Tag Archives: Love Wins

Time Magazine, Rob Bell, and Pastoral Commentaries

Just in time for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the grave, 3 days after dying on the cross for the sins of all who believe in Him, and taking upon Himself the wrath of God, Time Magazine is set to release a cover story devoted to Rob Bell and his controversial new book Love Wins.  I’ve posted the link to that article below, along with commentary to it written by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The Time article is in essence an apologetic for Rob Bell and it is theologically shallow and biblically inaccurate.  It represents the mainstream [theologically] liberal media view that would call into question the veracity and inerrancy of Scripture.  When the “world” begins to gravitate towards so called “Christian” books, then that should immediately send up a red flag because the Bible is crystal clear that its message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block and folly (1 Corinthians 1:23) and the natural man cannot accept nor understand the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Books such as The Purpose Driven Life, The DaVinci Code, and The Shack, should serve as recent reminders of so called Christian books that have been popular in the mainstream, but woefully unfaithful to the Word of God.  Such is the case with Love Wins.

While I offer up those articles below, I also commend in its entirety, yesterday’s blog post written by Pastor John MacArthur entitled: “Rob Bell: A Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?”  Below is that post.  Tomorrow, I’ll continue to post the blog series regarding Bell, that Dr. MacArthur mentions.

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From: http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110412

If Christopher Hitchens or Deepak Chopra penned a book that scoffed at the biblical teaching on hell, we would not be surprised. So why would anyone be shocked or confused when Rob Bell writes Love Wins? Has Bell shown any more commitment to gospel truth, or any more devotion to the principle of biblical authority than Hitchens or Chopra?

Is Rob Bell truly a Christian, or is he one of those dangerous deceivers Scripture warns us about repeatedly (Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 2:1; etc.)?

It’s a fair—and necessary—question. Christ’s famous warning about wolves in sheep’s clothing is given to us as an imperative: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Our Lord clearly expects His true disciples to be able to spot spiritual imposters and wolves in sheep’s clothing—especially those who are purveyors of deadly false doctrines.

Rob Bell certainly fits that category. He relentlessly casts doubt on the authority and reliability of Scripture. He denies the Bible’s perspicuity, disavows its hard truths, and ridicules some of the most important features of the gospel.

Granted, Bell (who was raised in the evangelical movement and is an alumnus of Wheaton College) still insists on calling himself “evangelical.” He reiterated that claim recently in a March 14 interview with Lisa Miller, where he stated, “Do I think that I’m evangelical and orthodox to the bone? Yes.”

A careful examination of Bell’s teaching suggests, however, that his profession of faith is not credible. His claim that he is “evangelical and orthodox to the bone” is, to put it bluntly, a lie. Bell’s teaching gives no evidence of any real evangelical conviction. If “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44), we cannot blithely embrace Rob Bell as a “brother” just because he says he wants to be accepted as an evangelical.

If, as Jesus said, His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27), then we ought to look with the utmost suspicion on anyone who doubts and denies as much of Jesus’ teaching as Rob Bell does, and yet claims to be a follower of Christ.

Scripture is crystal-clear about this: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Historic evangelicalism has always affirmed the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture, while declaring (as Jesus and the apostles did) that the only way of salvation for fallen humanity is through the atoning work of Christ, and the only instrument of justification is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.

Rob Bell believes none of those things. His skepticism about so many key biblical truths, his penchant for sowing doubt in his hearers, and his obvious contempt for the principles of divine justice as taught in Scripture all give evidence that he is precisely the kind of unbelieving false teacher Scripture warns us about.

Bell is an inveterate syncretist who loves to blend “progressive” and politically correct dogmas with eastern mysticism, humanistic jargon, and Christian terminology. His teaching is full of barren ideas borrowed directly from old liberalism, sometimes rephrased in postmodern jargon but still reeking of stale Socinianism.

What Bell is peddling is nothing like New Testament Christianity. It is a man-centered religion totally devoid of both clarity and biblical authority.

Given those facts, you might think any true evangelical would reject Bell and his teaching outright. But evidently many in the American evangelical movement think they are obliged simply to accept at face value Bell’s claim of orthodoxy. No less than Mart DeHaan, voice of Radio Bible Class, decried Bell’s critics, portraying them as the divisive ones for pointing out the unsoundness of Bell’s teaching. DeHaan wrote,

I’m left wondering… are we allowing love (and truth) to win now… by using threats of group pressure and blackballing of brothers like Rob, and those who openly or secretly stand with him? Is that really the best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy? [emphasis added]

The biblical answer to DeHaan’s question is clear and fairly simple: The best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy is to “[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching . . . to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers . . . who must be silenced” (Titus 1:9-11).

We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell (cf. Matthew 23:15).

In a series of posts this week, we will demonstrate from Rob Bell’s own published works that he has long been hostile to virtually every vital gospel truth; we will consider some of the questions he has raised about what the Bible has to say about hell; and we will compare and contrast what Bell is saying about hell with what Jesus said about it.

Buckle in and get ready to be challenged. These are admittedly some of the hardest truths in the New Testament, but there’s no reason anyone holding authentic evangelical convictions should find the subject confusing or controversial.

John MacArthur
Pastor-Teacher

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See also Time Magazine article “Is Hell Dead?”: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,2065080,00.html 

Al Mohler’s Response to the Time Magazine article: http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/04/15/a-massive-shift-coming-in-what-it-means-to-be-a-christian-time-magazine-considers-rob-bell/ 

Lady Gaga, Rob Bell, and Misunderstanding the Love of God

The last few months I’ve been working through the glorious truth of God’s love.  I confess this is a challenging and powerful truth, perhaps more so than any I have studied.  It is with great humility and much searching through the Scriptures that I can even attempt to express here a fraction of God’s love.  In addition to reading God’s Word I’ve also listened to numerous sermons from John MacArthur, D.A. Carson, Paul Washer, Tim Conway, and others.  I’ve read commentaries from Charles Hodge, Matthew Henry, Calvin, John Owen, A.W.  Pink, John Frame, Wayne Grudem, J.I. Packer, Spurgeon, Matthew Poole, and others.  Many men smarter than I.  Some I agree with, some I have trouble agreeing with, but my studies are not exhaustive and my conclusion cannot be finalized.  Though I can draw from their insights, what I have found is based not on the assumptions of men, but on God’s Word alone. 

This really began last year while leading a small group study that was reading through David Platt’s book Radical.  In that book, Platt points out that:

“If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of, ‘The message of Christianity is God loves me.’  Or someone might say, ‘The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.’  As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical?  Isn’t it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible?  ‘God loves me’ is not the essence of biblical Christianity.  Because if ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?  God loves me.  Me.  Christianity’s object is me.” 

As Platt concludes, “God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him.  We are not the end of the Gospel; God is.”

This really got me thinking about God’s love and how often the statement “God is love”, from 1 John 4:9 is used.  As I wrestled with what many perceive to be a simple, straightforward statement, I began to see that many times “God is love” is abused by many well-meaning Christians and simply put it is not all the Bible has to say about who God is.  As J.I. Packer adds “God is love” is “one of the most tremendous utterances in the Bible – and also one of the most misunderstood.”  Misunderstood?  How can something so seemingly simple, so oft used be described as misunderstood?  As is often the case when passages are taken out of context or hijacked from their biblical meaning, “God is love” has been wrongly designated as the summation of all who God is, to the neglect of His other attributes.  As Packer summarizes, “’God is love’ is not the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned.  ‘God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.”  Now what does that mean?  To understand this perspective better, let’s look at two recent, public examples.

1.       “’God is love’ is not the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned.” – Packer

It’s no secret that Pastor Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins took the evangelical world by storm the last few weeks.  Bloggers, pastors, and authors, all weighed in on the controversial theme of God’s love which Bell attempted to address.  If you’re unfamiliar with Bell or his book, see The Curious Case of Rob Bell.  In that book, which was released March 15, after a firestorm of publicity, Bell takes the position of a form of universalism by stating in the end no one really goes to hell because God’s love wins.  Bell’s position fails in the light of the Bible, in that Bell blatantly rejects the biblical truth that God upholds his holiness, with love for Himself and with justice towards sin and the sinner.  For example, take the oft-quoted passage John 3:16 states, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This is a faithfully true and wonderful passage that summarizes the Gospel.  However in this same chapter we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36 Just 20 verses away from the one so frequently quoted, on the same page of most people’s Bibles, the passage states that for those who do not believe, “the wrath of God remains on him.”  God’s wrath remains.  As we learn from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:3 we are all “by nature children of wrath.”  Everyone ever born was “by nature” under the wrath of God.  Does that mean that God ceases being a God of love?  May it never be!  However, the Bible is not silent concerning the wrath of God towards sinners.  Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  Psalm 11:5, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  In Nahum 1:2 we read, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”  Likewise, Colossians 3:6, Ephesians 5:6, and Romans 2:5 warn of the wrath of God to come, of which Psalm 7:11 speaks so powerfully, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.  If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.”

As humans with finite, emotional minds we often think that God must act and behave like we do.  That God must be emotional and fickle with His feelings like we are.  But this simply isn’t true.  Because of the man-centered nature of everything that we do, including how many of us read the Bible, we tend to think that humans, i.e. God’s creation, must be the sole recipient of God’s love.  If we followed that logic through, then if God had never created us He would never have known what it means to love.  Again following that thought, if God had justly destroyed everyone, including Noah and his family, in the flood, because of their sin, that logic would say that God would’ve ceased being loving.  But what’s missing in this reasoning is that God must have love for Himself.  We know this is true because in John 14:31 we read Jesus saying, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father….”  Likewise in John 3:35 we read, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”  God the Father loves His Son Jesus Christ, yet He poured out His wrath on Him at the cross.  Did that mean He stopped loving Him?  No!  It was because of His love that He had to pour out His wrath.  It was because of love for His holiness and His righteousness that He could not leave sin unpunished and that His wrath had to be poured out on Christ, who Himself bore our sins.  But there is more love here, the love of God for His children and the love of Christ for His bride.  And this brings us to the second point.

2.       “’God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.” – Packer

This weekend I was watching Todd Friel’s show Wretched TV.  It’s an entertaining show, much like his radio broadcast, that includes a variety of the latest Christian news, video clips, and worldview topics.  In this particular episode he included a brief excerpt from a viewer email (I think) that pointed out the demonic exhibition that Lady Gaga calls a “concert”.  The email mentioned a “jesus-like” statue that she brings on stage, which is used as a source for flames, fireworks, and blood.  Since I know the influence she has, particularly on the youth, I searched for clips for more info on what was taking place on stage with this “jesus-like” figure.  What I found was that in the midst of a “concert” is what appears to be much occultism and satanic behavior.  The statue on stage looked less like man’s perception of Jesus and more like an angelic figure (perhaps fallen angel?), with wings and a long robe.  At the point in the concert when the statue appears, just before her performance of the song Alejandro, Gaga, already covered in blood, begins some sort of weird monologue with the figure which seems to be a combination of adoration and worship, but less like what you would see in a Sunday church service and more like demonic possession (yes I’m serious).  She concludes this set by having the figure pour out blood on her and her dancers.  Parents, keep in mind, this is the music your children are likely listening to. 

How does this all fit in with our discussion thus far?  Well just prior to this song performance, at the conclusion of the song Teeth, Lady Gaga, already covered in blood, lying on stage begins a monologue with the crowd in which she states, “Jesus, I’m confused. People say you only love one kind of person or a certain kind of beliefs, or a certain kind of ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But Jesus, you have blessed me; as I bleed to death in front of 20,000 people every night, preaching love and unity, I’m quite certain that Jesus must love EVERYBODY!!!! Jesus loves everybody…” (from the forum on her website, emphasis hers)

This statement is reminiscent of the message Rob Bell was portraying in the video promo for his new book and no doubt the message that was inside.  How is her statement that “Jesus must love everybody”, from a secular humanist perspective, a position that would closely define Bell also, any different than the well-meaning Christian, who we mentioned earlier, that feels “God is love” is the sole biblical description of who God is?   

How would that well-meaning Christian interact with the humanist who declares “Jesus loves everyone”?  Never mind the fact that the statement in this instance was given in a blasphemous, mocking delivery, within an atmosphere that closely resembles pagan worship.  See, herein lies the danger with misunderstanding the love of God and not realizing that, as Packer stated, “’God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.”  To not realize that first God must love Himself and that second God sets His love on His children grossly misrepresents what the Bible says and allows books such as Bell’s and statements such as Lady Gaga’s credence within the secular world.  It gives validity to the thought that “Jesus loves me just the way I am” so there is no need for repentance, no need for Christ’s death, no need to come to Him for mercy.  And it brings up Bells’ questions such as how can God love those whom He sends to Hell?  But the truth is because of God’s love for His own holiness He must have wrath and that wrath must have an object.  It cannot merely be sin, for sin itself is not judged and cast into hell.  It is in fact the unrepentant sinner that is the object of God’s wrath, just as we read in John 3:36, Ephesians 2:3, and the multiple passages included above. 

This brings us back to the believer, who was once also the object of God’s wrath because of their own sinful nature.  Packer describes God’s love as, “an exercise of his goodness toward individual sinners whereby , having identified himself with their welfare, he has given his son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and to enjoy him in a covenant relation.”  As would be expected, this statement is centered around biblical truths.  In a passage we’re familiar with here, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 the Lord says to Israel, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  God’s love is specific, with a specific object that He chooses, from his own free will and not because of anything they have done or will do.  His love is not a general, generic, universal love for everyone.  It is specific, as we read here, and in this passage He tells us His love is set on Israel, not the other nations. 

Let’s turn to a parallel passage in the New Testament to see God’s love is again set forth towards a distinct people, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:4-5 Note here again, the reason the object of God’s love receives it is “according to the purpose of his will.”  This amazing correlation from Old Testament to New is what makes John 3:16 so powerful.  Prior to the arrival of Jesus, salvation belonged to the Jews, but in John’s gospel we read, “For God so loved the world” which means Jews and Gentiles, collectively the world.  This passage cannot be used to show the universality of God’s love towards every individual, nor can it be used to support the universality of salvation (see all of the verses mentioned earlier regarding God’s wrath toward sinners).  Likewise, the Apostle Paul, quoting Malachi 1:2-3, states, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Romans 9:13  This passage supports the idea that John’s use of “world” here cannot be inclusive of every person from Adam until present, nor can it exclude everyone but “New Testament” believers, because this would then negate the salvation of the Old Testament saints, thus violating Hebrews 11.  As Charles Spurgeon states, “The words [world and all] are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts – some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted his redemption to neither Jew nor Gentile.”  We’re left then with the previous statement that “world” here means generally, Jews and Gentiles.  But what about God’s love in this passage? 

The expression of God’s love is seen in the next clause, “that he gave his only Son”.  God put His love on display by sending Christ to die on the cross.  God’s love is extended to those who believe, while His wrath continues on those who do not believe, which is what we read in John 3.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love through the death of Christ on the cross for sinners.  But as we’ve discussed, this certainly cannot mean universal love, nor can it mean universal salvation.  Let us conclude this discussion by applying a simple Scriptural test to the love of God.  In Romans 8:35 the Apostle Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  While a discussion on qualifying the “us” used here is outside the scope of this post, let’s instead focus on those things Paul mentions as unable to separate God’s love from those He loves.  He lists tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword all with respect to faithful witnesses to the Word of God.  He then lists that neither death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate “us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Ask this simple question, if death cannot separate the object of God’s love from His love, then either God sends to hell those whom He loves or unbelievers are not the object of God’s love.  The answer to this test can be found in 1 John 4:10, “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.”  Love here is defined.  Propitiation means by definition that Christ satisfied or appeased the wrath of God and then reconciled sinners to God.  We read earlier that the Gospel of John said that for those who do not believe, the wrath of God remains on them, therefore Christ has not propitiated or satisfied God’s wrath for them and therefore they can know nothing of God’s love.

The only real biblical defense against the humanist idea that “Jesus must love everybody”, as Lady Gaga claims and the humanist idea that God’s “Love wins” as Rob Bell claims, is a thorough, biblical understanding of the love of God.  Otherwise, it allows God’s love to be incorrectly applied as salve to the sinner’s conscious, before they have a chance to realize their need for it.  It’s like taking medicine without being diagnosed as sick.  Christ said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  If a person is not diagnosed as being a sinner, how would they know their need for the Savior?

Friend if you are reading this blog for the first time and are not yet saved, then you must know because of your sin, God’s wrath remains on you.  You know nothing of the love of God outside of the display of Christ on the cross and of God’s common grace in providentially allowing you the conveniences of life.  Make no mistake, God will not withhold His wrath forever.  You, dear friend are in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Repent of your sin and trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Know that no sin is too great for Christ to forgive.  Know that Christ Jesus died for sinners just like you and if you only repent and believe in Him, then His amazing love will be a banner over you for all eternity and you will be a child of God.  Do you desire to know the love of God?  Flee from the wrath that is to come, Repent and Believe! 

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

“The most difficult task you are ever going to have to overcome is to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see your sin as it truly is and then to believe that God loves you as much as He says He does.” – Paul Washer

The Curious Case of Rob Bell

Yesterday morning, ABC’s Good Morning America featured a segment on Pastor Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever. 

Below is the publisher’s statement for the upcoming release:

Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins

Here is the promo video from Bell himself:

(For a thorough commentary on the promo video, please see here: Rob Bell Outs Himself)

These “teasers” by Bell and his publishing company have created quite the controversy in the evangelical world (see popular Christian blogs by Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Denny Burk, Tim Challies, et.al.), enough so that the nationally viewed secular program Good Morning America took notice.  In that segment, they provided viewpoints of those both for and against Bells views.  Representing the orthodox Christian view on the existence of hell was Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who offered the following statement, “If indeed Rob Bell denies the existence of hell, this is a betrayal of biblical truth that has severe spiritual and evangelistic consequences… Jesus was himself very, very clear about the reality and threat of hell.”1  Representing a defense of Bell’s alleged view on hell was Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, who offered this comment, “I think that the people who are going after Rob Bell as controversial are themselves closer to heresy than Rob Bell is… Jesus’ message was basically that the love of God is stronger than anything we can do. And the forgiveness of God is stronger, so why would that God be torturing people in some made-up hell?… Centuries of theologians … have said that the question of heaven and hell was not something that we should be worrying about but rather doing good in this life and loving God.”1  More on the existence of hell later in this post, but first, who is Rob Bell and what has he written before?

It’s no secret that Bell has had a dramatic effect on college students and youth groups nationwide.  And it’s no secret he’s had his share of critics, of which I am one (See the following posts: The Idolatry of Rob Bell,  4 Point Spiritual AbuseThe Emerging Heresy, My Heart is Burdened, Apostasy: The Wolves are Emerging).  So what are we to make of him and his new book?  Many, like Tim Challies, have taken a wait and see approach claiming that it’s premature to assume that Bell is departing from orthodox Christianity in favor of universalism, the belief that hell does not exist and that in the end everyone will be saved.  Others, such as Al Mohler argue, “We must await the release of the full book in order to know what Rob Bell is really saying, but his advance promotion for the book is already saying something, and it is not good.”  What many of these faithful men miss is that Rob Bell has established the pattern for what his new book will say based on his previous works and his promotional video and that’s all that really needs to be taken into consideration for this new book. 

In Bell’s first book, Velvet Elvis, he develops what he calls “trampoline theology” where each “spring” represents a doctrine of the Christian faith.  Using the trampoline imagery, what Bell actually describes is a flexible and ever changing system of beliefs that is based more on doubt than truth.  This is his modus operandi, to create doubt while never actually denying the truths of God’s Word.  In the Ligonier Ministries February edition of Tabletalk magazine, this is described as “Divorcing Doctrine from Scripture” and is an age-old attempt to undermine the truth.  This is perhaps best described in this article by both affirming AND denying the existence of the truth of God’s Word “in the same breath without ever directly challenging what He said….you must appear to accept what He says, but you must give the impression that what you are offering is nothing more than a mere codicil [addition] to what He has written.”  And this is precisely what Bell does.  In his neither affirming nor denying truths, he creates doubts, and his methods are smooth.  For instance, in the context of the trampoline theology, Bell pulls out the spring of the virgin birth of Christ by offering the following:

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?  But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things.  And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” (Velvet Elvis, pg. 26)

Clever approach isn’t it?  If nothing else, Bell is smart, very smart, in a dangerous sort of way.  While beginning his supposition with the ridiculous, “what if” Jesus were the son of a man named Larry, he ventures into more than just speculation by intermingling facts with more doubts, such as the existence of cults during the time of Jesus, and distorting the meaning of virgin in the Bible, followed by more “what ifs” for the cultural definition of virgin birth.  All meant to subtly undermine the truth.  Now notice the pattern that follows.

“What if that spring was seriously questioned? 

Could a person keep jumping?  Could a person still love God?  Could you still be a Christian?

Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?

Or does the whole thing fall apart?

I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more.  I’m a part of it, and I want to pass it on to the next generation.  I believe that God created everything and that Jesus is Lord and that God has plans to restore everything.

But if the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t strong in the first place, was it?”(Velvet Elvis pg. 26-27)

Observe his pattern of creating doubt in the mind of his readers, affirming certain “truths” for himself, then concluding by saying if the “spring” of the miraculous virgin birth was removed and the whole faith fell apart, then it wasn’t strong in the first place.

In his “what ifs” and intermingling of truths with doubts what Bell doesn’t explain to his readers is that “if” the virgin birth is taken away, then Christ is now of sinful origin, not a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.  It also means that Jesus is not God’s Son and likewise asserts that the Bible is a lie.  If his “what if” spring of the virgin birth is taken away, not only does the Christian faith fall apart, but it’s null and void.  In similar fashion, he questions the real definition of faith/believing, the authority of Scripture, individual ability to interpret Scripture, and hell.

Bell’s slick “what if” methods are not something new, quite the contrary.  In fact, they have their root in the oldest sin, the original questioner of the truth, the father of lies, Satan himself.  1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

Bell employs the exact methods that Satan used on Eve by creating doubts and “what ifs.”  “Did God actually say?”  Which brings us back to Bell’s new book, Love Wins where he once again resorts to this same strategy by questioning if the Bible actually says that hell is a real place or merely a misunderstood, mistranslated word and instead no one will end up there.  This doubt will once again be created in the mind of the reader, while Bell himself will likely claim to hold vaguely to the orthodox truth, but then summarize that a God who is love cannot actually send anyone to hell. 

19th century minister J.C. Ryle offers the following statement on the questions surrounding the existence of hell during his own time:

“I believe the time is come when it is a positive duty to speak plainly about the reality and eternity of hell.  A flood of false doctrine has broken in upon us.  Men are beginning to tell us that God is too merciful to punish souls forever, that there is a love of God lower even than hell, and that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly some of them may be, will sooner or later be saved.  We are invited to leave the old paths of apostolic Christianity.  We are told that the views of our fathers about hell, and the devil, and punishment, are obsolete and old-fashioned.  We are to embrace what is called ‘kinder theology’, and treat hell as a pagan fable, or a bugbear to frighten children and fools.  Against such false teaching I desire, for one, to protest.  Painful, sorrowful, distressing as the controversy may be, we must not blink it, or refuse to look the subject in the face.  I, for one, am resolved to maintain the old position, and to assert the reality and eternity of hell.

Once let the old doctrine of hell be overthrown, and the whole system of Christianity is unsettled, unscrewed, unpinned and thrown into disorder.  I believe that the man who finds arguments for evading the evidence of the Bible on this question has arrived at a state of mind in which reasoning is useless…The minister who keeps back hell from his people in  his sermons is neither a faithful nor a charitable man.”

The problem with drawing attention to Bell’s new book, without explaining Bell’s previous writing patterns, his theological errors, and the unbiblical denial of hell’s existence is that it creates curiosity in the public arena.  People will be curious what Bell’s conclusions will be and what all the fuss is about and this is precisely what any author or publisher interested in selling books wants to accomplish.  But herein lies the greatest danger.  Because of Bell’s creative, polished delivery, and the intelligent dialogue which he develops with his readers in creating doubt, the result is a brainwashing of false doctrine and misguided philosophical ideas.  This is precisely what the Apostle Paul warns the church at Corinth of in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”  Note here that Paul refers to the exact same passage that we looked at earlier from Genesis 3 and says just as Eve, “your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”  This is where submitting to the curiosity of the fleshly mind in desiring to read what Bell has written opens the door to lead astray the thoughts of the Christian mind.  Don’t take this lightly brethren.  False doctrine has no place in the Christian mind.  Scripture is replete with examples of false teachers and bad doctrine, but it never commends the Christian to take up the study of these philosophies and allow them a foothold in the mind.  Quite the contrary.  Scripture warns to “beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1) and to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)  Instead of allowing these dangerous teachers a place in our minds, we are to think on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is  just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

When Bell’s new book is released, do your mind a favor and avoid it.  Your reading time would be better spent in God’s Word, or in God glorifying books such as Knowing God, The Holiness of God, Holiness, or The Works of John Owen.

1. Quote source: Denny Burk

Update: Good Morning America properly credited, with link