If Rob Bell is a Universalist, then maybe I am – along with many prominent evangelicals? (A response to Justin Taylor)

UPDATE: After you read this original post, please also read the follow up post where I answer some important questions!

————

Have you ever been fed up?  Today, I am fed up.

For the past couple of months I have been excited about the forthcoming release of Rob Bell’s latest book: Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

This will be a book where Bell takes on some important topics that need to be addressed in the larger evangelical community.  Unfortunately, a pious wing of conservative Christian faith, the neo-Reformers (often represented by folks like – John Piper (who I like theologically on a rare occasion), Kevin DeYoung, Mark Driscoll, and others – are hell-bent on caricaturing evangelicals that do not fit their mold.  Case in point, Rob Bell.

This crowd, for no justified reason, has given Rob a bad rap.  Certainly, he is not immaculate and may have said a thing or two here and there that is not perfect, but who hasn’t?  But, to accuse him of being a universalist without even having read his book (because, well, it isn’t out yet!), is not only over-the-top, but is irresponsible and should be cause for the larger evangelical community to be up in arms.

This is another indication about how narrow neo-reformed views have become and how much they often are not even willing to give the “benefit of the doubt.”  Basically, I am going to accuse Justin Taylor (of the reformed site: Gospel Coalition) of being guilty of the sin of lying.  I am sure Justin is a great guy and obviously passionate about Jesus, but the following quote is a bit frustrating.

Justin states:

“I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay his cards on the table about  universalism. It seems that this is not  just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.” (Rob Bell: Universalist?)

He hasn’t read the book, but in one paragraph and based on an ambiguous trailer for the book, he can assume that Rob is a universalist?  That seems like terrible discernment and again demonstrates that these folks have a chip on their shoulder.  I doubt that others at the Gospel Coalition will reprimand Justin and correct his false assumptions, but lets look at the evidence a bit.

Ok, so I am going to assume the best about Rob and give you my best GUESS at what he will say on these topics.  I MIGHT END UP WRONG ON THIS AND REALIZE THAT I RUN THE RISK OF DOING WHAT JUSTIN DID IN HIS POST, BUT WANT TO HAVE A “POSITIVE” VOICE IN THE WEB CONVERSATION.

That was me admitting that I may end up being wrong, but based on what I know about Rob and our similar theological mentors, let me give you my hopeful guesses about some of the major themes of Heaven, Hell, and Every other Person.  Let me add, that these are not my ‘strong theological views’ (less, the Heaven stuff) but a solid direction that Rob might go:

Heaven – Rob is going to argue for an inaugurated eschatology (“already/not yet”).  He will state a clear belief in heaven, but in the tradition of N.T. Wright will make clear that this is not the end of the story.  The end will be “new heavens and new earth!”  Heaven will come down to earth and God will reign from a fully renewed Jerusalem.  All suffering will cease.  Evil will be judged!!!!!!  And the shalom of God will penetrate every crevice of reality.  Those who have chosen to follow Jesus will be resurrected and will reign with God forever and those who have not, will be left to the just judge, who will deal with them accordingly.  Here is a helpful resource by NT Wright.

Hell – Rob will probably argue for some version of an evangelical perspective of Hell that is more influenced by CS Lewis and NT Wright than Jonathan Edwards and the middle ages.  He will, in my estimation, expound some version of the view of Greg Boyd (who enthusiastically endorses the book!) that is called “Conditional Immortality.”  In this view, those who have not chosen to follow Jesus are indeed punished.  The difference is that instead of being tortured in a place called hell for eternity, after the final judgment, these folks simply will (as the Bible says) “perish” for eternity.  Their fate, their eternal punishment so to speak, will be that they will essentially cease to exist.  Death will be final.  Immortality is conditional, meaning, it is only given to those who are “in Christ.”  Immortality, in this view is a free gift from God.  Here is a helpful resource by Greg Boyd!

The fate of every person who ever lived (ok, those who don’t know Jesus or never heard the gospel) – Rob, if I was to take a strong guess at it, will argue a perspective that evangelicals call: Inclusivism.  This is a belief that answers the question: “What about those who never heard the Gospel, will they be condemned or lost for their ignorance?”  The answer from this viewpoint is a qualified “No.” Salvation is provided only through the atonement Jesus accomplished; but reception of salvation by an individual does not necessarily depend on knowing or believing this.  In other words, the Inclusivist wants to keep salvation, ultimately in God’s hands.  Please note, this is RADICALLY different than Universalism.  Jesus is the only way to God and not everyone will in fact be saved into the renewed creation.  It simply leaves open the possibility that God will deal with everyone in accordance to the knowledge and opportunity given.  Many, many, many, evangelicals hold to this view in the scholarly world and in the pew! Here is a helpful resource.

Ok, my neo-reformed brothers in Christ.  Please quit being quick to “cast the first stone.”  No, you will not agree with everything that Rob Bell has to say in this book, but lets be clear – you do not speak for all of evangelical orthodox belief.  Please quit acting as though you do.  It is damaging the larger body of Christ.  May we choose to “bear with each other…”  I believe that the reformers of today have much to offer the body of Jesus, and hope that we can move past these wild divides.

A bit of a PS – Here are two endorsements that are more than worthy of mention.  One by Eugene Peterson and the other by Greg Boyd.

“In the current religious climate in America, it isn’t easy to develop an imagination, a thoroughly biblical imagination, that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ in all people and all circumstances in love and for salvation. Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination. Love Wins accomplishes this without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction in its proclamation of the good news that is most truly for all.” – Eugene H. Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, and author of The Message and The Pastor

“Love Wins is a bold, prophetic and poetic masterpiece. I don’t know any writer who expresses the inexpressible love of God as powerfully and as beautifully as Rob Bell! Many will disagree with some of Rob’s perspectives, but no one who seriously engages this book will put it down unchanged. A ‘must read’ book!” – Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation

UPDATE, March 1st: Here is a list of “Other Voices” that I put together for you to explore!

Simul Iustus et Peccator | Greg Boyd (read the book!) | Dale Best | Near Emmaus (Brian) | Near Emmaus (Mark) & here | Tim Neufeld | Religion at the Margins | Igneous Quill | Unsettled Christianity | Tony Jones | Matthew Paul Turner | Rachel Held Evans | Jason Boyett | Undeception | Scientia Et Sapientia | Cheese-Wearing Theology | Homebrewed Theology | Political Jesus | Christianity Today | Brambonius | Cushman’s Chronicles | Solar Crash | Chris McAlister | Covenant of Love | Carson Clark | EckSermonator | What the Dirty | New Ways Forward (Mason) | Peedy Postings | The Sacred Life | JR Woodward | Eugene Cho | Theological Scribbles | David Fitch | Ian Ebright @ Broken Telegraph | Matthew Yoder | Ben Witherington III | Jarrod McKenna | Scot McKnight | Andrew Perriman | Being the Body (he read the book!) 1 & 2 –> He states this about my blog post: “Anyway you come very close to the heart of where Rob goes in much of his book.”

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  • http://ballymennoniteblogger.wordpress.com Robert Martin

    WELL SAID! HERE HERE! SPEAK IT!

  • http://cushmanschronicles.com/ Jeremy Cushman

    I think your post has done a lot more than mine to help shed some honest light on the whole issue. Great work and my sentiments exactly; religious drama frustrates me to no end. As Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo wrote, it misses the point.
    Kudos!

  • Tim Seitz-Brown

    The title to the book sounds good! I look forward to reading it.

  • http://www.fragmentz.org fragmentz

    a 'hear hear' from me too.

    i am astounded at the level of vitriol towards Rob Bell, for a book that has yet to be released/read by the public.

    I'd be interested if the people who have thrown their dummies out of the prams have the same opinion once they've read it, assuming that they do that is.

    Fragz

  • http://jcrylequotes.com/ Erik

    Rob Bell + Universalism = Fireworks.

    Justin Taylor, knowingly or unknowingly, has ignited a full blown war with this blog post on Rob Bell. ;)

    Look out folks, it's a "Reformed vs Emergent" battle within the Blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter for the next several days.

    Buckle your seat belt; it's gonna get a little rocky…

  • Nathan

    Hey Kurt, I just saw the post by Taylor today. Thanks for this great post.

  • Aaron C

    Extremely well written and balanced post.
    Looking forward to reading the book.

  • http://academiachurch.wordpress.com Lawrence E. Garcia

    You read and spoke my mind! I am often astonished at a prideful and arrogant orthodoxy that refuses to exercise some exegetical humility on these difficult subjects. Afterall, if one is is fact a follower of the crucified Lord Jesus, will he/she not exhibit love, care, and an open ear to others, especially those who see things from a different angle? I fully sympathize with your frustration. Great piece!

  • Utar Efson

    It is disappointing that for a post that purportedly chastises the "angry" and "pious" for caricaturing Mr. Bell, the post only succeeds in replicating those same failings by some intemperate descriptions of the new Reformed and a post that speculates itself about what Mr. Bell may or may not mean.

    To that end, it is hard to differentiate this blog response with the speculations offered by the neo-Calvinists.

    I cannot but help that there is an element of Paul and Apollos for all concerned with this matter.

    • Kurt

      Utar, I am sorry you read this that way. I did my best to say kind things about Justin. I also said this at the end of the post: "May we choose to “bear with each other…” I believe that the reformers of today have much to offer the body of Jesus, and hope that we can move past these wild divides."

  • Prisoner1752

    I'm neither Emergent or Reformed. I'm Mormon. That being said, I think you NAILED it.

    • Kurt

      Never been complemented by a Mormon before. I am glad you liked reading this. PS – I am neither reformed or emergent… I am an Anabaptist :-)

      • Prisoner1752

        I'm a bit of a mutt I'm afraid. I grew up in a strong southern baptist church, floated around several other non-denom churches, was actually a young adult pastor at one point in time, and grew tired. Moved in with some Mormons and ended up converting. Now I'm actually writing a book trying to bridge the gap between evangelicals and Mormons.

  • http://nicenejosh.wordpress.com Josh

    Amen.

  • Greg Gorham

    While this is certainly more helpful than Justin's post, I still don't think it's entirely fair. Your "assuming the best" about Rob and "giving him the benefit of the doubt" basically boils down to saying "We don't know that he's a universalist – maybe he's not!" What if he is? What if the book comes out for full-blown universalism? Why is that necessarily, with no other arguments or justification given, a bad thing, less than the best, and worthy of getting a bad rap?

    Personally, I'm hoping Justin Taylor is right and the book is a hearty defense of universalism. Agree or disagree, that would definitely be a conversation worth having.

    • http://anewkindofminister.blogspot.com Cody Stauffer

      Agreed. So what if it is about universalism? The early church fathers were honest enough to admit it was a distinct possibility.

      • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

        I'd love to see you tease this out…Cody…to what fathers, and what sayings, are you referring? Most of the fathers I've read are decidedly condemning of anyone who doesn't see things exactly their way (anathema is a far more prevalent concept than grace). Would appreciate some links and/or citations!

        • http://www.ChristianHeretic.com Drew Costen

          Dan, I'd suggest reading "Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years" if you'd like to hear more about early Christian views on the subject – http://www.christianheretic.com/articles/article4

  • http://anewkindofminister.blogspot.com Cody Stauffer

    I can't remember who said it once, but it was something along the lines of, "You aren't being accused of being a universalist from time to time, than you probably aren't really talking about God's grace enough, or making it seem as radical as it is." Something like that. Like I said on your facebook post, I am pretty cool with Christian Universalism. I don't even see the need to defend Rob Bell, personally. But I know, I know, I'm probably not orthodox.

  • DAN

    Kurt, your problem is that you are taking JT's article like this is the first time he, or anyone, has ever heard Rob Bell address his views about hell. Wake up! Read Bell's interview from 2007 http://theooze.com/church/an-interview-with-rob-b…. Does this "gray" help the body of Christ? Bell has repeatedly given up his position about hell. Now he is doing it with a book. If you really believe that the book is going to be a Biblical treatise of hell I think that you're not seeing clearly. I applaud JT for being willing to bring Bell's book out like this so that it will be read closely by many that have given Bell a pass over the years.

    • http://emergencybreakthrough.wordpress.com Brandy W.

      Heh, first of all, hella long article to read just to get to your point (but it was brilliant, thanks for sending me there!).

      The part I think you must have been referring to:

      <blockquote cite="Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?

      I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.">

      Huh. Seems pretty in line with what Kurt was predicting.

      • http://emergencybreakthrough.wordpress.com Brandy W.

        Heh, first of all, hella long article to read just to get to your point (but it was brilliant, thanks for sending me there!).

        The part I think you must have been referring to:

        Well, there are people now who are seriously separated from God. So I would assume that God will leave room for people to say “no I don’t want any part of this”. My question would be, does grace win or is the human heart stronger than God’s love or grace. Who wins, does darkness and sin and hardness of heart win or does God’s love and grace win?

        I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.

        Huh. Seems pretty in line with what Kurt was predicting.

        • DAN

          Thanks for reinforcing my point. Kurt and Brandy, from a Biblical perspective, show us where in the Bible the is "conditional immortality." You can't, because it's a a theory conceived by man. There is a reason why Kurt and Bell don't use scripture very often in their writing, because the Bible doesn't teach what they are teaching.

          • Craig

            Dan:

            Actually, that's easy. The Bible clearly supports conditional immortality. First, the BIBLE is abundantly clear that God alone is immortal. Read 1 Timothy 6:16, which says "God alone is immortal." Hmm…. could that be any clearer? Man and man's soul is not immortal. God alone is. 1 Corinthians 15:42-54 further expounds on this saying that we are currently mortal and only through Christ are we made immortal. It tells us that in Christ, the mortal clothes itself with the immortal.

            Next, the Bible talks about the "destruction" of the wicked, over and over again. Malachi 4:1 says that on the day of judgment "neither a root nor a branch will remain to them." Revelation 20 talks about the lake of fire being the "second death." Matthew 10:28 tells us to "fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell." So, does that mean our physical bodies live forever? If you believe the soul will live forever in hell, then you must also believe that the person's physical body will also live forever. The passage says that the result for the physical and spiritual is the same in hell. So, if we believe our physical bodies can be destroyed and cease to exist, then so will the soul.

            There are MANY more passages i could cite, but this would go on and on. So, Dan, the Bible does clearly support conditional immortality.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Dan, how about John 3:16? For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH but have everlasting LIFE. (emphasis mine, obviously)

            I did a rather comprehensive survey of what the New Testament said about condemnation a couple of years ago, and while the evidence I found was not conclusive, it was exactly that–not conclusive either for conscious punishment or for annihilation. It takes preconceptions to make either an absolute claim on the basis of New Testament authority alone. For more, my series here.

            Bottom line, the hyper-emphasis on hell and punishment among Christian conservatives, while unmistakable, is not Biblical. Even when Jesus talked about hell (which he did), it was not to call unbelievers to repentance, but rather to warn the arrogant who presumed they were already "in" with God.

    • RM

      In my opinion in the article you are referring, Bell is saying a lot of Christians put their focus in not going to hell instead of their belief in Jesus. Without hell, why even bother to follow Jesus? People use the fear of hell to "save" people from hell. Shouldn't it be more about sharing God's love and grace? Because isn't the message Love?

  • DAN

    AND YOU JUST DID WHAT YOU ARE ACCUSING JT OF BY MAKING A PREDICTION OF WHAT WILL BE IN THE NEW BELL BOOK. NICE…

    • Kurt

      Dan… I admit that in the post and try and do it from the positive side.

  • Prisoner1752

    CALVINISTS LOVE CAPSLOCK.

    • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jason Dye

      CERTAINLY ANGRY CALVINISTS DO!!!11TY!!!

  • http://spoonfulofdreams.co.uk Chris Price

    It surprises me how jealously so many evangelicals defend the doctrine of everlasting torment on behalf of a just God and have such a low view of those that would challenge them. If Rob Bell is proposing annihilation he is in good company. The Fire that Consumes, by Fudge and John Wenham's Facing Hell both present authoritative, compelling and palatable defenses of this position. John Wenham puts his position beautifully:

    "I believe that endless torment is a hideous and unscriptural doctrine which has been a terrible burden on the mind of the church for many centuries and a terrible blot on her presentation of the Gospel. I should indeed be happy, if before I die, I could help in sweeping it away."

    • Andrew Wilkie

      Could you please give some biblical evidence for what you're saying please? Just from my studies, which I admit aren't great but enough to form a view, it is pretty plainly stated in the Bible that non believers certainly aren't going to Heaven

      • Ryan

        there's a difference between not going to Heaven and suffering indescribable torment in eternal Hell.

      • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com Ryan Peter

        (Not the same Ryan who posted before)

        "The smoke of their torment rises up forever and ever" (Rev 14) is not the same as "the smoke of their tormenting rises up forever and ever"

        If you take every scripture referring to hell and look at it literally, at face value, noting that many refer to hell as 'eternal destruction' (I think even most) or 'perish' or 'death', and do a study on 'gehenna' (the word Jesus used to describe hell) then it'll come clear. Gehenna signified a rubbish heap outside the city, which I believe they would burn. Rubbish does not burn forever.

        I feel you've really got to read eternal torment into all of the scriptures relating on hell to believe it. But if you read the scriptures on hell at face value, then they certainly say something else. I spent two years studying this issue off and on and came to the conclusion that conditional immortality was far more biblical, easier to prove, made sense of more scriptures, and made more sense when looking at God's judgements throughout history and how the Bible refers to those, than eternal torment any day.

        We just got to spend time studying it. I think it's a worthy study. If noted evangelicals like John Stott and a few others believed in conditional mortality, I don't see why in some circles it's seen as a big heresy. Honestly, there's nothing about the doctrine that'll cause anyone to deny Christ, and there's nothing about the doctrine that doesn't take sin 'seriously'.

        Furthermore, one last thing: the church historian Philip Schaff noted that eternal torment was the least accepted view in the early church (around 200 AD or thereabouts). There were more schools, apparently, teaching universalism and conditional immortality than eternal torment. Schaff himself believed in eternal torment, apparently, but his discovery sure says something to me. (Google it if you want to see :) )

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    I don't have anything to add to your defense of Rob Bell except to say that there is a biblical basis for believing that everyone is going to heaven. And it is Christ-honoring: http://wp.me/PNthc-i6

    • Andrew Wilkie

      Jesus says the only way to the Father is through Him.

      If you don't accept Jesus into your life you aren't going to Heaven. Biblical fact!

      • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        You are absolutely right that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. My only point is that He has opened that way for everyone (http://wp.me/PNthc-i6).

  • Luke

    Kurt, what are the biblical arguments for individualism? I can't even think of any to start except maybe that Abraham did not know who Jesus was but saved by faith. Is that really enough for me to feel okay about those not hearing the gospel being saved.

    I am glad Rob Bell is writing a book so I can label him :).

    If Justin Taylor threw the first stone at Rob Bell and then you threw a stone at Justin Taylor and then Neo reform movement by writing an opposition blog and then I write a blog opposing your view, does that make us all "stoners?"

    • Kurt

      Luke… Not individualism… I assume you meant "inclusivism." I am not saying that I am completely any of the three areas I expound above…

      But, I can give you some notes from a class I took:

      Inclusivism: (NO [to the opening question]) Salvation is provided only through the atonement Jesus accomplished; but reception of salvation by an individual does not necessarily depend on knowing or believing this. Key Texts: I Tim. 2:4; Acts 10:34,35; 14:17; 17:30; Melchizedek; Cornelius, mostly arguments from silence, from the justice of God, etc. This approach is usually based on “characters, models, and paradigms; not proof texts…”

      I Tim 2:4 speaks of providing ACCESS to salvation for everyone.
      - Does that mean Jesus atones or Jesus is known about!?
      - Some interpreters believe in some form of universal salvation
      - Some believe in some kind of post-death second chance.
      - Inclusivism leads to idea of "anonymous Christian" (Karl Rahner)
      - Hopefulness is preserved on this view (note how often obituaries “grasp at straws” when holding out possibilities of salvation for those who died!) “We don’t know, but we can always hope”, etc.
      - MISSION in obedience to Christ's mandate, not our pity for lost people.
      - Proclamation is of the Lordship of Jesus, not the lostness of humans.
      - Hermeneutics is different: not exegesis of verses as much as paradigms, assumptions, characters (Melchizedek factor, etc.)
      - Inclusivists seldom use a “flat book” approach to the Bible

      Also… We may all be stoners indeed. I simply wanted to be a voice for the other side…

      • Peter Thomas

        Here comes the tag team from the brothers…here are my thoughts/questions

        1. Please define a neo reformer. It seems like you're just adding neo to make the gospel coalition seem extreme

        2. You often refer to cs lewis as though he is the poster boy for conservative theology. That is a distortion because he is liberal in many areas.

        3. You're paragraph about hell makes it sound like john Edwards was the first to propose the idea in the middle ages. Jesus talked about eternal, literal, firey hell during his ministry. Matt 18:8, Matt 23:33

        • Luke

          Pete
          Neo reformers are usually defined as those who take reformed theology with some sort of correction. They tend to be 5 point Calvinists with some sort of correction or twist. For Piper, it is his use of affections from Desiring God, For Driscoll his use of contextualization in preaching the gospel. Acts 29 is the organization that probably represents the younger folks.

        • Juli Litchford

          Jesus talked about literal fiery Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna – translated hell). Something the Jews would have been familiar with as a place where the undesirable and discarded would be found. Not a place of eternal torment.

        • Kurt

          Peter… this is a long conversation you raise in point 3. I would ask you to watch this sermon by Greg Boyd in you are truly interested in "Conditional Immortality." It might interest you to know that this was the view of Martin Luther :-)

          Here is a link: http://whchurch.org/blog/2253/tormented-by-the-fl

          On point 2… He is only "liberal" if you are very conservative.

          On point 1: Luke nailed it!

      • Luke

        Sorry about the boneheaded mistake.

        From that Biblical evidence, I just cannot get with any confidence that God's grace extend to those that don't know who He is or who Jesus is. Inclusivism then to me is not clear from a biblical interpretation.

        I worry that sometimes we want to make the gospel to nice in defense of God, because we worry that people will not think God is loving if he does not include the "unknowing" believer as Leslie Newbegin called it.

        • Ryan

          it's not worrying what other people think, it's worrying whether our perceptions of God and his Justice are truly Just, or whether we project our own desires for "sinners" to burn upon God, and excuse ourselves by saying that it is God's Justice. I recently studied Romans in one of my classes, and one thing we realized as we discussed the text was that rather than supporting double predestination, it actually came closer to being universalist once we stopped pitching the usual verses for Calvinism/Arminianism against each other and started to look at the text as a whole.

        • Kurt

          Luke… excellent explanation… I will address your other questions in a follow up post in the next 48 hours. Many 'qualifiers' or expanded explanations are needed.

  • rogueminister

    Thanks Kurt! For those interested in the idea conditional immortality/annihilationism, this is a very helpful resource… http://www.amazon.com/Fire-That-Consumes-Historic

  • mkw

    Brilliant.

    To add, I would like to say I am neither reformed, nor emergent, nor somewhere in between. I am simply following Jesus.

  • missingtheboat

    "there's an invariable industry now of spiritual literature, most of which (if you don't mind me saying so) is like warm ice cream. You can put the knife through it and you won't encounter a spine anywhere." – anonymous

  • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

    If Bell is not a universalist, then he owes us all an apology for the publicity stunt he has pulled with his video.

    • http://frjody.com Jody+

      Seems to me his video was just calling out a sickness in some parts of the Christian community: a seemingly irresistible desire to gleefully point out that so and so is burning in hell. Some might worry for the salvation of someone who leans toward universalism… I worry for the salvation of people who enjoy talking about the torments of Hell.

      But, dealing with the video directly, can you cite a statement in it that is contrary to the Gospel?

      As for Rob Bell, we'll see what he says in his book.

  • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

    Also, I do not think that Jesus left any doubt that hell was eternal punishment (Mt. 25:30,41, 46; Mk. 9:43, 48).

    • http://spoonfulofdreams.co.uk Chris Price

      There's a difference between eternal punishment and eternal suffering. If we are mortal, finite beings then our sins must be finite too. A just God may punish us as our sins deserve as in an eye for an eye, but if God punishes us for who we are or hands out a sentence of everlasting torment for a finite crime, he cannot be just and therefore is not good. If he gave us eternal life knowing that we would sin and so spend our eternity in flames that would be equally hideous.

      There are many other reasons why eternal suffering makes no sense at all so why hold to a belief that any fair minded person finds obnoxious when there is a perfectly valid alternative in that to be destroyed would be to be separated from God forever. The sentence would therefore be eternal. Even if the fire were to burn forever, unless a soul was not flammable it could only supply fuel for a finite period. The only alternative is that God keeps regenerating these poor souls who would otherwise be put out of their misery eventually.

      The passage in Mark's Gospel suggests the possibility of spending eternity with God but with only one hand or eye. What sort of God are we worshiping unless this is hyperbole is only intended as an illustration. That being the case what compelling reason do we have to suppose Gehenna is real? The standard theology of hell is so full of holes its not true.

      • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

        Chris,

        Your comments in quotes.

        “If we are mortal, finite beings then our sins must be finite too.”

        But our sins are against the ultimate authority, and hence the ultimate rebellion. They are against the perfect innocence, and hence the ultimate atrocity. They are against the perfect law, and hence the ultimate travesty. They deserve infinite punishment because they are against an infinite God and are an infinite offense.

        “If he gave us eternal life knowing that we would sin and so spend our eternity in flames that would be equally hideous.”

        Not really. God gave us the power to choose to sin or to not sin. How we use that power is up to us. God is not responsible for what we do.

        "The passage in Mark’s Gospel…”

        But what of Matthew 25?

        JK

        • Craig

          The punishment is "everlasting" in that it is irreversible and irrevocable. This idea is necessary because the scripture presents the view that our physical bodies will die, yet we will be raised to face a judgment. Some might argue that the "second death" (which is what revelation says the lake of fire is) is not everlasting and that people might get another chance again. However, the Bible forecloses this. But, everlasting does not in any way have to include the idea of "conscious torment" in it to be everlasting. It simply has to be final, conclusive, and irreversible.

      • Andrew Wilkie

        God gives us a choice to follow Him and avoid said eternal punishment.

        Jesus died on the cross so that we have a way to the Father.

        And I cannot believe that you questioned God's goodness…He sent His Son to die so that we may be freed from Hell. God is more infinitely good than we can imagine

        • Ryan

          he never questioned God's goodness, he questioned other's perceptions of God's Judgement on the basis that such a god would not be good.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net jeremy bouma

    I would be interested why you characterize Bell as an evangelical. How exactly is THAT the case?

    • Kurt

      Jeremy Bouma, Listen to his "A New Exodus Series" where he raises the banner of Billy Graham in a talk and calls people to find individual salvation. That seems pretty evangelical to me.

  • Ryan

    Shameful on your part to make this a Reformed issue. I am not Reformed and find the words of Bell to be quite troubling. It is also silly and naive on your part to say that people are criticizing Bell for no justifiable reason.

    Besides, if Justin Taylor is such the awful guy for doing this, it might say even more about your lack of integrity to go to his blog to promote yours…

    • Kurt

      Ryan… I said this about Justin: "I am sure Justin is a great guy and obviously passionate about Jesus, but the following quote is a bit frustrating."

  • Ryan

    Ohh one more thing. It is also just a lack of knowledge on your part in how the publishing world works. If this book of Bell's did not stray off the Evangelical reservation then there is NO WAY Zondervan would not be publishing it.

    Zondervan has probably made more money off of Bell than just about any of its authors in the last 8 years. You really think they would give surrender that to their parent company Harper Collins unless the book had content they did not want to be associated with? Zondervan has millions of dollars invested into Rob Bell, and I guarantee you that not be able to publish this book is killing them, they must realize that it would just kill them with their evangelical base audience.

    One last thing, JT said in his update that he actually HAS read some of the book, so you might want to update your tirade to amend that his opinion is actually informed by the actual content of the book.

    • http://frjody.com Jody+

      Ryan,

      Seems to me that Harper-Collins picked Bell up to get him out of the publishing ghetto because they believe he'll sale more books. They published N.T. Wright on the Harper imprint as well, probably for the same reason.

      • Kurt

        Jody+, excellent commentary on publishing. Harper distributes to a broader audience so any author that can be published by them instead of Zondervan gets a much better publishing and marketing deal. Also, If HarperOne author NT Wright is outside of the realm of orthodoxy (having written the greatest defense we have of a literal resurrection) then I think that the only commenter that is truly orthodox on this comment thread is Ryan himself. Come on buddy (Ryan not Jody)… quit with the judgments and what not!

    • http://dalebest.com Dale Best

      Ryan, then please explain why Zondervan published Greg Boyd's "Myth…" books. Seems like Greg's message wouldn't jive with a wide swath of American evangelicals yet Zondervan published the book anyways. Zondervan is a business. I agree with Jody+ … it's an effort to get Rob out of the ghetto. Kudos to Zondervan and Harper for having cahones.

    • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jason Dye

      Since when were the Christian imprints worried first about theology? These same guys that publish Bibles and Christian Romance novels also publish (and made tremendous boatloads of money off of) Prosperity Preachers that are truly unorthodox…

  • http://www.mohan37.com mo

    Well said, man. Taylor's article was, indeed, a first stone, and one thrown with just the smallest bit of understanding. Even if I end up disagreeing, I'll certainly end up reading the book now.

  • william

    Hello, anyone heard of a judge in a court system. what if that Judge had to punish a relative, someone they knew. what would happen a different judge would b e appointed. That is NOT the case with God. chrstians are monotheists. we belive in One God. A god who IS Judge, I am sure we all agree with that and a Gid who Saves. I think the very poison that has haunted this is thinking that God is the devil becasue he created evil. GOD DID NOT CREATE EVIL. he created a standard, WHen you take a test, does the teacher create your failing grade???? We work on the premise of dualism, which is the flaw here. Evile is the ABSENCE OF good. if anyone here has heard of revealtion, a book in God's word it speaks of Satan, as a ffallen angel. haw did he come into being the story is quite clear. he TRIED TO BE GOD. and what diid god do, he csat him AWAY FROM GOD, making him turn evil, becasue god was not with him. and where god s absent evil reigne. this is why Jesus says in the cross, My God, my God, why have you FORSAKEN ME? GOD LEFT JESUS TO BEAR THE brunt of the punishement for the sins if the world. a statement i think that we are afraid of and has coinfused many people is God saves us from God, that is dangerous, he saves us from SIN, NOT himself, when a judge senteced someone to life in prison, or death, does he do it? God is a supreme judge, so much more that we claim him to be. He judges the wicked, by handing them over to the devil, and we are sentences, to eternal prison in HELL. Jesus said NARROW IS THE PATH, that leads to what? LIFE I tell you THE TRUTH. Not what you interpert but what it says. if everything was based on interpretation, then there would be no gospel. universalism is a fFALSE TEACHING. How hard is it to admit that??? The gospel of Jesus is not popular. jesus beared a cross of SHAME. OF OUR SHAME. and we think we are supposed to be popularized?? where did we get that from??? teh gospel will be hated by mny, jesus says. THERE IS NO BIBLICAL BASIS ON UNIVERSALISM. anyone who thinks that has lost their dictionary and creatd their own personal dictionary for themselves, to twist meaning of words to fit hat the world wants to hear. God does not call us to preach the gospel so the world will like it, God calls us to preach The Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that the world will hear it. JOhn 3: 16 is an example. "for god so loves the world, that he gave hid only begotten son, sop that whoever belives in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Did you hear that? PERISH. For those who believe not perish? could it not be more clear??? ravi zacahrias explains the current condition of man inthis video best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brU2kEkUFZA and by the way, calvinist do love capslock, and you guys love lowercase, meaning "god" is who you want him to be you meaning you dont have to change what you think for what HE WANTS YOU TO THINK AND ACT, why do you think the bible says LORD so often, becasue the one true LORD we are to worship, not the god of our minds. Asking "if there is a hel"l is like asking "Is jSsus really Lord" YES BECAUSE scripture says so. we need to constantly ask, " IS Jesus LORD of our lives, or have we become LORD of him? and tried to control what he can't and cannot do based on what we want, not what IS. God is who he is, not what we want, but what he wants, not to us, but to IS name be the GLORy. we glorify ourselves when we use our feeling about what is right and wrong and what exists to determine reality. reality is just that: REAL. DESPITE WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE.
    There is nothing better than reformed theology wneh RIGHTLY understood-
    r. c sproul
    If we had the same preception of God today as the isrealites did, as inwe who is not to be argued with, then there would much less unrest in teh cristian community.
    P. S. there is no option for italics here, and to emphasise certain topics i used it. i do not meanto yell

  • Vivianclare

    For those of you who are universalists, why on earth should anyone bother trying to live a Christian life, trying to follow Christ, supporting the church, sharing the Gospel, etc. If everyone automatically goes to Heaven, why even bother sending Jesus to the cross. You basically gut everything out of Christianity. If there is no bad, then everything is good, and God does not really judge, he just gives a rubber stamp of approval.

    Your real contention is that you are limiting God's concept of righteousness to your own human understanding, and positing your own opinion is that of God's. In essence, you are still playing God over your own life.

    • Greg Gorham

      That's only if the Christian life is primarily about an afterlife and how to escape Hell. But what if that was never supposed to be the point of Christianity?

      • Cassi

        "That’s only if the Christian life is primarily about an afterlife and how to escape Hell. But what if that was never supposed to be the point of Christianity?"

        -This quote = brilliant. Regardless of how you feel about hell existing Christianity isn't just a means of escaping hell with heaven as the prize. It's suppose to be something that changes mankind and the world. Not just a club you're trying to join so you don't end up in hell.

      • Juli Litchford

        Exactly.

      • Blair

        You do realize you didn't argue their point at all? The Christian life is about glorifying God…yet there is no point in even being a Christian now if we will all end up Christians, in Heaven, glorifying God in the end.

    • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com Ryan Peter

      I'm not a Universalist but you should understand that a Christian Universalist (also called a Restorationist Universalist and a couple of other things) usually believes that there is a hell and that there will be a time of punishing for those that reject Christ. The point of hell is to punish and correct them.

      In that light there should be a seriousness attached to the punishment. Christian Universalists don't pretend to know how long that punishment may be — it could be a hundred years, it could be a thousand years, it could be a million years. They simply believe that the time will come when it will end. That's what makes them universalists — once the time of punishing is over then all will repent and come to Christ. The punishment would have served its purpose.

      Realistically speaking, when pondering that there is a punishment coming and that it could last a very long time, anyone should be mature enough to understand that silly sins on earth are not worth going through any of that kind of punishment, especially when reading in the Bible what kind of punishment it is.

      Also, slightly off topic but perhaps worth thinking about given what seems your stance, Once Saved Always Saved doctrine often has the element of rewards attached. So you can live sinfully if you want and you'll end up still going to heaven, but you'll lose your inheritance and rewards and be saved 'as through fire' (1 Cor 3). Not having any rewards for ever and ever is a sobering thought.

      I mention this just to show that hell doesn't have to be (indeed I think it shouldn't be) the main thing to deter a believer from not sinning, although it can (and perhaps should) often be used as part of sharing the Gospel to a non-believer.

  • Abijah

    1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,t in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephast"; still another, "I follow Christ."

    13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

    - Follow Christ.

  • http://www.joeljupp.com Joel J.

    I agree that this is a helpful post. Certainly, this comes at a different angle than JT's, but this seems more fair — especially since the book has not been released yet. Definitions become very important when dealing with these kinds of issues.

    Interestingly enough, I don't see many people disowning John Stott (though there are some), but Bell is attacked with clamor. Your post suggests that there might be more balance dthan some would like to admit.

    Plus, your readers are really funny. :)

    • Kurt

      Joel J., You just made me smile!!!!

  • Ryan

    Joel where has Bell been attacked? It is nice to create straw men and then knock them down isn't it? JT has read the book and is giving his opinion of the content. Denny Burk also has a preview copy and confirms the universalism themes in it.

    So if reading something and then telling people what is says is "attacking" then you are spot on. Don't let facts get in the way though…

    • Ryan

      funny thing about reading something and telling others what it says: the only way to do this is direct quotes, with full context, and no cometary of your own. Now, reading something and telling others what you think it says is much easier. The only problem with this is you can be wrong. based on my research of Bell and his theology, which is, I admit, not exhaustive, I would not call him a universalist. And according to my research of what the Bible has to say about Heaven and Hell, I would say that the truth is probably closer to universalism than is often given credit in evangelical circles.

  • Andrew Wilkie

    I would like to say that if I sound like I am casting the first stone as you said in your blog that is not at all what I'm going for.

    I will admit to thinking that Mark Driscoll is a lot more on the ball than Rob Bell so I am a little biased. I would just like to know though where the theology behind making a statement that their Hell would be to no longer exist rather than what the Bible describes it as?

    Also, in that video, Bell questions whether Gandhi is in Hell. Well I'm sorry but as far as I'm aware, Gandhi wasn't a Christian so he certainly isn't in Heaven. And we either go there or Hell, no?

    As I stated at the start, I do not want to sound condemning but they are bold statements that He has made and ones that having searched the Bible, I must admit that I can't find any backing for…

  • Michael

    His promo video did more than just pose questions…it implied answers, of which had very very Universalist connotations to them, and in my humble opinion, did also imply answers…

    I do agree with you that people should read the book before coming to conclusions about Bell's stance theologically but there is alot of people out there these days preaching heresy's so I don't have a problem with people like Justin or Driscoll bringing this to the attention of the Body of Christ, at the least people will approach the book with a very very discerning heart….and I think that my friend, is a good thing.

    • Ryan

      there's a difference between reading with a discerning heart and reading with prejudice. one of the most fascinating things I have been able to do at college so far is study "evil" authors like Freud and Nietzsche. Each time an author like these comes up, the professors make sure that before our class starts attacking these texts and saying how they're all wrong, we first spend hours figuring out where the authors are coming from and what they are really saying. then, once we understand them, then we start looking at where they are wrong. we often find that they were more right than we had originally given them credit for. that is reading with a discerning heart. what Justin was doing in his blog was spreading prejudice about Bell, so now when people read his book, people will be more likely to come to the conclusion that he is universalist, whether he really is or not, because they read the book with the prejudice that he is.

  • Thomas Newell

    For those trying to say he was just posing questions and not making statements, I wonder what you would think of Iran's President saying, "we don't know if the Holocaust really happened now do we?"

    Sure it is a question but it is meant to make a statement. I can say anything in life and just add a question mark on the end by this rationale. "I wonder if my boss is a terrorist?" Wow this is easy, its a question so no one can hold me accountable. Hey if I am a liberal I can say, "Could it be that George W. Bush ordered 9/11?" Nothing to see here just asking a question. Or how about a Tea party one, "We really don't know for sure if Obama was born in the USA do we?"

    Such a cop-out by all the Rob Bell fan boys.

    • Craig

      Maybe he is trying to make a point and maybe he will hold the views some of you think are implied in his questions. But do not think those questions reveal his views. I am a judge and a law professor and I ask questions all the time of the parties before me and the students in my class that are solely intended to get them to think. At times, I have had another party or student comment on my question as if it indicated what my view was. I often tell them they are wrong – and instruct them never to assume that my question reveals my view. Rather, it is often just designed to get them to think and defend their own views better. In fact, I frequently hold the entirely opposite view from what might be implied from my question.

  • DAN

    Kurt, if you don't like it, don't do it yourself.
    "Unfortunately, a pious wing of conservative Christian faith, the neo-Reformers (often represented by folks like – John Piper (who I like theologically on a rare occasion), Kevin DeYoung, Mark Driscoll, and others – are hell-bent on caricaturing evangelicals that do not fit their mold. Case in point, Rob Bell." You can stand up for what you believe, but others can't? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.
    It's called standing up for the truth, and pointing out false teaching. That's Biblical Kurt, but I'm not sure that's important to you. When you take away the Bible as the absolute truth, you can pretty much say whatever you want. It's interesting that you don't list your seminary, name of church plant or even your last name. I guess I understand.

    • http://dalebest.com Dale Best

      I'm certainly not defending Kurt but if you do a little page hopping on this blog and it won't take you long to find out Kurt's last name or the faith tradition he comes from. He loves having friends on Facebook. ;-)

    • Kurt

      Dan, I always appreciate being condemned by fellow Christians. Peace.

      PS – Oddly enough you are simply "DAN" and nothing else. Seems we are both ashamed of our last names ;-)

  • DAN

    Kurt, from one of your blog posts:

    "There are several problems with this situation, for instance the reality that Rob is probably the most biblically sound preacher in America. "

    Wow. Guess that explains a lot. Stick to The Word Kurt, it's your only hope.

  • jason

    On one hand I think these discussions are important because one has to stand up for what one believes in (I happen to agree with Kurt on his take on Rob Bell). But, what I find sad is that according to some people I am either a heretic, follower of a false prophet, or not-a-Christian because I agree with a lot of what Rob Bell says (and even more radicals like Shane Claiborne).

    I have personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I have had experiences that can only be explained as moments orchestrated by God. But, how can that be if I am a heretic. One might say that I am simply confused or misguided because God can still use misguided people and he still speaks to misguided people but it is many of Bell's sermons that have brought me closer to Christ not farther away.

    What I am getting at is that there are many people who think he is a heretic or false prophet… but, I could say the same to many of the people who criticize him (if I am going to use that false polarity of us v. them) because I dont think that they have the truth. I agree that we need to stand up for truth… but I think that too many times we pick battles that are not as clear as we think they are (and I know that by saying that I could be labeled a heretic again). For me it seems that the neo-calvinists go on the prowl against anybody who questions their beliefs because their views have to go together or everything crumbles (one cant take away any of the TULIP or it falls apart). And so it turns into a defense of a religion (calvinism) rather than a pursuit of Truth and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Ok, I am done rambling…

    • Kurt

      Amen to my main man Jason!!!!

    • http://dalebest.com Dale Best

      That'll preach, Jason!

    • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jason Dye

      Love it!

  • Joyce Harback

    And they'll know we are Christians by our…. ???

    • jason

      Argumentativeness? Absoluteness of me being right?

  • Kyle

    Defend Bell all you want, but you're ignoring one of the most important things. The publisher description put out by HarperCollins states in no uncertain terms that Bell argues a loving God would not sentence someone to eternal suffering. At best this is an unclear statement regarding the true content of the book, and at worst makes Bell a heretic. Either way it's not how a "pastor" of the Gospel should act or allow himself to be perceived. Ambiguity is not a Christian virtue, nor something Christians can afford to be. Shame on Bell and shame on HarperCollins.
    Given this it doesn't seem unwarranted for people to respond. After all, if you see a movie preview (a two minute clip from a three hour movie) you are warranted in judging the content of that movie as either agreeable or disagreeable.

    • Ryan

      Let's remember that there's a difference between eternal punishment and eternal suffering.

      • Mark

        Could agree with you more on this one Ryan. Eternal punishment certainly is not the same as eternal suffering!

  • Emily

    Thank you, Kurt.

    Just… thank you.

  • Megan Zupancic

    My new motto: Respond to the present moment, not what has happened in the past or what you imagine will happen in the future as predicted by the past. Don't get into prediction mania; you'll always fail. We wonder why our relationships fail. Because we love people the way these critics do theology-without reading the book.

  • http://religionsucketh.com Jonathan

    I’ve been a fan of Bell since Velvet Elvis came out. That being said, I’ve also been a fan of guys like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, John Piper and several others in the Reformed crowd. I also frequent The Gospel Coalition website. Yet I never have really understood the whole “anti-Rob Bell” attitude, and that’s while disagreeing with some of his views. But, as you’ve written, to base a post on the publisher’s description and a trailer that is ambiguous at best, is wrong. I think I’ll wait until I’ve read the book before passing judgment. Good post Kurt.

  • Pingback: The Perfect (Theological) Storm | Simul Iustus et Peccator

  • http://peedypostings.wordpress.com peedypost

    A couple of things Kurt:

    1. I honestly don't think you could call Bell's video "ambiguous" from a universalist atonement point of view: he is not explicit in saying that all people will be in Heaven but it is certainly implied; he denies any other option.

    2. My concern about debates like this on the blogosphere is that both sides become derogatory and unpleasant in their responses. In one breath one side will accuse the other of being judgemental and casting stones first, and in the same breath will use words like "pious", "hell-bent", and "caricaturing". I come under the same headings as DeYoung, Piper and Driscoll, and in the same way that Bell is trying to defend faith as he sees it, DeYoung and more specifically Justin Taylor are defending faith and doctrine as they see fit. Granted, Taylor is abrupt and extremely to the point in his post on Bell's video; on the other hand, DeYoung presents his own opposing (and not uninformed when it comes to Bell) view. Surely any meaningful conversation or debate should actually contain formed and Scripturally-based argument?

    Yes we should challenge views we don't agree with. Yes we can have concerns about another's theology. In all honesty it would be good if everyone just waited five minutes and read Bell's book when it comes out! then we lose the need for speculation about his actual meaning.

    • Kurt

      Peedy… he does NOT imply that at all. It is only if you view his statement through the lenses of "Eternal Torment" that you can get universalism out of that statement. What is Bell is hinting at is that some, even possibly Ghandi, will "perish" as the bible seems to teach. This is way different than universalism. As I am not trying to defend conditional immortality, just stating that it is fully within the realm of orthodox evangelical theology. Even LUTHER held this view ;-)

      Now, did you not read this statment?: "I am sure Justin is a great guy and obviously passionate about Jesus, but the following quote is a bit frustrating." I called Justin a great… yes, great guy. I even said: "I believe that the reformers of today have much to offer the body of Jesus, and hope that we can move past these wild divides." Please read me again.

      Also, "hell-bent" was a pun, given the title and theme of hell in this post. It was satirical. And, no, I will not take back “caricaturing” because that is a constant theme in that group. They paint anyone as heretic or false teacher just because someone doesn't hold to reformed theology. That is just wrong and damaging to the body of Christ.

      Peedy… I know we agree on some and disagree on others. Oddly enough, I have not seen your wonderful Seminary mentor throwing heresy bombs at Bell and others. Neither should any group. A chip on the shoulder and some minor differences from one book (Velvet Elvis) is no way to do productive theology and unite the diversity of the body.

      PS – I offered some theology and resources to further explore friend. I hope you will check them out and see that I did take the conversation there…

      • http://peedypostings.wordpress.com peedypost

        well, my wonderful Seminary mentor finally broke his silence on Rob Bell:

        Michael Bird
        Will not be reading Rob Bell's new book on Hell. His nooma clips are more cheesey than a cheese burger with cheese cake. Every time he explores the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words I want to wring his neck. I just don't care what he thinks.

        hard to decide what's more damaging to a person, apathy or opposition? For the record, much as I appreciate Mike's scholarship and friendship, his way with words is sometimes lacking. I don't want this to to turn into a slinging match of insults. I appreciate your response to my concerns, and I think its best to agree to disagree, but also to endeavour to understand each others point of view more fully.

        Thanks Kurt.

      • Matthew N

        Kurt,

        I first want to say that I appreciate your desire to let Rob Bell's book speak for itself, and to commend you for your hope that he is just misunderstood.

        The fact that I first read about this whole issue from a blog writer who favoured Bell because he thought he was espousing an unorthodox view of Christianity, supports the assertion that Bell said something that sounded unorthodox.

        I read your thoughts on what you think he means, but IMHO, I think they are too optimistic, especially concerning how he questioned disparagingly that Jesus saves us from God (which is more or less what the propitiation of God's wrath is about) in the video. The way he said it, gave the impression that he might doubt whether God's wrath actually exists, and thus undermines the gravity of sin.

        On the other-hand, it could be just that Bell intended to deal with the question sympathetically (as a non-Christian might deal with it) and was merely clumsy in the impression he gave. If this is the case (and I hope it is), then while it's wrong for people to call him a Universalist, it's still his responsibility for how he said what he said, especially if non-Christians are getting the wrong idea.

        Some people are saying that we shouldn't judge, but I reject that simplistic notion: We are asked to judge with a right judgment. Unfortunately, I haven't seen one so far, and probably won't until the reviews of the book come out.

        • brambonius

          It think it's clear Rob Bell is not a calvinist and so he doesn't hold to penal substitution or would ever use the words propitiation of Gods wrath, but that does not disqualify him at all of christian orthodoxy. There are a lot more atonement theories that make sense of how Jesus saves us, that are not concerned with Jesus saving us from God (which is a strange idea indeed imho), but Jesus saving us from death, evil and sin…

          (Look up christus victor atonement, I think Kurt has written about this in the past.)

          • Matthew N

            It is not just Calvinists who believe in substitutionary atonement.

            "Jesus saves us from God" are his words, not mine. The core of the matter is whether or not he believes God has wrath for sin, and whether this represents a problem to the sinner.

          • Kurt

            Matthew N and Bram,

            I think it is important to differentiate between "penal satisfaction" and "substitutionary atonement." Penal satisfaction is the belief that God's anger/wrath was taken out on Jesus instead of us. I personally am not as convinced of this. I am however fully convinced that Jesus was my substitute. He endured the full wrath of the powers and Satan on my behalf and exposed them as weak, through his resurrection.

            This is a longer conversation, one that I will be hosting during the summer…

          • brambonius

            I realised the difference while contemplating narnia: Aslan (Jesus) does give himself over to the powers of evil instead of Edmond (the sinner) who was their rightful prey as a traitor, gets himself killed, and comes back from the death as victor. Lewis, a fan of midieval litterature, is a variation on the classical Christus Victor/ransom view on the substitutionary atonement of Christ here, which has been held for much longer than penal substitution, and makes a lot more sense to me.

          • brambonius

            (sorry for typos)

  • VillaPriscilla

    Before two hours ago I had never heard of Rob Bell, Justin Taylor, or Kurt/Pangea.
    I followed an interesting post on Facebook and ended up reading Justin Taylor's comments first, then the Pangea response.

    Is it possible to have heaven without hell and be aware of it? I think not. Each is dependent upon and exists only in the shadow and light of the other. Adam and Eve were w/o knowledge of good and evil. They didn't know they were in Eden bc it was their only experience up to that point.

    Is it possible to have atheists w/o religious doctrine?

    Do we label 'others' (neo-reformed) with the (possibly unconscious) agenda of promoting ourselves? It seems so to me.

    Are Justin and Kurt each using Rob Bell and each other to promote themselves? It all strikes me as platforms for spiritual materialism-'my God's better than your God'

    God is Love.

    • Kurt

      VillaPriscilla,

      My only comment is that if I was determined to self promote by Using Bell, then you would be able to find this post in search engines. Oddly enough, it is blocked! Also, notice that I go by Kurt and not a last name here. Please be careful not to judge.

      God is indeed love.

  • brambonius

    Did you see Andrew Perrimans take?
    http://www.postost.net/2011/02/rob-bell-justin-ta

    He quotes your approach as being "still stuck in a modern evangelical worldview that must always translate the contingent narrative categories of scripture into universally applicable abstractions." but I'm not entirely sure about what exactly he means with his whole rant…

    • http://www.postost.net Andrew Perriman

      Wouldn't have called it a rant myself. I largely agree with Kurt's post. I just think that new theological perspectives that take account of the narrative-historical context of New Testament thought are pushing us in the direction of a rather different way of framing core concepts such as gospel, judgment, and salvation.

      • brambonius

        Andrew

        I already guessed such a thing, but sometimes it's rather unclear to me what way of framing you suggest on the subjects as they exist in 'my old paradigm' (which is already pretty post-evangelical, but probably very conservative compared to yours).

        Would you do away completely with the idea of the afterlife and the final judgment? I would say that 'salvation' or 'eternal life' begins in this world and extends beyond this life, without putting these 2 dimensions against each other. Focussing only on the afterlife is as reducing as focussing only on this life in my opinion.

        (and I don't have the time and money to read all new theology books, so I haven't read your book yet, sorry)

        This is the second time I comment something about you somewhere, and the second time that you read it and react to it and that I realise I should've been more thoughtful in my wording. I still have a lot of things to learn… My excuses…

        shalom

        Bram

        • http://www.postost.net Andrew Perriman

          Bram, that's a decent comment. Thank you. In answer to your question (very briefly), I think that (in descending order of New Testament weighting) i) the central story of judgment and salvation in the New Testament has to do with Israel and the nations, not with he destiny of individuals, though clearly individuals participate in that big story; ii) for the "martyr" church the issue of life after death is very important, taking the form of a sharing in Christ's resurrection, vindication, and reign at the right hand of God; and iii) there will be a final resurrection of all the dead for judgment, leading either to life in a new heavens and new earth (not simply in heaven) or a final destruction (symbolically, the lake of fire or second death). You could also have a look at this.

          • Kurt

            Andrew… I agree with this short answer you give and will respond to your article about me in the next bit. I caught a flu yesterday so it may take longer than I hope. Peace.

          • http://www.postost.net Andrew Perriman

            Bad time to catch the flu, Kurt. You're the centre of attention at the moment.

  • http://bigjazzcat.blogspot.com David A Marsilia

    Reading quite a bit on this controversy, not being as well informed as many here, but curious to know how Romans 1: 20 "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse… " fits into this Neo-reformed vs Universalist viewpoints.

    • Kurt

      David M. I have heard it taught that this passage is a clue that when Christ returns, those who have not heard the message of Jesus but did the best they could with the limited knowledge they have through creational revelation, will be given a chance to bow the knee and confess with their tongue that Christ is Lord. Not sure if this is a great argument or not, but that is one way of looking at it. This would be inconsistent with Universalism but could be consistent with the evangelical view of inclusivism that I mention above.

  • Juli Litchford

    Either way, I'll be interested to read the book. I've noticed that Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and other "emergents" that I've read seem to lean toward universal reconciliation. I'm also coming across people who believe in annihilation of the "unsaved". That at least is more thinkable than eternal torment. However, I'm not sure it's accurate either. The truth is that none of us know for sure. It is possible to find enough groundwork in the Bible to support eternal torment, annihilation, and universal reconciliation. It's all in there. As for me, I believe that in Adam all died (literally all – no one is without sin) and that in Jesus all were reconciled (all – not just those who choose).

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  • Jonathan B.

    Speaking as someone who tends to agree more often than not with the 'neo-reform' camp, I have to say that the view you just laid out makes a lot of sense and I'm looking forward to reading the book if only to see if you were right. I definitely feel we Christians spend too much time polishing our own armor or fighting each other instead of fighting the enemy, and doing so based on a throw-away paragraph from a teaser of the book is cruel and useless.

    • Kurt

      Jonathan B, thanks for a wonderful comment!

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  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    Kurt, just a possibility to consider. The book comes out March 29th. I was on the list to receive a preview copy for review in my blog and was contacted almost two weeks ago. It is highly possible the book is in a few hands of influence for review and the judgment comes from an informed perspective. I'm speculating but the publisher actually wants these early dialogs and helps create them.

    • Kurt

      Jonathan, I look forward to seeing what the book actually says. One such person who has the book, commented below. His name is Tom Batterson.

      And yes, the buzz is a book marketers dream! hahah

  • http://Being-the-body.blogspot.com/ Tom Batterson

    Kurt
    I tagged you in a picture of my advanced read copy on facebook. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4944692648
    I know you are not one of those "I bet you don't even have it guys. But, there have been quite a few comments on my blog I chose not to publish because of things like that.

    Anyway you come very close to the heart of where Rob goes in much of his book. He doesn't land exactly where Boyd does (I think Boyd's view is less convincing to me).

    I'm not sure I want to go too in-depth about the book because I think it is important for folks to explore it for themselves. As you would expect the book is full of questions (more so than answers). I am also fighting the urge to do a more extensive review before it is published.

    I will say that in the same way He writes about Angels and animals in "Sex God" (speaking about abstinence and self indulgence) he explores the issues of Heaven and Hell, Judgement and Eternity. He avoids the traditional narrow views on both sides and delves into scripture, inviting the reader to question, explore, and make their own judgments.

    I'l let you know if I decide to post a further review.

    Grace and Peace
    Tom

    • Kurt

      Tom,

      Thanks for coming by and for you insights. I will look forward to your forth-coming review!

  • James Dise

    I totally agree with you and like very much what you wrote. I just think the youtube video introduction to the latest book, by Rob Bell, will be very confusing to people who don't read any of His material. Since in the video he does not make it clear that "Jesus is God", our Messiah, our rescuer, our deliverer, from our very own selves, because of the choice we have made to sin, being tainted with a sin nature. Our outcome is one of choice, those who pridefully choose unrighteousness, choose their own destiny; which is one of separation from a loving, Holy, God. Those who choose the grace of God, offered to them as a free gift of love, choose His salvation, reconciliation, and transformation. But even if a person doesn't know the name of Jesus, Jesus is still God's remedy for all sin, past, present and future. God has given each man a conscious, an accountability through a knowledge of right and wrong, and God says in His Word that He does not leave man without evidence of Himself, even through nature, God leaves no man without excuse before Him for His choices of good and evil. Bottom line is; God looks at a mans heart, and for those who humbly seek His grace, confessing their need for His forgiveness, He reveals Himself to them, giving them the faith to believe.

  • James Dise

    One thing I neglected to mention above; I do believe God gives everyone who "humbly" seeks His grace and forgiveness an opportunity, either now or later. Just like the Old Testament Saints, it was their "Faith that was counted unto them as righteousness" not their knowledge or understanding of how everything worked.

  • http://igneousquill.org Adam Gonnerman

    Yours was the first blog post I read on the topic, and having now read several over the course of the past 24 hours, it's still the best, in my estimation.

    It seems completely likely to me that Rob will "turn out" to be an advocate of some form of conditional immortality (Disclaimer: I tend toward this view myself) and claim to perceive some "wideness in God's mercy." To some, this will smell too strongly of universalism. In any case, I really doubt he'll affirm any genuine form of universalism.

    We shall see, though…and books will surely sell.

    • Kurt

      Adam G.

      Thanks for your kind remarks and your insightful assessment. We shall see indeed!

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  • http://nicenejosh.wordpress.com Josh

    I may have to do a blog post myself on the topic of hell and damnation.

    I'll admit, I'm what neo-cal's call a Bell fan-boy. I love his work, and the meekness with which he approaches the Gospel. He's a mystic and a seeker while at the same time a profound theologian. And from my experience with Bell, he won't end up at universalism. It would probably more of a conclusion like, "People send themselves to hell, not God." with plenty of questions along the way. And I have a feeling that Bell will probably make an argument for annihilationism, and maybe might even make an argument for a form of Purgatory. All of which would be considered very traditional and orthodox and conservative viewpoints within Christianity.

    What I think people don't realize is that Bell seems to draw off of the knowledge of the early Church Fathers without ever mentioning them. I think he's more in touch with the Catholic past than we give him credit for.

  • James

    I generally fall into a category of believers that feel if God had wanted to expand his definition of Hell (and exactly what it entails for the "non-believer") he would have done so. As such, we are unlikely to ever come to a firm conclusion "this side of eternity".

    What is made clear is that God is not present within the confines of Hell, wherever and whatever it is. Thus, Hell is an environment in which a person is completely separated from God – with no means to bridge that gap.

    • http://nicenejosh.wordpress.com Josh

      I wouldn't say that God is not present in Hell James. The Bible is very clear that God is everywhere, including Hell. There's a line from a Rich Mullins song that says, "Even if I made my bed in Hell, still there you would find me.". I would say however that while God is everywhere, including Hell, Hell is eternal separation from God.

      • brambonius

        it's a quote from the psalms, psalm 139:8; but 'hell' is a mistranslation of Sheol there.

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  • Joshua A. Humphries

    To use a Quaker phrase, "That Friend speaks my mind!"

  • Mick Pope

    Thanks for that Kurt – looking forward to getting a copy now!

  • Ken Walker

    Angry people shouting past each other. Reminds me why I left the evangelical movement.

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  • Blair

    If the point of this post was to show that you're upset at JT and he hurt your feelings, then bravo!

    On the other hand, if the point of this post was edify and point to Jesus….whoops.

    Name-calling, false accusations, throwing punches, siding up with the "emergent" against the "reformed" guys, etc. etc. etc. is not so mature, just to be blunt. This doesn't unite the body…

    As for the eternal torment vs. conditional immortality argument–come on, folks. Do you understand depravity, even a little bit? We are wicked, dirty, rotten, filthy sinners. We deserve eternal torment, and it's ever so real.

    Think not? Check with Jesus, He seemed to think so. And the rich man and Lazarus? (Isaiah 66, Mark 9, Revelation 20-21, Matthew 25….and plenty more)

    Making little of Hell makes little of sin and makes little of Jesus and our Holy and just God.

    If people like Rob Bell want to dumb down the gospel, make it more user-friendly for the lost, and say God is nothing but love, I suppose he has the right to do so. However, it is not only the right, but the duty of JT and others who know better to call him out on false teaching. His statements have been made, his video is clear where it stands, and the reviews of the book align with these. We should be thankful for guys like Taylor and DeYoung who will stand up to false teaching.

    The Bible is what it is, Hell being a part of that. Who is Rob Bell to say that the gospel is better if there is no eternal torment? While God is love, God is also all good, all just, and all holy. His lovingness does not counteract his other attributes.

    Bell's video, in my opinion, does nothing but make much of man. God loves US so much, he wouldn't do that to US. No, hello? He is GOD. He will do what He pleases with whom He pleases. (Romans 9, thanks). If He decides to send someone to Hell to suffer and pay for their sins in eternal torment, praise be to God. He is good. He is just. He is Holy.

    So, just chill. Breathe. Relax. The evil calvinist neo-reformist bad guys aren't out to get you. They just desire truth in teaching, as I assume you do too. But the way to go about it certainly isn't like this….

    Nobody is perfect. But JT did have good things to say-logical points drawn from valid evidence. The point of his post was the sake of the gospel. I'm sad to say though, I could see no point in this post, other than calling out JT for the sake of your boy, Rob Bell. Seems as though you don't really care to be unified as one body in Christ, but to be unified in one body of people who believe what you and Rob Bell believe…

    • http://itaintbrainsurgery.blogspot.com reformedfisher

      What she said.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      We deserve eternal torment, and it’s ever so real

      Uhhh….no. Eternal torture for temporal offense is not just. Death sentence, maybe, but not endless torture. No amount of argument changes that fact.

      But more importantly, from a doctrinal statement, the classic doctrine of hell is not just repulsive, it's not biblical either. Go back and look at who Jesus talked about hell TO…and you'll discover it's mostly the Pharisees, not the unbelievers. Let's see, who would be the closest analogs to Pharisees in our day? Hmmm…..

      • Blair

        to begin with, sinning against a holy God is not just "a temporal offense." I can see that you don't quite understand the rebellion and sin and depravity of man, or take it seriously. A lifetime of rebellion and sinning against GOD is definitely worth the worst of punishments, as is clear in the Bible.

        You can't decide what is fair punishment. He talks about Hell for all unbelieving. You can call it repulsive all you want, but your opinions don't change truth. There is clear, straightforward Biblical evidence of Hell. Just because YOU don't like it doesn't mean it doesn't exist or you can make up some doctrine to wish it away. I'm certainly going to trust the just decisions/punishments of our Lord over yours.

      • BeRuss

        It is flawed to believe the idea that a loving God wouldn’t condemn people to eternal hell.  “God wouldn’t do that”-wanting things that way doesn’t make it true. Some argue that its not”fair” that God would punish for eternity for a choice in a lifetime. It’s wrong just because you don’t like it? It doesn’t “resonate” with you? “That wouldn’t be fair”.  Oh, that we would understand “fair”.  What is “fair to us isn’t always “fair” to God. Is it “fair” that my friend is paralyzed from the waist down while most of the rest of us are free to walk to the kitchen? On a human level it isn’t fair.  Neither is it fair that we get to go to heaven if we put our faith in Christ. That’s not fair. 

        Understand this: 
        God’s holiness demands that we can’t be with Him on account of our sin.  God’s justice demands death for our sin.  God’s love motivated Him to be with us. His death on the cross satisfied both His justice and His love, making us holy so that we could be with Him. In THAT sense, love wins. But God didn’t change his character or his justice in order to do so, he proved them.

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  • Jake
  • http://www.scottruss.blogspot.com/ Scott Russ

    http://www.scottruss.blogspot.com/

    This is in response to a relative who emailed me asking my opinion. I thought i would also post it here too.

    Now, I did not say I didn't have ANY problems with Velvet Elvis. He said some things that I thought were poor choices in illustrating his point that did raise some questions. Nothing to declare him a heretic though. Now about this new book, I think a lot of people are jumping the gun here before his book has even come out. Honestly, I am tired of those who shoot first and ask questions later. Rob is doing a tremendous amount of good at his church. If I am to judge a person by their fruit, then to throw the label "heretic" to a public audience without even reading the book, and not calling Mars Hill to speak to Bell himself, I think is more "unchristian" than having a universalist position on hell. Quite frankly the universalist-view has been held by some very prominent Christians in the past. (That is assuming that this is what we are arguing about before anyone has cracked the book open.) I think it can be a valid view of end times. Now, I am not one of those who hold to this view (although I honestly would prefer this option over all the others), but i do struggle with a literal interpretation of hell and the length of time being eternal. Several times it is referred to as the second death. I see that as physical death as the first and then spiritual death as second. But then there are verses that talk about eternal punishment. The fact is, we hold on to our beliefs with a sense of humility and continual study and dialogue with those who came before us, and with those in the present, figuring out what we can learn in our own times and how the Bible may apply similarly/differently to our context. If you study the theology of just about any pastor or theologian in the past you will find things that we today would consider horribly wrong and misguided. But when you look at the cultural context in which they lived you begin to realize that the culture plays a much bigger part in shaping our faith. That is where humility must come in. One day, 100 years from now, I am certain that the Christian community will look back on 20th century evangelicalism and wonder how in the HELL we ever came to the conclusions that we did and declare all of us heretics. Rob is good at asking questions to get us to think. To consider different angles rather than assuming everything from the past has been figured out, therefore, we don't have a voice to consider our own context and how faith may impact us differently. Those pastors who are set in their ways from the past, influenced by a modernistic, scientific view of theology will rail against those who take a more post-modern "question-everything" psychological approach. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I sat and heard lectures about the evils of post-modernism! But this is the cultural shift we are emerging into. Each stage of history came with the previous thinkers wanting to destroy the new thinking. But the beauty of each stage was that a predominate area of theology was developed within the context of what the culture was focused on:

    Reformation: salvation and justification
    Renaissance: theology of humanity
    20th Century: theology of sin / holy spirit
    21st Century: who knows yet where this is going?

    I think the best we can do though is to dialogue rather than label those you disagree with as a nonbeliever or false teacher who is leading everyone astray. The fruits of Rob's life does not match that label. One of his primary mentors was my pastor in Grand Rapids. He was Jerry Falwell's right-hand man for many years before he moved to GR. If Rob was going heretical I know that Ed Dobson would have something to say about that. But Ed, while dying of Parkinsons, still makes the effort to preach from Mars Hill's pulpit and team teaches with Rob sometimes.

    The more these guys attack Rob like this, the more ridiculous they look and the more Rob, in a strictly financial sense, is going to rake in on all this negative publicity. And I hope he does. Because I know he will take all that money and put it into significant ministries around the world that are having a big impact on changing the world for the better.

    I ran into all of this yesterday on the twitter-universe. It made me mad and I wanted to blog about it, but I shouldn't do it in anger. Piper has always struck me as a Reformist theologian who is very judgmental and angry at times in the way he handles himself. (And absolutely bizarre on Twitter at times). I used to listen to his podcast but I just got tired of him. He always seemed angry about something. And really, who made him the father of theology in our nation? There are things about Reformed theology that are just wacked. One day we will all sit before God and he will himself explain where we got it right and were we got it wrong. And those who came before us and after us might be surprised that he still allowed us into His kingdom!

    There are my two cents.
    Pastor Scott Russ
    Epiphany UMC
    Loveland, OH
    scottruss86@gmail.com

  • http://www.ChristianHeretic.com Drew Costen

    Good post.

    I personally suspect that Rob Bell will espouse Conditional Immortality in his book, which would be a shame because we need more big name Christian Universalists out of the closet in the Church.

    For those who call Universal Reconciliation (Christian Universalism) a heresy, you're absolutely right, and that's enough of a reason for me to be a Universalist (as I say on my own Universalist web site (http://www.ChristianHeretic.com/hell), just because it's "orthodox" doesn't mean it's true). :)

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    just because it’s “orthodox” doesn’t mean it’s true

    LOL, Drew, I love that! I don't think I buy your Universalism claim, though I'm headed off to read your blog…but I certainly buy that 1,700 years of "orthodoxy" have not been entirely constructive!

    • http://www.ChristianHeretic.com Drew Costen

      I'm glad you like it. :)

  • David

    All this just shows our confusion on basic issues of Christianity. It's really not about who's in and who's out. If we go to Heaven or a place called Hell. It's really about Loving God and others….. Ours is to share Gods Love with others. One thing is for sure, we'll know when we get there !

    Looking forward to reading this book, thanks for the post Kurt.

  • http://merechristianarchy.tumblr.com JH

    The gold in this post is the resources you offer for further reading. Thanks for that!

    I’d like to compile a list of writers who lean in a universalist/inclusivist direction. Are there any more can’t-miss names that I should be adding to the list?

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    I am not a famous name but I do believe everyone is going to heaven and have written extensively on this (http://wp.me/PNthc-i6). I hope this will be helpful to anyone who is interested.

    My approach exalts Christ above all and is built entirely on the Scriptures (OT and NT) which I believe to be the word of God.

    There is more to my message than everyone is going to heaven, however. In a nutshell, my message is "Repent, and follow Jesus Christ our Lord."

  • sheryl rydgren slryd

    If you were as well known as rob we would critique you and end up with the same thoughts.Dont steal the word orthodox from its origin,give it a new definition and expect that we keep silent.

    • Kurt

      Sheryl,

      Hhhhmmm… If I am not orthodox… which, I think I am because I affirm that the view of hell "conditional immortality" is not outside of the confines of that term, then neither was Martin Luther. That was his view. Do you think Martin Luther was a heretic?

  • http://www.ecksermonator.com/?p=1402 Jason Hess

    I read this shortly after you posted it just haven’t responded… so I will now.

    Two things.

    1) Great post and thanks for stopping by my site.

    2) One thing is for sure, the negative outcry by “reformers” over this upcoming book amplifies the reality of the changing church…something which most “reformers” struggle or choose not to embrace.

  • http://www.godmessedmeup.blogspot.com Pam Hogeweide

    So let me get this straight: two camps of Christian ideology are fussing over the takeaway message of a book that neither has read???

    At least it's a discourse about the hell thing, though I'm unclear if anybody is willing to Just Say No to hell???

    I have written about my changing views on eternal damnation and eternal reconciliation in the past. Here's the LINK if anyone is curious. I list some resources that helped me as I dove into the not-so-clear waters of the hell thing. It's not a black and white slam-dunk doctrine. I'm not a bible scholar, but I am a curious woman. It was not hard to find thoughtful scholarship that offers a different point of view about eternal damnation and God's unlimited love and mercy. Stop by if you like and have a look., especially my post Kick Ass Scholars of Christian Universalism

  • Robin Parry

    I think that when the book comes out you will find that Rob Bell is, as you say, an inclusivist but not, as you hope, an annihilationist. Rather he is (more or less) a universalist. Perhaps a "hopeful universalist" (it is not completely clear).

    But that is neither here nor there as far as this comment goes. What interest me is that you assume that being a universalist is something bad and that to accuse someone of it is to accuse them of something bad. Perhaps it is . . . but then again . . . might it be that universalism could be an orthodox Christian view? It will be interesting to see how that discussion develops over the coming months.

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  • http://www.ecksermonator.com/?p=1402 Jason Hess

    Kurt,

    Thanks for the noting my post above on your March 1st update.

  • Grev

    Universalism competed to become accepted as the orthodox view in the first few houndreds years of the church.

    Should it be?

    That is another question.

    Another question is; Rob Bell is aware of the controvery he is generating; why does he not clear it up?

    I think the promo video for the book and my own awareness of emergent theology, leads me to believe he certainly embraces something that is not a traditional understanding of hell as a place where the person is aware forever that they are separate from God.

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  • Reed

    You spent the first part of your essay criticizing Justin Taylor for drawing conclusions without reading Rob Bell's new book, then you spent the last half of your essay telling us what you think Rob Bell will say (without having read the book which will come out on March 15). Hmmm. It seems to me that both the pot and the kettle are black.

    • Kurt

      Reed, sounds to me like you didn't read too closely considering I admitted that…. hhhhmmmm indeeed. Also, you should read the follow up post.

  • http://GreatestStoryTold.com susankps

    If there is such a 'place/state' as eternal torment in hell, than poor, insane Andrea Yates had it exactly right and all the rest are just B team player wanna be's.

    If eternal torment in hell is real, than forget the gospel message of reconciliation to the Father through Christ Jesus… and rip out 99.9% of your Bible, too… we'd only need one page and it says TURN OR BURN.

    The real issue is, what happens at THE END? The scriptures on my website GreatestStoryTold.com bear out that GOD WINS in the end through Christ Jesus. If there is a 'hell', it can not be 'eternal'. End of story.

    • http://merechristianarchy.tumblr.com JH

      I think the Eastern Orthodox do a pretty good job of reconciling the "fire" with a loving God in this way: http://goo.gl/hM2Zo

    • David Patton

      The Roman Catholics call this “Purgatory”. Also not found in the Scriptures.
      Hello: It is never acceptable to value mans opinion over Holy Scripture.
      That should really matter, a lot.

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  • Jesus

    this is Jesus
    get off your macbook and iphone soapboxes and go create a little bit of heaven for somebody else today

  • SomeGuy

    This is a marvelous piece! Thank you for this.

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  • Brad

    What do we not understand about the word, eternal? Why must we change the word because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We love describing God as eternal, but have huge issues with eternal punishment. Putting a twist on it doesn’t demonstrate sound reasoning in my opinion. I would prefer to take the words of Jesus, and struggle with them, then to write a book explaining that love somehow clears it up. Since the book, Rob has appeared on multiple shows and has struggled, in my opinion, to clearly define his position on universalism. He says “no,” but writes, yes. On a personal level, I like Rob. In fact, I’ve used his small group materials in our church. He has an amazing heart and undeniable passion for God. But please, be fair to the text and don’t go messing with eternal. Instead, let’s be honest and simply struggle with it like we should with God’s amazing grace which no one should deserve.

    • Robert

      I would like to pose a question for you, Brad. Have you researched the origin of the word eternal, eternity, etc. The submit that the NIV and KJ translations (to name two) are anything but concordant translations. In fact they are quite discordant. I encourage you to tory reading literal concordant translations, such as the Concordant Literal New Testament, translated by the late A.E. Knock(http://www.concordant.org). There are others as well. These translators used the same english word for each greek work, in a true translation fashion, rather than interpretation.

      Just a thought…

  • John Gordon

    When we refuse to encourage, much less to validate, fellow believers with the wrestling of their faith, beliefs, ideas, and hopes, we do ourselves an incredible disservice.
    This way of thinking is why CCM (typically) has delivered some of the worst, lamest, and most trite “songs” that one has ever heard.
    We have forgotten that in the very first, AND the very verse of the Bible, God talks about creating.
    Artists are closer to Godliness than many “apostles” -  “prophets” – and “pastors.”


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