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Rob Bell and Adrian Warnock on Justin Brierley's Unbelievable?

In addition to this transcript video and audio are available.  You can also dowload the pdf if that is easier for you. Thanks go to blogger Ken for providing this.

Brierley: You’re an author and probably though the latest release Love Wins has sort of put all the other books in the shade in terms of the reaction it’s had. Tell me, did you anticipate the response that this book would have…has had?

Bell: Which response?

Brierley: [laughs] Well, all response…

Bell: Cause  people have been extraordinarily kind and supportive and grateful. And, I love the process…the hunt…the discovery…the exploration…the thing that God is doing in me…the thing that’s happening to my own soul and spirit…my own walk with Christ…and out of that the sense of, “I need to make this” whether it’s a film, a book, a sermon or something. So to me that—every morning sitting at my desk and it’s quiet and I’m working away at the next thing, that’s sort of how my life is oriented. So if the thing that got created could help somebody that’s—if it could help them find Christ and find healing, and salvation, and wholeness, and hope, and joy, that’s like—that’s beyond—that’s too good to be true.

Brierley: Mmm.

Bell: So um, I’ll start there.

Brierley: Okay. Obviously though that’s not the only kind of reaction that it’s made.

Bell: Apparently from what I’m told there’s other reactions as well.

Brierley: Have you been looking at the reactions? I mean, do you go online on the blogs, on the reviews?

Bell: No.

Brierley: You don’t look at any of it?

Bell: Mm, mm, I don’t Google my name.

Brierley: And is, is that just purely because it’s too…too much—there’d be too much to look at? Or just—

Bell: (Laughs) Right. If you started where would you stop?

Brierley: (Laughs)

Bell: Um, and…I am passionate about people who haven’t heard this gospel/good news hearing it; so I do my best to articulate it. Uh, this book is part of an ongoing discussion; it’s not the last word, I never thought it was and I assume nobody else thinks it’s the last word.

Brierley: Well—

Bell: So—

Brierley: Let me—

Bell: I’m taking part of this ongoing discussion—

Brierley: Yes—

Bell: And it’s okay. The other opinions and perspectives are beautiful, good—wonderful.

Brierley: We’ve—we’ve got another opinion and perspective represented here in the studio, today. My other guest is Adrian Warnock.

Bell: Hi Adrian.

Warnock: Hi.

Brierley: Thanks for joining me today as well. Um, Adrian…you are sort of in the UK scene…quite well known as a “church blogger” you often, you know, give your opinion on various things going on…movements in the church, etc. Uh, what…what did you make of the response to Rob’s book in the blogosphere?

Warnock: Well look. Let’s just start by saying, Rob it’s very clear to me that you’ve written out of deep convictions shaped by your experience. And you’ve always been someone who’s tried to reach out to…particularly people who’ve been hurt by church expressions and who…you know…are in danger of running away from church…church all together. And I have to say, you know, I am sorry that there’s been some people who have been really quite hurtful online. I’m glad that perhaps you’ve not read some of that stuff, but you must have been aware of it at least peripherally. You know, some people talk about the pajama hadeen you know? And…and I don’t think…

Bell: Wait. What’s…what’s that?

Warnock: Oh, the idea that bloggers are, you know, sitting in their pajamas with nothing better to do than be like pajama hadeen.

Bell: And what’s the second word?

Warnock: Hadeen. You know, as sort of war…warfare.

Brierley: (Laughing)

Bell: Pajama—

Warnock: Hadeen.

Bell: Hadeen.

Warnock: Yeah. That’s a new one.

Bell: I learn a new phrase.

Warnock: That’s a new one on me as well.

Bell: I’m taking that phrase. I wish I had pen and paper.

Warnock: Yeah, that’s good.

Brierley: We’ll pass you one.

Warnock: And…and I just want to say right at the…the outset of this. I have no intentions to be hateful to you or to uh, anyone.

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: And I think any…but I do feel that every Christian has a duty to contend for the faith “once for delivered to us.” And certainly in the videos online and the publicity around the book and in actually the book itself you…you seem to have claimed that…that many Christians, you know, have had an unhelpful understanding of the gospel and is the implication that…that actually they’ve been wrong essentially. And I…I do feel that the faith has been delivered to us and we must contend for that; and I guess I’d be much more traditional than you. At one point in the book you talk about your grandmother’s faith…a little picture in your grandmother’s house and the clear implication is that you’ve sort of moved away a bit from your grandmother’s faith. For me, I want to be part of my grandparents’ faith…the forefathers’ faith and to preach a Christianity that those who’ve gone before sort of recognize.

Brierley: Rob, this sort of leads into one of the questions that came in…that was David, a pastor in Kent. He says, “What have been your key influences when it came to writing this book?”

Bell: My grandmother. (Laughs)

Brierley: But what made you start to think this way in particular, you know, in terms of the themes of heaven and hell that you bring out in the book. I mean…was this…was this what you thought when you started Mars Hill, ten years ago? Would you say it changed significantly theologically in that time?

Bell: Well, I’m like a lot of people. You study, and you grow, and you learn, and you see things one way and then you begin to see them in a different way. It always came out of…like as a pastor giving sermons…you study the text.

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: You study other texts. You study more texts. You dig around in the Greek. You dig around in the Hebrew. You start realizing, “Wait. Some of these phrases come up…again…

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: And again and again.” What’s that about? Where is that? Is anybody else in the tradition picked up on this? What are the implications of this? Paul says this here. Uh, Jesus uses this image…does He use any other image like this? Wait, there’s this commentary on this parable.

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: Well, I haven’t heard that before, I wonder what else is there.

Brierley: So…so you’re thinking is definitely obviously developed in those…

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: Ten years…just coming to the texts again and again. I mean, what’s interesting to me is someone put me on to an archive of the very first sort of mp3s that came from Mars Hill…

Bell: Oh, interesting.

Brierley: It does exist somehow.

Bell: Those exist?

Brierley: On Google…yeah you can get it. Um and…and I just listened to the first sermon you gave and I was like, “Rob is still Rob, but he does sound quite different. He’s using some terms that you wouldn’t hear him talking about in the quite same way today.”

Bell: Oh, wow.

Brierley: So I just got a sense that you have kind of…at least in the way you present it…changed somewhat in your sort of…the way you think theologically a bit, maybe.

Bell: Have you?

Brierley: Oh yes, absolutely. We all go on a journey, don’t we…theologically? But, I mean…let’s get down though to some of the key questions we’ve got…

Bell: Okay.

Brierley: on the book today. Obviously the big one we’ve got to start with is Universalism, because you’ve made statements, Rob to say, “I’m not a Universalist.” But on kind of a straightforward reading of the book, that’s obviously what many people are coming away wit that you are a Universalist…you do believe that all people will ultimately be saved. Now, I know that you’ve said that you don’t believe in kind of big hand of God sweeping everyone into heaven

Bell: Oh, no.

Brierley: whether they like it or not; not THAT kind of Universalism, but is it fair to say that you do believe in a Universalism in the sense of everyone will ultimately, freely choose to be won over by the love of God?

Bell: I don’t know, do you?

Brierley: Well…

Bell: Do you?

Warnock: It’s interesting because I don’t think Jesus did because Jesus talks about how…he talks about a fire that won’t go out, torment that’s unending…um and, you know; certainly in your book you say that, “No one can resist God’s pursuit forever because God’s love will eventually melt…

Bell: That is a perspective…

Warnock: the hardest hearts.”

Bell: of…I mean there has been that strand within the Christian tradition…there are people who have said, “Oh yeah, given enough time God will win everybody over.” What a…what a beautiful thought, but I don’t …I don’t know. And it’s a sort of a stake of claim that’s going to happen…how would anybody know that?

Brierley: I mean obviously you outline different positions in the book.

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: You say some people think this…

Bell: Yes…yes…

Brierley: some people think this…

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: and here’s…here’s…now what…I suppose what struck me when I read it was that it is that position of everyone ultimately being won, which is you kind of major on…that you give the most time to in your chapter, “Does God Get What God Wants?”

Bell: (agreeing). Oh, mm hmm…mm hmm

Brierley: And, so…just to…to quote from a couple of bits there um…on one page you say, “Will all the ends of the earth come as God has decided or only some? Will all feast as is promised in Psalm 22 or only a few? Will everybody be given a new heart or only a limited number of people? Will God in the end settle saying, “Well I tried, I gave it my best shot and sometimes you just have to be okay with failure.” Now when I read that although they’re phrased as questions…

Bell: Yeah.

Brierley: I obviously think…

Bell: Yeah.

Brierley: Well Rob obviously…

Bell: (Laughing)

Brierley: doesn’t believe that God fails and God settles back and says, “Ah, oh well…I tried, but it didn’t work.” I…it comes out that you’re not Agnostic on this Rob, it comes out that you do believe everyone will ultimately be saved. Of course you will acknowledge that’s just one in a variety of options…

Bell: Sure.

Brierley: but it sounds like that’s the one you prefer or the one you’re most convinced by.

Bell: Do you long for that to happen?

Brierley: Oh yes…I well…well…Adrian?

Warnock: Well look…

Bell: Do you long for it to happen? Do you long for it?

Warnock: I’m not a Christian who believes that only a few will be saved that’s for sure. I’m…I think there are…and that’s one of the positions I think you kind of react against in the book. You know this idea that billions…

Bell: Oh yeah…yeah.

Warnock: and billions of people are going to…

Bell: Yeah.

Warnock: end up in hell…um, and that the minority will be saved. But I think that it’s a different question about whether you believe a majority will be saved or all of them…so I don’t feel that my reading of the scripture would allow me to say uh…that hell will be empty; I don’t see that.

Bell: And my observation from what I see in our world right now is I see lots of people choosing hell. And I actually think it’s incredibly important that we hold onto hell and if you’re asking me, I see lots of people resisting God’s love right now…resisting Christ right now. And my assumption is they are free to resist when they die and uh…I talk about the momentum theory…you tell a lie you have to tell another lie; that our choices have very real consequences and we can build ahead of steam in a particular direction and we can build ahead of steam in a direction away from God. So, I see lots of people who it looks clearly like they’re choosing hell now…their consequences are spreading hell to others; and I would kind of assume they’ll continue on in that direction.

Brierley: I guess this is the thing that many people are feeling a bit frustrated by, Rob is that…that they feel that they’ve read you making statements in this book and then when you’ve talked about the book afterwards…they feel you’ve back peddled or at least soft peddled what you’ve actually said about it…because I have to confess when I read the book without any knowledge that you’d be coming into my studio

Bell: (Laughing)

Brierley: um…I thought, “Wow, Rob Bell’s come out as a Universalist.” Now, it’s…why did I come away with that impression if you are really setting out a range of options and you’re not really saying you are firmly in any camp? I mean, is…is that being a bit disingenuous, Rob?

Bell: I think in the book I talk about hell now and hell later. I see people choosing hell now…I…I live with the assumption that people will choose hell when they die. There’s this picture in Revelation of this new creation…new heaven and new earth…earth and heaven become one…this beautiful city and there are people outside of it…

Brierley: Do you believe that ultimately everyone will win?

Bell: Well see this is what is truly fascinating to me?

Brierley: Will they be won?

Bell: What is the…do you know?

Brierley: No, I don’t.

Bell: (asks Adrian) Do you know?

Warnock: Well, I think Jesus knew and Jesus said that there would be those that He would send away. And here’s one of the things that really concerns me…you know…

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: As a teacher, and I’m sure it concerns you as well, that you know…when James it says that “we who teach will be judged more severely than the rest.” Jesus does seem to say that there will even be some who…you know…who’ve…who’ve preached, who’ve healed…He even talks about miracles in His name and He’ll say now look, “Away from me…

Bell: Yes.

Warnock: I never knew you.” And He says this repeatedly about this idea about an eternal punishment…where the fire doesn’t stop and…and I think it really matters whether that’s real or not. And if you are really saying that you don’t really believe the simple words of Jesus, then I’ve got big concerns about you Rob as a…as a…as a person and what those consequences for you might be. I’ve got concerns for people listening as well. You see, my worry is this…that someone could read your book or listen to you and decide, “Well, you know what? It doesn’t matter,” because people think that to a certain extent even now. When they hear the sort of more traditional gospel messages that say, “Hey, you know, it really matters what you do in this life…you’ve got to respond to Jesus…you can sin, but then once you’ve repented you’ll be forgiven. A lot of people hear that and go, “Ah, I know…I’ll repent on my deathbed,” and I think that is very dangerous because you don’t know whether you’re going to have a deathbed in that sense. But what about someone who listens to you and says, “Well, ah…that’s fine, I’ll just wait till I’m in hell then I’ll take the ticket out of here thank you very much.” You know the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus said there’s a chasm that no one can coss…that no one can cross.

Brierley: If I could come back and sub that with another question. I have so many questions Rob, I feel I owe it to my listeners—asking a few of them—and Peter (on that very subject that’s just been raised there asks, you know, “What’s to stop me choosing to ignoring Jesus and doing whatever I want knowing that not only will loved ones of Christ will ultimately win, but rejecters and haters, too in (as it were) the afterlife?” So, the question is…is this a death knell for a) evangelism and b) people taking things seriously in this life if…if…if they come to this view that I’m…I’m always going to have a chance to…to turn around.

Bell: I begin with the urgent, immediate call of Jesus to repent right now. So, that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m doing I don’t know how many interviews in a row.

Brierley: (laughs)

Bell: is because to me it all begins with Jesus saying, “Repent, now…the kingdom’s here…it’s upon us…it’s among us…it’s at hand.” And…so that’s how I live and move and have my being.

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: And my observation is that when people are exposed to this Christian tradition and all of these perspectives and they are introduced within their own tradition to a stream of thought that read all of those all things passages and said, “Just what might God be up to in the world through this Christ? How big is it?” My experience has been it has an immediate effect of “This God is good. This God is up to something and I want in now.” So my experience in our church and my experiences travelling around and meeting with people has not been any sort of like “Well,l it doesn’t really matter.” It has been “Oh my word this gospel is AWESOME. I want to know this Christ now and I want my friends to know this Christ now, and I have energy…I have resources…what can we do now to partner with God to make this world a better place.” So my…my experience has been…NOW!

Brierley: So you experience in practice is that’s not the effect it’s has,

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: But could you see the point of view of those who would worry that it would give some sense of…

Bell: (interrupting) Yeah, I understand…

Brierley: false security.

Bell: I understand the worry and fear. Um, it is deeply counterintuitive. I actually get lots of mail from people who talk of the counterintuitive nature of this: “When I read your book, it had this strange effect on me that I wanted to go out and tell these people who I’ve been friends with a long time and sort of wanted to have a discussion and wanted to…” friends of mine around the corner, who’ve been neighbors of somebody for 14 years, who went out that day and had the first conversation they’ve ever had about Christ with. So…so my experience has been…and I’m speaking…sort of…I try very hard not to say like, “Hey, I wrote this book and let me tell you how many people responded to it…”

Brierley: Mm. Mm.

Bell: But my experience has been people tell stories that they believe are good.

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: They tell stories they are compelled by that have captivated them. They naturally are effusive and it sort of spills out of them.

Brierley: And I don’t want in any way to come across as being down or negative on the book, myself Rob. I have plenty of friends who have tweeted, “Just read Rob Bell’s book, I think it’s amazing…it’s, you know, this is the book I’ve been waiting for” was the way one person put it. Obviously you have written something that has captivated many people, but it is also very concerning to another branch of people.

Bell: Yeah.

Brierley: And…and I think Adrian is kind of obviously in that branch he says…is this kind of giving it a…if you’re wrong, Rob if you’re like…all this…a false sense of security?

Bell: But…this…this…but this is where Adrian and I (and you’re a preacher, too)

Warnock: Well, I’m not a full-time teacher, but I do do some preaching.

Bell: No, you’re a preacher…then you have the heart of a preacher.

Warnock: Yeah. I do have a heart…

Bell: And you wrote a book on resurrection; that means you’re a preacher.

Brierley: (laughing) Yeah.

Bell: We can…we can talk endlessly about then, we can talk about concerns, we can talk about worries, but what he and I do is we announce the good news of the resurrection now; and this is what we’re passionate about. And, he is speaking of the danger of consequences when you die, there are consequences right now.

Brierley: Well, that’s true as well.

Bell: I mean the people I meet…um…there is a guy in my church who last summer came to me and said, “Hey, I’ve been cheating on my wife and she doesn’t know and I actually owe hundreds of thousands of dollars on my business, which is going to go under, and I think da, da, da, da dah.” I’m just like, “What are you doing? What…what do you want right now? Tell me where you’re at right now.” “Oh, I don’t know…maybe this woman I’ve been having the affair with might be…I don’t know there might be a future with her.” And like, “No, no listen here dude, listen….repent….you are absolutely jacking your life up, and your kids, and your wife and this whole thing…” like he and I both live with the words, “Your choices right now have huge implications, and if you want to use the word eternal who knows where this…

Warnock: Okay.

Bell: is going? So let’s start right now with this urgent, immediate gospel

Warnock: Okay.

Bell: invitation.

Warnock: Look, I mean there’s no question Rob that when you speak about the love of God and even this wonderful “big picture” (and I love your emphasis on the resurrection for sure) I mean, you know, I write my book cause I thought that many people neglect that. I do think that’s great and there’s no wonder that some people reading that and thinking, “I love that,” because at the end of the day, people need that positive message. They do need to see that God is love; they do need to see that He’s for them and I think that there are many people that grow up with this notion of God as being somehow against them only. My…my problem is this (and I’ve even heard you say this in another context) there is a tension between this notion that God is love and that God is holy and I think many people perhaps on the reformed end of the spectrum have emphasized the holiness of God and sometimes can almost seem like they’re taking delight in people who are going to hell, and I don’t think that’s helpful.

Bell: Yeah.

Warnock: But,

Bell: Correct.

Warnock: I think there is a real concern (in my mind) that in the book, there isn’t too much mention of the wrath of God, there isn’t too much mention of the holiness of God that maybe you’ve, you know, in trying to correct that imbalance have gone too far the other way.

Brierley: And if I can just pop in another question, which seems pertinent now, again a question that asks…and I think it’s a pastor in Kent again…says, “Um…what do you do with the wrath passages, Rob?” You know, you’ve…you’ve stated in the book that you don’t believe God came to rec…kind of, you know…rescue us from His wrath. God you know, God isn’t the one putting us in danger, we’re putting ourselves in danger (if you like), God’s rescuing us from ourselves rather than from Him, but…but there are these passages which speak of wrath of God against ungodliness and sinners and that sort of thing.

Bell: Yeah.

Brierley: What do you do with that?

Bell: What did Jesus do on the cross? Like, did Jesus on the cross satisfy whatever needed to be satisfied…pay whatever penalty needed to be paid…was…is it finished?  Um…and uh…or the writer of Hebrews…what kind of mountain have we come to? Have we come to a mountain that’s trembling with smoke and fire that people stood at a distance and said, “You…you go near, not us!” or have we come to a mountain with thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly…like, what kind of mountain have we come to? And to me the gospel writers and the New Testament writers are again are saying on the cross, Jesus accomplished something we could never accomplish on our own; His work on the cross, not ours…His new life, not ours. On the cross, He gets what we deserve and then in…in our trust of this we get what He deserved. So…so I began with all of those questions; was Christ enough? Is it paid? And can we trust Him for this?

Brierley: Rob, I mean…let’s just be clear about this in the video that created all the…the…the angst on…on the web.

Bell: Angst?

Brierley: I know that for many people that watched that…

Bell: (laughs)

Brierley: It’s a good word isn’t it?…but for many people who watched that actually the thing that stuck out to them wasn’t even the stuff about hell, heaven…you know, is Gandhi in heaven who knows…you know that kind of thing, because I’m not a great believer in saying, “Hey, this person’s in hell,” you know, I think the gospel gives us some clear understanding about how we can know we’re going to heaven, but I don’t think it’s very clear about precisely who’s heading to hell.

Bell: Say…say more about that.

Brierley: Well what I mean about that I…I don’t know what went on in Gandhi’s heart, you know? I don’t know; maybe on this deathbed he might have repented…turned to Jesus, who knows? Maybe he had some faith in Christ…I don’t know what happened and so it’s not really my business to say Gandhi’s in hell, you know? What I can say is this…

Bell: (Interrupting) So…so…so you just sort of…you don’t answer that question.

Brierley: No.

Bell: So if he starts asking you, “Yeah, but where…where do believe….where do…” like he was just doing to me if he does that to you about Gandhi, what is your response?

Warnock: Well, I would say simply this, there is only one way to heaven and that’s through Jesus…that’s through faith in Jesus, uh…and the only way to be sure that you’re going to heaven is to have repented and put your trust in Jesus. And, you know, so as far as we know, Gandhi didn’t do that; now…maybe he did…maybe we just don’t know about it.

Bell: So you refrain from any sort of absolute judgment about that. You return to trust in Jesus and then you let that be sorted out by God who is the judge.

Warnock: Yes…because you see…I mean…you do say somewhere in the book something along the lines of, “Hey listen, we shouldn’t be making these pronouncements that people are definitely going to hell”, but here’s my concern about what you seem to be saying and what people are reading from you is that you’re…you seem to be doing the opposite which is saying, “Well, hey everyone’s going to get to heaven.” And I think that’s not really helpful…

Bell: I don’t think that.

Warnock: You don’t think that?

Bell: Do you?

Warnock: That everyone will get to heaven, eventually…cause that seems to be what your book says.

Bell: No.

Brierley: I mean…this…this is what…what…what I think we need to turn to in a way, is talking as well about um…the postmortem sort of idea that you can make a response of today; cause that’s the fundamental stumbling block for a lot of people, Rob is not necessarily even the Universalism that…that people read into this book. But…but the…you’ve suggested that people can choose God after they’ve died. A lot of people would say surely that’s unbiblical…um, you know, you make good decisions now in this life…after that…you can’t.

We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll come back on that issue.

[break]

Brierley: Um…Rob…just coming back to…you’re a pastor of a church at the end of the day and what is it like for the people who are at your church? They must be kind of getting it from all angles…people who say, “You go to Rob Bell’s church…he’s a heretic!” Um…I mean, how are they handling it? I’d just be interested purely from a kind of pastoral point of view…if this is throwing up big issues for the church.

Bell: Well…they’re extraordinary…they threw a party for the book launch.

Brierley: Really?

Bell: It was unbelievable.

Brierley: Like this program.

Bell: There you go.

Brierley: There you go.

Bell: Tie it in…it all comes back together.

Brierley: (Laughing)

Bell: Yeah, they…they…have been just um…they’re…they’re extraordinary people and they have been very, very loving and supportive. And YES…they have lots of discussions with co-workers, and family, and friends about these things. And, yeah…it’s been a…a…a singularly unique experience in the life of our church.

Brierley: I’ll bet it has. I mean, we were talking about whether this dampens the…the…the…one of the…this…this…prospect you have outlined as possible universal salvation…whether it dampens prospects of evangelism, but you actually wrote the book (in a way) to help evangelism, because you feel the…the idea of people burning forever in hell is such an abhorrent idea that um…that is what will turn people off Jesus and Christianity…and so I’ll just read another question as…as I’ve got it here in front of me. From someone who asks (if I can find it) um…yeah “Do you think the historic view has hindered people from coming to Christ in the past?”

Bell: Absolutely. Absolutely, and as a pastor you interact with people…people come with a question; they want to know about this, they want to know about their struggle with this, but you quickly discern that there is a question behind the question…and there’s a question behind that question. And so many times you realize the real issue we’re at here is, “What is God like?” And, this does not discount God’s holiness, or God’s judgment, or God’s justice, but for many people they…

Warnock: You used the word wrath there, Rob…that’s interesting to me.

Bell: God’s….you all say…you say “wroth”

Brierley: “Wrath”

Bell: And I’m like…who is Roth?

Brierley: (laughing)

Warnock: What I’m saying is do you…do you believe that God is actually angry against it?

Bell: Furious. We need…

Warnock: And do you believe…

Bell: We need a God who has anger towards things that we should have anger towards.

Warnock: And do…do you believe that God actively punishes sin or is it more just kind of a passive, “Oh well, they’ve chosen away from me…I’ll let them have their own way.”

Bell: What a great question, because you have passages that speak of a loving father disciplining and punishing as a way of correcting…as a way of bringing back…as a way of setting back on the narrow path; so this is an image and metaphor that we find throughout the scriptures, so yes.

Warnock: But…

Bell: Now, as a pastor the amount of times when somebody has brought this question or that question or this struggle and you get in there and you find out they have a conception of God that is absolutely killing them…or even the guy I meet on the street who’s like, “Yeah, I’d love to come to your church but the roof would cave in.”

Warnock: (laughing) Yeah.

Bell: Like literally this guy’s fundamental idea is, “If I go to a church service [parenthesis] seek God in some way, I am going to get thunder bolts and lightening,” as opposed to a savior or a loving, heavenly Father who’s in the driveway welcoming this prodigal home.

Warnock: But is it not both? Isn’t that the point?

Bell: Well, in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son the Father’s standing there with arms open welcoming
home.

Warnock: For sure…for sure…but that’s…

Bell: (interrupting) So let’s start there, and I would probably try to keep it that simple. Um, now it will always involve some kind of repentance. It will always involve some sort of death. It will always involve some letting go. It will always involve some sort of re…rebirth because you cannot step into the new unless you let go of the old…that’s going to always be at the center of it in some way, shape, or form.

Warnock: But here’s the thing, I mean, the guy you just described (to be quite honest, I’d probably respond to him in a very similar way), but what I’m more concerned with…

Bell: Okay, let’s stop there and enjoy that.

All: (Laughing)

Warnock: We agree

Bell: We agree. I’m just saying…now keep going. Let’s just enjoy that (laughing)

Warnock: You do enjoy that. What…what…what about the guy who on the other hand is saying, “Hey look, it doesn’t matter, you know? I’m a Christian, God loves me, I can just do what I like…I visit prostitutes…I do this, I do that…I don’t care about my wife at home because God’s just going to forgive me.” See that kind of guy, I would be more inclined to start talking to him about the wrath of God. It seems to me that your guy…

Bell: Yeah.

Warnock: Understands punishment, understands wrath…

Bell: Right, right, right, right, right

Warnock: which is actually right, but for him

Bell: Yeah.

Warnock: you say, “Here’s the good news.” You under…you get the bad news (if you like), now let me tell you the good news.

Bell: Yes, yes.

Warnock: My guy thinks he’s got the good news…

Bell: And he needs…

Warnock: but he needs to hear some pretty

Bell: Yes.

Warnock: bad news actually.

Bell: Yes. Yup. And I told you like last summer the guy who comes to me and tells me…

Warnock: Don’t tell me you’re agreeing with me as well?

All: (Laughing)

Warnock: Surely not!

Bell: I might start “Amening”. No…no…no…but this is serious like the guy I talked about last summer whose like, “You know what? I’m cheating on my wife,” (and all that). I don’t go, “Hey, you know man…

Warnock: Love wins.

Bell: You just gotta do your thing. You know what? God has given you the freedom to go down this route and you can continue to resist God, you can continue to do this, but you are in misery and agony, right now and you…you…you are experiencing a sort of hell of earth, right now. What are you thinking? Repent. What are you doing? What are you doing? God is pursuing you. God is calling you to turn from this.” So…so there…I…there are…there are these moments when you call people back to this God who’s desperately longing for their repentance, yes. And you’re completely right.

Warnock: But you…you still seem to be drawing slightly short of this idea that he’s at risk of being eternally punished by a furious, angry God forever in hell, which is what I think the traditional Christian perspective has always been. I…I…and you mock that because you talk about…in the video you say, “Hey listen…so many people think Jesus rescues us from God” all this kind of thing, by doing that most people assumed you don’t really believe firstly, that there is a hell that is around God actively punishing us, you know?

Bell: Do you believe?

Warnock: And secondly, that you don’t believe that Jesus experienced that on the cross

Bell: Do you…do you believe that God will create a situation where there is no hope?

Warnock: I think that we have to understand that there is a consequence for our choices in this world that has eternal consequences

Bell: (interrupting) okay…

Warnock: that’s what I believe.

Bell: consequence. So…so God…God has to make judgment and part of that judgment will be create a situation where there is no longer any hope or that person?

Warnock: Well, that seems to be the clear reading of scripture.

Bell: Okay. And then secondly, set aside from the idea of no hope, do you believe that God will create a situation in which repentance no longer is possible or matters?

Warnock: Well again, I don’t see a single hint in the scriptures of repentance after…after death, I really don’t.

Bell: So, what God does in God’s judgment, God has to create a situation to be true to God’s judgment in which there is this for this person, it is fixed…it goes on…into the future with no end…and there is no hope…and there is no…repentance no longer means anything…and somebody says, “God, I am sorry. I am so grieved at my sin. I have so wronged you and violated you. I am so sorry. I understand now that Christ is the way. I understand the cost of the sacrifice and I am desperate to have a relationship with you.” And God…is there a point at which God says, “I can’t do anything about that…sorry…your repentance means nothing.”

Warnock: Well, I think you’re being too optimistic. I think people in this world once they’ve rejected Jesus what makes you think in the future world they’re going to suddenly go, “Oop, I got it wrong…”

Bell: Well…

Warnock: Go back to the rich man. He does seem to regret some of the consequences…

Bell: Sure.

Warnock: but he doesn’t even ask, “Hey, can I go to heaven, now?”

Bell: The rich man hasn’t experienced no sort of death.

Brierley: Let’s just sort of put this in context. Let…we’ve brought the concept of a rich man (and people may be going, “Which rich man?”) Um…we’re…we’re talking about one of the parables Jesus tells which does speak of a hell. Um…Lazarus…

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: is the poor man outside the rich man’s gate…

Bell: Yeah.

Brierley: the rich man ignores him all his life, um…then Jesus tells this story of the…the…the poor man being…

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man is in hell and he asks Abraham, you know, can’t I… you at least send a message to my brothers so I can…

Bell: Right. Right.

Brierley: warn them about this terrible thing that’s come upon me. I mean, one of the questioners that…that…came in did…did ask, “What about that fact that, you know, um…Abraham’s says there’s a gulf between us that you

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: cannot pass. Isn’t this proof that it is some kind of final thing that happens at death,” that this gulf was created.

Bell: Well, first off there were at least three, first century stories that were popular that involved a reversal at death in the rabbinic tradition. So, when Jesus tells this story, that involves dying and then a reversal…somebody rich ends up in a bad place, somebody poor ends up in a good place…He is using a…it’s almost like a prototype of a parable that was popular in His day…He did not come up with this sort of twist on the story. Secondly, He’s speaking to the Pharisees and the Pharisees had a deep sense of piety that all that matters is our personal holiness before our maker. And so how we treat our neighbor, how we love our neighbor is of no consequence; the only thing that God demands is our own personal piety. So when Jesus tells this story, He has a particular thing He’s doing here with these Pharisees; He is jolting them into the reality of their indifference to their neighbor. So I begin with the assumption that to take this story, which is surreal to say the least…heaven, Abraham’s bosom, and the…and the rich man, and they can talk and there’s…and they can…and he wants water dipped; it’s all very surreal.

Brierley: What you’re saying is you don’t….

Bell: I don’t believe…

Brierley: you take on the theology of hell from this parable.

Bell: Yes. The point of the story (and in its first century context) is a giant, epic, shake you, rattle you by the cuffs of your robe warning to the Pharisees, “Your whole, individualistic piety is creating a hell on earth because you actually have rich people who are profoundly indifferent to poor people.”

Warnock: That’s…

Bell: So…so I begin with a first century context and say to take that then and make that an absolute teaching about the afterlife (and it has things to say to us about when you die), I sort
of want to say first and foremost is, “What is Jesus doing rhetorically with this story?” And I believe, He is saying to these Pharisees, “Your  understanding of piety, holiness, and what it
means to be a neighbor is very jacked up and it is deeply grieving God and you need to repent.”

Warnock: But is…but isn’t the whole point of that parable is that the first will be last, the last will be first that there is a day of reckoning coming and that, “Yeah, if you’re going to continue to oppress the poor, there are potentially eternal consequences,”…and, you know, and…and…and in the parable the whole thing isn’t about, “Hey listen, they need to hear they need to be…people need to be warned”…and…and…the parable, I mean, is very poignant actually cause it even says that, “Hey look, if someone is raised from the dead, what makes us think that they’d listen again to that?” I guess, you know that’s the point with Jesus’ coming, “Hey Jesus was risen from the dead, Jesus has been through…

Bell: Yes.

Warnock: that and now Jesus is saying, “I want you to follow me.” In fact, not just if I want….I command you to follow me, and I just think you miss out a little bit on this notion that…that Jesus is this glorious, all conquering king, you know, the king of…of Psalm two where it says, “Yeah, kiss the Son. You know the Son is…is wanting you. He wants you to love Him, lest He be angry with you.” There is that two elements even to Jesus…and the problem’s worse than you imply in the video when you say, “Oh Jesus rescues us from God.” Actually no, Jesus is also the One Who isangry with us and yet He also does love us and provides a way out.

Bell: Ok?

Brierley: Any sort of response, Rob I mean…

Bell: (smiling)

Brierley: This is, obviously, what I want to get back to ultimately is—we’ve kind of skirted around the issues—but um

Bell: We have? He has? (points at Warnock) I have? (Laughing)

Brierley: Well in that sense, I think we’ve touched on this…we haven’t quite grasped it by the throat yet; this idea that there is the ability to say yes to God, to be “won over” by the love of God after we’ve died. Now, for instance, um…you obviously…there’s…there’s parts in the book that you say things like…uh…uh, “There will be endless opportunities (this is one of the options you outline) and an endless amount of time for people to say yes to God (as long as it takes in other words). The love of God will melt every hard heart and even the most depraved sinner will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.” Now, that’s a view that you seem to commend quite strongly in the book, would I be fair to say that this is an optimistic view, which you would very dearly like to be the case? Um…

Bell: Do you want it to be the case?

Brierley: I want…yeah, of course

Bell: Does Adrian want it to be the case?

Brierley: Do you want all people to be saved?

Bell: He’s going to say yes. Yes, Okay? Good. Yes, of course he does.

Warnock: The thing is this…

Bell: but he’s going to add…yeah, I understand…

Warnock: I don’t believe that’s what the bible says, and you know, I think it was Sproul who once said, “We don’t get to teach what we want the bible to teach. We get to teach what the bible teaches,” essentially…I mean that’s slightly paraphrasing what he said.

Bell: Okay, so….so…uh…um…Jesus the renewal of all things…Paul in Colossians…the reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth. Peter in Acts 3:21 the restoration of all things. Paul in Ephesians 1:10 uses this fascinating [anakephalaíomai, anakephalaiosis] word—that’s [a] very unique Greek word—they’ll be “all things will be brought to fulfillment. How do you understand the “all things?”

Warnock: Well look, the all things is about the fact that creation itself will be brought into unity with God again. There will no longer be this rebellion against God. Yet there will be this thing called hell where the devil is locked up forever and uh, those who have rejected Christ are locked up forever. But, creation itself will no longer have sin in it; sin will have been purged from creation…the new creation….

Bell: So…so when you read all things that…that isn’t about people?

Warnock: Well it is about people, but it’s not about
every single person that’s ever lived, no.

Bell: So it’s not about “all” people?

Warnock: No, it’s about all people who will then exist in the world…the rest of them will…and this is of course where some people get the whole idea of annihilationism from, which I don’t agree with, but this idea that actually the people that exist…

Bell: the people have

Warnock: almost cease to exist in terms of the new creation, they kind of have ceased to exist, I mean…we would…I would hold that they do have an eternal, conscious punishment some people would disagree with that because it’s…it’s almost like they’re in a set ???

Bell: Does God make…keep the punishment…does God do the punishing?

Warnock: Well, I would say he does. Yes

Bell: Forever?

Warnock: Yes.

Bell: So a billion years from now, God is keeping the punishment going?

Warnock: Yes.

Bell: So like if a person died like at like…let’s say 17…whatever they did for 17 years…17 million years from now, God is still  inflicting the punishment on their failure to repent in that 17 year window?

Warnock: Well, that’s what the bible says. It’s not a very comfortable message, but it’s what the bible seems to say.

Bell: I mean just….and the word eternal…you understand that aeonian…

Warnock: Mm hmm.

Bell: means forever as we think of forever linear segments…unfolding segments.

Warnock: I believe that and in the same way Jesus…

Bell: Do you believe the word alum in Hebrew means that, too?

Warnock: The Hebrew words…I’m not so familiar with that word.

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: But what I do know is this: Jesus says that…he says, “Some will go into eternal punishment…some to go…will go to eternal life.

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: So eternal life to my mind means the same thing as eternal punishment in that…in that sense.

Bell: Okay. So…so…so aeon…

Warnock: If…if your word eternal doesn’t mean eternal as ???

Bell: if aeon.

Warnock: is heaven forever?

Bell: If aeon…aeon’s the Greek word…and like Kittle or Barclay or

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: McDonald or Kirk…you go down the list of theologians who say aeon has two central meanings;

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: it means age and the age to come, or it refers to an intensity of feeling…so in terms of intensity of experience. You would say, no…no…no those two sort understandings of aeon and aeonian life…there’s actually a third meaning that is the meaning that trumps the other two.

Warnock: No…no…no…I…I would say this; that words mean different things in different contexts…and when Jesus says,

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: “Hey listen, there’s eternal punishment or there’s eternal life and it’s this choice that…that distinguishes which one of those you’re in…’

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: The…the word eternal in that sentence surely has to mean the same thing cause if when we’re playing with words uh…we don’t…we don’t usually use a word meaning three different things in the same sentence. So in my mind,

Bell: But when a first century…

Warnock: the word punishment means

Bell: So to you, when a first century first century Jewish rabbi uses eternal life he’s talking of olam ha-ba…he’s talking about life in the age to come, aeonian life and this understanding that there is this age and then there is an age to come…and they didn’t comment on the age to come after that because they didn’t have a sense that things sort of go on from… only God is sort of outside of time. So they spoke very specifically about moments in history followed by another age in history. So for you, would you disregard the first century Jesus usage of the term?

Warnock: Well, no because we are talking about the age to come, there’s an age to come.

Bell: Yes.

Warnock: And…

Bell: And so for a good Jew that was the…the next period of time after this one, but you would then add or read into that “oh that that he must then be talking about a sort of forever as we think of forever.

Warnock: See, it’s…it’s interesting what you’re doing here, Rob cause you’re asking a whole bunch of questions of me, but…

Bell: Well actually it’s very helpful for me.

Warnock: but can I just say…because the thing is, when someone like me hears you ask those questions the immediate understanding I have is that clearly you don’t agree with that and that clearly you think that hell isn’t forever, and clearly you think people can get out of hell. Now, I’d be interested if you’re willing to say that quite clearly because often when people have asked you that, you don’t say that…you just answer with a question or whatever.

Bell: Well…

Warnock: Do you think people can get out of…of…of hell and go back to heaven? Is that what you’re saying?

Bell: I’m simply beginning with, when we use eternal…

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: or forever, is this a category…are we talking about the same thing that the biblical writers talked of? So like in the Hebrew Scriptures olam is the closest word and Jonah says that he was in the belly of the fish for olam, which was three days. So, I’m just asking when we take our forever and we impose it and…and are we bringing an assumption to the scripture that the writers don’t have?

Warnock: Ok. So that to me…that just sounds like Universalism and the fact that hell is…

Bell: That’s a basic sort of biblical studies question.

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: When Jesus says eternal punishment, what does he mean and is there sort of a larger context because when he says eternal life….

Brierley: Can…can I…can I come though moving beyond the Greek to…to this ??? like…it’s…to me what comes through in the book more is that you don’t like the picture that this would paint of God in the first place and so. The people ask…

Bell: (interrupting) Well…well Adrian…

Brierley: let me just get these questions out. One person asks, “Is your generous view (they call it) of judgment and reconciliation primarily the product of bible study or the application of kindly logic the idea that God couldn’t be like this?”

Bell: (Laughing)

Brierley: And another person asks…and this is more directed at you Adrian and your view of hell, “If we believe God is justice how can a finite human being, with a finite ability to reason come to earn infinite punishment? Surely justice demands that the time fits the crime…how on earth can we believe in eternal conscious torment?” I mean obviously a lot of people do struggle with this and you’ve mentioned already a…another option Rob, which doesn’t really feature in the book…but annhilationism, this idea that people who have…

Bell: Yeah, there’s a section in the book…sort of an ex-human, post-human,

Brierley: Okay.

Bell: formerly human that’s one of those there’s sort of…that’s the way many people…

Brierley: Sure. Are you more comfortable with that than the eternal, conscious torment view…I mean it seems to me like you’ve definitely ruled that out as being even considered…you know that view is just out of kilter with the idea…

Bell: Well it just raises questions and so…so like when I’m…when I’m asking Adrian, those are legitimate, honest,
straight-forward

Brierley: But tell me more when you say that…

Bell: Well…well…wait…wait…wait…back up a minute.

Brierley: What do you think is the answer to that question?

Bell: Well…well when he said…like in the questioner who says,

Brierley: Mm.

Bell: Um…a finite being, in a finite segment of time, receives infinite punishment that has to sort of be kept up and maintained by God that says something about the nature of God. So, let’s say a 17 year old rejects Christ, dies, and 17 million years from now (or however you want to say that…that’s obviously sort of over-the-top language), God is still punishing that person…is God like that? And I think that’s a totally legitimate question…

Warnock: Do you think God is like that, Rob?

Bell: No. I don’t think God is like that.

Brierley: Okay. So…I’m…taking from that answer that you definitely do not believe eternal conscious torment? I mean, I can’t draw any other conclusion…that…that you don’t believe in…

Bell: Well,

Brierley: that. That’s fine….that’s fine…there’s lots of evangelicals who would agree with you.

Warnock: Hang on a minute.

Bell: Is that a possibility?

Warnock: Hang on a minute, there.

Bell: Is that a possibility? Is it? Is that a possibility?

Warnock: Well if…

Bell: Yes! So if your question is…do…is that a possibility? Yeah, it is.

Warnock: See,

Bell: It is!

Warnock: I think…

Bell: And Adrian sees it as “the” possibility.

Warnock: Yeah. But…but….here’s the thing…

Bell: And I’m okay with that.

Warnock: Here’s the thing…

Bell: Or he’s not okay, but he is okay, but he’s not okay with that. (Laughing)

Warnock: Look, here’s the thing alright? If the position that we’ve traditionally held to is right, and you come along and say, “Hey, it’s fine,” to my mind it’s a little bit like somebody saying, “Hey, I found the cure to death.

Bell: Wait…wait.

Warnock: Take this tablet, you’ll never die it’s fine.” That kind of person, you know, with all respect, wouldn’t be on the New York Times bestseller list, they’d be held up as fraud because what you’re saying to someone is you’re offering them a false hope. You’re saying to them, “It’s okay…it’s no problem…don’t worry about it.”

Bell: Do…do you think that I’m saying something new?

Warnock: No, I don’t. But I think…

Bell: Do you think that…that the questions and the things that I say in the book…you don’t actually think I’m saying anything new in the Christian tradition.

Warnock: I don’t, but what I think is interesting…

Bell: Well, let me just say this though: So when you say I come along and say this…your issue is with anybody who has this particular perspective?

Warnock: It is, but I…

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: I think there is an interesting perspective on this and I…and that’s this….and I think this understands some of the kind of emotion behind this. It’s that there’s lots of people that would say a very similar thing to what you seem to be saying and…and we would call them liberals and they would call themselves liberals and it’s a funny thing cause I know you’re going to Greenbelt later this year and uh…I…I remember when I was growing up, having a number of friends who would say to me something like this and they often would be people who went to Greenbelt and they would say, “Hey you evangelicals, you’re fundamentalists…I want nothing to do with you. We’re the real thing. We’re liberals.” And they were sort of proud of the label “liberal Christian,” okay? It seems to me that today, I think one of the reasons people don’t….evangelical people (reformed people, if you like) react so strongly to you is that people have thought you were almost sort of evangelical side…the reformed side…and suddenly you’re coming out and saying this stuff that…that others have said before, but they’ve been the liberals and I think that’s the angst…that’s the concern cause this whole in/out thing…are you in…are you out…are you an evangelical…are you a liberal. I mean, it seems to me what you are saying is, “My natural home is with the liberals.” Am I right?

Bell: No. (laughs)

Brierley: I’m guessing you don’t want to be categorized by any label?

Bell: I went to Fuller Theological Center in Pasadena, CA. Uh, the president there…Dr. [Richard] Mouw friend of mine) um…has been very encouraging of the book. Would you say Fuller Theological Seminary if…if…if you’re familiar with the school…

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: You would say the school’s liberal? The camp you are explaining, you would say it is that?

Warnock: Well, I mean, I don’t know if you can count the whole thing. I mean…

Bell: Okay.

Warnock: I’m not sure everyone at Fuller would agree with you, would they?

Bell: I don’t know.

Brierley: I’m sure there’s a diversity of views.

Warnock: Yeah.

Brierley: I mean what…what has come out is…is various pastors have uh…if you like labeled you in a certain way. You were talking recently at Westminster Central Hall to a packed out audience there on the book. Just down the road is Westminster Chapel; the pastor there Greg Haslam, I interviewed recently on the book…his reaction to it…and…and he  said, “It’s just liberalism re-hashed kind of, you know, for a kind of, you know, new generation.” Um…I’ve got someone who emailed me…James White who wanted to say…um…the way he put it was this (laughs), “Love Wins is Protestant liberalism in skinny jeans.”

All: (Laughs)

Brierley: Uh, D.A. Carson (of the Gospel Coalition and I see they’ve been leading a lot of the response to this) describes it as, “Liberal Protestantism.” People believe you’re basically re-hashing something and…and you’re…you say it’s nothing new. Is it…is it what people…what the liberal tradition have been giving for…for a while…it that why it’s not new…it’s kind of coming out of that?

Bell: Well, I believe the tomb is empty.

Brierley: Mm hmm.

Bell: I believe in the resurrection.

Brierley: You believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Bell: I believe in the good news. Yes. Like…

Brierley: You believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Bell: Yes!

Brierley: Yeah (laughs). That was another of my questions. It’s kind of a litmus test of orthodoxy for evangelical belief these days, isn’t it? Do you believe in the physical bodily resurrection…

Warnock: I think it goes beyond that…

Bell: I think not just these days…

Warnock: Yeah, and I think it’s more than evangelicals…we have to make a distinction between the evangelical movement and the broader Christian movement. So there are plenty of people who wouldn’t call themselves evangelicals, but would say that they believe that the tomb is empty, you know? I’m thinking of Catholics, I’m thinking of Orthodox, I’m thinking of all sorts of…it’s actually funny…because I think it’s the one thing that true Christians uh…all agree on actually that Jesus physically rose again.

Bell: Adrian thinks I’m a Christian (laughs)

Warnock: I do! Did I ever say you weren’t a Christian?

Brierley: On that positive note, we’re going to take a quick break and we’ll come back, because we’re only going to have five or six minutes to wrap up this uh…this program. You’re listening to a…a really interesting interaction today between Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) and Adrian Warnock. And you can get Adrian’s book on the resurrection, something we’ve just touched on. Yeah…yeah, he’s giving Rob a free copy of his book.

Bell: He’s not convinced.

Brierley: But…but we’ll be back in just a moment’s notice so we can conclude today’s program and if you want to get your thoughts across, do email me unbelievable@premier.org.uk

Welcome back to today’s program, I hope you have been enjoying it as much as I have, and don’t forget we are filming today so we’ll be aiming to put the video of today’s program up at the unbelievable page very soon uh…so check back for that in the future premier.org.uk/unbelievable. You can also find a link through to the details of the Unbelievable Conference happening in three weeks’ time on Saturday, the 14thof May…not long to go now so if you haven’t already registered uh…do so, uh…because you’ll be missing a great day of apologetics teaching from some top speakers including John Lennox, David Robertson, Jay Smith, Mark Roques and David Instone-Brewer are all going to be on the bill. So if you can get there do check that out premier.org.uk/unbelievable the website of this program or you can go directly to the booking page at premier.org.uk/answers.

Uh…going to go to some of your feedback a little later on in the program…what you’ve been getting in touch with via email, twitter, etc., and also noting that next week, we’re sort of continuing in some sense the vein of today’s program looking at the Emerging Church, which many people have said Rob’s a prime example of, but Brian McLaren joins me on the show next week. He’s one of the key pioneers (if you like) in the Emerging Church Movement and he’s going to be addressing some of the criticisms that have come out about Emerging Churches and their theologies; so do listen out for that at the same time next week.

MUSIC (Radio Identification)

Brierley: Love Wins is the latest book from the pen of Rob Bell, who is a…a pastor of a mega church in Grand Rapids in Michigan. I’ve been there…and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I even have a shirt from one of your shopping malls, Rob. I didn’t wear it today, but it’s (laughing) a shopping mall…that’s what you call it in the states, isn’t it? A mall…a mahl?

Bell: Oh…oh yeah. You mean like the building where the church meets or you actually went to a “real” mall.

Brierley: No, I went to an actual mall. I hadn’t been to your church

Bell: I didn’t know we were selling shirts at the mall.

All: (laughing)

Warnock: Yeah. We don’t want people writing in condemning you for that as well, Rob.

Bell: Skinny jeans and selling things. Oh my goodness….it stacks up.

Brierley: But anyway…we…we…we had to kind of break off there, but we were talking about the whole evangelical/liberal divide and the labels we put on these things and how we might say whether one is one or the other. What you describe in the book, Rob as regards to the issue of everyone being saved is, “We’re swirling in a wide stream (you say). There’s room for diverse opinion in this, but a lot of people feel the stream is an awful lot narrower than you would like to make out. If you are saying those kinds of things, then you’re outside of the stream…you’re unorthodox, etc.

Warnock: Non-evangelical I think would be the phrase I would use because to me the evangelical worldview has a certain view of scripture and it has a certain view of the need for a response to the gospel in this life, otherwise there are eternal consequences; and that…that seems to be pretty fundamental. I mean, Time Magazine said that your arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of evangelical worldview changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation; because if you say the bible doesn’t really say what a lot of people have said it says, then where does that stop? You know if the verses on hell and judgment aren’t literal, what about all the others, essentially? That would be kind of the counter argument.

Bell: So, what Time Magazine says is sort of the gospel truth? (laughs)

Warnock: No…no I was just using it as a way of expressing it. It’s interesting that…what I’m trying to say is that…and this is (I think) the reason for the emotion behind the response in some people is that you seem to be undermining things that have been fundamental to most evangelicals view of the world and they can accept hearing that from a liberal, they can accept hearing that from, you know, other…other streams of Christianity that have a different view. What they find hard to…is to hear it from somebody they thought of as one of their own.

Bell: So, like I’m…I think…I don’t know if it’s in the…in the um…UK edition of the book…Eugene Peterson, who wrote TheMessage

Warnock: Mm. Yeah.

Bell: says that the book doesn’t give up one ounce of evangelical conviction. You would say Eugene Peterson is full of rubbish?

Warnock: Well, I wouldn’t say full of rubbish, but I would like to say that to my mind even in our interview today you seem to have cast doubt on a very literal interpretation of certain bible passages and to me, that causes me problems in recognizing…

Bell: Well…I asked you a series of questions about aeon

Warnock: Yeah

Bell: because of my serious study of the scriptures and my understanding of the Christian tradition and what scholars have said about the word aeon.

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: So I…and the book, is my attempt to be true to the scriptures and give these various narrative plotlines their…to give this story it’s proper due, and to highlight perhaps things that are sitting right there in the text that people haven’t heard. So the idea that somehow I’m dismissing the scriptures, then why do I spend so much time trying to get out what they really say?

Warnock: I never said that you’re dismissing them. I said you have a different approach to them.

Bell: Well…well…okay. So does a different approach…um….I mean, when I was asking you questions about forever,

Warnock: Yeah.

Bell: those are questions that lots and lots of people have. Are we reading our ideas of eternal and forever into this text and is there anything about the background, the words, the context, the…the flow of the places where we find those passages that would cause us to ask some questions?

Brierley: I…I mean whether or not you…you

Bell: So that’s serious study and explanation and pursuit.

Brierley: obviously you feel your…your…the views you’ve outlined… they’re not so kind of “crazy and out there” they’ve been expressed before by church fathers…you’ve mentioned ???? obviously

Bell: The tradition is taking this book seriously.

Brierley: Yeah.

Bell: That’s the tradition.

Brierley: The problem is now in a sense in purely practical terms, Rob

Bell: Yes.

Brierley: When someone is thinking of inviting you to their church event, their conference, they’re going to think twice because the book (in a way) has earmarked you in many peoples’ minds as having a certain theological trajectory and…and the person who invites you to their event will essentially be saying, “I’m in that camp” sort of thing. And is that a problem, have you kind of almost self-excluded yourself almost from a certain mainstream view…not necessarily intending to do that, but simply by the fact that you published this book that raised this issue in such a public way?

Bell: I get this honor and privilege to…even today talking with you all of interacting with people across the spectrum and I find this discussion, and I find all of these perspectives of the resurrected Christ fascinating and compelling and life-giving. So to me, I’m carrying on the tradition of wrestling with the scriptures and announcing the good news of the resurrected Christ and calling people to this Jesus right here and right now. Now, if there is somebody who is at someplace on the…the spectrum of forever who sees this as dangerous, toxic, unorthodox, whatever…that is their prerogative. Um…but, some sort of charge that I’m dismissing this Christ or not taking this…scripture seriously or I don’t deeply want to see people reconciled to God through Christ is uh…wrong.

Brierley: I’m…I’m sure no one would accuse you

Bell: So your

Brierley: of that.

Bell: so…so…your question about “Well maybe you’re not going to get invited to a church conference somewhere”. Okay, I’ll have to live with that. (laughs)

Brierley: (laughs) We are running out of time. We’re going to have to draw things to a close. I would just like to say, “Thank you, Rob” for coming in. Uh…we put you through your paces here on the show

Bell: (laughing)

Brierley: and I wouldn’t want you to think that…that…by any means the…the…I know many people who have been very encouraged by the book. Obviously the majority of questions we’ve had are from people who are concerned and…

Bell: Well, there’s nothing but love coming from that side of the table (laughing).

Brierley: Obviously if you want to get a copy of Rob’s book it is called, LoveWins and it’s in all good bookstores and you can get it online obviously posting a link to this podcast. And um…and yeah, just Google it you’ll soon see lots of things about it. LoveWins by Rob Bell a book about heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived. Um…Rob thank you very much for joining me on the program today. Great to have you with us

Bell: You’re welcome.

Brierley: all the best as you journey back to the states. And thank you Adrian for being here in the studio as well.

Warnock: Thank you for having me.