Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rob Bell Ducks and Dives on The Question of Hell

In his latest promotional video, Rob Bell dances around the central
question of the Christian faith - are those outside of Christ under God's
condemnation and heading for eternal punishment in a literal hell.
He opts instead for fake outrage over someone who wrote a note
suggesting Gandhi was languishing in hell, obfuscating over the fact
that repentance and faith in Christ alone is necessary for salvation.

What's at stake here is the exclusiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While I believe as a Lutheran in the inclusive reach of the gospel - that
Christ died for the sins of the whole world- Christ made exclusive claims
about his gospel of grace being the narrow road on which we as his disciples
walk. Those who reject the narrow path of faith in Christ and walk the
broad road are excluded from the Kingdom of God. As Christ said to the
Pharisees, "unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins"
(John 8:24). Bell wants to paint over the Jesus who came to bring division
(Matthew 10:34). And ultimately to throw Satan and those not found in the
book of life into "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

Bell doesn't draw on these absolutes found in Scripture but throws
doubt-raising questions designed to undermine a central tenet of the
gospel - Christ's penal substitutionary atonement for our sins.
Rob Bell's question, 'how could a God that rescues us from himself
ever be good', denies Christ's propitiation for our transgressions and casts
a shadow on God's grace revealed to us on the cross. That in Christ
our heavenly Father was turning his wrath away from us, and judging Christ
on the cross for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).

That the triune God would choose to do this for sinners that
continue in unrepentant rebellion against him shows the goodness and
grace of God. So, sorry Rob, your hell-less gospel is the real
contradiction here; a Christ that doesn't save me from hell and God's
eternal judgment is no Christ at all. The good news isn't that love
wins but that through Christ, God's mercy triumphed over judgment (James 2:13).

The clouds of judgment gather
The time is growing late
Be somber and be watchful
Our judge is at the gate
The judge who comes in mercy
The judge who comes in might
To put an end to evil
And diadem the right.

(Bernard of Cluny, 12th cent.)

Comfort, comfort ye my people
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those in sit in darkness,
mourning 'neath their sorrows' load;
speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over.

(Johann Olearious, 1611-84)

Further Reading and Listening:

Rob Bell - Universalist?

Rob Bell and The Judgmentless Gospel

Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell, Part 1, Some Introductory Thoughts

Bell Brouhaha

Love Wins Sermon Review

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