In case you missed it, here’s the segment from “Good Morning America” this morning about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book (text article here). It includes remarks from Albert Mohler and Serene Jones. It even features a tweet posted by Josh Harris: “There’s nothing loving about preaching a false gospel.”
Albert Mohler is of course faithful as ever in standing for the orthodox consensus. He says,
“If indeed Rob Bell denies the existence of hell, this is a betrayal of biblical truth that has severe spiritual and evangelistic consequencesâ€¦ Jesus was himself very, very clear about the reality and threat of hell.”
Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, gave an honest articulation of the other side:
“I think that the people who are going after Rob Bell as controversial are themselves closer to heresy than Rob Bell isâ€¦ 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 â€¦ 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.”
This is not surprising coming from a theological liberal. What has been surprising over the last week is how many “evangelicals” are making the same sorts of arguments as Dr. Jones’. Rob Bell is absolutely right. What we believe about hell reveals what we believe about God. Unfortunately, I think we are seeing a gigantic rift in evangelicalism on just this point.
I love how ABC decides to find a “ordained” woman “pastor” to interview about the issue.
Social gospel in 21st century….
…didn’t work out last time either.
As fresh and hip as labor unions and other 19th century ideas.
To start off, I do believe in the reality of hell for the unrepentant one who refuses the offer of grace in Christ.
Mohler says, “Jesus was himself very, very clear about the reality and threat of hell.”
I was wondering, was Jesus, or at least the author of Hebrews “very, very clear about the reality and threat of” apostasy?
Can we avoid the non-issues and focus on the topic? Who cares if it was an ordained woman pastor. No need for quotes around those words. I guess as a Methodist I too am engaging in watering down the gospel. I mean really, what does that have to do with anything regarding this discussion?!!
In 40 years time, Bell’s church will be as empty as the liberal and mainline churches today….(and remain Stuff White People Like…)
This Rob Bell story has more legs than the Chilean miners story did.
And since the book is still to come out and then the onslaught of reviews to follow, we are maybe half way through this story finishing its run.
Bottom line, is March 2011 could set blog records for you and others Denny. I imagine your blog hits are up at least %300 if not more.
I have no idea what conclusions Rob has come to since I haven’t read his book, but I have been studying The Restoration of All Things (Acts 3:21) for 9 years. I’ve concluded God will save all. That’s why Jesus said in John 12:32-33:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will
draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
Was Jesus lifted up on the cross? Yes! Then, He says, I will drag all men to Myself. Your “will” doesn’t matter here. Jesus is going to drag you to Him sooner or later.
The biblical evidence for The Restoration of All Things is enormous.
All else aside, did anyone find the byline at the beginning of the bit really confusing?
“Is there no hell? One pastor says no” ??
So, one pastor answers the question negatively, ie, that there is in fact a hell. Yeesh, they need to hire a grammarian.
Has anyone noticed that even ABC/Good Morning Ameria thinks Rob Bell is teaching there is no hell?
Serene Jones clearly doesn’t understand the pastoral responsibility of making local church bodies aware of false doctrine. If she had read any of the epistles with a sense of clarity, she would see how Paul, James, and others make a point of declaiming false teaching in order to preserve Christ’s message. To call those who are condemning the universalism that underlies the promotional video for Rob Bell’s book heretical is absurd.
Louis, I’m chuckling about what you read because I agree with you, but Serene Jones is at Union Theological Seminary. In that world, the heretics are people like Denny Burk and Al Mohler.
I can tell you sources inside MHBC that there is a growing concern from some at MHBC about Bell’s book: http://tiny.cc/l23aj
Derek, you make an excellent point. I guess it seems I was trying to find oranges on an apple tree.
“Rob Bell is absolutely right. What we believe about hell reveals what we believe about God. Unfortunately, I think we are seeing a gigantic rift in evangelicalism on just this point.”
Is this ‘rift’ generational ?
Prof. Serene Jones teaches at that red-hot liberal Union Theological Seminary in NY. Her words in this debate mean nothing.
Greg Boyd is an open theist. If he is the most prominent and vocal theologian/pastor supporting Bell right now, that is actually kind of a red flag.
Can we avoid the non-issues and focus on the topic? Who cares if it was an ordained woman pastor. No need for quotes around those words.
Of course there are. Since she’s a woman she isn’t a real pastor. Pastors are men. I Timothy 3.
I guess as a Methodist I too am engaging in watering down the gospel.
Well, at least we’re clear on that.
I am glad Rob Bell has finally come out and showed his true colors. By the reactions people have to what he has said, you can tell where they line up theologically. Christians oppose him and what he teaches. Those of the other theological stripe (i.e. mainline denominations, moderate baptists, liberal academics) prove by their support of him that they are christians–those who name the name of Christ but reject clear, orthodox, biblical theology.
I appreciate his helping seperate the wheat from the tares, even if it was unintentional.
Is this â€˜riftâ€™ generational ?
Nope. This rift is theological. Christians recognize that Rob Bell preaches a false gospel. Pretend christians that have already abandoned the gospel (i.e. mainline denominations, moderate baptists) agree with what he’s saying.
I wish his constituents would demonstrate similar reserve
Tell you what…I’ll show all the reserve that Paul showed Peter or that Jude told us to show when contending for the faith. 🙂
Quite the contrary. I’m saying the Bible is the sole arbiter of truth and that when Rob Bell makes statements (and he has–numerous times) that contradict clear biblical teaching he should be publically castigated. No reserve is necessary.
@Joe and @Joshua – I don’t know how much you’ve studied about The Restoration of All Things, but to dismiss it out of hand by saying it “contradict[s] clear biblical teaching” and “it does not square with scripture” is presumptive at best.
There is, in fact, much biblical evidence in support of The Restoration of All Things. It is my view that the concept of eternal damnation has more to do with orthodox teaching than the Bible.
While I can’t go into all the details here, there are dozens of books on the subject in case you are interested in truly understanding the biblical evidence for The Restoration of All Things.
What I’d Have to Deny to Deny Hell…
To those who would deny that judgment will come to humanity, please take time to read Revelation 19:11-15.
While I can empathize with those who find the tone of evangelicals who’ve rallied against Rob Bell, the fact of the matter is that the promo for his book is incredibly irresponsible if he is not trying to endorse universalism. For anybody to make a claim that a specific human being is or isn’t in hell (Rob Bell specifically mentions Ghandi in the promo video) is incredibly presumptuous. The only authority of eternal judgment is God himself, and the way Christians view hell is solely limited to Scripture. Thusly, we can make good cases for the way of salvation because God revealed it to us through Christ, however, we can not see into an individual’s heart.
Love does win, in the sense that God’s love through the sacrifice of His son made a way for humanity to escape judgement. However, there is a hell, and it will be occupied by those who haven’t accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
Thanks Joshua! The comment thread on this post is crazy so I guess that’s why I missed it.
rÃ©inventer la vie
I look forward to reading the book. As far as I can tell, the biggest question raised that has been overlooked is not what scripture *says*, but how it is *interpreted* especially on the doctrine of hell.
Rob Bell seems to be raising issue with the blind *assumptions* we bring to scripture. In other words, he might not be disagreeing with scriptural content at all, but on traditional interpretations, ones that might have their root in something other than scripture (ex. the historically recent beliefs of the rapture popularized by the Left Behind series). I don’t know what he’s saying for sure, but there’s lots of room for an honest dialogue of that kind without the added confusion of a loaded “universalist” label.
I think it’s helpful and fair to understand what he’s saying before we form any opinions about it.
I am encouraged to see real Christians standing against the false gospel propigated by Rob Bell and those of his putrid theological ilk. He deserves no benefit of the doubt, no respect, and no “fair hearing”. Real Christians have heard plenty–and have rejected his false gospel.
@Joe Blackmon – Comment #42
Wow, Joe, say what you really think. 😉
You’re quick with the ad hominem attacks…
IF Rob Bell is vindicated and he does not teach universalism, my only concern is that he may be espousing a type of easy-believism that is common among contemporary evangelicals (especially the emergent/emerging folks).
A guess…75% of Americans believe they are going to Heaven for being “good people” without submitting to Jesus…
…these folks will buy the Bell book in droves.
@rÃ©inventer la vie – Great comment.
The idea of the rapture and the futurist view of Revelation (i.e., The Unveiling of Jesus Christ) is only about 140 years old. It was largely popularized by C.I. Scofield, a man who claimed he was a doctor even though he never attended college.
This is what much of modern dispensationalism is based on.
Might be nice to gather together all pre-judgments of Bell’s pre-book publicity, and THEN,
for those that have the courage,
read the book,
and compare pre-comments to thoughts after reading.
I know some are choosing not to read the book, but I think it might be a good exercise in the difficult process of self-examination as to whether one’s actual experience with the book reveals confirmation of what was ‘suspected’ or reveals a very human tendency to (excuse the pun) judge a book by its cover. 🙂
The fact is, you support Bell and what he believes because you reject the gospel as found in scripture.
Bell believes that those who are “good people” but come from a different religion will go to heaven without having ever heard of or called on Christ–so do you.
Bell believes the Bible is just a book written by men and is not inerrant–so do you.
Of course, Christians reject both of those stances because they are obviously contradicted by scripture.
Funny how you’ll chime in on this post but you were pretty silent on the post about the Afghan man who was going to be killed for becoming a Christian but was released. https://www.dennyburk.com/said-musa-has-been-released/#comments-section
Pretty telling to what you really believe, L’s.
There have to be at least 100 theologians, some dead and some alive, who are more qualified scholars than Rob Bell on this topic. Sorry, but someone is going to have to convince me that I should read his book ahead of theirs.
I’d also like to see you admit that you make pre-judgments before reading specific books too. With all the good books out there, you need at least several really good reasons to choose one book over the hundreds of other possibilities.
Derek does have a point. Have you read John Calvin’s famous Institutes of Christian Religion? Even if you haven’t I am sure you might have some opinion about it right?
Furthermore, L’s, why would anyone look to what some man has said about hell when God has already spoken on the subject in His inerrant word?
Oh, wait, I forgot. To you, the bible is just a book of fairy tales written by men. My bad.
“Why would anyone look to what some man has said about hell when God has already spoken on the subject in His inerrant word?”
This is weird – my second comment has disappeared but I’m nw signed up to received email notification of future responses.
And now it doesn’t matter because Derek has already made my point.
Glad to support the excellent point you made Joe!
What I’ve realized by watching the debates on this issue and commenting here and there is how much people seem to want to derive their knowledge and wisdom about Christianity from texts other than Scripture. I am tremendously grateful to many theologians for expounding on Biblical texts in a way that displays their richness, but even the greatest academics and preachers take a step back to make sure the Gospel comes before them and is not an afterthought in their teaching.
The Bible is without doubt our source of truth on this topic. However, the Bible does leave a lot of questions unanswered and there are good and trustworthy theologians who disagree on some key issues with regard to hell. For instance, do we know what the age of accountability is? The Bible doesn’t really give us much to go on there.
I’ve done very little reading about hell, but I’ve read Alcorn’s recent book about heaven and there are a number of unanswered questions on that topic as well. So there is a need for careful scholarship and debate.
Joe, I would encourage you to consider the following Scripture:
the Lordâ€™s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
II Timothy 2:24-26
Thanks. I’ll take that under advisement. You probably don’t know it, but L’s has (on more than one blog for years) demonstrated that she is not just a non-believer but that she is openly, viciously antagonistic to the gospel. She hates it. She hates people who preach it. The difference between her and me is that she coats her venom with sugar whereas I just tell it like it is.
Wow, Josh. You sure set me straight there, buddy. I mean, if some people this “this” and other people think “that” then, of course, we can’t come to a conclusion on what is true. Man, how could I have been wrong for all these years. Thank you.
This is an interesting read from CNN providing more info on the whole situation. It also confirms what I previously mentioned here; Zondervan was unwilling to publish the book due to it’s content not fitting their mission.
Just a thought: I haven’t read Bell’s books, but I remember another situation where a man’s book raised a huge brouhaha and many, many comments that were negative . . .
and a lot of comments came from people who had never read the book, refused to read the book, etc, etc.
So, is this a pattern?
I’m not sure two cases make a ‘pattern’, but I have always thought it best to examine for myself, before judging whether ‘I’ agreed or disagreed with someone’s writings.
For me, it is healthy to do my own thinking, after I read for myself.
What others choose to do is for them to decide. But I would far rather read the comments of those who had at least seen what it is they are commenting on.
The only “pattern” to be seen is the fact that you support people who preach a false gospel and attach, viciously, anyone who stands for the gospel taught in the Bible. If you’re looking for someone who has read the book, . Of course, let me guess–he’s just a fear mongerin’, hate mongerin’ fundy?
Be peaceful, L’s. (snicker)
Sorry, the above comment should have the hyperlink with the words “look no further”. My sarcastic remark to L’s should not be the hyperlink.
Rob is a thought provoking teacher and writer. This book, like the rest of his books stirs up debate and creates discussion. Beautiful!
Maybe we could all have a real discussion about the book AFTER you have read it? Coming from someone who HAS read it. I love it!
Rob Bell is a false teacher who preaches a false gospel that will damn people to an eternal, conscious punishment in hell regardless of whether he wants to deny the existance of hell or not.
Again, no Christians support him or endorse his book as worth reading. No one has to read the book to know what he teaches is false doctrine because people who have read the book have reviewed it. There is not one of the quotes in the reviews that is even slightly Christian in ANY context.
So, Angela, your endorsement aside, real Christians are going to continue to call Bell what he is…a false teacher.
That’s odd. I was in a room with over 2,000 REAL Christians and God last night all supporting and lifting Bell up.
My heart breaks for you and the anger that drives you to hate and judge.
Angela – I commend you for speaking up.
Joe – Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
To all – God’s grace and mercy is much greater than anything we ever imagined.
Will there still be judgment? Absolutely. Will all eventually bow their knee to Jesus? Yes. Will God save all? Absolutely.
And then the glory of God will cover the earth as the water covers the sea.
This is what the Bible teaches.
God has stated His will and He is mighty to accomplish it. Not even man’s will can get in the way. We serve an awesome God whose love knows no bounds.
P.S. The church is going to be rocked by Bell’s book. The truth fears nothing. This is why orthodox Christians are lashing out in fear. Their doctrine can’t stand up to the truth. Watch the days of ahead. Christians are about to wake up…
Yes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Correct. Great observation.
Which is the exact point that I was making. Christians do not embrace heresy. Rob Bell’s book is heresy. Therefore, anyone who supports Bell or commends his book as good is proving by their speech that there is not love of the truth in their herat.
Thank you for making my point. 🙂
Well written Ryan. Rob himself said he doesn’t read the attacks on him. He acknowledged that he can’t respond to all of them and that most of the attacks come from people who aren’t willing to learn and discuss. Some closed minded and afraid people are sadly not worth wasting the time as they aren’t willing to listen and re-examine themselves and their beliefs.
I was glad to see Mark Galli of Christianity Today call him out on this by writing:
.I’m glad for what Galli wrote here, because Bell often likes to use straw man arguments by mischaracterizing other Believers and then he complains that he’s being picked on by mean boys when they critique what he said.
He likes to challenge conventional ways of thinking, which is fine, if only he would a) provide accurate descriptions of his opponents’ views and
b) be open to actually getting down to brass tacks and actual dialogue, i.e. defending the orthodoxy shifting positions he’s taking.