Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Adrian Warnock Debates Rob Bell

The British radio program “Unbelievable?” hosted a fascinating discussion between Rob Bell and Adrian Warnock. This program may be as close as we’ll get to hearing Rob Bell debate his book with an evangelical. I think Warnock does a good job of engaging Bell with tough questions, even though Bell’s responses still leave much to be desired. You can download the audio here or listen below.


One item of note: Reviewers have criticized Bell’s book for not citing sources for his exegetical and historical claims. In this interview, however, Bell cites Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament for his definition of the Greek word aiōn—that it does not mean eternal but “intensity of experience.” I looked through Kittel’s article on aiōn and cannot find “intensity of experience” listed as a definition for this term. For a really good debunking of Bell’s treatment of aiōn, read this.


  • donsands

    How frustrating to listen to Bell. Adrian is a fine pastor. Have followed him for years.

    This one truth I think may have made him think, then again, maybe not:
    “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”

    To teach God’s truth should be a scary thing for every heart and mind that does so. The Word of God is not to be taken lightly, which so many in the Church have been doing. I know I have at times, and I pray our Lord would grant me His grace to fear doing this.

    Thanks for posting this Bell is very unskilled in the Holy truth, but he is skilled in making things up.

  • Andy

    Bell’s constant appeal to Wornack and the moderator as to what they ” think ” is rather frustrating. I thought Wornack did a very disciplined job in deflecting that in answering, not with what we think, but what Scripture says. Rob seems to be losing the battle of Ephesians 6:10-20.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    All right, I’ve finished the whole thing now. Bell once again proved that not only is he not saying anything new, he’s not saying much of anything, period. I thought Warnock did well and could even have pressed further here and there, and it would have done Rob good. For example, I would be very interested to hear Rob’s answer to this scenario:

    Suppose that you have a next-door neighbor who’s the sweetest guy you could imagine…but he’s a Hindu. However, he has a happy family, a solid job, he’s honest, and he spreads peace and light wherever he goes.

    But one day he comes to you and says, “I’ve been thinking about becoming a Christian. I understand you’re a Christian, so I wanted your input on this decision.”

    What do you do? Do you earnestly preach the way of Christ to him, point out the verse in Romans that says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and tell him that unless he accepts Jesus’ sacrifice, he cannot be saved?

    Or not?

    See, the thing about this scenario is that it wouldn’t allow Bell to fall back on his old “Hell on earth” standby. In the story Rob mentioned about the guy who was cheating on his wife, he was able to point out all the bad earthly consequences of the man’s decision and the misery he was creating for himself and others. But you can’t do that in the case of the kindly Hindu neighbor, because he’s a good person who isn’t ruining his life.

    Rob’s response to that scenario would, I think, reveal even more about where he stands than his response to some other questions that have been raised.

  • Christiane

    YGG, just show your Hindu neighbor all of your comments about Rob Bell and he will get a picture of a Christian woman he will NEVER forget.

  • Justin F

    Since my satirical response was deemed too harsh for posting (my apologies to the moderator), I will present my thoughts in a more straight forward manner.

    Why is it necessary for us to waste so much energy and time attempting to thoroughly debunk/debate/dismiss Rob Bell? While we go back and forth in argument (not productive conversation, but shouting matches), real people are suffering and dying.

    And yes I am aware of the internal hypocrisy of my even taking the time to write this post. I have the least grounds to point out mistakes in others’ lives, so take my thoughts with that in mind.

    But while we argue about who’s gospel is most pure, people who need the gospel aren’t getting anything. If you live in America, you will have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to hear about Jesus. Compare that to millions of people who will live their whole lives and never hear his name once. So if you honestly believe that not believing in Jesus through hearing is grounds for eternal punishment in hell, why are you worrying what someone in America thinks after reading Rob Bell’s book? They’ve had and will have plenty of chances.

  • Anthea

    Hello Justin

    You make a good point, except for the fact that Rob Bell and others like him will lead people astray here, and are an especial danger to new believers n(who don’t yet know their Bibles that well, and also to weak and backslidden Christians. I think that this latter group is the target audience for his videos and books, and this is why we all need to speak up — and read our Bibles. It’s not some esoteric issue.

    Hope this is helpful to you.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    Justin, I for one actually am not certain that the virtuous heathen who literally never hears the gospel will not be offered a second chance. I think God can certainly provide for that sort of thing. But Bell has made it pretty clear that this isn’t the only scenario he has in mind.

  • Dillon

    I think the real shame Justin is that:

    ” But while we argue about who’s gospel is most pure, people who need the gospel aren’t getting anything. ”

    Right now the people that need the Gospel are getting a false gospel, in part, perpetuated by people like Rob Bell. Rob’s message is one of the pride of life and the worst part of it is he’s on every talk show, magazine, or any other mass media that will have him and while people might blog or tweet or get together at a conference to dispute Rob’s message the shame is that the people who need the Gospel aren’t reading Christian blogs, magazines, or going to TGC conference. They’re watching T.V. or reading Time not having a clue that the message Rob is presenting is false.

  • Justin F

    The gospel has to be more than a compelling argument. It has to be true at the very core of who we are, and if God is a living God, he will reveal himself to the seeker. (Seek me, find me)

    If someone in America is earnestly searching for God, they have multiple venues (churches, internet, libraries, people, etc etc) to pursue knowledge about God, BUT if God is alive he will reveal to them his character and guide their learning. I write this from personal experience of my own journey of the past 4 months. I see the hand of God in so much of what has happened to me. Prior to that I was dependent on my own knowledge and wisdom, and my life was a cynical mess. Now I find my compassion is increasing, and my selfishness is decreasing

    So now, when I see people proclaiming their gospel true and shouting down all others as “false”, it gives me the impression that they don’t have confidence that God can make himself known. It appears to me that they think it’s up to them to proclaim the truth since God can’t. Quite honestly it sounds like they are speaking about a dead celebrity, like they have the definitive take on Napoleon or Abraham Lincoln or Alexander the Great.

    Many people (me included) today are less concerned with “truth” as in knowledge, they want to see “truth” as life-changing. And the first life they have to see changed is that of the believer.

  • Rick

    Glad to see “Unbelievable” mentioned here. Good show, good topics, good host, good guests, and does a good job keeping the dialogue civil.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    God speaks truth in many ways. Sometimes it is the call of His people to proclaim the truth of Scripture for His cause.

    There are in fact people, many people, who are like sheep being led away from the flock. It is in love for these people that we call them back and show them the way of Scripture, not out of a desire for self-aggrandizement or satisfaction.

  • Bill Trip

    The word that came to my mind while listening to Rob Bell was the word slippery. Secondly, he seems to have a false view of humanity and God.

    What if he gets to heaven and finds out the 17 year old he used as an example is in Hell and will always be there. Since he said, he has a big problem with a God who would send a 17 year old to Hell for 17,million years. Does he then say to God, “I want out of this place for you are an unjust and unfair God.

    Lastly, the other word that came to my mind while listening to Rob Bell was unserious.

  • _klv


    This is a deeper-that-it-seems subject. What I’ve found is that this is not even a conversation. It’ a fight, and as such, don’t see the point in engaging in it.

    Bell has flaws. Man, he is human! We all have! If people don’t like him, don’t know why they don’t just leave him alone and go and LIVE what what they preach. Jesus clearly says that everybody’s message is to be discerned BY ITS FRUITS. Not by the “pure doctrine”. FRUITS. Your doctrine is pure? …let it be seen. I was raised fundamentalist and a popular quote is: “go preach the gospel and if necessary, use words” maybe it’s time to engage in that kind of gospel.

    But anyway, I believe that the problem at the core of this “battle” is that the mainstream christian faith is based in not in grace but in fear. It was clearly stated in the first interview with Bell and Lisa Miller; “If there is no eternal hell, How are we to evangelize?” (not literal). …that is the problem. if there is not a way to scare people, how are they supposed to feel the urge to become christians?

    Raised a fundamentalist, I know that the first step to evangelize people is to send them to hell. They are destined to go to hell and they have to have that VERY CLEAR before we offer the “solution”.

    Try to understand what that means if you were a christian because of that. It threatens your faith. First, it makes you feel fooled. Then, it makes you feel that if everybody will get to heaven, why bother? Why stop smoking, dancing, going to parties, etc…? All that “sacrifice”, What for? Somehow we got astray and are not that poor in spirit anymore. We think that being christian makes us somehow better and we forget that Abraham, Moses, Paul, Christ, all of them were willing to become anathema to save others.

    There is no greater display of love than to lay down one’s life for our friends. Not “correcting their doctrine” or “battling for truth”, but laying your life down for those considered NOT WORTHY. That is what HE did. That is the real point of scriptures, of Jesus life and death. That is Good News.

  • Mark

    The British gentleman in this interview is so well-spoken; yet I’ve taken so many friends to church to see them return to life without eternal love.

    My pastor preaches “eternal conscious torment.” I love God, and I see people finding wonderful ways to never find the way to God’s love.

    Thank you for redeeming my reasons to fear bringing people to church, and to love them unconditionally.

    Thank you, Rob Bell, for bringing my friend (a 30 year old who just suffered from a stroke) to a new knowledge of the love of Christ.


  • Peter G.

    Denny, thanks for the heads up on Kittel. Likewise, on p. 91 Bell says that kolazo [sic] in Matt 25:46 refers to “the pruning and trimming of the branches of a plant so it can flourish.” I checked BDAG, Louw-Nida, “Middle” Liddle, and TDNT and none of them referenced anything about pruning. So I did some more digging and, as best I can tell, Bell is getting his definition from Thomas Talbott in his chapter in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, p. 47. Talbott himself is dependent on William Barclay’s 1977 volume A Spiritual Autobiography as well as a passage from Socrates (cf. Leon Morris’s Pillar commentary on Matt 25:46). Talbott is much more restrained in how much significance he places on the meaning of kolasis than Barclay is but he nevertheless concludes that “nowhere did Jesus even hint, much less explicitly state, that the punishment associated with the coming age would be utterly useless as a means of correction” (p. 47).

    This is all very odd to me.

    If aionios in Matt 25:46 doesn’t refer to an eternity then it doesn’t really matter what kind of punishment kolasis is. And likewise if the punishment is strictly corrective then it cannot go on forever since “eternal corrective punishment” is sort of oxymoronic. So I really don’t understand the need to (re)define aionios as an “intense experience” and to (re)define the punishment as strictly corrective. I guess they just want to cover all their bases. But it strikes me as a less-than genuine attempt to get at the real meaning of the text when people are willing to grasp at lexical straws to build their case.

    Also, I noted in the interview with Warnock that Bell did not bring kolazo into the discussion. Has he given up on his (re)definition? Who knows.

  • TLO

    @Justin, False teaching is an arena that is dealt with heavily in the Old and New Testament. Look at Jeremiah dealing with Hananiah -“Go home Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you” Look at Paul urging Timothy to silence those teaching another doctrine. Peter warned of false teachers and of course so did Jesus himself. Look at Jude who says “I wanted to write about our common salvation…however certain men have credpt in un-awares” then Jude’s whole letter becomes about false teachers.

    We are and always have been in a Truth war – which is the title of a great book btw by John MacArthur.

    Hvae a blessed day!

  • george57

    well, if this was called a dabate, we have a false teacher, in the room called rob bell, yet it is treaded a joke, this debate was nothing but a waste of time in giving this nutter who in his teaching will truly give people false hope, and lies,Adrian Warnock.move over and let j piper handle him ,in the bible sense he is a false teacher, and is a big danger to all believers and the foolish, calling god and jesus a liar. no hope ,, for this man.

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