Chapter 7 and 8: My Response to “The Good News is Better Than That” and “The End Is Here”

With this blog post, I come to the end of my chapter-by-chapter reactions to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” Mr. Bell had complained that people prejudged his book after watching his video introduction prior to the book’s release. However, I find, not to my surprise, that people like me have nothing for which to apologize regarding our supposed “pre-judging.” We were right. The video, again to no one’s surprise, was an accurate depiction of the book.

Rob Bell is a type of universalist. He tries to deny it, in the book and in interviews, by redefining universalism and then saying, “No, I’m not that.” See However, he undoubtedly believes that everyone will be saved eventually. To me, and many like me, that is universalism. What makes a person a universalist is universal salvation. The only way Mr. Bell differs with some other universalists is with the timing of everyone’s salvation. Other than that, he fits the bill. Even TIME magazine seems to agree with my assessment: .

In chapter seven, Bell continues his redefining of hell. In interviews, when asked about if he believes in hell, his first response is always one of describing a “hell” on earth, right now or in human history, say in Rwanda or an abused woman’s home, or in Hitler’s camps. (Again, see ) On page 170, Bell writes, “Hell is our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.” Again, “We create hell whenever we fail to trust God’s retelling of our story (p. 173).” “Hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God (p. 174).” So, hell is a condition of the mind (p. 170), it is refusing to trust (174) and a place we created for ourselves (p. 173). Let me remind the reader of Matthew 25:41, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The question is obviously who prepared (i.e. created) hell as a place for the devil and his angels? And how is one cast into a condition of the mind? Did the Devil create hell for himself or did God?

“We’re at the party, but we don’t have to join in. Heaven or hell, both at the party (176, cf. 190)” is how Bell applies the passage of “The Prodigal Son.” Instead of seeing the older son as the Pharisees who were present and the prodigal as the common sinner that they write off as unworthy of salvation, Bell sees the older son as the Christian who takes the Bible literally and the prodigal as the one who will eventually get let into “heaven,” which is a place on Earth, here not somewhere else (190). Added to that is the mystifying interpretation that the older son will be going through a Hell of his own making while in the Father’s house, so both sons in the same place, heaven for one; hell for the other. Bell fails to see it is the self-righteousness of the Pharisees Christ condemned and their writing off of the common sinner as unworthy of eternal life. Jesus also said they multiply followers after them and make them twice the child of hell they are. How the older brother could possibly represent everyone who believes the Gospel is repent and believe or face eternal punishment, which is clearly taught in Scripture, is beyond me (see John 3:13-21; Matthew 7; Acts 3 [esp. 19]; Romans 3:10-26)

After having read the complete book, it is evident to me that Bell has great disdain for conservative Christians and what they believe. However, what is more important is the disparaging and slandering of the character of the God of the Bible. A violent God is the reason for “The toxic, venomous nature of certain discussions,” Bell decries (182-183), “for some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame and slander others who don’t articulate matters of faith as they do.” On page 175, Bell takes the argument of unbelievers that they cannot believe in a God “who tortures people in hell” and makes it his own. He describes the God I believe in, the one that I believe the Bible represents, as one who is almost mentally unstable, going from loving Father to “vicious tormenter (p. 173).”

His mistake is taking the “Father” metaphor too far in relationship to God the Father. While metaphors help us to understand what they symbolize, they do not, and aren’t designed, to fully describe what is being represented. God is a Father like human fathers to an extent but certainly not to the logical leaps that Bell seeks.

Speaking of God’s offer of salvation and then His condemnation to Hell of those who reject, Bell states such a case “Raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted, let alone be good.” He describes such a God as “Loving one moment; vicious the next;” “kind and compassionate only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye (p. p. 173); “loving one second; cruel the next (p. 174).” He goes on to say “That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it. No one can.” It’s mind boggling how he then jumps to the conclusion that such a God cannot be loved since “That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable (173-174).” How is it that among humans, some of the worst people are loved by those who they abused? How about Stockholm Syndrome, where the kidnap victim develops an affinity for the hostage-taker? It’s a silly argument that defies logic and it is even worse that it condemns the God I worship as a mean-spirited beast, and I do believe I worship the God of the Bible.

From the title for the book to almost every page, it is evident that Bell sees God’s one all-encompassing attribute to be love. Sure, God is love and that is an important characteristic of who He is. We wouldn’t know love without God demonstrating that love to us. Yet, God is also holy, just, faithful, jealous, infinite, immutable, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, among others. Arguably, Bell’s lack of understanding of God’s justice and holiness cause him to misconstrue the aspects of God’s love shown by such things as His wrath and judgment of Hell and the Lake of Fire. Can a God who truly loves His children actually let the wicked get away with their ill-treatment of them? Wouldn’t we expect such a God to come to their defense? What kind of place would heaven be where sin is winked at or glossed over and how would God show love to His Son by allowing people to pass into eternity who reject Him and His death on their behalf, when all they had to do was receive?

I must admit that I come to the end of this book grateful to be done with it. Very difficult it is to read such defamatory descriptions about yourself and those who believe like you and even more so about the God that you adore. I was very conflicted about being just one small piece of making this book a bestseller, realizing that buying it would both put money into a heretic’s pocket but at the same time give opportunity to respond having given a fair hearing to Bell in his own book. While I realize that my comments will offend some, it is my prayer, that for at least a few, that offense may be the stumbling-stone that leads to repentance. For others, perhaps my warnings prevent a wolf from deceiving and harming more of the flock. I hope this was helpful to you. Others have written and some have done a better job than I have. For what it’s worth I submit this in honor of my gracious Heavenly Father who would have all men to be saved but provided that salvation only through His Son. It is up to us all to respond in faith or to be damned contrary to that will. That is what God has decreed and that my friends is good.

Maybe there is still hope for Bell to turn from his present course and return to the faith of his spiritual fathers. Perhaps, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, Bell could be turned over for a time to the error of his way, and our reaction, that he may learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:18-20). That would be the best outcome and one in which Love would truly win.

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