The Fury Over Rob Bell’s Hell In ‘Love Wins’

Finishing up on a review of Rob Bell’s 200 page hard back, Kevin DeYoung says, “At the very heart of this controversy, and one of the reasons the blogosphere exploded over this book, is that we really do have two different Gods. The stakes are that high. If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming. I do not use the word lightly, just like Bell probably chose “toxic” quite deliberately. Both sides cannot be right. As much as some voices in evangelicalism will suggest that we should all get along and learn from each other and listen for the Spirit speaking in our midst, the fact is we have two irreconcilable views of God.” Kevin DeYoung’s review of Love Wins is quite comprehensive as well as lengthy.

When DeYoung says the ‘blogosphere exploded over this book’ that describes it well. The above paragraph gives the strength of feeling spread quite widely. Reviewers are not short on expressing a sense of travesty presented in Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’.

For myself the reviews I have read are right in that Rob Bell is a universalist; ‘universalist’ in the sense that no one is going to be lost from God’s kingdom despite what they have been. The bad will eventually be made good. There is a ‘restorationist’ theology, a second chance for everyone despite their rejection of God and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ in this life. All will be saved in God’s kingdom. It’s not what I read in Scripture – and seems to me to make nonsense of the crucifixion. Why did Jesus go through with what he did if all will be saved anyway? What about texts which says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The two contrasts are presented, we make the choice to perish or have eternal life. As it says in 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Central to the Christian faith is Jesus Christ; “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). If we die eternally it is not because God has determined it but that we will have chosen it. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I felt quite strongly that Bell’s use of Scripture can be very selective to support what for me would pass more as ‘eisegesis’ – reading into the text – rather than exegesis – reading from the text what it says in its context. But there are plenty of reviews to read. Of the reviews I take to Ben Witherington’s review. At the beginning of chapter 7 there are links to the previous chapter reviews – which are not found in chapter 8.

Like DeYoung’s, it is comprehensive and lengthy, unlike DeYoung’s it is chapter by chapter. But despite where there is disagreement there is generosity and respect for the author’s intentions. He does provide alternative views, especially to the general understood idea of ‘Hell’.

Comment 7 on one of his posts by someone called Matthew tells us something of the interest Witherington has created over the issue of life hereafter in his review of ‘love Wins’.

“Thanks for your coverage of this issue and for your willingness to step out of the box from mainstream evangelicalism.

“I, myself, studied this issue a few years back and also came to the conclusion that the conditional immortality view has more on its side than the other 2 popular views (eternal torment and universal reconciliation). As an aside, I prefer the term ‘conditional immortality’ over ‘annihiliationism’ specifically b/c I don’t agree with the Greek notion that souls are naturally immortal. Annihilationism, to me, sounds like God is putting an end to a life that would have otherwise lived forever. I think, rather, that death is simply the natural result of sin-filled life. We only have eternal life in the Son.

“I actually taught the 3 views at our district summer camp 2 years ago and was surprised how open minded the 20-30 people in attendance were once presented with the evidences for each view.”

“It was the grave or sheol. Jesus GRANTED eternal life rather than a simple grave in the ground. Thus the alternative to eternal life is not torment, but death and annihilation.”

Despite the strength of feeling on this subject, or perhaps because of it, there has been increasing interest in the subject of ‘hell’. And so the challenge of Rob Bell’s book. See below for additional comments/reviews on ‘Love wins’.

Ben Witherington can present theological challenges with care and consideration. Because he disagrees with Bell on some things doesn’t mean he throws everything out that Bell believes or writes. It reminds me of William Barclay, I have his commentaries for the insights he gives to biblical backgrounds, but there are some things he believed which I don’t share, such as ‘Universalism’. And neither do I share in the general understanding of ‘eternal hell fire’ where the lost writhe with no release from pain for all eternity. I don’t think this represents in any way the best in Christian belief.

Ben Witherington’s view on eternal torment – ‘Why anihilationism is not universalism

And ‘Hell? No??

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3 Responses to The Fury Over Rob Bell’s Hell In ‘Love Wins’

  1. Tarnya Burge says:

    For those wanting to explore Conditional Immortality, check out our site Afterlife | Conditional Immortality, Soul Sleep and Annihilationism.

  2. Pingback: Around the Web May 2011 | Afterlife | Conditional Immortality, Soul Sleep and Annihilationism |Conditional Immortality Discussion around the web

  3. Pingback: Around the Web May 2011 - Afterlife

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