Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love Wins

A number years ago I read a blurb from a well known preacher who quoted a book called Velvet Elvis and explained why the author is a heretic. This well known preacher explained that the author said directly that he did not believe in the virgin birth. He even provided a chapter and page number.

I took this well known preacher for his word and decided to not read the book. Then several months later one of my mentors suggested I should read books by people who I disagreed with as it would help me sharpen my understanding of what I believed. So of course I picked up Velvet Elvis straight away.

I found that what the well known preacher said was true the author DID say exactly what was claimed on the exact page where he claimed it was. HOWEVER it was used in an example of doubt, and two pages later the author said he fully affirmed the virgin birth and orthodox Christianity!

This left me in a very interesting spot. This well known preacher had ether prejudged the book and author with out reading the book (sloppy at best) or he had purposely lied and used the quote out of context to discredit the author (dishonest and self serving at worst).

I have gone on to read every thing the author has ever published, watch his thought provoking videos, and listen to his weekly sermons . This author has had a profound effect on my life and my ministry.

It would seem the same folks are at it again. In a blog post and a series of tweets they are using social media to attempt to discredit the authors latest book, and most people are ignorantly copying and reposting what they have to say. Here are a few of the comments that people have copied and re-tweeted over and over again:

@JohnPiper: Farewell Rob Bell.

Rob Bell's following deserves the death it has received from swallowing the poisonous pill of theological liberalism. #RobBell

There's nothing loving about preaching a false gospel. This breaks my heart. Praying for Rob Bell

#Robbell. Sad and its's leading people astray from Truth

The sad thing here is that NONE of these folks have actually read the new book, it is not even out yet. They are taking a blurb from a marketing guy at a publishing house who has probably never met the author and a very short video that simply asks a few questions (but provides no answers) and holding them up as proof.


As a book seller I received an advanced pre-pub review copy. The author does go in the direction that this well known preacher claims. But, he once again does it to cause us to ask serious questions, to dig deep and wrestle with our beliefs. The author then lands on what I consider solid orthodox ground (though I'm sure the well known preachers legions of minions will disagree).

I wanted to wait until I could do a proper review of the book to do it justice, but I guess I'll just post verbatim where he lands so every one who cares to read what he actually says can. (note the author works through this at length and I highly suggest you get a copy of the book when it is out and judge for yourself)

First he articulates what ALMOST seems to be a universalist point of view:

"Could God say to someone truly humbled broken and desperate 'sorry too late?' Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in only to hear God say through the key hole 'Doors locked, sorry If only you had been here earlier, I could have done something but now its too late."

But he then goes on to give a brief over view of Revelation and focuses on the last few chapters. He lands with this:

"... In speaking of the expansive, extraordinary, infinite love of God there is always the danger of neglecting the very real consequences of God's love. Namely God's desire and intention to see things become everything they were intended to be. For this to unfold, God must say about a number of acts and to those who would continue to do them 'Not here you won't.'

Love demands freedom. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God's ways for us. We can have all the hell we want."

I certainly hope all those who saw fit to re-tweet this garbage tweet an apology after they calm down and get a chance to actually read the book.

**P.S. (or a note added afterward) I welcome comments, even thoes which disagree with me. However if you wish to try to convince me of the state of my or my families salvation, call into question my personal theology, or simply try to be rude I will not post your comments.***

Please See also My edits and notes about this post Love wins Redux And for further quotes please see What you look for you will find (or where is heaven?)


Anonymous said...

How can criticism of Bell's newest book be unwarranted when the publisher explicitly says "Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith-the afterlife-arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering."
If this isn't what Bell is arguing then shame on HarperCollins AND him for promoting such ambiguity on a central doctrine of the Christian faith. Publisher descriptions say something about the content of the book, I know because I write publisher descriptions. At best Bell is being misleading, and at worst he's an outright heretic. Either way, it's not how a "pastor" in the Church of Christ ought to act...especially one who is so controversial as this rock-star hippster.

Anonymous said...

The author is simply arguing free will, not unlike C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller.

Unknown said...

thank you for posting. faith without doubt is nothing more that shallow insecurity.

Jeff Douglas said...

Your quotes from Bell's book do not serve to make him seem less committed to universalism. In fact, they reinforce what others are saying Bell's position is. So, since you claim a superior position having read the book, but your direct references support the theory of those you are criticizing I think it fair to say they are as correct in their positions as you are.

danmbob said...

too bad no one has discovered this blog. Justin Taylor's blog seems to be sparking all this controversy though he hasn't even read the book yet. It seems the "Christian" blogosphere has already crucified Bell without even reading the book.

Tyler James said...

Thank you for posting this! I am very surprised about lash back at nothing more then a short video which asks some provoking questions, intending to go more in depth in a book that is not out.

Anonymous said...

the reviews I've read from some who admit they have only read rob bell's pr on his upcoming book (and I must say it will be a best seller because any publicity is good publicity and his stand is making a lot of publicity) and who have read arc's such as yourself, that he says hell is empty. ? Did you find that in the book??

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing.

Maggie said...

Like fresh air. Thank you!

CJ said...

Thank you for writing this. I am so angered and shocked at (especially other Pastors) who have jumped on the accusation train. Tried to find you on Twitter to see your other comments but couldn't figure out your user name.

Michael McGlynn said...

Thank you Tom for a much cooler head and a way more thoughtful mind. I already had the book on my list of "to gets". You just helped me move it to the top.
I have found, in our day and age, you don't need the facts, just opinions to castigate this person or that person. It's easier. Thanks for doing the work.

MrLuke said...

Good on you! Finally someone who has actually READ the book giving an opinion! I def plan to buy the book when it's released so I can make an informed decision. Generally I like Rob Bell but I'm no so "hard core" that I'll swallow anything he (or anyone else for that matter) says without thinking about it first. I just wish all the haters on twitter could be like this and stop slandering and giving the world yet another reason to hate Christians and the faith as a whole.

kt said...

Thanks for this. I get really uncomfortable when I read/hear about Christians calling other Christians heretics in public. And it's especially telling that the book isn't out. I am very interested in reading it now, since I have many of the same questions as are in the video.

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

as someone who is a bit of Bell fanboy myself, he's been heading in this direction for years, it's just that he's been hinting and prodding at it. I've been pickin' up on what he's been throwing down and I'm stoked to here a more cohesive explanation. I'm glad to hear you consider it orthodox, it sounds like you actually took it to heart instead of pre-judged it because it didn't meet an already existing and static position.

Anonymous said...

Well said. It's important to have an intellectual faith that allows us to question why we believe what we believe and not jump to premature conclusions.

ZeitMike said...

you know if you don't identify the "well known preacher"; rather than remain impartial, you are actually propping up there policies of ranting mis-information.

far from acting lovingly to the "preacher" you actually stand against those who are vulnerable to continually being misled by this person.

i mean this in the friendliest way i can: don't be so timid :-)

Carson T. Clark said...

An Open Letter to Justin Taylor Regarding His Condemnation of Rob Bell

Anonymous said...

What an excellent blog. Too bad many of those who are accusing Rob Bell's followers of blindly following him will blindly follow their leaders and never actually read the book and judge it for themselves.
Sensationalism sells books (a fact that the publishers of Bell's book are clearly capitalizing on) but it also develops blog followers and church attenders as many of those widely blasting the book and Bell without having read the book are clearly capitalizing on as well.

Slim said...

If this is the strongest evidence there is in the book to dispell the charge of universalism, I don't think it will put out the firestorm. That statement in itself is not very convincing.

Lilpudn said...

As a 67 year old Christian grandma who went to Brian McLaren's church when I lived in MD I so appreciate what you've written here. This has been my experience with everything I've read or listened to from Rob Bell. His sermons and videos have made me think and touched my heart.

Whatever we think of Rob Bell, however, we need to take a deep breath and think about what we write on twitter. We are one body but just look at the hateful message we're sending to so many who look at the trending topics.

Rob Bell and others in this movement in Christianity have given me new hope.

DaviGoss said...

Why do some people want a God who would "sentence souls to eternal suffering"? - Does this say more about them than about God? What the God who is love? - God's love is infinite; God's patience is eternal.

Ash said...

Justin Taylor not "condemn" Rob Bell as some are saying. He raised a genuine concern, and I don't think it is a problem. Secondly, if Christians can't be open about their concerns regarding other preacher points of view, it'll be a BIG problem. We need to speak about these things, we need to voice concerns and debate and discuss. We need to do it in love (check out Josh Harris's blog for a good example), and we need to have grace, but if someone is preaching heresy it MUST be acknowledged.
Lastly, its interesting to see how so many people are personally offended by the fact that some people disgree with Bell's theology/doctrine. Bell is not Jesus. Neither is Piper, Driscoll, Keller, Harris, or Taylor. We need to test EVERYTHING they say, and be willing to admit that they may be wrong on somethings. We don't need to jump to Bell's defense. It worries me that some people do, as it carries a message of undying loyalty to the ideas of a flawed human being. That is idolatry.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

Thank you for being a voice of reason and true brotherly love.

Kyle Anderson said...

Thanks for writing this. Might I ask: is Bell really taking aim at the doctrine of limited atonement?

Based off the same blurbs everyone else had seen, that was my guess.

Ken Silva said...

All this does is reinforce that Rob Bell holds to some form of Christian Universalism.

Appealing to C.S. Lewis doesn't help the case because he wasn't orthodox in this area either.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that universalism is so vehemently fought when the case for it is so strong indeed. Why do so many christians absolutely insist that the unbelievers must go to hell and burn there forever? And many support it with glee!

The foundation for eternal hell is very weak indeed. It seems manufactured in actual fact. If a word's meaning is defined by it's usage, then aions are not endless (See clear evidence in Scripture, Plato, et al: and the case for eternal punishment falls away. If there is not eternal punishment, then what happens when the period in the lake of fire is over? Bad assumptions lead to dangerous and false teachings and this seems to be a clear case thereof indeed.

No eternal punishment => is "hell" actually punishment or is it correction? => does it have a purpose or is it senseless? => then God will do what he says he wants: Save everyone.
Then is also becomes clear that Jesus paid the price for everyone's sins and God doesn't punish people a second time for the same thing he punished Jesus for. How sick would that be?

Suddenly the whole picture changes. Of course, if you set out to prove "these heretic universalists" wrong, instead of yearning to see the truth and light in the scriptures, you'll have a really hard time seeing this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, after reading the blogs and tweets about his new book this provided a huge relief. God bless.

Anonymous said...

the fact remains, dont judge a book you havent read people. He may be wrong he may be right, I have yet to read the book so i can not say. But anyone here claiming he is wrong and they haven't read the book but are just going on what they've heard other people say about it, shame on you!

Sally said...

thank you

Jesus Freak said...

If Universalism is acceptable to you, yet you agree that God is loving, how can you possibly rationalize why God would send his Son (and why Christ would come) to suffer the horror of crucifixion? Now your 'loving God' is a heartless criminal or worse.

And, please, God sends no one to Hell, we choose it. God simply provides a way (and a truth and a life) through 'repentance and belief in His Son'. When we choose to reject this, after hounding and chasing us for a lifetime, He allows our free will )in many cases).

And do not mix 'love' with giving in to a sinful desire. As a parent, many of my most 'loving' acts were not condoning my childrens' sinful ways - but correcting, and when necessary punishing them. And at some point, they had to suffer the consequences of their acts.

Thank God through Jesus Christ, that we do NOT have to pay the full cost of our rebellion if we will accept Jesus Christ as our Lord & Saviour.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this blog. I just linked to this post and since I see no trackback I'll put the link here:

I think there also is a semantic problem with the word universalism. Universal reconciliation (all will be saved through Christ) and religious universalism (all religions are the same, Christ is not special) are almost opposites get lumped together, and using the term as insult makes people think of some new age religion, not of a very high view of salvation through Christ that is able to save all...

And then there is the problem that this whole blogstorm is free publicity for MR. Bell and his new book. He'll surely sell a lot of books...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this!! I thought it might just be some really good/controversial promoting and that seems to be so. The way the back of the book says it sounds like a great way to get nonbelievers to pick it up and maybe end up reading the truth!! Thank you so much for clearing the air.

Brian Krieger said...

I agree with Slim that the statement quoted isn't convincing. Most of what I read quoted (not just here) continues Bell's "jello" nature. After reading Dr. Burk's quote from the book, though, perhaps not......

Anonymous said...

@Jesus Freak...The death and resurrection of Jesus are easily rationalized if they are very means by which ALL can be saved. In 1 Cor 15:22 it says "For as in Adam all die, so in Chirst all will be made alive." Is the power of Adam's sin more powerful than the power of Chirst's resurrection such that the "all" who die is more inclusive than the "all will be made alive?" May it never be.

This is not about eliminating judgment. Many will be made alive to face judgment, even "eternal" judgment. But the word "eternal" doesn't mean "forever," but rather "for an age."

Will some persist in their sin even after judgment? Or is the Bible simply true when it says in Philippians the EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus is Lord in heaven and on earth. At that point, why does their need to be hell?

Anonymous said...

@Jesus Freak: Why is it so difficult to accept that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world? Why, it seems, do you insist that God must send unbelievers to hell forever, although Jesus paid fully for all their sins? Does God get a kick out of punishing the same sin twice? Once by having his Son killed and again by torturing his creation forever? Do you know how many have never heard one single word about Jesus or the gospel that you so take for granted? Yet, you insist God has to send them to hell to burn forever.

Doesn't God say that it is his will for wall men (people) to be saved? And again that Jesus Christ is the saviour of all, especially those that believe?

Let's fix a grave error in people's perception right here:
Read what aion (age - translated randomly forever or age in the English bible) actually means ( and consider that you may just have been seeing things the way you thought they should be, not they way it is written in the scriptures.

If the lake of fire in Revelation is only for an age, and your king Jimmy translators and their descendants misled you, then consider that being cast in the pool is not for destruction, but for purification. Is there one scripture where Jesus ever said that those "outside" will be totally damned forever or does he repeatedly say there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (ie. sorry, remorse, etc).

What about the fact that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"? What for? Just to rub their noses in it with glee saying "see, I told you you would" and then throwing them back into hell?

What about the fact that Jesus will destroy the last enemy, death? When that is destroyed, what happens to the spiritually dead, ie those in hell (according to mainstream teachings)? Since death is destroyed, do they just vanish then? Or are they made alive again? Or what?

There is so much in scripture that starts making perfect sense when you see that God will not "punish" unbelievers "forever" in "hell", but rather "purify" those that didn't allow the Spirit to do that while they were alive in earth in his fire, ie God is the fire, in the whole of scripture, also in the lake of fire.

Then this starts making sense: "Then comes the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power … that GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL" (1 Cor. 15:24 & 28b)

There is an end. What happens after that we don't know. Why did Jesus specifically say: I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, if there is no end?

All things that the wise person ponders and considers, allowing the Spirit to reveal and enlighten him/her.

And so I can continue.

Read the "Lake of Fire" series and consider the evidence.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous number one- you totally miss quoted even the publishers note. it says,"WOULD a loving God sentence human souls to eternal suffering?" Its a question. How can a question be heretical? It is your preconceived notion of his answer that is heretical. The secret of the Kingdom of God is given to those wh ask questions. Certainty leaves no room for faith.

Anonymous said...

Are you kinnings guys, i commented earlier and i say this "eternal means for an age" ARE YOU KIDDING??? I dont mean to sound harsh, but what dictionary are you reading???? eternal means ETERNAL does it not? words themselves habve lost their meaning today: watch this video:

Michele Huff said...

Great post, thank you for sharing this. Some sanity in all this craziness today! I have heard so many criticize and judge what they have not even read yet it is nonsense! Or just people wanting their 5 minutes at the expense of someone else.

Nick said...

Good to read a post that hasn't judged the book without reading it! The way Bell handles criticism speaks volumes to me regardless of his theology. His books and DVD's have had a hugely positive impact on my life and I look forward to reading his new book and making a judgement then!

Nick said...

I really appreciate the fact that someone is showing some integrity in their criticism.

TJ said...

There is a part of me that hopes even wishes that it would be a bait and switch... but, that would be an incredibly irresponsible way to market a book. He is already a popular guy this technique wouldn't be needed from him. The video also is suggestive that God is untrustworthy if he judges... even if that isn't the point of the book the hinting towards it for sales would be seriously sketchy. I hope he isn't getting weird with his theology, but even if he isn't a man with that much influence should know better then marketing like that.

Anonymous said...

Tom Piper seems given over to writing books to rebutt other Christians he can't agree with (eg NT Wright). So standby for a tome on the Bell heresies, perceived or otherwise. Couldn't they just share a beer and sort it all out. The only winners here are the publishers.

I'm with the writer of Ecclesiastes: "There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else."

Jody Howard said...

Thanks for posting this, though I don't think it will have an affect on the most obnoxious commenters. I look forward to reading the book when it's released.

Bob Royce said...

Regarding the meaning of eternity: I would wager that this will be one of the most hotly debated points of the new book. The Greek word aiwn (eon) is not straightforward to define. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (i.e. "Big Kittel") devotes 12 pages to this word alone. Plato contrasted aiwn as "outside of time" against kronos, inside of time, but Aristotle didn't. There are clearly times when aiwn does NOT mean eternity, such as when it refers to the present "age," which surely will end, and other times when it seems to imply forever, such as when referring to God. Which is it when Jesus speaks of judgment and gehenna and hades? I'm sure we'll see plenty of discussion of this in the blogosphere in the months ahead.

Kurt W said...

Tom... we have never met. But when I read that first post by Taylor, i immediate wrote a response to call them out and to "postulate" where I thought Bell would end up on the topics of Heaven, Hell, and Every other Person...

This post furthur gives me hope that I may be right, and for this I am truly thankful. I would love to know what you think of my "predictions".

I have 92 comments on my blog and a plethora more on FB. Anyway, thanks for this great post. Gives me much hope!

CFHusband said...

Thank you for posting this. I wrote a post last night indirectly addressing this from my position as a pastor's kid.

Anonymous said...

You guys are aware that Revelation isn't the only place where he'll is addressed...right? Didn't Jesus say it was a place where the worm never dies & the fire never goes out? (Jesus talked more a out hell than money & that was quite a bit.) Or does "never" mean something else too? By the way, what "Age" are you hoping will follow Heaven? When is that age supposed to end? Just wondering why I'm giving my life to see others come to Christ if it doesn't make that big a deal. Of course I'm just jesting there, but only halfway.

Anonymous said...

Unless they've changed the book summary and website the post by Anonymous is not accurate. The question isn't "arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering." but rather "arguing, would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever…?" Notice a BIG difference in the statement vs. question. Please be careful about posting false information about something.

This was copied straight off the website and the full text is here: "Rob Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing, would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever…? With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly hopeful—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins."

Ingrid said...

I almost hesitate to voice an opinion ... but ... what keeps going through my head is this:

God is trying to get people IN to heaven, not keep them out.

As safe as I feel in the conservative boat, I hesitate to venture that I could tell whether a person landed in heaven or hell. What if upon death there is a moment of pure knowing when our spirit is free from this earth and we have that moment to accept the classic gospel? What if?

It certainly seems like a fair move from a just God.

I'm just speculating. because "we look through a glass darkly" and what we know could not possibly be complete. We humans do the best we can with what we think we know ... but we are still human. How can we claim to know anything so thoroughly that we can judge another life for eternity?

Sadly, it seems that Christians have a prominent reputation for judging one another. If I'm going to err (and I am), I'd rather err on the side of love than judgment.

JS said...

Good post. As one who was told by his pastor not to read a certain book because it was "heresy" (even though he hadn't read it), I am very aware that Evangelicalism thrives on hearsay and poorly-researched advice. Certainly those who propagate such codswallop will be glad one day for the unconditional and universally-given love of God.

Unknown said...

Rob Bell is asking questions that need asking, and opening up dialogue that should be encouraged and welcomed. The Church is a place that fears any questions/thoughts that challenge the status quo and is built on doctrinal understandings that have a)been inherited by most without critique and b)have developed radically over the centuries. The Church needs to start putting life before reason rather than reason before life

admiralcreedy said...

thanks for this!

I am an unashamedly old fashioned Calvinist, who throroughly enjoys attending a large vineyard church.

I took serious issue with 'Velvet Elvis', and often was irritated by the nooma videos. In preparation for echoing the pre-order of the new book, I am working my way through his back catalogue, and intend to listen to some of his regular sermons.

the promo video worries me, but I am now half way through 'SEX GOD' which is brilliant, thus far.

Who knows.

I love C.S.Lewis, even though I completely disagree with some things
he says.

I hope to be able to use Rob Bell's earlier stuff as appropriate, whilst not standing by the new book, if that is correct.

Ultimately, lets dwell more richly in Christ, and less in our big names.

DaviGoss said...

C.S.Lewis orthodox? - I once heard a Russian Orthodox Christian describe C.S.Lewis as "English Orthodox."

tonymyles said...

It's an interesting balance - John Piper says many solid things; Rob Bell says many things.

However, John Piper also says questionable things that may not be true. Might Rob Bell say questionable things that may not be true?

To clarify my question:

From experience:

On the other hand:

1) Are we certain Piper hasn't read the book? I review books for Youthworker Journal and often get advance copies 6-9 months ahead.

2) If Piper hasn't read the book, are we certain he is unfamiliar with the content? Pastors who write books often "try out" their material before they print it by preaching it. Bill Hybels and John Ortberg do this often, writing a book series based on a sermon series. Might John Piper have legitimately interacted with this material, or do we simply not know?

3) Is anyone here seeking to prove one side that we like, and demonize the side we don't? And if they are, would they know it or label themselves as objective?

Just a few questions. It's important to take in all perspectives, including the ones we haven't considered (even if we think we have).

drew said...

if God does not send people to hell then he is not just...people have simply turned him into a genie they can call on after devoting their lives to them self....he's not a get out of jail free card ...the only way to eternal life is through his son Jesus...done and done.

Mike Gantt said...

Personally, I don't see what's so bad about believing everyone is going to heaven. Even if you don't believe in it, don't you wish it were true?

Here is my own Christ-honoring biblical case for everyone going to heaven:

There is no way to heaven but through Christ - but He is an effective way for every person.

This does not mean licentiousness. On the contrary, we shall be judged for everything we think, say, and do for "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Therefore, we should live repentant lives before Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amy (ArtsyBookishGal) said...

This is a really good post that answers a lot of questions. Obviously, I think we should read the book before condemning it. Thank you for providing some perspective.

Anonymous said...

your quote doesn't actually address the question of universalism. bell could simply be saying that choices in this life have consequences in this life without really addressing the issue of conscious, eternal punishment.

nothing that i've read about the book so far rules out annihilationism which is a very appealing, if somewhat unorthodox, alternative to belief in eternal, conscious torment. whether bell is universalist or annihilationist, he clearly does not like the idea of eternal, conscious torment for nice people (the quote about gandhi). i would be interested to read what he says about hitler, stalin, pol pot, etc

Stan Baldwin said...

I welcome the discussion which is long overdue. I do not know who is right, Piper or Bell, since I don't know what Bell is saying, the book being not yet available. But I do know who is wrong. Piper. His flippant, unloving dismissal of a brother is UnChristian.
Stan Baldwin

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated Eugene Cho's post on his blog today. It really seemed to be one of the most fair, balanced, and reasoned response to the mayhem:

Bob Norsworthy said...

I completely agree with your posts sounding the alarm at those who make tweets and posts without having read the book or without taking time to understand a position or statement.

I am wondering how your personal phone call went with John Piper to see if he chatted with Rob Bell or if he also had an advance copy of the manuscript or if he has listened to enough of Rob's online sermons to have a pretty good grasp of Rob's position.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. We are in such a post-modern, relativistic age. Dissent is branded closed-mindedness, tradition and orthodoxy is patently read as legalism and questioning is tantamount to hatred and vitriol.

I am not defending the tone of Piper's comment. It sounds a bit harsh.

I am saying assign, goodness, think the best and ask questions of the source before you condemn to Piper and to you bro.

Let's dialog consrtuctively. not trash-talk and presume.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog, thank you!

The people responsable should be sued for libel.

Anonymous said...

just a note that there are a lot of us out here who are watching the lot of you and wondering "what would jesus do"? (even though you're the ones who usually pretend to ask that question)

Brett said...

Thank you! I really appreciate your post

Sisterlisa said...

Thank you for this post. I look forward to reading Rob's book. I think asking tough questions to make us wake up and think on our own two feet is a good thing.

J. K. Jones said...

I appreciate your post, and the quotes from Bell's book.

I am still unsure of Bell's position due to the way he asks the questions he asks in his video. There is allot of non-verbal communication in that thing.

At the very least, he could be more clear. That is the most distressing thing about Bell. He does not clearly state his beliefs.

I also have a real problem with a publicity stunt like this video if he does come down to an orthodox position. What a way to sell books.

Dreaming Beneath the Spires said...

Rob Bell, John Piper and Matthew 18
It might interest you,

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Rob Bell is proud to be called a heretic. I think he knows he's a heretic. Just like Jesus knew he was a heretic. Martin Luther knew he was, Galileo, even the guy who said the world was round. Heretic!! Burn him at the stake. Why is it the orthodocs who are always burning the heretics at the stake.
Why do people throw that word heretic around still like it has so much power. Oh no Don't call me a heretic. You do realize that unless he's catholic he can't be excommunicated by being a heretic. Protestant heretics just go create new denominations. So why waste your breath calling him a heretic. Honestly i didn't even know about Bell's new book until i saw the post that Bell is once again being called a Heretic.
Here's the thing- Gamaliel a very wise man once warned his friends about a jewish heretic- saying basically this. "if he's not the real thing then he'll soon fizzle out and so will his followers" But if he's the real deal then we don't want to stand in his way.

If universalism is a heretical position than it will soon fizzle out and so will it's followers.

However if we discover that the real heresy has been a literal hell, than it may be time for that to fizzle out.

Anonymous said...

Desiring God (Piper) changed my life in many ways and if you sit me down in a theological discussion, you'll find me to be basically reformed.

That said, I don't think Bell or Piper are correct in this. I've never understood telling people who you're praying for on a twitter account. Do I think it is important to form your theology and measure it by the scripture? Absolutely!! Am I concerned about the kind of fruit that much of Rob Bell's "questioning" produces?? Most definitely? Though he does claim, to my knowledge, Christ as his savior. Some one here talked about C.S. Lewis encouraging folks to question their theology. But, one of my favorite Lewis quotes is from The Great Divorce. He says that thirst is for water and inquiry for truth. We don't question in order that we keep questioning, but in order that we might find an answer. He is talking about folks who have placed themselves in a more intellectual status due to their ability to "question" things. I fear that much of my generation are intellectual inquirists and that their wanderings are swiftly leading them astray. However, I still don't think I would post their names on a Twitter account saying I was praying for them, or good riddens, of sorts.

On the other hand, when you are promoting a book it seems prudent to state the content of your book in the promotional material. I watched the video and he does mention the idea that Hell is not real. His comments to the existence of Hell make it seem that he believes it to be contrary to the very nature of God. If, in fact, this is not his believe then it seems that he aimed to stir the pot. And, I think that to be an ugly sort of values as well.

John said...

Paul Jenkins said...

Thanks for this post. It was nice to read something from someone who has actually read the book.

I linked back to it from my take on this whole bruhaha.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this "preview" on the book. Your opening about how you came upon reading Velvet Elvis is crazy similar to my own. Anyway, I'm hoping you won't mind answering a question?

I've been wrestling with the doctrine of hell for about 3 years. I'm not a universalist, but I also don't subscribe to a literal, firey hell.

QUESTION: Does Rob Bell offer any alternative possiblities to "the literal option" of what Jesus might have meant when talking about hell/hades in a couple of his parabolic comments?

I'm really hopeful he may, can you (legally???) comment?

Thanks again!!!

dwh817 said...

I haven't read the book and know very little about Mr. Bell, but I do know The Fathers said that being in the presence of the completely transcendent and all powerful Love of God for eternity would most likely feel like fire to anyone who was set against it. They argue if God fills all things and holds all things together how can He put anyone anywhere that He doesn't exist. God is omnipresent and God is Love, God is also completely beyond, and His Love doesn't make sense in the way we tend to think...but this ancient description of Hell as an actual place sure makes more sense to me then what I grew up thinking, which was this vision of God as an angry judge forced to practically hate his own children and throw them into a dungeon of flames because his own justice put him between a rock and a hard place and forced him to do so. That is not The Fathers teaching.

But to be clear, The Fathers would never take the position that those fires of Love would eventually win over every soul to their creator (universalism) because that would mean we would have no choice but to accept God's Love in the end, which would mean we really had no free will or choice in the first place, which, then, of course, wouldn't be Love at all. They did however make it clear that on the other hand a man's heart could choose to surrender and be transformed by the very fire that was tormenting him after being exposed to it for who knows how long, though he also might not. So they were adamant about not teaching all will be saved, but they also were careful not to box God in and say that all couldn't be saved. There is great Freedom in God's Love, in The One Who Is Beyond and Near. And there is always Hope. But the Fathers tried to always reveal that Love and Freedom with great Hope while steering clear of heresy and assumption which could lead to its abuse.

This is an old debate, it's just been given a flashy new facelift. If we would just get our heads out of the last few hundred years and realize that there are loads of great books and writings to feast on that existed long before Luther and Calvin became the poster boys of Christianity then we might actually become educated in what has carried orthodox Christianity through 2000 years of crazy accusations and tweets and stop being so afraid of not being able to box everything up so nice and neat and simply start Loving God and others by living a Gospel that can actually be seen and heard as Good News without confusing the Hell out of people. =) Lord have Mercy on us.

Bob said...

I am bothered when debates about theology always focus on"God is Love". God is not one characteristic. God is also holy which has connotations of alien or other. I share God's image in many ways but He is also completely unlike me in other ways. To use limited human understandings of divine love to negate the holy and just aspects of God may justify universalism but it also means our God looks suspiciously like a patron of 21st century thought. Do I hope for a wider mercy of God- yes! Can I preach that based on scripture- no.

Kevin said...

Several of you need to read the OP again. there's no way you can get Universalism out of this statements:

"God must say about a number of acts and to those who would continue to do them 'Not here you won't.' Love demands freedom. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God's ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.""

Fr. Charles Erlandson said...


You seem to be the only one who has actually read Rob's new book, and so I immensely appreciate your blog on it!

However, the 2 quotes you gave neither prove that Rob is a universalist or disprove it. Having read it, is there any other clear information you could share with us to help us understand just what Rob is saying?

Thanks! I'll write a review myself of the book - but only after I've read it for myself!

4granted said...

It's important to keep in mind that the goal of the video was to create interest in (and sell) Rob's new book. Rob is provocative, he always has been. But he raises some interesting questions. An important step in clarifying your beliefs is to talk about and even defend them. So the fact that the publicity campaign for Rob Bell’s book has provided an impetus for Christians to actually do theology (to figure out what they think about God) is a positive thing. Even if you disagree with Bell, it’s important for Christians to wrestle with what they believe. Another great resource on heaven, what it's like and who will be there is “Heaven Revealed” by Dr. Paul Enns, released this month by Moody Publishers. I recommend it. Here’s the amazon page:

Mae said...

If Jesus died for all sins past present and future and "no man can come to Jesus except it is given to him of the Father". How do we send ourselves to hell?

Most Christians admit that works do not save us. If that be true, going to Church, living a perfect life does not guarantee our salvation. If our works does not determine whether we go to heaven how can they determine whether we go to hell? {which isn't a forever burning place but a place of correction}

Salvation is a free gift to everyone. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Bible says "no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit". All that bow and confess will do so by the Holy Spirit.

A thumbs up to Rob Bell, it took guts to even publish a book that 90% of mainstream religion will see as heresy.

Brent Rains said...

If nothing else, this book (or rather the announcement of) are causing an open debate on what people believe.

Unfortunately, many will draw their judgement based on what they were taught; never giving any personal study, or challenge.

Translation Theory is a difficult discussion, but one that is going to have to be had (as we see with the arguments over 1 word, Aiwn.).

Will look forward to seeing the remainder of the debate unfold; especially after the book is even released.

Unknown said...

This situation brings up a bigger issue within our community of Christians. Marcus Borg (in Heart of Christianity) suggests that we live in a time when two very different paradigms of Christian thought are out there. People on the two sides of this philosophical divide see the role of the Bible and the story of what God is doing in totally different ways.

Can we have enough courage and grace to live side-by-side while believing differently? Are terms like "universalist" going to be used like "socialist" gets used in the political world? I am not stating my own beliefs here, but asking if a community of faith can be built with more than one kind of person.

History would suggest that our community has little or no tolerance for differing opinion on beliefs. I hope this trend can change. In the last 10 years I've radically changed many of my own beliefs. Some old friends cannot handle these changes (while others embrace them).

The power of truth is evident in the lives of those living by it. Can we be more silent regarding "un-truth" as we see it and more loudly proclaim what we know to be true by how we live? I hope so.

fisherwoman said...

"Could God say to someone truly humbled broken and desperate 'sorry too late?' Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in only to hear God say through the key hole 'Doors locked, sorry If only you had been here earlier, I could have done something but now its too late."

I believe that is exactly what God did when HE (not Noah) shut the door of the ark and outside perished. Hebrews also speaks to the one whom God turns away from at HIs own will, not of the will of man, one who resists the Spirit. There are also the Jews in Acts to whom Paul and Stephen said, "you always resist the Holy Spirit" and "from now on we turn to the Gentiles".

Sean said...

One of the things people, who do not profess Jesus as Lord, hate about those who do is their propensity for jumping to conclusions.

One of the things we take from our justice system, which took its roots from the Bible, is the principle of "innocent until proven guilty". We all want a chance to say all we have to say about our beliefs before being judged for them -- so why are we so inclined to decide what others believe (and judge them for it) before actually hearing them out?

So far Bell has raised questions that only suggest that he doesn't hold a classic view. He has not said nothing yet that can definitively be said is heresy. I can think of many contexts where I could ask what he has asked and say what he has said without having any of the beliefs people are accusing him of having.

Whether his beliefs are heretical or not is not currently the issue. The attacks on him from well known leaders -- without sufficient evidence to prove his is heretical are evidence of the frailty and failings of those making the attacks. All forgivable indiscretions but sad nonetheless.

Frankly I could not think of a better way to get some of our narrow beliefs out of the "black and white" realm into reality. We cannot answer the questions unbelievers have as well as we could because we have so narrowly understood our own master that we have failed to find that truth also lies "in between black and white".

Truth is not about seeing things as either black or white -- and a foreboding nether world composed of "shades of grey" to be avoided if you want purity.

God put an entire color spectrum in between black and white the colors of which are perhaps more true and real than the black and white that form their borders. Why have we spent so much energy on polarizing to one border of truth or the other and failed to explore the abundant colors in between? Could it be fear or could it be baser harmonics such as jealousy?

We haven't even learned to listen to each other sufficiently to explore such a vast domain. The book of Proverbs is blunt about those who speak to a matter before they've heard it.

Why has the church become so full of people who put more faith in the power of the Devil to deceive than in Christ's power to enlighten?

Are we so afraid to explore these topics without screaming "heresy" at the first sign of something we are unfamiliar with? Or worse still something we think we are familiar with...

Have the esteemed theologians out there become so stale that they cannot recognize an amazing set of questions designed to stimulate the very issues the book explores?

How can anyone be so secure in their certainty that Bell has concluded his comments with the obvious conclusions that people are making?

Are so we shallow that we cannot wait to find out what he really says but feel compelled by some force to lash out with accusations and baseless attempts to put words in his mouth that are as yet unknown to us?

Using a misleading approach to a dissertation is exactly the skill that makes for great preaching. It draws out your existing beliefs in such a way that you are given the opportunity to re-examine them in a fresh way.

Thank God for preachers that will not just preach to tickle our ears but will risk saying radical things to get our attention and incite us to examine what we believe in new ways. I got tired of the churchy bless me club long ago.

Life changing messages and supernatural visitations do not seem to come from either the average or common ways of seeing things.

I think it time the goodness of God is better understood and these fundamental issues explored more deeply and expansively.

Truth is the one thing that withstands unlimited scrutiny with no fear that it will come undone under pressure

Tony Clay said...

Our modern notion of Hell has been shaped by the catholic churchs teachings over centuries of frightening people into ‘convertion’ The notion of Hell as a place of eternal torture really does cast God the loving father in a very gloomy light.
We would all (I hope) condemn Hitlers plan to creat a super race and either enslave or destroy those who he deemed unworthy to be included and yet if you think about it isn’t the idea of salvation for a few and eternal suffering or oblivion for the unworthy very close to Hitlers plan for mankind. The concept of Hell didn’t even come into christian thinking until the fourth century and then only a small percentage of Christians adhered to concept .. The concept isn’t scriptural because the words that are actually translated as Hell are Gehenna (an actual physical place) the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem or Sheol which is the place the departed sinners went to await judgement and where Jesus went to to share the Gospel after being crucified and before rising from the dead.
Scaring people into the Church used to work pretty well when only priests were allowed to read scripture. It amazes me that now anyone can read the word of God for themselves we still hold on to and preach hellfire.

Mark Burnhope said...

This is pretty typical of the Body, isn't it; well, the Body looks fairly crippled -- again. Rob Bell is not saying anything which hasn't been said before by others of faith. He might be swerving slightly to the left of Conservative Evangelicalism, but not of the Kingdom. Relax. I agree with the post above me; there is very little Biblical or historical justification for loving Christians to be preaching a literal Hell. By no means does this undermine Wrath or Grace, and those who think it does have little to no imagination or capacity for intelligent theological thought. Jesus died once, and for all. To those who recognise it, there is eternal life. To those who don't, there is death, Sheol, Gehennah.

Michael said...

Exactly what you are saying is all correct. Such that your mentor has guided you in correct manner. Because many people are disagree with the reading of the page of the book. But you have read them very seriously.

Anonymous said...

A pastor in Canada addresses the issues of why God would send people to hell and allow suffering in his Skeptics Forum series -

I've heard many preachers try to tackle the issue, but Clark's approach is well communicated and rooted in scripture. Highly recommend giving it a listen.