Rob Bell and Hell

I agree with Justin Taylor that Rob Bell now seems to have outwardly embraced universalism. He seems to be teaching that all people ultimately go to heaven. Taylor provides Bell’s video at this link, and Bell’s own words condemn him.  (If this turns out to be some kind of publicity stunt, then woe to Bell for taking liberties with his message.)

I have written about Bell’s dangerous theological leanings before (see the links here and here), but this new teaching takes him far outside orthodox Christianity. Jesus is the figure from the Bible who says the most about hell. He describes it as eternal (Mt. 25:41, 46; Mk. 9:43, 48) and as a place of torment (Mt. 25:30). To venture outside these teachings is to find oneself arrayed against the Lord of Glory Himself. (I recommend an audio presentation by R. C. Sproul on hell at this link.)

I do not relish the idea of anyone going to hell, and I find it encouraging that God does not either (Ezek. 33:11, Mt. 23:37-38). Yet God’s justice requires eternal punishment when it is affronted. Perfect righteousness requires perfect punishment to those that offend it. Perfect innocence requires infinite punishment when injured. Absolute authority demands overwhelming retribution when rebelled against.

Kevin DeYoung gives eight reasons why we need a doctrine of hell on his blog at this link. They are excerpted from his excellent book Why We Are Not Emergent.

The most compelling reason DeYoung gives is that “we need God’s wrath in order to understand what [God’s] mercy means.”

Divine mercy without divine wrath is meaningless. Only when we know that we were objects of wrath(Ep. 2:3), stood condemned already (John 3:18), and would have faced hell as God’s enemies were it not for undeserved mercy (Rom. 5:10), can we sing from the heart “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
May we all throw ourselves on the mercy of God in order to escape the coming wrath.

May Rob Bell take the chance to repent.

[3/2/11: Please see more thoughts from Kevin DeYoung at this link.]

[3/9/11: Tim Challies reviews the entire book at this link.  I have more questions than answers.]

[3/15: Follow this link for a parody of the Rob Bell video that makes a great point.]

[3/16/11: Dr. Jeremy Evans of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary discusses differing views concerning the nature of hell held by Christians and how a good and loving God could send people there at this link.]

[3/22/11: See Mike Horton's review at this link.]


Steve Martin said...

Why is Bell even preaching then? If everyone automatically goes to Heaven, then he should close up shop and do something constructive.

(the $ must be too good to pass up)

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, the book hasn't come out yet, and you're already demanding his repentance?

That's very odd for a blog with "think" in the title.

J. K. Jones said...


Thanks for the comment. I don't know why he does the things he does. "Velvet Elvis" was enough of a shocker for me, and the teaser for this book alone raises enough questions in my mind.


As stated, this is not the first time I have talked about Bell. I think he has enough to repent of even before this book comes out based on Velvet Elvis, which I have read.

The teaser is bad enough to warrant repentance just by itself. He has given ammunition to atheists all over the web with just the video alone. (See Unreasonable Faith and The Friendly Atheist for starters. They have branded conservative Christians as "The Hell Team" on one site.)


J. K. Jones said...

A helpful transcript of the video is at Kevin DeYoung's blog (linked to above in the post).

Here's the transcript from the video as told by DeYoung:

"Here’s what Bell says after the story about Gandhi and the piece of art:

"Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question [is], “What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And 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 they 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, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.

The good news is that love wins."

This is not back cover copy from the publisher. This is not a promo blurb written by an intern at HarperCollins. This not what Brian McLaren gave for an endorsement. This is what Rob Bell said."

Anonymous said...

I understand what the video says, but the video doesn't make any conclusions. Instead, it simply poses questions that all sorts of people - believers and unbelievers - have had throughout the centuries. He then goes on to say, "Love wins."

It's a teaser. Maybe he comes out of the universalist closet; maybe he doesn't. That fact alone ought to give you pause as it relates to your call for repentance. It's incredibly premature.

As to ammunition to atheists, who cares?

J. K. Jones said...

Again, "Velvet Elvis" contained enough stuff he needs to repent of.

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