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

10 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Rob Bell”

  1. Although you detail the pattern Rob uses in previous work related to exploring what he calls “doubts”, I fail to see how one benefits by not reading the book. 

    If your faith is unable to withstand these questions or must be insulated from doubt then maybe an inventory may be in order. 

    I appreciate your post in so much as it requires be to dig a bit deeper into that I believe. I use this and Rob’s work (and others) as an optic of sorts. How is what I believe viewed with this lens?

    If what I’m perceiving is changed by the lens I must then be willing to address the possibility the lens is rectifying and not inherently flawed. 

    Grace and peace

  2. Hi Sam, thanks for the comment. If I were to place two glasses of clear liquid before you and told you that the one on the right was pure, refreshing water from a mountain spring that had been tested, proven safe, and filtered from all impurities, while the one on the left was also water from a mountain spring, but that spring had been poluted by acid levels so high, that it could cause not only severe internal damage, but mayalso result in death, which one would you choose?

    The pure, tested water on the right? Or would you choose the one on the left and decide for yourself if it was harmful? So it is with God’s Word, the pure, tested truth that results in life, while books such as Bell’s contain poison that’s directly contradictory to the Bible. There is nothing to profit by “tasting” something poisonous. The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8 You will never find a passage or an exhortation by the Bible that says “taste and see what is bad, then choose for yourself.” That’s Satan’s line, “Taste the apple, ‘you will not surely die.'”

    You stated “If your faith is unable to withstand these questions or must be insulated from doubt then maybe an inventory may be in order.” But what you need to realize is that God may choose to have this blog reach the most spiritually immature believer, perhaps the 13-yr old, just months removed from salvation. Is their faith able to withstand the attacks from wolves such as Bell? Or do they need a shepherd to defend them and point out the dangers? It is the job of ALL pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers to point out the truths of God’s Word and likewise to “contend for the faith” as Jude states and that includes pointing out the dangers of false gospels and false teachers.

    The only lens that should be used as an optical test is the lens of God’s Word, because it is the only lens that is not flawed and it alone illuminates the field of vision, rather than skews or alters it. I would encourage that the lens of God’s Word be applied to not only this site, but likewise the works of such “pastors” as Rob Bell.

    In Christ,
    John

    Here are some of the latest reviews of Bell’s book that are likely more profitable than actually reading the book itself:
    http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/files/2011/03/LoveWinsReview.pdf

  3. Theology.

    I hear this word thrown around between pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers. I hear this word pronounced with a hint of arrogance and hypocrisy. I hear this word used as a weapon, to wage a war against a brother in Christ. I hear this word abused to back someone (who is apart of the our same journey of faith) into a corner of hatred.

    But what does this word mean to you? Can one’s theology ever be bullet-proof…airtight…or perfect? If so, my question would have to be: have we traded God for our own beliefs? Have we thought ourselves so highly, so holy to think that we have figured out this marvelous mystery called life?

    I feel that your review not only prematurely makes judgments, but it also uses God’s word as a weapon against one of His children. It is also alarming to me that you say, “Here are some of the latest reviews of Bell’s book that are likely more profitable than actually reading the book itself…”

    I can only imagine if a pastor today said, “You don’t need to read the Bible. Read my commentary because it is more profitable than reading the Book itself.” My point being that without reading a book’s words, words that are alive and breathing, you cannot make a proper judgment. But this isn’t really about Rob Bell’s book because I think we all may be surprised after reading it.

    It’s about living how Jesus instructs to with our fellow believers and ourselves.
    It’s about living like Paul says in Romans 12:3-13:
    “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching…”

    I’m a little confused though John because your “About” section states that you are a “Christian saved by grace through faith.” But what grace are you talking about? Grace isn’t pronouncing that someone is dead to them due to their actions. Grace is not making judgments that are reserved for our Father. Grace is not holding a grudge when we our in need of being forgiven. Grace is not recognizing the dirt on someone’s hands when our hands are stained with our own transgressions.

    An author I enjoy (Cathleen Falsani) puts grace like this:
    “Sometimes grace is having the strength to persevere through the storm.
    Sometimes it’s having the guts to rebuild, to take a chance, to follow your nose and your heart rather than your head.
    Sometimes grace is finding out that your preconceived notions are dead wrong.
    Sometimes it’s being surprised by joy.
    Sometimes grace is something you can feel even if you can’t see it.
    And sometimes it’s a bowl of watermelon gazpacho when you were expecting Taco Bell. ”

    As I end this, I just want to make a note that I say these things because I am such a strong believer in the love Christ died for. It is an injustice anywhere and everywhere to not show that same love towards your brother. It is my wish that this beautiful, crazy, divine love be at the root of all your actions.

    Here is a prayer I enjoy that I would like to pass on to you. I hope these words touch your spirit as much as they touched mine.

    May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
    May all beings everywhere,
    The strong and the weak,
    The great and the small,
    The mean and the powerful,
    The short and the long,
    the subtle and the gross:

    May all beings everywhere,
    Seen and unseen,
    Dwelling far off or nearby,
    Being or waiting to become:
    May all be filled with lasting joy.

    Let no one deceive another,
    Let no one anywhere despise another,
    Let no one out of anger or resentment
    Wish suffering on anyone at all.

    Just as a mother with her own life
    Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
    So within yourself let grow
    A boundless love for all creatures.

    Let your love flow outward through the universe,
    To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
    A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.

    Then as you stand or walk,
    Sit or lie down,
    As long as you are awake,
    Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
    Your life will bring heaven to earth.

  4. Saul thanks for taking the time to comment, though lengthy, it was no doubt well thought out. I really see your comment having 2 major arguments against my post, the first is the misuse of God’s Word and the second is the belief that to judge, in light of God’s Word, is wrong.

    When I use the word theology, I use it in its proper context, i.e. “The study of God.” Where can one turn to study God? To His Word, to see what He says about Himself, but unfortunately some would prefer to turn within for their “theology”. So it is not theology or man’s arguments or opinions that are the basis, but God’s Word. I suppose the heart of your point is should God’s Word be weapon? The Christian life is warfare. To ignore that is to simply miss the instruction and warning that God’s Word provides. We need to only look at Ephesians 6:10-20 to know that we are to “suit-up” as it were, with the armor of God and I might add that includes the Sword of the Spirit, i.e. God’s Word. Now the question then becomes, toward whom or what are we prepared to war against? Without question, one such battle would be our fleshy nature. As John Owen points out in The Mortification of Sin, where he exposits Romans 8:13, we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh. But here in Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul tells us a different object of warfare, “…that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Eph. 6:11-12

    Now that‘s an enlightening list of opponents which I suppose could be summarized as those spiritual forces which would oppose, contradict, counter, or otherwise discount, discredit, besmirch the name of Christ, His work on the cross, His resurrection, and His Word. Saul, I make no apologies for defending the cross against the powers that oppose it, whether they are those that claim the Christian name or not. For Rob Bell to openly question the existence of hell, to destroy the cross by saying it doesn’t matter anyway because love wins, places him squarely in the category of “the schemes of the devil”. The central strategy of Satan’s attempt to “sift Peter like wheat” was to have Him deny Christ. Satan is clever, but there is nothing new under the sun. A public display of Bell’s views in a book that has potential to lead people astray places him in a far different category than a Matthew 18:15-17 “if your brother sins” scenario and instead places in the category of Matthew 7:15-20.

    Which brings me to your second point, judging others in light of God’s Word. Isn’t it fascinating that in the chapter of Matthew that begins with Jesus’ statements on judging others also includes His statement on recognizing false prophets by their fruits? Stunning no? Which is it, judge or not judge? The fundamental error of those who claim we are not to judge according to God’s Word is that in the analogy of “the log that is in your own eye” vs. the “speck that is in your brother’s eye” is that verse 5 is neglected, if not omitted entirely. Note Jesus says, “You hypocrite” and then stops His point right? No, He continues, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus is actually saying clear out the log in your eye SO THAT you can see clear enough to take the spec out of your brother’s eye. But this all assumes that we are talking about a God-fearing brother in Christ who has perhaps fallen into sin. Bell’s case is again different as He is proclaiming “another gospel” and “another Christ” as is evident by the “fruit” of his book. This doesn’t make him a “brother” that has wandered from the truth and should be brought back from sin (James 5:19-20), but instead as Jesus clearly points out is a “ravenous wolf” that is to be recognized by his fruit. How could one possibly recognize bad fruit unless there was the standard of God’s Word against which to measure it?

    Additionally, as one who claims the name of Christ and has a rather influential ministry within the visible church, this places Bell squarely within the realm of I Corinthians 5:12-13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church who you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” So there you have it, he is either able to be judged as a false prophet bearing bad fruit who has crept in “unnoticed” (Jude 4) or he is able to be judged as one within the Church, which will it be? Either way, God’s Word is the standard against which he should be judged and just to point out, it is His Word that judges, not the person that observes the fruit. It seems your logic would condemn the actions of Paul in Corinthians and deem them as unloving.

    A few words of caution as I conclude, you stated, “It is also alarming to me that you say, ‘Here are some of the latest reviews of Bell’s book that are likely more profitable than actually reading the book itself…’ I can only imagine if a pastor today said, ‘You don’t need to read the Bible. Read my commentary because it is more profitable than reading the Book itself.’” If I were to follow your logic in this statement it would place Bell’s book as the equivalent of the Bible and the reviews I posted as equivalent to pastoral commentaries. Certainly that was not your intent. It should not be alarming that I recommend critical reviews of a literary piece of fiction which take minutes to read over a book that would take hours to read and a lifetime to purge from one’s mind. Secondly, you seem to be confusing God’s sovereign grace with brotherly love. When I state I am “saved by grace through faith” that is God’s sovereign grace, meaning I was once an enemy of God, dead in trespasses and sins, yet He still saw fit through His amazing, loving, and powerful grace to pick me up, clean me off, give me new life, and make me a child of His. It seems as if the examples you gave of what grace isn’t would more closely resemble brotherly love. But again, the point which I’ve belabored is that I don’t see Bell as a brother in Christ. I don’t coddle and placate the devil, why would I do so with his messengers “clothed in righteousness”? (II Corinthians 11:15) Next, is the implication that Bell’s book is “alive and breathing.” Certainly that was not your intention. God’s Word is the only book that is alive and breathing, as we read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Finally, the use of Cathleen Falsani, a Rob Bell apologist, to support your argument seems to be circular reasoning. I would suggest the Epistle of Romans for a more thorough, biblical definition of grace. You are correct about Bell’s book, no doubt everyone was surprised to read it, namely the mainstream media (see the Martin Bashir interview), leaders within the church, and parishioners of Bells own church.

    In the end Saul, my attitude towards false prophets is perhaps too harsh, as Luther said, “I am but a man and can err”. But I cannot idly sit by as a watchmen while professors of the faith creep and attempt to “steal and kill and destroy” the sheep. It will not happen and by God’s grace as long as He strengthens me, I will continue to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

    If you’d like to respond on errors that I’ve made with my analysis of Bell, his book, or his “theology” please do so with Scripture.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  5. “So it is not theology or man’s arguments or opinions that are the basis, but God’s Word.”

    but it is man’s arguments…..because God’s Word can be interpreted many, many different ways. Metaphor or not metaphor? Should be bound or loose? Culturally relevant or always relevant? I feel like it’s very arrogant to believe only our way is proper theology let alone to claim it to be God’s word. The only thing that is God’s word would be the verse itself. All other things would be opinions.

    So just as we could go on about verses of judging, we could refer to Jesus talking in John 8:7 ..we could look at the pharisees and the seven woes and getting a little too uptight about rules and interpreting and commandments, etc, etc.

    I like to stick with what Jesus calls the greatest commandment::

    Love God.
    Love people.

    Let’s humble ourselves.
    Let’s not discuss to death.
    Let’s get out there and serve…let’s get out there and love…it is a verb !
    let’s fascinate people to Jesus:)

    I like to think of like this:: share the Gospel without words. Try it. Pretend that you can only use ONE verse if that, and the rest…you must show, you must be different enough (and not by wearing Christi
    an T-shirts, bracelets, etc) to really catch people’s attention, to make people WANT to follow the Way. Let’s show people what life is before death..not just after 😉

    In Him,

    Andrea

  6. Hi Andrea, welcome to the discussion.

    I think if you took the time to think through the first paragraph of your comment, in light of God’s Word, what you would see is that it actually makes Christians powerless to evangelize to non-believers. Let me explain. Hidden in that statement, whether you realize it or not, is the subjectivity of truth. Meaning that what I think is true for me, may not necessarily be truth for you or someone else. If as believers we cannot sit down with the Word of God and explain to a nonbeliever their need for the Savior because of their sinful, depraved nature, then Christianity has no power and the cross is of no effect, which is why Rob Bell has come out with the logical next step. What he’s done in the past is to so focus the Christian life on “love” and not judging that he has set the stage for all paths lead to God. He has taught that it’s hateful to “judge” other religions or other people and arrogant to think ours is the only way to God. It literally strips the Gospel of its power. I will remind you that in John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through Me.” Isn’t that an arrogant statement? Doesn’t that judge and condemn people from all other religions and beliefs to Hell, unless they follow His Way? The cross IS OFFENSIVE. It is a STUMBLING BLOCK. And when we just love, love, love without any truth, we are not helping people, but we are actually doing them a grave disservice. People cannot properly understand their need for Jesus, the Savior, unless they understand that as an unbeliever they are under the wrath of God. Without love in its proper balance with truth, in essence these people will be loved straight into Hell.

    Since you state, “the only thing that would be God’s Word would be the verse itself” then what does this passage say:

    “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    I offer no interpretation or explanation to its meaning, but to simply let it speak for itself. Has anything that I’ve said either in this post or the comments been out of line with this passage? Have I used God’s Word in line with what Paul has told Timothy? There is only one true interpretation with Scripture and that is God’s original intended meaning. I would hope that His intent for this passage should be crystal clear, no?

    Andrea, we cannot simply “stick” to one verse about loving God and people and neglect the rest of Scripture. Otherwise, why have it at all? Every single word in the Bible is there for us, from the genealogies, to the temple designs, the chronicles of kings, to the Gospels. All Scripture, as Paul says. Not just the passages we like or are fond of.
    I appreciate your passion to love and serve and without you knowing anything else about me, you likely assume that I do neither of those. But ask yourself, how loving is it to know the truth and not share it? How loving is it to know about false teaching that will destroy lives and not tell anyone? How loving is it to know the Gospel and not share it? Feel free to disagree with my position on Bell if you like, disagree with my use of Scripture if that comforts you, but I want to warn you of something very, very serious.

    “I like to think of like this:: share the Gospel without words.” What I’m about to say, I say with all authority of Scripture. This statement that you made is an impossibility and it will send people to Hell. The Gospel is not lived, it happened in Jesus Christ and we are to share it. That means to communicate it through God’s Word. People need to hear they are sinners, because it expresses their need for the Savior. They need to hear that Christ died so that all who believe in Him will be removed from their bondage and slavery to sin. They need to hear that those who trust in Him will be justified and have eternal life. They need to hear about the cross. They need to hear about God’s wrath poured out on Christ at Calvary so that everyone who believes in Him will not face His wrath at their judgment. They need to hear how the loving Father, the loving Son, and the loving Holy Spirit all work together in the hearts and lives of believers. They need to hear that God loved His people so much that He gave His Son. Don’t take away the wonder and power of the cross and try to replace it with “living” the Gospel. Don’t take away the majesty of Jesus dying and raising from the dead and replace it with “catching people’s attention”. To take all of that away from people is not loving, but it actually withholds the truth and I can think of nothing more unloving than that. If you want to get people’s attention, then you take them straight to the cross and tell them their need for the Savior.

    By Grace, through Faith, in Christ…Alone

  7. John, in a comment above you stated, “my attitude towards false prophets is perhaps too harsh”. Please don’t back down. False profits are extremely dangerous and should be handled as such. I want to applaud your post, and I’m sure many readers who did not comment would echo my response (I tend to comment more on things of which I am critical, so it makes sense to me that the comments above are all critical [but well-intentioned, and they make for good dialogue!]).

    Bell’s motivation seems to be to make Christianity more palatable to the masses. I would argue it could not be more palatable as it is when unmolested, and that it is our job as believers to show others just how beautiful the gifts of salvation and abundant life are. My personal view is that this isn’t done by threatening people with hell, but by living love – giving recklessly and putting others ahead of self with time, energy, money… all of our resources. This shift in my life has brought me no end of peace and joy, and I want that for others. That’s a life worth living, and a person others want to listen to. “Why are you so generous? Why are you so happy?” “Let me tell you, friend.”

    The hell angle may have been overplayed by well-intentioned church people. Perhaps it could use de-emphasization in its role within the great commission. But to belittle hell be claiming it is temporary (or non-existant, as annihilationists claim) is not acceptable.

  8. Thanks for the comment and encouragement Peter! I don’t have any plans to back down towards heresy’s and false prophets. I sometimes need to make sure my “harshness” toward men like Bell isn’t transferred to those unsuspecting followers of his who have fallen for his lies. They are, after all, among the people I am trying to warn out of genuine conern.

    In Christ,

    John

Click in the box below to subscribe and get new content delivered straight to your inbox. Or leave a comment to join the discussion.