Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell

When the firestorm surrounding Rob Bell’s new book exploded onto the scene, I was surprised as anyone by how quickly it spread. Everyone wants to know: What does Rob Bell really teach about hell? After obtaining an advanced copy to review, I realized that I would be wise to enlist some help; so I turned to my friend Tim Challies. This review is the combined effort Tim and myself. We hope it’s helpful.


Questions matter. They can help you to grow deeper in your knowledge of the truth and your love for God—especially when you’re dealing with the harder doctrines of the Christian faith. But questions can also be used to obscure the truth. They can be used to lead away just as easily as they can be used to lead toward. Ask Eve.

Enter Rob Bell, a man who has spent much of the last seven years asking questions in his sometimes thought-provoking and often frustrating fashion. And when he’s done asking, no matter what answers he puts forward, it seems we’re only left with more questions. This trend continues in his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, when Bell poses what might be his most controversial question yet:

Does a loving God really send people to hell for all eternity?

The questions you probably want answers to as you read this review are these: Is it true that Rob Bell teaches that hell doesn’t exist? Is it true that Rob Bell believes no one goes to hell? You’ll just need to keep reading because, frankly, the answers aren’t that easy to come by.

 

How he asks the question is just as important as the question itself. “Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this ‘good news’?” They say that the person who frames the debate is going to win the debate. That is especially true when the debate is framed in this way, through these particular questions. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No offense, and no pun intended.

 

The Toxic Subversion Of Jesus’ Message

Bell begins the book with surprising forthrightness: Jesus’ story has been hijacked by a number of different stories that Jesus has no interest in telling. “The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.” (Preface, vi)

A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (ibid)

You may want to read that again.

It really says that. And it really means what you think it means. Though it takes time for that to become clear.

Heaven Is A Place On Earth—and We Are Making It

Bell frames much of the book around time and place, around what the Bible means when it speaks of the when and where of heaven and hell. He points to Revelation 21, citing that the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, is coming down to the new earth. He also affirms that heaven is a real place where God’s will alone is done and that at present, heaven and earth are not yet one (pp. 42-43). These are points that few Christians could seriously question.

His argument progresses to this: Because heaven will eventually come to earth, if we’re to take heaven seriously, we must take the suffering that exists in the world seriously now. Therefore, we are called to participate “now in the life of the age to come. That’s what happens when the future is dragged into the present” (p. 45). In light of this, humanity’s role within creation is redefined so that we are not so much stewards as we are God’s partners, “participating in the ongoing creation and joy of the world” (p. 180), and engaging in creating a new social order with Jesus (p. 77). This language of partnering and participating is frequently applied by Bell to causes of social justice.

But what about hell? Is hell a future reality or a present one? Is it an earthly reality or one that exists elsewhere?

Hell appears to be more about what we do to each other than what we’ve done to God. Bell reads Jesus’ warnings of divine punishment as addressing only the temporal, rather than both the temporal and the eternal. These warnings were for the religious leaders of the day, and had very little to do with some other reality or some other time, he argues (pp. 82-83). Instead, hell is “a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep without our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way” (p. 95). There’s no fire and no wrath, at least, none that is extrinsic to us.

Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.

Exegetical Gymnastics

Understanding what Bell truly believes and what he is truly seeking to teach can be a battle. The reader will find himself following many rabbit trails and arriving at several dead ends. It seems that where Bell’s arguments begin to break down, he simply walks away instead of pursuing consistency and logic. This book could not stand the rigors of cross-examination. It has little cohesion, little internal strength.

The reader will also find broad statements offered as fact. “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins.” Is that true? It is easy to say, but can it be proven? Again and again Bell turns to the original languages but he quotes no commentaries, points to no sources. He says things like “’forever’ is not really a category the biblical writers used.” But he offers no proof. Again, it is easy to say, but can it be proven? Can it be proven from a legitimate source?

Throughout the book he engages in what can best be described as exegetical gymnastics, particularly in dealing with the Greek word aion, a small word that is crucial to his arguments.

While this word is commonly translated as “eternal” or “everlasting,” Bell argues that it can also mean “age” or “period of time,” or even “intensity of experience.” Using this approach, he briefly argues from the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) that eternal punishment isn’t eternal, but rather an intense period of pruning.

Now here’s the thing: aion and aionios definitely can mean “age” or “period of time,” they also mean “eternal.” The word’s context helps us to determine its meaning. So if we assume that these words primarily mean “age” or “period of time,” what happens when we apply that definition to John 3:16 where aionios is used?

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have life for a period of time.

Not as encouraging, is it? While Bell might argue here that “life abundant” might be a better fit (playing on the “intensity of experience” angle and tying it to John 10:10), at the end of the day, we’re left with an approach that gives more credence to living your best life now than it does to worshipping Jesus.

The Good News Is Better Than This

Throughout the book, there are a number of points where we would agree with Bell, particularly when he identifies some of the goofy things that people have concocted to make God’s absolute sovereignty palpable. But his answers are equally unsatisfying. Even his good critiques are simply a bridge to bad conclusions.

As he makes his case, Bell seems to delight in being obtuse, creating caricatures of opposing views that lack logic and compassion. He paints himself as the victim of the hateful, toxic, venomous denizens of certain corners of the Internet that believe “the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don’t articulate matters of faith as they do” (p. 185).

Thus, Rob Bell appoints himself a martyr for his cause, and anyone who disagrees with him is preemptively silenced. It’s a useful technique, that, but hardly a fair one. Meanwhile he acts as if those who hold to the belief that, in Bell’s words, “we get this life and only this life to believe in Jesus,” a view passionately held to by the vast majority of Christians throughout history, are blowing smoke rather than dealing honestly with the Scriptures. He subtly redefines the questions and answers, and in doing so, also shifts the battle lines.

As he moves those lines, he moves closer and closer to outright blasphemy. Turning on 1 Timothy 2 (where Paul states that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth) Bell reflects on a traditional (orthodox) view of hell and asks:

How great is God?

Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do,

or kind of great,

medium great,

great most of the time,

but in this,

the fate of billions of people,

not totally great.

sort of great.

a little great.

A God who would allow people to go to hell is not a great God, according to Bell, and the traditional belief that He would is “devastating . . . psychologically crushing . . . terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7).

God is at best sort of great, a little great—great for saving some, but evil for allowing others to perish. Dangerous words, those. It is a fearful thing to ascribe evil to God.

So what of the gospel? Where is the gospel and what is the gospel? Ultimately, what Bell offers in this book is a gospel with no purpose. In his understanding of the Bible, people are essentially good, although we certainly do sin, and are completely free to choose or not choose to love God on our own terms. Even then he seems to believe that most people, given enough time and opportunity, will turn to God.

In This Is Love

If Love Wins accurately represents Bell’s views on heaven and hell (at least if our understanding of the book accurately represents his views on heaven and hell), it reveals him as a proponent of a kind of Christian Universalism. He would deny the label as he tends to deny any label. But if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well, you know how it goes.

What Jesus does is declare that he,

and he alone,

is saving everybody.

And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.

People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.

Sometimes people use his name;

other times they don’t.

Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation—grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness—the last thing they are inclined to name it is “Jesus.”

What we see Jesus doing again and again—in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him living like him, and trusting him—is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work.

That is what we know as universalism. And it is cause for mourning.

Christians do not need more confusion. They need clarity. They need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. And let’s be honest—many truths are very, very hard to swallow.

Love does win, but not the kind of love that Bell talks about in this book. The love he describes is one that is founded solely on the idea that the primary object of God’s love is man; indeed, the whole story, he writes, can be summed up in these words: “For God so loved the world.” But this doesn’t hold a candle to altogether amazing love of God as actually shown in the Bible. The God who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), who acts on our behalf not so much because His love for us is great, but because He is great (Isaiah 48:9, Ezekiel 20:9,14,22,44, 36:22; John 17:1-5).

That’s the kind of love that wins. That’s the kind of love that motivates us to love our neighbors enough to compel them to flee from the wrath to come. And our love for people means nothing if we do not first and foremost love God enough to be honest about Him.


This review is based on an Advanced Readers’ Copy of Love Wins. Page references may differ from the final edition.

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  • Danny Eiler

    Been waiting for this since you said that you got the book. Thanks for the review, about what I figured, but I was really hoping he was just playing “devil’s advocate” … sad, as I have always taken up for Rob Bell to a point because he’s never fully said anything to put him in the camp people want to throw him into, until now …..

    The part that makes me the saddest is the thousands and thousands of people who are going to buy this book and then believe it cause it’s something cool by Rob Bell. So many people are going to be led away from the truth, and any of us who still believe that will be labeled as having our heads in the sand and holding to some barbaric form of an evil God ….. that breaks my heart.

    • Anonymous

      ” he’s never fully said anything to put him in the camp people want to throw him into, until now …..”

      I understand how you could feel that way Danny. Even so though, his associations and the materials he’d recommend were clear enough to those of us tracking him closely.

      The Lord be praised, and I’m certainly not gleeful about this sad slide by Bell, I wrote this two years ago: http://apprising.org/2008/12/10/rob-bell-and-christian-universalism/

      • JSK

        KenSilva, the man who has made it his life goal to slam Rob Bell around the internet. Grats

        • http://apprising.org Apprisingministries

          I’ll look forward to you refuting me.

    • Rr329jr

      An evil God? Let me ask you…what do you consider a “god” to be that tortures in real fire and squeezes like grapes in a wine press, white haired grandmothers, children, your own mother and dad, brothers, sisters, etc.? Is there anything more evil than this? Think very carefully before you answer…use your head not your faulty translation Bible.

      • John

        What translation are you using?

      • MinerJohn

        Rf329jr, I consider him a God who does not look at the outward appearance, but upon the heart. Read Romans 3, the passage quotes from the Old Testament which start with “There is no one who does good, no not even one.” I also consider him a God who takes sin seriously. Remember, sin is not just against man, but also against God.

        • Joseph

          Well no duh He’s a holy God. Hence, “the reconciliation of ALL THINGS to Himself.” Do you think God really meant “All things”, or “all things and those few people, that NARROW ROAD, who believe the right things, and all other people won’t be reconciled?”

        • ashlee

          @725dffe85e136026e09bf70b40b83b6b:disqus In context… I feel like you left out a very important word… “and THROUGH Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross ; THROUGH Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” 

          Colossians 1:13-1:20  “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of Hisbeloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of theinvisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in theheavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him allthings hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church ; and He is the beginning, thefirstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross ; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

      • http://readingscripture.org Ron Henzel

        A more banal, sappier caricature of the Christian doctrine hell as Rr329jr presents here would be difficult to find.

      • http://readingscripture.org Ron Henzel

        A more banal, sappier caricature of the Christian doctrine hell as Rr329jr presents here would be difficult to find.

      • cityfires

        Using my head and not my “faulty translation Bible”, I know just how wretchedly sinful of a person I am. If I claimed to deserve happiness or peace based on my actions alone, I would know good and well that I lie to myself. I don’t deserve peace, I don’t deserve heaven. I don’t deserve to live on earth in the first place.

        Luckily, my Bible is a rather well translated one, and within it I find that, IN SPITE of all this, God decided, out of love, to save my eternal soul from the punishment I know I deserve.

        “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
        (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

        I would propose that God would be quite evil if he allowed any sins to go unpunished (be it through hell or the cross). That he saves ANYONE at ALL is infinite love on his part.

        • Warren Street

          Type your comment here.When God lists the consequences of Adam and Eve’s having disobeyed Him, the original sin, there is no mention of the concept we have of hell there. The ultimate consequence is that humans will now return to dust when we die. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “grave” is the one translated “hell”. If it is true that we go to the grave when we die, this ties in with God’s judgement for the original sin. This judgement is passed on to all the human race as we know that sin entered the human race through one man. From Genesis 3 onwards in the Bible I see God at work trying to bring restoration to the relationship between Himself and the ones He loves. In many situations in life the consequences are punishment enough. The consequense of sin was seperation from the intended relationship that God planned for us (humans) and Him to have and in death returning to dust. That restoration was ultimately achieved in the greatest demonstration of love, in the acceptable sacrifice of His son. With this gift of restoration came the added benefit of a new concept, eternal life. Through Jesus, God’s ultimate consequence for sin, death or the grave or the returning to dust, was finally reversed. God had made the way open for us (humans) to know and relate to Him as He had originally intended. Thats who the church are, people in restored relationship with God. Its that simple really. The general concept of hell is such a human concept – something a human would come up with. Hell as we have been taught is not a God concept.
          Some thoughts to keep the discussion going!

      • Jesusroseinme

        At what point do we draw the line between God being loving and Him being evil? You have stated that you view a God who tortures to be evil but what about a God who will kill for disobedience and allow others to be killed here on Earth? Where do we draw the line? If you are a person who believes in what Rob Bell is saying, you still have this issue to deal with. So in Rob Bell’s mind a loving God wouldn’t send someone to an eternal punishment; based on this worldly logic, couldn’t I just say a God that wasn’t evil would have never let the fall happen in the first place? Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow a rebellious child to be stone to death. Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow an innocent lambs blood be shed? You might say, “Yeah, but at least its not forever!” But now you are defending a stance that a God that kills is not evil, but a God that sends people to hell…oh now thats just uncalled for.

        We have faulty views about God’s holiness and justice at times. No one can understand the full gravity what violating His holiness merits. He deals justly, and if that happens to be a torturous sentence to hell, it does not make Him evil, it makes Him just…just as allowing people to die for violating His law on Earth does not make Him evil but just. Evil occurs when a wicked heart takes action (the act within itself is not what makes something evil), justice is a holy response to that wicked heart’s action. Therefore, an act of a perfect being sentencing someone to eternal punishment is a just action and not an evil one. When you are dealing with a sinless being like God, you have to realize that He makes decisions based upon justice. I could never, ever in a million years call a God evil who has given humanity chance after chance after chance…even if He does decide to send someone into the lake of fire.

        This mindset is common because we do not grasp the gravity of the capital punishment deserved for infraction of a perfect God’s law. We think of violating His righteousness in terms such as “oops, I spilled the grape juice on the carpet, sorry Dad!” rather than a graphic violent rape or a string of torturous serial murders – totally unrepentant and if given the chance would do it all again.

        A Jehovahs Witness asked me once, “If you were a loving God, would you send one of your created beings to a place where they are tortured forever and ever?” My response: “No, I would just kill my creation off instead.” They acted like they didn’t hear it. Why? Because they saw the double standard. That is a can of worms best left in the can – it is an inconsistency. Do you not see this? If you are going to call a God evil for sending someone away from His presence forever, you are still inevitably smacking Him across the face without realizing it. Because based on this worldly logic that God would be evil for acting out what He sees as justice, you have to say that everything He has done to this point in history has not been right. And if you are willing to say such a thing as that, you are a much bolder person than I.

        My God is just, and His Son’s sacrifice is dumbed down immensly if you do not teach an eternal punishment.

  • http://twitter.com/JephMaags Jeph Maagdeleyn

    As I think about your average church member, no less attender, there are a lot that are there eat up whatever the pastor says and not discern for themselves. It’s this idea that the church is there to feed me and so like a child, I will eat whatever is put in front of me. You could compare Rob Bell to McDonalds. Kids love it, they know how to attract and get business, but is the food you are eating really good for you? There is some nutritional value, but ultimately, if you ate consistently from them, it would not go well for you.

    I echo Danny’s concerns in that it’s sad that people would be ignorant consumers when it comes to their faith. Dress it up and make it look “cool” and you can bring the masses. Unfortunately people don’t see that they are drinking a tall glass of koolaid instead of fine wine. I don’t know what is more unfortunate, the fact that some don’t know there is fine wine available, or that some know and choose the koolaid. It’s kind of a younger brother/older brother situation from the prodigal son.

    My prayer is for Rob Bell, that he would teach the Scriptures as intended and that he would be innocent of the blood of his church. Unfortunately, because the average church attender won’t discern for themselves, Mr Bell seems to have a lot of blood on his hands and that’s scary for him and his followers.

    • Rr329jr

      What you have written is very true…except in reverse! Christians accept garbage that is fed to them by anyone without checking for themselves. Rob Bell is spot on and what he is saying is definitely true. Anyone can know that for themselves if they just bother to look, without any pre-conceived notions due to garbage they’ve had force fed to them.

      • Minerjohn

        Rr329jr, if what Rob Bell is saying what is true about hell, than he must be smarter than Jesus, I guess. For others who want explanation, read Matthew 5:21-22, Mark 9:42-47, and Matthew 8:12. All direct quotes from Jesus.

        • Warren Street

          Before Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, his death on the cross, His teaching for entering the kingdom of heaven was through living a righteous life. The theme in each of these passages is really the same- live a righteous life, one that is pleasing to God, and become a part of the kingdom of heaven or don’t and end up in the place used to represent death, the valley of Gehenna just outside Jerusalem. In most english translations it is transated “hell”. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna he was talking about a local land mark familiar to all his listeners and illustrating the gravity of their lifestyle choice.

        • Guest Reader

          Sheol, Hades and the Gehenna of Fire:
          http://bibletruths.150m.com/Gehenna.htm
          Time to know your bible bud.

    • Guest

      The condescension in most people’s voices when they talk about the “average church attender” is starting to upset me. If you are a Christian you have the voice of the Holy Spirit, who will help those average church attenders discern truth. Pastors have done the much (intentionally or not) to silence the voice of the holy spirit by setting themselves up as the source of truth and accurate biblical interpretation. Feeding the congregation milk when they should be cooking their own steak.

  • JohnnyMac

    Tragic to perceive yourself as more just, tolerant, kind, patient, gracious, moral and loving that God. Indeed it is a great deception. The fact is God’s very nature demands sinners (those who damages or corrupts or act contrary to His creation, nature and law) must be punished.

    Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, no atonement, no salvation. Christianity is the only religious system that holds this idea. That’s what make Jesus, the divine Son of God, and His completed work on the cross so amazing. He is our rescue. The idea that you don’t need to call on the name of the Lord (Jesus) to be saved is truly blasphemous. How do you ignore everything soteriology teaches? Bell has to be familiar with ‘Yeshua’ in the very least…more proof that no one is without excuse.

    How fortunate for us that God has reveal himself, through His Word, so that we may know the truth and walk in the light. Bell remains a wonderfully gifted communicator, sadly, it’s clearly a false gospel.

    • J Mason

      Applying my larger point stated above, the animals sacrificed were not eternally tortured, their shedding of blood resulted in their consumption by flame and as food. Thankfully, the Lamb of God could not only raise Himself, but will raise all who love Him at the resurrection.

    • Rr329jr

      You should check for yourself and find out. Don’t be afraid, the truth won’t bite! YOU are the one who is promoting a false gospel. I dare you…just check for yourself.

      • Minerjohn

        No Rr329jr, YOU are the one who is promoting a false gospel. And the truth actualy does bite. It’s a lot easier in the short run to believe in universalism or deny the reality of hell, or not believe in any God who sends people to hell. In the long run, though, not by a longshot.

  • Pingback: A review of Rob Bell’s book: Love Wins | hi im kevin dot com()

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    Thanks for the feedback so far, guys. One of the things I’m fearful about regarding this whole Bell thing is people jumping up and down and saying “I knew it!” with an almost perverse sense of glee. We definitely don’t need that, anymore than we need more bad teaching, y’know?

    • Rr329jr

      What is truly perverse is people who actually find it in themselves to worship a revolting thing that they label a “god” who will torture most of the entire world forever, including members of their own family. That is truly perverse. In fact, it’s sick and demented.

      • Minerjohn

        No, I would say that a person who ran around New Orleans telling people that Katrina wasn’t really coming the day before it hit would be the sick and demented one, and that’s who I compare you to. It makes more sense to believe in and flee from “the wrath to come” (Luke 3, John the Baptist speaking) and also to warn people of it.

      • Splodders

        Rr329jr I know what you’re saying but I’m not sure your making a great case for love winning by the way your saying it.

      • Will Free

        Apparently you haven’t met my family….

    • http://www.drawmeaway.ca Lauren

      Good article, Aaron. Yes, you’re right, we shouldn’t be satisfied to see another fall – that’s a dark thing itself! I’m just glad it has been revealed “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17). I’m glad is has come to light, but SAD to find what you did…

  • http://twitter.com/willadair willadair

    Good Job Aaron!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Will!

  • Mel

    Aaron, thanks for the article; it’s very well written!

    “Christians do not need more confusion. They need clarity. They need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. And let’s be honest—many truths are very, very hard to swallow.”

    Amen! However, here is my concern for the church. We have so badly strayed away from solid biblical teaching in our churches to the point where many do not know the difference between false teaching and truth. When I say “teaching,” I don’t mean a good lecture from a good speaker in a pulpit, or small group leaders with bible knowledge. I mean the kind of teaching that allows people to ask questions (asking questions back) regarding their faith and the bible. Even when Moses and the Israelites had the 10 commandments to guide them, Moses often stated and restated “fear the Lord” and “love the Lord.” Are we learning to fear God and love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength in our churches, or are we still moving along the same path of “well, if my pastor said it, then therefore it must be true”? There has got to be something to allow congregations to ask the tough questions on a regular basis to allow them to discern between solid biblical teaching and false teaching. Sadly, I believe most of today’s pastors, lack that discernment. This is why, I believe people like Rob Bell slipped through – no discernment in accountability.

    Here is what I believe the Lord is speaking to the church: Jeremiah 6:16-21
    We must listen to Lord when he says, “Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it” so that we may find rest for our souls. We said, “No” instead. What is the consequence? Verse 21 sums it up. The Lord says, “I will put obstacles before this people. Parents and children alike will stumble over them; neighbors and friends will perish.” The people rebelled back then, and people are rebelling now. God’s judgment is still the same.

    This really should bring us to our knees seeking the Lord in all humility to lead us and the generations to come. God said, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

    We must never be arrogant even when we are right about theology because our responsibility is to build the church layer upon layer, brick by brick so that when the winds and the waves come, the church stands firm. How do we build upon it? Paul pointed out that God set it up this way: “first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” (1 Cor 12:28) These are not hierarchical positions in the church – as most (if not all) congregations are set up this way (minus a few because they fear the church would look “freaky”). These are foundational layers to the church; each one accountable to the other; they submit one to another with no lording over the other.

    I said all that to say this. The church must go back to the basics in everything. People need to know what the true gospel is. They need to know God’s love for his people – no matter how rebellious they are, his love never fails. They need to know how much sin affects us and how much we are desperate for Christ as our salvation. They need to know what it means to carry the name “Christian.” They need to know what it means to be prepared for Christ’s coming. ETC. The church must get out of their lecture series, out of their campaigns, and out of treating the church like a business, and get down to ministering to people by meeting their spiritual needs on the ground level. People are spiritually anemic, and we are to blame.

    Lord, forgive us for being the kind of shepherds that reap the benefits of the flock yet neglect to feed them, refuse to chase after them when they go astray, and neglect caring for them the way that is honorable to you. Help us lead effectively and fruitfully! If there is any unclean part of us, please expose them (as painful as it may be) so that we may repent, and walk in your ways upright and approved by your Holy Spirit. Amen and praise your holy name!

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. My spirit is extremely stirred by what is going on in today’s churches. I’m aching at the matters the Lord is revealing to me of what grieves his Spirit. I pray your heart grieves the same way so that we are motivated to humbly come before the Lord for appropriate action. Blessings to you!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Mel. I am also extremely concerned about all that’s going on in our local churches. Christ’s bride is frequently at the center of my prayers. Thanks again for dialoging today. Blessings to you as well.

      • Mel

        I’ve shed quite a few tears regarding Christ’s bride. It’s encouraging to meet other intercessors! Blessings to you, brother!

      • Rr329jr

        What are you praying for churches for? Praying that a “god” who is not even able to defend his (but really YOUR) church against something? This devil (which also doesn’t really exist) seems to have much more power than your god does! Your “god” creates a super enemy that turns into a devil and then lets this devil drag everyone into eternal torture…all because of the “gift” of free will! Any “gift” that secretly ends up in your eternal torture is no gift at all. It is insanity.

        • Mel

          Rr329jr, I echo Aaron’s statement to you in a previous response, please provide background to your opinions. It’s impossible to have a good debate or discussion without something palpable to discuss.

        • Minerjohn

          We pray because Jesus commanded us to pray. Are you going to claim that Jesus really didn’t say that? BTW, RC Sproul would partially agree with you on free will, but to a different end.

        • Kentontjarks

          Rr… What you are advocating as fact has almost no relation to true Christianity. I hope that God speaks to you and brings you into the fold. It appears, however, that you are more interested in being contradictory than finding truth. Beware false Prophets!

  • http://twitter.com/HillsBC Canuckdon

    Aaron & Tim, a very helpful review, handled with decorum and taste. It would be so easy to attack Rob Bell as many are doing. But Rob and other purveyors of false teaching need our prayers – they need the Lord.

    The sad thing is, there are many like Rob in the pulpit and even sadder that the average ‘believer’ is as shallow as a puddle and lacks discernment when it comes to understanding even the basics of biblical truth. The world is in danger of slipping into a new dark age, rather than the age of enlightenment touted by these false prophets.

    Without an understanding of truth, people are vulnerable to any trickster – the chief of which is Satan himself.

    • Rr329jr

      What is truly sad is that there are so many Christians who don’t even bother to do any research to see if what they’ve been sold is actually true or not. I was a hell pusher…but eventually I checked for myself over a period of three years. I now know for certain that most of Christianity is nothing but pagan myths…and hell is one of those myths.

      • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

        You say you know for certain that most of Christianity is nothing but pagan myths. Prove it.

      • Minerjohn

        You’re right that many Christians don’t do research. But if they truly believe whether they do the research or not, they will stay out of hell, while others who accept blindly what apparent atheists like you will not. Read I Corinthians 1 “God choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” I’ll take a Christian who is willing to stick their head in the sand to cling to orthodoxy (“We are fools for Christ” I Corinthians 4) over someone like you (if you’re not trolling) who allegedly does research which takes him away from orthodoxy. Don’t get me wrong. I prefer a thoughtful Christian, because then they can research the Bible enough to know that Rob Bell is not doing the right thing, as well as you.

      • cityfires

        Rr329jr,

        You’ve posted several comments in response to people’s takes on this article, but you have YET to supply any evidence refuting their beliefs.

        The doctrine of hell is not a light or easy doctrine, but we as Christians are bound to follow what God teaches us in his word. Claiming otherwise is to say that you know better than God how things should be done.

        “I was a hell pusher…but eventually I checked for myself over a period of three years. I now know for certain that most of Christianity is nothing but pagan myths…and hell is one of those myths.”

        I’m interested to see what exactly you “checked” over three years that convinced you that hell is simply a “pagan myth”, but I seriously doubt it was the Bible.

        Remember, we have to base our beliefs on something more foundational than our own opinions, which are HIGHLY unreliable and quite prone to error.

  • http://mjkimpan.wordpress.com michaeljkimpan

    looks like i’m going to be the first to disagree.

    aaron, you write, “Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.”

    could it be that our view of heaven and hell as we’ve been traditionally taught is erred and perhaps too heavily influenced (even hijacked) by greek philosophy, medieval anti-catholic theology, and western thought? i would certainly argue that the american evangelical view of hell is more informed by jonathan edwards than by jesus.

    so…is redefining those terms necessarily denial of truth?

    remember…when jesus talked about heaven and hell, he was speaking to 1st century jews, not 21st century westerners. we would do well to re-examine our views of heaven, hell and salvation from that perspective.

    i would suggest that an outright refusal to do so, or a fear of asking legitimate questions that reflect a God of grace, love, mercy, and acceptance (as opposed to a God of wrath, anger, and an eternal temper tantrum inflicting punishment and pain on those who don’t believe what you and i do) is perhaps more heretical than challenging the theological status quo.

    • cityfires

      Do you believe that, when Jesus spoke his words to 1st century jews, he had NO IDEA that anyone would document them? Or, being himself God in human flesh, did he use exactly the words he wanted to speak to all of us who follow?

      I think you can find plenty of evidence and quotations throughout this discussion that shows Jesus CLEARLY addressing hell and eternal punishment. The words used in the greek are quite clear, and the translations are no less adequate.

  • Reigndancer2002

    My understanding of “hell” is to be apart from God, who is Love. And God is great enough to give us that or not. I do not understand what this means. God is so much bigger than me. I don’t know about King David’s status or Abraham, or those who have never heard Jesus’ name, or even my neighbor’s or best friend’s status in God’s eyes. It can be interesting to think about but I don’t have to have the answers. God is much bigger than me. God could work out our slavation any way he pleases. He is the absolute. God is much bigger than me. I can only accept my great Lord’s love for me, shown in so many ways and epitomized in Jesus, and I get to watch God give that love to other people because God loves them perfectly. And my God is so great!

    • Rr329jr

      Your God is so great? There is nothing GREAT about your own mother, dad, white haired grandmother and grandfather, or your own kids being tortured and squeezed like a grape in a wine press. Don’t be afraid to think.

      • Minerjohn

        Yes, Rr329jr, you should apply “don’t be afraid to think” to yourself. Because if you did, you would realize that every sin is a sin against an infinite God. You would know that everyone in their natural state “suppresses (sp?) the truth in unrighteousness”. You would know that “There is no one who does good not even one. . .” (Romans 3, quoting OT passages) You would realize that God is much bigger and smarter than everyone in the world put together multiplied by a googleplex. And you would realize that Jesus talks very specifically about hell, and followers of Christ are bound to follow their Master. Also, you would realize that heavenly family trumps earthly family.

        • Uw_huskies_fanatic

          A sin against an infinate God deserves infinate punishment

      • Uw_huskies_fanatic

        there is nothing GREAT about that being done rather than the sheer tremendous work that would take. The GREAT thing about God is everywhere around you, above you, and yourself. God gave your white haired grandparents the free will to make their own decisions and trust Him if they liked. Many did not and will face the consequences that they brought on themselves. Those who do obey are rewarded, and even taken straight up to Heaven for his lifestyle. It is a simple equation: live for Christ and go to Heaven or live for the world and “use your head” as stated by you and believe false claims and burn and rot with your white haired grandmother and grandfather who had countless years to come to Christ and never did. Your move.

  • Beth Weaver

    you two should write a book.. cool? cool.

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

    I agree with you that Christians do not need more confusion and that they need clarity instead. For this reason, I am not disappointed that Rob Bell has flirted with universalism. Rather, I am disappointed that he has not declared it emphatically with a strong biblical case (http://wp.me/PNthc-i6)

    Most people recoil at the idea of universalism because they think it means the end of orthodoxy, or that God will not be just, or that Jesus’ work has been devalued, or that the Scriptures are not being honored. And indeed I have seen universalism proclaimed with one or more of these characteristics.

    However, I assure you that the Bible does support the idea that everyone is going to heaven, just as it supports the idea that everyone should repent, that God will be just, and that Jesus is the only way.

    If I didn’t believe that the Bible teaches everyone is going to heaven, I wouldn’t believe it.

    • Rr329jr

      This person has obviously done their homework. Thank goodness there is someone here who has an open mind and common sense to go with it.

      • Cchen3

        Rr329jr, you said that Christianity is nothing but a bunch of “pagan myths”. Why then do you praise this person? He says he still believes in God and the Bible. You’re very selective in your critisicm. Or maybe you’re forgetting under which identity you’ re trolling as. If you’re going to be an atheist, be an atheist. If you’re going to be a “Rob Bell” type, be a Rob Bell type. Or maybe as an atheist you don’t care whether you lie or not, as you don’t have any transcendent moral structure. Or maybe you just need to get over your college frat party hangover before trolling again.

  • Paul

    “That is what we know as universalism. And it is cause for mourning.”

    one of the saddest quotes I’ve ever read, and one which shows how twisted the traditional (not necessarily biblical) view of hell is. Why on earth would the idea of all humanity being redeemed by Jesus be cause for mourning? Surely the opposite is true. I cannot understand why everybody is so keen to defend such an abhorent doctrine.

    I haven’t read Bell’s book yet but it seems to me that all who criticise him are starting from the premise that the traditional view of hell is absolutely incontrovertibly biblical – hence they will have no other choice but to accuse him of “heresy”. In fact the biblical witness is much more varied on the topic, with texts about judgement and many texts which seemingly support universalism. I wish people would try and approach this issue with open eyes to try and decide for themselves what is correct, rather than Dante influenced tradition. If Bell is not the best defender of this view then there are plenty of other books with rigorous in-depth exegesis.

    (For what it’s worth I’m not a universalist, but I believe it’s a valid orthodox Christian option which has a good scriptural basis. I lean more towards the intermediate doctrine of conditional immortality, but I still hope and pray that universalism is true. The thought of a God who can save all inspires me to worship more than one who condemns billions to external torment. It truly scares me that people are so keen to defend this doctrine without having an open mind to the alternative)

    • J Mason

      I am probably quite a bit more strongly in the conditional immortality camp than you given my beliefs on free choice as intimated above. Your hopes/prayers of universalism are both mirrored and seemingly somewhat repudiated as a possibility by Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. I would have to believe only a respect for God’s creation of free choice could stand in the way of any Christian wanting to believe in it. Particularly if you have had a dear relative die without evidence of acceptance of Jesus.

      • Paul

        Hey mate. I strongly believe in free choice. Don’t think Jesus weeping over Jerusalem necessarily repudiates universalism as that passage seems to be a fairly stark prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 – it’s not specifically an end-times text. However I agree Jesus weeping is a good example for us all in how we should approach these issues of judgement and hell, no matter where on the spectrum we lie.

        • cityfires

          There are obviously texts can be used to support universalism, but I think the Bible has very clear teachings that refute such a belief. Two that immediately come to mind are:

          “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
          (Revelation 20:13-15 ESV)”

          as well as

          “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
          (Luke 16:22-26 ESV)

          The fact that Jesus himself told a story in which someone was “in Hades, being in torment” is rather strong evidence that such a place exists.

          Universalism is cause for mourning because it’s a lie. We should mourn those who believe in it because it is a false gospel that does not rely on faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

          I think that’s what they were getting at in the review, but I can’t speak for Aaron and Time =]

        • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

          @cityfires:
          Assuming revelation is meant to be literal (quite a stretch, most scholars would argue), though the lake of fire is described as eternal and Satan is described to suffer in it forever, there is no verse that says human beings will suffer in it forever. In fact, there seem to be more verses that suggest the humans who go to hell are like chaff that will be burnt up.

  • Lindsay

    What a tragedy for a man of such influence to put his own thoughts and opinions above that of the Word of God, and to use that influence to misrepresent the gospel. This kind of thought makes Jesus’ sacrifice seem like it was for nothing. Thanks for your honest review. I’m just so bummed that this is going to be out there as a “credible” source for people.

    • Rr329jr

      I’ll write it again…if Jesus DIED to save you from ETERNAL TORTURE then he got off very easy! How can so many people be so stupid? To think that people are actually SAD or MAD that their “god” will not torture their own family, let alone most of the world. How crazy can it get?

      • Cchen3

        Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. And I (and many others) say that Jesus suffered in hell in some literal sense on the cross. People are not sad or made that God will not torture people; they actually are sad or mad that people don’t take what Jesus said seriously.

  • Stanima

    First of all, I appreciate your open and honest presentation of your opinion of this book.

    As someone who reads Bell, Driscoll, Piper, McLaren and most closely Keller & Chan; this whole “debate” (how one has a one-sided barrage of opinion and calls it a debate, I cannot quite figure out) prompts me to ask 4 questions and a statement:

    1. Is Satan angry, neutral or happy that Rob Bell (who claims to be a Christ follower) is being attacked in full public view?

    2. Is this “debate” beneficial to the propagation of the message & sacrifice of Jesus and reaching lost souls for Him?

    3. Can someone who is “conservative” please provide a list of questions that we are forbidden to ask in relation to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and Church?

    4. Has anyone who thinks this book is in error suggested that we pray for Rob Bell and his discernment? (Because I have not seen that anywhere)

    The statement…many people need to study and understand the difference between “Universalist” and “Universalism”. Interchanging the two confuses this discussion.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for commenting; I greatly appreciate the feedback.

      As to your questions:

      1. Two answers: First, who is attacking him personally? No one that I’ve seen. They’re questioning his doctrine, which is different. Second, how does Jesus feel about people misrepresenting Him?

      2. If it helps people be clear on what the message is, yes. There are opportunities, particularly for those who are “higher profile,” to share the what the gospel message really is.

      3. I don’t know that there are any that can’t be asked about any topic, but it always comes back to the motives for asking. Is the motive to grow in understanding or to undermine?

      4. Some have indeed suggested that we pray for him. Most vocally has been Josh Harris (see his post here). And I know that there are many who are praying, even if they’re not talking about it too much. While I’ve most certainly been praying for him, in hindsight, it’s something that I would have added to this review.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for commenting; I greatly appreciate the feedback.

      As to your questions:

      1. Two answers: First, who is attacking him personally? No one that I’ve seen. They’re questioning his doctrine, which is different. Second, how does Jesus feel about people misrepresenting Him?

      2. If it helps people be clear on what the message is, yes. There are opportunities, particularly for those who are “higher profile,” to share the what the gospel message really is.

      3. I don’t know that there are any that can’t be asked about any topic, but it always comes back to the motives for asking. Is the motive to grow in understanding or to undermine?

      4. Some have indeed suggested that we pray for him. Most vocally has been Josh Harris (see his post here). And I know that there are many who are praying, even if they’re not talking about it too much. While I’ve most certainly been praying for him, in hindsight, it’s something that I would have added to this review.

      • Rr329jr

        EXACTLY! How do you think Jesus Christ feels about people misrepresenting him? Because he never mentioned hell nor eternal torture even ONCE! Check for yourself…if you dare to find out the truth…and if you think you can handle it.

        • Minerjohn

          On the contrary, you are clearly lying, Rr329jr. Or you are beyond ignorant. Or you are a troll. Read Matthew 5:21-23 and Mark 9:42-47. Also look at Matthew 8:12, which does not mention it by name, but clearly is referring to it. Although I think you are probably very familiar with these passages, if everything else you say is authentic and not trolling. You are in serious danger of the hellfire you deny the existence of. You can still repent and follow Jesus and avoid it. If not, at least stop saying things that are clearly untrue. Because it will go far worse for you there if you don’t. I’ll pray that you repent, or if not, that you are stifled in how you try to deceive.

  • Nandersen1

    Matthew 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

    • Rr329jr

      They’ve been expecting the end for 2000 years. How much longer will Christians keep pushing this “end times” garbage before they finally figure this out.

      • Mel

        Read 2 Peter 3.

        “3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

        Are you saying you are evidence to the “end times”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

    I am at the same time sad and frustrated at the authors of this review. Their own presuppositions and what they have grown up hearing from pastors and educators much less educated than Bell has caused them to reject anything that hearkens to the idea that hell may not actually be everlasting suffering. The fact is that the idea of hell as an experience of everlasting suffering is much less supported by scriptures, when truly examined exegetically, than the idea of hell as a place where the chaff is burned or the metal is refined, so to speak. The bulk of their review on Bell’s new book came across as uneducated and lazy, as well as extremely fundamentalist and not open to serious scholarly biblical exegesis.

    • Rr329jr

      SPOT ON!

      • Cchen3

        But Rr329jr, you said that Christianity is mostly just a bunch of pagan myths. Is the existence of God one of them? Tell us. Inquiring minds want to know. Which Christian beliefs do you hold to?

        BTW, Cormack, I think that what you are sad about is the authors of this review come do a different conclusion than you. What about your presuppositions? Do you just have the typical emergent presupposition that if Christians have believed it for nearly 20 centuries, it must be wrong. Let me hear your exegesis of Revelation 14, please.

        • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

          Many scholars agree that Revelation should not be used to determine much theologically about life after death, as it was written in a prophetic style, similar to many OT writings, and are therefore extremely metaphorical and serve more to make a point than to be taken as fact. So I, too, lack the audacity to interpret or claim to understand Revelation. However, if you want me to respond to the verse where it says, “they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever,” I would point out that it doesn’t say those being tormented will be tormented for ever and ever. Assuming this verse, as with the rest of the book of Revelation, is to be taken somewhat literally (which most scholars would argue against vehemently), the phrase that the smoke will rise forever in this type of language indicates that it will not be forgotten.

    • Sarah

      you seem to be implying that you yourself have no presuppositions. that’s false. everyone does. accusing them of not thinking through this is the height of arrogance. but if you want a step-by-step analysis of the scriptures in question, check out Kevin DeYoung’s review. it’s 20 pages long. definitely not dashed out thoughtlessly. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/

      Also, I see that you categorically reject the last 20 centuries of Christian scholarship and thinking. glad to know that you’re smarter and more discerning than all the believers who have come before you.

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

        Sarah, are you suggesting that the last 20 centuries of Christian scholarship and thinking are united on this subject?

      • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

        I do not “reject the last 20 centuries of Christian thinking”, I only reject those things which I find warrant rejection.

        And of course I have presuppositions. However, I like to discover those presuppositions and examine them in order to make new, more informed suppositions. (And there are equally long “step-by-step” analysis of the scriptures in question that actually support opposing views, and with years more study than Kevin, many of whom dedicate their lives to studying scriptures.)

        • Uw_huskies_fanatic

          “I do not reject the last 20 centuries of Christian thinking, I only reject those things which I find warrant rejection” sound like rather than meditatating deeply in scripture you came up with your own basis of what warrants rejection and what does not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

      Aaron, I apologize for using such strong language. After reading other reviews, you are one of the less closedminded reviewers out there, and more open to conversation. I don’t like how I tend to talk so abrasively when I get frustrated about something, and I don’t like how divisive Christians, myself included, appear to be surrounding this issue.

      • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

        Thanks Cormack. I appreciate it and apology accepted. I definitely agree that we all, whether we’re in agreement with the argument made in this book or not, need to be careful to exhibit love in how we agree or disagree. Thanks for reminding me of that today, too.

  • J Mason

    Though I disagree with what would appear to be a heretical veer to Universalism, I sympathize with with Rob Bell’s attempt to escape what I believe is the vile slander that is the dominant Christian view of Hell. There are many passages in the Bible that seem to refer to the evil completely burning up and evil itself being completely destroyed leading to an eternal age unmarred by sin. Attempting to reconcile these passages with the 2 most difficult passages–Rev 14:11 & Lazarus of the parable–can be rationally and Biblically done in my opinion. When I see the eternal outcome of a consuming hell turned into an eternally burning hell, it smacks of a satanically libelous plot to mischaracterize a God of love. If I, occasionally worried that my son does not take the concept of eternal punishment seriously enough, were to apply the flame of an acetylene torch to his arm for a week to put his life and eternity into perspective, y’all would rightfully lead the lynch mob against me. Yet you accuse God of punishing 3 score years (give or take 2 score) of miscreant behavior and rejection of Him with a never-ending, total-body flame. Now I know some of you no longer can stomach literal flames, but it is still libel in my mind and I challenge you to use the internal sense of justice God has placed in virtually everyone and square it with that kind of unfathomable disproportionality. I actually believe that the lake of fire will likely be a visually flame-like phenomenon where God, with an aching sadness, honors the free choice of His created sons and daughters who want no part of Him and withdraws his sustaining energy from every subatomic particle defining their existence in a way that we can all see. Though He has already borne every sin on the cross, He will have to allow them to feel every hurt and rejection they have inflicted whether physical or emotional, because they have demanded it–this will be the pain of hell. Christ’s assumption of this pain dwarfed the physical pain Mel Gibson tried to show–it almost killed Him in the Garden as He sweated blood. When they have experienced a just denouement of their lives, God will ultimately honor their desire for complete independence which is ultimately synonymous with non-existence.

  • http://sandysandmeyer.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    I was reading a verse last night, 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. Do I believe God WANTS anyone to go to hell? No way, that’s what this verse is about. Do people have the option of going because they forsake and deny God? Yes, and it’s our job to show them that they can have better. Thank you so much for this review and clearing up the bru-ha-ha that’s been going on over Rob’s new book.

    • Rr329jr

      If your God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, then is there something that can thwart what your God wants? If so, then your “god” is a tiny creature incapable of getting what he wants. If your child runs out onto the highway where there are cars whizzing past and he will get hit by a car if he gets there, would you do something to stop him or would you say “well, I don’t want to interfere with his free will choice of getting hit by a car if he wants to do that” ? THINK.

      • Minerjohn

        Many Calvinists interpret the “not wishing anyone would perish but all would come to repentance” as referring to the elect. If you haven’t read RC Sproul, you might want to as he takes a different view of free will; he doesn’t view it as an all encompassing answer for the same (or similar to) reason you noted above. But I think that you’re telling her to think is like the POT calling the offwhite sweater BLACK. Though you are a perfect example of the proverbial stopped clock being right 2x a day.

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  • Lawrence

    I appreciate your reviews.. I just don’t understand how or why these church celebrities seem to come to a point where they just get fixated on something like this.. it seems as though they want the shock and awe of coming up with something controversial. I just don’t know how we don’t see this clearly as a body of believers.. I guess it’s like politics.. all depends on the other underlying circumstances and relationships as to how this will go.. if it sells do it! I do appreciate you reviewing the book and providing it to your readers and the fact that you do it in a non-provoking or re-acting manner

    • Sarah

      Honestly, this is the fruit of years of elevating God’s love over and above all his other character traits. Not terribly surprising if you look at the direction things have been going in parts of the church in recent years. I saw this a great deal in college (I graduated in 2009).

  • Steve

    I love Rob Bell and like his videos and have read some of his books.
    Normally Rob Bell would say hey if you don’t ascribe to my writing or theology then challenge him check it out in scripture we have a responsability to check the scriptures out for our selves.
    If we are saying that people can get to heaven without Jesus then there is no point in him coming and dying for me and you and taking the punishment we deserve.
    There has to be an acceptance of what Jesus has done and a profession of faith.
    Romans10:9-15.
    For me without dressing anything up Love wins for sure.
    I love Rob Bell as I said before and I hope and pray that he is not a false teacher. Just one like us all that sometimes make mistakes! But isn’t that what repentance forgiveness and grace are for? Is nt that the point of Jesus?

    • Cchen3

      If Rob Bell is trying to be a gadfly, that will not excuse him in the day of judgement if he does it by sacrificing truth and leading people astray or giving them cover for their own unorthodoxy. He’s also responsible for responsibly checking out the scriptures for himself but he’s also responsible for what he teaches other people. Jesus gives stern warnings about being a stumbling block. Pastors are held to a higher standard; if he will not adhere he should quit being a pastor. Yes, we should pray for Rob Bell, that he will come out of unorthodoxy (or very shaky orthodoxy), but if he doesn’t we should pray that he is hindered in what he is trying to do.

  • http://livingwaterdave.blogspot.com dave

    Christ wins.

    • Rodsmyth

      Dave, what is Christ if not love?

      • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

        Is Christ supremely loving? Absolutely, but we need to be careful to remember two things:

        1. First and foremost, Christ’s love is directed to the Father, just as the Father’s is directed to the Son. He loves all of His sheep with a deeper affection than anyone can imagine, but we are not primary in his affections. (see John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 16:27; 17:1-4)

        2. In these conversations, how are we defining love? Are we defining it as Scripture does, which is, “in this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” or by some other measure? I’m not asking to be critical, but because it’s something I’ve noticed a great deal in the broader conversation.

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  • Homeisadream

    There seems to be quite a stir over the supposed eternity (or lack thereof) of hell. I think the point is more about the potency and validity of Jesus’s sacrifice. If hell were not eternal, than why should Jesus sacrifice himself? The idea of people going to hell only for a time, where they might be punished for their sin before they are restored to a state of righteousness makes Jesus irrelevant. He wouldn’t be saving anyone, they would be saved by a period of punishment in hell, and that is both biblically illogical and heretical.

    Also, a temporal version of punishment for sin completely robs humanity of any urgent need of salvation before death. What importance would the Gospel have if you could simply “serve your time” in hell and then go to be with God?

    If Jesus was the living water from which one could drink and never again thirst, then it implies that those who do not drink of such living water would always thirst. There’s some absolutes there that might make some feel uncomfortable. I think CS Lewis put it well when he wrote, “what does it matter what the path is called if the man dying of thirst takes that path and, by doing so, misses the only well in the desert?”

    The only emotion I can feel for those who choose to drink Mr. Bell’s kool-aid is sadness. Jesus is the only way and no one gets to his Daddy unless they go through him. How can I be angry or offended when our brothers and sisters in Christ are allowing themselves to be led astray?

    • Rr329jr

      Say this to yourself slowly…”Jesus…DIED…to…save…you…from…ETERNAL TORTURE. If that was true (and it isn’t) then he got off pretty easy because he didn’t have to be in hell being tortured forever to take the place of the tiny few who “trust” him. Makes me wonder if there is any such thing as a Christian who actually is able to think.

      • Minerjohn

        Saying it should make us see just how amazing grace is, and how horrible our sin is. Yes, there is mystery in the Bible; as I said earlier I (and many others) say that Jesus experience hell in a literal sense on the cross. As far as whether there is a Christian who is able to think, your track record based on what you have said makes you an extremely poor judge of who can think and who can’t.

  • Esteban

    Aaron, this review rings so hollow. So many of the so-called “reformed” movement judged this book and Rob Bell before anyone even read it (“Farewell Rob Bell”?). Going into it, not with an open mind of reading what one brother is expressing, but with the desire to dissect it and find out what is wrong with it. Why is it the top criticism of those in the reformed movement is the self-righteousness and holier-than-thou mindset? This is a criticism expressed by my PCA pastor (yes, I attended a PCA church for years). He recognizes it and addresses it. I have not yet read Rob Bell’s book (I’ve ordered it) but I have listened to, read and watched much of what he has to say and express. I appreciate his different perspective. Like John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, he’s encouraging us all to get on top of the desk for a different view. Do I always agree? Certainly not. But I’ve heard enough from him, hopefully with an open-mind, that I know he loves the Lord and has a passion to share the Love of Christ. I know from what I HAVE heard and read (and I agree with him) that he believes that our life eternal begins when we acknowledge and accept that the work of the cross was performed for us. From that day forward, the work of the cross is at work in us and that work is an expression of love. We are to take that love to the world around us. In the final judgment, it will not be you or Tim Challies or me or John Piper sitting on the throne (Praise God!) — it will be the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY and only Him!

    • Minerjohn

      People “prejudged” Rob Bell’s book because he put out a video which led in that direction and also because of his track record with Emergent and his previous writings. And every indication is that their problemsAs far as his Love of Christ, Jesus said “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say”. Don’t trust your judgement; trust the Bible. I think what you’re doing is saying “Its not Challies or Piper or Jesus; its Rob Bell”. Or something similar to.Jesus calls us to judge false prophets. I would think poorly of the PCA church you went to if you’re views on Rob Bell are similar to what they believe (I’m PCA myself). Though the fact you’re not in it may speak otherwise. As for self-righteousness, be careful whom you call self righteous and how you do it, or you may be guilty of it yourself (see my below reply to you per that).

      • Minerjohn

        I retract what I said about saying “Its not Challies or Piper or Jesus; its Rob Bell”, in describing your position Esteban. I clearly went too far there, and I apologize.

        • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

          Thank you for offering this apology. Let’s all please take a minute to stay calm as we continue to discuss.

    • Guest

      Oh Neil my son, my dear son! noooooo haha lol

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  • Esteban

    PS — your cohort Tim doesn’t seem to be able to handle people questioning his “review” — he’s already shut down comments on this same post on his site after just a little over 200 comments. Refer to my earlier post about the self-righteous mindset…

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for commenting, Esteban. I appreciate your concerns about self-righteousness and holier-than-thou mindsets and I agree. All of us struggle with this, whether we’re in the Reformed movement or not.

      For what it’s worth, I echo your praise that it is not anyone but the Lord who is on the throne in the final judgment. This is why I would encourage all of us to obey the commands of Scripture about being discerning. As Paul prayed for the Philippians that their love should abound with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may be pure and blameless, we must do likewise.

    • Minerjohn

      Who is being self-righteous now? Refer to Jesus about taking the “log out of your own eye” first, etc., in Matthew 7. Do you know that Tim closed the comments because he “can’t handle people questioning his review”? For goodness sake, he allowed over 200 comments, then he referred people over here to continue the discussion. He may have had server issues, or something else going on, or had a different motivation. Have you contacted Tim to get an answer on this directly? Don’t speak about what you don’t know.

  • Churchjester

    I have been following this ‘firestorm’ of controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, ‘Love Wins’, Dare I suggest that I could care less whether Mr Bell believes in hell as a REAL place of suffering?? Would I be viewed a heretic if I said it matters little if Rob Bell is promoting universal salvation for all mankind??

    The bottomline is READ God’s Word for yourself!! People need to open up their Scriptures and read/study for themselves. That is what Rob Bell wants people to do. Don’t just believe something because it is what you have been taught or it is what has been ‘traditionally’ accepted.

    1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) says, “You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.)

  • Churchjester

    I have been following this ‘firestorm’ of controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, ‘Love Wins’, Dare I suggest that I could care less whether Mr Bell believes in hell as a REAL place of suffering?? Would I be viewed a heretic if I said it matters little if Rob Bell is promoting universal salvation for all mankind??

    The bottomline is READ God’s Word for yourself!! People need to open up their Scriptures and read/study for themselves. That is what Rob Bell wants people to do. Don’t just believe something because it is what you have been taught or it is what has been ‘traditionally’ accepted.

    1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) says, “You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.)

  • Esteban

    I wonder if people in Japan would feel like arguing if they are living in a hell on earth right now?

    Who is a bigger threat to the Church in America – Rob Bell or Glenn Beck?

    So God can’t speak through Rob Bell or Joel Osteen but he can speak through Balaam’s donkey?

    • Minerjohn

      Are you saying that studying the Bible and protecting from heresy is not important? Please clarify, so I can dismiss what you say from now on if this is what you are saying. Jesus clearly thought this important (see the passage at the end of Luke where he talked to the men on the road and explained Scripture to them). Although you might be right to some extent about Glenn Beck. With the Balaam’s donkey comment, however, you’re heading toward Rrjr329 territory, and you don’t want to go there.

      • Churchjester

        Minerjohn,

        It isn’t my intent to speak for Esteban as he can do so himself. Yet, he speaks what I was thinking about today. Japan is experiencing ‘hell-on-earth’.

        Also, he is correct about who we should be concerned about–Rob Bell or Glenn Beck? Seems to me that Rob Bell(viewed as a liberal) is taken to task by Christians, yet Glenn Beck(viewed as conservative) is lauded by those same people.

        I haven’t read “Love Wins’ as it doesn’t release till later this morning, so I can’t say that Bell is promoting heresy. Yet, it seems to me that there are many Pastors promoting ‘prosperity’ or who guarrantee miracles via prayer clothes and vials of oil yet nobody is ‘tweeting’ against them? I see no one blogging about the heresy of these preachers/teachers?

  • Esteban

    I wonder if people in Japan would feel like arguing if they are living in a hell on earth right now?

    Who is a bigger threat to the Church in America – Rob Bell or Glenn Beck?

    So God can’t speak through Rob Bell or Joel Osteen but he can speak through Balaam’s donkey?

  • Scottnangiep

    Having lived in the Grand Rapids area I am familiar with Bells philisophical ramblings and I am not surprised at this book. He’s way out there and this effects a church of many thousands where he is pastor.

  • Jford22

    You know what was unsatisfying for me as a Christian? Growing up like a zombie, going to church every Sunday, listening to a Pastor give a message that basically was reciting a few passages and relating it to some everyday trial we might be going through in our life. Most people are ok with this and are happy to go to church on Sunday and never really have to question their faith or actually determine on their own “why am I a Christian and what does that really mean.” As someone who has gone to Mars Hill since it began I would only say that I would expect nothing less from Rob than to write a book that would make people question what they believe and why they believe it. This is exactly what draws me to his teachings. He wants to make you think. Much in the same way the bible does. I challenge anyone to suggest that the bible is an “easy read” and is laid out so it can be read through and you know exactly how they are supposed to live their life in order to achieve the absolute best results. Rob is leading a group of people who are not only studying the bible but are gaining an understanding of what it means to be a Christian living in the modern world. The author of this story is defending the same God that I believe in and I applaud him for that. And although he tried to differentiate his idea of what it actually means, he did agree with one thing Rob had to say. Love wins.

    • Sarah

      The problem is that these are not new ideas- they are just rehashings of an old heresy. The idea is that the Bible should not be the arbiter of our thinking… our minds should be the arbiter of the Bible. The Bible should shape our minds, not the other way around. The problem is that he encourages questions as an end in themselves, not as a way of arriving at a better understanding of the truth. And also, I question his ability to teach anyone to study the Bible effectively, since he demonstrates such a lack of ability to interpret it well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

        On the contrary, his idea is that the Bible SHOULD be an arbiter of our thinking.

        “Heresy” is a relative term for anyone but God… Some have called Catholicism heresy. Just because it excommunicated or put to death Christians who did not accept what they believed doesn’t make it the right way. The same is true for any denomination.

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  • http://talkgod.tumblr.com/ Lauren

    Very excellent review. I’m glad you were able to sift through his wordy questions and make conclusions. Reading his books in the past made me very confused, and left me feeling annoyed and uncomfortable, but for reasons I couldn’t understand. Thank you so much for bringing clarity. I don’t think it’s fair that he can’t just outright say what he believes. If he did, he would definitely lose a LOT of his following…

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks very much, Lauren.

  • Esteban

    John 13:34,35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      1. Agreed.
      2. Loving one another includes having to tell the truth (even when it hurts).

      • Esteban

        Whose truth? And do you air it so publicly? Do you air when you don’t have all the facts or haven’t even read the book? (I know you supposedly read it but did John Piper? Did Justin Taylor?

        An accident happens at 1st & Main. You, me, Lauren & JFord22 all see the accident but we’re each standing at a different corner of the intersection. We all tell that the accident happened but we each have a different perspective about additional facts or thoughts about how & why it happened. You don’t climb to the top of the heap of metal and shout, “I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! I SAW IT ALL FROM RIGHT THERE!” And then bully any of the rest of us who say, “Yes, that did happen but here’s something that I saw from over there.”

        The Four Gospels all tell the story of Christ but they’re all from different points of view. There are even small differences in each about the way things were said or done or the order in which things happened. One may mention events or a perspective that the others don’t. That doesn’t make any of them less true.

        So many I know who label themselves as “Reformed” have the mindset that “My truth is THE truth” and condescend to those who see things differently. It’s a shame and, I think, breaks God’s heart.

        • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

          Regarding the gospel accounts: Is there any serious disagreement between them? No. In fact, they all confirm one another exceptionally well. As you said yourself, the differences are quite small and it doesn’t make them less true.

          However, there’s a distinction between small differences and major ones. A small one is Jesus went to X also to Y vs. Jesus went to Y also to X.

          A major difference is saying “Jesus didn’t rescue people from God’s wrath,” verses ”

          Perspective matters, to be sure, but when our “perspective” goes against what is written explicitly in the Bible, then it’s not a difference of opinion.

          Second, it’s appropriate to disagree with public error publicly. Jesus confronted error publicly (in fact, He instigated every confrontation He had with the Pharisees). Paul and John did the same. And throughout history we’ve seen men such as Calvin, Luther, Tyndale, Bunyan, Baxter, Edwards, Spurgeon, and on and on do the same.

          Thirdly, your use of “supposedly” implies that I might be lying about having read the book. This is incredibly disrespectful. You can disagree with me all you want, provided you do so respectfully. Do not attempt to impugn my character or that of anyone else involved in this debate.

  • Esteban

    Aaron, my sincerest apologies. It was early here when I wrote “supposedly” which I didn’t mean toward you – I had thoughts of other so-called reviews that were suspect, then thought of so many who have judged the book without reading & didn’t correct or complete the thought because I then thought of John Piper & Justin Taylor. I appreciate the forum you’ve created here to discuss such issues (again, I noted earlier that your cohort, Tim Challies, perhaps couldn’t handle the discussion). So, please, allow me to publicly say I’m sorry & didn’t mean how it sounded. You are engaging and thoughtful about this which is more than I can say for many — even many who have posted here.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Apology accepted, Esteban, and thanks for your clarification.

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  • Serious Questions

    A) Numbers 14:21, Habakkuk 2:14, John 3:16 – If ALL of the earth will be filled with God’s glory, why do only SOME people go to hell?

    B) Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10,11, Psalm 72:11 – If eventually All the people of the earth will confess Jesus as Lord, why doesn’t EVERYONE get saved?

    C) Isaiah 26:9 – How would a person burning in “hell” go about learning righteousness?

    D) Romans 6:23 – When Adam sinned, he reaped death…why doesn’t the Bible say Adam went to hell?

    E) Mark 16:19 – If the penalty for sin was eternal torment, would not Jesus still be burning in “hell” to pay for our sins?

    D) If Gehenna is the place name for the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem (you can find it on a map) why can’t hell be on earth right now?

    E) 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Timothy 4:10, John 12:32-33, Colossians 1:19-20…Why do these passages say Jesus died for ALL men? Doesn’t “all” mean EVERYONE?

    F) Deuteronomy 15:1, Lev. 25:8 – Doesn’t the Law of Jubilee establishe the legal precedent for the forgiveness of all sins?

    G) Colossians 1:19-20, John 12:32-33 – If He will reconcile all things to Himself, why can’t he reconcile the people stuck in eternal hell?

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    A note to everyone:

    There have been a couple of instances now where people have gotten a bit hot under the collar in the discussion surrounding Bell’s book.

    Let’s all try to remain civil and courteous as we continue to debate and dialogue. If it devolves into a name calling nightmare I’ll have to shut down the comments and I’d prefer not to.

    Thanks for your understanding and compliance.

  • Bobcat37

    It is unfortunate to hear Rob Bell might have done a poor job backing up some of his arguments. I’m excited Bell is bringing this topic to the forefront, but am not surprised his book might not be the most soundly argued. Aaron, I would encourage you to read the book “Hope Beyond Hell” by Gerry Beauchemin if you’d like a very Scripturally-based examination of hell that really looks at many of the original Greek words used, their definitions as they would have been understood at the time, and various questionable logic that lies behind a concept of “eternal” punishment. I believe in hell [Gehenna/Hades], but I believe it is clearly an instrument of a God who is ultimately defined as “love.” But it does take some paradigm shifts from typical American Christianity to get there. For one, I also refute the Arminian free-will position and rather think faith is a gift of God that only He can bestow on us to have, there is nothing in me that has chosen to believe in Him (as someone said earlier, none are good), I have only responded to His choosing of me. God is sovereign, and without the concept of “my will” battling “God’s will”, either He has predestined some of His creation to eternal punishment, or He has not. Christ came to seek and save the lost [apollumi]… the true definition of that is the “destroyed” or “those put away for punishment”. If a shepherd has a flock of 100 and 1 goes astray, will He not leave the 99 to seek out the 1? Anyway, these are just a few examples (out of hundreds of Scripture references) of why I cannot believe that God will merely disregard any of his children who are in hell. It’s interesting you label some of Rob Bell’s thoughts as bordering on blasphemy, but I think from the other perspective, the definitive claim that God causes unending punishment on a majority of the humanity He created could likewise be considered blasphemy against God’s great character. And to end with, Bell is correct in asserting that many of the early church fathers held essentially a “Christian universalist” stance (I hate how that has received such a dirty connotation when it does not deserve it). It was the takeover of Augustinian thought (in the 4th century) that ended up leading to “eternal punishment” taking a strong hold on the church… for even Augustine himself admitted at the time that “many” of his brothers in the faith believed that all men would be saved (in the fullness of time) and they were not heretics of the gospel for thinking so, he just disagreed with them. Love and grace to you.

  • Bobcat37

    It is unfortunate to hear Rob Bell might have done a poor job backing up some of his arguments. I’m excited Bell is bringing this topic to the forefront, but am not surprised his book might not be the most soundly argued. Aaron, I would encourage you to read the book “Hope Beyond Hell” by Gerry Beauchemin if you’d like a very Scripturally-based examination of hell that really looks at many of the original Greek words used, their definitions as they would have been understood at the time, and various questionable logic that lies behind a concept of “eternal” punishment. I believe in hell [Gehenna/Hades], but I believe it is clearly an instrument of a God who is ultimately defined as “love.” But it does take some paradigm shifts from typical American Christianity to get there. For one, I also refute the Arminian free-will position and rather think faith is a gift of God that only He can bestow on us to have, there is nothing in me that has chosen to believe in Him (as someone said earlier, none are good), I have only responded to His choosing of me. God is sovereign, and without the concept of “my will” battling “God’s will”, either He has predestined some of His creation to eternal punishment, or He has not. Christ came to seek and save the lost [apollumi]… the true definition of that is the “destroyed” or “those put away for punishment”. If a shepherd has a flock of 100 and 1 goes astray, will He not leave the 99 to seek out the 1? Anyway, these are just a few examples (out of hundreds of Scripture references) of why I cannot believe that God will merely disregard any of his children who are in hell. It’s interesting you label some of Rob Bell’s thoughts as bordering on blasphemy, but I think from the other perspective, the definitive claim that God causes unending punishment on a majority of the humanity He created could likewise be considered blasphemy against God’s great character. And to end with, Bell is correct in asserting that many of the early church fathers held essentially a “Christian universalist” stance (I hate how that has received such a dirty connotation when it does not deserve it). It was the takeover of Augustinian thought (in the 4th century) that ended up leading to “eternal punishment” taking a strong hold on the church… for even Augustine himself admitted at the time that “many” of his brothers in the faith believed that all men would be saved (in the fullness of time) and they were not heretics of the gospel for thinking so, he just disagreed with them. Love and grace to you.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for the book recommendation. :)

  • Anonymous

    I generally agree with your overall post, but this is a truly flawed statement:

    “[God]who acts on our behalf not so much because His love for us is
    great, but because He is great.”

    He is great (in part) to us because His love for us is great and while we were yet sinners…

    People/Things are not just great based on some obscure amount of “greatness” (as if their was a unit of measurement specifically for this), their greatness is determined by who they are, what they have done, and what they will do etc. These are the units of measuring greatness. It may seem like spitting hairs, but it is a nuance or subtlety that is greatly important.

    Otherwise God is great, but no one knows why. It gets repeated over and over mechanically and becomes a lifeless chant.

    Otherwise God is great because He is God , as if that is a title wherein regardless of action makes it’s bearer “great”, and we forget who God actually is that makes him great.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for the feedback and I agree that there is a great deal of nuance involved in considering the greatness of God. I’m curious, though… if God did not choose to save anyone, would He still not be great in the sense that the Scriptures speak of Him?

      I mean, if we look at Isa. 43:25, we read:

      “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

      Here, among many (many) other examples, we see God declare that He acts as a demonstration of His greatness (that is, “for my name’s sake”). But it doesn’t say that He is great because He acted.

      Maybe I’m missing your point or maybe we’re saying the same thing in some way.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Aaron, thanks for the gracious reply. When I read it, I was reminded that my post surely could have used some more grace!

        I think my point will actually be further emphasized by your reply. I don’t think the sense of God’s greatness in the scriptures is separated from the sense that we mean when we say he is great. He is great in and of Himself, because of the things He has done and who he is.

        I think it is sort of the difference between saying something out of pure religious credence, and saying something because it is reasonably, actually true. Things can be both true and part of a religious credence, but when we lose the actual building blocks of what make them true, they become purely creed.

        For example if we look at the phrase:

        “God is great because the scriptures say so.”

        This is true, but if a person starts with that thought instead of arriving there because of things they actually reason and believe to be true, it will be something they only believe on a very superficial level. This doesn’t make it any less true, but without the pattern of thought that logically leads to the conclusion, the conclusion itself cannot be truly adopted as a belief by the person claiming to believe the conclusion.

        A statement is not true simply because the scriptures say so. That is not how “truth” is measured. A statement is true if it matches with reality (which the scriptures do). God is not great simply because He is great, but He is great because His various attributes and actions are actually great!

        And as I said before I don’t think that sense of greatness in the scriptures is detached from what I am saying. I am not sure how Isiah 43:25 claims God is great in a way that is somehow detached from what actually makes him great. The part about “for my own sake” is likely a contrast with what is in verse 14 “For your sake I will send…” If God makes a way to forgive sins, that adds to His greatness. Especially because he says “for my own sake” (which I take to mean, because of who He is, having nothing to do with Israel’s actions).

        Anyways that is my point as best as I think can explain it, and I don’t think we are fully in disagreement, and I am not sure if I addressed your point exactly Thanks for the discussion, and the example in your gracious reply, it was a good reminder for me of how to interact in a Christ-like way.

  • bb

    That is what we know as universalism. And it is cause for mourning. don’t think that God’s plan of saving the world, all of it is cause for mourning but rather a wonderful reason to rejoice!!

  • Byron Borger

    friends in Christ,

    I wrote this a few days ago and then chose not to post it. Yet, you’ve gotten so many positive remarks that I figured I should offer these concerns about your review. Hope it is helpful.

    Thanks for this informative review. I’ve read an advanced copy too and appreciate your concerns about Bell and about the book.

    However, I think you fall short at a few points, misrepresent Bell a few times, and take a few uncharitable shots. The review could have been very helpful, but I’m afraid it is less reliable than it should have been.

    I’m not prepared to comment much on Bell’s case. Here, now, I’m only concerned that we review him fairly and responsibly.

    Firstly, I suppose I was frustrated early on when you chided Bell for framing the debate the way he did. Well, that is his concern—and, surely, the concern of many; those of us who do evangelism and apologetics hear this asked all the time. Why fault him for asking the tough question. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” you say. Well, this is a tough concern and as Francis Schaeffer used to say, we should answer such tough questions “with tears in our eyes.” I’d wish you had applauded his framing of the question in such clear terms, and not whine about it.

    I agree with you that Bell too often didn’t follow through with his thoughts, although I think you are wrong to call them illogical. His views are mostly undeveloped and inadequately argued, but that doesn’t make them necessarily illogical. You say it couldn’t stand “cross examination” and has little internal strength. I’d invite your readers to read the book for themselves to determine that. I know some who have read it who found it very cohesive, with much “internal strength.” That is not to say he is correct, but your accusation that his arguments “break down” and he “simply walks away” seemed somehow not quite right to me. He does have this punchy style of asserting things and not developing them—his books read just like the Noomas, and that is both their appeal and their weakness. I, too, wished for much more development (and footnotes!) but to wish for more and better explication is not the same as saying he’s “walking away” and isn’t “pursuing logic.” He’s laying his ideas out there, with plenty of Bible proof texts (an important feature that you failed to tell your readers.) I suspect Bell isn’t as deeply committed to “logic” as you may wish, but he’s citing text after text after text, in all their admitted ambiguities and complexities, laying ‘em out, honoring their resonance and seeming contradictions and their trajectories within the overall Biblical narrative as he sees them. Your readers deserve to know that he cites oodles of Biblical texts including each use of the word hell in the whole Bible.

    I was sad that you took the cheap shot of using the phrase about his work “your best life now” as if Bell’s hermeneutic or conclusions could be likened to Joel Olsteen. That’s just weird. And to suggest his view doesn’t lead to worshipping Jesus? That was below the belt and utterly unfair. Bell would say–in fact he does say!—that this view invites great and true worship of Jesus. He and you want to worship Jesus. As he asks, directly, “which Jesus.” He thinks he is honoring the Jesus of the Bible. He may be wrong. To suggest he doesn’t want to worship Jesus enough is out of bounds.

    I was particularly disappointed in the way you twisted his understandable frustration with those on the internet who attack and defame and slander. You take this to mean that he “appoints himself as a martyr…and anyone who disagrees with him is preemptively silenced.” You accused him of this plan in an unwarranted manner, saying it is a “useful technique.” Did you read the same book I did? He invites conversation, admits that not all will agree, calls for robust conversation and I did not pick up any sense that he was “silencing” “anyone who disagrees with him.” He did protest unkind and unfair slander, and he is proper to do so. (Do you disagree? Surely we can agree that unfair and unkind attacks are unacceptable for Christians in theological debate.) He has been “the victim of hateful, toxic, venomous” attacks and it certainly isn’t wrong for him to ask that his views be treated honestly. I think you mostly did that, but not with this accusation that he was disallowing any critique. Nonsense. He said no such thing, and your readers should know that you misrepresented him on this point.

    I think you were nearly mis-representing his view by the glib dismissal of his insistence on hell. You say he believes in hell, but you don’t think he does. Whew. And you accuse him of not developing his arguments! I think you are on to something here, and it is close to the crux of the matter. But he repeatedly says he believes in hell “now and later.” If you are going to review this book and just say he’s “clever” in redefining things, you do us all a disservice. Your readers need to know that Love Wins isn’t merely a “clever” ploy, but an attempt at a Biblically consistent view of what hell is and isn’t, its power and longevity. Bell says he believes in hell, your quick dismissal notwithstanding. He may not be correct in his descriptions, but he says more about it than you let on. Why is this, I wonder?

    Another place I believe you mis-characterized his view: I have pondered what Bell says about the nature of the human condition, about the horrors he has seen (in the third world, and in his pastoral office) and about whether or not the sinfulness of our hearts is terminal. I think you are simply wrong to say that he believes “people are essentially good.” I do not recall a place in the book where he said that. As you have pointed out, he is a master at questioning, re-defining things, shifting the categories (that is, he makes us think and pokes at our too-often unquestioned assumptions) so I am not sure what he thinks about the fundamental human condition, but he sure makes it look bleak, horribly bleak (without God’s intervention.) He sure doesn’t say that people are good. If folks are to be saved it isn’t because of their innate goodness but through the overwhelming graciousness of a good and mighty God who desires to heal His cosmos and “gets what He wants.” I think you have mis-read him seriously on this point and have given an inaccurate impression to your audience.

    And, I take exception to the last line. It preaches well and it is a statement with which I agree: we should love people and must love God enough to be honest about Him. In the rhetoric and flow of the paragraphs, though, it seems as if you were making a huge suggestion that Bell doesn’t love God enough, because he isn’t honest. Ahhh, but there is the rub—wouldn’t he say the same thing about you? That is, you are being less than honest about some texts, less than honest about the complexities, less than honest about the full love of God? Why not just say we disagree (and say it forthrightly) without an underhanded punch below the belt, as if he is feeble in his warmth for God. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his motives and piety (unless you have reason to know he is lukewarm.) You disagree with him and he could be wrong in his interpretation of some Greek words. Maybe he takes some of the “universalist” Bible texts too literally (it would have been helpful to hear you refute his Biblical citations about God’s saving intentions.) Whether he loves God enough—-as if you do?—isn’t something you should dare to write about.

    Lastly, you end with the call to great clarity, for preachers and teachers to be honest, even if the truth is hard to swallow. I agree. However, one of the great truths that is hard to swallow—or so it sometimes seems to me—is that the incredibly complex and messy Scriptures God has given us aren’t as systematically and logically simple as we evangelicals sometimes think. God can not be contained and the gospel is described as a mystery. You say Christians do not need more confusion. Many days I agree. Other days, though, folks I know and preachers I hear and books I read are so utterly confident in the tight little box they have god in that it seems like they’ve made an idol of their own prideful knowledge. Maybe a little more humility, if not confusion, in these times of over-confident but thin theology would do us good. Maybe Bell will get us thinking and pondering, driving us to our knees in humility and grace.

    I share many of your concerns about his perplexing book but I am afraid the over-reaching effort has lead you to misrepresent him and to mislead your readers. Of course tmost trust you and applaud you, so the damage is done. Bell hardly stands a chance of being taken seriously when even our most reliable critics fall short.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

      ^^^^^^This^^^^^

      Fair, Succinct.

    • Jen Galicinski

      “Other days, though, folks I know and preachers I hear and books I read are so utterly confident in the tight little box they have god in that it seems like they’ve made an idol of their own prideful knowledge. Maybe a little more humility, if not confusion, in these times of over-confident but thin theology would do us good. Maybe Bell will get us thinking and pondering, driving us to our knees in humility and grace.”

      YES, thankyou!!

      And altogether great response – we do need to be taking Bell seriously and that starts with *really* listening to what he is saying and representing his ideas fairly and responsibly. It is not helpful to take cheap shots, doubt his love for God, his belief in the horrors of the human condition, or his faithfulness to Jesus and the Biblical text.

      Thanks for taking the time to thoughtfully calling this reviewer to be more responsible.

  • James

    The key plus point for you, Aaron, and those like you, is that you can continue to view yourselves as the ‘last prophets of Israel’, which must give you great satisfaction.

    The reality, however, is that Rob Bell has simply aligned himself with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the majority of the Anglican Communion.

    In terms of worldwide Christianity, it is you are and yours that are out of step with orthodox thought.

    Research tells us that evangelical ministers are less intelligent than those of other christian traditions. You like to keep things simple, and feel uncomfortable with complex issues.

    So, according to you, you and yours go to heaven, whilst Rob Bell, Pope Benedict, the Dalia Lama, the countless billions of non-Christians and, of course, Gandhi all go to hell.

    Nice and simple.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      I was wondering if you were going to show up and make a statement like this, James (or Stuart, or whatever your name is).

      Thanks for your final comment.

      • James

        Aaron, mine was only a fleeting visit, so this will indeed be my last post.

        You think that somehow Jesus is sitting only with you, and that somehow he needs you to defend him. Your brand of Christianity is, as Rob Bell states, toxic. You fail to acknowledge the historical church that Jesus founded (the Catholic Church) and your misguided and arrogant mis-interpretation of the Bible is truly scandalous.

        Fortunately I encounter very few people like you, and thank God for that.

        The one saving grace is that Jesus says you will be judged in the same way you judge others.

        If this is the case (and I’m sure it is) then good luck – you’re going to need it.

        • Bobcat37

          James,

          This is a civil forum and we would all do well to remember that. Not everyone will agree on matters as sensitive as this, but as Christians we should at the very least engage with one another with respect.

          Aaron might not be an intellectual giant but he tries his best to conduct a website that is valued by many, many people. On the whole he does a good job and we should all be thankful to him for that.

          Love and grace to you.

  • James

    One final thought, I see that you criticise Rob Bell because he “appoints himself as a martyr…and anyone who disagrees with him is preemptively silenced.”

    How interesting that you then try to block my posts. Were you trying to ‘pre-emptively silence’ me?

    You didn’t do a very good job.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      For what it’s worth, I blocked you because you ignored my request to remain civil in your tone. If following through on a prior warning is “pre-emptively silencing” so be it.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      For what it’s worth, I blocked you because you ignored my request to remain civil in your tone. If following through on a prior warning is “pre-emptively silencing” so be it.

  • Esteban

    I’ve seen other blogs turn somewhat nasty on this issue and I wouldn’t want this one to go the same way. Some of the recent comments haven’t been good.

    For the record I have always thought Aaron’s posts to be well thought out with clear biblical references. Admittedly he doesn’t have much insight into the deeper issues but it is important that we have someone who can help people new to Christianity to understand the basics, and he is good at that.

  • Jacwoolard

    I heard Rob Bell last night as he was interviewed, I believe, by Newsweek (not positive about that). He reminds me of a politician that never answers a question directly. By the time he’s finished answering, it’s like you’re scratching your head thinking, “did he answer my question?” Then you realize all he did was glaze over and go around your question with his “feel good” answers to tickle the ears. Thank you for this in depth critique of his book.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      I noticed the same thing in the interview; he seemed to go out of his way to evade directly answering questions. Lisa Miller (editor at Newsweek) did a bang up job moderating, though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

        Hey Aaron…thanks for putting your opinion out there for public consumption. Having hosted a 3 hour radio show over the years, I know how difficult/frustrating it can be to put yourself out there.

        Why is it that you are hell-bent (pun intended) on framing Rob Bell as this “dodgy, politician-like” figure? Is it intentionally to defame his character?

        The Bible tells us to “correct one another…IN LOVE.” I see the correction, but what I don’t see is LOVE.

        Why are you so mad at Rob Bell? Jealousy?

        You don’t have to answer, I was just curious if you would “put all your cards on the table.”

        • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

          There’s no madness or jealousy on my part regarding Bell. What I don’t appreciate is people being shifty in their answers. You can answer a complicated question with a complicated answer, but one should be willing to be open about it. That’s my major beef with Rob Bell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

    First of all…thanks for your opinion. Opinions matter even if we don’t agree with them.

    I actually love when people disagree with me. According to the Bible, Jesus and God did too.

    With that in mind, I have a few questions.

    What if I am not a dispensationalist? Also, when did the Jewish Rabbinical tradition of “binding and loosing” become heresy/universalism?

    If you are going to review a book, it is intellectually dishonest to critique the content without first espousing your own personal beliefs. To do so in the manner that you have, leads a reader to believe that your opinions are fact.

    To quote you, “he who frames the debate, wins the debate.”

    Ironically, “Questions matter. They can help you to grow deeper in your knowledge of the truth and your love for God—especially when you’re dealing with the harder doctrines of the Christian faith. But questions can also be used to obscure the truth. They can be used to lead away just as easily as they can be used to lead toward. Ask Eve.”

    Pot meet kettle.

    • James

      Jason,

      A key problem with Protestantism in general, and evangelicalism in particular, is that no-one is in charge. This is why we get ill-informed people like Aaron acting like little Popes, declaring other people’s interpretations of the Bible as ‘unbiblical’, while describing their own interpretations as ‘orthodox’. Who makes such proclamations? People like Aaron, who have no authority whatsoever.

      Even if you considered Rob Bell’s book as ‘heretical’, the very structure of evangelicalism allows for people such as him to say what they want without censure. It really is a case of the Protestant church reaping what is has sown – it asks people to make their own minds up about the Bilble and then complains bitterly when people don’t agree with their own interpretations.

      There are over 33,000 Protestant denominations for a reason – the Bible is difficult to interpret. The guiding role of the Church (the real Church, not the 33,000 pretend ones) is needed to provide people with a genuine base from which to understand the Bible.

      The ‘Harvest Bible Chapel’ (who on earth thought that name up) and others like it are hardly equipped to give the world such a lead, hence the chaos you are all in.

      Anyway, I loved your post, the very best to you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

        I appreciate the kind words.

        Please understand what I am about to ask you is not intended to be smug, rude or incendiary…why are you so mad at Aaron?

        You don’t have to answer that question, I was just curious.

        Best to you James. I appreciate your opinions and perspective.

        • James

          Jason,

          Aaron and those like him set themselves up as being ‘ON THE SIDE OF GOD’, and dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as ‘unbiblical’.

          This is so easy to do. For example, I could say that Rob Bell honours the bible, but that Aaron is a heretic. Who is to say I am wrong?

          Aaron says his knowledge of the bible is right, and the following are wrong:

          The Roman Catholic Church
          The Anglican Communion
          The Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches
          The Episcopal Church
          The Church of England
          Rob Bell
          Brain MacLaren
          Bishp Desmond Tutu
          Nelson Mandela
          Mother Theresa, etc etc, you get the point.

          And who is right according to Aaron?

          His Pastor, Norm (yes, really)
          The Gospel Coalition
          Em, that’s it.

          Total arrogance from someone who hasn’t got a clue. He even regards St Augustine as someone he can quote on his side. Yes, and he was a full member of the Harvet Bible Church (oh that’s right, he was actually a Catholic).

          Honestly, someone has to stand up against such nonsense, and today its me.

          James.

        • James

          Jason,

          Aaron and those like him set themselves up as being ‘ON THE SIDE OF GOD’, and dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as ‘unbiblical’.

          This is so easy to do. For example, I could say that Rob Bell honours the bible, but that Aaron is a heretic. Who is to say I am wrong?

          Aaron says his knowledge of the bible is right, and the following are wrong:

          The Roman Catholic Church
          The Anglican Communion
          The Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches
          The Episcopal Church
          The Church of England
          Rob Bell
          Brain MacLaren
          Bishp Desmond Tutu
          Nelson Mandela
          Mother Theresa, etc etc, you get the point.

          And who is right according to Aaron?

          His Pastor, Norm (yes, really)
          The Gospel Coalition
          Em, that’s it.

          Total arrogance from someone who hasn’t got a clue. He even regards St Augustine as someone he can quote on his side. Yes, and he was a full member of the Harvet Bible Church (oh that’s right, he was actually a Catholic).

          Honestly, someone has to stand up against such nonsense, and today its me.

          James.

  • Skking

    I have noticed that a lot of people ask, “how is Bell’s view of hell appreciably different than that offered by C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce. It is entirely different. Apparently they did not read Lewis’ introduction to that novel. In the introduction Lewis writes that the Great Divorce is not a description of Hell (I am not a Swedenborg, he wrote) Lewis is trying capture some of the reasons people won’t come to Christ in this life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CormackMcKinney Cormack H. McKinney

    Those who reject the idea that eternal suffering is limited to Satan and his minions must wrestle with the following verse (among others):

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

    This verse clearly says that those who believe in the Son will have eternal life. It also clearly suggests that those who do not believe in the Son will not have eternal life. It does NOT say that both will have eternal life; that one will an eternal life of bliss in heaven and the other will have an eternal life of suffering in hell. The idea of souls being eternal is not a Biblical doctrine, it is a Cartesian dualism which began being read into (eiesegesis) scriptures at a very early time in history after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and has been built off of ever since, almost apparently without being questioned for many years. It’s not Biblical, it’s Western. How do those who claim eternal suffering make sense of these words of Jesus?

  • A Christian in Europe

    Thank you. Excellent review without slamming the guy. Just the facts based on Mr. Bell’s own words vs. the word of God.

    • James

      ‘Bell v the Word of God’.

      If you had some humility you would have said:

      ‘Bell’s understanding of the Word of God v our understanding of the Word of God.’

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

      Can you forward me the review that you read? You must have read a different review.

  • Dwells

    I reviewed Bell’s live interview regarding his new book. His answers were frightening. Here’s the blog: http://compassiondave.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/rob-bell-is-a-universalist-he-said-it-himself/

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Geraci/511608080 Jason Geraci

      I read your perceptions/opinions of the interview. Did you really go into this interview with an open mind? Wouldn’t it be valuable to your readers to disclose your personal beliefs/agendas? What happened to correcting each other in LOVE?

      Also when refuting someone’s interpretation of the bible, using the American-English translation, of Greek/Hebrew language is probably the least credible way to do it.

      You know the beautiful thing about all of this discourse? This is what Jesus was talking about when he told the disciples “whatever you bind on earth, it will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth, it will be loosed in heaven.” Rob is teaching a “yoke” that some people disagree with. A lot of Rabbi’s taught yoke’s that people disagreed with, but it didn’t make them heretics.

  • Pastor in B-dot

    Thanks for an honest and – what seems like a balanced, having not read the book myself – review. As a pastor, I have read most of Rob Bell’s books and at the very least they have challenged me to think about what I believe as a Christ follower. They have also forced me to continually return to the one book that helps me discern truth, the Bible. For this, I am grateful.

    No matter which “camp” you may find yourself in there is one truth that remains, God is God and our opinions or human perspectives cannot change Him. There is much about God that remains a mystery to us all, much that our human mind cannot grasp, despite the best efforts of some to insist that everything about Christ and the Christian faith is black and white. On the other hand, while there is still much mystery surrounding God, there are clear truths that are laid out in Scripture that can be clearly understood.

    I for one am happy to embrace the truth that God, in spite of my sin chose to love me and sent his Son to die for me. Somehow my eyes have been opened to the truth that Christ and Christ alone is my salvation and daily I commit to walking with and living for him.

    I cannot provide all the answers for those who have questions, neither can Rob Bell, R. C. Sproul, C. S. Lewis, or any other author for that matter. That is not my role and it is not the role of these authors either.

    Our 21st century, fast food, science driven minds want to know and be able to explain everything. If we truly want to know God, we must spend time reading his word to us, praying that he would speak through it, and stop trying to recreate him into a “god” that we are comfortable with. Like it or not, we are his creation, all things begin and end with him and it is ultimately not about us, but him.

  • Adavidson

    I was once a follower of Rob Bells and really enjoyed his teachings. That was until I showed his nooma video everything is spiritual to my father in law. At the end my father in law pointed out that bell never mentions the fall in his presentation. I took that into account and continued to listen to his sermons. I learned he never talks about repentance, sinful nature of man, and that we are fallen creatures. I try to listen to him once and awhile to see if there has been a change, but to no avail. He has alot of substance but no meat in his sermons.

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    In light of the increasing downward spiral in the tone and helpfulness of the comments in this thread, comments are closed effective immediately. Anyone who has commented is welcome to continue to do so on other posts provided you limit your comments to the content of the post only and maintain an appropriate sense of decorum.

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    After giving this thread some time to cool off, I’ve decided to reopen the comments with moderation on. Please keep it civil and thoughtful, folks.

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

    Good move, Aaron!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Mike.

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    Hey Adam, I really appreciate this question in particular:

    Can we have enough courage and grace to live side-by-side while believing differently?

    This is a really important question and I would say, unequivocally, the answer is yes, simply because we do every day (especially on the macro level of worldview). Narrowing in on the Christian worldview in particular, there is also room for diversity within unity. I would argue that there is a fair bit of tolerance for differing opinions, depending on the issue. For example, there’s disagreement on philosophy of gender roles (egalitarianism vs. complementarianism), specifics of the “hows” in salvation (some emphasizing God’s sovereign work and others emphasizing man’s free choice), the extent to which man has free will, to name but a few.

    The big question is what are the essentials that unite? If we are living in a time when two very different paradigms of Christian thought exist, there still must be something to unite them in order for both to fall under the banner of “Christian.”

    So for example, if one paradigm views God as outside of creation, but intimately involved with it and the other view holds that God is a part of creation, can both be true? In another example, if one paradigm holds that Jesus physically rose from the dead and the other holds that He only rose spiritually, can both be true?

    I’m certainly not saying there are not things in which there is a great deal of mystery and even grey area on certain issues, but we do have to be careful not to throw logic out the window.

    Thanks again for the very thoughtful comment. I truly appreciate it!

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  • Meade21

    Well, the truth is that Rob will be held accountable to God for misleading MANY believers and those who are genuinely seeking a relationship with Christ.

  • Rossviolin

    would anyone be interested in a chapter-by-chapter discussion, now that the book is out? : http://tinyurl.com/4brcd45

  • Pingback: So, What is Universalism, Anyway? | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology()

  • http://twitter.com/tylerberkley Tyler Berkley

    – Redefinition is not avoidance nor denial…it’s actually the mark of a thinking theologian. Any pastor you consider orthodox is guilty of redefining terms and words. That’s simply the nature of theology.
    – God’s world is extrinsic to us…Bell speaks of the “flames of heaven.” Not only this, but Bell explains the idea behind Jesus’ usage of the place called “Gehenna,” which includes flames. The question is, why the need for flames and wrath for you to agree with a theological system? The “lake of fire” is after all “the second death.” Bell, rightly, notes that God has power over death and life.
    – How can an interpretation be proven? And what would you consider a legitimate source? Someone you agree with? Who judges who and what is a legitimate source? In the event that an examination of the Greek text shows that the biblical writers use the root wood aion and its forms respectively, who should Bell cite? Can you read greek?
    – Isn’t “living your best life now” and “worshipping Jesus” the same thing? Is it not the case that when we worship Jesus in all we are that we become the best version of ourselves? This, we should note, includes enacting the justice of God as it pertains to our society, local, national, and international.
    – While Callies is not necessarily part of those who blindly attack Bell, and while Bell baits them well with the promo video, is it not true this is exactly what has happened? I mean, I hear no uproar over Kirk Cameron’s passive aggressive gospel, but Rob Bell pulls this and we excuse the “hateful, toxic, venomous denizens” and their attacks? These are still people who call themselves Christians, part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church…Bell says they don’t act like it, and they show up to prove it to him.
    – The question is simple, it needs to be asked, “Is God a God who will always chase after His purposes, even in the world to come?” OR “Is God a God who condemns the majority of humanity because He is caught up in the ‘catch 22′ of love and free will?” If God gets caught up by the “catch 22,” Bell wonders for unbelievers, “how great is that God?” But if “God is as God reveals Gods self to be” (a basic principal of Christian theology) and God reveals Gods self with a purpose and wish that all should repent, furthermore adding that God’s will is done in the world to come, it seems the logical ends are either annihilism or some form of universalism.
    – Universalism a cause for mourning? Wait, the news that God is the Father of the prodigals, the Shepherd that will search for the one sheep, the God who chases after all people even in the world to come, to the end that all come to know Jesus’ Lordship and redemption after an eternity has passed with another on the way…this is bad news?
    – Fact is unless you are a sectarian, you are a universalist, because Jesus’ Gospel is for all…the issue in question is, “Is there ever a time when the Gospel ceases to be for all?” Now, if by “universalism” you mean “unitarianism,” then we have a problem. Because Rob Bell is still claiming Jesus as the only Way to God and that’s too restrictive for unitarians.
    – “Truths are very, very hard to swallow”…you mean when we delve into the Greek or Hebrew and find that our translators have been making interpretive moves for us for the last 400 years? Do you mean the realization that these original languages are more vague than English? That kind of truth? The kind of truth that reveals the Gospel to be complex enough to handle our questions, doubts, and suffering?
    – Your ending makes very little sense…which why Bell is writing in the first place. The God who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and then gave us just a handful of years to be reached, hear, repent, not sin…before it’s either eternal glory or damnation. If you don’t hear, tough. God IS love, going to insane, unfair lengths to redeem us. This is God as God reveals Gods self…
    – Your final statements become just a restatement of what Bell has been resisting…a God who dies for us “while we were yet sinners” and then is sending wrath. He’s right, this is a God of split personality. If Bell isn’t right, Jesus didn’t really love us, how could He? He was probably just bursting with rage the whole time from our sinfulness.
    OR
    Jesus redefined what the religious leaders believed about holiness…that holiness is not dirtied but cleanses. That holiness is of God and comes from God and is not about moral perfection, but about the very character and nature of a God who would descend and begin the redemption of the world, of the nations, and of humanity. In every confrontation, in every situation where justice would condemn, Jesus showed compassion. Why, even as they accomplished their goal of crucifying Him by any sinful means necessary, Jesus, God in the flesh speaks forgiveness.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey Tyler, thanks for your lengthy reply. I thought I’d take a moment to address a couple comments. You ask,

      Can you read greek?

      I’m learning a bit, yes. Besides, this is a moot point since there are tons of resources (like Strong’s Greek Lexicon) to assist in study of the original language.

      Isn’t “living your best life now” and “worshipping Jesus” the same thing? Is it not the case that when we worship Jesus in all we are that we become the best version of ourselves?

      Nope, not remotely the same thing. The whole point of worshipping Christ is not to become the best version of ourselves, but to put ourselves (metaphorically) to death, and pursuing His goals and desires over my own. And yes, that would include seeking to care for the poor and oppressed in this world.

      Fact is unless you are a sectarian, you are a universalist, because Jesus’ Gospel is for all…the issue in question is, “Is there ever a time when the Gospel ceases to be for all?”

      1. Biblically consistent Christians are not universalists, but they are most definitely seeking to present the gospel universally (as in, to people of all tribes, tongues and nations).

      2. Bell certainly isn’t a unitarian but what he proposes is the Christian Univeralist position, particularly in the notion that God continues to pursue even after death. But we don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) emphatically illustrates this spiritual truth.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey Tyler, thanks for your lengthy reply. I thought I’d take a moment to address a couple comments. You ask,

      Can you read greek?

      I’m learning a bit, yes. Besides, this is a moot point since there are tons of resources (like Strong’s Greek Lexicon) to assist in study of the original language.

      Isn’t “living your best life now” and “worshipping Jesus” the same thing? Is it not the case that when we worship Jesus in all we are that we become the best version of ourselves?

      Nope, not remotely the same thing. The whole point of worshipping Christ is not to become the best version of ourselves, but to put ourselves (metaphorically) to death, and pursuing His goals and desires over my own. And yes, that would include seeking to care for the poor and oppressed in this world.

      Fact is unless you are a sectarian, you are a universalist, because Jesus’ Gospel is for all…the issue in question is, “Is there ever a time when the Gospel ceases to be for all?”

      1. Biblically consistent Christians are not universalists, but they are most definitely seeking to present the gospel universally (as in, to people of all tribes, tongues and nations).

      2. Bell certainly isn’t a unitarian but what he proposes is the Christian Univeralist position, particularly in the notion that God continues to pursue even after death. But we don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) emphatically illustrates this spiritual truth.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ratione.sola sola ratione

    If you’re interested in a non-Christian perspective on Rob Bell’s work, click here: http://rationesola.blogspot.com/2011/03/rob-bell-exposes-ugly-heart-of.html

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey there – thanks for providing a non-Christian perspective on this book. I quite enjoyed your take.

  • http://www.theskepticalmagician.com The Skeptical Magician

    I personally don’t think that Rob Bell goes far enough. Rather than take up a mile of comment space here, you can see my thoughts on the issue here: http://theskepticalmagician.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/a-horrific-tale-rob-bell-love-wins/

  • http://www.facebook.com/lyonscc Chris Lyons

    I’d actually say that Love Wins is somewhat of a Rorschach Test: If you hate Bell (like Ken Silva, above), or have always questioned what he had to say, you will read the book through that lens and find what you’re looking for. If you’ve been on the fence about him, you’ll still be there. If you’ve read him charitably in the past and found that, even when you disagree, he is still within the stream of orthodox Christianity, you will still find that he’s there. One of his stated purposes in the book is to get folks to study what is actually in Scripture, and to ask the tough questions – and accept fuzzy answers and to be charitable to others who do, as well. For example, here is an examination of what the Scriptures actually say about hell, and it is possible to take them seriously, yet come up with a different answer than eternal, conscious torture.

  • http://thelandofpromise.blogspot.com/ Chris Jordan

    Thanks for this great & well written response to Bell’s book. I quoted your article a couple of times in my own personal review that I wrote at: http://thelandofpromise.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-of-love-wins-by-rob-bell.html. God bless you!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks very much! I enjoyed reading your review – very thorough and thoughtful!

  • Joshvongunten

    Jumping in late here. Got the book…read through it slowly as I like to do when dealing with many questions. Talked to a few others…struggled some, went back, re-read a few chapters. Just beginning the process of reading some reviews which will be followed by many conversations with others who have read it.

    While I found your review well articulated I also found it to be highly jumpy and overly defensive. While I certainly don’t agree with all of the ideas found in ‘Love Wins.’ I most certainly was able to discern and make out a few nuanced perspectives and clear ideas that were offered. To imply that this book is just full of confusion through and through is really pretty ridiculous and well, like I said…very jumpy.

    I found your portrayal of Bell’s view on the current status of Christian blogging to be wildly missing the clear and simple point. Your portrayal and spin of his point really made you sound as if you felt he wrote those lines for you. Did you feel that way?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey Josh, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I certainly didn’t feel that he was writing those lines for me specifically, although I did find it to be fairly consistent with how he’s dismissed any criticism in the past. While there are certainly some bloggers who are a bit more trigger happy than others, it truly did come across in my reading as an attempt to paint himself a victim of the evil interwebs, rather than someone interested in having “a conversation,” as he often likes to portray himself.

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  • Sean

    Hi Aaron!
    I have known little about Rob Bell up until this point. I think I have seen one or two of the Nooma DVD’s, but that’s it really. I first started to hear about the controversy surrounding the release of Love Wins from some fellow students at the Bible College I am studying at: I have tried my hardest to keep my views objective and as unbiased as possible in order to read Love Wins (when it gets released here in Australia) with an open mind. Not an open mind in that I want to take on board whatever is placed before me (like a spiritual Hungry, Hungry Hippo), but an open mind in the sense that I will take Bell’s teachings, test them against the Word of God and search for myself to see if his writings line up with Holy Scripture.

    In order to prepare myself, I have taken the liberty of trawling the ever-wonderful internet for reviews of Love Wins by Christian and secular journalists etc., and I can honestly say that I believe you have done a fantastic job. I found it Biblical, fair and enlightening (I even began following you on Facebook, booyah!). Be encouraged, even if only a bit! There is a lot of flak going back and forth in pretty much every blog, forum and post regarding Bell’s latest book, so I must say I appreciate the way you are conducting this forum. I have read through all the comments on your post here, in order to see both sides of the coin; it has been enlightening and challenging for me.

    I know what I believe, but why do I believe it? It’s what I have been taught all my years of being a Christian, but is it right? The to-and-froing has challenged me to seek for myself exactly what the truth about heaven and hell is.

    In a nutshell, I am with those who disagree with Bell’s theology. Josh Harris’ post regarding the trailer video for Love Wins summarises why I do. The link is:

    http://www.joshharris.com/2011/02/why_we_need_the_doctrine_of_th.php

    So again, thanks for this article Aaron! Be encouraged and God bless!
    Vincit veritas: truth conquers.

    Sean

  • Michael T.

    If Rob Bell is right, and everybody gets to heaven in the end, then why would I need Jesus? Why would anybody need Jesus? Why would God allow His son to be murdered if all we all get to heaven without His sacrifice atoning for us?

    My mother is not a Christian, so if this were true I would not pray daily for her to come to repentance before Christ, because really, she would not need to: who needs to have faith in Christ when He saves them regardless.

    My hedonistic mate, livin’ it up with the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, must have it right: if it feels good, do it. Doesn’t matter, God will let you in.

    Surely, according to this Christian universalism, I could just give God the flick, do my own thing all my life, die and maybe be punished for a little while before God allows me to enter heaven. Sounds too good to be true.

  • Elizabeth

    I hope I’m wrong, but some people COULD read this book and think:
    1. I don’t need to give money for missionaries anymore. Everybody gets another chance later anyway.
    2. While I’m at it, I don’t think I need to give money to church anymore. There are some people in my church who I just don’t respect….and they seem intolerant and narrow-minded. Who wants to support the church?
    3. In fact, maybe I don’t need to go to church at all
    4. It takes too much time to read the Bible and pray anyway–I can do that much later. There’s always time.
    5. My Christian friends aren’t fun….and, according to this book, they are rather “toxic”, “narrow-minded,” “unloving” “stingy” “not interested in the poor.” I don’t want to hang out w/ them anymore. Gotta find some friends who are cooler—and more perfect—yeah!
    6. Now that I have all this extra time and money, I can live this life in any way I choose, because I’ll have plenty of time later to come to God.

    I hope that’s not what people will conclude after reading the book. But I fear it will be.

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  • http://www.ccpc.org David G.

    Thank you so much for the reveiw but thank you for standing for the Truth of God’s Word.

    I was just reading in the prophet book of Zechariah 10:2 that God was displeased with the teaching of Zechariah’s day and it can certainly be applied to our time now.

    God said through the prophet that:

    teachers and diviners speak dillussion and comfort in vain.
    Therefore the people lose their way like sheep.
    They are in trouble because they have no shepherd. >> Zech 10:2

    I am praying for Rob Bell, that he uses his influence at the mega church he leads to get back
    to the simplicity of the Gospel message. As narrow as that is.

    Jesus said broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many go that way.
    Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life , and few go that way. >> Matthew 7:13-14

    Jesus is the way the truth and the life and nobody come to the Father except through Him. John 14:6

    And that without Jesus, we will be separated from God for eternaty. Not just a period of time

    As simple as Jesus’ statement is, it is a hard saying of Jesus’.

    But it is His truth. God the Son’s truth.

    Some might say “what about those that never heard of Jesus”?

    God says in His word that : His attributes, Divine nature, eternal power and Godhead
    are clearly seen being understood by the creation itself
    so that people are without excuse. >> Romans 1:20

    Also praying that many will come to know the Jesus and what He did on the cross,
    and that He has risen from the dead and is the only mediator between God and man.

    David G. / Calvary Chapel Pacific Coast

  • http://profiles.google.com/reneepink Renee Charlan

    THANK YOU!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/newbirth35 Victoria

    I really loved this. Thanks. I just got around to reading it today and am only sorry I waited so long. Thank you for this great review!

  • Paul

    Hi Aaron:

    I originally posted this on Tim Challies’ site when he reviewed. I’m re-posting here (b/c Tim said so on his blog) and b/c today I actually got my answer.

    “Tim, what then do I make of a Rob Bell? I consider myself a Christian who is gaining in spiritual maturity and is earnestly asking God daily for discernment. So an item like this is relevant to me. What is to be discerned from the book, Mr. Bell and subsequently the church he pastors? Do I reject him as a Christian? Is he a Christian who is currently a slave to deception? Should I pray that his eyes are opened to truth so that his flock is not misled? Does he really know the truth and is simply out to make a splash and sell books? What do I tell friends who see/hear/read the book and ask my opinion? Do I just say its blasphemy and dismiss it? What is an appropriate response that could be truthful but loving? To me, that’s where the rubber hits the road.”

    Rob Bell: a Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?
    http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110412

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • Anonnymouse

    Some blogger named Matthew had this to say about Bell and Challies’ review:

    “I am not a real fan of the emerging church, and the few things I have seen of Bell have been underwhelming (although his Everything is Spiritual sermon-lecture was a toure-de-force of memorization, drama and passion, and showed that the man has real talent). However, Challies’ post rubbed me the wrong way, so I wrote a comment on the blog which I wanted to share with you. My comment was removed from his blog hours after posting. On asking Mr. Challies why, he said that his moderator was managing the comments section as he has been away, but he trusts his moderator to remove comments that would lead the discussion off topic. You can judge for yourself whether this comment deserves that fate.

    “I have been reflecting on this post all week, and have come to the conclusion that I cannot agree with it. I do not identify with the emerging church, but I think you are ignoring the real virtues from which these vices which you are calling the ‘new virtues’ have emerged. The real virtues which are being espoused by the emerging church are:”
    http://theelusiveguanaco.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-dont-hate-rob-bell.html

  • garin

    So, have we decided yet if Rob Bell is:

    A False Prophet
    A False Teacher
    An Evil Shepherd
    A Hireling
    Teaching Doctrines of Demons
    A Tare among the wheat in the Church
    A Ravenous Wolf
    The Anti Christ
    Or just your garden variety unbeliever masquerading as one of the elect?

  • Gharin

    Instead of just going after Rob Bell for misleading lost souls into damnation, why not ALSO go after those misguided souls and rescue them from the wrath to come?
    If you are truly concerned for the honor of God’s word and doctrine and theology, be just as concerned that this misguided hireling is stealing God’s sheep.
    Freaking get out there on the front lines and take back the territory and rescue those people!
    Have a plan and go take back what Satan is stealing through the false doctrines of such hirelings.
    Call him out and then storm the gates as well; because if you truly believe he is misleading people with false teachings and deadly doctrines then you need to do more than just sit around being scholarly about it.
    Do better than he does. He is wooing them with the pretty words of passive men and they are lulled into a deadly slumber.
    Get ahead of this you reformers and rout the enemy camp!
    Don’t just buzz around him like annoying gnats and hope that he will get his panties in a bunch.
    Gird your loins like men and go after these souls he has held captive!

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  • Janice Fielder

    I am so saddened by this man. What saddens me most are those I love most dearly are doing a Bible study with this book. The intellect will be lead astray because Bell makes more sense and is more believable than the Bible in their minds. The element of faith is nowhere and that is what much of your relationship with Christ is made up of. We can only pray that God will prevail and that my friends eyes wil be open to the real truth about God.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Praying now, Janice. I am grieved to read this.

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  • Ryan

    Is love winning in this thread of comments?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      hopefully in some

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  • http://www.parabl.es Parabl.es

    Great balanced review, thanks Aaron!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      thanks for reading!

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  • Stu

    Hi Aaron,

    How ironic it is that more and more Christian leaders think they are ‘loving’ people by hiding the ‘unpleasant’ truths of the Bible. How often do we need to hear the hard truth so that God can convict us of sin, humble us before Him and cause us to throw ourselves to the mercy He generously offers in Christ.

    Frankly I am getting sick of these so called theological intellectuals using their so called knowledge to confuse biblical content for others, pointing people away from the basic message we all need to hear and live by – The Gospel.

    I remember Rob Bell expressing in one of his videos that God doesn’t condemn. He is a God of love. I don’t know what Bible he is reading. He mustn’t be including Romans for example. It’s pretty clear in Romans Ch 1-2 the outcome of rebellion against God – His wrath and judgement! If that’s not condemnation then what is?! Yet knowing that chilling truth makes the good news so much sweeter, that in Christ there is now no condemnation. Apart from Christ there is condemnation. It’s knowing the truth that draws God’s children closer to Him. Those who run are just revealing the true nature of their heart.

    Thanks for your thoughts Aaron.

    God Bless,

    Stu

    • http://twitter.com/MelaSie Melanie Siewert

      “Frankly I am getting sick of these so called theological intellectuals
      using their so called knowledge to confuse biblical content for others,
      pointing people away from the basic message we all need to hear and
      live by – The Gospel.”

      I connect with that sentiment. That’s what we call the “spirit of religion.” If church leaders believe they can influence or train someone to live a “godly” life, they have already missed the mark. Change only occurs when we encounter Christ, and allow his Spirit to convict us, teach us, and purify us. The true gospel points people in that direction.

      Good thoughts, Stu!

    • http://twitter.com/MelaSie Melanie Siewert

      “Frankly I am getting sick of these so called theological intellectuals
      using their so called knowledge to confuse biblical content for others,
      pointing people away from the basic message we all need to hear and
      live by – The Gospel.”

      I connect with that sentiment. That’s what we call the “spirit of religion.” If church leaders believe they can influence or train someone to live a “godly” life, they have already missed the mark. Change only occurs when we encounter Christ, and allow his Spirit to convict us, teach us, and purify us. The true gospel points people in that direction.

      Good thoughts, Stu!

    • http://twitter.com/MelaSie Melanie Siewert

      “Frankly I am getting sick of these so called theological intellectuals
      using their so called knowledge to confuse biblical content for others,
      pointing people away from the basic message we all need to hear and
      live by – The Gospel.”

      I connect with that sentiment. That’s what we call the “spirit of religion.” If church leaders believe they can influence or train someone to live a “godly” life, they have already missed the mark. Change only occurs when we encounter Christ, and allow his Spirit to convict us, teach us, and purify us. The true gospel points people in that direction.

      Good thoughts, Stu!

  • Slimsa

     Not having read the book myself it’s difficult to comment on the entire book, but one concept that I’ve picked up from that might be correct or half-correct is the assumption that hell is not an eternal fire. 

    Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

    Clearly those who carry on sinning die. Only those who believe receive eternal life. So if the ‘wages of sin is death’, then how can they burn in hell for all eternity?? They don’t have eternal life! So, in this way it makes sense that the fiery pit isn’t an eternal fire. Would a loving God let His creation suffer like that for eternity. No.

    Rev 20:13  And the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell delivered up the dead in them. And each one of them was judged according to their works. Rev 20:14  And death and hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. Rev 20:15  And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire.

    The Lake of Fire is the second DEATH. So, once again, not LIFE…which you’d need to burn forever.

    Psa 37:34  Expect the Lord and keep his way: and he will exalt thee to inherit the land: when the sinners shall perish thou shalt see. 

    Why would God let the righteous be witness to suffering forever? The results of the Lake of Fire is forever yes, but hell is not eternal. 
    When something perish, it dies, it doesn’t last forever. 

    Eze 18:4  Behold all souls are mine: as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, the same shall die. 

    Over and over again in The Bible we read that those who sin will die. They will die with fire and brimstone. The same as Sodom and Gomorrah. The fire couldn’t be quenched until everyone and everything was destroyed. Just so will the FIRE of hell not be killed until it’s purpose has been reached. The destruction of the unrighteous. 

    So, yes, hell exists, but not one that lasts forever. Only the consequences of sin and hell lasts forever. The unrighteous doesn’t last forever. He perishes. Dies.

    Psa 37:10  For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: and thou shalt seek his place, and shalt not find it. 
    Psa 37:38  But the unjust shall be destroyed together: the remnants of the wicked shall perish.

  • Jesusroseinme

    Slimsa, Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the Father – not necessarily living forever although that is indeed one of the by-products. People living without Christ right now are deemed ‘dead’ so is it fair for me to say that they are unconscious right now? I don’ think so. So what is the true definition of eternal death or the second death? Based on the definition Jesus gave for eternal life, I would say His meaning of ‘death’ doesn’t mearly mean an unconsciousness from everything but a separation that is very evident; just as eternal life doesn’t have the mere definition of living forever, but that of knowing God. Jesus defined life as connected with God, and He defined death as separation from God. This is illustrated when Stephen is being stoned and it says, ‘he fell asleep’. Remember also the little girl that died, Jesus said this about her, “She is not dead, but asleep”.
     
    Also, I do not see the logic in the whole “If God is loving He wouldn’t dare send anyone to an eternal fire” argument. At what point do we draw the line between God being loving and Him being evil? You have stated that you view a God who tortures to be evil but what about a God who will kill for disobedience and allow others to be killed here on Earth? Where do we draw the line? If you are a person who believes in what Rob Bell is saying, you still have this issue to deal with. So in Rob Bell’s mind a loving God wouldn’t send someone to an eternal punishment; based on this worldly logic, couldn’t I just say a God that wasn’t evil would have never let the fall happen in the first place? Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow a rebellious child to be stone to death. Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow an innocent lambs blood be shed? You might say, “Yeah, but at least its not forever!” But now you are defending a stance that a God that kills is not evil, but a God that sends people to hell…oh now thats just uncalled for.We have faulty views about God’s holiness and justice at times. No one can understand the full gravity what violating His holiness merits. He deals justly, and if that happens to be a torturous sentence to hell, it does not make Him evil, it makes Him just…just as allowing people to die for violating His law on Earth does not make Him evil but just. Evil occurs when a wicked heart takes action (the act within itself is not what makes something evil), justice is a holy response to that wicked heart’s action. Therefore, an act of a perfect being sentencing someone to eternal punishment is a just action and not an evil one. When you are dealing with a sinless being like God, you have to realize that He makes decisions based upon justice. I could never, ever in a million years call a God evil who has given humanity chance after chance after chance…even if He does decide to send someone into the lake of fire.This mindset is common because we do not grasp the gravity of the capital punishment deserved for infraction of a perfect God’s law. We think of violating His righteousness in terms such as “oops, I spilled the grape juice on the carpet, sorry Dad!” rather than a graphic violent rape or a string of torturous serial murders – totally unrepentant and if given the chance would do it all again.A Jehovahs Witness asked me once, “If you were a loving God, would you send one of your created beings to a place where they are tortured forever and ever?” My response: “No, I would just kill my creation off instead.” They acted like they didn’t hear it. Why? Because they saw the double standard. That is a can of worms best left in the can – it is an inconsistency. Do you not see this? If you are going to call a God evil for sending someone away from His presence forever, you are still inevitably smacking Him across the face without realizing it. Because based on this worldly logic that God would be evil for acting out what He sees as justice, you have to say that everything He has done to this point in history has not been right. And if you are willing to say such a thing as that, you are a much bolder person than I. My God is just, and His Son’s sacrifice is dumbed down immensly if you do not teach an eternal punishment.

  • Jesusroseinme

    Slimsa, Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the Father – not necessarily living forever although that is indeed one of the by-products. People living without Christ right now are deemed ‘dead’ so is it fair for me to say that they are unconscious right now? I don’ think so. So what is the true definition of eternal death or the second death? Based on the definition Jesus gave for eternal life, I would say His meaning of ‘death’ doesn’t mearly mean an unconsciousness from everything but a separation that is very evident; just as eternal life doesn’t have the mere definition of living forever, but that of knowing God. Jesus defined life as connected with God, and He defined death as separation from God. This is illustrated when Stephen is being stoned and it says, ‘he fell asleep’. Remember also the little girl that died, Jesus said this about her, “She is not dead, but asleep”.
     
    Also, I do not see the logic in the whole “If God is loving He wouldn’t dare send anyone to an eternal fire” argument. At what point do we draw the line between God being loving and Him being evil? You have stated that you view a God who tortures to be evil but what about a God who will kill for disobedience and allow others to be killed here on Earth? Where do we draw the line? If you are a person who believes in what Rob Bell is saying, you still have this issue to deal with. So in Rob Bell’s mind a loving God wouldn’t send someone to an eternal punishment; based on this worldly logic, couldn’t I just say a God that wasn’t evil would have never let the fall happen in the first place? Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow a rebellious child to be stone to death. Or how about, a loving God wouldn’t allow an innocent lambs blood be shed? You might say, “Yeah, but at least its not forever!” But now you are defending a stance that a God that kills is not evil, but a God that sends people to hell…oh now thats just uncalled for.We have faulty views about God’s holiness and justice at times. No one can understand the full gravity what violating His holiness merits. He deals justly, and if that happens to be a torturous sentence to hell, it does not make Him evil, it makes Him just…just as allowing people to die for violating His law on Earth does not make Him evil but just. Evil occurs when a wicked heart takes action (the act within itself is not what makes something evil), justice is a holy response to that wicked heart’s action. Therefore, an act of a perfect being sentencing someone to eternal punishment is a just action and not an evil one. When you are dealing with a sinless being like God, you have to realize that He makes decisions based upon justice. I could never, ever in a million years call a God evil who has given humanity chance after chance after chance…even if He does decide to send someone into the lake of fire.This mindset is common because we do not grasp the gravity of the capital punishment deserved for infraction of a perfect God’s law. We think of violating His righteousness in terms such as “oops, I spilled the grape juice on the carpet, sorry Dad!” rather than a graphic violent rape or a string of torturous serial murders – totally unrepentant and if given the chance would do it all again.A Jehovahs Witness asked me once, “If you were a loving God, would you send one of your created beings to a place where they are tortured forever and ever?” My response: “No, I would just kill my creation off instead.” They acted like they didn’t hear it. Why? Because they saw the double standard. That is a can of worms best left in the can – it is an inconsistency. Do you not see this? If you are going to call a God evil for sending someone away from His presence forever, you are still inevitably smacking Him across the face without realizing it. Because based on this worldly logic that God would be evil for acting out what He sees as justice, you have to say that everything He has done to this point in history has not been right. And if you are willing to say such a thing as that, you are a much bolder person than I. My God is just, and His Son’s sacrifice is dumbed down immensly if you do not teach an eternal punishment.

    • Slimsa

      First off, I never called God evil for His punishment of the unrighteous. I merely pointed out what The Bible says about reward for believing in His Son, which is eternal life, yes in the presence of God, and the punishment for not believing and obeying which is death, and yes, thus not being in the presence of God. But tell me, if we believe in an omnipresent God – where exactly would a place exist that His presence is not? I can only think of one place and that’s ‘non-existence’. Yes, His punishment is just, that’s why all don’t receive the same punishment either, so someone who merely refused to believe Him but lived an otherwise good life cannot receive the same punishment as someone you described who violates, murders and does it again and again without repentance. 
      Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life. And the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Rev 20:13  And the sea gave up the dead that were in it: and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them. And they were judged, every one according to their works. 

      Luk 12:47  And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luk 12:48  But he that knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. 

      So then how does an eternal fire burning all the unjust live up to being judged according to their works? Does everyone burn forever? Come on, I believe in a loving God, who is always good, regardless of our perception of good and evil and regardless of our experiences and situations. Evil is in this world and is from the devil. So any evil we encounter is not of God. And no, His Son’s sacrifice is not dumbed down if we don’t teach and eternal fire, but His Love is dumbed down if we teach the same. 

      Why would God repeatedly say that the unrighteous would ‘perish’, that He would ‘destroy’ them if He’s actually going to grant them eternity to exist and burn in? 

      Mal 4:3  And you shall tread down the wicked when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet in the day that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts. 

      They shall be ‘ashes’ – how does that mean burning forever? Ashes are the left overs from what’s been burnt…it doesn’t carry on burning!

  • Jesusroseinme

    Hey Slimsa,
    While it is true you did not directly call God evil for these things – the point is still valid in that you are deciding what that loving God can do to remain “loving” and are indirectly implying that He would be hateful and insideous if an eternal torment were real. That is still an inconsistancy, you are having to split hairs to justify your stance. I mean, there is nothing to say to back up a point otherwise except slightly deviate from this point and not address how that is compatible. I understand that there are different levels of torment and punishment. But isn’t the way you believe that once someone faces the “second death” that they just go unconscious? So wouldn’t THAT be the same punishment for all the different sins committed? I would appreciate a clarification about this, because you said to me, “So then how does an eternal fire burning all the unjust live up to being judged according to their works? Does everyone burn forever?” What type of torment do they face unto they face their final death? Do you believe in a temporary fire and/or torment until the appointed time of final death?

    Lets look at the Rich Man and Lazarus.
    Luke 16:19-31 (King James Version)
     19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,  21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.  25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.  27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:  28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.I would like to point out a few things I believe are fair observations. First point – This is not a parable. Unlike Jesus’ other ‘earthly stories with heavenly meanings’ I believe this was an actual event that happened at some point in the past. Why you might ask? First Jesus is saying, “There was a CERTAIN rich man and there was a CERTAIN beggar’. Now I know there are a few other parables that say this, but there is one more things I would like to point out that I believe make the case stronger and that is the use of proper names. Lazarus is used and the name Abraham. So if this is literal, how is the Rich man burning and remaining alive? He is not turning to ashes. This isn’t a foreign concept to scripture as even Jesus quoted from Isaiah 66 that hell is a place where ‘their worm will not die’. Specifiying in my opinion that this is a place where they suffer, but even the worms that eat away decaying flesh will not pass let alone themselves.And one more thought before I have to get ready for work. You quoted Revelations 20:13 but didn’t continue on.

    • Jesusroseinme

      13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
       15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

      They were all cast into the lake of fire. You have stated something to the effect of, “How can you suffer eternally through fire and not burn up?” The same way God takes away death during the tribulation and people are trying to find ways to die but cannot. Revelation 9:6 “And in those days people will seek death and will not find it.” They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
       I do not mean anything I am saying rude, I am just trying to be blunt when I say the point you have sided with just doesn’t add up. God is fully capable to give someone a degree of invincibility and the person still feel pain…I mean, He is God.

      Please do not take my conversation as combative. I am just wanting to point out what I see as inherent flaws to the other-side. God knows I want to interpret His word correctly, and I just do not see too much traction on the otherside of the argument. Take care and look forward to your reply. And please do address how you can declare God unloving for some things and for other things you do not? I feel you attempted to explain the point above, but it still doesn’t explain how you can be the arbiter of what is and what is not loving.

      • Slimsa

        Hi there,
        You know what, you don’t really make any sense to me above. I don’t mean to be rude either, but seriously – the rich man and Lazarus? NOT a parable? That’s your interpretation of scripture.
        If you want to use this scripture, let’s then look at it: First off, this scene would’ve had to be happening in the future, as we are told that we don’t go to heaven or hell until after Judgement. There are numerous scripture that teach that we are ‘asleep in our graves’ until such time.
        Secondly, if the Rich Man then just arrived in hell, then yes, he’d be burning in the fire. It doesn’t say he burns forever and ever anywhere in this passage.
        Thirdly, if God tells us that there will be no more tears or sadness in heaven, but we are made to watch those we might’ve loved on earth, burn for eternity…how does that not sadden you? If Abraham was able to see the rich man and speak to him, then surely we would all be able to do the same? 
        So, do I ‘define’ a loving God as someone who would not want His children to suffer and experience sadness? Yes. The same as I don’t want to see my children suffer. I do anything and everything to stop them from hurting or experiencing any kind of pain – if I can. How much more would God do that for us?

        And yes, in Revelations 20 it tells us that they will be cast into the fire. I never said that they won’t be thrown in there…just that it’s not an eternal burning.
        I’m not deciding what a loving God can and can’t do…I know that God has wrath and I understand that His judgement is just. I just don’t see where it says that hell is eternal.

        The ‘second death’ is not when you die on earth. This is the ‘first death’, this is why it tells us that ‘the second death has no power over those who are saved!

        Rev 20:14  And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death.

        So, no. The first death is when our bodies die and our souls ‘rest in sleep’, until the resurrection. After judgement, the unrighteous gets cast into the fire – the second death, where they will then eventually all die! Souls included. 

        I’m sorry if you see me as someone from the ‘other-side’, and I don’t mean to be combative either, but I can say that I don’t find much ‘traction’ for your side of the ‘argument’ either. I’m not trying to be the arbiter of what is and what is not love, I’m merely saying that based on the fact that God’s character is Love, and knowing how gracious and forgiving and loving He is, I can’t see how an eternal fire fits into the picture. I could be wrong, only God knows for sure, as we can keep going back and forth with each other on this point. I don’t think it affects my salvation whether or not I believe in an eternal or non-eternal fire…it was merely an interesting point and one that does actually have some scriptual backing.  I’m not sure where you find me calling God unloving….because if that’s what you’re getting from this, then you’ve misinterpreted what I’ve been trying to say. 

        • Jesusroseinme

          My only point about “The Rich man and Lazurus story” is that it is the only “parable” in scripture that uses proper names…which is kind of peculiar. It makes you wonder if it was a real event that Jesus saw when He was still with the Father in Heaven. The way Jesus told this “parable” was not like He told other ones. So sorry if I was confusing on that part.

          And yes, I believe people either go to an intermidiary Heaven or Hell first. First of all, Paul says in one of his letters that he was caught up to the ‘third heaven’. Does this suggest a 1st and a second? Who knows. I do know that Jesus told the prisoner next to him that “Today you will be with Me in paradise” and we know that judgement hadn’t happened yet and still has yet to happen. Also, the Bible says that “death and hell were cast into Gehanna (the lake of fire)”. So yes, hell and the lake of fire are different, but hell is a holding place nontheless. I believe scripture makes clear a torment is currently happening to them for following God’s adversary the devil.

          Even if that wasn’t the case though the argument could be made about this parable that the great white throne of judgement and judgement seat of Christ had already occurred, and we are witnessing the result – the rich man in the lake of fire instead of hell (because death and hell had already been cast in), and Lazarus in Heaven.

          You refered to God’s creation being His children when Jesus tells the Pharisees that their father is the devil – I suppose he could have meant specifically the pharisees but I just generalized it to all who do not know the Father. So I do not know if I would call God’s disposal of people in a rebellion with Satan His children.

          So my main point was this. I still cannot grasp the argument that a loving God would not send people to eternal punishment. I do not know why people use this argument because it is a double-standard. It is a double standard in that why couldn’t I call God unloving for allowing pain and suffering to continue and having Israel do things such as stone rebellious children. Can you see what I am saying? Be honest because I am trying to explain this as best as I can. I guess I will make my question a little more pointed. In your general stance about how a loving God would not let His children suffer eternally, how do you justify His allowance of humanity suffering in the temporary? I suppose the only thing you could say is that temporary death and torment make God a loving God, but eternal death and torment do not. That is the only answer I can think of for people that use this type of argumentation. I do not want to speak for you and that sides philosophy so please explain the logic there.

          And to the bit about salvation. I do not know if it affects salvation – that is up to Jesus at judgement. I just see it as a dangerous stance, because if an eternal torment is indeed real, the people that have stood on this argument that a “loving God wouldn’t allow eternal suffering” have slapped God across His face during their time on Earth. I would feel a lot more comfortable saying something like this if I was on that side of things, “I personally do not believe God is going to sentence people there for eternity, but if He does it was due justice, and my God is still a God to be praised”. As opposed to the more riskier stance that says, “How could a loving and just God, burn people in a place of torment like that forever? A loving God wouldn’t allow something like that to happen!” Who are we as men to question God? What if God endured with great patience the vessels destined for destruction? What if God did indeed create the lake of fire to be eternal banishment forever and ever? Who are we, oh men, to question God?

          Again, that is my only point. I cannot help but shudder for people that use this type of argument and I try to interject with what I view as a little more wisdom. If we serve a God who is passionate about being loving and just but did also creat an eternal punishment, who am I to say that that is not loving and not just?

  • Anonymous

    Osama Now in Heaven:  “Love Wins”.  http://youtu.be/pks7DZxBRq0

  • Bfbracken

    I think what everyone is missing here is that this is not just Rob’s message but because of his popularity everyone is pointing the finger at him. Humanity is beginning to understand a truth that has remained hidden for so long. We are all one; when we fight each other we only fight ourselves, when we hate each other we only hate ourselves. Universalism, if that is what Rob is actually teaching, is far from evil. It is far from misguided and heretical. Beneath it all exists only love, there is no eternal struggle between good and evil this is purely platonic thinking. Universalism suggests that we are all one and that no matter what we choose in life we all end up in love. Isn’t that grace? Isn’t that ‘good news’? That despite our circumstances we are all destined for greatness but it is up to us to decide whether or not we live in that love now.
    Thank you Rob for exploring something that so many of us are too fearful and cowardly to explore.

  • Slimsa

    Hey Jesusroseinme,
    Ok. Let me explain my opinion like this: We are told in the Bible that there will be suffering here on earth because we live in this world that is full of sin and because sin entered the world there is suffering. God allows it not because He is not a loving God, but because it’s part of what this life is about – persevering through the suffering and still understanding and believing that God is Good. Always. I don’t believe that God causes suffering, He cannot ‘give’ something that is not of Him or from Him. All hurt, suffering etc etc in this world is from Satan, or because of our own fleshly desires and acts. Why does God allow it? Because He gave us free will. Let’s say there was no suffering on earth…would we all be happy and live perfect lives? No, because we are sinners. Inevitably there will be suffering as long as there is sin. Why doesn’t God just take away sin? Because He gave us free will – to choose to follow and love Him and withhold ourselves from sin, or to follow Satan and our flesh and carry on sinning and inflicting pain and suffering. This does not make God an unloving God. Like any parent would tell you, certain things in a childs’ life will hurt and even if you as a parent have the ability to prevent that from happening, sometimes it’s the only way a child learns – by experience. Does it make me an unloving parent if I allow my child to ride a bicycle, with the full knowledge that to master the skill she’ll probably fall and scrape her knees a couple of times? Do I force my children to follow my advice because I know best or do I allow them to face the consequences of their own decisions? I believe God does this for us as our Father. He puts options in front of us, He advises us what to do, but in the end it’s our own free will that determine the consequences of what we face here on earth. 
    This is why I don’t see this as unloving. God tells us that to love is to discipline. Sometimes we make the wrong choices, sometimes we face incredible suffering and injustice even if we feel we don’t deserve it and have done nothing wrong. Babies get killed for no cause, but that’s not because of their sins necessarily but because of sin in the world we live in. When ‘innocent’ people are affected by disasters it might not be because of ‘punishment’ towards them, but Jesus warned of all these things that will happen in this world and told us to stand strong and not loose courage. He tells us that we will face trouble in this world, but not to be concerned because He has overcome this world. Earth is a temporary state and if we can make it through the trials and tribulations we face here we are rewarded with eternal life, where there is no more tears, no more suffering. I just don’t see how an eternal hell fits into that – if even using the rich man and Lazarus again where they could see across to each other, how will there not be tears if you have to see the eternal torture of friends/family/acquintances? It just doesn’t fit into what the Bible tells me about Heaven….and hey, if I’m wrong, it’s fine, it doesn’t change my belief in a loving God. I just don’t quite ‘get’ the whole eternal hell thing if you don’t have ‘eternal life’ to burn there…..

  • Matthew

    just a thought, probably unrelated: God’s forgiveness of our sins is not really dependent on anything we do. god loves us so much that we are already forgiven. i’ve just started studying the bible, but i found it interesting that when on the cross, christ asks for the people who crucified him to be forgiven on their behalf. something like “god forgive them, for they do not know what they do” but i’ve always been told that our forgiveness is dependent on our asking or desire for it. 

    • Anonymous

      Good point, Matthew!

    • Anonymous

      Good point, Matthew!

    • Lucia

      Hi Matthew, it is true that God’s forgiveness is given freely, yet we have to accept that forgiveness. It works the same way as when we forgive someone for sinning against us. Our forgiveness isn’t dependent upon their repentance, we forgive someone for sinning against us because unforgiveness is a block between us and God. If we pray ‘forgive us as we forgive others’ yet we don’t forgive then it blocks God’s forgiveness of our sins. When we accept God’s forgiveness of our sins, we stop sinning and our lives change, so yes, even though God’s forgiveness has already been given, we still have to repent of our sins and accept the forgiveness. 

  • Matthew

    just a thought, probably unrelated: God’s forgiveness of our sins is not really dependent on anything we do. god loves us so much that we are already forgiven. i’ve just started studying the bible, but i found it interesting that when on the cross, christ asks for the people who crucified him to be forgiven on their behalf. something like “god forgive them, for they do not know what they do” but i’ve always been told that our forgiveness is dependent on our asking or desire for it. 

  • Eric F. Dunn

    It saddens me that so many people deny that they’ve asked themselves the very same difficult questions Rob Bell asks, knowing full well that the modern Christian understanding of hell as an eternal torture chamber that keep its subjects alive and conscious to no corrective end, will never make sense if God truly “is patient with you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NASB) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NASB). Would He really operate such a torture chamber full of so many whom He claims He loves (John 3:16) and who are made in His image (Genesis 1:27) for all eternity? Would you consider that to be holy and just behavior? Does that really bring Him glory? Isn’t it much more glorifying to God if He pursues every man and woman who ever lived for all eternity, if that’s what it takes, until they let Him transform them into the image of Christ?

    Rob affirms that only those who have been transformed into the image of Christ will be allowed to enter Heaven, quoting many scriptures that confirm this. It is an ignorant thing to say that the ideas Rob presents (about the possibility of people being saved out of hell if they let God transform them into the image of Christ) weaken the Christian’s motivation to evangelize. As one who has experienced psychological and spiritual hell in my lifetime (a sense of complete separation from God and its accompanying deep despair) I would argue the exact opposite. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, and it only lasted a few months, not eternity. Hell doesn’t have to be permanent to be horrible. If it isn’t permanent, it can serve the purpose of correction and discipline. If it is permanent, what end does it serve? Now that I have allowed myself to believe that God’s love wins in the end, I’m not confused by or embarrassed of my God and His Gospel and the purpose of hell anymore, and I love Him so much more than I did before, so I’m much more excited to share His message! I actually have hope for people who seem hell-bound, so I’m willing to invest in them, not fearing that after all my effort to help them and love them, they could end up in eternal hopelessness. Before, I couldn’t let myself truly love them (do you think God could either?). Now, I know that my labor cannot be in vain, because God’s love wins in the end!!!

  • Eric F. Dunn

    It saddens me that so many people deny that they’ve asked themselves the very same difficult questions Rob Bell asks, knowing full well that the modern Christian understanding of hell as an eternal torture chamber that keep its subjects alive and conscious to no corrective end, will never make sense if God truly “is patient with you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NASB) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NASB). Would He really operate such a torture chamber full of so many whom He claims He loves (John 3:16) and who are made in His image (Genesis 1:27) for all eternity? Would you consider that to be holy and just behavior? Does that really bring Him glory? Isn’t it much more glorifying to God if He pursues every man and woman who ever lived for all eternity, if that’s what it takes, until they let Him transform them into the image of Christ?

    Rob affirms that only those who have been transformed into the image of Christ will be allowed to enter Heaven, quoting many scriptures that confirm this. It is an ignorant thing to say that the ideas Rob presents (about the possibility of people being saved out of hell if they let God transform them into the image of Christ) weaken the Christian’s motivation to evangelize. As one who has experienced psychological and spiritual hell in my lifetime (a sense of complete separation from God and its accompanying deep despair) I would argue the exact opposite. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, and it only lasted a few months, not eternity. Hell doesn’t have to be permanent to be horrible. If it isn’t permanent, it can serve the purpose of correction and discipline. If it is permanent, what end does it serve? Now that I have allowed myself to believe that God’s love wins in the end, I’m not confused by or embarrassed of my God and His Gospel and the purpose of hell anymore, and I love Him so much more than I did before, so I’m much more excited to share His message! I actually have hope for people who seem hell-bound, so I’m willing to invest in them, not fearing that after all my effort to help them and love them, they could end up in eternal hopelessness. Before, I couldn’t let myself truly love them (do you think God could either?). Now, I know that my labor cannot be in vain, because God’s love wins in the end!!!

  • Joseph

    Have you ever read the gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John? If I remember correctly, when Jesus was asked questions, he rarely gave clear, specific answers. He usually answered with a question, or a parable. So…….. yea. Oh, and it seems like you just read the book already having your mind made up and a predetermined point of view in place.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Two things:

      1. Actually, there’s a passage that addresses the issue of Jesus being mysterious. In Matt. 13:11-17, the disciples asked why He spoke in parables to the crowds. Jesus said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” You’ll note that He actually consistently explained all things to His disciples, because it was theirs to know.

      2. As for whether or not I went in with my mind made up, the entire time I read Love Wins, I was praying that it wouldn’t go down the road that I saw that it did. There was certainly no joy in having my fears confirmed (and I say that understanding from your comments that you disagree).

  • Joseph

    I’m not going to read every comment. I will say this. I have read the book. I have struggled with the existence of this “hell” that the Christian church has made it out to be the last centuries. Rob Bell offers this scenario: “Millions of people in our world were told that God so loved the world, that God sent his Son to save the world, and that if they accept and believe in Jesus, then they’ll be able to have a relationship with God. Beautiful. But there’s more. Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way, that is, the way the person telling them the gospel does, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell. God would, in essence, become a fundamentally different being to them in that moment of death, a different being to them FOREVER. A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who would ensure that they had no escape from an endless future of agony.” And then for the best part!! “If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities. If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately.” Does….. that….. make….. sense?????? Let your honest, human heart, the one that God gave you, answer that question.

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  • Liz Deater

    Thanks for the review. It really helps as I would prefer not to waste my time reading the book. 

    I work in a hospital and several nurses and staff told me that they are reading the book. I’m sad because these are women that attend church but are not solid in their faith therefore easily persuaded to go in Rob Bell’s direction of thinking. We Christians must pray that this book is not used of the evil one to give a false peace to many people. I’m fearful of what it is doing in my community. We are in desperate need of an awakening/revival in America.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey Liz – glad that I could save you the trouble of reading the book :)

      I agree entirely that we need a revival in America (and in all the western world). Praying for that to happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daisy.escobosa Daisy Escobosa

    Thank you for this review it was very helpful. Sadly, most people would choose this “god” that Rob Bell is presenting instead of the God of the bible.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 comes to mind as I read this.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Daisy, glad you found the review helpful. Good reminder with 2 Tim 4:3-4 as well. 

      • Anonymous

        2 Tim 4:3-4 has long been descriptive of the entire churchgoing world.

  • Sean

    Here’s another review of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

    http://www.hellsbell.net

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  • Queenking272

    When God created Man in Genesis, he was the only part of God’s creation that the fullness of the Godhead lovingly shaped and formed by His very own hand out of the water of the deep and the dust of the earth.  This lovingly shaped and formed Man (human) was the object of God’s love. He was a son of God made in God’s image and likeness. He lived in a holy place and walked and talked with God openly and without shame because there was no sin. Sadly, the man and woman of Genesis were tempted by the serpent into sin.  God out of His great love for mankind had His plan of redemption in place.  This my fellow human beings is LOVE. The last thing that God wants is to destroy human beings!  It is like killing a piece of Himself. That’s why He provided the sacrifice for sin…..beginning with the lambs of the Older Testament temporarily, and then permanentt and eternal through His very own Son who had no sin.  If God sent so much love to sinful mankind by letting His own sinless Son to suffer the insurmountable suffering He went through and then crucifixion on the cross, is God to be thought to be asking too much to ask mankind  to accept His gift of love and grace through His Son so we can have eternal life?  I say “no and thank you God for redeeming us.” The answer and solution is easy.  Accept the way of atonement that God so lovingly sent — Jesus Christ– and you will be saved and given eternal life.  Sounds simple and not asking too much to me!  Also shows me what a loving God He is that He would provide such a gift.  A gift is not a gift however until it is received and opened. 

    God would love to see the pits of hell empty!  That’s the heart of God! Sadly, there will be humans who reject His saving love and grace.  That’s not His fault!  It is the job of His Church to show God’s love, grace and truth though living a life of the love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ.  As we lift Jesus up through our actions, words and deeds, hopefully others will be drawn to Him for salvation and eternal life.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jess.maccallum Jess MacCallum

    Hey Aaron… WAY late on weighing in here, but I can’t help but post these verses:
    Rom. 9:21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 

    Rom. 9:22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 

    This is where I have landed over the years with my faith: Who has the greater rights here? Me or Him? I am not about to attempt a Job-like encounter with MY track record.Even though I dislike the idea of eternal suffering –– so much in fact I opted to avoid it by letting Jesus go in my place — I don’t have the right to try and erase it from the written Word. Neither does Rob Bell.In my experience, “clay” is better off not asserting its rights or its reasoning.

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  • http://nowthinkaboutit.com/ EnnisP

    The only idea Rob definitely changed was the finality of death. Would a person who dies within a very short time after reaching the age of accountability, possibly within seconds, really be condemned for all eternity in spite of the fact they never heard the Gospel, read a Bible or attended a church?

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  • saon_bd

    Velvit elvis!!!!! he is a great writter, have too much fun when read his his book

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