Kevin DeYoung has invested an enormous amount of time to provide the Church with a careful, comprehensive, and compelling review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. I could not recommend this review more highly. Whether Bell realizes it or not, Kevin is serving as a biblical friend to him. I pray God gives Bell ears to listen.

The Gospel Coalition has produced a PDF version of the review for easier reading, printing, and distributing.

Kevin’s opening paragraph summarizes the book’s thesis and argument:

Love Wins, by megachurch pastor Rob Bell, is, as the subtitle suggests, “a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.” 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.

After listing some of the book’s virtues, he summarizes why it is so troubling:

The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating. And the use of Scripture is indefensible. Worst of all, Love Wins demeans the cross and misrepresents God’s character.

He also explains why this is such a difficult book to review; namely, that one doesn’t know where to begin:

Love Wins is such a departure from historic Christianity, that there’s no easy way to tackle it. You can’t point to two or three main problems or three or four exegetical missteps. This is a markedly different telling of the gospel from start to finish.

He ends up organizing the book’s problems under the following seven headings:

  1. Not Your Grandmother’s Christianity
  2. Historical Problems
  3. Exegetical Problems
  4. Eschatological Problems
  5. Christological Problems
  6. Gospel Problems
  7. A Different God

Kevin closes with a “Pastoral Postscript,” and it is worth reproducing in full:

The tendency in theological controversy is to boil everything down to a conflict of personalities. This is the way the world understands disagreement. This is how the world sells controversy. It’s always politician versus politician or pastor versus pastor. But sometimes the disagreement is less about the men (or women) involved and more about the truth.

This is one of those instances.

I have not spent hours and hours on this review because I am out to get another pastor. I may be a sinner, but with four young children and a very full church schedule, I have no time for personal vendettas. No, this is not about a single author or a single church. This is about the truth, about how the rightness or wrongness of our theology can do tremendous help or tremendous harm to the people of God.

No doubt, Rob Bell writes as a pastor who wants to care for people struggling with the doctrine of hell. I too write as a pastor. And as a pastor I know that Love Wins means God’s people lose. In the world of Love Wins, my congregation should not sing “In Christ Alone,” because they cannot not believe, “There on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” They would not belt out “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.” No place for “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” with its confession, “the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.” The jubilation of “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!” is muted in Love Wins. The bad news of our wrath-deserving wretchedness is so absent that the good news of God’s wrath-bearing Substitute cannot sing in our hearts. When God is shrunk down to fit our cultural constraints, the cross is diminished. And whenever the cross is diminished we pain the hearts of God’s people and rob them of their joy.

Just as damaging is the impact of Love Wins on the nonbeliever or the wayward former churchgoer. Instead of summoning sinners to the cross that they might flee the wrath to come and know the satisfaction of so great a salvation, Love Wins assures people that everyone’s eternity ends up as heaven eventually. The second chances are good not just for this life, but for the next. And what if they aren’t? What if Jesus says on the day of judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23)? What if at the end of the age the wicked and unbelieving cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16)? What if outside the walls of the New Jerusalem “are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15)? What if there really is only one name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)? And what if the wrath of God really remains on those who do not believe in the Son (John 3:36)?

If Love Wins is wrong—if the theology departs from the apostolic good deposit, if the biblical reasoning falls short in a hundred places, if the god of Love Wins and the gospel of Love Wins are profoundly mistaken—if all this is true, then what damage has been done to the souls of men and women?

Bad theology hurts real people. So of all the questions raised in the book, the most important question every reader must answer is this: is it true? Whatever you think of all the personalities involved on whatever side of the debate, that’s the one question that cannot be ignored. Is Love Wins true to the word of God? That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.

Bell addressed an invitation-only meeting at Mars Hill Bible Church on Sunday night and began by saying that he is not a universalist, that he believes in heaven and hell, and that he believes Jesus is the only way to God. Kevin’s review will help you see what he really means in each of these three areas.

I am praying that God uses this review, among others, to strengthen God’s church in sound doctrine and to protect the church from deceptive teaching. May God’s name be glorified.

You can read the review here:

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True:
A Review of Love Wins

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Comments:


140 thoughts on “Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Response”

  1. dave miers says:

    thanks for the heads-up.

  2. Bek says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for posting this review. I really appreciated the in depth review that DeYoung gives of the book. I really think he gives a fair perception of what Bell’s book is saying. I’m excited to see how this conversation continues.

  3. josh skinner says:

    superb. i am glad i stayed up to read this. i will pass this along.

  4. Thanks to Kevin De Young for doing the heavy lifting for many of us. Very thoughtful and responsible.

  5. Maria says:

    Should your second to last paragraph read “Mars Hill Bible Church”? The Mars Hill Church in Seattle believes in the doctrine of hell. It would be surprising that they’d have a private meeting with Mr. Bell. The website of Rob Bell’s church seems to indicate they call themselves “Mars Hill Bible Church.” Just wondering for clarification’s sake.

    1. Dave says:

      Hi, I think Bell’s church has the same name as Driscoll’s.
      http://marshill.org/

      1. Maria says:

        The URL’s are similar, but I’m pretty sure they are not the same name. The Seattle church is Mars Hill Church and the Michigan church is Mars Hill Bible Church.

        1. Jenny says:

          Rob Bell’s church is Mars Hill Bible Church. It’s here in Grandville, MI….5 minutes from our house. :/

  6. Tim Rogers says:

    Justin,

    Just trying to understand something. I need to begin by saying that I am no defender of Bell or his theology. I agree when one reads his writings it is like trying to nail jello to the wall, one just cannot get anything that sticks.

    Having said that, I do not understand your last paragraph. You say;

    Bell addressed an invitation-only meeting at Mars Hill Church on Sunday night and began by saying that he is not a universalist, that he believes in heaven and hell, and that he believes Jesus is the only way to God. Kevin’s review will help you see what he really means in each of these three areas.

    Isn’t that a post-modern rendering of what someone believes. If Bell says he believes in these three items how does DeYoung know he believes differently? I have not read the book but I do not see in DeYoung’s review clear statements where Bell denies his belief in these three areas.

    What am I missing?

    Tim

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Tim, just briefly: “universalist” is the broad catch-all label for the idea that everyone eventually ends up in heaven, which is what Bell says (though as Kevin points out, he adds some ambiguous things in there which make his book incoherent and self-contradictory); in his talk at his church he essentially equated universalism with pluralism and explained why he is not a pluralist. Regarding heaven and hell, yet he believes in them but Kevin’s review shows what a revisionist understanding he has (esp. of hell). Finally, check out the section on Christological problems for how Bell thinks that Jesus is the only one who saves but in his theology that means you can be an atheist in America and still go to heaven.

      Hope that helps a little.

      1. Jeremy says:

        Luke 9:49-50 Thanks for “sticking up for Jesus” Kevin and Justin, but I think he can handle this one.

        1. Justin Ennis says:

          Rob Bell was working miracles!? Awesome!

  7. Luke says:

    “The proof is in the pudding” as they say.

  8. Brian MacArevey says:

    “Bell addressed an invitation-only meeting at Mars Hill Bible Church on Sunday night and began by saying that he is not a universalist, that he believes in heaven and hell, and that he believes Jesus is the only way to God. Kevin’s review will help you see what he really means in each of these three areas.”

    So…Justin…are you accusing Bell of lying? Or are you saying that Bell does not know what he believes? Why are you guys so suspscious of everybody? Do you think that Bell is honestly trying to deal with the biblical text, or is he self consciously trying to decieve people?

    1. Garrett says:

      Brian,

      I doubt Bell is “self consciously trying to deceive people,” but notice what Paul says in 2 Tim. 3:13 (NASB):

      “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

      Paul says here that at the very same time that false teachers are deceiving others, they themselves are being deceived. In other words, false teachers self-consciously THINK they are doing RIGHT by what they are teaching, and they think that because they are being deceived. It’s a sobering thought.

      1. Dave says:

        Garret, by that logic, you could very well be deceived. So could Justin with his comments. So, too, could have been Paul the Apostle.

        First we judge someone as evil and then we say that they don’t know they are evil and they don’t know the things they are saying are evil. And around and around the merry-go-round we go.

        When will we all see that the questions Bell brings up are worth discussing and not worthy of condemning?

    2. Michael says:

      Brian, you seem to be missing the point. If Bell slants the way he uses “universalist”, then of course he can say he is not one. There are different types of universalist, and Bell is playing to the public’s misconception that universalism always equals pluralism.

      To redirect some of your questions at yourself:

      Do you think Bell is honestly dealing with the texts on hell? Why do you take Bell’s words only, regardless of what his actions show? Why are you not suspicious of those who stray from Biblical teaching?

    3. AStev says:

      I don’t think Bell is intentionally trying to deceive people. I think he himself is misled. Most false teachers don’t get up in the morning thinking, “I want to lead some people astray today.” They’re usually well-meaning people, whose good intentions cloud their better judgment.

      1. Brian MacArevey says:

        This is a sobering thought…but could not you be the ones who are the deceived? Or must we assume that it has to be Bell? If so, why?

        1. Jack Vale says:

          Because Taylor and DeYoung are the only people on earth who read the Bible.

          I mean really read it.

          Really really really really really read it.

          No one else really reads the Bible and really understands it but people who agree with DeYoung and Taylor. They just think they do.

          It’s never been about what “the Bible says.” If it were they would trust the Bible to speak for itself. AS it is, they need to constantly proof-text and elevate one verse above another. (GASP: universalists quote bible verses too!) If the Bible was truly as one-dimensional and clear on the issue as they pretend, they wouldn’t need to do this.

          It’s alright; this could be the controversy that flushes them out to display just how ridiculous they’ve become.

  9. Glenn says:

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    Thank you to Kevin and to Justin (and many others) for standing up against this insidious book.

  10. I agree with DeYoung and with this blog about Bell being wrong. I do not see where the Bible gives credence to what Bell is saying. I think it is good and fair to disagree with him. But I also think that if Bell says he believes in heaven and hell and that Jesus is the only way to God that we should take that statement at face value and believe him. A line of reasoning where we tell people what they believe instead of letting them tell us what they believe is very difficult and dangerous. I don’t like it when people do this to me.

    1. Jeff Hardy says:

      Jeremy,
      I share your sentiment–it is maddening when people tell us what we believe when we know we believe something to the contrary. This case is different, where Bell says he believes in certain things clearly, but then takes issue with the standard definitions of those things. He constructs alternative views for what the key terms mean, and then says he believes in them. It is a little bit like saying that my favorite food is hamburgers, and then every hamburger that is offered to me I reject as odious and inedible. I respond by saying, “As I have stated over and over, my favorite food is hamburger. Let me show you.” When I pull out a chicken sandwich and argue that it is a hamburger because it is meat on a bun with ketchup and mustard most people would agree that I playing fast and loose with definitions and not really using language in a usualy way. All the reviews to this point indicate that Bell is calling his chicken sandwich a hamburger and rejecting every other burger as false.

      1. Jeff Hardy says:

        “a usualy” is supposed to be “the usual”

      2. Brad says:

        Good analogy, Jeff.

  11. steve hays says:

    It’s not uncommon for universalists to say they believe in hell. They simply reinterpret the “hell” passages as a temporary, purgatorial hell. That’s one of their harmonistic devices. For them, there is a hell, but it’s fundamentally remedial rather than retributive.

    1. Ryan says:

      Hey Jeff and Jeremy, I share your concern.

      But I think Steve Hays nails it. It would be like me telling my wife and friends that I believe in monogamy but than having many wives. When confronted I would just tell you, “here is my understanding of monogamy…”

      The problem is that Bell is redefining the terms, which then gives the impression to some that he still believes in what that term traditionally meant.

      1. Dave says:

        Ryan,

        You say, “The problem is that Bell is redefining the terms, which then gives the impression to some that he still believes in what that term traditionally meant.”

        For Bell to “redefine” the terms implies that they were defined already. Who defined your terms? Do you believe in the “traditional” terms and what they “traditionally” meant? I think that Rob is simply trying to point out that we all have a “tradition” and that those “traditions” might not be that accurate. It’s basically license to re-examine our traditions, which is pretty healthy.

  12. Raul Zamoraf Jr says:

    Bell sounds like the great theologian, author and pastor John Stott.

    1. Phil Allcock says:

      Raul, I think you are mistaken. There was a period in Stott’s ministry when he entertained annihilationism, but he later recognised this as error. He has never sought to redefine heaven, hell, and salvation in ways that make a nonsense of what Jesus clearly says in Scripture. If your comment refers to his musings on annihilationism, then in the context of his lifetime of ministry and biblically faithful writings, your comment is, to say the least, a little disingenuous.

      1. Raul Zamora Jr says:

        I read an article last year that Stott still had this view on Hell. Rob Bell is in my mind a Christian brother even though I don’t agree with his position, Jesus stills loves him. You sound like you have your pants on a little too tight!!! Have a blessed day Brother.
        Raul Zamora Jr.

  13. mark mcculley says:

    Since I was saved about ten years ago from the false good news of universalism, I am glad to see the negative review of Bell’s book. But I can’t help notice the inherent Arminianism of the Gospel Coalition’s brand of evangelicalism.

    gc: It reminds me of the T-shirt, “Jesus Loves You. Then Again He Loves Everybody.” There’s no good news in announcing that God loves everyone in the same way just because he wants to. The good news is that in love God sent his Son to live for our lives and die for our deaths”

    mark: notice what gospel coalition does not say, will not say about election: that God does not love everybody, that God did not die for everybody. They will only deny that the love doesn’t need Christ’s death. They still retain the old formula retained by Dordt (sufficient for everybody).

    What’s with the ambiguity of “just because he wants to”?
    1. God loves the elect in a holy way, not just any old way, yes.

    2. But does this deny that God loves “just because he wants to”? God loves because He wants to, and His nature requires justice for all those He loves. There is no love apart from Christ and His substitution for the elect. Christ has no love for the non-elect.

    I take sides with John Owen against John Calvin on God’s justice, and thus the necessary nature of Christ’s death, but that does not deny the sovereignty of God’s love. God does not love the non-elect. That’s a little different from the Packer nuance, which says “God’s love is not the whole story” when it comes to the non-elect.

    But this is something you can’t say, when you are on the same side with Arminians against the universalists.

  14. SuperStar says:

    You certainly have presented your view of Christianity and Rob Bell has presented his. When Rob gets endorsements from Richard Mouw, Eugene Peterson and Greg Boyd who acknowledge that this is in line with historic orthodox Christianity, you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone outside of your fan club, that your version of the Gospel is right and Rob’s version is wrong. BTW, how did you know there was an invitation-only meeting last night? Were you invited?

    1. Ryan says:

      Hey Superstar,

      You might want to do DeYoung the same courtesy that many were hollering about with reading Bell’s book, and actually read the review.

      It is not a matter of different interpretations, it is a matter of what the Bible actually says.

      1. Dave says:

        Ryan, dude… enlighten us… what does the Bible actually say? You got that one figured out? Because it seems to me that the discussion of what the Bible actually says has been raging for about… 1600 years now?

        But please… tell us… what does the Bible actually say?

        Dude… the Bible is meant to be interpreted… it has to be interpreted…

        There are some smart dudes who haven’t figured it out… I’d be surprised to find out that you did.

    2. Raul Zamora Jr says:

      Amen brother!!! I agree with you.
      Raul Zamora Jr.

    3. I don’t know who Eugene Peterson is, but Richard Mouw and Gregory Boyd are definitely less than orthodox.

      1. brian smith says:

        ditto

      2. Lisa says:

        The same Eugene Peterson who compared ‘The Shack’ to ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’

      3. Jack Vale says:

        They aren’t elder-Augustinian, but they are definitely Athanasian and Nicenian and younger Augustinian.

        “Not orthodox.” LOL! You ppl crack me up. Keep making it up as you go along.

        1. Dave says:

          Jack, can you use smaller words? You’re giving me a headache.

  15. Greg says:

    Here’s a video of what Rob Bell said at Mars Hill last night:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg0mkooAqiU&feature=player_embedded

  16. Hart says:

    This might not be surprising but interesting to me nonetheless: Richard Mouw Fuller president has weighed in calling Love Wins “a great book, well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus” http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/life/20110314/hell14_st.art.htm

    1. Glenn says:

      Then he either hasn’t read it or he is as deceived as Rob Bell

      1. Jack Vale says:

        Or he just thinks differently than a Calvinist. That’s probably it.

    2. Everything out of Fuller is unorthodox. This is no surprise.

  17. Hart says:

    I am not sure that I will trust you on this one over Mouw, Glenn but thanks though :)

    1. AStev says:

      I don’t think Glenn would ask you to trust his word – he’d ask you to trust God’s.

      And seriously, you should read DeYoung’s review.

      1. Glenn says:

        You’re right AStev, I would say “trust Gods” (thanks for that by the way)

        Hart, with all due respect, if this is truly Mouw’s opinion of the book then I really must stand firm on what I said above and as AStev said “…seriously, read De Young’s review.”

        1. Jack Vale says:

          Why should we read the words of DeYoung when we are already reading the Bible itself?

          You believe just as much in the words of humans as anyone else.

          It’s Bell/Mouw/Peterson/Boyd vs. Piper/Taylor/DeYoung. They all know the Bible very well and have come to different conclusions. What do you make of that?

  18. Hart says:

    @AStev: you are absolutely correct but alas we all mediate God’s word. I have now read DeYoung’s review a couple of times and I actually think that it is a decent review. His historical and exegetical critiques I find wanting though. He should take time to respond to Andrew Perriman’s (http://www.postost.net/) engagement with his approach. regards*

    1. Gunner says:

      Hart: If “we all mediate God’s word” and if that reality should elicit an “alas” from all of us, do you believe that all interpretations must be loosely and uncertainly held?

  19. John Stuart says:

    Thanks Justin for posting Kevin’s review. This is excellent teaching. We all need to be constantly reminded that heresy always begins within the church, not outside of it.

  20. Re: “Whether Bell realizes it or not, Kevin is serving as a biblical friend to him.” The reverse is also true: Bell is forcing the Church to go deeper into God’s truth. We learn to discern between the truth and mere speculation. Without any challenges, we become lazy and even indifferent!

    1. AStev says:

      This is an excellent point. False teachers do not catch God unawares, and false teaching is often an opportunity for the faithful to become reacquainted with orthodoxy.

      1. Jack Vale says:

        Amen, so Kevin’s false teaching may cause deeper thought from true Christians. Thanks for the clarification.

  21. If you follow the so-called headlines at TGC, you’d think the most urgent issue in the world right now is Rob Bell and universalism. Depending on how it’s counted, Justin Taylor alone has written 16 posts related to Rob Bell and universalism. By contrast, he’s only written 2 posts on the tragedy in Japan! Obviously the earthquake in Japan is a newer story. Still, this obsessive attention to Rob Bell strikes me as myopic and self-interested when the church has a God-given opportunity and mandate to be a light in Japan’s hour of darkness. Are we more concerned about getting our theological ducks in a row than serving and loving our neighbors? Have we forgotten that pure and undefiled religion before God looks after those in distress?

    1. AStev says:

      Why does it have to be either/or? Can’t it be both/and?

    2. Christopher, In fairness to Justin this is a “special interest site”. The focus emerges from the emphasis birthed by calling and gifting. There indeed has been a very thoughtful post regarding Japan. You are correct that caring for those in distress is indeed an outgrowth of orthodoxy.
      Many media outlets are doing a good job on Japan but will never address Rob Bell’s tsunami of heterodox assertions that all to easily engulf the naive and marginally catechized.

    3. Just a thought says:

      The irony Christopher is that not only is this Kevin’s chance to shine his light for Japan but it is also yours. Yet here you are, reading this post with all it’s comments and taking the time to comment yourself. Your words would have carried more weight if you had kept them to yourself and did something for Japan instead. Why is Kevin less of a christian for writing this blog but you aren’t for reading and commenting on it?

  22. 4granted says:

    It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of the video was to create interest in (and sell) Rob’s new book. It will be interesting to see if all the controversy simply sells more books. Another intriguing book, which offers solid theological insights on the topic of heaven and who will be there, is Dr. Paul Enns’ new book Heaven Revealed. http://dld.bz/P8sz

  23. Billy Liu says:

    God is love. If love wins, shouldn’t God also win? ;)

    Does is really matter eternal conscious torment is real or not? If one or the other would cause you to lose faith in God, then by all means believe in one or the other. To me, either doctrine won’t cause me to lose faith in God. If Rob Bell is a heretic… so be it. If praying and believing that perhaps someday ‘everyone’ can re-enter heaven is too optimistic, oh well. If that kind of optimism would cause you to end up in hell… oh well… guess love suppose to lose?

    I’m not really sure who’s wrong who’s right. But I do hope love can also be right. Not just the selfish human kind of love, but the godly kind of love Christ has shown to us. Yes, it’s time we pick up our crosses for our Japanese brothers and sisters rather continuing this theological bickering.

    1. Sarachka says:

      your reply shows that you don’t really understand the issues at hand. God is love… but God is also just and holy. Those things cannot be divorced from each other.

      Rob Bell is not being optimistic. What Bell is saying is that when Jesus said “the gate is narrow, and few find it” what he really meant was “the road is large and easy to find, and anyone can find it, even if they don’t call on my name.”

      If you’ve read DeYoung’s review and you’re still not sure “who’s wrong and who’s right”… then you don’t know the Scripture well.

      1. Billy Liu says:

        I’m not trying to divorce anything. God is love is in the scripture. I don’t think it’s wrong for anyone to quote that.

        I’m also not defending Rob Bell as if he’s the next super Apostle or something, I’ve never even heard about this pastor until recently by reading this blog. Now, based on my limited and recent knowledge of Rob Bell, I also don’t believe he’s preaching that the gate is wide and all will enter it even if the name of Jesus is ignored. This is largely a claim made by those who don’t like him.

        Anyway, my point is, WHO CARES? If one like what Rob is preaching and believed in Jesus, so what? Isn’t that a good thing? If you think Rob’s theology is false, then don’t believe it. Simple as that!

        What is the whole point of the gospel message anyway? The good news of God is a loving and merciful God so that we sinners can be saved? Or perhaps the gospel message is about most people will suffer a conscious torment for all eternity? Is that really the good news Jesus wants us to spread?

        What would Jesus want us to do? To love God and love one another or to dwell upon how most people are going to suffer forever and ever in hell?

        Seriously, if you already KNOW thru the scriptures that most people are going to hell anyway, what’s the point of continue on with the great commission? Why bother trying?

        Fact is that we’re only human and we DON’T really know what’s going to happen. Only Lord knows. For know, just do what we think our Lord would want us to do. Forget about Rob.

        1. AStev says:

          “Seriously, if you already KNOW thru the scriptures that most people are going to hell anyway, what’s the point of continue on with the great commission? Why bother trying?”

          Yes, many will go to hell, but we also know that – through the great commission that Jesus gave us – there will also be a great multitude in heaven from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

          “Fact is that we’re only human and we DON’T really know what’s going to happen. Only Lord knows.”

          And he has told us in the Bible. If we still say, “We don’t really know!” then it betrays that we don’t trust what he has revealed to us, or we think he might do something other than what he has said he will do – it’s a serious charge to imply that God may be a liar in his word.

          1. Billy Liu says:

            Again, not saying God is a liar, but there are things in the bible not clearly spelled out! Hell is a horrible place to be regardless of the fact whether soul can be conscious in there for all eternity or not.

            If eternal conscious suffering is an absolute must, then why didn’t Jesus pay the full price of suffering forever on the cross?

            If wage of sin is eternal conscious suffering, why did the just God pay that payment in full? Why only limited amount of beating and then 3 days on the cross? Why no eternal conscious suffering for Jesus?

            According to my understanding of the scripture, it’s because wage of sin is DEATH! People will eventually get what they deserve (suffering), but ultimately, sinners will perish. God doesn’t want folks to perish, but to have everlasting life. That is also clearly spelled out in scripture, right? Why is this famous verse blatantly ignored? You charge God or John as liar? Perish means continual conscious existence in hell forever?

            Do you understand that there are things that are not plainly spelled out in the Bible?

            Such as we aren’t even sure what heaven is like. Words cannot describe!

            Point is there are things that we don’t know for sure… and when it comes to hell, it’s not even worth bickering about. We can all agree is a horrible place to be… and leave it at that.

            If a brother thinks God allowing eternal conscious suffering is being too cruel and trips and stops believing in God, you’ll insist on that ‘theology’ and make that brother falls?

            Remember Romance14:13?

            1. Billy Liu says:

              Duh… sorry not Romance… Romans14:13! :o

              1. Ken says:

                I think you’d better read Romans 14 a little more carefully. In that chapter, he was talking about laws regarding the Sabbath and kosher foods. That has little to do with the subject at hand. Paul had no patience for false teachers. If you think so, read Galatians or Colossians.

    2. Benjamin says:

      Billy Liu, thank you for posting. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Why it is such a necessity to argue points on scripture, heaven, hell, and Rob Bell is beyond me. What is so wrong with just believing in Love, Jesus and God? If you want to believe that mastering scripture and doctrines is necessary than so be it–nothing wrong with that but I believe that there is no one way to do it. If I go to hell for that–so be it!

      1. Just a thought says:

        “If I go to hell for that-so be it!”
        __________________________________

        Really? So be it! You don’t care enough about your eternal destiny to at least try to understand Jesus’ very clear teachings on them? Wow!

        1. Benjamin says:

          I understand Jesus in my own way–Not the way someone else tells me is right. I think that many people’s interpretation of the “word of God and Jesus” is based on what the “general consensus” is on certain word definitions. Let me ask you, what is the “definition” of the word “definition”? It’s circular logic and everyone has–and is entitled to their own perception and interpretation of the world around them. I understand that we need to agree on definitions to an extent but that does not make them absolute. I also understand that Faith mandates an absolute that one does not question. To be human IS to doubt as we are not perfect. If you believe that the less doubt you have makes you a better Christian that is fine by me. Faith is believing in something that you cannot prove. I don’t see the value in trying to prove or disprove someone else’s faith! Words are just that– words–God lives in my SOUL, not in a book! I am not trying to change your mind about what you believe–I just don’t believe in an “exclusive” path to salvation but you are more than welcome to feel otherwise.

  24. Pingback: New Leaven
  25. Mike M says:

    A while back, enough Evangelicals were concerned about the teaching and preaching of Tony Campolo that they gathered with him and asked him about his theology. I believe the issue at hand was his concept of the Trinity. I also believe that J.I. Packer sort of ‘chaired’ the group, which, in the end concluded that Campolo wasn’t a heretic, but that he was careless and ought to be more responsible in his communication of serious things like this.

    If enough of us think this is important, maybe a similar council could be convened, to see whether Bell is, by his own explanation, compared with classical definition, a Universalist.

  26. donsands says:

    “This is about the truth” -Kevin

    “Love rejoices in the truth”-The Apostle Paul

    I have to wonder if Rob love and rejoices in the truth, God’s Word?

    “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” The Apostle John

    “..and Scripture can not be broken.” John 10:35

    “..He [Jesus] lays down the great principle, “the Scripture can not be broken.” It is as though He said, “Wherever the Scripture speaks plainly on any subject, there can be no more question about it. The cause is settled and decided. Every jot and tittle of Scripture is true, and must be received as conclusive.”

    The principle here laid down by our Lord is one of vast importance. Let us grasp it firmly, and never let it go. Let us maintain boldly the complete inspiration of every Word of the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. ….There are difficulties in Scripture, we need not shrink from conceding, things hard to explain, hard to reconcile, and hard to understand. But in almost all these difficulties, the fault, we may justly suspect, is not so much in Scripture as in our own weak minds. ….The wisest course is to walk in the old path,–the path of faith and humility; and say, “I cannot give up a single word of my Bible. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Scripture cannot be broken.” -JC Ryle

  27. Ken says:

    Rob Bell seems rather fond of using ambiguous language. I hate to say it, but much of it strikes me as double talk. People who use such tactics always arouse my suspicions.

  28. Dan says:

    Justin quotes Kevin’s closing remarks: “Bad theology hurts real people. So of all the questions raised in the book, the most important question every reader must answer is this: is it true?”

    Yes, indeed. And that is how Richard Phillips opens the brand-new TGC booklet “Can We Know the Truth?” here:
    http://www.wtsbooks.com/pdf_files/9781433527715.pdf

  29. Pastor Matt says:

    Rob Bell spoke to Mars Hill Bible Church about Love Wins on Sunday. I have posted the video on my blog.

  30. donsands says:

    “I’m not really sure who’s wrong who’s right.”-Billy

    “That’s the issue. Open a Bible, pray to God, listen to the faithful Christians of the past 2000 years, and answer the question for yourself.” -Kevin De Young

    There are truths my friend. God said the truth will set you free.

    1. Doogs says:

      Unfortunately, Rob Bell is not sure who is right and who is wrong either, yet he apparently believes that love cannot jibe with the absolute truth of people going to Hell.

      The Lie

      “Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them BECAUSE WE CAN’T (empahsis mine), and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires.” (115) – Rob Bell

      The Truth

      “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Jesus

      God is love and God is just.

      1. Jack Vale says:

        I thought Jesus said he would draw all men to himself and Paul said God was in Christ reconciling ALL THINGS to himself?

        Of course you pay no attention to the whole Bible…just your little favorite verses that prove your preconceived man-made Calvinistic philosophy of theistic determinism. You people have no respect for God’s word while claiming to have the utmost. The Blind claiming to see as someone once said.

        1. Ken says:

          I think you’d better pay a little more attention to the context of that verse. The Bible makes it clear that NOT everyone will go to heaven. To argue otherwise is to call Jesus a liar.

  31. linda says:

    just listened to rob bell’s interview in new york a few hours ago and he says at 24 minutes in that he is not a universalist and he does not believe God will force anyone to be in heaven that doesn’t want to be there. he is not a determinist. i haven’t read his book as it isn’t out yet but that seems pretty straightforward. he did say he sees God possibly giving an opportunity at the end of time for people to still choose heaven when the gate is left open in the new jerusalem in rev 21. again, he did not say that God will make sure everyone ends up in heaven. here’s the link to his ny talk: http://www.livestream.com/lovewins so far it doesn’t sound like he’s saying anything any different than others like c.s. lewis.

    1. Glenn says:

      What he says in his book makes it very clear that he believes that all will eventually make it into heaven. He views hell as a form of purgatory where you work off your sin and then hey ho, heaven is open to you.
      This is not not what the Bible teaches and it is not what Jesus taught.
      I would suggest that you read De Youngs review where he covers all these issues in great depth.

  32. James S says:

    Endorsements from Richard Mouw, Eugene Peterson and Greg Boyd?!! Wooo, Stop the press!
    Seriously though, that must have been a joke, right?

    I would be more surprised if those three ever endorsed an orthodox writer.

    1. Jack Vale says:

      I think they have endorsed eastern orthodox writers. But if by “orthodox” you meant “Calvinist”, then LOL!

  33. Victor says:

    “Every single theological heresy begins with a misconception of the nature of God”

    I think I heard Hank Hanegraff or R.C Sproul say this once, and it is proving true for Bell.

  34. Mary says:

    I have NEVER been so disappointed. I have been witnessing and doing discipleship with some people who may very well come across this material and BELIEVE this cracked up message. May God intervene and still use this article to reach people before it IS too late.

  35. Mike M says:

    In the livestream, it’s interesting that at 44:00, the interviewer (not a Christian, I assume) challenges Bell’s view of heaven, because it’s not very God-centered. This isn’t verbatim, but it’s close:

    Interviewer: Isn’t what you’re saying completely self-interested?Why do all our preferences (e.g., wine, beer, Indian, Chinese food, etc.) have to do with God? Isn’t heaven about being with God?
    Bell: Yes, but… [he doesn't answer the question]

    later in the interview, (about 55:00) Dr. Ron Walborne (sp?) of Alliance Seminary asks (verbatim):

    Dr. Walborne: “If we lose the concept of hell – and I’m not sure I understood – do you believe, first of all, is a real place, or is it just hell on earth? And if we do de-emphasize the doctrine of hell, what does that do to the motivation for Christian mission?
    Bell: That’s a great question. It very important to talk about hell because it’s absolutely crucial that we come face to face with the power of our choices. [again, doesn't answer the question]

    Bell doesn’t want to talk about hell. The question every Christian wants to talk to him about is the one he doesn’t want to deal with.

    By the end, I have the distinct sense that Bell wants call out a serious problem among Evangelicals: we don’t actually believe God is good, and the world can tell. I agree with him in that sense. He suggests that the God that most of us believe in is mean and nasty. So when Bell talks about “The question behind the question” what he means is that most of us don’t REALLY believe that the gospel is good news, because we don’t think God is that good.

    Bell wants to remind us of the goodness of God. That’s good. I just wish he didn’t feel compelled to circumvent the Bible to do it.

    http://www.livestream.com/lovewins/video?clipId=pla_9997e760-b88d-4294-91a8-142e5ed1c619&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb

  36. Kip Stevens says:

    Howdy all,

    I think we should first look at the narrative of Scripture. You will find that hell is a non-existent concept. Sheol is not considered a metaphysical damnation, it is simply a place of the dead.

    This is not to say the New Testament does not explicitly discuss hell, but I think we must be careful because many of us think that we are going to a metaphysical “heaven” which really means is a belief in Platonic philosophy and not Christianity. Christianity is about resurrection, God comes back and restores creation to its original purpose.

    Therefore, I think we must ask honest questions in light of wide spread Hellenism (the spread of Greek thought, not hell as we define it today), language theory, and God’s saving work in Christ.

    I would agree with others who say Bell is impossible to nail down. I think he is careless many times with how he uses words, and does not give a proper definition. However, calling him a heretic or saying he is flat wrong without picking through his work is also problematic. If you really want to read good Reformed/Calvinist, read NT Wright, James K.A. Smith, Kevin Vanhoozer (if you want a big book for your collection). They do much more for Christian belief than Bell, Driscoll, or any of the pastors who write theology.

    1. Ken says:

      With all due respect, I think you need to go back and read the New Testament a little more carefully. Jesus spoke of heaven and hell as real places, and He taught about hell more than anyone else in the Bible.

      1. Jack Vale says:

        With all due respect, you are the one who needs to actually pick a bible up and read it. You know…THE BIBLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?! That book collecting dust on your shelf while you enduldge in the gratfications of the flesh?????????? Go ahead. Pick it up. Read it. Jesus never uses hell to evangelize; he simple corrects already held assumptions about hell for those who love it too much. Show me where he uses hell to evangelize to common people who are not religious leaders.

        Oh whoops. You’d have to actually pick up a Bible to do that. Silly me for even thinking you would be capable of that.

        1. Just a thought says:

          Why must you resort to tearing others down? That’s not very Christlike. Maybe some more bible reading would be good for all of us. Might I sincerely suggest Matthew 5 to you? In it Jesus is addressing “common people” and refers to Hell more than once as a place they should seek to avoid. (If warning about hell is not evangelism then why is Rob Bell against those that do that?) He also speaks strongly about tearing others down. Maybe your words to Ken were out of line and spoken before you had read what the bible actually says yourself. I hope you can read this comment and understand the heart with which it is written rather than just sarcastically blasting those who disagree with you.

        2. Ken says:

          Jack, how can you say such hateful things about someone you don’t even know? Maybe you’d better examine your own heart to see if you truly belong to Jesus.

      2. Benjamin says:

        WHO’S RIGHT AND WHO’S WRONG? Why do so many people think that there is only one interpretation of the Bible? How can anyone read and say “this is absolutely-positively-without a doubt be exactly what the meaning of this text is supposed to be?” I don’t get it. Words cannot be described to a finite point–you will always have to use more words to describe the word you are describing! God is in your Heart and Soul–not in a book! Anyway, Thanks for listening! One Love, Peace Out!

        1. Ken says:

          True, not everything in the Bible is cut-and-dried, but some things are.

  37. Andrew says:

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

    If there is nothing to fear from our sin (punishment), then we can’t possibly begin to understand God.

    1. i'm just saying says:

      **i am a lazy typer and often use the wrong punctuation, spelling, etc – please look past that**

      “there is no fear in love b/c perfect love drives out fear” 1 john 4:18

      help me balance theses 2 scriptures (proverbs 9:10 and 1 john 4:18) as i am seeking to know god intimately in a doctrinal way AND in real life (watch your life and doctrine…)

      does this mean (honest question that i am asking myself) that as (i hope this example works) a child, i didn’t really focus too much oh how much stronger or more powerful my dad was when we were playing or wrestling or throwing a football…i just focused on how much he loved me and of our times together…that being said, the moment i was rotten or needed correction, my dad spanked HARD…and i felt it…i didn’t want to make that mistake again…the reason was initially the spanking got my attention and helped me change my direction…but i continued in that direction b/c soon after we connected again…we were intimate…and we shared life…i never equated his ability to put a hurt on me to = fear of him…it was just the different “butt-hurting” side of love (my own perspective)

      now, as i am much older, I love my dad…and if i mess up, he doesn’t put me over his knee anymore…we SHARE life together…the relationship as matured…and i want to do right by my dad just because i love him…not fear him (though now he’s in his 60s, i think he STILL could take me)

      (man, i really hope that i am making some sense)

      [rant on] now if i apply this to my understanding of god (knowing that there is a huge mistake of using my own understanding or life experiences and applying them to god,,,but its most of what i have…also trying to balance that with scripture) would this be healthy for me? what if i get it wrong or not correct? can i trust that god will reveal his character to me when HE thinks i am ready (if i am seeking him, opening the door when he knocks, seeking first the kingdom, etc) AND if i don’t have it ‘quite right’ right now, would you guys seek to know ALL that i know in 5 or 7…label me as ‘some big philosophical term or heretic?’…

      what if you had the intimate knowledge that god was going to clear up my issues in 8 months and 4 days? would i be excepted? or, would you wait until i had EVERYTHING ‘on correct’ (whatever that means)? or would you still call me a brother who may be confused…but still a brother? but that you trust as i seek god, that HE would reveal himself to me to clear these things up?

      you see, i read rob bell’s book (well, actually i listened to it on itunes)…and i think that it is a GOOD BOOK (but for different reasons) that asks great questions and causes me to strengthen my understanding of god b/c i am going to read HIS word…i WANT and DESIRE challenges in my life so that i question what i believe and why i am doing what i believe. i have never read anything outside of the bible looking for answers…maybe this is why i don’t have a problem with his book…i don’t agree with some of the content…that doesn’t make me right or rob bell wrong…it means that right now in this moment in time we disagree on something…thats it…in all honesty, i know many ppl who read the bible and focus only on learning or ‘orthodox doctrine’ and never really connect with god or know god (John 5:39)…i think this is just as dangerous as trying to get answers from rob bell, nt wright, or ANY book [rant off]

      but rob bell does (to me) seem to ask a good question about god’s character and his love…and there does not seem to be fear (as in fear of punishment) in his PERSPECTIVE of how much god loves us and how HE views god…again, his PERSPECTIVE…i have been struggling with balancing these 2 scriptures for some time now…and i still don’t have a ton of clarity…

      anyway, i hope i am not too long winded and that this makes sense to at least one of you…

      1. i'm just saying says:

        AND if i don’t have it ‘quite right’ right now, would you guys seek to know ALL that i know in 5 or 7

        i meant on 5-7 “specific points then scrutinize and strain every detail out…”

        sorry

  38. donsands says:

    “If you really want to read good Reformed/Calvinist, read NT Wright, James K.A. Smith, Kevin Vanhoozer (if you want a big book for your collection).” -Kip

    I would say if you really want to read good Reformed/Calvinist, read RC Sproul, James White, James Montgomery Boice, and others.

    1. Jack Vale says:

      Sorry Don Sands, Kip was trying to recommend good Reformed/Calvinst writings, not the kind of stuff you just recommended that any 3 year old could see through.

      1. Ken says:

        I doubt Jack would know what a 3-year-old could see through, since he rants like a two-year-old.

  39. Benjamin says:

    “Trust those who seek the truth…Doubt those who claim to have found it.”

    1. Ken says:

      And be suspicious of those, like Rob Bell, who thumb their noses at the plain teaching of Scripture.

  40. Phillip Senn says:

    I appreciate your assessment of Mr. Bell’s book. I would like to say I agree with the premise that Rob Bell is wrong in his book. So how is it that Southern Baotists, and other evangelicals endorse Billy Graham who, at one time preached that the fires of hell are real, and in later years refuses to take a stand one way or the other?

    Mr. Graham’s spokesman said, when asked about Mr. Graham’s apparent change in his preaching sometime in the middle to late 50’s, indicated that Mr. Graham could not settle on that issue. I am convinced that those who endorse a watered down version of Hell are just as guilty as those that present it as a present day suffering on Earth. Both are guilty of disallowing the words of our dear Saviour that said the rich man was tormented, not by eternal separation from God, nor by the darkness and lack of light, but “in these flames”.

    Mr. Graham used to preach the literal fires of hell, but sometime in the mid to late 50’s he changed his preaching to that which denies that the flames are real. He preaches a literal hell, but apparently Mr. Bell does also.

    Isn’t it time we began to expose all of the half-truths, instead of just those that are of extreme liberals? Isn’t it time we told the truth about anyone that is teaching against the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ? And yes, I did attempt to go to my brother, Mr. Graham one on one. But that was not allowable. So I had no choice but to addresss the issue with his spokesman, or rather the spokesman of the Billy Graham Association.

    With Love In Christ,
    Phillip Senn
    Troy, TN

    1. Ken says:

      I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare Billy Graham’s beliefs with Rob Bell’s. Graham says if there isn’t literal fire in hell, then the fire is symbolic of something much worse. Rob Bell seems to be saying, in essence, that everyone will ultimately end up in heaven. Billy Graham has NEVER taught that.

  41. What Bell, in his new book “LOVE WINS”, cannot give answers too, because he is not Christian, nor can he give witness to Biblical Christianity, I do in my newly released book “LIVING IN THE HOPE OF MY IMAGINATION”. Evidence, with conviction, that is so greatly lacking among today’s evangelical leaders. Paperback and Kindle. Please read.

  42. dave wells says:

    I reviewed Bell’s live interview regarding his new book. His answers were frightening. Here’s the blog: http://compassiondave.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/rob-bell-is-a-universalist-he-said-it-himself/

  43. Staci says:

    I am about 1/2 way through the review. I am anxiously awaiting my on copy of Love Wins. I try not to criticize writings unless I have read them myself. One thing that I find interesting is this:

    “And yet one of Bell’s main planks in support of universal reconciliation is that if
    God wants all people to be saved, then all people must eventually be saved. “How great is God?”
    Bell asks. “Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do, or kind of great, great most of the
    time, but in this, the fate of billions of people, not totally great. Sort of great. A little great” (97–
    99). The strong insinuation is that a God who does not save everyone is not totally great.”

    So, we as human beings (who are NOT God, nor even close) have the capacity & strength to be wise (or not wise) to choose our own hell…but a holy, sovereign God cannot possibly choose to send sinners to hell? As in all of Bell’s previous books, the one similarity that I have always been frustrated with is the weight of responsibility & justice & power he puts on us as a human race & how little he values or believes God to have more power or justice than us. In his books, Bell picks apart our thoughts…makes us question what we believe & gives us a heck of a lot of power. But, when it comes to a holy God…God couldn’t possibly have the power to do what he says & eternally send people to hell or have punishment for sins against a standard that he has set. I find this in and of itself the most logical argument against Rob Bell’s teachings. The sin of pride…anything that makes one feel higher than God himself; that I as a human being could possibly have it all figured out…including God and his ways…such a lofty existence.

  44. Ryan Gear says:

    Rob is simply asking questions that have been asked for the past 20 centuries of Christianity. This is nothing new. Unfortunately, just as in times past, there is a group of fundamentalists who can’t handle questions, tension, or uncertainty. I’ve been blogging about it for several days. One thing is for sure, because of the critiques, Rob Bell and HarperOne will sell a TON of books.

    1. Ken says:

      Do you even know what the word “fundamentalist” means?

  45. Joe says:

    Friends! I’ve prepared some Scripture for us to read and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth. Love you all!

    I. What is Humanity’s Condition? Does God have wrath for violating His Justice?
    *****************************************************************************

    John 3:16-20 – 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
    18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    Romans 3:9-20 – 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
    10 As it is written:

    “ There is none righteous, no, not one;
    11 There is none who understands;
    There is none who seeks after God.
    12 They have all turned aside;
    They have together become unprofitable;
    There is none who does good, no, not one.”[b]
    13 “ Their throat is an open tomb;
    With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;[c]

    “ The poison of asps is under their lips”;[d]
    14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
    15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
    17 And the way of peace they have not known.”[f]
    18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]

    19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    Romans 1:18-31 – 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
    24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

    II. Will God demonstrate His justice with eternal punishment in a lake of fire, upon death? And what is it like? Who goes there?
    *****************************************************************************

    Matthew 25
    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[c] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
    37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
    41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
    44 “Then they also will answer Him,[d] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Revelations 21:8
    8 But the cowardly, unbelieving,[e] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

    Mark 9:42-27
    42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 where

    ‘ Their worm does not die
    And the fire is not quenched.’[d]
    45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 46 where

    ‘ Their worm does not die
    And the fire is not quenched.’[e]

    47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— 48 where

    ‘ Their worm does not die
    And the fire is not quenched.’[f]

    III. What is the Gospel? How did God show mercy? What is repentance? How are we to be saved?
    *****************************************************************************

    Acts 17:30-32
    30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
    32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

    Luke 13:1-5
    1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    Acts 2:21
    21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’

    John 14:6
    6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    1 Corinthians 15:1-19
    1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
    3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
    9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
    The Risen Christ, Our Hope

    12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

    John 1:12-13 – 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Romans 6

    1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
    5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

    15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
    20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    IV. What is the Great Commandment? What is the Great Commission?
    *****************************************************************************
    Matthew 22:36-40 – 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Mark 16:15-16 – 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

    Matthew 28:18-20 – 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[d

    Romans 10:14-16 – 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

    “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,[h]
    Who bring glad tidings of good things!”[i]
    16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”[j] 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

    V. Resurrection and New Heaven?
    *****************************************************************************
    John 14:1-3
    1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

    1 Corinthians 15:50-56 – 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”[g]
    55 “ O Death, where is your sting?[h]
    O Hades, where is your victory?”[i]
    56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

    Revelation 21
    1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John,[a] saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
    5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,[b] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
    6 And He said to me, “It is done![c] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things,[d] and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving,[e] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

    9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me[f] and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”[g] 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy[h] Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
    14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names[i] of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

    22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,[j] for the glory[k] of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved[l] shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.[m] 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.[n] 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes[o] an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

  46. Julie says:

    Thanks for your thought-provoking review; it’s obvious you spent much time and energy on it. It has helped me greatly in my thinking.

  47. Ken says:

    I hope everyone has watched Rob Bell’s interview on MSNBC. As always, he was very evasive and kept dodging the interviewer’s questions. That alone should raise suspicions. Either he is very confused or very dishonest.

  48. Bill Bagley says:

    If Rob is right, then Jesus is wrong. If Rob says there is no Hell, as it is taught in the Bible, then Jesus either blatantly lied in Luke 16 or He pandered to an accepted view of Hell as if it were a truism, thus purposely misleading people. The fact is that Rob Bell is misleading people and the damage, if non-believers accept his premise about Hell, will be great and of eternal consequence. The effect, if believers accept his teaching, will be that many will never again, if they ever did, share the salvation message with a neighbor or friend who is unsaved and once more the damage will come with eternal consequences to a lost and dying world which desperately needs to know that God is love and that rejecting that love carries with it dire consequences, according to God Himself, who certainly knows more about it than one preacher from Grand Rapids. If Rob is simply trying to sell books based on the shock value, such an approach is sick. If, as I believe, he actually thinks this way, that is beyond sad- it is heretical and he should be shunned by every true follower of God.

  49. Rob says:

    Good review. I have to say, I’m surprised at the extend of this debate. Not because I agree with Bell, I think it’s likely he is out to sell books and appeal to a certain sub-sect of people who have become disillusioned with types of legalistic theology, which there certainly is a need for. However, I don’t see how there can be that much debate over the existence of hell. To question the true condition of humanity and our need for Christ’s redemption calls into question the very foundation of Christianity. What was the point of Jesus if we all go to heaven regardless of our choices in this life? I believe, and the bible seems to support that, God in his wisdom gave us all a choice, I don’t know if that extends postmortem, but it is a choice, people can decide one way or the other. Suggesting otherwise, as Bell does, takes him into the realm of universalism, not simply another interpretation of biblical theology. If people took this lesson literally, he would be out of a job.

  50. Paul says:

    It seems to me that there’s at least 2 conversations taking place here…disconnected. One from a post-modern perspective (meaning pluralistic dialog within diverse community) and the other modernist (rational objectivity ‘free’ of cultural bias). I believe we’re in the final moments of the ‘modern’ age as revealed by the new Atheists who raise rational objectivity to its ultimate absurdity…replacement of the divine (and our own humanity).

    And the arguments here…I’m saddened to say…are just an indication of the limitation of modernism…attempting to make certain of what can not be made certain, but only believed by faith. The temptation of a modernist is to win the point and can only see the post-modernists as slippery and not understandable. They feel the po-mo answers with double speak and can only see then as trying to stand on both sides of a ‘fence’…a fence that they themselves have defined.

    Ah me…it requires a longer conversation than can be typed in a blog comment. Perhaps if you get to Boston we can talk with a cup of tea by the fire, b/c being an emergent po-mo myself I’ve come to recognize the beauty and joy of relationship…and find dogmatic point making as an obstacle to what I love.

    Praise the living God!!

  51. J. Dean says:

    I think Rob Bell got caught and backpedaled, much like Joel Osteen did after the interview with Larry King (for those who don’t know, Osteen was asked repeatedly by King as to whether or not Jesus was the only way to heaven, and Osteen waffled it).

    And to be frank, based on this and other things Bell has said and written, I’ll go so far as to say it: I’m questioning whether or not this man is even a Christian.

    To paraphrase John MacArthur, saying you love Jesus means nothing if your theology is perverted. Rob Bell’s work smacks of neo-orthodoxy and universalism, but he’s couching it in terms and vocabulary that will keep him appearing to be orthodox. This is a lot like the Down Grade controversy of the nineteenth century: pastors in England were departing from sound doctrine, but concealing their departure by using “churchy” language.

  52. Simon says:

    There’s no peace anymore. I’m so tired. When can we ALL be friends again?

  53. Ken says:

    There is another Christian perspective on heaven & hell! Since the time of the early church fathers, the Eastern Orthodox Church has taught that heaven and hell are the same “place” — that is, both are in the bosom of God. Some experience the presence of God as paradise because they have allowed Jesus Christ to cleanse their sins and transform their hearts. Others, on the other hand, experience the presence of God as eternal torment because their hearts are tarnished with sin and can’t bear the holiness and purifying love of God. But both are in the loving arms of God.
    See http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles-2009/Mettalinos-Paradise-And-Hell-According-To-Orthodox-Tradition.php

  54. Randy says:

    I have just written a commentary about Love wins after stumbling on the trailer of the book on youtube. It was in haste alright but reading from your article it was not far from touching the core of the issue. Thanks for sharing this.

  55. jim says:

    Take a breath Justin – Rob isn’t leading thinking, caring, Christians down the road to heresy. Love wins!!

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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