The Gospel Coalition

Sociologist Peter Berger used to talk about "relativizing the relativizers." By this he meant applying to skeptics the same skepticism they apply to others--pushing them, in other words, to the logic of their own presuppositions so that they can see the unsustainability of their own conclusion.

On his blog, my friend Mike Wittmer (Professor of Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) prints a remarkably creative parody of Rob Bell's promo video for his new book Love Wins. Mike's colleague, Jeremy Grinnell (Asst. Prof. of Systematic Theology) "was troubled by the lopsided rhetoric in Rob’s promo video. He noted that the video will persuade many people, not because of its content but because of the power of its narrative."

Turning on itself the logic Rob Bell uses in his video, Jeremy shows how the same line of questioning can be equally used for the opposite view--thereby, relativizing the relativizer; debunking the debunker by using his own logic.

I think this is a super creative and smart way to illustrate "the rhetorically powerful yet easily refutable logic of Rob’s piece." If you haven't seen it, watch the video first (linked above) and then read the parody below.
Several years ago I was touring a holocaust museum, and I was deeply moved the images of suffering and inhuman brutality that I saw there. And near the end of the tour on the wall was a picture of Hitler standing in front of the Eifel Tower in Paris. I and many who were with me were struck by the idea of Hitler enjoying the beauties of Paris while at the same moment one of the greatest genocides the world has ever known was being carried out on his orders.

But apparently not everyone saw it exactly the same way

Sometime in the previous few hours, somebody had attached a hand written note to the picture, and on the note they had written, “It’s okay because God forgave Hitler too.”

God forgave Hitler?

He did?

And someone knows this for sure?

And felt the need for the rest of us to know?

Do the most evil and unrepentant people in history, remaining what they are, still make it to heaven?

And what of those who aren’t quite so evil as that—Child molesters, racists, drug lords.

And what of the rest of us who only yell at our children, cut people off on the highway, and cheat on our taxes?

And what makes our evil less and Hitler’s more?

Is it the number of people you hurt? Or how badly? Or whether anyone else knows? Or whether you meant to?

And what if you’re the one who was molested or your loved ones murdered because of their ethnicity?

And then there’s the question behind the question?

The real question… What is God like?

Because millions and millions were taught that the primary message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is willing to forgive everybody no matter who they are or what evils they’ve committed against the rest of us.

So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that God is willing to forgive the perpetrators of evil, regardless of whether or not their victims ever see justice. That God is willing to let slide things that we mustn’t.

But what kind of God is that?

Can a God so uninterested in justice be good?

How can that God ever be trusted?

How could that ever be…good…news?

This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith.

They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies, and say, “why would I ever want to be a part of that?”

See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like.

What you discover in the bible is so surprising, and unexpected, and beautiful, that whatever we’ve been told or taught, the good news is even better than that, better than we can ever imagine.

It means pure and perfect justice, no wrong accusations, no punishments that don’t fit the crime, no hidden motives, no unaccounted pains or sorrows. But overflowing compensation for anyone who’s ever been hurt or betrayed.

The good news is that “justice wins.”


Jon Coutts

March 30, 2011 at 04:34 PM

Justice wins. So Jesus is still in the tomb then?

[...] Relativizing the Relativizors [...]

Matthew Cochrane

March 21, 2011 at 10:22 PM

This is awesome! Thanks for passing it along Pastor!

JD Curtis

March 21, 2011 at 08:19 PM


While involved in online discussions with atheists, the argument reductio ad Hitlerum comes up quite a bit. It's almost as if there's a need to take examples to the extreme in numerous cases for them.

Dr Peter Lillback was in town recently and I remember what he said in his sermon (paraphrasing)..

Sodom and Gomorrah are not very far away, in fact their sins reside in each one of us if we look hard enough.

Phil Mitchell

March 19, 2011 at 05:19 PM

Thanks for the rebuttal...I pray that Love Wins ignites we who are called by His Name to more fervently share the truth of who God is...a God of love and justice!

Vanessa L.

March 18, 2011 at 12:22 AM

This is an excellent way of getting the point across. Intriguing and impactful. Thanks for sharing!

Flotsam & Jetsam (3/17) | the Ink Slinger

March 17, 2011 at 08:49 AM

[...] Relativizing the Relavitizers – From Tullian Tchividjian: “Sociologist Peter Berger used to talk about ‘relativizing the relativizers.’ By this he meant applying to skeptics the same skepticism they apply to others–pushing them, in other words, to the logic of their own presuppositions so that they can see the unsustainability of their own conclusion.” [...]

[...] Relativising the Relativizers: [...]

[...] Relativizing the Relativizers My friend and pastor, Tullian Tchividjian in this post from his blog links and cites from a very perceptive parody written by Jeremy Grinnell from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary which does a great job of highlighting the persuasive, yet altogether dangerous and easily refuted rhetoric employed by Bell in his original and controversial book trailer. [...]

Jeremy @ Confessions of a Legalist

March 16, 2011 at 09:16 AM

The parody is very good and it does a good job of pointing out how a God that is not just is not good. However, I think it should still end the same way that Rob Bell ends it.

"The good news is that even though God is just, he loves us enough to provide a way for his justice to be carried out not on us, but on his son. Love wins for those who trust in Jesus."

Troy DeLaRosa

March 16, 2011 at 03:44 AM

I'm gonna choose to put a positive non-judgemental comment. I am glad that Rob Bell is spending his time pursuing "who God is" even though, in some people's eyes, they think he's being a heretic. At least he's doing what God wants-our pursuit, and that's what Rob Bell is doing. Just like everyone, he know no more than you do, But at least he is pursuing God.

paul st.jean

March 16, 2011 at 03:26 PM

ROB Bell
"But who are you, O man to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, why did you make me like this?
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?(romans 9:20-21)"

paul st.jean

March 16, 2011 at 03:11 PM

Pastor Tullian
I listened to ROB Bell and found him a little scary, sorry ROB but Jesus did not save us from God He saved us from ourself. And yes those who do not recieve and believe Jesus as their savior will go to hell no excuses. Read the bible again.

Nelson Costa

March 15, 2011 at 10:33 PM

I do not see the situation after death within a human perspective - self-righteousness - but something more.It would be wrong to judge all men with human eyes.If God judges how we humans think, humanity does not need God.

Steve Martin

March 15, 2011 at 09:43 PM

God loves and forgives the ungodly.

Not because of , or in spite of us, but out of His sheer grace and mercy.

Thanks, I can always use a reminder!


March 15, 2011 at 01:53 PM

It's funny how we can be swayed by a compelling speech or a smart ad campaign, even if it's not true. Thanks for showing this, and for caring for the sheep God has entrusted to you.

Scott Postma

March 15, 2011 at 01:51 PM


Great post! Thanks to Mike Wittmer for helping people think through the rhetoric of Rob Bell's heretical argument. "Love does Win!" Thank God for the Cross of Christ and the opportunity given to us to repent! My earnest prayer is that Rob will repent. Blessings.


March 15, 2011 at 01:38 PM

This is fabulous. Now, put this narrative together with Mr. Bell's, and you have the story of the Bible--which is exponentially more shocking, and better news, than either narrative on its own!

emmanuel v.

April 20, 2011 at 02:21 PM

P. Tullian, I was very moved by your life testimony I heard over FamilyLifeToday radio program.
I don't think I'm a prodigal son, but I have been kicked out of my home a thousand times by my Dad. It's just that I think he hates me so much, I don't know why. But I believe he is in heaven now and one day I'll see him again.
I hope one day also I will be able to meet you, for I know you are a blessed great man of God. Thank you