Pastoral Thoughts on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”

20 03 2011

What’s the Big Deal?           
By Pastor Jerry Bishop
L’Anse Baptist Church 

Pastoral Thoughts on Rob Bell’s book
“Love Wins” and subsequent interviews

 

Rob Bell has published his latest book and it is a big deal.  It will shake up or destroy the faith of many, especially disaffected evangelicals who struggle with conservative doctrinal positions and dogmatism.  Sadly it will also soothe the conscience of some who are thinking about their eternal destiny.

          Bell’s book “Love Wins” seeks to show that the Bible’s message is that God’s love wins.   His love trumps all His other attributes.  God’s love will keep most of us from going to hell.  His love will open the gates for those already there.  They may leave “their hell” whenever they choose, after all, the gates of heaven are always open (Rev. 21:25).   Also, you can rest easy because hell is really just the misery you have created for yourself in this life.  You only go to the hell of your bad choices.   In other words, don’t worry, its OK.  One wonders if the words of Peter don’t actually apply?

 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words;  2 Peter 2:1-3

It’s a big deal because Rob Bell is considered a Christian Rock Star.  He is extremely popular with younger Christians.  Rob’s popularity transcends all denominational boundaries.   He fills auditoriums around the country with his talented, provocative, insightful, engaging talks.  Rob has done many short films called NOOMA videos which are played in most youth groups around the country.   This book will impact many because he is already well known and appreciated.

It’s a big deal because today’s youth is much more influenced by each other than they are by the authorities in their lives.  Many of our youth live out a kind of community where they are connected 24/7.  They tweet, facebook and text around the clock.  Without realizing it, they have followed a kind of FRIENDS mentality,  where life consists of me and my friends.    As a result, religious views are merely different flavors of ice cream.  You may like vanilla.  I like chocolate.  But we both like ice cream.  Churches really aren’t that different.  They all have truth.  Woe to the Church which says someone else is in error.  And if you are from the older generation, you just don’t understand.

It’s a big deal because Rob Bell denies the reality of hell and is deceitful about it.   Lisa Miller, religious writer from Newsweek repeatedly asked him if he wasn’t really a “universalist”, someone who believes that in the end everyone will be saved,  he said no.  So she asked the question a different way.  “Do you believe in a real hell?”  He said YES.  “Hell is all the bad choices you make and the misery you cause yourself”.  This same answer he repeated several times.  He knew she was asking about a place of fiery torment.  He should have been honest and said no, not the kind of hell you are thinking of.  Why does he feel the need to be deceptive?  No parent would accept such deceptive answers from a teen, why should anyone accept them from a pastor?
It’s a big deal because Rob Bell denies the reality of heaven.  He said heaven is not some place to which we go when we die, “some kind of evacuation”.  God brings heaven to earth and merges the two.  He says we should not be trying to help people get ready for an eternity in heaven, we should be working to bring heaven to earth.  God is not concerned about the next life, but about how you live now.  Lisa Miller tried again,  “So, assuming a person is a believer, where does he or she go when they die?”.   Bell says, “I watched a man die recently, and he was saying how wonderful this is. He died in peace. That is heaven!”.

     This brings us to a glaring weakness in Bell’s understanding of Scripture.  He confuses the Millennial Kingdom promised to the nation of Israel with eternity.  He quotes Christ who said, “Thy Kingdom Come”, as proof that heaven is on earth.  This kingdom is promised in the Old Testament to Israel.  It’s duration is revealed in the New Testament in Revelation 20.  Six times God tells us the Kingdom will be 1000 years.  Then at the end of the Millennium we receive the most dreadful scene in all Scripture.   It pictures an unhappy resurrection, no place to hide, God’s dreadful throne, judgment, death and torment and a lake of fire.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Rev. 20:11-15

     Add to that one overlooked detail, the Devil is tormented eternally in the same location as the lost.
 

    The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10

    Kind of ruins the whole point of Bell’s book doesn’t it?

It’s a big deal because this is an old heresy revisited.  Over 100 years ago liberalism spread throughout most of the denominations in America.  Most denominations never recovered.  Before communism killed 100 million people in the world, its younger sister socialism was very popular within Christendom.  Christian Socialism and the Social Gospel spread through most seminaries and church denominations.  It taught the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, namely that “Christ’s Great kingdom will come to earth, the kingdom of love and light”.  This theological liberalism denied the sinfulness of man, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the inspiration of Scriptures and the bodily return of Christ.  Those who hold this view reason that if mankind is not radically sinful, no atonement is needed.  Jesus need not be virgin born, and need not be God. 

     So it looks like Bell is rehashing an old heresy.   He said that his views are nothing new.  He is on record denying the inspiration of Scripture (Christianity Today, Nov. 2004).  He has questioned the virgin birth.  He said, “if one day we found that Jesus had a father named Larry, I would still believe.”  His supporters protested that he never denied the virgin birth.  He was merely speaking hypothetically.  Their point is granted, but that misses the point of what he really implied.  He was saying that he believes the deity of Christ is not necessary.  While being interviewed by Miller, she asked Bell, “why did Jesus die?”  Bell answered, “to show us an example of love”.  He said nothing more.  It is not coincidental that Bell speaks so much about social justice.  All one needs to do is to listen to his message on How Jesus Came to Save Sinners.  After all, we are already forgiven, we just need to understand forgiveness.

     The Fundamentalist movement started 100 years ago to establish what is essential to the Christian faith  They listed the Five Fundamentals:

    ~The Virgin Birth,
    ~The Substitutionary Atonement,
    ~The Deity of Christ,
    ~The Inspiration of Scripture and
    ~The Bodily Return of Christ.

     Bell is on record denying at least four and maybe even all five.    So it is no surprise that Lisa Miller asked, “Aren’t you really just a main line protestant and not an evangelical?”.  Bell’s answer, “No, I am an Evangelical because evangelical means “good news”.  But Bell is wrong because the title “evangelical” originally described those who hold to the Fundamentals of the Faith.

It’s a big deal because Rob Bell is deceptive by making assertions in the form of questions.  People hear Bell throw out a question and assume that he is simply asking questions.  But he is making points, forming opinions and making assumptions through questions.  For those who are not inclined to be discerning, questions can be very misleading.  For example, the highschool teacher poses the question to his students, “Is America really that great?”.  In asking the question, the teacher has really said America isn’t that great and you should think about it.   Remember our first mother Eve was led astray through misleading questions.

It’s a big deal because through all this we are defining real love.  Bell says having a God who gets everyone saved is a better demonstration of love than having a God who loved so much that He sent His Own Son, to die as a loving atonement.  In other words, he thinks universalism is a greater demonstration of love than having Christ die for you.  But which is a greater demonstration of love?  Letting everyone off the hook or being a God who gives His only son for the redemption of His people?  Bell feels that a gospel message which contains both a God of wrath and mercy and a God of justice and love is not acceptable in today’s world.  He states, “this kind of gospel is the reason so many reject Christianity”.  He wants to change that.

It’s a big deal because one wonders, if perhaps, in the fires of hell there might be a place of unique scorn and hatred labeled “Mars Hell” for those led astray by Bell and his message of “don’t worry, it’s OK.”

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2 responses

30 03 2011
Ben Garry

I’ve just read Love Wins and I have to say that I agree with parts of it but I also agree with parts of this. I believe in a literal hell and a literal heaven and I think denying them is wrong and dangerous, however the parts I agree with Rob Bell on are the parts with regard to heaven on earth. The millennial kingdom is on earth yes, but also Revelation says that “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (21:3b) and therefore working towards that is not an idle waste of time and should be a mahor focus today. When Bell says ‘heaven is now, somewhere else. Heaven is here, sometime else.’ He’s biblically right. Overall though, universalism is dangerous, and in no way should the cross be belittled, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Bible says God is holy a lot more than it says he is love.

23 12 2011
Dan McGowan

to Ben Garry – one of the key elements in deception is “near truth.” I also find myself agreeing with “some” of what Bell says in his book. Big deal? The moment we begin accepting “near truth” we are denying Christ.

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