Farwell Rob Bell? Universalism, John Piper & Rob Bell


Farwell Rob Bell.   With three words and a link to Justin Taylor’s article, John Piper tweeted an assessment of Rob Bell’s upcoming book that threw the blogosphere into a tailspin last week.  At the time, the tweet appeared reactionary and presumptive.  But after giving more thought to Rob Bell’s promotional video for his upcoming book, Love Wins, I was beginning to think that tJohn Piper, Rob Bell, hellhe tweet might very well be on target.

Now there’s this.

Today, Tim Challies has released a full book review of Love Wins that confirms the fears that many evangelicals and reformed Christians had suspected.  In his review, Tim provides a particularly devastating quote from the preface of  the book that doesn’t leave Rob a great deal of wiggle room when it comes to his own views and holdings on hell:

“The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.” (Preface, vi)

“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (ibid)

Justin Taylor also weighs in on the controversy with an equally devastating assessment and quote from the book:

Bell also argues that the historic understanding of God’s character and salvation—that eternal punishment awaits those who reject the gospel in this life—is “devastating . . . psychologically crushing . . . terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7).

Tim’s review is thoughtful and fair, and it’s simply a must read that takes a no-nonsense approach to Bell’s book that also leaves out the typical condemnations, innuendos and rants that are too commonly laced inside controversial book reviews.  Tim also hovers on an ongoing (and now quite fair I’d say) criticism of Mr. Bell.

He writes:

The questions you probably want answers to as you read this review are these: Is it true that Rob Bell teaches that hell doesn’t exist? Is it true that Rob Bell believes no one goes to hell? You’ll just need to keep reading because, frankly, the answers aren’t that easy to come by.

How he asks the question is just as important as the question itself. “Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this ‘good news’?” They say that the person who frames the debate is going to win the debate. That is especially true when the debate is framed in this way, through these particular questions. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No offense, and no pun intended.

And also…

Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.

Make no mistake about it, this emotional plea for doubting both the existence of hell and that God has the will to send souls to it is powerful and emotionally compelling.  But it’s not really an argument per se.  It’s assertion that doesn’t deal with the directness of Scripture and what it plainly says.  And Rob’s assertions here are just emotionalism packaged around empty questions that deny the clear implications of what the Bible teaches about hell.  Bell’s commentary on hell is a classic academic and rectionary protest.  There’s little new about his objections and for the most part they’re just naked assertions that harnesses our imperfect and incomplete understanding of God’s wrath and love in order to tug at our heart strings and use them as a basis of proof to claim that the Bible does not say what it clearly says.

And since it now appears that Mr. Bell is beginning to do far more than just “ask questions” about universalism and the reality of hell, it might be time to join with John Piper and say:  Farwell Rob Bell.

Because a Gospel that removes the fundamental need for a Savior -removes the eternal seriousness of our offenses before God and their great consequence unless a Savior would rescue us – is not the Gospel.

8 Comments

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  1. 1
    Gregg Metcalf

    Great post Brad! I know many wanted to wait until the book was released and hope that the early “reviews” were wrong. But early releases of the book provided info for the reviews, and it appears that they were not wrong.

  2. 2
    Brad

    Thanks, Gregg. Yes, I know what you mean, as I was one of those guys calling for patience. I don’t regret that, but clearly the early suspicions were on target.

    Brad

  3. 3
    Geoff

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together for those of us who simply don’t have the time to read the book. Mind you, all the short video clips I have seen of Rob Bell, speaking and dancing around with words without exegeting Scripture, was enough for me to want to warn people (as I have) to keep away from him. Now you have provided more helpful info on why this is so important. Thanks again.

  4. 4
    Chris Neilsen

    Thank you for affirming what the Holy Spirit has spoken into my heart about this confused young man. I’ll be praying for those who will be pulled away from truth by his heresy.

  5. 5
    Brother in Christ

    So you all are saying that if some one disagrees with your scriptural interpretation on something, then, you are justified to say “fare well” to someone with whom God joined you in Christ? Our oneness in Him is a reality. You disagree with Him if you say or think otherwise. I don’t know Rob Bell’s heart and I don’t agree with Him. But he’s done nothing that meets Biblical criteria for dis-fellowship. On the other hand, “a divisive [sectarian] brother reject on the second or third admonition.

    This is at least one.

  6. 6
    BJ Johnson

    2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This describes God’s heart. However, He can not lovingly allow uncoverted hearts to enter the Kingdom of God with those who want to live in love. That would make heaven into hell! Obviously the real issue here is God’s Sovereignty and what that really menas. Some Bible Scholars define sovereignty as everyone being accountable to God for their actions. It does not mean that God arbitrarily sends some to hell. Some believe in a General Atonement, whosoever will can be saved. Others hold to a limited Atonement, which would mean Christ only died for the pre-chosen few. The Bible seems to say He died for all, though all are not being saved. The problem has never been in God’s willingness to forgive, rather in men refusing to repent. Salvation produces a transformation of heart from selfishness to love. The evidence is a changed life, bearing fruit consistent with love. I do hope our dear brothers will continue to seek the Lord on these issues. We must share the truth about Who God is and His loving, transforming message. Universalism nor the arbitrary damnation of souls seems to be what the Bible teaches. Jesus preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and through His death on the cross allowed God the Father to justly be merciful. His grace wins when we humbly embrace His loving sacrifice and repent.

  7. 7
    Brad

    “Our oneness in Him is a reality.”

    Only if we are truly one. There’s a point where we can’t pretend that unity exists and I think Rob (and all universalists) have clearly crossed that line. By the way, if you’ve read Rob’s book does it still mean you’re operating on second and third hand information?

    Brad

  8. 8
    gary

    i am leaning to the idea of universalism, or being annihalted (however it’s spelled) anyone who pokes fun better hope it aint eternal punishment haha lol. anyway exactly how do universalist explain certain verses that clearly sounds like eternal punishment, and i realize the rich man & lazzarus is parable but how do you interpit it to counter act those who take it as eternal torment? thanks

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