Alright, so in Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell at best asks some very misleading questions without pointing back to the truth of the gospel, and at worst flat out denies the doctrine of Hell, according to the multiple reviews done on the book.
Doctrine of Hell
The doctrine of Hell is a Biblical teaching that all Christians believe (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc). This teaching states that those who do not repent to Jesus before they die or before the second advent, whichever comes first, will spend an eternity in Hell as just punishment for their treason against the King by continuing in unrepentant sin. Those that will be in Hell are: Satan, demons, and human beings, if the humans do not repent to Jesus. Satan and demons are not Scripturally given the opportunity for repentance.
Why The Controversy?
This is a big deal theologically speaking for several reasons. Men more capable than I have written several blogs explaining the intricacies of each of the problems, so I’ll refer you to them and simply give you the highlights.
There are more issues, and you can see a current (as of when this was written) list of blogs/reviews on this topic on The Resurgence’s Chronology of Rob Bell on Hell
Why It Matters
Ok, so you’re probably asking “What’s the big deal? He’s not the first whacko to say there isn’t a Hell, just ignore him.” One of the key issues is that Rob Bell isn’t necessarily a whacko. He’s a brilliant thinker, and a very gifted communicator who has a global audience. Another man, named Origen, said something very similar in the third century. Origen was one of the key people in bridging the gap between the gospel and Greek philosophy, and yet his views concerning Hell were refuted by Augustine and condemned by the Council at Constantinople in 543. So we have Augustine, one of the key church fathers, refuting another important “Christian” man’s views on Hell because they are unbiblical (I say “Christian” loosely in relation to Origen as I don’t know his soul, but he had significant positive impact on spreading and teaching the gospel to “the thinkers” of his time). Then we have an entire council of brilliant dead guys condemning such views, and I believe branding Origen as a heretic, but I’m not 100% on that.
So, this isn’t the first time that we see important, public, authoritative Christian men openly rejecting teachings that strike at the heart of the gospel, as well as those who teach the unbiblical doctrines. The reason we do this is because if such doctrine is not vehemently opposed, it has much potential to lead others to a false gospel, to a false view of who God is, to a false savior, to an idol we have constructed for ourselves, and to a very real, very hot Hell.
Martin Luther said, “You can never be too gentle with the sheep, and never too harsh with the wolves.” The sheep are those who follow Christ, and the wolves are those who would harm them physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually. When King David was watching his sheep, if a lion, bear, or wolf, tried to harm one of the sheep, he killed it. David then took this to a new level when the wolf Goliath the Philistine sought to harm God’s people, God’s sheep, and he, by the power of God, killed Goliath and then cut off his head. I’m not in any way saying we should set the snipers loose on Rob Bell, rather that we should absolutely silence his influential voice among Christians so that we can protect God’s people from false gospels and false teachers.
How Do We Respond?
Most of those who will read this are probably going to be lay leaders, those not in full time ministry. So what do we do about this? How do we respond to such rejection of that which we hold dear?
1) Avoid useless arguments. Defending the gospel is important, theologically dismantling a book among a group of people who already believe it’s wrong is just dumb, and wastes time. If you all agree that it’s wrong, and you know WHY it’s wrong, then focus on how to better live missionally among the lost. If people have legit questions as to why it’s wrong, then please address those.
2) Respond respectfully and accurately. Rob Bell isn’t crazy, he isn’t an idiot, and he’s not a whacko. Respect the talents God has given him, point out where his teaching contradicts with Scripture, and then move on.
3) Remember who’s watching. If and when you discuss this book/concept, remember to do so in a way that brings glory to God, and remember that no one is born with theological knowledge. Teach the ignorant with patience, love, and grace.
4) Pray for our leaders. Those who publicly defend and teach the gospel don’t have it easy. The need God’s wisdom, strength, and grace as much as any of us, if not moreso.
5) Pray for Rob Bell. There is hope for Bell in Christ. There is hope for his thought process and beliefs in this life, and his soul in this life and the next. Only God can reveal who He is and correct a man’s thinking.