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I started reading Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" to see what the fuss is about. He asks great questions about who God is, the Trinity, salvation, heaven, hell & God's desire to save. I don't agree with his conclusions on hell.

Rob Bell’s Book Love Wins

I started reading Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived to see what the fuss is about.

I read a book before assuming the author is a heretic because I am an author that has been misquoted and misunderstood. I was going to pick it up at my local Christian bookstore, but they refuse to carry it so I purchased the Kindle edition.

If you have the time the Amazon book reviews are extremely entertaining. I love this one line review of the book:

“One of the nation’s rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.”

Bell asks great questions about who God is, the Trinity, salvation, heaven, hell  and God’s desire to save. I don’t agree with his conclusions on hell.

Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. (Rob Bell)

I wish Bell was right but the the things he says about hell they don’t jive with Scripture. I believe there is a hell and I also believe God is there at the edge doing everything He can to keep us from going there.

Remember, I don’t have all the answers, I’m still asking many questions myself. Through study I’ve found passages I was taught meant one thing mean something else completely when studying the Greek or Hebrew.  (Check out the word , eternal or Aion in the Greek).  I have several issues I still need to unpack for myself.

Just because I don’t agree with Rob Bell does not mean I think he is evil nor hell bound. It’s sad to see how ugly things can get when talk about God loving people (whats wrong with this picture)!

The bashers are calling Bell a Universalist, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a false prophet, a  radical and dangerous.

For the record, Bell stated he is not a universalist, that he believes in heaven and hell, and that he believes Jesus is the only way to God. I believe if someone says they aren’t a universalist we should believe them. They know more about what they believe then we do.

I wish Bell’s bashers would TRY entering a productive dialog instead of reacting with venom ready to burn him at the stake.

It’s not like he’s rejecting the divinity of Jesus–he’s talking about reexamining teachings most of us haven’t bothered to study in the original language.  I would love to see the result of this book being  iron sharpening iron.

If you recall Jesus and the disciples were accused of heresy. The religious leaders made up lies and falsely accused them over and over because they brought forth different view of God.

My point is, don’t join the angry mob until you study the issue for yourself.

Parts I Agree With

I agree with the what I feel is the main message of the book: God loves you and that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less. That is the “Good News” of Jesus. I would rather someone heard this message over “turn or burn” legalistic love-is-tied-to-performance teachings I came out of or the Calvinist teaching that God created most people just to burn in hell for eternity.

I like this quote from the book:

Religion that is primarily motivated by heavenly reward is flawed. It is no more admirable than a man who tells a woman he loves her simply to get her into bed.

I also agree with Bell’s  “Jesus didn’t die to appease an angry God.” See my post on God’s Wrath. Also check out  “He Loves Me,” by Wayne Jacobsen available free here.

Wayne Jacobsen addresses the controversy and problems on both sides in the tongue in cheek titled podcast Slap a Calvinist for Christ.

Step Away for the Torches

I did not post about this to jump into the controversy. I wanted to share this super teaching  Dust of the Rabbi by Bell made a few years ago but felt I needed to explain I’m not in full agreement with all his teachings first, else some will get out the rakes and torches for me.

Even if you are angry about Bell’s book you’ll enjoy the light he sheds on understanding the Hebrew culture.

Rob Bell Dust of the Rabbi from RSAofYAP on Vimeo.

 

13 comments

  1. Hi Robin,

    I see where you are coming from…but you made one point where I would have to disagree.

    “God loves you and that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less. That is the “Good News” of Jesus.”

    I do not believe that that is the good news.
    I believe that the good news is that Jesus died for all your past, present and future sin and 3 days later he did raise from the dead. He is risen, He is alive & those who believe in Him, and repent and turn from their sin are saved and are alive through and with Him.

    This is the good news. There is only power and salvation through the Resurrection, not in believing that God loves you.

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

    Jesus Himself said,
    “The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His Name to all the nations.” Luke 24:8

    This is the good news – repentance, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Jesus.

    There is no power, nothing without the resurrection.

    It is no surprise that Jesus lay dead on the Sabbath and rose on the first day of the new week. His resurrection did away with the old and with His resurrection began a new. The old traditions were dead and buried with Christ on that Saturday and new things began on the new week.

    It is completely true that God loves us more than we can possibly understand. BUT the good news is the power of the resurrection and what Jesus saved us from, and what we are saved unto – eternal life…

    There would be no reason for Jesus to have to die for our sins and raise from the dead, if no hell exists. It is vile to take this reality away. By dismissing hell, this takes away the real power of the resurrection and what Christ had to suffer.

    Without the real understanding of the power of the resurrection including what we are saved from…we take away the saving power of it.

    It is not until we understand the vileness of our sin, & really understand how God views sin…that we can receive God’s love, through accepting Jesus sacrifice & believing in His resurrection…

    It is in really knowing how our sin affects God that we fall before our God in complete brokenness & gratefulness & awe of Him that He loved us enough to offer us grace and eternal life with Him through Jesus’s resurrection.
    – it is only then that we can truly receive God’s love.

    Yes God loves us, but He hates sin. God is broken hearted over our sin and it breaks his heart to have people not repent from their sins and lead themselves to hell. It breaks His heart…

    We need to know:
    – what the impact of our sin has on God
    – how vile our sin is
    – good news: that Jesus took on Himself every person’s sin ever…that God the Father accepted Jesus’s sacrifice and on the 3rd Day Jesus rose from the dead!!! The earthquake on that 3rd day was the shaking of the world into a new place, a new direction, a new day , a new week. There was now work to be done…go out and tell everyone this good news. With the curtain ripping in the temple after Jesus, symbolising that now everyone has access to God through Jesus. We can’t receive God’s love until we understand the impact of our sin.

    My heart rejoices and I am blown away by the fact that Jesus is really alive!

    In Him always,
    Sherid

  2. D. Beauchemin

    In “Love Wins” Rob Bell asks, “Of all the billions of people who have ever lived, will only a select number ‘make it to a better place’ and every single other person suffer in torment and punishment forever? Bell urges us to re-asses how we have accepted such a horrific view of God. He also asks, “Which is stronger and more powerful, the hardness of the human heart or God’s unrelenting, infinite, expansive love?” Note he says “infinite” love. Is God really helpless to influence hearts to change after death, even if He had all eternity to do it? Read Luke 20:38. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for ALL LIVE TO HIM.” If so, there has to be hope in death unless there’s no hope in God Himself.

    Will God really torment most people forever? What do you think? Jesus asked, “Why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? (Luke 12:57 NAS) What’s right about eternal torment? Like Paul, he challenges us to “test all things and hold fast to what is good.” (1Thes 5:21). Who has GOOD NEWS in this discussion? Rob certainly does. And so does GOD!

    He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1John 2:2 NIV
    I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (literally drag) all peoples to Myself. John 12:32
    I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. Luke 2:10
    All the ends of the world shall…turn to the Lord, all families of the nations shall worship. Psalm 22:27
    Through the greatness of your power your enemies shall submit themselves to you. All the earth shall worship you and sing… Psalm 66:3-4
    Christ came to destroy the devil’s works! 1John.3:8 Did He succeed?
    Every knee will bow… and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Philippians 2:10-11

    Why do these Scriptures not mean what they say in light of God’s inexhaustible love and power? Jesus said “You err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Mt 22:29). Do we? Many critics accuse Rob Bell of lacking Biblical support. Not so for a short read targeting the general public. He references a wide range of Scriptures painting a magnificent, awesome view of God. For more Biblical support (with list of 186 texts like the above) read “Hope Beyond Hell.Hope Beyond Hell The Righteous Purpose of God’s Judgment”

    Rob Bell proclaims and loves an amazing God, greater in love and power than most of us have known. It’s time we take a deeper look at the Scriptures with a heart attuned to God’s Spirit. Some label this Universalism. Is it? See this excellent 6 min video: [Why "Love Wins" by Rob Bell is NOT Universalism]” – YouTube.com. Type this title in the search bar.

  3. I am appalled by those Christians who are unwilling to examine anything “controversial” or different than what they currently believe. We need to be constantly learning and growing, not remaining stagnant. As a friend’s bumper sticker says, “Do you know why you believe what you believe?” and please do NOT tell me to talk to your pastor when you get stumped. It is your job to give an answer, not your pastor.

    Rob Bell shares a very important truth:
    “In the third century the church fathers Clement of Alexandria and Origen affirmed God’s reconciliation with all people. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyassa and Eusebius believed this as well. In their day Jerome claimed that “most people,” Basil said the “mass of men,” and Augustine acknowledged that “very many” believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God.

    Central to their trust that all would be reconciled was the belief that untold masses of people suffering forever doesn’t bring God glory. Restoration brings God glory; eternal torment doesn’t. Reconciliation brings God glory; endless anguish doesn’t. Renewal and return cause God’s greatness to shine through the universe; never-ending punishment doesn’t….

    Which is stronger and more powerful, the hardness of the human heart or God’s unrelenting, infinite, expansive love? Thousands through the years have answered that question with the resounding response, “God’s love, of course.” …

    At the center of Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic; hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.” (end of quote)

    For those who are truly Bereans, I highly recommend a follow up book, Hope Beyond Hell The Righteous Purpose of God’s Judgment by Gerry Beauchamin Hope Beyond Hell Gerry covers every verse in the Bible on this subject and does it in a very easy to read style. His comprehensive study is a must for all Christians and is also free on the internet.

    As Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:10-11, 10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. 11 These things command and teach.
    Notice Paul did NOT say only those that believe.

    As another friend pointed out, “Paul spoke of us as “ambassadors for Christ,” and he gave us the central message that we are to present to the world: “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the world of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19) Yet somehow the Church settled on a new message: “Turn or Burn.” Which gospel do you think will be more effective? Which evangelistic message better reveals the heart of God? Is this why Paul’s letters do not even refer to hell (hades) except to establish God’s victory over it? (1 Cor. 15:55)”

    May more people learn of this world of reconciliation and become truth ambassadors for Christ. As Christ said to Pilate in John 18:37, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.: and He also told us in John 3:17, ” For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV)

    May more people listen to the voice of Truth. As the Casting Crown’s song says, “But the voice of truth tells me a different story The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!” And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory” Out of all the voices calling out to me I would choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

    Search the scriptures for yourself and you will find that indeed LOVE WINS!

  4. Its a compelling book. Rob Bell asks the questions that many christians are to scared to ask themselves. He confronts mainstream Christianity and encourages readers to think for themselves instead of going with what leaders, churches, and society have told them to believe. Although his opinions and questions may cause some panic and controversy, he stimulates christians and non-christian to evaluate their beliefs. Rob Bell’s ideas and thought patterns correspond closely to much of C.S. Lewis’s works.

  5. Why I defend Rob Bell’s Love Wins (and other controversial books) | Roger E. Olson
    What I find is this. IF I were a Calvinist, I would find Love Wins troubling. But as an Arminian, I find it challenging but not particularly troubling……read full post at http://ow.ly/5GTYH

  6. “When I last checked, over 20,000 people have recommended this less-than-well-researched article denouncing Rob Bell. That’s right: there are 20,000+ Christians happy to judge a book by its cover and, it seems, happy to ignore the words of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I don’t know your story but I know I need God to show me a lot more grace than was shown to Rob Bell.” from Red Letter Christians » Love Wins: Rob Bell and the New Calvinists http://ow.ly/5GUqs

  7. I agree with this post original post by Jeff Cook on the on Jesus Creed. He makes this excellent point “I suspect the fire behind the debate is often about envy and resentment of a very talented man, about our own inability to get a hearing in the public square, and about the fear that new ways of talking about Jesus might trump what some have preached for decades. Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis” http://ow.ly/5GUJR

  8. There’s not one controversial idea in Love Wins that is not clearly voiced as a real possibility by the most popular evangelical writer of the last century, CS Lewis.

  9. ALF Ward

    THANK YOU for reading the book before you commented on it!

  10. Johanne

    Just want to Know,

    Why did Ananias and Sappira died for a lie?

    Where is Grace?

  11. “I wish Bell was right but the the things he says about hell they don’t jive with Scripture. I believe there is a hell and I also believe God is there at the edge doing everything He can to keep us from going there.”

    In other words, if it isn’t bad news, it ain’t the Good News!

  12. That’s actually a great question Johanne! Never thought of it except for reading it as black & white that they should have never done what they decided in their hearts to hold back some of the money they made on the sale of their land.

    I think the grace lies in they knew Jesus as their personal saviour – saved by grace. It doesn’t, however, mean they are not up for judgement during their time on earth tho. Look at King David. He believed, he sinned big time and suffered for it the rest of his life dealing with all the in-fighting in his personal family so much so that he had to run from his own son to save his life!

    How God determines a persons ‘judgement’ for their sins committed during the time he gives them is something that God decides. He does however tell us how to live, a fruitful, peaceful, exuberant life in the Beatitudes. We all stumble, we all pay for it one way or another but God’s grace through it all is that through accepting his son Jesus in our lives we are promised eternal life. This triumps all religions as Jesus is the only true way to heaven in that you can’t do anything to earn your grace. All you can do is believe in his name, then go as he says.

  13. Lynda Kirkness

    Thank you for your opinion about Rob Bell. I watched a dvd at a Brethren Church about New Age and Christianity. Rob Bell was talked about in this video, with all judgemental “facts” about him. I appreciate your open minded comments about Rob Bell and his beliefs. Thanks for sharing.

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