False teachers are often described as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Eventually, every wolf loses the disguise. It looks like that is exactly what Rob Bell has done in his new book set to be released next month, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I have had the opportunity to read the preface and the first couple of chapters, and it appears that Bell has embraced some form of universalism—the belief that every person eventually inherits eternal life. Perhaps he is leaving the door open for some kind of annihilationist perspective. In any case, he has jettisoned the doctrine of hell and almost any notion of the wrath of God against sinners. The publisher’s description sums it up accurately:
“Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.”
Anyone who has been following Bell’s books and messages over the years will not be surprised by this. Even though his beliefs have been heretofore hidden under a thin veil of ambiguity and obfuscation, it has been clear to many that this was where he was headed. I think the best thing to come of this may be that he is declaring himself plainly. Hopefully more evangelicals will be able to see his teaching for what it is.
In the video above, Bell begins with an anecdote about a person who once suggested that Gandhi is in hell. Bell is astonished that someone would make such a pronouncement, and it leads him to pose a litany of questions—questions that he apparently intends to answer more fully in the book. I thought it would be worthwhile to take a crack at answering each of his questions here from a biblical point of view. So here are my answers to Bell’s queries.
Bell: Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?
Answer: The Bible teaches that there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). The Bible also teaches any person who does not believe in Jesus falls under the judgment of God (John 3:18). Anyone (including Gandhi) who refuses to trust Christ alone for salvation will die in their sin and will not be able to follow Jesus into eternal life (John 8:21).
Bell: Will only a few select people make it to heaven?
Answer: Yes, that is true. Jesus taught that a select number of people would make it to eternal life. Most people will choose the broad way that leads to destruction, but a few will choose the narrow way to life (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-28). Nevertheless, the Bible also teaches that there will be a great multitude which no one will be able to count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9).
Bell: And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?
Answer: I don’t know if anyone knows what the exact number will be, but the Bible teaches that at the end of the age there will only be two groups of people: those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life and those whose are not. All those whose names are not written in the book will be thrown into the lake of fire. This will no doubt be a countless throng of people (Revelation 20:10-15).
Bell: And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe? Or what you say? Or what you do? Or who you know? Or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or baptized or take a class or be converted or be born again? How does one become one of these few?
Answer: There is nothing that any person can do to be counted among the saved. Salvation from the penalty of sin is all of grace. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God offers us His Son, and the only way to receive Him is by faith. Jesus said it this way, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). If you want to become one of the few, then you have to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation.
Bell: And then there is the question behind the questions. The real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that that we would need to be rescued from this God?
Answer: What is God like? This is the ultimate question and how one answers this question will determine how all the others get answered. God is holy. He loves righteousness, and He hates sin. He is the most valuable, precious being in the universe. He is worthy of all our worship, devotion, and obedience. All people fall short of their obligation to love and worship God, and this falling short is called sin (Romans 3:23). Through our sin, we all have earned God’s just sentence of death (Romans 6:23). In fact, God says that He is angry with those who do not repent of their sin. The Bible says that God is storing up His anger for impenitent sinners (Romans 2:5) and that it will be a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God at the judgment (Hebrews 10:27, 31). The Bible teaches that God is both the treasure of heaven and the terror of hell. God will punish His enemies.
Bell: How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?
Answer: You are asking how can God be good if He sentences sinners to eternal damnation, but I think you have the question backwards. The real question is how can God be good if He doesn’t send sinners to judgment. In other words, how can God be good while forgiving sinners? This is the question Paul wrestled with in Romans 3, and he concluded that God set forth His son Jesus as a propitiation for sin. That means that all of the wrath and anguish that would have taken us an eternity in hell to endure, God poured out on His Son in the moment of the cross. God is good because He settles our sin debt in the cross of Jesus Christ, our substitute. This is good news because God clears away guilt through the cross and offers eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus. Anyone who believes in Jesus in this way can have forgiveness and eternal life. This is more than good news; it’s the best of news.
Bell: This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it has an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies, and they say, “Why would I ever want to be a part of that?”
Answer: Sin will always appears as a trifle to those whose view of God is small. If you were to discover a little boy pulling the legs off of a grasshopper, you would think it strange and perhaps a little bizarre. If the same little boy were pulling the legs off of a frog, that would be a bit more disturbing. If it were a bird, you would probably scold him and inform his parents. If it were a puppy, that would be too shocking to tolerate. You would intervene. If it were a little baby, it would be so reprehensible and tragic that you would risk you own life to protect the baby. What’s the difference in each of these scenarios? The sin is the same (pulling the limbs off). The only difference is the one sinned against (from a grasshopper to a baby). The more noble and valuable the creature, the more heinous and reprehensible the sin. And so it is with God.
If God were a grasshopper, then to sin against Him wouldn’t be such a big deal and eternal punishment wouldn’t be necessary. But God isn’t a grasshopper, He’s the most precious, valuable, beautiful being in the universe. His glory and worth are infinite and eternal. Thus to sin against an infinitely glorious being is an infinitely heinous offense that is worthy of an infinitely heinous punishment.
We don’t take sin seriously because we don’t take God seriously. We have so imbibed of the banality of our God-belittling spirit of the age that our sins hardly trouble us at all. Our sin seems small because we regard God as small. And thus the penalty of hell—eternal conscious suffering under the wrath of God—always seems like an overreaction on God’s part. If we knew God better, we wouldn’t think like that.
Bell: [You] see, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like.
Answer: You couldn’t be more right. But I question whether the god that you are describing is the same One I am describing.
Two Other Posts to Read on This Topic:
Justin Talyor, “Rob Bell: A Universalist?”
Kevin DeYoung, “To Hell with Hell”
Will publishers like Zondervan and Christianity Today and Relevant Magazine apologize for propping this guy up and giving him a global platform, massive book sales and GINORMOUS ego? Whenever Bell’s theology was called into question, Bell would get defensive and his publishing people claimed that Bell was the victim of an overzealous, doctrinaire witch hunt. Now I guess we can see who it was that went off the deep end.
G. Kyle Essary
I agree that Bell is clearly heretical on this point. The problem is that due to you, Justin Taylor, Piper, Josh Harris, et. al. tweeting about it, the sales will probably double.
It’s a tough situation, because (like Ehrman’s latest out in a couple of weeks), we need to defend against poor thinking and bad theology, but at the same time we don’t want to give it too much attention so that it sells and creates a greater demand for more of the filth.
I fear that instances like Bell show that his axe to grind is more about his ego. I can’t help but think that heresy would be far more uninspiring if it didn’t get one the promise of starring in their own video.
You say, “There is nothing that any person can do to be counted among the saved.” Then you say at the very end of the same response, “If you want to become one of the few, then you have to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation.” Your wording is very precise and, I assume, very calculated. Is it possible that you contradicted yourself? After all, the Bible seems to be very clear that you CAN do something to be counted among the saved. You can place faith in Christ and receive His free offer of salvation. Of course, this gets into the age-old dilemma of whether receiving a free gift counts as a “work” unto salvation, (which WOULD contradict Scripture, most notably Ephesians 2:9).
For what it’s worth, however, I think your response to Bell was superb.
I am puzzled about something:
what is the authority to declare that any person is ‘in hell for certain’:
how is this authority derived, when the sacred Scriptures also speak that only God can know the heart of a person?
Does a set of scriptures cancel out other scriptures concerning the authority to state that someone
is in hell for certain?
Is Bell looking at and emphasizing another set of scriptures in his book than Pastor Burk uses in his answers to Bell?
Or is Bell stating that Pastor Burk’s scriptures are not a case for declaring Gandhi is definitely in hell, as a known fact?
What am I not understanding?
It’s true, only God knows the truth about a person’s heart. But the Bible is clear that without Christ as your Lord and Savior, hell will be your eternal destination. Gandhi did not affirm Christ as Lord and Savior. In fact, he denied the resurrection and believed in the perfectability of human nature. Now, it is true that no one can say with absolute certainty that Gandhi is in hell, but his denial of Christ as the only way to Heaven leads any rational thinker to reasonably conclude that, in light of orthodox Christian doctrine, Gandhi died lost.
This is certainly a tragic reality to face, but it underscores the urgency of Christian missions and evangelism.
This is sad, I am sure we will learn more when the book comes out but the promo video gives enough so that you get the big idea of what the book is about.
Furthermore, havenâ€™t we all been down this road? Years ago when Doug Pagitt and McLaren where coming out of the heretical closet and also trying to cash in with new books, I heard the same voices saying, â€œyou have to wait until the book comes out to know if they are leaving orthodoxy.â€ Well no I did not, nor do we in this case.
Pay attention folks, why do you think this book is being released by Harper Collins instead of Zondervan like Bellâ€™s previous books? Zondervan did not want to touch this book and what it says. Therefore, they farmed it out to their parent company.
Lets all learn from history here. This story is just a repeat.
Kyle–I appreciate your desire to keep Rob Bell a secret, but when the cat is out of the bag it is insanity to keep quiet about it. Sometimes we have to alert the sheep, and sometimes our announcements arouse more wolves. It is just an unfortunate truth of life.
It should be pointed out that Ghandi did love many aspects of Christianity, but I am not aware of a single instance of where the Gospel itself, or salvation by grace ever captured his imagination or his heart. He was an ascetic man who was naturally drawn to the “denial of self” orientation, which he did not see as a response to God’s amazing grace; rather he saw it as a means to an end, self-purification. If Rob Bell thinks that this is helpful or admirable or that this works based orientation is something to point people towards, then perhaps Rob Bell has never understood salvation by grace through faith in Christ either.
@Randy Well Rob Bell is currently the trending topic on Twitter. I don’t know if thats helpful…
At the risk of sounding like I’m “defending” Bell–which I’m not–I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be good form to actually wait until the book is released to make sweeping accusations of “universalism”.
It’s *possible* that, in the book, Rob will answer the questions much the same way Denny has here. It’s not very probable, but shouldn’t we wait and let him speak for himself in the book?
And if he doesn’t believe in “hell” in the sense that Stott doesn’t believe in “hell”, is he still a heretic? If he’s a universalist in the Barthian sense, is he still a heretic? Or is he only a heretic if he is a “all paths lead to God” kind of universalist?
Denny, Justin, et al. are probably right about what he will say in the book. But it’s just conjecture at this point, no?
Stuart the promo video is Bell speaking for himself.
As I said before, there is no way this book would be being published by Harper Collins instead of Zondervan unless Zondervan read the manuscript and realized it would be far outside evangelical Christianity.
Have you guys ever thought that maybe he asks primary questions to hook a very spiritually young group, only to reveal scripture? Who could be sure, as none of us have read his book yet!
Also, for John Piper to say “farewell” and excommunicate him from the church is RIDICULOUS. To publicly humiliate, shame, and gossip about a fellow pastor is opposite of Christ. I know that my Bible says that you are to go to your brother in private and correct what is wrong. You are also to help a wayward brother, and instruct in the correct manner. PUBLICLY ON TWITTER is the way you do this? On blogs, and through web postings, too? REALLY?
I understand the need to warn the public against false teachers, but WHY NOT approach him first? Cowardice, that is why.
Hi ED GOODMAN,
Thank you for responding.
You wrote this:
“Now, it is true that no one can say with absolute certainty that Gandhi is in hell, but his denial of Christ as the only way to Heaven leads any rational thinker to reasonably conclude that, in light of orthodox Christian doctrine, Gandhi died lost.”
I don’t think we are supposed to ‘assume’ about the judgment, and I’m wondering if ‘concluding’ is an assumption.
I don’t think that the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, or the mainline Christian denominations would make the same conclusion, if you see them as ‘orthodox’.
If you don’t see them as ‘orthodox’, then I can understand that your reasonable conclusion about Gandhi comes from a different point of view about what the ‘orthodox’ teaching on judging the eternal end of a person might be. I think you may have a different point of view, or at least a different emphasis, but I am not going to ‘conclude’ that from your conclusion. 🙂
Thanks again for responding. I appreciate the time you took to do it.
I’ve gotten a preview of the book, and what you see here is in fact in the book.
Thank you for weighing in… the bellian drift has been in progress and we seem to have this emergent element unobsfucated… we shall see the “it is what it is”….
let’s not forget to pray for him and the readers…
what is the authority to declare that any person is â€˜in hell for certainâ€™:
The Bible. You might try reading it sometime.
What am I not understanding?
The Gospel. Actually, you understand it. You just reject it.
I donâ€™t think that the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, or the mainline Christian denominations would make the same conclusion, if you see them as â€˜orthodoxâ€™.
Well, considering Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and mainline Christian Denominations deny the gospel, their opinion is, how you say, irrelevant. God’s word is the divine source of truth…no man’s opinions.
Oh, and here’s a little question for you (not that you’ll answer it dfirectly) but how does a person get to heaven? Upon what basis is anyone admited into heaven? Again, you’re not going to answer the question, but your non-answer will help those who don’t realize where you stand see where you stand.
If J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) were alive today, the great Bishop would weigh into Rob Bell with these straightforward words:
â€œBeware of new and strange doctrines about hell and the eternity of punishment. Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none.â€
â€˜The Reality of Hellâ€™ is something many in this day and age would rather gloss over and simply ignore due to its uncomfortable nature. What thin ice to be standing on!
But is such a God POPULAR? No wonder Christians are hated. And we don’t want to be hated do we? We should seek to be loved, as the world loves Bono, the Dali Lama and Che Guvera. Rob is like a lot of us. He doesn’t want to be one of those weirdo bible thumpers. Too Sarah Palin for us.
You ask this: “Upon what basis is anyone admitted into heaven? ”
I answer this:
and WITH CHRIST
in the unity of the Holy Spirit:
â€œSee where you are baptized,
see where Baptism comes from,
if not from the cross of Christ, from His death. There is the whole mystery:
He died for you.
In Him you are redeemed,
in Him you are saved â€œ
Joe, I reject any ‘gospel’ than denies that Christ will be THE judge for all mankind. If YOU are believing in a ‘gospel’ that says YOU are to be the judge for any others in His place, I would go back and, with humility, read the four Holy Gospels of the Bible, again, and again, and again.
I think you might need to do that.
Seems incredibly awful for God to send his Son to die a brutal death on a Cross if universalism is true.
I wish Bell would see that the Cross is a screaming beacon of God’s wrath toward humanity, but then makes the victory of love and grace a reality for us rebels.
“the Cross is a screaming beacon of Godâ€™s wrath toward humanity”
I don’t believe this.
Well then you better not read 2 Cor. 5:21 or study the word propitiation.
For that matter you may as well do away with the book of Romans. Jesus takes God’s wrath toward humanity, so that we don’t have to. He gets death and judgment, we get life and mercy. This is the great exchange Christiane.
The Bible says that a person’s damnation is “made manifest” by their rejection of Christ.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
You are correct that man is not the arbiter of who is admitted to Heaven, but we can certainly make observations based on a person’s actions and profession of faith. Jesus said that “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30). If Gandhi did not convert before he died, he died as an enemy of Christ, and is currently in Hell. We have no reason to presume otherwise.
Thanks. I should have figured there are advanced copies out there, and that you would have one. Sad news.
Since you’ve seen and advanced copy, how would you describe his view? Annihilationism? Barthian? Is it nuanced at all, or just plain old pluralistic universalism?
Yes. But maybe God did it all out of love for us. The ‘wrath’ yes . . . for sin, but even while we were still sinners, we were loved.
There are some sacred Scriptures that tell of that, you know.
He didn’t have to come back for us, did He? But He did.
I remember the first time I realized that He didn’t just ‘abandon’ us, not even from the beginning . . .
do you remember what God’s first act was, after He had banished Adam and Eve from the Garden?
He clothed them. 🙂
What I’ve read is the preface and the first two chapters. Chapter two is about heaven. In this chapter, Bell says that the NT is not so much about who gets in and who is left out. Heaven is the place where God is, and the age to come is the eternal state. Jesus mainly talks about the age to come, and it seems like Bell is saying that everyone one makes it to the age to come.
In this chapter, Bell talks about a racist being there and that the racist is going to have to learn that his racism doesn’t “fit” in the kingdom. He’ll have to lay it aside. Bell’s view is that no one is perfect in the age to come, but that people will still have to be perfected as eternity moves forward.
So though I don’t think he has yet eliminated the possibility of annihilation, it does read to me like unrepentant sinners will be there.
In my original post, I wrote, “it appears that Bell has embraced some form of universalism.” So far it appears that way. I’ll reserve a more definitive judgment until after I’ve had a chance to see the entire book.
No L’s, I did not ask Upon what basis is anyone admited into heaven?
What I asked was how does a person get to heaven? Upon what basis is anyone admited into heaven?
You intentionally avoided answering the first part and answered only the second part. Of course, since you’re a gospel denying liberal with no integrity, this really comes as no surprise.
Oh, and for your information, I have never once suggested, said, or implied that I am the judge. God is the judge. He has announced His judgement in His inerrant word. I’m just proclaiming what He’s said–just like He’s told Christians to do.
Suck it up and deal with it.
I feel saddened, but not because of what I saw in the video. Its because as “Christians” we so quick to throw one another under the bus, and drive back forth over people as many times as we can. I have to say no where in the video did he say no one goes to hell. He is only posing a question. This is a marketing trailer to pose a question, and have you find the answer in the book. If in the book he says that no one goes to hell, then by all means let’s pray for him. This is why people want nothing to do with Christians or church because “We’re out to get everyone”. We are so quick to pick the spec from ones eye, when we a 2X4 stuck in our own. We all have different views, but what is our common ground? No one will ever agree, but we should focus on uniting the Believers together so we can be that 3 stranded rope the Bible speaks of. At best the modern church is frayed mess of once was a three stranded rope. Don’t get it twisted either if someone does preach doctrine that no one goes to hell, then they MUST be held accountable because this is Biblical, but to go on a witch hunt without all the facts is just as wrong, as someone preaching false doctrine. A few things I want to bring up from the video. 1- The road he was traveling did worry me a little, and make me want to read the book to find out where he does stand (which this trailer did its job). 2- It is true none of us know if Ghandi is in hell or not, period (only God knows), just like there’s no guarantee that any of us are going to heaven only God knows. Yes this is a strong word to say, but its true we have faith to believe that we are. How many us grew believing something passed down from the churches only find out in our own walk with God that some of these things were wrong or twisted? We know that the scripture says believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that you are saved, so we faith to believe we will end up in heaven. 3- One thing is for sure is the ending scene in this trailer “Love Wins” is true, because Christ did come to earth to rescue us from the Father out of love… the love of the Father sent His son so we would not die, but have everlasting life.
Sorry this article just ticked me off, because this is why the world is dying and going to hell because Christians dropped the ball. Churches won’t join with other churches in the community for worship or revivals because they believe a little differently, or they wears jeans shorts to church, or whatever the other reason they have. Can you imagine what power of heaven would be released on this earth and in our communities if we would truly humble ourselves. Find that common ground of the cross, and join together. We are not competition, we are allies! Our enemy is the world philosophy. If we go it alone un-united we will never win the war, if we join forces like other countries we would have won long ago. Instead we bicker amongst each other, and fade into the shadows; while allowing prayer to be taken out of the schools for the sake of political correctness.
I want to see the body of Christ united instead of living in a dismembered world of the body. We have a hand somewhere else fighting while a foot is in another location all together it takes all to make a body function. Believe there are many thing I see in other churches that just rub me raw, and want to scream foul. The simple fact of the matter is that we have a duty to God our King to do what we can to focus just on His message even if the motives are wrong. God will be praised one way or another. If we don’t do the job He’ll get the flowers and the trees.
A long response to say let’s just have all the facts before we have another witch hunt again. Show the love of Christ to someone, and forget about ourselves.
How can we ever make a case after reading just the first couple chapters of a book? That’s like a prosecutor interviewing a 3rd grade teacher only to convict a criminal.
Jesus said: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Godâ€™s one and only Son” (John 3:18, NIV2011).
What part of “whoever does not believe stands condemned already” is difficult for you to understand Christiane? Yes, God is the ultimate judge of a person’s soul, but the Bible is equally clear that a person who rejects the grace of God in Jesus Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
We know a person is headed for eternal perdition because they reject the gospel and continue to live in unrepentant corruption.
Joe, I agree with your theology but I am quite shocked in the manner in which you are delivering it. Sorry brother, but there is no need for such a tone on a Christian blog site (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Thanks for that explanation. (#29)
Looking forward to your full review.
I second your post. Difficult to understand how some can have such an intellectual grasp on theology, yet completely miss the second greatest command of all.
Great post, very fair. Looking forward to reading more when the book is released.
I struggle in my soul with some of the same dilemmas that Rob Bell struggles with…but essentially, we believe what the Bible has to tell us about God is true, or we remake God in an image more to our liking.
Arminians like Rob Bell are wolves in sheep’s clothing
here is a quote from the actual book.
“Love demands freedom. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.”
this is classic lewis, keller, and wright…
an interesting post here from a person who has ACTUALLY read it – http://being-the-body.blogspot.com/2011/02/love-wins.html
By just this video, it seems that he is posing questions, rather than making statements (although I’d argue that Jesus isn’t saving us from God, but bringing us BACK to Him), so I’m not going to be so quick to judge, even though we are called to do so upon false doctrine.
Still, the last thing we need to do in this day and age (with this particular youth, to whose mentality I have lost my best friend to) is downplay sin. We will see no need for a redeemer until we see that we need to be redeemed from our sins, not just that we have them.
Thank you for this amazing eye opening discussion. I broke down reading this, repenting to God and just telling Jesus that he is my Salvation over and over again. It is great to be reminded of the importance of fearing God. And the mercy and grace He bestow on us through sending his only Son. Thank you once again and God bless.
Carson T. Clark
An Open Letter to Justin Taylor Regarding His Condemnation of Rob Bell
Y’all better stop reading c.s. Lewis then and start calling him a heretic!!
Was CS Lewis a universalist? (Maybe you could help us all out with some examples.)
Thanks for the preview, looking forward to the rest when the book is released.
L’s plays a really good game. She pretends to be a pure-hearted truth seeker all the while attacking, with tons of venom, the Christian faith. She has done this on conservative Christian blogs, where she pretends to be looking for information (i.e. SBC Voices) and on moderate SBC Blogs where she finds allies who support her, (i.e. Wade Burleson, Debbie Kaufman). Now, should I be more measured in my tone and more paitient? Of course. However, after hearing her declare herself to be a Christian and then not just deny but attack the gospel and those who proclaim it over the past few years all the while pretending to be this sweet little innocent truth seeker, I feel like Popeye. “I can stands what I can stands and I can’t stands no more.”
God is love as God is holy, don’t forget this! And the true holiness is demonstrated with love actions!
About Ghandi, I don’t know where he is for sure, because I’m not God… But I think in the context of the nations judgment, Ghandi will have done more for Christ than we…
The church today, loves to throw people in hell, if we act with all this enthusiasm, that we use to condemn people, to show them the love of God in Christ, things may be a little diferent!
Love more, hate less! This is a message from Brasil!
Denny: Thanks for addressing Rob Bell’s video questions with answers from scripture. It will be interesting to see, in time, if the video was a marketing ploy, or if it is just the first installment in Rob’s “coming out” and honestly declaring his less than orthodox theology.
Wow. Another blog judging and burning Rob Bell when they haven’t even read the whole book. No wonder the world mocks “Christians”.
You’re most recent post indicates that you haven’t finished the book yet. Shouldn’t you at least finish the work before rendering judgment? You’re last post says “it seems,” “it appears,” etc. Why not finish it up? Why not post quotes and citations? Otherwise, you’re throwing a guy under the bus without full proof. I’m no Rob Bell apologist, but their are a lot of good men right now salivating at the chance to condemn the guy without first reading the entirety of the book. These same folks have a fit when “liberal” secular scholars treat their own works with the very same attitude.
It is so difficult to watch this short little video and not respond. Thank you for posting this as well as noting that you have read the preface and two chapters (which can set the tone for the book-just like this video does)
This video, most definitely, it is stirring up the blogging waters! With all the publicity being generated from the responses, it probably will increase sales. Assuming Zondervan is it, and Mr. Bell, are honest and honourable, this could not be a ruse with that intent-so he must mean exactly what he says.
We want to be wrong about where the words of this man appear to be leading those who choose to follow. May we who are all thinking that, may be wrong. Only time will tell, but is hard not to draw those conclusions based on so many statements over the years, isn’t it? However, as I write this, these words come to mind:
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that that disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
I now ask myself, are some of us spending far too much time worrying about Rob Bell and the theology of some others? Hmmm…since God is Sovereign, is all Knowing, is Love, Just, Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate, Holy and all that His Word of Truth says, we must remember to pray for each other.
We must remember:
1Cr 10:12 NIV – So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall
We are not told that we can not go to our brothers and sister in Christ to correct them, but we are warned by Jesus:
Luke 6:42 NIV – How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
May God give us all wisdom and discernment and may we walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. May God convict any of us, if we adhere to the teachings of any human above God’s Infallible Word. It isn’t just those who follow Mr. Bell’s teachings, but I have read of many who love Jesus Christ, who label themselves, “Calvinsts,” “Arminians,” “Pentecostals,” “Evangelicals,” “Protestants,” and so on, instead of just “Christian.” Does that not mean, that there are many of us, who are stumbling ourselves by the mere fact that we are subscribing to specific human interpretations of God’s Word?” Is it any different than all this? I don’t know, just a thought that came to mine.
We all better make sure the planks are out of our own eye (including mine) before we utter a word about anyone else.
May God help us all!
How sad is it that we tear each other down because of some person’s random opinion on a book? We keep talking about God’s love but we sure aren’t showing it to each other.
We haven’t read this book. And we’ve seen a video where someone is posing questions and we have decided to denounce him from the church? Would Jesus have done that?
This author says he has read enough of the book to know that Bell is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. However, he provides no evidence with this. His argument is based on a man posing questions in a video.
Regardless of what you think, we are never, never told by Jesus to completely show this kind of lack of love. No wonder the world sees Christians the way they do.
@Ferg: Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald, etc… This list goes on. Great minds that asked more questions than most modern “seekers” combined. God-forbid ruffling a Christians feathers!
God can handle us asking questions and seeking truth. And I don’t know how much credence I give to a review off of a preface and two chapters. Sounds like there are some preconceived opinions and personal feelings mixed in here… too many to have an honest discussion.
One thing Bell does well is relates to Christians and non Christians (whether you agree with him or not). Those questions he was asking are questions I get from many non-christian friends. “How could God send good people to hell?” Without reading the book, the title makes sense to me. The answer is “Love wins.” Define love, how God loves us (letting us choose him – or not. To force one to choose him is not to be loved). He gives us that freedom, out of love. Regardless of “if Gandhi is in hell,” we must trust God and know His decisions are the correct ones, whatever those may be. And they will all be out of love. Period.
Still confused as to why someone “outs” himself for asking questions…
You may be interested in this article on C. S. Lewis’s orthodoxy:
Joe Blackmon, you’ve missed the point of the Gospel, then, too. The Gospel ought to compel you to exercise incredibly deep patience to another person, whether they are genuine truth seekers or hard-hearted hypocrites. You, sir, are known by your fruit. When you defend truth to the point of becoming relationally calloused, you are an extremist at the other end of the spectrum.
Balance is the key, and we must all strive to be doctrinally and socially sound. So far, you seem to be missing the social part. But, for my part, I have no ill will toward you. In fact, I have prayed for you and have love in my heart for you.
And, if you disagree with me, I’m okay with it. Just remember that I’m calling out truth, too, as I see it (which is what you’re not bashful about doing).
Great article Denny!
This was a good read for me.
This really is nothing new for Emergent Theology though.
Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt (both emergent) already preach universalism as part of their gospel. They also deny hell as well.
Rob Bell is just coming to the same point in his preaching.
I don’t have the whole book. All I have is a preview, which consists of the preface and the first two chapters. So the tentative language (“it seems,” “it appears,” etc.) is necessary until I can see the whole thing. The first two chapters give a pretty good indication of where he is going, but I think I’ll wait for the book before attempting to describe his total position on the afterlife.
That being said, there are still some things that are really clear from the first two chapters. For instance, Bell has little place for a wrathful God or for the doctrine of hell. Here’s a direct quote:
“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. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. And so this book. We need to know that there are other approaches to these topics, other ways to read the Bible, other understandings of who God is and what God is like, other perspectives on who Jesus is and what he’s up to in the world.”
It looks to me like Bell is saying that the traditional doctrine of hell–a place of eternal conscious suffering for those who die outside of Christ–is “misguided” and “toxic.” So I don’t think I’m misrepresenting his point of view when I say that he has jettisoned the doctrine of hell.
Nevertheless, Bell says that his views are not original to him but fall within orthodoxy:
“That’s the beauty of the historic, orthodox Christian faith. It’s a deep, wide, diverse stream that’s been flowing for thousands of years with a staggering variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences.
I guess we’ll have to see about that. I am not hopeful. But I hope I’m wrong.
Likewise, I’m also looking forward to a confirmation of where he stands, rather than the ambiguity.
Let us not let bitterness dwell but pray for his reconciliation to Jesus.
I do not know whether he is in heaven or hell, but his name is spelt Gandhi.
Tim, Joe wasn’t always this way. He has changed, under the influence and with the encouragement of other people, over about a two-year period.
I wish they had left him as he was.
Pray for him.
No matter how much you and Big Mana Weave want to pretend that the interview showed that I was “different”, nothing has changed. I never once said, intended, or suggested for even a second that we have to be willing to tolerate unbiblical, heretical beliefs–such as yours–or that people–such as you–ought to be shown any respect for your heretical beliefs.
Oh, and because you ignored it Lâ€™s, I’ll point out again that I did not ask Upon what basis is anyone admited into heaven?
What I asked was how does a person get to heaven? Upon what basis is anyone admited into heaven?
You never did (and you won’t) answer that question because it would too clearly your true colors.
You intentionally avoided answering the first part and answered only the second part. Of course, since youâ€™re a gospel denying liberal with no integrity, this really comes as no surprise.
Oops! Fixed it. Thanks!
He’s most likely an inclusivist. Suchas if a Muslim earnestly believes he is worshipping the true God the actual true God of Christianity will gladly welcome him into heaven.
I always find it fascinating how a lot of heirs of reformed theology tend to be extremely critical of anything that recently differs from their stringent theology, however they offer huge grace to people like Lewis or else they just ignore most
Of his difficult doctrinal stances.
If it is grace extended to Lewis I wish they’d extend it to more folk.
Joe, whoever you are; your attitude stinks.
Thanks for the link. I’ll give it a read.
It’s not only the “heirs of reformed theology” that have a stringent theology and soteriology. Go ask any conservative Lutheran, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, Arminian, etc. and they will probably say the same thing about Rob Bell’s soteriological heresy.
The only people who like Bell’s theological spewage are those who reject Scripture’s unique authority on matters of faith, doctrine, and ethics. Do you think what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3 is consistent with what Rob Bell said in that video clip above?
Good points Mark.
I think it has become quite fashionable to make Reformed folk the bogeyman.
Jesus was speaking to a Pharisee, Nicodemus, a leader of Israel. Are you aware how many ways the Pharisees taught that one might be born again?
I was asking the question in relation to C.S. Lewis, it wasn’t a general point in relation to rob bell.
To say the only people who like rob bell are heretics is a very unfair statement to make.
My whole point is that you could say the very same thing about Lewis if you knew some of his theological musings but most never would.
You have it exactly right when you ask, â€œThe real question is how can God be good if He doesnâ€™t send sinners to judgment.â€
In John Stottâ€™s book The Cross of Christ he deals with this issue in his chapter titled, The problem of forgiveness. Stott says, â€œThe crucial question we should ask, therefore, is a different one. It is not why God finds it difficult to forgive but how he finds it possible to do so at all. The problem of forgiveness is constituted by the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as he is and us as we are.â€
Stott uses five biblical metaphors to â€œillustrate the utter incompatibility of divine holiness and human sinâ€¦height, distance, light, fire and vomitingâ€¦â€
He concludes, â€œWe must therefore, hold fast to the biblical revelation of the living God who hates evil, is disgusted and angered by it, and refuses ever to come to terms with it.â€
And then this:
(and more to the point of Rob Bell)
â€œAll inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely â€˜hell-deserving sinnersâ€™, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.â€
Instead of being astonished by the question of Gandhi, perhaps Rob Bell should be astonished by that.
A long time ago, I became convinced that Rob Bell was the upper class, white version of a prosperity preacher. That is, he is very skilled at telling people what they want to hear, with a heavy dose of self-improvement thrown in for good measure.
He has been talking about Gandhi and other mystics for a long time and he seems to group them with Christ, or at the very least, as Christ-like. I don’t think you’ll ever hear him speak negatively about alternative Christ figures. The unspoken, but implied message is, “if you don’t like Christ, (and Bell wouldn’t blame you for that, because in his view, right wing, narrow minded religious types have “hijacked him”) look at these other enlightened people and follow them on the path to spiritual fulfillment and meaning.” We’ve all heard of the false gospel of salvation by works. Bell’s gospel is the cousin of this gospel, only it is salvation by “sincere devotion”, which is distinct but does have a similar and dangerous appeal to the vanity of the human heart.
I appreciate the kind of candor it takes to share your opinion on topics like hell and eternal destiny. That being said, I confess I am entirely uninterested (and disinterested, for that matter) in your opinion. On the other hand, I am interested in Paul’s opinion, which is why I’m going to have to stick with the Bible on this one.
Very Sincerely Yours,
That clothing you mentioned for Adam and Eve, what was it made out of? An animal skin. Where did that animal skin come from? An animal died so Adam and Eve would not be living in the full shame of their sin. God’s wrath was temporarily placed on animals under the old covenant as a type of the cross.
So there was love from the beginning, but there was also wrath and curses. We can’t neglect one or the other. Isaiah is helpful also on this idea of the wrath of God. If you read the ending of Isaiah, he ends with the redeemed going out to gaze on the carcasses of those who were slain by the Lord. It is so intentionally offensive that the Jews will not end their reading of Isaiah with 66:24. They go back and re-read verse 23, because it gives it a happy ending.
Kevin DeYoung has a helpful post that Dr. Burk linked to above. You should read it if you have not already done so.
It’s important to note that Lewis was NOT a universalist. For example he depicts people moving deeper and deeper into Hell in The Great Divorce.
Regarding some historical figures getting more grace and Rob Bell, less. Maybe Bell should know better? Maybe Denny was too quick in judging him, maybe others including commenters here have been too quick in defending him, whatever the case the proof will be in the pudding come the end of March.
J. K. Jones
Tim Hull, Thanks for all of the Stott quotes. Those are very insightful.
I linked to this post and quoted the grasshopper analogy in a blog post of mine. Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for that analogy. Rob Bell completely aside, you helped me get a better grasp on the nature of sin and its heinousness. Thanks for the analogy, it is very helpful.
Grace & peace.
Andrew, I see God’s compassion where you do not see it, perhaps.
When I think about God’s wrath, I think about it being toward the proud, the hypocrites, the profoundly unkind among us who take advantage of others in ways harmful, as well as toward those who choose not to respond to the suffering ones that God has placed in their path.
Some more thoughts on this:
The Theology of Rob Bell: Making Evil Good and Good Evil
No, I do not. I only know what Jesus said in John 3:18: that those do believe in the Son of God are condemned already. This is not only what “hardline Reformed Christians” believe but also conservative evangelicals of all traditions.
Rob Bell believes that we cannot judge a person’s soul even if he or she rejects the gospel message. Ghandi never embraced Christ as Lord and Savior and yet Bell thinks we cannot make a judgment call on Ghandi’s eternal destiny. That is ludicrous. There are many indicators that Ghandi never became a Christian but was a Hindu (those who worship fallen angels).
Why is that an unfair statement? Bell is a heretic. He believes that one cannot reject the gospel message and still possibly go to heaven. This goes against everything said in Scripture on this matter.
Besides, I don’t know why people start clamoring towards C. S. Lewis to defend their compromised theological views. I know he has his theological deficiencies but he was no universalist. Bell, on the other hand, believes in a “wider hope.” Something that Jesus, the Apostles, and the rest of the NT writers firmly rejected.
Sorry, I meant, cannot to mean can in the above post.
One more thing, I understand what you saying by the grasshopper analogy and agree with your conclusion but I feel it’s a bad one. A Universalist could say, hell is just a larger version of the boy hurting the grasshopper.
Check out Revelation 21:24 and Revelation 22:2. The kings and the nations that had sided with the Beast and were thrown into the lake of fire are now coming into the eternal city. It seems that Revelation teaches that salvation is eternally offered and maybe, just maybe some of those who had rejected the Messiah in this life, embrace him in the age that is coming. There is no guarantee but there is the offer and hope that the world will embrace the King.
Was Christ telling the truth when he said, “he who does not believe is condemned already” (Jn. 3:18)?
Totally agree with everything you say in response to Bell’s questions. Excellent answers.
Yet I do feel the chill of Bell’s ‘And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?’ as I am sure we all do.
It is made so much more vivid and personal if one or more of these billions is from your own family.
This is not to undermine a word you have said. Our chief response should be to pour our lives out in evangelism and prayerful intercession for others.
The analogy doesn’t hold for the boy hurts the grasshopper out of a perverse delight, God’s judgement is in the face of prolonged provocation and gross evil, after almost endless patience, and while he rejoices in final justice and the triumph of goodness there is also the ‘how often I would have gathered you… but you would not’.
I think you have misunderstood the analogy. The boy is not an analog for God, but for sinners.
I always find this to be interesting: “There is nothing that any person can do to be counted among the saved.” followed by: “If you want to become one of the few, then you have to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation.” To me, that sounds like you have to do SOMETHING! Which is it?!
And how do you understand the word “believe” in the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus?
I try to understand it in the Hebrew way, what I believe, my faith is an active faith, not just mental assent.
Also, if you do not know the ways the Pharisees said that one might be born again, do you agree it is possible that you might be misunderstanding some aspects of the teaching?
Denny, you’re an idiot mate.
Does everyone on this site deny any biblical basis for universalism? There’s a very strong biblical foundation for the univeralist stance (as long as mission is not overlooked), and it’s far from heresy.
It’s all the closed minds that worry me in this discussion.
When I think about Godâ€™s wrath, I think about it being toward the proud, the hypocrites, the profoundly unkind among us who take advantage of others in ways harmful, as well as toward those who choose not to respond to the suffering ones that God has placed in their path.
In other words, fear-mongerin’ hate-mongerin’ conservatives.
Was Christ telling the truth when he said, â€œhe who does not believe is condemned alreadyâ€ (Jn. 3:18)?
You won’t get a “Yes” or “No” answer out of her, but let me tell you what she believes. She thinks that people who are “nice” prove by their nicey-ness that they are already saved, regardless of whether they profess faith in Christ. Therefore, a nice muslim or a nice jew who does not profess faith in Christ will go to heaven regardless of what they believe whereas if someone professes faith in Christ and repents of their sins but dares to vote Republican and doesn’t believe the government should take money from people who work and give to people who could work but are too lazy they will go to hell regardless of what they believe.
It’s a scary place in L’s head.
Nicodemus didn’t even understand what Christ meant by the term or concept “born again”. You should re-phrase to ask what the Pharisees’ views of salvation or soteriology was. Also, where did Mark say that belief = mental assent? He made reference to the necessity of authentic repentance, so Mark clearly does not believe mental assent is sufficient.
Got linked to you from Josh Harris. Just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for defending the truth and upholding loyalty to God’s Word! We need more Bereans like you blogging like this! Each of your responses to each of Rob Bell’s questions was solid. I’m sharing your responses with many of my friends so they will not be led astray!!!
Thank you for using the absolute truth of God’s Word to answer these questions and for glorifying God, exalting Jesus, and sharing the beautiful and powerful gospel.
This blog post and perspective is exactly why being a Christian is impossible. I hate that this post and comment thread even exists. Bell is right and his questions should haunt you to the core of your faith. If not, you are lost in a religion and doctrine that believes it entirely knows God no longer seeks to know God.
Maybe the title of this post should be changed. Though I see the reasoning, “outs himself” has some broader cultural connotations that do not apply in this case especially since this post is getting some high profile attn & may be distracting to the issue at hand.
I never said mental assent is the same as genuine faith. Saving faith consists not only the act of the mind but also involves the heart and will. Genuine faith is living and fruitful.
The Pharisees believed that salvation can be procured by rigorously obeying the law (at least, their understanding of it). Early Judaism, though not denying God’s grace in the process, generally taught that our works earned us a spot in the future kingdom.
I don’t know why you would bring this up about the Pharisaic view of salvation and its relation to what Rob Bell said above about salvation. Jesus clearly told Nicodemus that only those who are born again and truly believe in the Son of God are saved. That, sadly, excludes people like Ghandi and those who live “moral lives” and are not Christians.
You need to see both. You can’t pick and choose. Wrath and love are inseparable.
God’s wrath is toward the hypocrites and sinners. The problem is, you haven’t identified who the hypocrites and sinners are – all of us. All have sinned. All are under the wrath of God. But Christ absorbs that wrath for all who believe in him.
I am not a universalist at all; hold an annihilationist viewpoint based on scripture. So I will not defend Rob Bell at all.
What I would ask is:
1. If Hell is so central to the gospel, please point to just a single instance in the Book of Acts (over 30 years in hellenistic culture) where Hell is preached? Instead we see life vs. death
2. Does Hell make even a single appearance in any one of Paul’s 14 epistles?
3. Is Hell preached in the OT?
4. Finally, in the end, Hell is cast into the Lake of Fire? What is the distinction between these two entities as they are not the same?
Even in the opening OP, all the scriptures Josh uses point to eternal life vs. eternal death. Not hell.
It is interesting to hear the exclusionist tone among these posts. You are all so confident that you have perfect knowledge. And that makes you blasphemers. For a lot of you, I hope Bell is right, for if he isn’t, many of you will have an eternity to re-think your judgmental attitudes in hell.
I do not know much about Gandhi, I have watched the movie a few times (which I have heard was Westernized) and read a few statements from him. One said something like “I like your Jesus, it’s Christians (or perhaps he said Christianity) that I have concerns with.”
Wow. I have to read this book : )
That is fine what Ghandi said about Jesus and professing Christians but that still doesn’t prove Rob Bell’s criticism that conservative evangelicals make too hasty judgments against the spiritual condition of those who never make a serious profession faith accompanied by its fruits.
I remember there is a quote by Ghandi saying he is not only a Hindu but also a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. You think it’s possible for a regenerate person to make that kind of faith confession to the world? I hope you answer this in the negative for the credibility of your own Christian profession (which Bell has obviously lost by listening to the clip above).
That ‘wrath’ I do believe in, yes. But repentance of sin, confession, and forgiveness is followed by the remembrance of the Words of Our Lord, ‘Go, and sin no more.’ People don’t sincerely repent unless they mean not to repeat that offense, or place themselves in a situation where they might be tempted to repeat it.
As far as our sin, because of Our Lord, it is true that God will ‘remember our sins no more’ when we are forgiven.
And if we sin again, we must again repent.
But, Andrew, what if we say we believe, and yet we harbor intense contempt for some among our fellow human beings? And at times, suppose we act out this contempt with verbal abuse and intolerance ?
I don’t think we can hate our fellow man and love God.
And, if we were to use the Holy Name of the Lord, or His Word to justify our ill-will and contempt for others, would that not blaspheme against the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I believe THAT is the kind of hypocrisy that would call down the wrath of Almighty God on someone claiming to be a born-from-above Christian.
J. K. Jones
I always find this to be interesting: â€œThere is nothing that any person can do to be counted among the saved.â€ followed by: â€œIf you want to become one of the few, then you have to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation.â€ To me, that sounds like you have to do SOMETHING! Which is it?!
I do not claim to speak for the blog author, but I know what I mean when I say things like that.
If God had not changed my heart I would have never trusted Christ. I did not want to trust Christ, and I always do what I want to do given the choices I have at hand. I could not trust Christ because I did not want to. In that sense, there is nothing that I can do to save myself because there is nothing that I want to do to save myself.
Thank God He did change my heart. This heart change, called regeneration, gave me the â€œwant toâ€ to repent and believe. I trust Christ. It is my choice. But I am enabled to do so by God.
There is another way to interpret things like this. There is nothing I can do to save myself through my own good works. Christ has to do something for me, and I trust that He has done so. This trusting is something I do, but it is not something that earns anything for me.
Itâ€™s like taking hold of a life preserver. Itâ€™s necessary to be saved from drowning, but it is hardly something that would merit a reward.
Hope this helps. And now back to Rob Bellâ€¦
J. K. Jones
Thank you, Denny B., for this wonderful post. You answer Rob B.’s questions well.
As for my opinion of Rob B., I have no use for someone who would engage in a publicity stunt like this one. He has gone far beyond asking questions due to his tone and body language. This video shows more than many will admit.
i watched the video and read the responses, but fail to see or hear what caused such an uproar. rob bell is asking questions… questions like believers and non-believers tend to ask, if they engage their brain. my God can withstand questions.
i believe it was gandhi who said he would have become a christian….if he ever met one. perhaps he saw the venom of christian differences and wanted no part of it.
i don’t know what you all think of n.t. wright, but he writes of understanding the new testament as it was written to the people of that time; jews who were more concerned about their present state and the messiah, gentiles who needed to grasp the one true God. he makes a strong case for the fact that evangelicals emphasis on heaven and hell has been a relatively recent phenomena.
to an outsider, a non-theologian, i appreciate the need to be wary of false doctrine. but if history shows us anything, it is that man can twist the scriptures to justify just about anything; the inquisition, slavery, nazi germany, etc. additionally Jesus saved his most pointed words for the religious leaders who refused to be open up to his new message and enslaved the people with rules and interpretations of the torah. if i were a pastor, i think i would live in a constant state of trepidation, wondering if my message of love and forgiveness, obedience and grace, judgement of one’s fruits vs. judgement of the person was on point.
i will begin to read this blog to gain insight, but presently it appears that there is more going on than just doctrinal differences. i hope and pray that there are no underlying issues present. speak the truth in love. if gandhi read this interchange, would he want to become a believer?
I work with college students at a Christian university. These are the same questions my students ask me on a regular basis. I haven’t read the book, as none of you have either, because it hasn’t come out yet. And so the verdict is still out. Because the only thing Rob Bell does here is take these questions seriously. The same questions that the rest of the world has. Instead of pushing scripture down the throats of those who ask these questions, we need to walk along side of them as they discover truth for themselves. Why are we scared to ask questions and dig for answers? If all truth is God’s then we should encourage people to search for truth. They always wind up far more devoted followers of Christ after going on this journey for themselves. But they need partners for the journey.
I have met lots of Messianic Jews who claim to follow Jesus and I believe them. I have met one person who called himself a Christian Zen Buddhist. I have met another who said he was a hindu Christian. I did not get into any details, as the latter 2 claims surprised me.
I do know that God accomodates each of us to where we are at and draws each of us into the Kingdom step by step and that none of us measure up and all need grace.
I really like the ALLUSION in Lewis’ Narnia about the guy who was faithfully following a false god but was accepted by Aslan. I do not know if this is true, but I know God knows more than me.
YOU people are why I left the church so many years ago. You sound like a bunch of spoiled petulant children, terrified at the notion that your exclusive little club (“NO GURLS ALLOUD’) my not be so exclusive after all. Bicker bicker pick pick.
Who is it that is placing God into a box here? “Not taking him seriously” as claimed of Bell. Your teency weency human mind will never ever “get it”, so to speak, and neither will mine, so we had best focus on the greatest two commandments and throw ourselves at the feet of HIS Mercy in awe and in Love and in Thanksgiving and with great trembling. But you guys think YOUR interpretation of scripture is THE scripture, your perception of God is God. I have news for you. God cannot fit into any box your mind can create for Him. Get over it. Learn humility or face the fact that it is this kind of spiritual arrogance that chases people away from the Cross. It did me, but the Spirit found a way to pull me back, in spite of it.
I hope we all remember to pray for Rob Bell, as it looks to me like he really believes what he is teaching. He hopefully isn’t in it for the money and fame, although that has been a nice side result, but has just lost his focus with too much thinking and not enough reading the Word. Pray that he is open to the Holy Spirit to gently point out where his thinking has gone off track. God still loves him enormously.
what if we say we believe, and yet we harbor intense contempt for some among our fellow human beings? And at times, suppose we act out this contempt with verbal abuse and intolerance ?
L’s, in your world calling homoeexuality a sin is showing intolerance. Saying that a muslims faith in allah will not save him is contempt. However, in stark contrast, the Bible calls both of these statements true and loving. It’s a sad, sad world that you live in where darkness is light and light is darkness.
Did Paul show contempt or harbor ill will toward false teachers? He told the Galatians that the false teachers telling them to be circumcised might as well cut off their whole man part. There is a place for righteous indignation and exclusion of those who destroy the Church and her purity. There comes a point where we must choose to love God first, even if that is not “tolerant”.
Then there is Elijah who mocked and killed the prophets of Baal.
You also have Aaron in Leviticus 10 who was not even allowed to mourn the deaths of his own sons because of their wickedness.
The holiness of God sometimes calls for harsh measures that appear hateful if not judged properly by the Scriptures.
I don’t know if Bell is going to deny the existence of hell or if he is going to say that it will eventually become empty. But I have heard some pretty remarkable and convincing testimonies of people who have had near death experiences and some have spoken of a hell that match the Biblical descriptions. I would never put these testimonies on the same level as Scripture, of course, but nevertheless it is interesting that even secular researchers have had to come up with explanations (usually these researchers say that the trauma of going through a NDE causes a hellish vision of sorts) for the similarities. Studying NDE is really fascinating and my own studies of this have convinced me that the Biblical descriptions of both heaven and hell are not symbolic, but accurate down to the physical details that are given to us (and yes, I am fully aware that some people describe NDEs that do not match Scripture – that’s another topic for another day).
For anyone interested, I own an advance copy of the entire book and have started a series of review posts on my blog. It’s linked here. The first post is up and it’s basically a preliminary series of questions I think it’s helpful to ask by way of “ground-clearing” – in other words, acknowledging that this topic is highly fraught and emotional and so being as self-aware as possible of our own prior assumptions and beliefs and what the bases for those are. That way, when we enter into this discussion, we can do so charitably, gently, and knowledgeably. I think everyone would admit that those qualities are much needed here.
So what you’re saying is that a person can follow a religion that worships demons and can still be saved (as long as he or she is sincere and generally lives an ethical life)?
In 1 Cor 10:21, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot share in the Lord’s table and the table of demons” (HCSB).
Apparently this is what Ghandi did. Following Hinduism while incorporating some aspects of Christianity. Paul in other places tells us that idolaters cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5). Ghandi, though he may have tried to a live a highly moral life, was an idolater by following a religion that worships other beings other than the Almighty God.
I care not how insensitive this sounds to some of you, but the Scriptures are clear that one cannnot inherit God’s Kingdom while one lives this life worshipping other gods.
I think a lot of professing Christians use that allusion from Lewis’ book way too much. God doesn’t accommodate the way you’re thinking. He has done infinitely for us by sending his Son to die on the cross for our sins. That doesn’t mean God accommodates a person who mixes Christianity with buddhism or Christianity with New Age religion. The Scriptures are clear where these types of people are headed after the last judgment (Rev 21:8).
Also, God’s grace is not an indulgent grace. Yes, the reason why believers are forgiven and justified completely is because of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. However, that same grace rooted in Christ also transforms us – spiritually, ethically, emotionally, and MENTALLY. Which means that if we are truly in Christ our thought patterns and beliefs will change more and more in accordance with the truth of Scripture (there is no such thing as a regenerate person who embraces heresy).
Our Lord told us that the road to the Kingdom is narrow and the road to hell is broad (Matt 7:13-14). Sadly, many people who are on the broad road are people who thought themselves Christians or deserved salvation.
I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone weigh in on some of the questions that Paul C. posed back at comment #107:
1. If Hell is so central to the gospel, please point to just a single instance in the Book of Acts (over 30 years in hellenistic culture) where Hell is preached? Instead we see life vs. death
2. Does Hell make even a single appearance in any one of Paulâ€™s 14 epistles?
3. Is Hell preached in the OT?
1. Acts is a history. There are a lot of doctrines not included in Acts.
2. Eternal punishment is in Paul (i.e. 2 Thess 1:9).
3. There is a judgment in the OT, which is given a fuller sense
Your argument is like saying that justification by faith isn’t in the Gospels, so it can’t be central.
The Freedom of Man
Christiane raises an excellent point.
Question: How are Mr. Burk’s interpretations any more accurate or authoritative than Mr. Bell’s?
Answer: They’re not. Both conclusions are drawn from the Bible. Both interpretations are inspired by the Bible. The only thing we can agree upon from this is that the Bible is vague, confusing, contradictory and, ultimately, a playground for the misinformed capricious mind. That last bit I took some liberty with.
It should be no surprise to anyone that people will draw different conclusions from their faith – but cause it is their FAITH.
What you fail to recognize is the fact that Bell doesn’t answer any of the questions he asks. They are just that; questions. Did he say Ghandi is in Heaven? Did he say there is no Hell? No. Rob Bell’s teachings focus on questions of “what if?” He has never taught his beliefs as the universal truth, and often states a disclaimer that he is NOT GOD and we should use discernment when listening to him. Should we rebuke him for asking questions? Or should we believe all that we have been taught without questioning anything? Bell’s ministry is that of realization and questioning rather than story telling and reiteration. Ignorance is a mighty tool for the unintelligent, and I suggest resisting the temptation to use it arguments.
J. K. Jones says
“As for my opinion of Rob B., I have no use for someone who would engage in a publicity stunt like this one.”
J K Jones: what an arrogant pleb.
Bell’s “just asking questions”?
Bell’s “questions” are mostly rhetorical and of course we are all interested in knowing how he will flesh out the summary that has already been provided by book publisher (“Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faithâ€”the afterlifeâ€”arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.“).
Kevin DeYoung has a really good article about this, hope you check it out: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/02/28/bell-brouhaha/
To paraphrase DeYoung, a skilled teacher can ask questions that “teach”. They suggest that some beliefs are noble and others are not. They tell you what God is like and what you should believe about him. And only a teacher with stunning naivete or remarkable cowardice would suggest they don’t.
J. K. Jones
1. If Hell is so central to the gospel, please point to just a single instance in the Book of Acts (over 30 years in hellenistic culture) where Hell is preached? Instead we see life vs. death
What does the concept of death mean? Could it be spiritual death, and could hell be a part of that?
2. Does Hell make even a single appearance in any one of Paulâ€™s 14 epistles?
What about Jesus Christâ€™s references to hell in Matthew 25? Why does Paul have to repeat what Jesus said for it to be authoritative? Can Paul refer to hell as the wages of sin: death (Romans 6:23)?
3. Is Hell preached in the OT?
Please do a word study on Sheol.
J. K. Jones
The Freedom of Man,
â€œQuestion: How are Mr. Burk’s interpretations any more accurate or authoritative than Mr. Bell’s?â€
Mr. Bell does not interpret the Bible as a whole. If the bible speaks in a confusing way in one place, it speaks in a clear place somewhere else. Bell has taken his philosophy and imposed it on the Bible.
â€œâ€¦ the Bible is vague, confusing, contradictory and, ultimately, a playground for the misinformed capricious mindâ€¦It should be no surprise to anyone that people will draw different conclusions from their faith – but cause it is their FAITH.â€
We have every reason to believe that the Bible is true in all it says, on both historical matters and spiritual matters. Faith is not a matter of taking something as a belief without having evidence for it.
J. K. Jones
I just answered RD’s questions with a bunch of questions. Bell’s questions are no different. They sure sound retorical to me.
J. K. Jones
â€œâ€¦what an arrogant pleb.â€
Thanks for your â€˜understandingâ€™ and â€˜helpfulâ€™ attitude.
I dunno. I mean, I watch the video and I think, “It’s possible he’s baiting us…”
I can see how the video is being used to ask these provocative questions…only to find out that Bell will really stick to the Scripture when the entire book is released.
Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am.
But it seems to me that we should wait to hear the rest of the story before we claim Bell a heretic.
Not defending him. There is much that he preaches that I take issue with. But I want to hear what he has to say before I go so far as to start putting labels on him.
Oops. Meant to say, “Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m not.”
Exceptions to the author’s reserve mostly center on Gandhi’s limitations as a family man. Where the world sees a saint, Rajmohan Gandhi sees a cruel husband and a mostly absent father, paying scant attention to his children’s schooling and dragging wife Kasturba across continents at will, belittling her desire for the simplest of material possessions, then expecting her to comply when he turns from amorous husband to platonic companion to apparent adulterer. Gandhi took on a magnetic personality in the presence of young women, and was able to persuade them to join him in peculiar experiments of sleeping and bathing naked together, without touching, all apparently to strengthen his chastity. (Whether these experiments were always successful is anyone’s guess.)
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1609478,00.html#ixzz1FYQhGpaf
Are we grasping that this will be reality for many and not just a theological discussion? Is it that easy to just agree with? Why is it then that the rest of the Bible seems harder to just follow because it says so? Think about thisâ€¦your neighbor, your coworker, maybe your children or family member and many people you donâ€™t know may be going to hell for FOREVER. Shouldnâ€™t there be a panic level urgency amongst Christians to help people avoid this at all costs and shouldnâ€™t we spend every second of every day telling people? You would think so. No in reality we spend more time watching movies. This should break our hearts rather than be a venue to win the debate. Speaking of what God saysâ€¦Jesus says the its pretty hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you make over 35K a year you are in the top 90% of richest people in the world. Hmmâ€¦.maybe Godâ€™s grace is bigger than the box we have it in.
To be Christian in America you pray a prayer, you go to church and maybe a weekly Bible study if convenient, tithe 8 percent (after taxes), donâ€™t get drunk and try your best to not appear like you sin (but we know we do in our heads still), talk about how bad the world is with hunger and poverty but never do anything, judge each other, spend 85% of your time and money on yourself because we can afford too, and love your country above all else. Then we go around telling people that this is what the Bible says it means to be a Christian and follow Jesus. We say itâ€™s this radical message of love and wonder why non-Christians donâ€™t take us seriously. As if this is such a life of sacrifice and commitment to God that those who are out deserve to go to hellâ€¦forever. For those saying, â€œWell thatâ€™s because itâ€™s far more than that,â€ well then where is the proof of being sold out for Jesus? This is the Christian footprint. Look at stats – many Christians have never shared their faith with anyone yet still believe people go to hell. Itâ€™s like we donâ€™t comprehend how serious this all is.
Maybe the reason why hell is so terrible is because getting into heaven is a lot harder than all of us have assumed. Maybe Jesus has set the standard much higher and we are just being selective in what we obey. And that is scary.
I can see why everyone is captivated by Rob Bell’s video and consequently heated to express and combat one another, quoting Bible verses that back their arguments.
Having followed Rob Bell since his 2001’s book, Velvet Elvis and truly, helping me come to Christ closer than I would without him, I would like to share some facts.
I’m thankful Denny, author of this blog article, is at least noting he will hold his entire judgment until the book is released. I am sad for those who have too quickly shut Rob off.
My facts are
1) If you’re familiar with Rob Bell and his books and his church and teaching, which you should be before trying to completely understand his video teaser, you’ll know he affirms the belief of Jesus Christ being the Son of God and affirms following him. This in its own should be enough to signal his new book’s direction “should” be the same. If this not be the case, then we have the right after the fact has been put forth, to try to understand why he has done so and perhaps help Rob. But, it would be so contrary to his body of work and teachings, it will be quiet ridiculous.
2) Via his books and Nooma videos, this presentation in specific is EXACTLY how he presents and opens up subjects before revealing his belief. That’s it, period. To be specific, he asks questions and gets the viewer to follow along asking these questions, excited to hear their answers and intrigued. It’s a method and for Rob, you can add being artistic too, with HD cameras and neat ways to present it (film-like video). My assumption is so it may target those seeing his work from a lost, non-believing perspective. And if so, it will work well.
Quoting Bible verses such as Denny in this article will only allow Christians to relate and study upon it (and in this example unfortunately, argue upon). It will certainly turn away those struggling or denying to grasp God truly, the Bible and Jesus Christ in today’s time, who think Christians “have it nailed” and have built up all these judgments on man.
For those who are familiar with Rob Bell- this is exactly his thing. May he continue to do this and may his book hold true to what everyone on this blog and other’s alike, are seemingly so quick to cast him away with in.
It seems that many of the people who are criticising this video interpret the questions “How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?” to refer simply to God sending people to hell. However, it seems to me that those questions refer back to a wider scenario, of God being someone Jesus needs to save us from. I think the distinction is significant: the former seems to necessarily imply universalism; the latter, to my mind, very much does not.
as far as whether Bell believes in the doctrine of hell. Page 72 of the book answers that question, you haven’t been able to read that yet if you have read the first two chapters. Bell writes “Do I believe in a literal hell? Of Course.” (p.72)
I simply cannot believe that God wants to punish people forever. For what? For rejecting him? The punishment does not fit the crime, as I set out here.
I think it’s very interesting the amount of hate that can come from people who preach about a loving God – who will then torture those who reject that love for all eternity.
Since you seem to welcome dialogue in the “Comments” tab on your blog, please let people see this thoughtful response to your views: http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/rob-bell-is-not-a-universalist-and-i-actually-read-love-wins/. Let’s be slow to put ourselves in the judgment seat, which is God’s domain.
I was saved,(by the blood of Jesus),from a cult in 1976. The best words ever received and simply said, (to doubting Thomas and all people) in RED “I am the way and the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me—Jesus Christ, Son of God. John 14:6. If they are not teaching this don’t listen, read God’s word and believe it.
Bell is getting closer to the truth all the time. He already sees the bible as a work of man. How long before he realizes all religious beliefs are man made? Then he can fully embrace antheism.
I think there is definitely an element of jealousy and envy motivating Bell’s harsh critics. As far as the cool factor goes, all you have to do is look at Denny’s goofy skateboarding picture to realize Bell is 10x more authentic and cool than his critics.
I cringe when I see anyone using scripture alone to justify that someone is going to Hell if, in fact, Hell exists. I used to have some pretty fundamentalist views about Christianity a short time ago, but I’m now quite ashamed that I took the Bible so literally and dared not question it.
If one were to compare the Gospels just briefly, it’s easy to see that each Gospel says something different about who Jesus is and how he is portrayed. For example,the gospel of Mark, contains the messianic secret where Jesus’ identity is concealed yet the gospel of John proclaims it for all to know from the very beginning of the book. Also, it aggravates me when I hear some Christians saying that the end times are near because there is conflict in the Middle East. However, there has been conflict in the Middle East for thousands of years. And as I learned in a class on the New Testament much of Relevation “predicts” events that had already happened at the time Relevation was written.
I’ve heard some people describe the reason that God isn’t active in today’s world is that he doesn’t need to be. Their explanation is that God was active early on because his church was a new “baby” church. I admire people for trying to give a logical explanation to this problem, but, to me, it’s just a cop out. This explanation is a pure guess at best. And I’ll be the first one to say that I have no idea how we got here, what religion we should follow(if any) and where we’re going after death(if anywhere). Anyway, I know this was kind of off the original, but I salute Rob Bell standing up to fundamentalist Christianity and admitting that, while he doesn’t have all the answers, others shouldn’t be certain that they “know” what the right path to follow is.
There are theological answers for you who would question God’s character over sending sinners to an everlasting Hell. But I have a better question to ask:
Why would God offer you and me a way out? We have broken just about every one of His commandments countless times in our selfish rebellion and yet He offers us a way to escape from His wrath through repentance and faith in His Son.
You can think of every foolish reason why you can remain in your sin but I have taken Him up on His offer of grace and am forgiven and saved.
One other thing. If you, in your heart of hearts, would like to believe, but don’t seem to be able to get past some of these questions, ask God in prayer to help you see the truth about them.
He says in Jeremiah 29:13, “…you shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”
That is a promise from One who cannot lie and has the power to do whatever He says He will do. There is hope for you to find that same forgiveness and peace of mind about your eternal destination. Do not be afraid to ask Him for help.
Believe me, I grew up going to church every Sunday (I still go to church willingly almost every Sunday), and I went to Christian school from 3rd through 12th grade. I now go to a secular university which, in a way, has been quite refreshing. Getting different points of view from people from different backgrounds has been interesting.
Also, I have prayed for God to “show me the way” so to speak. Quite frankly, when I hear people say that God “laid something on their hearts” that it’s really just their own internal reasoning about how they should live their lives.
How does the Bible, a book written by humans with many authors many of which don’t agree with other on variety of issues, prove the existence of the omni-competent Judeo-Christian God? I understand that belief in a single-God is rationalized by many people through Ockham’s razor, which states that the simplest answer is probably the best answer. But why should we believe in the Judeo-Christian God versus the God of Islam? I realize that faith is most Christians’ answer to that question, but if belief in the Judeo-Christian God is just based on faith then why do many Christians believe that Muslims are going to Hell? What makes Christians right and Muslims wrong?
Zach, by it’s original definition, being a Christian is one who is a disciple or follower of Christ. In fact, critics of Christianity coined the term ‘Christian’ as a derogatory name for those in early church history who followed Christ’s teachings.
Today the definition of being a Christian for many is anyone who goes to church or loosely believes in the God. And in the first paragraph of your comment you describe yourself as having a lot of church background as though that adds some kind of weight to your later comments. But there is an old saying that “going to church and sitting in a pew doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”
I don’t know the sincerity of your efforts when you prayed for God to “show me the way”, but if your true heart was revealed by your next statement that “Quite frankly, when I hear people say that God â€œlaid something on their heartsâ€ that itâ€™s really just their own internal reasoning about how they should live their lives.” then I am not surprised at all that you did not see Jeremiah 29:13 fulfilled for you. After all, your words defy the condition set in that verse, “when you shall search for Me with ALL YOUR HEART.”
In other words, someone who is praying for God to reveal Himself will be honest with God about his doubts, and refuse to believe them, throwing himself on God’s mercy to help him see. And the method that God uses to reveal Himself today is through His Word. Begin your search by reading the Gospel of John. Not all at one sitting. Give yourself time to think about that day’s chapter or two. Then maybe read the book of Romans. Ask God to reveal Himself to you before each reading and trust that He will.
Zach, sin has infected and affected our mind and heart’s ability to figure these things out by ourselves. The statements you make in the last half of your comment reveal the same foolish conclusions that many before you have made. And many of those men and women HAVE gone on to faith in Christ. But for that to happen, it is necessary to turn to God with all humility and ask Him to reveal Himself through His word.
As to the last paragraph of your comment: Christians I know who actually study God’s word will tell you that faith in and of itself is not the determining factor that makes who we believe in trustworthy or not. Faith can not save you. Only God’s grace can do that. And after looking at what the gods of religions ‘reveal’ to their worshippers about how to be ‘saved’ or ‘acceptable’ to them, it becomes very clear that it all boils down to keeping some set of rules or performing some good works to gain the approval of god.
Biblical Christianity is the only place where we are told by God that we can do nothing to save ourselves. Nothing! We are told that God Himself is the only One worthy of saving a sinner like you and me. That makes the God of the Bible unique. And from the Old Testament to the New, Christ is revealed as the Sacrificial Lamb of God whose work alone on the cross can save any sinner who places their faith in Him.
So it is not the faith that saves us, but the object of our faith.
Followers of the god of Islam follow an object that is no different than any other religion’s object in that they have to earn their way to heaven. “Same book, different cover.”
BTW, if the church you go to does not believe that salvation is totally dependent on Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, then find one that does because you will never find the true God there.
I hope all this helps shed a little light. I will be praying it will.
We are all puppets in the hand of a master salesman. There is no such thing as bad PR. Rob knows this.
John, I didn’t mean for my church background to add any weight to my later comments. I merely stated those facts because I think that I’ve made an honest effort to believe in the Judeo-Christian God and in Jesus Christ. You have been very respectful in your posts, but one major thing that pushes me away from Christianity is when someone, like you for example, tell me just to try harder to believe and that, somehow, you have the meaning of life figured out. As I stated before, I have no idea how we got here, but I think I have given Christianity more than a fair chance, practically all 21 years of my life.
I wouldn’t normally ask someone how he knows he is right about something like this and others are wrong, but you seem to be so sure you’re right. So what makes you right and non-Christians wrong? Is it mere faith? Is any evidence required? Is physical evidence required? (And I really don’t think “nature” is physical evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God or perhaps any God. Practically all nature occurrences have scientific explanations. Of course, I don’t think that science disproves the existence of God at all, but it doesn’t clearly prove it either.)
Hi all. I am a Bible believing, God-loving, and God-fearing Christian. I began reading this blog with interest, but have become rather put off. Do you think it’s time all these comments stopped? If not, I suggest you read the whole lot through, and then re-think your answer. It started ok, but has just become a bashing session to be honest and it’s not pleasant reading.
“Hi all. I am a Bible believing, God-loving, and God-fearing Christian. I began reading this blog with interest, but have become rather put off. Do you think itâ€™s time all these comments stopped?”
First, whey do you need to qualify your pronouncement of “Christian” with “Bible-believing”; “God-loving”; “God-fearing” as if that is supposed to seal the deal? I know lots of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Children of God who use the exact same phrase to describe themselves. You prove nothing.
Second, yes, isn’t it awful that so many people are put off by those who actually believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who defend the orthodoxy of the Apostles doctrine, and the inerrancy, and perspicuity of Scripture.
John 6: 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life ; the flesh profits nothing ; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
Jude 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 4: 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine ; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Ladies and Gentleman, you are witnessing the truth of those words right now by the many on this site, and others, who actually defend someone like Rob Bell. May God have mercy on the church.
*sigh* This is exactly what I mean. I am not put off my faith, just this blog. All the answers seem so hateful and I really don’t think it’s necessary.
And yes, I expect that makes me seem like as airy fairy Christian. I’m not. I stand firm on God’s word, I just don’t think all these hateful messages are going to change anyone’s mind for the better so I think it’s better left unsaid.
Kate, I really feel for you. It aggravates me when fundamentalist Christians think they have a lot life’s questions figured out. I know I’ve asked lots of questions, but I really want to ask another one. For the fundamentalist Christians out there who believe that all people who don’t believe Jesus is their savior will burn in Hell, what about people in third world countries that live in remote tribes or villages where no outside missionaries have spread the word of Christianity? Are they destined for Hell? (And please don’t answer with Christians are saved by grace alone so it doesn’t matter if everyone gets the same opportunity to hear God’s word.)
Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Rom. 1:19 because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them.
They know God, they just don’t want Him ruling over them.
what about people in third world countries that live in remote tribes or villages where no outside missionaries have spread the word of Christianity? Are they destined for Hell?
Well, first of all, I am totally concerned about that and that’s why I support missions.
Second of all, people go to hell NOT because they haven’t heard the gospel but because of their sin. All human beings are sinners and therefore all human beings deserve hell. So, a lack of opportunity to hear about Jesus does not damn a person to eternal torment, their sin does that.
Joe, you state in your comment, “people go to hell NOT because they havenâ€™t heard the gospel but because of their sin. All human beings are sinners and therefore all human beings deserve hell. So, a lack of opportunity to hear about Jesus does not damn a person to eternal torment, their sin does that.”
Does this include children? Infants who die only days after being born? Do muslim kids who die in the cancer ward at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital slip from their bodies into a realm of never ending, perpetual, hideous torture?
No, the Bible makes clear that infants who die go to heaven. However, it doesn’t say HOW that works. Just because I don’t know HOW does not mean that it is not the same way any other person goes to heaven–by grace through faith on account of Christ’s death on the cross. It’s silence on the matter does mean that we don’t know–it doesn’t mean prove that there is another method involved. If you’re going to claim there is–prove it. From scripture.
My personal opinion, since I’m a 5 pointer, is that all infants who die are elect and that God does what He does for any other sinner who repents–regenerates them/grants them the faith to believe/seals them with the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Joe, where does scripture expressly state that children–who die prior to expressing belief in Jesus as savior–go to heaven?
II Samuel 12:21-23
RD this link might help with that question as well.
What am I missing?? How does this verse address whether a child enters heaven without first accepting Jesus as personal savior?
Thanks for sending along the link. I read it with interest. A couple of points John McArthur makes raise questions, though. At one point he states that the verse from 2 Sam that Joe quoted “…David clearly does expect to one day be reunited with his departed child. Since we know David is a believer whose destiny was heaven, we can infer that his hope of reunion means he expected his child to be in heaven.” Where do we see in scripture that David went to heaven? And, where, in the passage discussed, is there any indication that the child is actually in heaven?
He also states, “Passages like Matthew 18:1-6 and 19:13-15 affirm the Lord’s love for them. Those verses don’t state that children go to heaven, but they do show God’s heart toward children. He created and cares for children, and beyond that, He always accomplishes His perfect will in every circumstance.” Isn’t this Rob’s whole point? That God’s will is for all to be saved and that he always accomplishes his will in “every circumstance”?
“Scripture teaches that condemnation is based on the clear rejection of God’s revelation” And how does this comment square with the statements made at the SBTS panel discussion that our condemnation is systemic, a part of who we are as fallen creatures?
” Sorry, but in order for me to want to convince you of anything Iâ€™d have to respect you, and value you as a person.
And I donâ€™t.” -Joe B.
I have to say that your comment speaks volumes. We can discuss theological issues only to a point and then discussions devolve into personal attack. Why is that?
In the link that John Corbitt posted, pastor John McArthur makes the comment that the Bible does not explicitly deal with the issue of children going to heaven. As he states it, “Scripture is clear that children and the unborn have original sin–including both the propensity to sin as well as the inherent guilt of original sin. But could it be that somehow Christ’s atonement did pay for the guilt for these helpless ones throughout all time?”
He is making a theological assumption based on interpretations of various scripture verses that “seem” to agree with the “hope” that innocent children are not condemned to Hell.
The point is, not all theological assumptions are really as straigh-forward as we might think. And we should be able to discuss and work through these in a spirit of respect and love. If we can’t, what message are we sending?
Joe I will be the first to join you in condemning a man or woman in a place of authority in the church who teaches the heresy that Rob Bell teaches. Utter nonsense when held up to the overwhelming number of scriptures that refute’s his universalist stance.
However, to tell someone that you do not value them as a person also defies what God has told us about respecting ALL men and as one who Christ also loved and died for.
RD, If you read the Psalms â€“ a good deal of them written by David â€“ you see that he lived by faith in God and His character as a just, forgiving, wrathful, loving, merciful God. He counted on it, lived his life by it. He obeyed God as scripture and the prophets revealed His will. He wrote about his confidence in God to punish the wicked (all of us who have broken his commandments) and attested to how God dealt faithfully with his own sin. He looked forward to God providing the atonement that he and ALL old testament believers would need by sacrificing animals. This was a picture of the future Messiah to come who would provide that permanent atonement by becoming God’s provided sacrificial lamb.
Hebrews 11 lists David in the so-called ‘Hall of Fame’ of those who lived by faith and were with the great I AM now. So David’s faith in God’s mercy and grace towards him through the coming Messiah saved him.
So when we read in scripture inspired by God that David looked forward to seeing his son again we can safely infer that God, through his spirit-inspired servant David, has revealed that children who are too young to willfully reject Christ will be forgiven and justified through God’s sacrificial Lamb.
Here is another quote from MacArthur “However, another point may be helpful in answering this question. While infants and children have neither sensed their personal sin and need for salvation nor placed their faith in Christ, Scripture teaches that condemnation is based on the clear rejection of God’s revelation–whether general or specific–not simple ignorance of it (Luke 10:16; John 12:48; 1 Thess. 4:8).
Can we definitely say that the unborn and young children have comprehended the truth displayed by God’s general revelation that renders them “without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20)? They will be judged according to the light they received. Scripture is clear that children and the unborn have original sin–including both the propensity to sin as well as the inherent guilt of original sin. But could it be that somehow Christ’s atonement did pay for the guilt for these helpless ones throughout all time? Yes, and therefore it is a credible assumption that a child who dies at an age too young to have made a conscious, willful rejection of Jesus Christ will be taken to be with the Lord.”
Of course, anyone of age who CAN understand the gospel of Christ and then reject it, will face God at the Great White Throne Judgment. And according to God’s word, be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Thanks for taking the time to research and send over verses and commentary for me to consider. I appreciate it.
Joe, my intention is NOT to declare that there is no Hell, my intention is to point out that a close reading of scripture shows that the commonly understood idea of Hell might not be as clearly defined as we think.
So much is predicated on the Augustinian idea of Original Sin. But when we read Gen 1 and 2 where do we read that Adam and Eve are condemned to a physical place called Hell?
I’ve been exchanging some emails with Dr. Jim Hamilton (a great guy who teaches at SBTS). He and I don’t see eye to eye on certain issues but we are always cordial and respond to each other with respect in our emails. I appreciate his willingness to dialogue.
In a recent email we were discussing the notion of Original Sin and I emailed the following “alternate” version of the Genesis account:
A father builds a glorious home for his son and daughter. He puts a CD player in the den along with stacks and stacks of unopened CDs. He tells his two kids that they can play ANY of the CDs they want EXCEPT for Led Zeppelin’s “In Through the Out Door”. He leaves them to their music. After a while a neighbor who once worked for the father comes over and asks what the kids are up to. The daughter tells him about the CD player and all the CDs they can play. “I see you’ve got Zeppelin’s ‘In Through the Out Door’ over there! Have you ever heard that one?? It’s a classic!” The daughter says no but that they were told not to listen to it. In the end, after some tempting from the neighbor, she decides to play the CD and then gets her brother to listen to it as well. The father hears the strains of “In the Evening” coming from the den and realizes that the kids are playing the Zeppelin CD. He confronts them with their disobedience, kicks them out of the safety of their home and ultimately, after enduring all kinds of hardships from suddenly finding themselves homeless, they end up, in all places, the home of the neighbor (their father’s former employee who had tempted them to play the Zeppelin disc in the first place. Once inside the neighbor’s house the kids are stripped of their clothes, tied up, raped, beaten, starved, cut with sharp knives, burned with smoldering cigar butts and tortured endlessly, hour after hour after hour in the most hiddeous fashion one could ever imagine. Of course, the kid’s father knew what kind of neighbor this guy was. After all, he’d had to kick him out of his position as an employee. But, his kids should have listened. They should have obeyed and realized that their disobedience would cause him to have to send them to live with their madman neighbor forever.
When read this way it seems–at least to me–to leave one with a rather distasteful feeling about our heavenly father. I think we’ve heard the garden account so often that we don’t realize how hideous a tale it is. Would the Abba that Jesus came to reflect really do this?
Since when is it the Christ like thing to do to say hateful words and completely judge someone for the questions and doubts they have. How is name calling and saying you “knew where he was heading” showing nonchristians the love of Christ. Are you saying that you had already judged Rob Bell before he even wrote this book? Are you God? Is that your job? And don’t people usually actually read the whole book before they review it? I’m not saying he is right, but I think everyone deserves respect.
Lauren love speaks truth about the danger, the harm these kinds of teachers do to God’s people. Study Paul, Christ, Peter, the Prophets and their reaction to men who claimed to be spiritual leaders who taught others false doctrine. Christ called them hypocrites and white-washed sepulchers. Paul called them out by name and called them wolves in sheep’s clothing. Peter said they were like animals whose destruction has been set from long ago.
You are confusing someone who seeks help with their sincere questions with one of these wolves.
And as far as judging him to be a false teacher who needs to be exposed, Jesus calls you and me to know men and what they stand for by their fruit and what comes from their heart out through their words.
Following those guidelines given by Christ, and His Spirit’s leading, one does not have to read every book written by these deceiving spirits. But hey, maybe you know a better way than Christ’s.
Whilst I think most of the answers are right, I would like to add something on the Ghandi issue.
1. The Bible tells us that God judges people according to how we respond to what we know.
2. A great multitude will be saved; from every tribe and nation. There are some, as yet, who have not heard the Gospel. There are ancient civilisations which never heard. I presume that this is attributable to my former point.
3. Whilst I think we can be sure that Christians are saved, as Christians we are not the ones to say ‘these people aren’t saved’. That is for God to do. We must say ‘this is the way to be saved’.
Given God’s unchanging nature and clear will revealed in His word about faith in Christ’s sacrifice and repentance over sin being the ONLY way to be saved, and that anyone who does not believe in Him will not be saved (Acts 4:12), it seems a little wishy-washy to imply that somehow sinful men will find another way to be saved simply because they didn’t hear the gospel.
Tthe Bible tells us that creation reveals to all men all that they need to know about Him and from that knowledge will know of their need to seek God’s will for them. Romans 1:18-20 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
While Christ spoke of differing levels of knowledge and therefore differing degrees of judgment, we can’t forget that ALL those He spoke of are still judged for not seeking/obeying God’s will. They didn’t have to be because God promises that if any man wants to know him, will. Deut. 4:9 says “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.â€
We must not try to make God fit our concept of right and wrong in these or any other matters because sin has so affected our thinking that it is unreliable at best. We must put a childlike faith in the One who defines those things for us and who we believe truly knows best because He alone is good and just.
Correction: That should be Deut. 4:29 not 9
One more passage about God’s just and good will to hold any man accountable for not seeking and obeying Him:
47 And that servant who knew his masterâ€™s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Ignorance is not an excuse for rebelling against God’s will written on our conscience. Romans 2:14-16
“14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
> The Bible tells us that God judges people according to how we respond to what we know.
> ..ancient civilizations have never heard…
Where does the Bible ever say that our limited knowledge is a hedge against the “wrath to come”? I don’t know of any place where the Bible teaches that ignorance is an excuse for the law.
I see the opposite, actually: that in order to be saved, one must believe in Jesus Christ and that there is no other way (Rom 10; Acts 4, etc). Furthermore, the judgment of Christ comes in “blazing fire” upon all those who “do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus”. (2 Thess 1:6-10) If Paul means what he says, he’s saying that if you *do not know* or if you *do not obey*, you get God’s judgment. What else could he possibly mean?
We can’t know whether a person (Ghandi) made a death-bed conversion to Christ, but what the Bible teaches *exclusively* is that without said profession and faith, you go to hell. Ergo, if Ghandi died as he lived, the Bible is adamant that he is in hell. Otherwise, why bother with all the preaching about how one gets to heaven and how one gets to hell?
To suggest that there is another way to be saved is to suggest that there is another gospel. Paul curses such people for daring to suggest that the Bible is incorrect on this point.
If our intent is to be Biblical, I don’t see that we can do any less.
Am I the only one who thinks it’s funny that the worst kind of sinner Bell can imagine is a racist?
Do you think the Bible is a “perfect” book that was actually written by God? Would you really rather blindly follow the opinions of people thousands of years ago, or would you rather think, for a moment, why you believe what you believe? It seems to me that if you don’t have any empirical proof that the Bible is 100% God’s word, it’s kind of bold and naive to assert that you know that the Bible is the absolute truth. And then you tell others that if they don’t believe what you believe, based on faith alone, they’re going to Hell.
Zach you will never see the Truth until you cast your pride down as the ugly, sinful thing it is and open your heart to God.
Ps 14:1 says the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Prov 26:4 says “Answer not a fool according to his folly…”
Do you think God is NOT going to follow His own council in that verse by showing YOU the Truth about what you, by your own words, are dead set against seeing?
Humble yourself before God as a sinner who needs His help to see how real He is and how trustworthy His Word is. James 4:6-10. Only then will you come to see how wonderfully flawless His Word, and He, is.
Zach – Having studied the issue extensively, I have come to the conclusion that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. That every word in it is serious. That man must live by every Word that comes out of God’s mouth. That God did not give His Word to any other people than those listed in the Bible. That Hindu, Islam, Bhudda, etc, will not take you to the Father – indeed, they will take you to hell.
These conclusions are the result of years of study, personal investigation, international travel (Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, etc) and more.
Would you care to elaborate why you think I’m a victim of ignorant blind faith? ..or is your assumption of my faith really just blind faith on your part?
Furthermore, if you think about “empirical proof” for more than three seconds, you will realize that no one lives their life by strictly empirical proof. For example, you have no empirical proof how life came to be – so why live life? This reasoning is flawed, of course. For some things, empirical proof is a requirement. For others, it is not. Please use it appropriately.
Lastly, If a person of a particular faith (whatever it may be) understands that only “true believers” will reap the rewards of that faith, he should either believe that faith and speak it – or find a new faith. This is logical.
However, to castigate a man for believing his faith **without empirical proof that his faith is a hoax** is simply just a way of saying that your *faith* is better than his *faith*.
That’s what you’re doing to me: saying your faith is better than mine. Fair enough – now prove it. And don’t do it by saying that your faith is better than mine simply because you believe that one faith can’t tell another faith how to comport itself. That would be illogical.
I apologize if I came as arrogant and rude, but I was really put off with how you quoted scripture as if that somehow offers absolute proof. You’re absolutely correct that we live our lives without much empirical proof. However, we also live much of our lives on assumptions or educated guesses whether it’s what medicine we should take to cure a sickness or what companies to buy to stock in that would result in the greatest return.
When I read something in a non-fiction book, I don’t or at least I shouldn’t automatically believe that it’s true without first consulting other sources whether that be other books, scholars on the subject or anything or anyone else. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have good reason believe what I read in a non-fiction book is true. But without really trying to prove a statement’s veracity with a second, third, fourth and so on source, I’d call that blindly “believing” something.
Could you give a brief explanation of how your travels “prove” that Christianity is the right religion to follow?
You must not have read my last post very carefully because I never said I had anything figured out. I don’t claim to be an atheist, agnostic, deist, theist or anything else. However, I’m sure of what I don’t know, and I never said or implied that “my faith” was better yours or anyone else’s.
Let me define one of the meanings of faith courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Now, how logical, since that’s you seem to be concerned with being logical, is it to tell someone that because of your faith you know that if that person isn’t a Christian, then he or she will undoubtedly, in your mind, go to Hell?
Simply because that is a definition of faith that has been given by some sources does not mean that as Christians, our faith is in fact not grounded in proof.
Frankly, I’m a Christian because I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.
“But could it be that somehow Christâ€™s atonement did pay for the guilt for these helpless ones throughout all time?â€
Something about Christ makes me trust His care for little ones:
So, if someone were to state ‘â€œAll children deserve Hell as wellâ€,
I might ask them to think about Our Lord’s own witness on behalf of little ones, in St. Matthew 14:19
“”Let the children come to Me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
Perhaps Our Lord knew of something in little ones that mirrored the Kingdom of God . . . some simplicity of heart, perhaps, that older and â€˜wiserâ€™ folk have lost from their childhood ?
All I know is that the little children who wanted to come around Our Lord didnâ€™t know Who He was, or anything about a â€˜biblical gospelâ€™, nor would they have understood all of doctrines taught by the many denominations.
All they knew is that they wanted to be â€˜with Himâ€™.
They just knew.
I find that very meaningful.
Zach – somewhere along the line, a man’s faith needs to mean something. Life is too short to sit around and speculate all day. I’d rather put my best guesses in a pot and go for broke, checking and correcting as I go along, rather than sit on the starting line, equivocating till kingdom come. That’s what the servant did to the one Talent that Jesus gave him (re-read Matt 25:14-30 to get a gist of what I’m getting at.)
This stuff matters, so I make it matter.
Here’s the flip side which we don’t want to ignore: Jesus berated people and called them names because they wouldn’t believe and because they sat around paralyzed with indecision. In His ‘moral economy’, this kind of unbelief is fit to be chucked out on the road, good for nothing. It’s salt with no flavor.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve no illusions of grandeur or perfection. I’m totally open to being wrong, and if you help me pluck the splinter or beam from my eye, you will get a hearty and sincere thank you. But if you join the jello-brained consensus that thinks that everyone needs to play with kid gloves and act like they’re always wrong … save that for the babies on the starting line. Life is too short. Jesus never acts that way or endorses that mindset (pssst: neither do Muslims or other enemies of the Gospel)
As for ‘proof’ … even if I were to go to Israel and show proof-positive of a world-wide flood, Abraham’s DNA, David and Bathsheeba, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension .. would this prove anything *to you*? Or to the millions of critics out there? No, frankly, it wouldn’t. Because to every PhD, there’s an equal and opposite PhD (remember the OJSimpson trial?) and for anything I could put on the table, someone would come along and give some compelling reason why it wasn’t the case. So the presence of ‘hard evidence’ or lack thereof still ultimately serves as only an invitation to you to investigate and decide for yourself. I’ve seen more than enough both in and out of the Bible to convince me that it stands heads and shoulders above the rest. So I’m putting all my eggs in that basket, come hell or high water.
If I’m wrong… May God have mercy on me.
If I’m right… May God have mercy on us all.
(In this post, I’ve just described the *nature* of why I believe, not the *reasons*. If you want details of what convinces me, please ask. Quite fascinating. And, no, you won’t get a “Lee Strobel: Case for Faith” lecture from me. I found the DVD to be quite underwhelming. imho.)
Christine – (and anyone that wants to read the passage) I think you mean Matt 19:14, not 14:19.
I think that Jesus is using the child as an object lesson about the nature of the place where faith starts. It starts out simply, and uncomplicated: you’re attracted; you see; you believe.
But like a child, we don’t always stay on milk. Eventually we grow to meat and potatoes. Likewise, if you grow in faith, you’ll find it brilliantly complex and much deeper than we can fathom (Try studying St. John. His works are simultaneously brilliantly simple and stunningly complex).
But if you’re content to leave it alone and have a juvenile attitude towards Christ, you’ll find much of the Bible to be confusing. This simplistic place is *precisely* where Rob Bell is at. His overly-simplistic theology in incapable of grappling with the issues and teachings of the Bible – so he sadly prefers to ignore them, choosing to stay in his simpleton ways and teach things that blatantly contradict the more complex teachings of the Bible.
It cannot be understated that this is a dangerous place to be! (Please re-read the Matt 25 parable about talents that I alluded to above). This naivete breeds a lukewarm faith, and we should solemnly note that Jesus has no room for this in His followers: Rev 3:15-16.
Actions have two levels:
Is it Sin or Not Sin — James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it….
And the Extent of the sin- The Bible also enumerates ramifications for sin too — Consider the the laws from the Old Testament such as the ox laws instance in Exodus 21:27-28…
But God judges based on the first. According Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. “Sin” is singular, not plural. Any number sins, one or greater, is categorically sin.
In any case, we should consider the weightiness of God’s judgment (that is, his wrath) as being directly proportional of the weightiness of his holiness and the breadth of his love. Love is how God is able satisfy his wrath and maintain his holiness at the same time. Having a high view of God’s holiness and God’s judgment forces one to have a high view of God’s love.
In a pragmatic level, it is more prudent to be exclusive than be inclusive. If universalism is true and orthodox Christianity is false, then I’m OK. If universalism is false and orthodox Christianity is true, then I’m OK. The only way to me wrong is to be a universalist of sort.
“In a pragmatic level, it is more prudent to be exclusive than be inclusive. If universalism is true and orthodox Christianity is false, then Iâ€™m OK. If universalism is false and orthodox Christianity is true, then Iâ€™m OK. The only way to me wrong is to be a universalist of sort.”
I can’t even remember how many times I’ve seen this used to coax people into believing in Christianity. It’s a rational argument but doesn’t it sort of defeat the purpose or at least I understood the purpose of Christianity to be? With this argument you’re saying that one should believe in Christianity for fear of the negative consequences of not adhering to the Christian faith. Isn’t the point of Christianity to believe that Jesus is truly the savior of world and glorify him not out of fear of going to Hell but out of pure gratitude to Jesus for his death on the cross?
With all those years in the church you mentioned in earlier posts, where you were (I’m assuming) surrounded with biblical teaching, can it be that you are ignorant of the many passages that reveal God’s perfect holiness, His perfect wrath towards unrepentant sinners and the terrible fear of facing Him on Judgment Day?
How can that be if you have truly read the Bible through yourself and not just relied on bits and pieces of yours and other’s flawed observations and theories?
Teaching those verses to an unrepentant sinner is just as right to do as it is to tell a smoker he is facing death through a horrible lung cancer. You and I could not tell a smoker that with certainty because we are not God. But if we had his attributes, and could see that for a certainty, it would be wrong not to tell the smoker what he faced if he did not turn away from such a destructive habit.
C’mon man, fess up, you really haven’t read the Bible yourself have you?
Have I read the Bible cover to cover? Absolutely not. I’ve read quite a few passages through the years though. Since you seem to be well versed in Biblical knowledge, you must certainly know that each Gospel says different and some conflicting things about Jesus. I’m not saying that this in any way proves that the Bible is altogether false, but it certainly raises questions as to whether or not the Bible has inaccuracies and some falsehoods in it. To be honest, you’re not making a convincing argument for me to believe that Christianity is undoubtedly the way to go.
Telling me that because I haven’t read the Bible from cover to cover, I’m somehow missing verses that reveal God’s greatness makes me wonder what exactly I’m missing. Please give me some passages that show God’s perfect holiness. I promise you I’ll read them.
Zach, try Leviticus 11:45, 1 Samuel 2:2, Psalm 99:5, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 36: 20, Hebrews 12:10, and Revelation 3:7, 4:8, 15:4, and 22:11.
Zach, you have got to do the work for yourself. It is not my job to provide you with crib notes for God’s Word. If you want to know the truth about God, you will WANT to seek Him yourself. You obviously do not so quit wasting time with these smoke screen arguments to justify your own willing unbelief.
yankeegospelgirl, thanks! I’ll be sure to read those verses.
John, “Willing unbelief?” What does that mean? I’ve never said I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is my personal savior. Of course, I question whether or not the Bible is the absolute truth. If you see something wrong with merely questioning and investigating parts of the Bible, then I don’t want to have anything to do with whatever religion you’re claiming to represent. I just think it’s a bit of a cop out for you to say that I’ll realize God’s perfect holiness if I read the “many passages” that you described, then you won’t give me any passages. With all do respect, and I really mean that, it is people who say things like you’ve said that really push me away from Christianity.
Willing unbelief means that you are unwilling to come to faith by doing the hard work of seeking God with all your heart, soul, mind and life. God has already promised that those who are willing to do that, WILL find Him. You won’t do that. You expect Christians to show you some ‘spiritual shortcut’ and when they refuse or fail, you use that as an excuse to not believe. As proof, I echo back your own words “it is people who say things like youâ€™ve said that really push me away from Christianity.” YankeeGospelGirl was kind to give you those verses. But most, if not all, of those verses can be found by you using your own Bible’s concordance.
Until you call out to Christ as one who is blind but wants to see so bad that you won’t let anyone keep you from Him, you will remain blind.
Ex.: Mark 10:46-52 says “And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”
That man wanted to see so bad, he wouldn’t let anyone become an excuse not to keep crying out for sight until he got it. If he had, he would have been guilty of willing unbelief.
John is in fact right. It took me only a few minutes to find those passages. I simply picked up my Bible, thumbed to the back, and found various verses which contained words like “holy” and “holiness.”
If you have a Bible, you can do the same thing if you’re truly motivated.
Zach – I would go in a slightly different direction than these fine folks. Nothing wrong, per se, with their approach, but, for argument’s sake, just because a verse happens to mention ‘holy’ doesn’t mean it’s God’s overriding attribute. I could do the same for ‘love’, ‘wrath’, ‘just’ or any number of phrases and where would we be?
Let’s do this: if you had a private audience with God and you asked Him: “What are you like!? Show me your resume. I want to see You for who YOU are – nevermind all these other people on Denny Burk’s site!” what would He say?
Believe it or not, someone actually asked God that question, and it’s recorded in Exodus 33.
Moses asked God “Show me Your glory” (it reads differently, but it’s essentially the same question as I’ve proposed in my hypothetical). God answers him in two steps
1. I would show you physically, but it’d kill you, so I’ll only reveal myself partly.
2. Tomorrow, I will stand before you and declare My Name
Suffice it to say that in OT cultures, one’s “name” was more than “Bob”. It was a description of them, akin to a resume, if you will. Call me silly, but I would HAVE to think that God’s answer here would be the most important verse in the entire Bible!
Here is the Lord, Himself, declaring His name to Moses:
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, â€œThe Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.â€ And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. (Exod 34:5-8, ESV)
( BTW, I strongly recommend that you read the entire episode for yourself by going to Exod 33:12-34:9 )
I would adamantly state that this description IS what God is like and that every single thing He does in the Bible can be directly traced back to this revelation of Himself. Love, Judgment, Blessings, Cursings, Heaven, Hell – ALL of it stems from this description. Or in other words, John 3:16 *flows* from this description – but this description cannot flow from John 3:16, ergo, John 3:16 is a less significant verse in understanding God than this is.
All of this to say… this description that God gives of Himself is the very definition of holiness. Love, Goodness, Mercy flows from one “side” of His holiness; while wrath, Judgment, punishment, etc, flows from His “other” side. Neither side can be taken in isolation if we want to understand God as **He** desires to be understood.
I do think Isaiah 6 is a very important passage in this context—the whole chapter.
You’re absolutely correct, yankee.
For those that aren’t familiar with the passage, note that whenever we get a peek into heaven, whether here or in Revelation, the heavenly hosts are enthralled with God’s primary attribute (and, no, it’s not ‘love’).
Secondly, take a look at Isaiah’s commission and note that it’s the 3rd most frequently quoted OT passage in the NT. Ask yourself if you can see Rob Bell preaching the message Isaiah was commanded to preach. If it would sound strange coming from Rob’s mouth, you may also be interested to find that it’s in all 4 of the gospels (at least 2x in Matthew), Acts, Romans, Corinthians and more.
If you’ve never heard this passage or Isaiah’s commission…. rinse and repeat.
My heart is heavy. It hurts me to see the body divided like this. Regardless of Bell’s message, how are we allowing such pride and hate to instruct our responses? I don’t read anywhere in my text where the Rabbi of the world says, “You are wrong. Perhaps you should go back and read the Holy Scriptures again.”. Instead, he offers a renewed interpretation of love–with all the fear, judgement, mystery, and goodness combined. Let us consider theae
My apologies… My reply sent prematurely.
Let us consider these matters with humility and love… But, please can we not let Satan have his foothold in these discussions. Please let us be the church that Jesua established. My heart mourns for this division. Not that the conflict is discomforting. But the vengeful conviction and absolute judgement I am sensing disturbs me.
His yolk is easy. Love. Let us always begin and end here. Let us never forget or take for granted how immediate and eternal our every word and action may be.
You’re right. Egg yolk does go down easy.
And if you’re wondering, no I’m not one of those hard-boiled Calvinists…
That sure is a sweet sentiment, but you seem to be forgetting one teeny, tiny little thing. Just a slight oversight on your part.
The man has commited heresy. He has denied the gospel and is preaching a false gospel. He is deceiving people and the message he preaches will lead people to an eternal hell.
When someone is going to do that, what do you expect Christians to do? Twiddle their thumbs?
Fact: All Christians oppose Bell, his false teaching, and recognize him as a heretic.
I sure am glad that it is not the one who does not use his own name contrary to forum rules who will be judging me.
My blog is linked to the comment. It’s pretty obvious what my name is, unless you’re wanting to be obtuse about it.
How’s this…instead of worrying about someone’s name on a blog comment thread, why don’t you try to prove from scripture that what Bell says is true. That would be much more interesting.
You may be interested to read Jesus’ words in the Gospels:
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matt 22:29, ESV)
“He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:27, ESV)
Jesus frequently made comments like this to His detractors, telling them that their error was because they didn’t read, study or know the Scriptures or that they didn’t believe Him.
Matt 15:16; Mark 7:18; Mark 9:19; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:25; John 3:10; etc.
In talking about false teachers, here’s one other thing Jesus said:
â€‹He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt 15:13-14, NIV)
You speak truth. And I am humbled in my own oversight of Jesus’ words. Yet, I still do not think this negates my observations.
What is happening here (and I am not speaking to your responses or insight, but these discussions as a whole, and across web addresses) seems prideful and rather malicious. Also, I think Jesus claiming ultimate truth is perhaps a different hue than a human. Granted, I believe in the simultaneous diety and humanity of Christ (as mysterious as it may be), I think Jesus’ conception of and authority over the text should be a matter handled humbly and delicately when we access this same certainty.
I do not want to call names or place blame or fault. I only seek to suggest a sense of grace for those of us earnestly seeking truth. If we ask the wrong question, or even arrive at misinterpretation, is it primarily our place to summon judgement? Or do we have big enough faith in a grand enough God to cover over this?
Is anyone seeking to draw hearts away from God here? I cannot imagine that this is the intention. And even if for selfish ambition, does not Paul encourage that from any motivation, Christ is preached? I do not see discussions circulating the denial of Christ. What IF this thought brings non-believer to open their hearts to Christ. If this doctrine is dead-wrong, or even blasphemy, perhaps God will reveal the truth to these seekers once they turn their hearts towards Him.
Again, I in no way oppose the healthy friction and struggle between believers. This is why we are the body. I just hope with Paul, that in every way, Christ is preached, and that we display the love and unity that the church was established upon in Acts.
I truly love our differences. And I praise God for hearts that burn with the passion I read in these blogs. But we must always remember the three that remain. And the greatest of these is Love.
Just caught this. Thanks, Yankee. “Yoke,” (among many other mistypes). Smartphone not so smart. 🙂
Be blessed, friends.
Brittney – I appreciate your concern.
Jude exhorts Believers to (among other things) earnestly contend for the Faith (Jude 1:3). When our faith is threatened by dire misinformation, lies and heresies that undermine core tenants of the faith (and Bell’s book certainly does that), we should begin by humbly educating those with erroneous conclusions. If they remain steadfast in their error, we need to “turn up” the volume and reprimand, preferably with 2-3 witnesses. If they still insist on teaching/practicing error, eventually they are to be tossed out of the church forcibly, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump (one bad apple spoils the whole bunch). Matthew 18, Rom 16, 1 Cor 5 and Gal 5 are just a few of dozens of passages that speak of holding Truth with high regard, so we have to be diligent (and humble) when we search ourselves and others to make sure we stay in the truth.
So when the person teaching/practicing untruth refuses to comply, the Bible is clear: he must be evicted. Not because we *are* holy, but because we must *strive* for holiness and we take that call seriously. If a person is uncertain and searching, they should be welcomed and trained. They should never be reprimanded for honestly searching and asking questions. But Bell’s “questions” are misleading at best, designed not to inquire, but to undermine.
I’m about 1/2 way through his book, and on virtually every page I have to groan because his questions, logic, assumptions and conclusions smack of the worst kind of Biblical ignorance. I could literally write a book on how problematic his book is and how he completely ignores the very passages he claims to quote (Gen 19:24; Ezek 16; Matt 11 being the most recent bunglings I’ve read this morning) Yet he’s a *pastor* of a church with tens of thousands in his following! This is completely unacceptable! He’s already been counseled that his teaching is in error, and he rejects this. The next step is to be confronted (which I’m sure he has been). If he doesn’t repent, he needs to be exposed and ostracized. (Eph 5:3-11)
As best as I can see it, this is the proper, Biblical way to handle people who claim to be Christians yet refuse to submit to the teachings of the Bible.
Thank you for His Words. You have left me with the scriptures in my heart to consider. All I have wanted to impious that perhaps each post should have this same goal. It just seems far more effective and scriptural than a post that leaves the its reader with the bitter taste of egocentricity and propriety. Again, not casting judgement–these reactions are all very natural when considering the God of the Universe. But we have been called to very specific ways of living. We all fall short. Thank God for His Son.
Man… I need to stop doing this on my phone. “impious” to be “imply is.”
Oh-Jay, you’re the one who asserted that Bell is a heretic. Why don’t you try to prove from scripture why what Bell says isn’t true? Of course, you’d still be assuming that the Bible contains nothing but truth. Why don’t you then try to prove that the Bible is infallible? Try to support your conclusions with secular texts that at least give some credibility to the historical accuracy of the Bible, nevermind the theology contained in the Bible.
You’ve got it all figured out, so answering these questions should be quite easy. I’m eagerly awaiting your thoughtful response.
Zach, when’s the last time you brushed up on your study of secular texts contemporary with the Scriptures?
I could list all the people, places, etc. that writers like Luke get EXACTLY right, sometimes in cases so confusing that it would require someone who lived at the time to sort it all out precisely, but it would bore you because it would be so long. Meanwhile, try reading a little Josephus.
I’m not going to claim that there couldn’t possibly be a textual error in the Bible, but as far as historical accuracy in general, you have got to be kidding me.
Sorry for the interruption. Back to you, Oh-jay.
Back, sorry. Couldn’t resist: Here are a few tidbits to keep Zach happy. A few years back, I studied what outside sources had to say about Christianity, and these are some of my notes about Roman writings. Enjoy:
Tacitus describes in great detail how Roman Christians were cruelly persecuted under Nero after he shifted the blame for the burning of the city from himself to them. He first provides some background about the origin of the religion, referring to Christ and the spread of his religion after he was put to death.
The following three things can be shown regarding the topic of interest from Tacitus:
1. The founder of the new religion was put to death.
2. The religion was briefly checked but broke out afresh in the same area where the founder was executed.
3. The religion spread so rapidly that there were already many adherents to it found in Rome within thirty-four years of the founderâ€™s death.
From these three established points, two inferences can be drawn:
1. If the religion had, in a scant 34 years, spread throughout Judea and into Rome, and had there gathered a large number of converts, the first propagators of this religion surely must have spared neither time nor effort in spreading it.
2. Since the author of the religion was executed as a criminal for his teachings, the efforts of his followers in spreading them under the same government and in the same country where he was killed must have been attended with great danger.
Suetonius, a contemporary of Tacitus, is much less specific, and from his quote alone we can draw proof only of a general persecution of the Christians under Nero.
Writing at the same time as Tacitus and Suetonius, the poet Juvenal offers a graphic description of the cruel punishments exercised under Nero, specifically that of being burned alive. His description of this mode of punishment matches Tacitusâ€™s account of how Nero punished the Christians. While Juvenalâ€™s poem does not mention the Christians specifically as being the ones Nero is burning to death, we can reasonably assume, from the contemporary statements of Tacitus and Suetonius, that
this is what he is referring to.
Writing a few years before Pliny the Younger, Martial belittled the Christians and their sufferings. Not only does this provide solid evidence for our initial proposition, it also reinforces the fact that these sufferings were wholly voluntary. The Christians could, at any time, have avoided persecution by abandoning their religion. It was their obstinacy in refusing to do this that would arouse the ridicule of those such as Martial.
Now for what I think is one of our most valuable sources, Pliny:
Pliny, writing to the emperor Trajan 70 years after Christâ€™s death, speaks of the large number and wide variety of Christians in his provinces of Bithynia and Pontus. He describes them as being of all ages and both sexes, as dwellers of city, town and open country alike. Again, we see evidence of the great exertions on the part of the early apostles in spreading their message. Another thing worth noting that may be gathered from Plinyâ€™s letter is the nature of the Christiansâ€™ persecution. We may surmise from Plinyâ€™s uncertainty about how to deal with them and the apparent lack of any legal precedent on the matter that the Christians were not suffering under a sovereign edict of persecution. Rather, it was from the public that their persecution came, as we read in Plinyâ€™s account of anonymous tipsters who strove to bring Christians to trial. Also, Plinyâ€™s description of the Christiansâ€™ various responses upon interrogation as to their faithâ€“–some refusing to give it up, some renouncing it immediatelyâ€“–confirms that they lived in a constant state of fear and danger and confirms also that those who did die died as true martyrs. The option of renunciation was an open one, and many took it.
I’m not claiming to be any type of scholar at all, but I’m not kidding you about historical inaccuracies. Regarding secular texts, of course it would be unrealistic to be able to find proof of the veracity of all the passages in the Bible in secular texts.
I will get back to you and provide some examples because I know without examples my claims are meaningless.
The Bible is a collection of books written by people who adhered to the Christian faith. These writers were not historians. While many or at least some of them may not have intentionally distorted historical events, it’s not too hard to imagine that these writers would present their religion in a positive light even when the facts just didn’t support that.
You would be surprised at how much we can learn about early Christianity without even touching the Scriptures. (See my examples from Roman sources.)
Something else to consider is the great care Luke took to present his story with strict accuracy in every particular, even where he could have bent things to make the enemies of Christianity look a little worse. He takes great care not to exaggerate the sufferings of the apostles. Look at his careful record of times when they received comparatively lenient treatment and of occasions of forbearance on the part of the authorities. A false historian attempting to palm off his story onto the ignorant masses would most likely take every opportunity to enlarge upon, even exaggerate the persecution of the church, not qualify it.
My comment with examples isn’t appearing at the moment for some reason, so if you come back and say, “What examples?” they’re on the way. Sorry about that.
Against our better judgement, we purchased “the book” and the more we read, the more it affirms the justification for pretty much, every article, book review and such that expresses serious concern about the adulteration of God’s Word and Christianity as we know it according to the actual Word! We know God can handle all of this, but we must say reading this book, knowing it is from a “Christian” pastor, causes great sadness and frustration because after all, doesn’t he know the answers to most of those questions? Shouldn’t he? How can he be a Christian leader and not know at least some of the answers?
Not just in “Love Wins” but in the NOOMA videos, He often, takes parts of Scripture and makes assumptions/interpretations and we apparently are expected, to just accept what he is saying, as is. Don’t do it!
We highly recommend to anyone who reads or listens to anything from anyone from the “emergent movement” including Bell, to keep your bible nearby and look up all the Scriptures that are referenced to “back up” the suggestions and declarations – you will see like we have, that if they included even the next verse, the whole meaning of the verse would be there.
Which means, by providing a part of Scripture, drawing a conclusion by that one Scripture, is misleading and actually false.
We will noToo bad.
We won’t call these people heretics, it is too serious of a judgement call. But, when we consider that the emergent church movement appears to be about refuting what we know as orthodox Christianity – telling those who will listen, that there are errors and such, regarding what we believe about Christianity – that is heresy. We looked up the actual meaning of the word and the antonym of heresy is orthodox!
We must say the book is far worse than we imagined, when reading as a Christian and knowing that it is written under the banner of Christianity, it is clear that the people who are following such “kooky” talk are simply unable to accept the truth of God’s Word and seem to have forgotten the “faith” part of Christianity. We can all create “comfortable” ideas, to suit what we want to accept but it never means it is the truth. 2 + 2 ALWAYS equals 4, even if we don’t want to believe it.
As Mark Driscoll has said: (our paraphrase) “God teaches us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.”
This book and the whole “emergent” thing has hit home literally for us and having to take a stand, has meant pain and tears. But, God calls us to watch our life and doctrine closely, to defend the gospel and that “All men will hate you because of Me (Jesus).” And let’s not forget what Paul says “Have I now become your enemy because I told you the truth?” Sadly, this happens, but we feel we have no choice but to stand firm, in love, refusing to accept this kind kind of talk as any kind of “new Christianity.” Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever! Praise God!
The other sad part is when people know that Christians don’t support the philosophy of the “emerging movement” such as Bell’s and McLaren’s, they assume you “hate” these people, we have even heard a reference (close to home) regarding how those who don’t accept Bells’ teaching, want to “burn” him. What a horrific thing to even suggest or even use as an illustration. If some of “these” supporters think like that, it makes sense where all the distortion is coming from. False beliefs and false ideas about others, they don’t even know. Bell tells “Bullhorn guy” in his NOOMA video: (min 9:40) …”So Bullhorn guy, I’m asking you in love on behalf of all of us, please put the bullhorn down. I’m tired of it, we’re all tired of it. I think Jesus is tired of it.”
Not true, Mr. Bell. When you say, “we” we assume you mean Christians, well, we don’t feel the same as you – please stop assuming you speak for all of us. You do not.
Contrary, to what some assume about us, who do not “support” your words, in no way do we don’t hate you – we want you to see the Truth as God says it. Please, see what you are actually saying! God is love, yes, but He is also, Holy, Just, Merciful, Righteous, Perfect and Sovereign – more than love wins, God wins! (not us)
Definition of heresy:
1. Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (esp. Christian) doctrine
2. Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted
“Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted”
like ‘love your enemies’ ?
I’m glad Our Lord didn’t mind teaching different ideas from ‘what is generally accepted’ . . .
TGC panel discussion: http://tgc-audio.s3.amazonaws.com/2011-conference/sessionpanel_lovewins.mp3
Christiane, yes Jesus’ teachings were against the religious of the day but surely you are not suggesting that we should teach different ideas from Jesus, are you?
If the Jews of Jesus’ day were paying attention to their Scriptures, they would have known that there was no Biblical command to hate one’s enemies. In fact, they were told to help their enemies (pulling their enemies’ ox out of a ditch, etc.). Their problem was that they tried to let their logic breathe new/additional meaning into the laws God had given them – and Jesus repeatedly spoke against this, accusing them of teaching as Scripture their own pet traditions. (Note: every one of His “But I say…” teachings in Matt 5 is *completely* supported in the OT! He was contradicting the common thought of the day, but not the OT.)
Strangely enough, Bell is doing the exact same thing the religious teachers of the 1st century were doing: he’s re-defining ‘love’ to his own personal liking, stretching it beyond Biblical meanings, and then inventing his own doctrines – doctrines which are completely refuted by even a casual reading of the very passages he cites in his book. (Try reading all of Ps 136 with a “Bellsian” view. You can’t!)
The solution in Jesus’ day and our day is the same: teach what the Bible says, not what we wish it would say.
TMAN, You’re cherry picking verses to support your own opinion. I can do that too. What about an eye for an eye? That’s in the OT and didn’t that change when Jesus came along? I’m no Biblical scholar, but it seems you’re being a bit disingenuous by acting like everything you say is based in scripture yet you leave out passages like the one I mentioned.
We are to speak truth in love Zach, so I have to tell you that as one who has already declared your unbelief in the Bible being God’s word (your own comments above), you are hardly one to trust in rightly interpreting parts of it. Believe it first, study it as TMAN has, then you will see that he is NOT cherry picking scripture but rightly dividing the word of God by using only the verses that apply to the situation he was commenting on.
“An eye for and eye” was a verse where God is outlining EQUITABLE justice for lawbreakers where the punishment would fit the crime. It protected the lawbreaker as much as the victim by creating limitations which prohibiting exacting a greater vengeance. Jesus took it to a new level in Matthew 5:38 by calling the Christian to actually offer even more to those who would take from us. Even going so far as to love, forgive and pray for them.
But you will not be able to understand these things until you come to faith in Christ and receive the Holy Spirit that ALL of us need to understand God, His will and revelation given through scripture.
Sorry if that stings. Sorry if it doesn’t.
You know, all the pretend christians that whine and moan about “Oh, you people are being so unloving to Rob Bell” need to realize something.
When he decided to reject the gospel in order to tickle people’s ears and preach false, soul damning heresy as he has, he is the one who set himself up for this. The doctrine he preaches will lead people astray and damn them to hell for all eternity if God doesn’t open their eyes and ears. Therefore, what sort of reaction were you expecting from real Christians? You want we should give him a pat on the back? A cookie? Maybe a hug?
He is getting treated MUCH better than he deserves.
Stop being dense Joe. Of course he wants a cookie. With heart-shaped sprinkles on top.
I made him a cookie….
But I eated it. LOL
Thanks for your comments.
Be advised that I do my very best to not cherry-pick verses. The minute I find my faith to be hollow, I will drop it and move on to the next best thing. Who wants to go down with a sinking ship? Not me. So I’m doing myself no favors if I deliberately misrepresent my faith.
If we had ‘eye-for-an-eye’ going on today, we wouldn’t have frivolous lawsuits, and everyone could afford health care. (seriously – think about it. I have a friend who’s a Dr and he pays $130K in malpractice insurance, even though he has yet to be sued. Guess who he has to pass the cost off to?? You and me.). Truly this world would be a better place if a person only paid the value of the item damaged, not tens of millions depending on how popular you are. (this is why home/auto insurance isn’t skyrocketing, but health insurance is. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog)
Two points relative to the context of your concern:
1. Jesus never superseded the eye-for-an-eye law. It’s still in effect in His books, and one day, He will personally come back and hand out justice according to everything we’ve ever done. Do a search for the word “according” and you’ll find !dozens! of verses that read like this: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to each one according to his work” (Rev 22:12). So His sense of justice has not been nullified.
2. If you compare the OT Mosaic law to the other laws of the day (Hammurabi’s Code, etc), you’ll see that the Mosaic law was *much* more fair (even more fair than our laws today, imho). According to the HC, a nobleman could kill his neighbor’s servant and then offer his own servant in exchange for the life lost. Not so with the Mosaic Law: the nobleman’s life was forfeit, not his servant. No one was allowed to substitute someone else’s life or property for a crime they committed.
If you put the Mosaic Law in the context and culture of the day (including the *implications* of the laws), you’ll see that they’re actually quite consistent and humane. This does require some out-of-the-box thinking since Moses’ culture was quite foreign to ours. When we see the Mosaic Law as barbaric and cruel, it’s because we’re making ignorant assumptions about their culture. That’s our fault, not his.
I could give many examples, but in the interest of time, I’ll give just one more:
People freak out when they read that if a man raped a woman, he had to marry her and could never divorce her. “HOW CRUEL!”
But think about it: villages were tiny back then and everyone knew everyone’s business. They also lived quite close to each other. So if Bob gets wayward with Sally, he’s obligated to marry her .. and guess who his neighbors will be?? Sally’s dad, Sally’s Brother1, Sally’s Brother2, Sally’s Brother3, Sally’s Brother4, etc. Do you know of any guy who would want to be neighbors with men who love their precious sister/daughter Sally like that?? And if Sally doesn’t like the way you sheared the sheep, or the price you sold the wool to at the market, guess who she’s going to tell? Daddy and Brothers! The dude’s life will be MISERABLE, and he can never get out of it. (Read the story of Levi and Simeon protecting their sister in Genesis 34 if you think I’m out in the weeds. 😉
I guarantee you any would-be-Bob would read that law and think twice about getting carried away with any Sallys in his village.
(And if you don’t like their slavery laws, rest assured: their slavery was what we would call “indentured servitude”. That’s why they could opt to *become* a permanent “slave”.)
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to Myself.”
Well, Rob Bell is certainly lost. His false teaching proves that he is not a Christian. However, that verse does NOT mean that we’re supposed to embrace him because he claims to be a Christian. He is a fslse teacher to be rejected, not a brother to be embraced.
Unless of course by “embrace” you mean wopped upside his head with a styrofoam sword.
In the Luke passage, Jesus uses an ancient Hebraic technique, since referred to as remez. Why did Jesus respond with this particular phrase, and why were the Pharisees (quite Godly and righteous men) so upset with hos statement? Perhaps the context of Ezekiel 34 could shed some light. Jesus most certainly had memorized this text in his early years as a student in bet midrash
the Pharisees (quite Godly and righteous men)
What? They were a brood of vipers according to Jesus and John the Baptist.
I did not finish my thought, and my phone posted this. The Pharisees? I think they have gotten a bad rep, but otherwise, why would Jesus say–“Unless your faith is GREATER than that of the Pharisees…” To put this in context, if we were speaking of vocal talent, we would not say, “Unless you can sing better than my Aunt Carol in the shower…” We would use a strong reference of comparison–“Unless you can sing better than Aretha Franklin (or whomever you value as a singer)..” I think they began with pure intentions of being a “righteous, holy priesthood–set apart..” But in their intentional, Godly separation, they began to cling to tradition over the year between the dispensation of the Levitical Code and Jesus’ day.
In the story of Zaki, Jesus references the passage of Ezekiel 34–I believe, to bring attention to the verses preceding his proclamation. The Pharisees were not allowed to touch money with graven images, thus they enlisted tax collectors like little Zaki to do their dirty work, in exchange for ostracizing him as a “sinner.”
Jesus, by way of Ez. 34, warns against this form of righteousness–
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: â€˜This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
7 â€œâ€˜Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
This just convicts me of my mission. To love. To be a Good Shepherd that is a part of tending the flock.
This is what I had in mind with my previous post. That’s all.
Further, just as an FYI, the Pharasees did NOT enlist “Zaci” to do ANY work. The tax collectors worked for the ROMANS.
Also, if you want to be teaching the flock, shouldn’t you be concerned with TRUTH–the truth that Rob Bell rejects and the lies he preaches??
http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110421 – MacArthurian response
http://mikewittmer.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/christ-alone/#comment-4529 CHRIST ALONE responseâ€¦new book by Mike Wittmer
brother. i think youll enjoy this. its video remake of the EXACT video you posted! someone redid it flipping the logic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDLCN8GwBHE
In Testaments of Love, Leon Morris asks, â€œHow do we harmonize the assurance that â€˜God is loveâ€™ with the assertion that â€˜our God is a consuming fireâ€™? Most of us never
think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is
indistinguishable from that of the world around us.â€ [quoted in Love, Prayer, and Forgivenes: When Basics Become Heresies http://tinyurl.com/y9p4vez ]
Morris wrote that THIRTY years ago!
By the way, this song might be illuminating for Rob Bell supporters:
(I knew I’d find a way to bring southern gospel music into something somehow. 😉 )
Oh-Jay, just an fyi, I’m pretty sure Jesus and John the Baptist didn’t write any books of the Bible, so so-called “quotes” from them, are, at best, from a second hand source.
I don’t think Pontius Pilate wrote any books of the Bible either. Gee, you think maybe he didn’t really exist??
Maybe Socrates is just a fictional character made up by Plato.
Yankeegospelgirl, are you serious? From I understand, writers of the Gospels, for instance, were not journalists and didn’t attempt to write their books as objective accounts factual occurrences through interviews. Of course, I wasn’t living, in the what is now Israel, approximately 2,000 years ago, so I have no way of knowing for sure. But no one else whose currently alive, at least to my knowledge, was living over there at that time. I admit that I should not have just assumed that because Jesus or John Baptist didn’t write the Bible, there are no direct quotes from them. Still, it’s extremely hard to believe that, even if writers of the Gospels or any other books in the New Testament had access to anyone who had a memory of something Jesus or John the Baptist said, these sources could remember verbatim what Jesus or John the Baptist said.
Anyway, what I said “are you serious?” about is that you really misconstrued what I said in my last post, yankeegospelgirl. Could you let me know where I questioned Jesus’ or John the Baptist’s existence? I find it hard to believe that more people aren’t skeptical of so-called “quotes” in scripture that were written down many years after the speaker had died.
In my opinion, and I’m not trying to personally attack you, you’re last post was a textbook example of a straw-man fallacy. You distorted my argument, so it was easy to attack and then easily refuted the argument that you made up.
@Zach: What you seem to not realize and Rob Bell definitely fails to realize is that the method that God used to compose the Bible is a supernatural one. Not a natural one which men use to put their OWN thoughts down to paper.
God was the author of the Bible, not men, in that He used His power to put every word of the Bible the way He intended it to be recorded in it’s original text by using various men with various personalities/styles.
There were no “Oops, I didn’t want him to say THAT!” from God. And that would include any quotes from those who God wanted in His word even though the writer may have not been there personally to hear it. I don’t see that as something God would and could not do. Hope that makes sense.
Quite frankly, I guess I’m a heretic, because I don’t believe the Bible is infallible. What reasons do we have to prove that the Bible was “written” by God? Faith?
I find it funny when some Christians will argue that because complex man-made things in our world have a creator or creators, natural things must also have a creator. I believe this was William Paley’s argument. Yet these people seem to leave out the fact that all made-man creations are created by a physical being. God has no physical presence. So while I think it’s legitimate to question how something could come from nothing, I also think it’s legitimate to question how a physical something could be created by a non-physical something. To my knowledge, there’s no precedent for this occurrence in the world we live in.
I think faith can be a powerful attribute in some circumstances, but in many circumstances, it just leads to people putting on their blinders and refusing to think. What about the Canon? Did God perfectly select which books should be included and which books should be left out? And then what about apparent contradictions in the Bible? I know many fundamentalist Christians claim there are no contradictions, but I think the pre-destination vs. free will argument is good example of a contradiction. People that I’ve heard try and attempt to deny this contradiction claim that pre-destination is simply that God knows what will happen, so, therefore, free will still exists. I don’t buy that explanation. God knowing something and pre-ordaining something to happen are completely different ideas. People who defend pre-destination are simply re-defining the word, so that they can make sense of the situation.
@Zach, the free will vs. predestination argument is a classic example of something that can be a stumbling block to people. As I study the issue for myself, I am not sure that the people who originally framed those debates clearly understood what the text was referring to. To presume that we can get inside Paul’s head, for example, as he was writing about predestination goes a bit too far. We (most of us) are at a bit of a disadvantage not being fluent enough in the original languages to read the texts as they were written. Was the writer addressing a specific issue that was causing confusion or friction within a group of believers, or making a blanket doctrinal statement? Because I know myself pretty well by now, I know that I have the ability to make certain choices and I have made a few really stupid ones in my life. Did God know what I was going to do? I think so. I do know that even when I was living like a complete pagan, He never stopped calling to me. Does He call to everyone, and some of us just don’t answer? I don’t know.
A lot has been written about variations in manuscripts, many of which could be simple copying errors. IMO, Christians should be the deepest thinkers there are. The “physical” attributes of God the Father and God the Spirit are more than we can comprehend. I have tried to think of a way to describe them to my granddaughter and I’m at a complete loss except to say that they are like the wind (not even my original idea), that we can’t see them but they have the power to displace the entire universe if they so choose, and we see them moving in the lives of people. And then the conversation shifts to Jesus. After all, it was Jesus who said that if we want to know the heart of God, we should look at Him.
You wrote: “I know many fundamentalist Christians claim there are no contradictions, but I think the pre-destination vs. free will argument is good example of a contradiction.”
I am not a ‘fundamentalist’ Christian, but I have noticed that many people have great difficulty with the beautiful paradoxes found in sacred Scripture.
And yet, within those paradoxes, are found many of the secrets of ‘The Kingdom’ of Our Lord.
What may appear inconsistent to us as people of this Earth, can only be understood in the light of a kingdom that is not of this world.
It is only in the light of Christ, that we begin to understand how Christ-like meekness and humility can and will triumph over all opposing earthly powers.
Your unbelief saddens me for you Zach.
Zach raises some valid concerns. I’d be interested to understand why you consider the Bible to be supernaturally authored by God through human agents. (Inerrant, infallible, etc) I have this image in my head of the pottery scene from the movie Ghost.
John, I’ve spent enough of my life blindly believing what has been ingrained in me. I’d be lying if I said that there’s not a part of my mind that worries that I’ll go to Hell. But, to be honest, fear of going to Hell was the one thing that kept me holding on to my belief in Christianity. In the past year, I finally decided that it wasn’t worth living in fear of going to Hell if that was the only reason that kept me believing in Christianity. I’m at peace much more now than I was when I was always concerned about going to Hell.
John, I’m sorry if you’re sad for me, but nothing you’ve posted has convinced me that you’re probably right.
Why do we have to insist that the Bible be taken literally and that it is free of contradictions in order for it to be considered God’s word? I’ve never understood this. The Bible clearly disagrees with itself in MULTIPLE places, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not inspired by God.
You wrote this:
“But, to be honest, fear of going to Hell was the one thing that kept me holding on to my belief in Christianity. In the past year, I finally decided that it wasnâ€™t worth living in fear of going to Hell if that was the only reason that kept me believing in Christianity. Iâ€™m at peace much more now than I was when I was always concerned about going to Hell.”
I’m glad you more peaceful, and I’m sorry your journey has been so filled with fearfulness. Go back and look at the Angelic Proclamations and at the Words of Our Lord, and you will often see there ‘Be not afraid’ and ‘Fear not’.
When you have come to a place of peacefulness in your journey, you are closer to Our Lord than you were when you were fearful.
That is what I know, and what I can share with you.
Spend some time reading in the Psalms, and in the Gospel of St. John, and bring that new-found sense of peacefulness to your readings. You will be blessed.
Yankeegospelgirl quoted in a previous comment with regard to biblical inerrancy and accuracy, “Something else to consider is the great care Luke took to present his story with strict accuracy in every particular…”
I have to assume, then, that you take Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth to be the accurate, correct account, and not Matthew’s account, am I right?
@Zach, I sense that we are somewhat kindred souls in what you’ve posted. I tried to skim back into these posts to get a vague idea of where you are coming from, and it sounds like you’ve got a head start in questioning your faith 6 years earlier than I did. I’d like to offer myself as a resource to you in your spiritual journey. I’m not looking to give you any easy answers, to the contrary, I’m more of an anarchist looking to burn down the last vestiges of your Christianity. But to paraphrase Peter Rollins, all that will remain after the fire consumes everything, is God.
I don’t think the Bible is free of error. I never claimed as much. I can understand, Zach, why it might frustrate you to have people say, “No, no, there are NO MISTAKES WHATSOEVER in the Bible,” but then you find something that just looks odd. So for what it’s worth, I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s necessary for my faith either.
Yes, but Yankeegospelgirl, you make the very bold claim that Luke takes great care to present his story with strict accuracy. If this is so, then why is his story SO different from Matthew’s? And should Matthew’s account hold more weight since he was – we are told – an actual disciple of Jesus? Should we be able to assume that, as an eyewitness to all of the events recounted, that Matthew is more accurate than Luke? So when Matthew records for us that Jesus was born at least ten years before Luke tells us he was born, are we to rely more heavily on his insight? And does it reall matter?
Since it is apparently the trend to deny the infallibility of Scripture, I would like to take a moment to defend Scripture and its infallibility. I believe this position can be defended in two different ways, one by an appeal to the logical breakdown of our faith, and the second as an appeal to Scripture itself, which thus becomes an appeal to that faith which has been handed down to us. In the case of the second position, if we reject Scripture, or if we say that it contains error, then we are on the very slippery ground of finding anywhere safe to stand, due to the first argument.
Thus, the argument precedes as such: If there are errors in Scripture, then which parts are in error, how do we determine those errors, and what guide do we have left to determine our faith? Do we appeal to “logic” such as saying that there is an apparent contradiction, and therefore there must be an actual contradiction? Do we have sufficient historical knowledge to exclude any possible rational reconciliation of the facts at hand? Do we have reason to reject these accounts as not being from eye-witnesses, or records of eye-witness accounts as given by secondary sources, such that we can thus conclude that they are historically suspicious? Basically, when we ask all the same questions of the bible that we would ask of any other historical text, do we have sufficient grounds for excluding any of the accounts and saying that Scripture is historically flawed?
I would hold that there is simply no part of Scripture where we can claim that we have sufficient evidence, and sufficient reason, to say that what is recorded in Scripture is in error. There are multiple sections where we can say that there are apparent contradictions, and that one possibility is that there is an error. But, the possibility of error is not the only possibility, there is also the possibility of insufficient knowledge, or of our misunderstanding the events.
If we do claim that Scripture is in error, then where do we stop? What part of Scripture is trustworthy? How do we know that any of what we have can be a reliable witness once we open the door to saying that part of what an author has written is erroneous? Our faith logically breaks down because once we say that Luke or Matthew, one must be in error in regards to Christ’s birth, then how do we know that either of them is correct? And if Jesus’ birth is thrown into question, what of his miracles? What of his divinity? If the authors could not get so important a fact as Jesus’ birth right, then how can we trust any of what they record about Jesus?
But, according to what Scripture says of itself, it is trustworthy. Yes, this is a valid point because it means that the authors are making a claim to accuracy, and historically speaking we cannot simply reject that claim. We must assume that we have less knowledge than the original authors, unless we have sufficient evidence to argue otherwise. For instance, when we read in Joshua that God commanded Joshua to hold to the full testimony that Moses passed on to him, and that it was a book he was to recite, we have reason to believe that Moses did write out the law and pass that written law to Joshua. Thus when we read “the law” in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, we can reasonably say that these books could well have been written by Moses, and could have been part of the testimony passed on to Joshua. Similarly when we read in Luke that he made a full investigation, we have reason to believe that his account is accurate. When we read Paul commanding Timothy to hold to what Paul had passed on to him, it makes sense that Paul is saying that his words are without error. Likewise when Paul says that he passes on what he received, or that he is passing on a command from God, or that he is writing as an apostle, we have reason to assume that what Paul has to say has the full authority of God behind him.
We thus have reason to believe that Scripture is fully authoritative: because it claims that what it has passed down is factually accurate, and trustworthy. As far as we can tell, this is how the first Christians received Scripture. Thus part of the faith handed down to us is the belief that what has been handed down is fully accurate. We see this as Paul speaks to Timothy and says to him, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Because these writings were understood to be part of Scripture, the words apply to themselves as well, that they are breathed out from God. (I’m appealing to the fact that Peter references Paul’s teaching as authoritative, and that Paul makes the claim for himself as he claims to write as an apostle of Christ.)
So then, in conclusion, we have good reason to say that Scripture is without error. The first reason being that if we hold Scripture to the same historical examination as we would other documents, then our assumption should be that Scripture is accurate unless we have overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The second reason for holding that Scripture is without error is that this the faith that has been handed down to us, and if we say otherwise then we are saying that those who handed down our faith are wrong, and have erred in what has been handed down (not a kind assumption on our part). Based on what has been handed down to us, and what Scripture says of itself, I believe it is presumptuous of us, and potentially blindly arrogant, to hold that there are errors in Scripture, and that we are wiser than the original writers in spotting them. (If we hold that these errors have crept in via mistakes in copying, then we are still saying that we are wiser than those who handed the faith down to us.)
(As a caveat I will admit that I am not here arguing that there are not potentially minor errors that have crept in, such errors as a misspelled word or name, but these errors on the ones we can easily spot, and by textual criticism we can eliminate them easily. Likewise we have sections such as the long ending of Mark and Jesus dealings with the adulterous woman in John, which we can determine to be erroneously added in later. But, these errors are not original to Scripture, and we recognize them because of the comparison to other manuscripts. Thus God has preserved Scripture accurately via overwhelming historical evidences which we can use to verify which of the manuscripts are most accurate to the originals.)
Yes, and to clarify, I believe there are no errors of any real consequence, though there may be minor details that were a slip. Plus, as you said, certain sections were added in later. But as it happens, there are a number of supposed “contradictions” that we can actually resolve.
Charlton and Yankeegospelgirl,
I appreciate your comments and your position. Charlton, you ask the very important question, if we can’t take all scripture as being literal and error free then how do we determine what to believe and which scripture to follow. I have some thoughts on that and will post a brief comment in a bit. But before that, I have to address Yankeegospelgirls’s statement that there are only supposed contradictions.
If we are to take everything literally as it’s represented to us, how do we reconcile the two distinct accounts of when the disciples received the Holy Spirit? The absolute most commonly accepted account of this is Luke’s narrative in the Book of Acts. We read in the first chapter that the resurrected Jesus tells the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to await the arrival of the gift of the spirit. We know that in chapter two, 50days later during the celebration of pentecost, that the spirit filled the upper room where the disciples were assembled. Is that when they received the Holy Spirit? If we say, yes, then what are we to make of the account given us in the Gospel of John, chapter 20?
John 20:19-23: “On the evening of that first day of the week [the night after the resurrection had occurred], when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, â€œPeace be with you!â€ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, â€œPeace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.â€ And with that he breathed on them and said, â€œReceive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyoneâ€™s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.â€
Now, did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit the same night that they discovered the empty tomb, as John tells us, or was it 50 days later, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, as Luke tells us? And, since there are two distinct accounts provided for us in scripture, with two very different time frames provided, which are we to assume is the correct series of events? Do we go with John’s account, since he was the beloved disciple and an actual participant in the events described? If we do, then what does that mean for Luke’s account? If we are to take seriously that Luke did a thorough investigation of all these things, yet his account doesn’t concur with John’s – supposedly – eyewitness account, then how can we be certain which parts of Luke’s account are accurate?
Of course, we can simply ignore the obvious discrepancy and the honest questions it naturally raises, and continue to boldly assert that there are no condridictions in scripture that are of any consequence.
As I thought about my post last night I realized that I should have noted that I do agree that there are potentially (and really) inconsequential errors, but none that affect the meaning of the text.
R.D., to be candid, that passage is John is not one that I understand that well. I won’t pretend that I know exactly what’s going on there.
However, we have other passages in John where Jesus tells them that he will “send” the Spirit to them after He is gone. He makes it pretty clear that he has to be absent before the Spirit can come to them in John 16:5 ff. Yes, this is before his death, but as you can see even more clearly in John 14:15 ff. Jesus is going on and on about how we will go away, then come again, then go away again, but he will send “another Comforter.” This is clearly referring to the events of Pentecost.
Sorry, misprint, meant to say “he” not “we.”
Joh 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Joh 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Joh 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Act 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
I am charismatic with sign gifts. My understanding of these verses is very simple, receiving the Holy Spirit is not the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit. One receives the Holy Spirit today when one is saved by accepting Jesus as their Messiah, etc. If one wishes, one can then ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Good morning Yankeegospelgirl. Again, thanks for the comments and the additional scripture references. It seems to me (and I don’t say this to be snarky, simply pointing out the obvious) that you have provided a good example of how there are contradictions. Jesus tells us in one instance that he must leave before the spirit can be sent. In another instance we see clearly that he personally beathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples.
Another case that is somewhat similar is Jesus’ instructions to his followers about where he will meet them when he has risen from the dead. In Mark 14:28, during the last supper, Jesus tells his disciples that he will meet them back in Galilee when he has risen. See also Mark 16:6-7. Matthew also conveys this understanding – Matthew 28:8-10; Matthew 28:16.
But Luke says absolutely nothing about the disciples leaving Jerusalem and going back to Galilee in order to meet Jesus. In fact, in Acts Jesus is shown to specifically instruct the disciples to stay put (Acts 1:3-4). And, as we’ve seen, John tells us Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem on the night of his resurrection. Clearly we have contradicting stories about when and where Jesus appeared to his followers after his resurrection. Remember, Luke and Mark were not disciples and were not present at any of these events. But, John and Matthew both were. How could their two accounts be so different? Matthew clearly says they went to Galilee and met Jesus. John says they stayed in Jerusalem and met Jesus (and received the Holy Spirit). These were two major events in the lives of these disciples. Wouldn’t they both at least know where they witnessed Jesus after his resurrection or when they received the Holy Spirit?
The Acts passage is referring to the apostles’ waiting for the Holy Ghost, not Jesus.
RD your willingness to suppress truth, (Romans 1:18) revealed in your snide attacks on God’s word, blind you to seeing obvious alternative explanations of your supposed “contradictions”.
If you had faith, you would simply ask God for help with understanding those things in His word that others declare as contradictory and He would gladly help you see a reasonable explanation that supports the trustworthiness of His flawless word. (James 1:5-8)
For now, you are a perfect example of one who God describes in Eph 4:18 as “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Eph. 4:18)
The events described by John was Christ’s bestowing the Holy Spirit upon them to fill them with power to preach the gospel. A foreshadowing of the event described in Acts that described the Holy Spirit given to the Church as a whole.
RD you have to ask yourself, “who am I to question God if He wants to give the Holy Spirit at different times for different purposes? You won’t like this, but like me, you are a sinner whose mind has been adversely affected by being infected with sin. You and I can not rely on our intellect to stand against God’s (who does not lie or mislead) revealed word. You and I make mistakes, He doesn’t. So any time we see a ‘discrepancy” in His word, it is reasonable to suspect our own limitations before accusing God’s Word of being untrustworthy. Repent of your arrogance and sin and be reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s atonement for that sin. Don’t let your faulty ability to discern truth on your own lead you into Hell’s dark torment.
To state the obvious, the Bible is a collection of books written at different times to different audiences. It contains many different types of literary genres. Each genre needs to be read as its own thing in its own way. One cannot flatten all the text in the Bible into something like that found in a geometry textbook, this does violence to the way the Bible has been given to us.
Here’s a helpful link on resurrection appearances:
Charlton, to clarify about the date of Jesus’ birth, that’s pretty conjectural. There was a census around 6 A. D. that seems to fit Luke’s description, but of course that would contradict Matthew’s account that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. But we have no reason to assume that was the census Luke meant. There are several possibilities. A lot of ink has been spilled over this question, and there are resources for anyone who’s interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of it.
RD, again your ‘contradiction’ is a product of a sinful mind not willing to trust One who cannot make mistakes or lie like you and I.
There is no discrepancy between Mark 14:28 where Jesus says He will meet with the Apostles in Galilee and other accounts of post-resurrection sightings if you understand that He did not say He wouldn’t make OTHER appearances prior to the Galilee one. Look closely at His words in Mark and you will see this. The Galilee appearance was a key one that He wanted His disciples to be witness to because of the number of people who would also see (1 Cor. 15:6).
His last appearance before the ascension in the Acts 1:3-4 passage is when He said stay in Jerusalem until the HS was to be bestowed on the Church as a whole.
No contradiction at all if you were depending on the HS.
Another note: An argument that’s been used over and over (for centuries, in fact) is the argument from silence. “But so-and-so doesn’t say anything about x. Therefore it can’t really have happened.” I realize that at the moment we’re discussing things that look like direct contradictions, but the silence argument will often be put forward by itself as if it carries actual historical weight, when it doesn’t.
“to clarify about the date of Jesusâ€™ birth, thatâ€™s pretty conjectural. There was a census around 6 A. D. that seems to fit Lukeâ€™s description, but of course that would contradict Matthewâ€™s account that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great.”
It’s not just the census, it’s the fact that Luke tells us Quirinis was governor of Syria when Jesus was born. Quirinius became governor in 6 a.d. and served in that roll until 12 a.d. Luke gives us a dateable reference, as does Matthew (Herod the Great died in 4 b.c.). There might be conjecture but it seems pretty clear that both accounts are set in very different times.
There is also the very clear discrepancy in the lineages of Jesus as provided in Matthew and Luke’s gospels. In addition, there is no mention of magi arriving or of Jesus being taken to Egypt in Luke. In fact, in Luke we are told that Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised and to make the cleansing offering as proscribed in Leviticus. Notice the offering they bring. The requirement is a young lamb – Leviticus 12:6 – but if one can’t be afforded – Leviticus 12:8 – two doves and two pigeons are to be presented. What do Joseph and Mary offer? Luke 2:24 says that “in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’ They made the offering allowed for the poor. Now, if they had received expensive gifts of gold and spices from a visiting group of magi would they not have been able to afford the required lamb?
Isn’t it plain to see that the discrepancies keep adding up?? And this is in just the two accounts surrounding Jesus’ birth!! It seems to take much more theological gymnastics to try to explain how they really aren’t discrepancies than it does to merely accept that they are.
RD, if you haven’t figured it out by now, some people on here are so fixed in their beliefs that the mere questioning of their beliefs is an attack on God. John Corbitt believes he knows the truth beyond the shadow of a doubt. He can’t be convinced otherwise. Time and time again he has quoted scripture as if that somehow empirically proves his points. Yet, he also repeatedly has told me and others that faith is the answer to our theological questions. Faith in what? Faith in what John Corbitt believes to be true or faith in what the evidence leads one to believe is true?
The magi came after circumcision, up to when he was about 2 years old.
The geneologies are not discrepant when understood in a Hebrew context: Matthew is giving Joseph’s and Luke is giving Mary’s. And Joseph’s shows that he could not be the father, as it fulfills a negative prophecy about Messiah in Jeremiah.
I think it reasonable to conjecture that Luke simply didn’t know about the flight to Egypt. There’s the argument from silence again.
Thanks for the comments. I’ve heard the reasoning that Luke is actually offering Mary’s lineage, but this doesn’t seem likely in that tracing the lineage of a woman in those days was highly unusual. I think it’s more plausible that Luke, written after Matthew, noticed the Jeremiah conundrum and offered a counter lineage, bypassing King Jechonia altogether.
If the magi came later, why were Mary and Joseph back in Bethlehem? Luke clearly states that their home was Nazareth and that the only reason they went to Bethlehem was in order to participate in the census. Eight days after his birth he was taken to the temple and then they left for Nazareth.
Zach, I understand your frustration. I don’t know why we can’t have theological discourse without it meaning that we aren’t saved.
RD, in all fairness, unless you two are just playing devil’s advocate it sure doesn’t seem like you take Christianity all that seriously.
By the way, here’s something for RD, Zach, and co. to chew on: If the gospels were forged—not genuine accounts—the forgers would be careful not to leave supposed loose ends hanging around. They’d try to tie things up neatly and explain everything. The very fact that there are some little details that require a bit of thought and scholarly elbow grease to research and explain indicates that the documents are what they claim to be.
Hi again, Yankeegospelgirl,
Oh, I assure you that I take my Christian walk extremely seriously! Jesus transformed my life! I just don’t hold to the notion that the biblical text is completely inerrant. I certainly believe it is inspired by God, but I don’t believe that God whispered into the ears of the various writers as they wrote. The Bible is a collection – a conversation, if you will. I also don’t believe the different gospels are forgeries or that they were written to intentionally deceive. I believe they represent the understanding of particular faith communities in the first century with regard to Jesus, his life, his ministry and message. It makes much more sense that there is discrepancy. I just don’t see how admitting that there are discrepancies and various accounts and theological ideas represented in scripture means that one can’t be a serious follower of Jesus.
“I believe they represent the understanding of particular faith communities in the first century with regard to Jesus, his life, his ministry and message.”
Forgive me, but that’s an odd way to put it. Also, when you say “serious follower of Jesus,” how do you do define that? Do you simply view Jesus as a wise teacher who gave us a beautiful picture of how to live life that everyone should follow?
If you see other people who are struggling with questions about the accuracy of Scripture, your job is not to fan the flames of their doubt, as you’ve been doing here. Your job is to roll up your sleeves and dig into the history so you can be fully prepared to answer their questions. Those questions and many others have been being written about, discussed, and thoroughly answered for literally hundreds of years. If you care about finding these answers, there are many, many resources.
I totally agree with you about the books of the bible being written by various authors over a long period of time and having different textual types. Where did I indicate otherwise? I am simply asserting that within each textual type there were no errors within the original documents, and that those received have been preserved with a minimum of mistakes. The mistakes that do exist can either be eliminated through textual comparison, through close examinations of the text, or do not affect the meaning of the text or any doctrines of the church.
Your examples of contradictions within the text make the mistake that I spoke of earlier. You assume that both Luke and Matthew have given us an exhaustive history and that therefore any differences must be mistakes. However, neither of them claims to give an exhaustive history. Moreover, when we say that Luke and Matthew disagree about when Jesus was born we are assuming that we have full historical knowledge that was not available to the writers of the text at the time, or that the writers of the text, though having access to the same information disagreed. It is possible that we simply do not have sufficient information to state there is an error, and that these authors knew more about the history of that time than we know today. (In addition there are perfectly reasonable answers which harmonize the data as well, as YGG has demonstrated.)
And no, I’m not saying that we have to simply lay aside our minds when we read, or that we are making some blind guess at the accuracy of the Bible. Instead I’m saying that when we examine what we can conclusively know about the time against Scripture, we find that Scripture is right consistently. So, when we come to a situation where we say, “Well, this doesn’t match up to what I know” then we are better off saying, “But, based on the accuracy of Scripture in other places, I’m going to assume this is correct too, and that I don’t have all the information that the author had when he wrote this.” The only time we can have any security in charging an error to any historical text (and I would say especially to Scripture) is when we have absolute and exhaustive historical knowledge about a subject which disagrees with what the text says. To assume we know more about events of 2000 years ago than authors who lived no more than 60 or 70 years after those events (and I think Luke and Matthew were completed before that even) is to assume extreme arrogance, unless we have exhaustive historical information to prove our claims.
Pretend christians may claim the Bible is inspired and that it “contains” the word of God but they certainly won’t acknowledge the inerrancy of scripture. If they do that, they have to either (a) obey scripture or (b) admit that they’re not truly a disciple of Jesus.
In contrast, Christians recognize the inerrancy of scripture and defend that doctrine.
There are some number typos in the best text we have of the OT.
But in reading the Bible, there are many differences in interpretation, even among protestants. That is, any communication assumes a sender and a recipient. In this case, the inspiration of the sender/author comes from God, but the recipients have no such assurances of inspired hearing/reading, we do as best we can but are subject to bias and distortions from sin as well as a lack of some context as we are never today in the case of being the original readers.
And there are all kinds of escape valves that people use.
Pretend christians may claim the Bible is inspired and that it â€œcontainsâ€ the word of God but they certainly wonâ€™t acknowledge the inerrancy of scripture. If they do that, they have to either (a) obey scripture or (b) admit that theyâ€™re not truly a disciple of Jesus.
In contrast, Christians recognize the inerrancy of scripture and defend that doctrine.”
And what proof or reasons can you provide for the inerrancy of scripture? And please don’t just restate what you just stated using different words. You’ve done that several times and have proven yourself to be very good repeating the same thing over and over. If you can’t offer proof for the inerrancy of scripture, then you must be a “pretend” Christian.
Can you dispute the reasons already provided? Recognizing that it is generally accepted as impossible to prove a negative, can you provide reasons for us to assume that Scripture has error in it? Can you provide specific concrete examples of errors that cannot be explained via any of the methods already shown? After you have done these things, can you then demonstrate to us how we can have a firm foundation for our faith once we have accepted the potential for error in Scripture (thus showing us exactly what passages we can believe and the rationale for why we can believe those passages)? I don’t mean these questions to be rhetorical.
How do I define being a serious follower of Jesus? Well, there are a lot of lengthy theologically correct answers to that, but I think Jesus pretty much cut to the chase when he simply instructed me to love God with all my heart and soul and mind, and to love my neighbor as I love myself. It’s a simple instruction but it’s cetainly not so easy to live it.
You say that I am fanning the flame of doubt by sharing my understanding of the Bible. The simple fact that doubt exists and that so many Christians have had doubts and questions and theological disagreements over so many centuries is clear indication that faith is an intricate endeavor. Often there are more questions than there are firm answers. I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and the deeper I go in the journey the more mystery I find. I believe that is the way of faith. That somehow, in the mysteries and uncertainties, we more authentically encounter God.
And when we encounter mysteries and questions and scripture we have two alternatives. We can hold fast to the indoctrination we have received or we can take the hand of the Holy Spirit and ask to be led into the questions.
The debate over young earth vs old earth is a perfect example. Dr. Mohler gave a speech a year ago where he made the bold statement that the negative theological implications of accepting what science has revealed with regard to the age of the earth were too great. Christians needed to look for alternative understandings i.e. that perhaps God has simply created a universe that only appears old. In other words, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Christians must alwaysmaintain that what we read in every verse of scripture is absolutely true. I simply don’t share that view nor do I think that God ever intended for us to havethat view.
Men and women who are much smartmr than I am have already done that–about a billion times over. It is YOUR job then to prove there are errors.
There are many many ways for something to be true, one of the most obvious to us today is that poetry can be true in ways that prose cannot and vice versa, but this applies for all literary genres.
What I see in some of the inerrancy claims is that someone’s INTERPRETATION is (supposedly) inerrant, which is what prots opposed in the papacy. And no one should claim to be an infallible interpreter of the whole Bible.
No one should claim that hell isn’t eternal or that a sincere muslim will go there without repenting of their sins and trusting Christ consciously to save them but Rob Bell has. That’s why he’s a heretic–and not a Christian.
or that a sincere muslim will go to heaven without repenting of their sins and trusting Christ consciously
Correcting obvious typo above.
Oh-Jay, you must have conveniently skipped the posts that pointed out contradictions in the Gospels.
Obviously, proving something would take much longer than just pointing out contradictions. And who are these “people smarter than you” that have proven the inerrancy of the Bible? I think it’s a cop out to claim that scripture contains no falsity or errors only human misinterpretations.
If the Bible was practically “written by God” don’t you think God would have made sure the Bible was clear enough to be understood by most humans? I have yet to see anyone on here explain the contradictions brought up. All I’ve seen done is angry, frustrated fundamentalist Christians grasping at straws to “prove” people with different views wrong.
RD, those are indeed the two great commandments, but it has nothing to do with who Jesus claimed to be or what he came to earth to do. He didn’t come to earth to hand out Precious Moments cards. He came to offer himself in our place and cover our sins with His blood so that we could have the gift of eternal life. And if somebody is offended by the literal idea of blood, I quite seriously and honestly fear for them.
“You say I am fanning the flames of doubt by sharing my understanding of the Bible.” Actually, it’s more than that. If you were simply to say, “I’ve got some questions here about pieces that seem like they don’t add up, but I’m open to the possibility that there are explanations, and I can see I have a lot of research to do,” that would be one thing. But that’s not what you’re saying.
I’ve answered two of your so-called ‘contradictions’ Zach. But you discounted them because you refuse to believe that God’s word is inerrant, proving my point that you and RD do not WANT to see them. Your sinful hearts wants to suppress the truth because to do otherwise means you will have to submit to the authority of the sovereign God who hates the sin in your life that you love. Also Zach, your characterization of Christians being ‘angry, frustrated’ because they disagree with you is simply a ploy to blow off the salient points they make, again to avoid the truth of who He should be to you, Lord and master.
When you compare different biographies of persons, you are likely to find different details in all of them. Different sources will reveal different details. The gospel of Matthew fills in some details that Luke omits. Luke’s gospel omits any details between the 8th day of Jesus’s life and his 12th year. Matthew doesn’t give us a time frame for the events described in his 2nd chapter; he doesn’t say how old Jesus was when the Magi came, nor how long the family stayed in Bethlehem before fleeing to Egypt and then returning to Nazareth. I don’t see why this creates controversy. Zach, I am sorry that you are perceiving anger and frustration on the part of those who are responding to you, but I have to think that if you were not seeking answers you would not be hanging out on this site. There are plenty of places where skeptics, agnostics and atheists go to reaffirm each other, but you are here.
Some resources for people who are seriously interested in learning why the Bible is inerrant:
Inerrancy edited by Norman Geisler
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
Ancient Words/Changing Worlds (don’t remember the author but it’s published by Crossway)
The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Andreas Kostenburger
“you and RD do not WANT to see them. Your sinful hearts wants to suppress the truth because to do otherwise means you will have to submit to the authority of the sovereign God who hates the sin in your life that you love.”
John, dude, do you think maybe you’ve stepped a bit over the line in making the pronouncement that I love the sin that’s in my life?! This kind of knee-jerk return to accusatory rhetoric simply shuts down all dialogue. Amazing.
Kelley writes…”Matthew doesnâ€™t give us a time frame for the events described in his 2nd chapter; he doesnâ€™t say how old Jesus was when the Magi came, nor how long the family stayed in Bethlehem before fleeing to Egypt and then returning to Nazareth.”
Yes, but Kelley, Luke tells us in his gospel that when Mary and Joseph left the temple with Jesus after his circumcision that they returned to Nazareth. They went then. There was no going into Egypt before going to Nazareth. In fact, a careful reading of Matthew shows that according to Matthew Joseph’s family ended up in Nazareth as an after-thought. They never intended to go there when they returned from Egypt. Luke tells us that Nazareth was their home before they went to Bethlehem.
I think Matthew is speaking to a largely Jewish group and is making the subtle connection that Jesus is the new Moses and so he uses a lot of scenes that would naturally lead his Jewish listeners to recognize this (King trying to kill Jewish children, exodus from Egypt, speaking from the mountain, etc).
As I have already mentioned, it’s possible that Luke simply didn’t know about the flight to Egypt.
I truly wish that were the case. But by your own clearly stated beliefs that God’s word is undependable even when perfectly reasonable explanations are given to you, you demonstrate pride in the ‘authority’ of your own mind and heart. In other words the sin of pride. That is the opposite of the kind of faith Jesus described in my recent post.
The reason you will not repent of that sin (yet) is because you love it too much to do so. And as far as it being “over-the-line”, it does not overstate the wrath that God Himself will demonstrate on Judgment Day towards anyone who comes to Him with that same kind of pride.
I do not want that to happen to you or anyone else so that is why I have implored you several times to repent and humble yourself before God as a child and trust Him, His word, and His Son to avoid the eternal torment of Hell.
If Luke made such a thorough investigation before writing his gospel, doesn’t it make sense that one of the most well known aspects of Jesus’ early life to uncover would have been the fact that the King was trying to have him killed and that he had to be taken into a foreign country in order to be saved? That’s a pretty big deal.
And, again, we get back to the time frame issues and the fact of Luke claiming that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth and Matthew telling us that they simply ended up there after being pursued. It simply requires more explanation to account for the differences than to simply admit that these are two distinct stories about Jesus’ early life. They are different, set in different times. They reflect different understandings of Jesus’ early life. The accounts are based on oral traditions that were being circulated throughout the entire near east by the time of 80-90 a.d. They don’t have to be factually true in order to contain truth. The theological message that Matthew gives us of Jesus being a universal Moses (freeing delivering all humanity and not just Jews from bondage and slavery) is valid and certainly reflects the spirit of God. Jesus didn’t actually have to have been whisked into Egypt in order for this message to still convey truth. Look at the power of parable. Jesus understood it better than anyone!
I appreciate your concern. I really do. And if I am coming across as prideful I am sincerely sorry. I have spent my entire life worshipping in evangelical churches (and still do). I simply feel that there are more and more evangelicals who are no longer inerrantists (and who don’t feel it’s honest or necessary to be).
My fear for you RD is that you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You portray yourself as one of the sheep but have every intention of hurting them and their faith anyway you can so that you may feel better about your own unbelief. Woe to you.
Please look into Donald Johnson’s comments on the genealogies. He’s hinting at a much larger (and quite impressive) picture of multiple prophecies and history than most people are aware of. Luke’s syntax on the genealogy hints that there’s some sort of hiccup going from Jesus to Joseph to Heli. Feel free to make it a problem, and be stuck … or give Luke the benefit of the doubt (which is what I do) and you’ll see the problem go away. By the way, Jesus is in the line of kings from David onward. According to Josephus, these records were kept at the Temple and were common knowledge. Luke should have had no problem tracing down the paternal lineage if he wanted to. All the more reason to conclude that his hiccup was to sidestep the public record of males.
So if there’s a ‘discrepancy’ there, why not give him the benefit of the doubt in believing that he put it there for a reason?
I’ve been there. Bethlehem is ~5 miles from Jerusalem. It’s not even a day trip. They could go to the temple and be back home before dinner. No worries.
The Magi gave gifts to “the child” – meaning He was quite possibly no longer an infant in swaddling clothes. And, yes, that would be “after” He went to the temple. Nowhere does it say that they went back to Nazareth *immediately after* He went to the temple. Maybe Joseph had a construction job he had to finish, but Herod’s son (Archaleaus) was such an idiot that when they came back from Egypt, Joe decided to drop the juicy gig working on Herod’s temple and see what he could scrape up in his hometown of Nazareth?
Maybe the census wasn’t over? Maybe they liked the view? Maybe they couldn’t find a caravan going just yet? Please, people – don’t make this difficult. Just be a real live human and put yourself in their shoes. errrr.. sandals.
None of the Gospel writers were obligated to write EVERY known detail of Jesus’ life. John said there’d be no way to do it – so cut them some slack! It’s not a crime! He had freedom of the press, didn’t he? 😉
There’s tons of ink back and forth on the Herod/Quirinus debate. When the dust settles, calls me.
Not the least of which… how do we know for a fact that Quirinius was in 6AD? That would make Jesus ~20 years old at the time of His death. I think Luke’s own buddies would’ve nixed that one pretty quickly, don’tcha think? That’d be like you and me saying WWII ended in 1951. Hmmmmmm yeah! I think our buddies would’ve spotted that one right off the bat and put it to rest. But they didn’t – meaning there’s something going on. So be sure to keep an open mind.
As for young earth.. what many conservatives forget (including Al Mohler), and many liberals don’t even know, is that God can and will deliberately fool people who worship false gods, and will deceive their leaders to give them bogus information (Ezek 14:1-10). He’s done this before (1 Kings 22), and promises to do it again (2 Thess 2). ‘Nuff said.
Apply this proposition to people chasing the big-bang theory and now you know why there’s a “mountain” of evidence that God’s Word is wrong on the 6-day creation. So why should I be sweating?
> If the Bible was practically “written by God” don’t you think God would have made sure the Bible was clear enough to be understood by most humans?
Respectfully… what makes you think that God owes you the truth? Who are you to demand Truth on everything you deem important? What if God gave you all the Truth you need and since you don’t like it, He’s not inclined to give you more?
What if He wants to blind/deafen/harden you lest you repent?
Please read the following verses and you’ll see I’m not making this up:
Mark 4:10-12; 33-34
(Oh, my! Look at that! All 4 Gospels agreeing! Pray tell.. when was the last time you heard a pastor preaching on this topic? [pssst… part of the problem with ‘believers’ is that they’ve stopped being ‘students’])
And when you’re done reading that, if you start wondering “WHAT THE HECK WOULD HE DO THAT FOR” – go and read Romans 9:6-end of chapter.
There are no failures in or about the Word of God. The failure is with man – and God is not Santa Claus.
He is not obligated to make up for man’s shortcomings.
But thank God, He did.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Luke’s geneological hiccup. Can you elaborate?
In the Greek text of Luke’s geneology, which does not come thru a translation, all the names have the article to make them definite, except Joseph, so it is a pattern that fail at the last step. The lack of the article in this case is significant, it is a Hebrew way of indicating Joseph’s wife is what is being discussed, not Joseph himself.
RD said, “Yes, but Kelley, Luke tells us in his gospel that when Mary and Joseph left the temple with Jesus after his circumcision that they returned to Nazareth.”
There is still no time frame. Luke 2:39 does not say that they returned to Nazareth immediately after leaving the temple. It says when they had done everything required by the Law of the Lord; there is no sense that their departure was immediate. Likewise, Matthew makes no mention at all of Joseph and Mary performing the temple rituals. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
What happens is that Christmas plays and nativity scenes typically have shepherds and magi in them, so people tend to think that is what the accounts say, but it is not what they actually say.
“When you compare different biographies of persons, you are likely to find different details in all of them. Different sources will reveal different details. The gospel of Matthew fills in some details that Luke omits. Lukeâ€™s gospel omits any details between the 8th day of Jesusâ€™s life and his 12th year. Matthew doesnâ€™t give us a time frame for the events described in his 2nd chapter; he doesnâ€™t say how old Jesus was when the Magi came, nor how long the family stayed in Bethlehem before fleeing to Egypt and then returning to Nazareth. I donâ€™t see why this creates controversy. Zach, I am sorry that you are perceiving anger and frustration on the part of those who are responding to you, but I have to think that if you were not seeking answers you would not be hanging out on this site. There are plenty of places where skeptics, agnostics and atheists go to reaffirm each other, but you are here.”
Kelly, I shouldn’t characterized anyone as angry because I obviously don’t have any way of knowing that through a computer screen. I know I might sound like I have my mind made up, but I definitely don’t consider myself an atheist or agnostic. To be honest, I think fundamentalist Christians seem to be more justified in their beliefs than Christians like Rob Bell. Don’t get me wrong I know I have been defending Bell, but the main reason that I’ve defended him is not that I agree with his theology. I was raised in and actually still attend a United Methodist church.
The Methodist church in general usually interprets the Bible more liberally than say Baptists or Presbyterians (at least the more conservative sect of Presbyterians). Having talked with my dad quite a bit about his theological beliefs recently, I know that he has a pretty liberal interpretation of the Bible yet he still considers himself very much a Christian. I asked himself a couple months ago if he was Christian just because it gave him comfort to know that he would go to a better place after death and see his lost loved ones again? This question really annoyed him, and he didn’t give me an answer which annoyed me even more than I think I annoyed him.
On the surface, I certainly don’t think one has to take the Bible completely literally to be considered a Christian, but at the same time if faith is the only reason someone has for believing something that seems counter intuitive. It’s like an example a professor in a philosophy class I’m taking said referring to “Never Never Land” in Peter Pan and if one believes it exists, then it does exist. I feel that that’s what many Christians do.
P.S.-John Corbitt or anyone else, please don’t tell me that I am trying to lead others astray or that I’m wicked for questioning the Bible. I have prayed earnestly many times for God to “reveal” himself to me. Whether John Corbitt or anyone else believes that I wanted to accept the Christian faith as my own, I really couldn’t care less, but I know that I have sought after “the truth” and have yet to be “answered.”
Just add one thing about Rob Bell. I didn’t explain why I stood up for him. The main reason is that I stood up for him is that even if I don’t feel that his beliefs are justified, I definitely don’t think the far right ultra-conservative Bible-thumping Christians are justified in their beliefs. The Bible does have discrepancies and to deny that is ignorant.
I’ve finished reading Love Wins and it’s utter trash. Bell’s attempt to support his views are so lame it’s not even funny. I would cite examples, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Here’s one moronic example: he says that Sodom and Gomorrah will be in heaven and cites as support of this notion that Jesus says “on the day of Judgment, it will be more tolerable for S&G than you” (Matt 11:24). He underscores ‘bearable’ and says “See! They’re going to have it good! That means they’re in heaven”. A simple search of ‘sodom’ with my digital Bible shows that virtually every reference to the word Sodom is used in connection with harsh judgment. But Bell conveniently leaves this information off his pages. His book is rife with this type of shallow misdirection and misinformation. Sad. Truly sad.
There’s no Bible-thumping needed to expose him for being a fraud. Just a casual interest in the Bible will demonstrate how wrong he is. What’s truly sad is to see how many people are supporting him w/o kicking his tires even just a tad. Weird.
Zach – The Bible has been handled by humans, so I’m open to the Bible having errors crept in it somewhere along the line. In the interest of due diligence, I haven’t found any that have made me stop in my tracks and sweat bullets. I’ve gone to some of the sites that list “101 Errors In the Bible” and looked at all of them, and .. well – it’s hard to find sites like that that don’t have an axe to grind. And when they’re grinding axes, more often than not, they’re blinded by sparks. Too much heat, not enough light. But I check them out anyway, and seriously have yet to find something that has panned out against Inspiration.
I will say (and repeat!) this, however: TOO MANY CHRISTIANS TOUT BUMPERSTICKER THEOLOGY THAT DOESN’T SQUARE WITH THE BIBLE, AND IT CAUSES MORE PROBLEMS THAN IT SOLVES! (I’m not yelling, I’m just being very firm 😉
Perhaps the posterchild of these is actually displayed on the back of Rob Bell’s book. Go check it out.
(hint.. it goes like this: “God loves every man, woman, child that’s ever been born and has a plan for you; God wants you to be saves; God is all powerful and can change your heart; if you don’t believe in Jesus, God will burn you in hell” Rob bell has a problem with this and erases ‘hell’. If only he’d have done his homework, he’d have seen that the Bible doesn’t quite endorse that line of thinking in the first place. More we could say…)
I agree wholeheartedly about Christians subscribing to bumpersticker theology, and I would also add that many American Christians (based on my experiences) seem afraid to look into the scholarly aspects of Bible study. One of my longstanding protests about our Sunday school study material has been that it is too light for people who have the desire to study these deeper issues and be prepared to talk to people about them. When someone points out to the teacher something like, “My Bible has a footnote here saying that these verses do not appear in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts,” the teacher should be equipped to lead the class in discussion about it. I printed a list of “1001 Errors In The Bible” that I use for personal study. So far I’ve not found any that undermined my confidence in The Word; some I am convinced were the result of a scribe’s copying error, others possibly the result of different languages or ways of measuring or counting, others (such as the differences between Matthew 2 and Luke 2) I don’t really see as errors, but different details being reported by different sources. I consider myself very conservative in my views of Scripture, but I’m not afraid to look deeper. The preservation of the material over a period of several thousand years is miraculous in and of itself.
“In the Greek text of Lukeâ€™s geneology, which does not come thru a translation, all the names have the article to make them definite, except Joseph, so it is a pattern that fail at the last step. The lack of the article in this case is significant, it is a Hebrew way of indicating Josephâ€™s wife is what is being discussed, not Joseph himself.” -Donald @ 330
Thanks for the comment. Since TMAN didn’t comment I’m going to assume this is what he also meant by the ‘hiccup’ in Luke’s lineage.
Yes, there has been speculation for centuries that since, in the original Greek, there is no article designating Joseph as “the son of” Heli, that this indicates that Joseph was Heli’s son-in-law and thus the remainder of the lineage is Mary’s line. I admit that this could be a true possibility. As for my own thinking, the theory just doesn’t hold up. Of course, there’s no way to know for certain since Matthew and Luke are the only two sources we have regarding Jesus’ lineage.
I’m not sure the lineages in either account are really accurate (and, again, whether they are or not makes no real difference). Clearly Jesus must have been a descendant of King David in order to fulfill the requirement of being Messiah. But whether each name on the list past David is accurate, how will we know? I think a couple of things are in play here. In Matthew’s case, he’s directing his gospel to a largely Jewish audience and he is sharing with them the view that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. So a great deal of what he writes uses motifs and subliminal references that connect Jesus back to specific OT situations. Thus, his lineage traces Jesus back to Abraham, father of the Jewish nation. Luke is more universal in his focus. His lineage takes Jesus back to the first man, Adam. I think these are theological moves on the part of each writer and they are used to help form the foundation of the image of Jesus they are going to focus on in their respective gospels.
I think Matthew’s gospel was written before Luke wrote his gospel, but I also believe that Luke had portions of Matthew’s gospel when he was writing his own. I think Luke noticed the flaw in the Matthew lineage that traced Jesus back through King Jechonia (whom God declared would have no offspring sit on the throne of Israel…so how could Jesus be the future King of Israel without breaking God’s promise?) and he reconfigured the line through David’s little-known son, Nathan.
For me, the reason I don’t believe this is Mary’s lineage is because I don’t think there would have been sufficient geneological information available about Mary. She was a peasant girl from a backwater town in the Galilee. If geneological records were kept in the temple at Jerusalem (per Josephus) I don’t think they would have included every single Jew in all of Palestine. How likely is that? And, even if this were the case, the records would very likely be incomplete since all of the First Temple contents had been stolen or destroyed hundreds of years earlier by the Babylonians. What records did exist were likely incomplete and sketchy at best.
Again, whether the accounts are person-to-person-to-person accurate really doesn’t matter. The deeper truth behind each account is that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and he is also the Messiah/Saviour for all peoples. That’s the point of the lineages.
Zach, there are so many resources I could point you to if you would only be willing to engage with the history. Once I provided, at your request, a long list of extra-biblical historical references to the persecution of Christians, and maybe in all fairness it just got lost, but either way you never responded.
Instead you seem content to say, “Oh well, it’s probably just a bunch of metaphors and symbols anyway, and it really doesn’t matter.” That’s dangerous thinking. You must understand that God has not left himself without witness, and until you do, your faith doesn’t have the firm foundation it needs.
Matthew is certainly the most Jewish gospel and Luke was a part of Paul’s mission, so it makes sense that Luke shows Jesus as very inclusive of women and gentiles, etc.
In the first century, a common belief among Jews was that SINCE they had Abraham as their ancestor, they WERE in the Kingdom of God, the gospels discuss this and Jesus denies this idea, but that is what the Jews believed. So it was really important to be able to show this and the way to show it is thru extensive lists of ancestors, all the way back to Abraham. It was a community project to maintain such lists.
There is no question that Jewish geneological integrity was very important. I think that this was more so during the early days of Second Temple Judaism when the Jews had returned from exile and rebuilt the temple. There was a huge push for ancestral purity as a way of ensuring that future exiles would not befall the Jewish people. Of course, it seems to have been taken a bit to the extreme, causing many religious, cultural and familial disruptions. I think the Book of Ruth was written as a means of refuting the notion of Jewish purity.
Certainly, ancestral integrity was vitally important for temple priests and other religious leaders. But, by the first century I just don’t see common Jewish peasants having access or education to keep such detailed records. No doubt, they would consider it important, but would they have gone to the efforts of ensuring the integrity of their family records?
If you polled most americans they would tell you that citizenship and patriotism is very important to them personally. Yet, when it comes right down to it, only a fraction of the population actually participate in the political process. In the real world there is always a certain disconnect between ideology and practice.
Regarding Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) – does the phrase “none of his offspring” refer to his sons, or to all of his descendants? The Hebrew word zera’ appears to have applications either way (Zondervan’s NIV concordance). Jeremiah 22:24-30 refers to his mother and his children. That’s how I understand it.
As I see it, the unstated subtext of the book of Ruth is whether David was a legitimate king of Israel, which is obviously a claim that no Jew wanted to deny. Or to put it another way, who is a Jew? This is a fundamental question that is answered by Jesus and Paul in the NT, but they base their answer on the Tanakh.
Male Jewish peasants would have studied Torah, education was a high priority. Jesus provides an example of this as a boy in the temple.
The way I understand it is that none of Jeconiah’s offspring, tracing thru either father or mother, would sit on the throne of Judah.
http://mikewittmer.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/the-question-behind-the-question/#comment-4603 — gets to the HEART of it all…
Something else to consider with regard to Jesus’ lineage:
You noted, “Male Jewish peasants would have studied Torah, education was a high priority.”
This is central. The key is that, in Jewish culture, any ancestral integrity was based on male lineage. If the Lucan lineage is really about Mary’s ancestry, it would not validate the Jewish prophecy concerning the Messiah coming from the house and lineage of David. This is another reason that I don’t believe Luke is actually, subtly, throwing us a curve and tracing Jesus back through his mother’s lineage.
And just how was Mary Jesus’ mother?
This raises the more delicate question concerning the specific dynamics of the incarnation. Of course, in the first century a.d. there would have been no scientific understanding of the intricate mechanisms of the birth process. But, viewing the incarnation as we understand the process today, in what way was Mary pregnant with Jesus? Was she merely a surrogate wherein God implanted into her a completely divine zygote with no actual human properties at all? Or did God somehow divinely co-join with Mary in a more natural process, using Mary’s actual egg? In other words, did Jesus actually have any human-ness about him in the literal scientific understanding of a human being, i.e. produced from a fetilized egg, developing and being born following the natural process? Or was Mary simply a vessel for a completely divine Jesus?
If Mary was merely the surrogate vessel, then the lineage issue is mute because Jesus would not, in any actual sense, be descended from David. But the Jewish prophets clearly understood that the Messiah would descend from the male lineage of King David.
Personally, this is why I think the apostle Paul makes no reference, nor seems to express the belief, that Jesus was born divine. In Galatians he makes the simple statement that Jesus was born of a woman (his birth, according to Paul, seems to be no different from those whom he’s addressing in his letter). He states in Romans 1 that as to his human nature (flesh, actual humanity, true human-ness) Jesus is of the house and lineage of David, but that God bestowed on him divine sonship when he raised Jesus from the dead (he was appointed sonship- Romans 1:4). I think Paul understood that at the point of supernatural resurrection from the dead Jesus became divine.
Just an FYI, I don’t appeal to “literal scientific understanding” any more because it’s a moving target, revised with each school year’s textbook. 150 years from now we’ll be embarrassed that we considered modern understanding as ‘proof’ of anything.
Don’t forget that the first prophecy was that the “seed of the *woman*” would conquer the serpent (Gen 3). That idea gave Rabbis knots for ages because, “as everyone knows”, males produce seed, not females. 🙂 So whether or not Judeans traced lineage through males only is not relevant for God to accomplish His plan via this prophetic statement. Luke, being a physician, may not have been as dumb as we think they were, ergo he saw it relevant to trace the blood lineage through Mary.
And if there were serious discrepancies in either Matthew or Luke’s genealogy, don’t we think that the people of the day would’ve spotted it and flagged it? I mean – seriously? Do we honestly expect several thousands of believers would’ve just given Matt and Luke a pass, but scholars and skeptics 2,000 years later are going to correct them? I find that notion gallingly arrogant, to say the least. These are people used to living in an aural culture – they had no problem memorizing verbatim large portions of speeches, dialogues, Scriptures, etc. Surely something as important as a genealogy would have been hammered right off the bat for its errors.
RD – There are two aspects of ‘sonship’ that have bearing here: bloodline connection and property inheritance. I think your understanding of divine sonship being granted to Christ at the time of the resurrection violates quite a few other Scriptures. Here are a few:
– Hebrews’ affirmation that Christ’s sonship was eternally preexisting (Heb 1 & 2. Specifically 1:10, that’s the Father talking to the Son, calling Him ‘Lord’. Check out 2:8-13).
– “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘this day have I begotten you'”. David was quoting God the Father talking to God the Son when he wrote Ps 110.
– At the beginning of His ministry, who greeted Christ when He came up from being baptized? “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” That was long before His resurrection.
– Jesus Himself in Jn 17 prayed to His father regarding “the glory I had with You before the world began”.
If Paul made no reference to divine birth (um… Phil 2??), it is surely incidental, and not an affirmation that Paul believed Christ was not divine at His birth.
Therefore, I think it’s best to understand Rom 1:4 to be about Christ’s “divine sonship-*inheritance*” regarding those who believe in Him (aka “His children”), not His “divine sonship-*relationship*” to the Father. See 1 Cor 15 and the First Fruits feast for more on this connection. Also, check out the many passages that have Christ saying (in effect) “Here am I and the Children you gave me”. This ties into the Resurrection of the saints and the ‘reward’ that is His for the work He did on the cross. This is an interesting notion throughout Scripture that, unfortunately, doesn’t get a lot of pulpit time.
This is part of the problem in interpreting Scripture. I inform you that Luke uses Hebraic means to identify Mary in the ancestor list of Jesus and you for other reasons just do not think this is relevant. The Bible says that both men and women have seed, the pagans thought only the man has seed and the woman was like the soil. If some rabbis misunderstood this, so much the worse for them, as they misunderstood other things in the Tanakh also, as Jesus pointed out.
http://tgcreviews.com/reviews/christ-alone/ — review of Wittmer’s book, Christ Alone.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8 francis chan on Hell…perhaps a book forthcoming?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29J4JGJz6Dg&feature=youtu.be — chapter 4 analyzed
continuing thoughts…. from the replacement teaching pastor at Mars Hill… http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/156093-rob-bell-s-replacement-speaks-out-on-bell-and-hell.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily-Update