Chapter 3 Synopsis:
Hell. Ok, after reading this chapter it’s clear that Bell is not giving up on the concept, idea, or reality of hell. He is, however, stubbornly resolved to allow the bible to frame our categories of thought when we talk about hell. He goes through every single reference in the scripture that has the word hell – as well as a good number of those dealing with the theme of judgment and eternal judgment. He consistently refuses to allow us to anachronistically read our own categories of thought into the text. I can’t recount his exegetical work – but it’s spot on. I kept checking up on his lexicography and followed is Greek and Hebrew work w/what research I could do on the terms he’s using. So far, he’s right on.
Overall theme of the chapter is that hell is like heaven – it’s not only about what happens when you die, it’s about now. He starts to describe terrible awful things… this is hell. We know how to make hell even right here and now. He says, “I write these things to acknowledge that love, grace, and humanity can be rejected… we are terrifyingly free to do as we please. God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it.” (this is all very much like C.S. Lewis and the Great Divorce – which I think is where he’s going to go).
His summary: “To summarize, then, we need a loaded, volatile, adequately violent, dramatic, serious word to describe the very real consequences we experience when we reject the good and true and beautiful life that God has for us. We need a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep within our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way. And for that, the word ‘hell’ works quite well. Let’s keep it”
So this flies in the face of much that I’ve heard people say about the book online. To those who say he’s giving up on hell – here are some more direct quotes:
“There is hell now, and there is hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously.”
“I write these things to acknowledge that love, grace, and humanity can be rejected… we are terrifyingly free to do as we please. God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it.”
He acknowledges there are some who think hell is an outdated myth… he sympathizes with the sentiment, but goes on to explain whey we need to use the term, saying it “works quite well. Let’s keep it.”
So far Rob Bell is staying within orthodox Christianity. Again, fundamentalists and people who love to argue about things like inherency are not going to like it. But it’s orthodox and, so far, quite compelling. I’m liking it very much.