death exists and it has been broken as opposed to furthering a fear of death, which itself does not have a solid resume.

    Hb 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

  • http://nestheology.org Pennoyer

    Here’s a link to the devastating 10+ page book review by Kevin DeYoung:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/

    Yes, I will read the book but DeYoung claims he has spent “hours and hours” on the work and it shows in the review’s detail, example, and careful argumentation. And his critique has little or nothing to do with Reformed vs. whatever.

  • Rick

    In regards to the “artist” claim, as Kevin DeYoung said in his review of the book:

    “It is a book with lots of Scripture references. It is a book that draws from history and personal experience. It makes a case for something. It purports one story of Christianity to be better than another. Bell means to persuade. He wants to convince us of something. He is a teacher teaching. This book is not a poem. It is not a piece of art. This is a theological book by a pastor trying to impart a different way of looking at heaven and hell. Whether Bell is creative or a provocateur is beside the point. If Bell is inconsistent, unclear, or inaccurate, claiming the “artist” mantle is no help.”

  • Rick

    Also, in regards to Bell’s belief in “salvation comes only through Jesus, there is a hell where people who insist on it will go, and that he is not a universalist.”, DeYoung’s review notes:

    “For anyone tempted to take these few lines and make Bell sound orthodox, I encourage you to read the whole book more carefully. Likewise, before you rush to accept that Bell believes in hell and believes Christ is the only way, pay attention to his conception of hell and in what way he thinks Jesus is the only way. Bad theology usually sneaks in under the guise of familiar language. There’s a reason he’s written 200 pages on why you must be deluded to think people end up in eternal conscious punishment under the just wrath of God. Words mean something, even when some of them seem forced or out of place. Take the book as a whole to get Bell’s whole message.”

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Andy I like your points. I think it is fair to ask, how can Rob not be a scholar and a theologian, and I would add, why does he not see he needs to up his Biblical understanding now that he has such a vast platform to speak to the public. To whom more is given, more is required.

    BW3

  • FDR

    Rob Bell is greatly influenced by Ray Vanderlaan and Dwight A Pryor. He admits as much. When you read Love Wins you see these two men and their approach to scripture throughout the book. Almost verbatim. The question is: does Jesus want us to be Christians Jews. I don’t thinks so but…….

  • JoeyS

    Of course there is a difference between being a Messianic Jew, of which there is nothing wrong, and trying to understand Jesus’ words from the perspective of a Jewish mind. It would be a shame to confuse the two as they are decidedly different.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com Nick

    My wife is a huge fan of Rob Bell. As for me, I’m skeptical from what I’ve heard about this book. Nevertheless, we are planning to write a review on the book together and we’re going to try this really unusual idea. We’re planning on reading the book first and THEN writing a review.

    It’s really a novel concept. I’ll grant I’m envious of these people out there who know the content of the book without having read it. I hope I get that gift someday.

  • http://saintsandsceptics@blogspot.com graham veale

    Pennoyer

    I certainly think that the search for Evangelical “good guys” and “bad guys” isn’t helpful. And I think that Mouw’s review steers in this direction.
    From what I can gather, Mr Bell hasn’t left the Christian faith. But he may have travelled beyond the borders of Evangelicalism. I think that this has caused something of a moral panic.
    If we read the statistics provided by Bradley Wright (in “Christians Are Hate Filled Hypocrites”) people have always left Evangelicalism for ‘Mainstream’ Protestantism. This problem is not new.
    What is new is the collapse of ‘Mainstream’ Protestantism. That collapse has several causes, but one seems to be a failure in communication. It isn’t surprising, then, to find Emergent Churches filling the vacuum left by ‘Traditional’ or ‘Mainstream’ Protestantism.
    So instead of leaving Evangelicalism for Traditional Protestant Churches, young college educated people make their way to “Emergent” Churches and Services. The hysteria that I’ve read online seems completely unwarranted. This is an old problem with new soundbites.

    Graham

  • Brian

    Ben is absolutely right and if you read the book the same thing comes through: Rob is an unapologetic exclusivist, not a universalist and yet hopeful for all people and this hope is Christ centered and scripture centered.

    The criticism I’ve read of his book is either by people who either assume the worst about Bell (because he leaves lots of room given his loose, non-exacting style) or they are too simple to remember everything he says in the book and elevate that which they don’t like. It’s really hard to tell which is the case.

  • http://saintsandsceptics@blogspot.com graham veale

    Look, once again, I have to ask why does anyone care about Rob Bell’s opinions on Salvation? Or put this another way. Why should I buy this book?
    Scholars are not happy with his research, and reviewers disagree about what he means. So I cannot see how anyone can praise Bell for his communication skills with a straight face. He isn’t communicating anything substantial, anything new, or anything clearly.
    Questions about universalism and inclusivism have been with us from the Early Church. Why aren’t Pastors reading Justin Martyr and Origen? Why aren’t they wrestling with the questions that giants posed?
    Paul Helm has addressed some of these questions from a Reformed Perspective. I recommend his essay “Are They Few That Be Saved”, which leans toward optimism. I think that Shedd also took a “generous/optimistic” view of salvation for the unevangelised.
    Isn’t it a sign of ill health when, in the middle of a rennaisance of Evangelical scholarship, Pastors are biting their nails about the views of a very small fish in a very big pool? Why do these celebrities have such a hold over the Evangelical Church?

    Graham

  • http://saintsandsceptics@blogspot.com graham veale

    Perhaps I should clarify a little. I don’t mean to imply that Helm would agree with Bell’s (alleged) views on the possibility of univeral salvation. I simply mean that Helm offers good arguments for what Terrence Tiessen calls “accessibilism”. That is, people who have not heard the gospel may have saving faith if they realise that there is a God, that they need God’s mercy, and if they seek that mercy. (At the end of the day, what exactly did Abram have faith in? Why did Abram believe that he needed it.) So a Muslim or Hindu could be saved, but not by means of Islam or Hinduism (a view Tiessen labels “Religious Instrumentalism”. Other religions are not means of salvation).
    Now, here’s a question for Dr Witherington. Terrance Tiessen claims that John Wesley held to “accessibilism”. Is that accurate? He gives Wesley’s letters 2:118, 6:214 and 7:168 as examples. Tiessen also cites AH Strong and WGT Shedd.
    Now I’m not sure that Bell’s supporters or detractors are really engaging with essays like Helm’s, or the views of older theologians. Is it easier or more fun to work out what Bell is up to? (Although I can understand De Young’ concern given the proximity of his Church to Bell’s.) I get the impression that Bell is attacking poor presentations of the Gospel without mining the Evangelical Tradition for something better.
    How is this helpful? And again, as a conservative evangelical, why should I care about one bad book? It does not clearly represent evidence of a collapse in evangelicalism. It’s sales will tell us more about the education and incomes of Emergents, and the publishing campaign behind Bell’s book. Other than an obsession with celebrity, what reason is there to discuss this guy?

    Honestly, I’m lost on this. Why is he so important?

    Graham

  • http://www.melmenzies.co.uk Mel Menzies

    I’m no universalist, but I know an awful of people – people I love – who ‘rebel against God’ but cannot be said to ‘commit to evil ways’. Indeed, there are many ‘good’ people (in a secular sense) who – however mistakenly – do their utmost to improve this world and the people in it. That doesn’t earn them an entry ticket to heaven; but neither does it make them evil. I certainly wouldn’t class my mother and father as ‘inhuman monsters’ for instance.

    Where I do agree with what you’ve said, is that I believe that when Jesus says ‘no man cometh unto the Father except through me’ he may have other means of bringing godless, but ‘good’ people into his presence and, thereby, to his Father. People like your rabbi. Because, as I’ve said elsewhere, Scripture tells us that it’s by the light we’ve received that we’ll be saved.

  • Craig

    Graham,

    Unfortunately, here in America, pop theology is what sells. The problem isn’t necessarily what pastors are reading, but the laity. The average lay-person is not interested in reading Justin or Origen, but tend to prefer whatever is perceived as new, improved, and politically correct. This is why celebrity pastors are so influential here, and their “sexy” theological views are far more widely read, and potentially accepted, than traditional orthodox ones.

    Craig

  • Cindy Kern

    Its interesting that the focus is upon “bad” people as being the ones who create their own personal hell and will end up there. In reading John 3 this morning it stood out to me that Jesus called even “good” people to the need for salvation (Nicodemus). It seems the need for the inclusion of the fact that our human condition is inherently fallen and sinful as a result of Adam’s sin and must be restored to right standing before a holy God should be an intrinsic aspect of a discussion about our “goodness” and need for salvation. If God was just going to love us all into heaven at the point of death why did He kill His own Son?

  • Steve Hines

    The Father “killed” His own Son?

  • Lynn

    As Jesus followers, we need to be careful not to believe/trust (making strong faith values) every thing we read published by popular authors over the Author of Scripture. If we are not filtering our belief system through His Truth, and trusting the Holy Spirit for sound revelation, then we all set ourselves up to be blown from on theological thought to another.

    We can fall into the trap of trying to make God into someone we are comfortable with more than simply letting God be God. He is far above us in His Sovereignty. He is perfect in Truth and Grace. If we are purposely living our lives to follow Christ in His love relationship toward us, we can rest in the peace that God will take care of all the details that we can’t reason out in our limitations.

    In His Grace!

  • http://www.connectafrica.us Michael Flowers

    Ben,

    Thank you for sharing this review. I am a Fuller grad. I take issue with classifying humanity into Hitler types (who obviously was driven by an almost incomparable evil and lived a hellish existence) and those who, for example, live exemplary lives of service to humankind as if they needed not a savior as much as Hitler. That’s one issue …

    The other issue is the example of hoping that, after death, the rabbi would recognize and accept Jesus. Yes, I do too, but … the Scriptures seem to paint a real sense of urgency about the present moment in which we are we are living … What do the “delay” passages infer regarding God’s patience and not wanting any to perish? If we can lives relatively good lives while rejecting Christ (I know loads of people like this) am I to assure them that they will have an opportunity to acknowledge Christ after death and thus consider the so called great commission as the great suggestion?

    I, for one, am not comfortable with many classic evangelical boxes that have it all figured out when there should be room for mystery (i.e., human ignorance). I don’t subscribe to justification theories as the basis for one’s salvation as long as we affirm that our salvation is in Christ. I can’t imagine, for example, the Lord Jesus chiding Mother Teresa for “working too hard” to love and serve others as he acknowledged the image of God in every individual. She obviously loved Jesus and her “works” demonstrated her faith (in the school of James).

    Oh well, I’ll shut up and continue to try to learn from all this new stir. I am thankful for the discussion.

  • Murray

    @Steve Hines

    Yes. God planned Jesus’ death long before it took place. When Jesus was up on the cross, it wasn’t the physical suffering that was paying for our sin, it was the torment of enduring the full wrath of a Holy God. Crucifixion was nothing compared to the crushing weight of God’s righteous wrath.

  • Alan Darley

    We are saved by Christ not by knowledge. Justin Martyr believed that Plato was a ‘Christian before Christ.’ Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He didn’t understand the Four Spiritual Laws (even though he was prophetically pointing to the death and resurrection of Christ in his act of obedience). If this is true of some people who lived before Jesus could it not be true of some after him? It would also be absurd to think that the Good Samaritan went to Hell because he had the wrong theology! That does not mean that it wasn’t the Cross which saved him; he just didn’t realise that.

  • http://thepathofchrist.blogspot.com Bruce Nelson

    Having read the Book, I think Dr. Mouw is right about Bell. But if you scour the book to find ammo to declare that Rob Bell preaches universalism, you can find it. There are pages upon pages in which one could use to call Bell a Universalist. But I think in doing so, some will miss the qualifying parts of Bell’s beliefs, the parts where Bell takes on Lewis’s view. The parts that say while everyone will have ample opportunity to repent in the after life, not everyone will.

    In short the best definition for Bell might be “An Eternal Exclusivist on the other side of Inclusivism”

    But to understand that, you will either have to read his book, or my blog when I post my own review of Bell’s book later tonight @ thepathofchrist.blogspot.com

  • Mike Smitty

    Rob Bell makes some very interesting points in the book, but he doesn’t come out and clearly say what exactly he believes on Hell, universalism, etc. I like what Mouw said and agree with it. The parts in the book about the early church and how they believed that everyone would be reconciled did not mean to say they were Universalists. They believed the Bible but Hell can have a duration of a limited amount of time or eternal and still be Biblical. As Bell points out the word for eternal as in eternal punishment in Hell is the same one used for how long Jonah was in the fish. I’m sure it felt like an eternity, but who can argue that three days in hell couldn’t feel like eternal punishment?
    Its amazing to me how when Paul wrote in Phil. 2 that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father, orthodox preachers insist that many will do it because they have to but it won’t be from their heart.But that’s not in the passage. We assume we know so much about God, yet Psalms says again and again “His mercies endure forever.”
    If Hell is forever and there is no hope for anyone to repent and believe once they get there then the Psalms should say His mercies endure till we die, but his wrath endures forever. Yet there is nothing about His wrath enduring forever only about His mercies and graciousness. When Jesus prayed , “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Did God forgive them that sin only, or all the sins they’d done, because the argument could be made that in all their sin they didn’t know what they were doing. And if you saw them in heaven, would you be disappointed in God for being too merciful?
    Sometimes it’s so easy to be God’s wrath assistant.

  • http://www.curtisvillechristian.org James Snapp, Jr.

    I only have suspicions, not conclusions, not having read Love Wins yet. But after reading DeYoung’s analytical review, and Bell’s online interview with Cathleen Falsani, I cannot convince myself that Bell is not promoting the idea that people will be given perpetual opportunities to repent after they die. And if that idea is within the bounds of evangelical orthodoxy, then the parameters of evangelical orthodoxy are broader than the parameters of Biblical truth.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  • AJ Brindley

    “On that day, many will say, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

    If you don’t know Yeshua, doesn’t matter how good you were, are or will be. Yahweh cannot contradict Himself. He made it clear that salvation is only through His son, through His sacrifice. This does not imply that Yeshua decides who is saved. It tells us that because of his sacrifice we can be saved, but it is required of us to exercise the free will Yahweh gave us and accept that Yeshua paid the price for us in this life, now before we die. There are no other opportunities. To say anything else is to call Yahuweh a liar and we all know that “He is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of Man that He should repent”. There is no ambiguity or contradiction in Him.

    I suppose the real question here should be, why are we so hung up on what a man has written? All we need to know is in scripture. It was, is and always will be the authorative word of Yahweh.

  • Nate

    Just finished the book… great discussion… but does anyone find Bell’s logic and writing to be quite frustrating? I am not really offended by his statements about hell… i kind of agree with Professor Mouw.

    But as far as the book… his writing is absolutely terrible. Bell’s logic is convoluted, he makes no clear points; and his exposition of ‘aion’ makes me think he was listening to pink floyd during his Greek and Hebrew class.

    He doesn’t really further anything in the whole scheme of things other than to communicate that things are a lot less defined that what we think they are.

    He covers a lot of ground, but doesn’t really say anything. This book should be called out as one of the top shams of christianity for 2011. This is kind of like that song ‘Friday’ that got millions of hits on you tube because of how bad it was. But this was great marketing. He asks a few interesting questions and ultimately says nothing and regurgitates the standard ‘emergent’ language of ‘heaven is here on earth’ type of stuff that’s been talked for the last 5 years. He and his publisher are laughing all the way to the bank.


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