Rob Bell, what if you’re wrong?

Sally Quinn of The Washington Post asks Rob Bell what’s at stake if he’s wrong about hell. She also asks, “If there’s no hell, then why did Jesus die for our sins?”

19 Responses to Rob Bell, what if you’re wrong?

  1. yankeegospelgirl March 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    Well, that was predictable.

    Don’t you love how he always pretends that all he’s ever said is that we should question whether or not God places people in Hell who have never heard of him? Obviously Bell is challenging far more than that.

    As for question two, that was easy for him to get out of because he has said that he does believe in Hell. It’s just a very different Hell from what the Bible actually describes, which he’s conveniently ignoring.

  2. Christiane March 25, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    Dear yankeegospelgirl,

    What did you think about the chapter on hell in Bell’s book ?

  3. Joshua Wooden March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Interesting video. Now, Bell affirms in this video that he is not, contrary to the dominant opinion, a universalist. Ultimately, people are able to choose not to accept God’s grace. If this is true, then C.S. Lewis is also a heretic, because there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that this is exactly what Lewis believed.

    All that aside, however, I think Bell would’ve been better off simply answering the question. I mean, if it was me (not that I agree with Bell, but IF it was me), I would’ve said, “If I’m wrong, then that means I’m guilty of heresy, and that I’m subject to God’s judgement.” And then I would’ve added, “But I don’t think I’m wrong, obviously.”

    I think questions like this are useful if we ask them of ourselves: “What if I’m wrong?” is a good question to ask. But when we ask others, it’s really a stupid question, meant to pin someone into a corner and trap them. The people asking know exactly what happens if Bell’s wrong- they just want to see squirm.

  4. Derek March 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Joshua,
    If you or I choose to espouse and promote ideas that have been rejected by the vast majority of theologians (in this case, both Catholic and Protestant) for many centuries, it would be fair for people to ask us “What if you’re wrong?”.

    By the way, if Bell is wrong, many of his readers will be filled with a false and potentially deadly optimism, not unlike that of a cancer victim who is told that his cancer should clear up without treatment. So I think it is a very important question here.

  5. Ryan K. March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Also Joshua Bell is being less than completely clear about his beliefs here.

    What he does not mention in the interview that he does in the book, is that though some will not choose God, they will have endless opportunities to do so in the after life. This is outside of historical orthodoxy and Bell should be more clear about this.

    He also does the same thing when he does not fess up that he believes that eventually all will choose God, given the ample time of eternity. Though he is changing the path this is still universalism and makes Hell not eternal but only existent until all come to their sense at some point in the after life and choose God’s love. When this happens there will obviously be no Hell.

    Therefore, it is fair to say that Bell does believe that eventually all will be saved and eventually there will be no Hell. Regardless of what Bell says or believes, this is akin to universalism.

  6. Joshua Wooden March 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Derek,
    Thanks for your response. I don’t think the question was asked in fairness. A fair question might be, “Rob, a lot of what you said is ambiguous, and it’s confusing a lot of people, Christian and non-Christian alike. Could you clear up exactly what it is you believe? Do you believe in hell, and are you, as some claim, a universalist?” Asking, “What if you’re wrong?” is not only not fair- it’s just dumb. The people asking already know the answer to the question. Asking a question with an answer presupposed is the definition of a loaded question- which is the antithesis of a “fair question”.

    “if Bell is wrong, many of his readers will be filled with a false and potentially deadly optimism, not unlike that of a cancer victim who is told that his cancer should clear up without treatment.”

    I absolutely agree. However, that fact leads to the question, “Is Rob Bell wrong?”, NOT “What if you’re wrong?” I think there are plenty of pastors and professors tackling the issue of heaven, hell, universalism, etc. in light of Bell’s book, and are doing it in a way that is in tune with what Christians have historically believed and what the Bible says. I don’t see how videos like this edify, however- they only cause division and entrench people further in.

  7. Joshua Wooden March 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Ryan, I agree. Bell is not being clear. That’s wasn’t my point. Please see my response to Derek above.

    A lot of what Bell says resembles universalism, with the caveat that some people will persist in not believing and God will let them have what they want. A subtle nuance of universalism. Ultimately, like I said in my original post, this is a lot like Lewis’ Great Divorce. I only say that because it seems strange to me that I have never heard an Evangelical call Lewis a heretic. I’m not saying that he isn’t- but I think it is worth considering that there are other forces at play that are much more complicated than the comment that this is about orthodoxy.

  8. yankeegospelgirl March 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Justin Taylor said it best I think: Bell is “an incoherent universalist.” On the one hand, he wants to say that God always gets what he wants. On the other hand, he wants to say that God always gives us what we want.

    But the problem is that some of us don’t want God. Bell tries to get around this by implying that even though some people will insist on clinging to their sin and “go to Hell” as a result, God’s love will ultimately “melt every heart.” Which means that Hell is really nothing more than a timeout until we decide to say we’re sorry and behave.

    In other words, Bell attempts to “resolve” things by making God the greatest nag in human history.

  9. Derek March 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    That’s pretty funny, yankeegospelgirl – you nailed it.
    Joshua, I didn’t see your reply, I think your feedback must have been blocked.

  10. Ryan K. March 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Joshua said, “A lot of what Bell says resembles universalism, with the caveat that some people will persist in not believing and God will let them have what they want. A subtle nuance of universalism.”

    Point of loving correction here. If you read the book he teaches and indicates that eventually no one will persist in not trusting and loving God…that love wins. So there is no subtle nuanced difference from universalism.

    As I said before this is just a hybrid of universalism that only seems to squabble with the time frame of all being saved.

  11. Joshua Wooden March 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    It says it’s awaiting moderation. I’ll just re-post and see if that works. Here’s what I said.

    Derek,
    Thanks for your response. I don’t think the question was asked in fairness. A fair question might be, “Rob, a lot of what you said is ambiguous, and it’s confusing a lot of people, Christian and non-Christian alike. Could you clear up exactly what it is you believe? Do you believe in hell, and are you, as some claim, a universalist?” Asking, “What if you’re wrong?” is not only not fair- it’s just dumb. The people asking already know the answer to the question. Asking a question with an answer presupposed is the definition of a loaded question- which is the antithesis of a “fair question”.
    “if Bell is wrong, many of his readers will be filled with a false and potentially deadly optimism, not unlike that of a cancer victim who is told that his cancer should clear up without treatment.”
    I absolutely agree. However, that fact leads to the question, “Is Rob Bell wrong?”, NOT “What if you’re wrong?” I think there are plenty of pastors and professors tackling the issue of heaven, hell, universalism, etc. in light of Bell’s book, and are doing it in a way that is in tune with what Christians have historically believed and what the Bible says. I don’t see how videos like this edify, however- they only cause division and entrench people further in.

  12. Joshua Wooden March 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Ryan, thanks for your response. I have only made my way 60% through the book so far, so I haven’t read that yet, but if what you said is true then I’ll find out soon enough. At this point he makes a reversal, more-or-less with what he was leading towards at first. He goes in the direction of universalism, but then says that some will persist. Anyway, I guess I’ll have to take your word for it until then.

  13. Ryan K. March 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Fair enough Joshua, good thoughts and always worthwhile to see what others are learning from the book.

    Thanks for comments here.

  14. K Gray March 26, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    I am going to represent here for the folks who haven’t heard of Rob Bell. Life’s short and I’m having trouble enough with the Bible.

  15. yankeegospelgirl March 27, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    To K Gray and others like him: It’s okay. Read your Bible. Bell deserves to be ignored.

  16. Christiane March 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi K GRAY,

    be sure to read the part of the Holy Gospels where Christ encounters the questions of others,
    and notice with what patience and compassion He responds to these people. His ‘way’ is not like ours, is it? We get defensive and dismissive of others at times. They are turned away without another thought, as though they were not ‘worth’ our time.

    There is something wonderful in the ‘way’ our Saving Lord had compassion on people, and patience with them. Even on the Cross, we see Him that way. We are called to ‘learn of Him’.

    The Rob Bell episode may show that we have a ways to go, but it’s only been two thousand years, and we struggle with our pride, impatience, superiority over the ‘others’, and we cannot easily change to His Way.
    But still we must try . . .

  17. Tom March 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    The question “what if”. We all can ask that question, what is important is who we ask it to.

    Some believe that even asking this question is akin to dowting ones faith. We even sing songs of this believe “faith of our fathers”.

    Then some ask that question to man. This springs up many super churches. For we all wan’t to fill comfortable in what wee believe If some man is going to tell us what we want to hear “why not” follow some man.

    There is only one who is able to answere that question, The man who knows that is Christ Jesus our lord.

    So what you need to do is ask yourself when was the last time you asked Jesus that question. Most Christian can answer never have. If not.

    What is different from what Bell believes and what you believe. You believe your going to heaven and so does he. Not once have I read a review that Bell Prayed and fasted and beseached Jesus. Have you

    Jesus made it simple to know

    Just pray the Prayer from Jesus

    Please, I beg you don’t take my word or what I say. Ask Jesus through the prayer He has giving for these last of days.

  18. Ken Silva March 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    “As I said before this is just a hybrid of universalism that only seems to squabble with the time frame of all being saved.”

    This is because Rob Bell is leaning toward Christian Universalism. It has a hell, which will eventually be emptied: http://tiny.cc/cjkb3

    It’s as old as the church father Origen.

  19. Josh March 28, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    “It’s as old as the church father Origen”.

    True, and its thus been rejected just as long as well. Rob isn’t new – he’s “hip” because of his style, not his teaching.

    Origen was to be anathema – much of his work was rejected by the church councils. If you want to consider Origen as a legitimate source of sound, orthodox, Christian doctrine, then you also have to consider Arius and others (who, if included, make Christianity unrecognizable and beyond unbiblical).

    The problem with Rob is this: He is trying to frame God within what he thinks God should be – a framework established by his own sense of what right and wrong are. Its funny, because his first book seems to be about not putting God in a box, and yet that’s exactly what he does in his new book (sin actually doesn’t matter – it simply extends how long it takes to get into heaven, which, using calculus on an infinite timescale, means it practically doesn’t exist).

    I don’t agree with previous comments that equate CS Lewis’ theology with bell’s either. I’ve read almost all of CS Lewis’ work, and the impression I get is that he considered this life a training ground – a place to make life’s (eternal life’s) ultimate decision.

    People can try to mold God into whatever they define love as as much as they want (the phrase “Love wins” is extremely vague). The real truth is that Christ wins, and that He is Absolutely Just, and if His Justice involves hell (read the New Testament, it is talked about A LOT), then we must rely on that over our own human, mortal, warped views of justice. Just because its popular doesn’t make it right. In fact, the fact it is so appealing to degenerate minds (non-saved, non-Holy Spirit led minds), should be indicative of its falsehood. God’s Wisdom is foolishness to the worldly wise. Yet this book appeals to pseudo-intellectuals and worldly-types.

    That’s a problem for me.

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