Thursday, March 03, 2011

Controversy can help us! Eternal Hell, Universalism, and Rob Bell

Controversies are common place when it comes to the development of Christian doctrine.  Over the years it has been controversies that have cause faithful Christians to re-look and define more carefully and accuractly and more committedly what we believe.  The latest controversy over hell and universalism (started by the promotion of Rob Bells new book, Love Wins) will do the same I pray for this generation.

On the first weekend in March 2011 a controversy started over Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins (due out on March 29, 2011), supposably advoicating universalism and the non-eternality of Hell for individuals.  Controversy can be good because it makes us go back to the Scriptures and develop our theology in a more exegetical way.    Below are some articles which I will classify according to source:

from the General Media:

Jonathan Weyer says that 

John Piper and the Neo-Calvinists fight 300-year-old battles with 300-year-old theologians that most people have never heard about, much less read. Because of this, their tone comes off as unloving and smug mixed with a plain ole fist to the face. Piper's dismissive Tweet about Bell is a prime example of this attitude.  
He describes this as being tone deaf.  I Disagree!

Christian Autor's Book Sparks Charges of Heresy by Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief blog Co-editor

From Christian Media and blogs:
Rob Bell: Universalist? by Justin Taylor (you can see John Piper's tweet @!/johnpiper)
Please note that Justin Taylor has read some of the book and is commenting on what he has read of the Book
 I have not read all of Bell’s book, though I have read some chapters that were sent to me. When the book is published there will be detailed reviews, and I will link to them. I think that the publisher’s description combined with Bell’s video is sufficient evidence to suggest that he thinks hell is empty and that God’s love (which desires all to be saved) is always successful. I should have been more careful in my original post not to imply that Bell is definitely a universalist. He may believe that some people go out of existence and are not thereby saved. The materials I have seen sound more like universalism though (note it sounds like no one goes to hell, and that the title promises to talk about the fate of everyone who has ever lived, which sure sounds like it’s the same for everyone).

Bell Brouhaha by Kevin Deyoung
Kevin shows why public discourse needs to be public and cannot be just private.  He states:
One, it needs to be stated again that this is not a Matthew 18 issue. No one is obligated to respond in private to a promotional video that has been put out in public. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt. 18:15). Rob Bell has not sinned against Justin Taylor or John Piper. This is not a personal offense or an interpersonal squabble that should have been left in private. The general rule of thumb, supported by Matthew 18 and sanctified common sense, is we should not make a matter more public than it has to be. But by definition, YouTube videos and Vimeo clips and books and blogs are meant to be public. That’s the whole point. The Love Winstrailer was not a private email correspondence intercepted by the Reformed Gestapo. It was deliberately made public and can be commented on in public.

Rob Bell and others within the Emerging Church movement represent what can only be described as a new form of cultural Christianity. Bell plays with theology the way a cat plays with a mouse. His sermons, videos, books, and public relations are often more suggestive and subversive than clear. They are also artistically and aesthetically superior to most of what is to be found in the video section of your local Christian bookstore or on the Web.
We all regularly, necessarily, and properly make judgments without complete information.  It is not wrong give an opinion or judgement of a issue with say 70% of the information if that information is reliable.  Otherwise we would need to read everything in order to have an opinion or be able to make proper judgement.  But all judgement should have some humility within it, because we are finite creatures and are prone to be wrong.

Review: "Love Wins" by Rob Bell, Part 1 - Some Introductory Thoughts by Scott (The Tenth Leper)
Here is a review of Love Wins by someone who has actually read the book.
The Definition of "eternal" in Matthew 25:46 (which I'll devote to a whole entry to) is probably the most thing I remember reading in Love Wins.  As I said, he doens't ever say "Hell isn't real."  He just challenges what is meant by it.  He is to smart to be overly blunt thought most of the book.  But he makes no apology for his declaration taht while hell is a real place, and people will go there, it's not forever.  Ultimately, God's love will prevail for every person and they will be restored.  So I would say taht what the recently released promo video for Love Wins suggests, the book confirms.
Review: "Love Wins" by Rob Bell, Part 2 - Complicated Gospel - by Scott (The Tenth Leper)
To my recollection, in his promotinal video for Love Wins, Rob Bell never actually declares something that's heretical.  Most of the controversial things he says in it come in the form of questions which seem awfully rhetorical: Gandhi's in hell?"  "Really?"  "What kind of God is that?"  I found that same patter in many sections of the book.  he asks a lot of questions in which, unless they're rhetorical (meaning that he believers the answer to them is obviously "no"), they never get answered.  The first chapter "What About the Flat Tire?" is a chapter full of such questions.
Review: "Love Wins" by Rob Bell, Part 3 - The Biblical view of Man by Scott (The Tenth Leper)

 Rob Bell Outs Himself by Denny Burk

Rob Bells New Book: "Love Wins" by Ben Witherington

To Hell with Hell by Kevin Deyoung
Talks about why God's wrath is necessary to the Gospel.  

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the plan was to sell a lot of books. Controversy sells books. The plan is working!

    Agreed that we need a Biblical response to the challenges of universalism. It's not surprising when unbelievers say eternal torment seems unjust. They don't understand how sinful humans are, how glorious God is, how righteous His wrath is, or how justly we all deserve to perish. But when people who claim to be believers - and especially teachers - come out with this kind of elenchus against Biblical teaching, it is revealing of something very distorted. Either the teacher is an unbeliever who shouldn't be teaching Christians, or he is a very confused believer who shouldn't be teaching Christians. But Rob Bell has been on the path away from Biblical orthodoxy for a long time, so who is surprised by this?

    Thanks for the helpful collection of links.