“Millions and millions of people were taught that … the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus … How could that God ever be good? … And how could that ever be good news?”
This is a solemn warning to those who might be deceived by what is popular and tickles the ear. Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan (attendance: 10,000 every week), will release a book later this month, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
In a promotional video, Bell poses a question, “Will only a few select people make it to heaven?… And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?” Martin Bashir asks Bell pointed questions in an MSNBC interview.
UPDATE: Emergent guru Brian McLaren defends his fellow heretic: “[It is] more reasonable and faithful to the full witness of Scripture to conclude that love wins through God’s restorative (not merely punitive) justice.” You can also read Michael Horton’s critique here and Albert Mohler’s critique here.
Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, summarizes Bell’s heretical view of heaven and hell:
Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.
DeYoung’s review of Bell’s repudiation of traditional evangelical theology, history, exegesis, eschatology, Christology, gospel, and GodÂ reveals Bell’s “heterodoxy” which he refers to as “not your grandmother’s Christianity.” He demeans the historic, orthodox Christian faith as “misguided, toxic, and subversive”:
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. (viii)
With evangelicalism’s penchant for what’s popular and ear-tickling, Rob Bell’s book portends an “evangelical doomsday,” worse than Japan’s earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster.
Mike Horton interviews DeYoung on White Horse Inn regarding Love Wins. Here’s what I gleaned from Horton’s interview of Kevin DeYoung:
Rob Bell’s doctrine of heaven and hell is a feast of the liberal, universalist mind. He acknowledges the existence of heaven and hell. But is this hell the same as the hell of the Bible? It is not. Both in this life and in the life to come, Bell says, hell is what one creates for himself and becomes a reality for those who reject God’s love.
He imaginatively uses the parable of the two sons (prodigal son) as a picture of heaven and hell. The younger (prodigal) son enjoys God’s feast, while the older son doesn’t. Thus, the younger son is in heaven, while the older son has made heaven hell, even though they both exist in the same heavenly realm. Bell sees the parable as a picture of everyone going to the same realm when they die. Those who arrive in the heavenly realm, but who reject God’s love, will experience hell there.
But here’s where the universalism comes in, with a “Love Wins” twist. In the end, even those who reject God in the afterlife will eventually be melted by God’s love. Thus, all human beings who ever lived will be saved. This is why Martin Bashir repeatedly and pointedly asks Bell if our decisions in this life are relevant to the afterlife, because Bell teaches that our life here on earth has no bearing on our ultimate state, because God’s love finally wins.
It seems to me that Bell is merely the logical conclusion of the popular evangelical teaching, “God loves everyone and has a wonderful plan for your life.” As much as many of them deny it, there is no other finish line but universalism when it is the basis of their doctrine of God and salvation.Â In a way, this book is not surprising, coming from an Arminian megachurch pastor. This is the logical conclusion of megachurches. No church will continue to attract people without a false gospel of love to tickle itching ears.
Love Wins is a very damaging book. It’s now #5 on Amazon’s bestselling books, even before its release on April 1.
It’s also striking that the endorsements come from three well-known heterodox evangelicals. Eugene Peterson, author of that terrible paraphrase called The Message, says Rob Bell has “biblical imagination … without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.â€ Greg Boyd of Openness fame, says of the book, “A bold, prophetic and poetic masterpiece. I don’t know any writer who expresses the inexpressible love of God as powerfully and as beautifully as Rob Bell!” And New Kind of Christianity Brian McLaren says Bell “offers a courageous alternative answer. Thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical storyâ€”from beginning to end.â€
UPDATE on Rob Bell’s church: Shane Hipps, co-pastor at Mars Hill Church, tweeted this on Sunday, 9/11 (Since it happened on 9/11, is this a staged event to demonstrate their universalistic oneness with all religions, including Islam?):
Later, Hipps clarified what actually happened: