Friday, March 25, 2011

The Bell Curve: More on the "Love Wins" Debate

Another hour, another couple of e-stories on Rob's Bell's controversial new book on Hell, "Love Wins". First up, an excerpt of the man of the hour himself on his new book and all the debate surrounding it. From HuffPo:

"I never set out to be controversial.

That's not compelling to me. When someone sets out to be controversial or provocative or shocking as an end in itself, I don't think that's a noble goal. 

That being said, I spend the past several years writing a book called Love Wins which released last week and, from what I'm told, has generated a fair bit of, well, controversy.
So why did I write the book?

First, as a Christian pastor I believe that for many in our culture the Christian story has lost the plot and a number of other stories have been told that have nothing to with who Jesus is and why he came.

I believe that God loves everybody and that Jesus came to give us and show us and invite us into that love so that we can experience it and then share it with others. As Jesus himself said, he didn't come to condemn but to save.

The first people who heard the announcement that God has not given up on the world but sent Jesus to save us from all of the ways we've made a mess of things, they called this "good news."
Who doesn't need good news?

Rob Bell contemplates the coolness of thick, black plastic framed glasses. (Photo: Blog of Teh Voges)

This leads me to another reason why I wrote the book. Over the years I've interacted with a massive number of people who have questions about the Christian faith.

What about heaven and hell? What about people who have never heard of Jesus? Are billions of people who aren't Christians going to burn in torment forever?

How is that good news?
And then the big question, the one that lurks behind all of the others: "What is God like?"

For many these questions are obstacles; barriers to faith. And so I wrote this book to address these questions. Obviously, I haven't spoken the last word on any of these subjects. My book is part of an ongoing discussion people have been having for thousands of years about the things that matter most."

You can read the rest of the story here, but it's not very in-depth. There's no real insight on how this hot debate is effecting him... just some talking points for the book. It's funny how in the comment section, he isn't any winning with anyone- the few orthodox Christians who post there or the "Spaghetti-monster-God" atheists, either. Maybe he should've stuck to the YouTube vids.

I also read a great article about this from Dr. Michael Youssef, who I've been listening to on the radio for years. His take, from One News Now

"As an Anglican pastor, I bear scars from the war with "universalism" inside the Episcopal Church. I also have endured the battering of Bishop John Spong and his effort to "rescue the gospel from fundamentalists." And when I saw Rob Bell's new book Love Wins, I found myself quoting former Yankee great Yogi Berra: "It's like déjà vu all over again."
I'm the kind of person who detests jumping through hoops, playing mental gymnastics and arguing about what the definition of "is" is. That's why I'm not going to challenge the book point by point as wonderful scholars like Dr. Al Mohler have done. Instead, I'll deal with the big picture in the larger, even global, context of this "new suit" placed on an old heresy.

A number of years ago, when some young people representing the sad and lost segment of the church told me how wonderful Rob Bell's videos were, I became curious. Even back then, I felt nauseous when I watched some of these videos. I saw just how troubled this young man Rob Bell is and how he, in his effort to create a name for himself, began to trouble weak believers -- causing so much harm to his soul and theirs.

Dr. Youssef doesn't need to contemplate when he can just cheese. (Photo: One News Now)

Asking questions for the sake of asking questions, not in a desire to find true answers, is indeed troubling. Even then, I felt that Bell's questions were quite similar to those of the serpent in the Garden of Eden: "Did God really say that?" He was more anxious to share his own doubts than to arrive at the truth. I felt that Mr. Bell and his equally confusing mentor, Brian McLaren, are deeply entrenched in the school of Bishop Spong from the Episcopal Church -- but with one major exception: they call themselves evangelicals.

With Love Wins, what Rob Bell managed to do (once he came out of the closet of just-asking-questions-for-asking-questions' sake) is reveal to us that he is a universalist pure and simple. Just like the author of The Shack did before him, he (for the sake of misleading larger numbers) has dressed his brand of universalism in a new suit, bringing it up to date with fashionable clothes that could easily deceive emotionally bound, mindlessly challenged and unsuspecting young Christians.

In many ways, Rob Bell's book puts an end to the nonsense of the "I'm only raising questions" and "We all should be asking questions" gibberish.

By telling us that hell is empty, he finally came clean and revealed his modern-day modification of Bishop Spong's universalism. Sadly, this sleight of hand has and will mislead many young people, for whom I truly grieve.

The pathetic part about this claptrap is that Mr. Bell, in his effort to draw some cheap sympathy for his heretical views (much as Bishop Spong did with his "rescuing" the gospel from fundamentalists), made himself a martyr for his blasphemous view of God and His eternal plan of salvation. As Bell puts it, anyone who disagrees with him is "defaming" him. Those who attack his false teaching are attacking him because he "does not articulate matters of faith as they do."

This is the oldest trick in the book. You grab someone's finger, poke your eye with it, and say, "Ouch!"

His biggest argument wonders how can a "great God" send people to hell. As kids would say: "Duh." God does not send people to hell; people send themselves to hell. God is too respecting of human beings not to give them a choice.

I want to think about this twisted logic.

Heaven is all about Jesus. So, the people who hated Jesus -- rejected Jesus, reviled Jesus -- are going to be forced against their own will by that great God to spend eternity with Jesus? To them, that would be very hell itself..."

Read the rest of his article here. I found this to be more interesting reading because it actually has substance to it. But then, Bell can't exactly give his feelings away when he has a book to sell. By the way, I'm coming to the end of "Velvet Elvis", Bell's book from nearly a decade ago that caused some flak, but nowhere near all of this. I'll share my thoughts on it soon.


Joseph Flemming said...

Dr. Youssef's rebuttal is very interesting and well thought out. I haven't commented on the "Bell Agenda" but I feel that this is just another page in the further watering down of Christianity. Splice in New Age concepts, sprinkle in Prosperity and have Universalism for desert.

I agree with Dr. Youssef, there are definitive tenants, facts within the Bible that can't be altered no matter what dispensation we live in.. I do wonder though,...about all of those people who did not here the word, was not given the opportunity "...they will be judged accordingly to what they knew."
another topic for another day.

Thanks for covering this =)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone bothered to think about how amazing it would be if he's right?

Joseph Flemming said...

@Anonymous, I think we all have thought about an alternative like that. I can’t deny that it is an attractive propitiation. Thoughts like could a loving God really condemn people to a fiery eternity?

Am I really that bad of a person, or do I deserve to potentially go to hell? These are questions that have been asked for millenniums.
Unfortunately while our pride, human sense of fairness or goodness, and personal morals might lead us to think otherwise; the real issue is of obedience and acceptance.

From childhood we are taught to obey authority figures, while we are yet eager to grow to adulthood and “take control” of our own lives and destinies.

Truth is God is the creator of this realm, the world we inhabit, and as author, designer & creator he has final authority over all things, and this, this is what we resist.

The humbling truth, that without him, nothing would have ever existed, humanity would not have existed…without his permissive will we would not continue to exist. This is a sobering proposition, one that makes us realize our own frailty, our own humanity.

We rail against this, as we invent and create, and duplicate. Man made in his image, with his similar desires and tendencies, to create, to love, to loathe, except we are not innately righteous immortal, all knowing or just. In this frustrates us, our limitations compared to his omnipotence. We humans yearn to transcend our own limitations… but we cannot transcend our own dark, sinful natures.
When we truly surrender ourselves, then we will see that hell was never meant for us, all we have to do to avoid that anguish is to be obedient to God, follow his word, believe in his teachings. And we will be saved.

As a child learns that the rules are in place to protect us, not punish, we need to remember that is God’s will as well.

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