Rob Bell's "Love Wins" Spurs 3,000 Member Decrease at Mars Hill

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In a recent interview, former megachurch pastor Rob Bell said fallout from his 2011 book "Love Wins" was a large part of why he left his post at Mars Hill.

In an interview with The New Yorker, former megachurch pastor Rob Bell said fallout from his 2011 book Love Wins was a large part of why he left his post at Mars Hill Church in West Michigan. The New Yorker article, titled “Hell-Raiser,” wrote that Mars Hill saw a 3,000-person decrease in membership and received a great deal of negative criticism and accusations of heresy and universalism over the book, which questioned the existence of hell and the exclusivity of heaven. Kristen Bell, Rob’s wife, said in the interview that “there was a cost … and part of the cost was we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing at Mars Hill.”

“The book also put pressure on others around Bell, who found themselves having to defend statements they might never have heard, let alone approved,” The New Yorker wrote. “Congregants reported that friends and family members were asking why they were allowing themselves to be led by a false teacher.”

Bell told The Christian Post in an earlier interview when the book came out that he never intended to be controversial. “My interest is in what’s true and where is the life and where is the heart and what inspires. And if that happens to stir up a few things, that’s something I accept.”

Bell finally left for California, where he is now working on a talk-show opportunity with the producer of the TV series “Lost” and has “loosely aligned himself with a cohort of pastors worldwide who are searching for ways to move beyond old-fashioned worship,” wrote The New Yorker. Kent Dobson, son of megachurch pastor Ed Dobson, now leads Mars Hill Church as pastor.

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  • Harold Cameron

    I do not have anything personally against Rob Bell as a person, however, his book “Love Wins” is heresy and he should have resigned from the pastorate at Mars Hill. His teaching is a damning false teaching that just may lead many away from the truth of God’s Word concerning Heaven and Hell. I grieve for him and for his soul knowing what lies ahead for him because God is going to hold him accounatible just as he does me for how he lives and for what he teaches. May God have mercy on his soul.

    • Justin Barfield

      I have not read the book. Did you, Harold?

      • Harold Cameron

        Yes I did. And the book is heretical. I feel sad for Rob and hope he repents before it is too late for him to do so.

        • Scott Dossett

          Protestantism was a heresy too.

          • Jaime L. Alviola

            Yes, according to the apostate Roman Catholic Church. But Protestantism’s final authority is the Holy Bible – sola Scriptura, not the decrees or dogmas of its popes or the Roman Curia.

      • Jason Garwood

        Read it. Twice. Not a single footnote. He knew what he was doing when he wrote it; loves to ask questions, but never answer them. Chalk this book up to another “wishful thinker”. Justice wins.

        • Scott Dossett

          With all love, Jason, you really should hope with all your heart that justice does NOT win. Besides, scripture works against you on this one. James, of all authors, says (2:13), “Mercy triumphs over judgment (krisis/ews).” “Krisis” also translates as “justice.” Mercy wins.

        • Jaime L. Alviola

          What’s the matter with Rob Bell? Asking too many questions without really finding the answers in the Word of God is just the recipe for eventually letting Satan’s rebellion to win not love. When we distrust the Word of God we are actually promoting our desire to follow the path of knowing good and evil on our own apart from God’s truth. That was the original sin of Adam and Eve. Many Christians, especially Christian pastors and theologians, have not learned the lesson of the Fall!

        • Jeff

          I agree Jason, the footnote thing would have killed me in classes. However, this book was written to spark conversation and deeper theological discussion which is a VERY good thing. It’s not authoritatively written. Bell personally and professionally should have added a last chapter to the Christian community clarifying his beliefs, theological sources, etc. His greatest fault is not respecting the Church as his source of accountability and upon whom he has been given a platform to engage culture.

    • Jeff

      I think let’s be careful to place final and sure judgement. I think the bottom line is that Love Wins made people uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t use footnotes when he asked questions after all. As far as Mars Hill’s exodus, 3,000 leaving doesn’t mean 3,000 born again believers. Many people attend Mega churches to be entertained and to leave feeling great about their faith. They can feel better than others when they don’t have to face scrutiny. I didn’t find the book to be a total departure from the Christian faith, it has error and is confusing but I think heresy is about having a desire to deceive others and contradict God’s word.

      • Mike

        This is Rob Bell’s church we are talking about. Of course it doesn’t mean 3000 born again believers left. Actually, leaving a church that promotes Love Wins may be a GREAT indicator they actually WERE born again!

      • DBlain

        The book is heresy. It is a complete rejection of scripture and the truth of the Gospel. Heresy isn’t about intent, it’s about truth or lies. Postmodernism has really messed up the truth of Christ and is going to churn out millions of brand spanking new atheists with a big chip on their shoulders because their own faith was skin-deep and a mile wide, and all the 1800’s “arguments” that have actually been thoroughly dealt with within the inductive, historical context just never happened to make it to the table.

        @Mike – you might be on to something there…

      • JCFAN

        Having error and being confusing can be classified as heresy. The contents of the book are in direct contradiction to God’s Word.

        • Jeff

          We all have confusion in our theological understanding and if truly honest question doctrines. The difference with Bell is that he is a public figure. I guess I keep thinking about the people Jesus truly had a problem with, Pharisees and the so called Torah experts of his day. I think of Bell Jesus would say, “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Bell is FOR people trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is against people going to hell, but logically his opinion doesn’t matter, nor ours in this regard. :)

    • $23313105

      I totally agree.

    • Cam MacMillan

      Mr. Cameron and others who share your view that Bell is a heretic: could you (and I’m not being sarcastic here) give your thoughts on NT Wright’s position regarding these questions? It would be difficult to find a more informed pastor/theologian/biblical scholar than Dr. Wright and he has views which are very similar to Bell’s. Difference being, Bell’s work is more accessible to popular American religion than Wright’s.

      I’ve posted more substantive comments further down, but let me simply say this: Love Wins calls into question the Hellenistic origins of the Christian ideas of heaven and hell and asks Christians to be a bit more creative in expressing the infinite Love and Grace of a God who came to show unequivocally that humans can live now and eternally in God’s reality. Bells has NEVER been soft on sin of the reality of Christ’s Resurrection (not some philosophical notion of eternal presence), or God’s eventual re-creating of everything. If people read a conclusive position on hell not existing in Love Wins, you had a different edition than me. In fact, his position was that hell is real, but might not be what you seem to think it is. Ancient Jews had an idea of how God was going to rescue the world and they couldn’t have imagined how that would end up taking happening. God wills that all should be saved – AMAZING – I can wait to see how God’s Grace and Righteousness will work itself out.

      • love eternal

        Hell is an invention of the Christian Church, let us not forget it.

        • Randy Davenport

          How could it be an invention of the Christian Church, when it is mentioned before the church?

    • Rev Richard

      Harold when you judge another person you put yourself in the place of God
      and that certainly is heresy!, Rob Bell book is great and it simply ask questions, questions which some narrow minded Christians would rather nobody asked!

      • Bromly Egerton

        “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” I praise the Lord that He has led me to be narrow-minded. I know it’s not popular to be “narrow-minded.” And that’s exactly what Jesus predicted in this verse. A fulfillment of prophesy, you might say.

  • Scott Dossett

    I wonder how many of the people who level criticism at Rob Bell have actually read his book? All this notion of heresy is ridiculous. His title was far more provocative than the actual book (which, frankly, was not terribly deep). He largely just asked some (old) questions and rightly observed that throughout history many people (including influential church leaders) have had varying opinions on hell. He does seem to suggest now and then that hell might have a lot to do with “right now,” but scripture doesn’t deny this.

    However, If you’re going to take people to task for their views on hell, you’ll have to include “beloved” Christian paragons like C. S. Lewis, John Stott and others. Anyone who actually takes the time to read and consider what scripture (largely Jesus) has to say on “hell” will recognize that there is a lot of room for discussion. Here’s a thought: why are some people so offended by questions?

    • notaboutus

      Sugarcoat it all you want, Scott, but Rob Bell is a heretic who is slickly packaging his liberal and blasphemous scriptural views. Galatians 1:8-9 clearly states that anyone who preaches a gospel other than what was originally taught is under God’s curse.

      The bible is also clear about what hell is – a place of eternal separation from God end endless torment for those who do not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is our choice whether or not we end up in hell. At one time, this was a simple and easily understood truth, but hucksters like Bell are always muddying the water on this and other issues.

      The bible also tells us that there will come a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine. We are living in that time now, I believe, and Bell and others like him who are not preaching the true word of God will one day be held accountable. It is good that Bell is gone from Mars Hill and I hope that the new pastoral leadership will take stock of where they are and return to the preaching of the true word of God.

      • Jay

        Everybody that is asking if you have read Bell’s book I have a question for you have you read the bible?

        • Peter Mahoney

          What an incredibly simple yet profound question!!!

          But before I do pick up my Bible… let me go put on my plaid flannel shirt that’s wadded up in the corner that smells of dirty socks… oh, and my uber-sheik black frame glasses… Oh, and I guess I should toss out my views on verbal plenary inspiration. I mean, that’s what those “old” people believe and I can’t embrace anything that’s not “new” and cool. If I’m to be “relevant” I guess the only way to get there is to embrace “higher criticism” and neo-orthodoxy. To be “thoughtful” and critical has obviously trumped glorifying God by faith and obedience to Christ and His Word.

          In all seriousness Bell, McLaren and those who espouse a low view of sin, the Scriptures, and ultimately Christ are to be pitied and prayed for.

          • notaboutus

            Excellent points stated in a lovingly sarcastic way :-)

          • Scott Dossett

            I can only (once again) encourage you to go back and read what those “old” people – before you – believed. It’s not about new and cool – not for me, at least. It’s about an honest search for truth. It certainly has nothing to do with lack of faith and disobedience to Christ, who – along with his gospel – *is the Word. It does have to do with a lack of faith in and obedience to a system of thought that refuses to admit genuine questions and views itself with such vanity that it implicitly (and often explicitly) condemns everyone who disagrees with it.

          • C-Mac

            I think there’s something else at play, which Scott picks up on in identifying Christ as the word of God. It’s a very fine line that people walk in defending the authority of scripture as being sacrosanct/infallible/whateverword. There can be a tendency to treat the written word as divine and thus make an idol out it an object. I’ll likely get blow back from this, but the Bible is an object which is used by God as a means of revelation. It has flaws, errors of translation, and skewed perspectives, which only makes it that more amazing that God works through it. Nothing is perfect or divine apart from God. Goodness knows you can create all manner of horrifying god that would qualify as biblical, but not be in line with the revelation of God through Christ.

          • Bromly Egerton

            The Bible has flaws in it?? Sorry, that’s the most heretical and un-Biblical thing I have read on this site so far. If the Bible, the Word of God, has flaws in it, then ** God’s Word ** is flawed. In other words, God made a mistake. If God made a mistake, then he cannot be trusted. And if God cannot be trusted, then you had best make your best attempt to overthrow Him so that He doesn’t accidentally overthrow you. Then you can rule as a just, kind, unflawed king. However, you’ll need a fair amount of power to overthrow God, so you’ll have to get the second-most -powerful person to help you – Satan.

            See what happens if you say the Word of God is flawed? You end up ultimately working against the true church of God, though perhaps not to the extent that I mentioned.

          • Randy Davenport

            God cannot lie, being holy. God inspired the Bible. Therefore, the Bible cannot lie.

          • Jaime L. Alviola

            No, it’s not vanity to affirm and uphold always what the Word of God says. Reading and listening to the words of “bothered and bewildered men” is just “all sound and fury signifying nothing!”

        • Scott Dossett

          I’m not criticizing the Bible. And yes, repeatedly.

        • notaboutus

          What’s more important Jay – reading the actual bible or the bible according to Rob Bell? Seems to me that 3,000 former Mars Hill members agree with the former, not the latter. Also seems to me in light of Bell’s numerous unscriptural positions that this question would be better posed to him, not me.

      • Scott Dossett

        First of all, the “gospel” (the apostolic message of redemption in Christ) does not include a detailed treatise on hell – so spare me the diatribe. Galatians 1 (v. 4) says that according to Paul’s gospel Christ was sent to save us – not from hell – but from “this present evil age.” Interestingly, in all Paul’s presentation of the gospel, your idea of “hell” seems largely absent (2 Th 1:8 being an exception, and 1 Cor 3 proving difficult to understand).

        Based on your comments, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you haven’t actually read Bell’s book or anything else that addresses these questions. Neither will I waste my time trying to present them here for you, since you clearly have little interest. I will, however, ask one question: Why is that people can recognize Jesus’ figurative and parabolic language in other areas of scripture (for example, when he speaks of plucking your eyes out or cutting your hands off), but they seem unwilling to even consider it in some of the most obvious passages like those on “hell” (most often ‘gehenna’ by the way)?

        Bell wasn’t (nor am I for that matter) saying “hell” isn’t real. I think what he was saying is that we need to be more open in our consideration of what exactly it is. Wise and faithful believers have raised that question throughout the history of the church – from the earliest times to the most recent. He was also saying that while it is something of a mystery, we can *hope that in the end, somehow the love of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God might be victorious. If even that *hope makes a person a heretic… God help the orthodox.

        • notaboutus

          In partial answer to your question Scott, I refer you to the excellent comments below from Not a Theologian and Mike regarding the existence of an actual, physical hell. I’m perfectly at ease with being “orthodox” on this point.

          Of course I understand that there is “figurative and parabolic language” in the bible, but I also believe that the bible is to be taken literally unless it specifically states otherwise. You can try to parse this, but it doesn’t change the fact that the bible tells us that hell is a real place and describes it in graphic, horrifying detail.

          I have also read enough on Bell’s views and seen enough of his YouTube videos to know that this guy is a false teacher and that his teachings are dangerous to the body of Christ. The article references the fact that Bell’s book “…questioned the existence of hell…”. This is heretical. The bible either means what it says or it doesn’t and we can’t just discard or try to finesse the things we find unpalatable as Bell has done and continues to do.

          It is truly amazing the amount of damage that leaders can inflict on a church through unbiblical teaching. My prayers are with the leadership there that they can rebuild the trust that has been broken.

          • Scott Dossett

            Questioning something is not heretical. You want to talk about damage, take a look at a history book and see how much flows when people go heresy-hunting.

          • notaboutus

            It is not the questioning part of this that I find heretical. Rather, it is the unscriptural conclusions he has come to as a result of distorting what the bible says on this subject to suit his own opinion. I’m not the one who wrote the book, so Bell should have expected some blowback since he is way off base. Also, I don’t go looking for heresy as you are implying, but when I see it, I’m going to call it out.

          • Scott Dossett

            Should someone expect some “blowback” when they offer criticism of a book they acknowledge that they haven’t even read? How could they have an accurate idea of what Bell’s conclusions are? People really should actually read a book before offering commentary, critique and name-calling (ie. heretic).

            And before you head out with your (metaphorical) pitchfork and lighter, you should probably do a little reading about heresy. You will discover that – as a Protestant (as I’ve noted elsewhere) – you *are one. So you really should be careful about tossing the word around. It seems that many fundamentalists appear to have their own definition of heresy (whatever doesn’t agree with their particular list of fundamentals) and they never seem to tire of labeling people by it. Outside of a universal governing representation of the church, ‘heresy’ means little more than “You’re bad because you don’t agree with me and my group.” I really wish people would stop using it. Use the word offensive, call it ridiculous, call it unscriptural if you feel you’re justified – but for God’s sake, stop using demonizing words like “heresy.”

            As a side note to your former comment: Where exactly does the Bible ever “explicitly state” that it is speaking metaphorically? Just like every other piece of writing in the world, It doesn’t. It *requires interpretation – not least a little willingness to notice the obvious.

            Every person I’ve encountered who goes around with the mantra “the Bible says what it means and means what it says” consistently violates their own principle. My favorite: “When the author of Revelation refers to things that must ‘soon’ take place (1:1), what he really means is thousands of years later.” (We clearly have different definitions of literal.) Second favorite: “Jesus didn’t *really mean pluck out your eyes and chop off your appendages if they cause you to sin, he was just using hyperbolic language.” Exactly. Now consider applying the same common sense elsewhere.

            Interestingly, Eusebius records that Origen (alluded to in Love Wins) did apply these latter words of Jesus literally and castrated himself, though he still maintained that in the end all would be reconciled to God (apocatastasis). He was posthumously decreed a heretic too, but many scholars hold that it was NOT because of his views on apocatastasis. Ironically, he was also known for attacking heresy.

          • Bromly Egerton

            So if I question whether Jesus really came to earth, it’s not heretical? The trouble is, when you start to question something publicly, it’s because you’ve already made up your mind on the questionable side. If Bell was questioning the existence of hell, you can be sure that he does not personally believe in hell. The reason he doesn’t say it out loud is so that he can have the support of people like you who hide behind the fact that questions can’t be heretical.

          • Scott Dossett

            Bromly, against my better judgment, I’m going to respond to you. First, Bell firmly maintained his belief in hell (read the book), but he wrestled with what exactly hell might be (eternal? literal?, etc). Second, questioning an issue publicly is how great books are written and how people consider truth together. Only intentionally ignorant people shun the public questioning of commonly held assumptions. Thirdly, actually read the scriptures and you will find that the “hell” described there is actually rather ambiguous apart from commonly held assumptions. Finally, heresy requires a singular governing body. The modern church no longer has such a body, therefore shouts of heresy are meaningless, futile and accomplish nothing.

          • Bromly Egerton

            Hmmm… “Only intentionally ignorant people shun the public questioning of commonly held assumptions.” By the way, thanks for the compliment… :-) The other thing is that you’re right about “hell” being ambiguous. That’s because what we think of as hell is usually referred to in other terms (ie: bottomless pit, eternal judgement, etc.) Hell is often referring to the grave, or simply death. David speaks of descending into “hell.” Obviously he’s not talking about eternal judgement, unless you want to argue that he wasn’t saved. Hell, though, as most people think of it, I believe is a literal place with literal fire and brimstone, where there will be literal gnashing of literal teeth. Literally. :-)

          • Scott Dossett

            Forgive the “compliment.” Hell is indeed typically thought of in those terms. And that is perfectly fine. Just don’t try to turn it into a definitive doctrine and start labeling people as heretics over it. Let’s have an interesting discussion and then get back to sharing the love and grace of Christ and his gospel – together. Turning a specific interpretation of such ambiguous issues into a doctrinal litmus test for “true faith” only makes Christian unity impossible.

            Personally, I believe people misunderstand the purpose of symbol/analogy/metaphor in scripture, particularly when it comes to to the issue of “hell.” I think some of the commonly held “doctrines” of hell turn God into a vicious tyrant completely in opposition to everything Jesus showed/taught us about God (Father, Spirit and Son together). But I also realize I am neither omniscient, nor a perfect and utterly objective interpreter. So, I try to hold my position with grace and unity. You know, as long as others don’t start excommunicating me or casting myself and others like me into hell prematurely. ;)

          • Bromly Egerton

            OK… I think I get it… labeling somebody as “intentionally ignorant” is fine, but don’t label them as a heretic. Just kidding. I honestly don’t mind the “compliment.” I’m rather used to being “complimented,” and I’ve actually come to “enjoy” it. :-)

            On a more serious note, yes, it’s important to be careful when having discussions not to send anybody to hell over it. I have disagreed quite adamantly with some people over some issues, and sometimes I blush to think of the things I’ve said to them… But I try always to be careful not to give a final judgement – ie: “You are not a Christian.” THAT is not for me to judge, rather it is for GOD to judge on the final judgement day.

            I’m sorry that people try to turn God into a vicious tyrant. And I can’t claim total innocence, unfortunately. At the same time, God IS just, and he MUST punish sin. If God allowed sin in His presence, he not be a good God. And God is good. Jonathan Edwards rightly pointed out that it is the grace of God that we don’t just fall into hell without a chance to repent and without a chance for eternal life.

            God is loving God who “is not willing that any should perish.” HOWEVER, “the wages of sin is death”, while “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Yes the gift of God is eternal life. However if it is not accepted, the reward will be eternal death under, yes, the wrath of God.

            Put it this way. In order for you to love one thing, you must hate another. If you love your wife, you hate adultery. If you love unborn children, you hate abortion. If you love God, you hate Satan. If you love good, you hate evil. Because God loves good, he also hates sin. Therefore, he punishes sin. He has no choice, because He is a GOOD God.

            I look forward to your reply.

            PS.: Do you still think responding to me is against your better judgment? :-)

          • Scott Dossett

            The “compliment” was not directly aimed at you.

            It is interesting to me how some people seem to find it “just” that God punishes Jesus instead of us, as if punishing the innocent instead of the guilty somehow balances the equation. As if God could be balanced like equations. It’s worthy of note that scholars generally agree that no one taught this theory of atonement (penal substitution) in the early church. It finds its predecessors in Anselm with “Satisfaction Theory” in the 11th century. Some have tried to find it earlier, but it involves far too much “reading into” things.

            The view of atonement you describe also threatens the unity of the Trinity by pitting the “loving” son against the “punishing” Father. I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone who views God the way Edwards did. Having read Edwards works myself, I can say his God was alternatingly both sadistically and impersonally cruel. Any God who would base relationship with himself on abject terror and punishment is not the God of Jesus… in my opinion.

            Finally, the fact is that God is in the presence of sin EVERY DAY. He is omniscient after all. If not, he could never be in the presence of humanity at all. These things you are saying are accepted uncritically by people (including myself for many years). But they are not logically consistent. You are free to accept them in faith as we all accept some inconsistent things in faith. But again, don’t make disagreeing with inconsistency to constitute a mark of heresy.

            My “better judgment” had to do with engaging in further fruitless discussion (simply read the previous discussion on this article). I appreciate your kindness and I always enjoy a genuine discussion.

          • Bromly Egerton

            Sorry, I tried posting earlier, but it didn’t work for some reason.

            I don’t know why the view of atonement I described threatens the unity of the Trinity. I wasn’t trying to pit the “loving son” against the “punishing Father” The trouble is that we get the idea as people that Jesus was this nice guy who would never hurt a flea (well, maybe not quite that bad, lol). The reason is because Jesus himself said, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench” The trouble is we leave out the last part of the verse – ” till he send forth judgment unto victory.” That’s when Jesus will punish all evil-doers.

            GOD MUST PUNISH SIN. If he didn’t, he would be a bad, God, not a good God. Put it this way. If someone stole your car, and the police caught them, and the judge just said, “Oh, well. I’m a good judge, and I like to forgive people, so I’ll just forgive you and let you off the hook.” God isn’t that way. He can’t just let us off the hook.

            I’ve got a question. If hell does not literally exist, then what did Jesus die to save us from? A non-existent hell? The non-existent wrath of God? And if hell is not bearing the wrath of an infinite God, then why couldn’t God have just sent a perfect sinless angel to die in our place instead of sending His infinitely perfect Son who was the only one who COULD bear the wrath of an infinitely holy God? Also, what motive do non-believers have for becoming Christians?

            PS.: since the “compliment” was not “directly” aimed at me, I will assay to “bury” it in the “bottom” of “hell”. :)

          • Scott Dossett

            Exactly why must God *punish* sin to be good? You have adopted a concept of justice from Greek and Roman goddesses: Dike and Justitia – with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. This is a pagan concept of justice, see Acts 28:4 where the word for ‘justice’ is actually ‘dike’ in the Greek. The Father is not a cosmic balancing force. Justice is not balancing the scales between good and bad with punishment. God is not karma.

            Punishment has nothing to do with justice except in its disciplinary function. Scripture itself overwhelmingly portrays justice as “doing good,” it is functional/active/restorative/healing – often more along the lines of what people today call “social justice” (Deuteronomy 10:18 and Luke 11:42 for example). In this sense, the view of atonement you are proposing is actually contrary to the ways of God as described in scripture – not to mention Jesus.

            What’s worse, if punishment was the purpose of the cross, God did not punish sin… he punished innocence and justice. You don’t have to “try” to pit the Father against the Son here, it is implicit in the argument. The Father just *has* to punish someone for sin, so he punishes the Son. The loving, forgiving son appeases the *wrath* of the Father. The Son forgives, the Father punishes. Love and mercy versus justice.

            But God is not bound by any external law except his own nature – which nature, according to 1John, is love (true, godly “justice” is a characteristic of love, not the other way around). The Trinity must be in accord in that love. But if one person of the trinity is stomping around heaven looking for blood, that unity is broken. In many ways, it works as a metaphor and an image, but it breaks down when we “literalize” and “theologize” it.

            Besides, make the situation real for a moment. If someone had offended you to the point of raging anger, in what possible way could killing your own child appease that wrath? In what world would that be justice? You may object: But we can’t understand the Trinity. My response: Exactly, and we can’t understand the atonement either. We are two-year-olds attempting to replicate a priceless piece of art. That’s fine, it’s all we can do. But we would be foolish to ignore the differences between our copies and the original. I personally think the “Ransom theory” (Christus Victor) of atonement is the best.

            The bottom line is this: the gospel is so offensive precisely *because* God “lets us off the hook” (1 Cor 1:22-23). The Greeks thought that was “foolish” of God. The Jews didn’t like God’s idea of “justice” either – even the disciples/apostles weren’t too thrilled about it (Matthew 20:1-16: The Parable of the Unjust Landowner).

            Consider Isaiah 42;3 (“the bruised reed”) again in context. I’m not sure which translation you are using but it does not read “TILL he send forth judgment,” it is simply “[and/but] he will send forth judgment/justice.” There is no reference to a hell here. At worst, it is an indictment and a judgment against the nations who have oppressed Israel and a promise of restoration to freedom. Paradoxically, the “character” of that judgment/justice is described by his unwillingness to “raise his voice” or “break a bruised reed.” Continuing to verse 4, It seems that the judgment/justice seems to *include the nations. Further, the judgment/justice is temporal, not eternal. This judgment/justice is not about punishment, it is a restoration and healing – a “righting” of things that are wrong.

            Make no mistake, I believe God judges (Father, Son and Spirit judging together as one). He judges in the present (Rom 1:18, 13:4). He will judge in the future. We know little about that future judgment however, because – I believe – it is encoded in metaphor and culturally tuned language. But one day He will fully declare the ultimate rightness and wrongness of things and there will be consequences for opposing His judgment. But the idea of a malevolent, punitive “hell” as conceived in many people’s minds today is – I believe – radically wrong. It flies in the face of the cross.

            Scripture declares emphatically that God – his nature – is love (in both 1 John 4:8, 16 and most powerfully in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross). Therefore, any justice of God must be restorative. Any punishment must be redemptive. Any “hell” must ultimately be based in love. Anything less is to lower God to man’s level.

            What did Christ save us from? Too many people want to narrow this down. Even the Biblical writers have different opinions. In Galatians 1:4, Paul says he saved us from “the present evil age.” In Romans 6:6, Paul says Christ’s crucifixion saved from helpless slavery to sin. He saved us from ourselves and our slavery to sin by giving us hope. He saved us from empty lives (life more abundant). He saved us from skewed images of God by revealing himself and showing his selfless love on the cross (Hebrews 1:3). And yes, he saved us from a coming judgment – whatever that may be – described in tragic metaphors of fire, outer darkness, worms and gnashing of teeth (though it seems clear to me that these are just images).

            Contrary to the opinions of dogmatic people, salvation is multi-faceted. But *all* of this must be interpreted through God’s perfect revelation of himself in Jesus on the cross.

            I spent some time on this response because your questions seemed genuine and I wanted to be thorough. I don’t expect to convince you. I’ve been where you are and I have prayerfully, studiously and fearfully come to the beliefs and convictions I now have. But I am not interested in arguing. Hopefully this helps you understand where people like myself are coming from. Like you, we love Jesus and claim him as Lord. God’s peace.

          • Bromly Egerton

            Some good points, Scott. I still have some questions, though. I read your comment through a couple times, and I don’t think you answered the question I posed. I don’t want to argue any more than you do, and I’m not going to convince you any more than you are going to convince me, but there may be some people on this site who need to be able to defend their beliefs. My goal through this comment is not to attack you, not to argue with you, and not to establish my position as “top.” Rather, I want to do this in a loving way to help other Christians be willing to stand up for what they believe is right.

            There are several basic things which I don’t believe your position explains. Firstly, why did God have to send His Son? Wouldn’t an angel have been enough? After all, his angels are sent as ministering spirits, and they help us. I’m sure you know that if you know your Bible at all, which I am convinced you do.

            And angels are extremely powerful – as a matter of fact, when it comes to the binding of Satan to be cast into the bottomless pit, God sends an unnamed angel to do it. Not a legion, just one angel. Previously in the book of Revelation (the book I’m memorizing right now), John repeatedly refers to “strong” angels. This one has no such prefix.

            Here’s question #1 : If Jesus was sent to earth to save us from the power of sin, why did it have to be Jesus sent? Why couldn’t God have simply sent an angel to help us out? We know that He could have sent an angel bind the devil. Why didn’t He just send one to save us from the effects of sin?

            Here’s question #2 : I have a question mark in my mind about what you said about “a bruised reed will he not break… *till* he send his judgement forth…” Sorry, I plunked in the wrong reference – I meant to put the one in Matthew 12:20 where we have the actual reference to Jesus. The one in Isaiah was a prophecy, the one in Matthew was a citation, it is true, but a slightly altered citation. The alteration is, if you look at the Greek, that they added a word. As you noted, the word “until” is not in Isaiah. It is indisputably in Matthew. There’s only one translation for that word – “until.” Just something that I had to restate because I put the wrong reference in – sorry!

            Here’s question #3 : Why did God forsake His Son on the cross? Why would a God who was not doing anything in the way of harming His Son turn His back on His Son? One explanation is, “God can’t look on sin, which is what Jesus was bearing.” But Jesus was God, so if God can’t look on sin, and you’re trying to uphold the Trinity by getting rid of the literal punishment of God, then Jesus couldn’t look on sin, so He couldn’t bear our sin either. So it would be interesting to know what your stand is here.

            Here’s question #4 : What do you do with Isaiah 53:10-11? Earlier in the passage is obviously a prophecy about Christ (v. 7-9). And there is no indication whatsoever that the author has changed topics. So what does this passage mean?

            “¶Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul,and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

            Conclusion : Again, I don’t want to argue with you, because it won’t do any good. And yet, it can be fun to discuss these topics with other believers who “love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.” Your comment HAS helped me see where you’re coming from, but as you predicted, you did not convince me… Sorry, but I still see some major issues with your stand.

            I want to close with a notice about Christian love. A warning for everyone on this site who sees this post – if you can debate with your brother on Biblical topics in a spirit of love, do so by all means. Otherwise, refrain from doing so – it will only lead to contention, disention, and every other type of tension available. :-) By this will others know us – by the love that we have one for another.

          • Scott Dossett

            We have reached the point in the discussion where answers must be long because clarification is difficult. My apologies. To begin, nothing answers *all the questions – neither my position, nor yours. If we can’t begin there, we will make no progress. I have already observed several pressing questions that challenge the penal-substitution theory. Second, reading the closing statement of your last comment I would agree wholeheartedly with the exception of the word “debate.” I don’t want to debate you because I’m convinced neither of us have a wholly correct understanding. If we are discussing as brothers for mutual growth and understanding, well and good. I will continue on that understanding.

            1. God didn’t *have to send his son. He *chose to send him. In some sense, God sent the Son to fully impart himself to us (which John illustrates as “tabernacle-ing”) that we might see and know him – in the fullness of time – in His purest revelation. Jesus’ own parables of the King and the Vineyard (Mt 21:37, Mk 12:6 and Lk 20:13 ) indicate something very similar. This is well-attested throughout scripture as *a* reason God had to send the Son. It also supports the “Moral Influence” theory – that Christ had to come as the “perfect” revelation of good for man to follow. Though I find this theory lacking on its own.

            My own preference – the “Christus Victor”/”Ransom” theories (they are not strictly identical) – suggests that Christ’s death on the cross was a great victory over the forces of evil/death by way of a ransom payment to “the powers of evil” (Satan, influence of evil, etc). From this we get the idea of “redemption” (as in redeeming a pawn at a pawn shop). A beautiful example of this is found in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Lewis also found penal-substitutionary atonement objectionable) . The crucifixion of the Son was simply substitutionary (not penal, not a punishment) – a reversal of the “curse” of death humanity brought upon itself in surrendering itself to the dominion of Satan. Athanasius’ view was that, at the fall, humanity began descending into “corruption” and that Christ’s death and resurrection reversed that corruption. Note how this tends to combine the moral influence and ransom theory together. For many in the early years of the church these two views (Ransom/Moral Influence) appear to have lived side by side.

            The point being, all of these attempt to communicate “something” about what Christ’s crucifixion accomplished. None is wholly capable of explaining it entirely. Please note that *all* of these preceded the “satisfaction” and “penal substitution” views of atonement by hundreds of years. Because of the influence of Anselm and Calvin, I suspect that many of us have been reading the later idea of penal-substitutionary atonement “into” scripture rather than out of it.

            2. As you say, Matthew 12:20 is an OT citation. The author cites it to illustrate Isaiah’s prophecy being fulfilled in Christ. As such, I believe it should be taken as a (probably intentional) corruption of the text. This causes some difficulty for standard views of inerrancy – to which I hold no particular allegiance – in that one has to choose whether or not to take the NT citation *over* the OT “original.” Neither the Septuagint nor the Hebrew of Isaiah contain “until”.

            Regardless, one is left to deal with the fact that “justice/judgment” in both contexts is positive rather than negative. Here in the NT, it is referenced as being fulfilled by Jesus’ healing actions and his silencing of those who would proclaim him (“will not cry out”). To assert that this is a reference to hell is unjustified by anything in either context. The author’s change to “*until* he leads justice unto victory” may just as easily (far more likely, I would argue, from the context) refer to the crucifixion and his leading “justice” (provision for those in need) to victory in the crucifixion and resurrection (for example of this usage see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 57 and 1 John 5:4).

            3. On the assumption of the Ransom/Christus Victor theory, it is obvious why God “abandoned” Jesus to death: the payment/sacrifice had to be made to break the curse of… wait for it… death (Heb 2:14) which humanity had brought on itself by Adam and Eve subjecting themselves to the dominion of the forces of evil and death. The Trinity would have been wholly united in this plan of deliverance – wholly united against the forces of evil (Satan, death, corruption). However, remember that I consider the Ransom Theory still to be a metaphor (albeit the best one, in my opinion) in that it is a description of what happened from the human perspective.

            In the “Moral Influence” theory, Christ’s death is the perfect example of self-sacrificing love to be followed by humanity. There would be no other way to communicate self-sacrificial love to humanity than to sacrifice himself – to not fight back/turn the other cheek; not to give humanity what it deserved, but to show selfless love, fully identifying with humanity (per Hebrews 4:15). There is much more to this view and – though I find it lacking in some important respects – many people condemn it before they think it through. It does communicate *part* of the reason Christ died.

            The idea that God “could not look on sin” is silliness and bad theology. God looks on sin every day (omniscience and omnipresence), he dwells in people who sin on a regular basis. Similarly, a lot of theological assumption is built into the idea (commonly held in some circles) that Christ’s cry and quotation of Ps 22:1 describes some spiritual event of God “turning his back” (the implication often being that God somehow split the Godhead for some period of time), when it may just as easily be interpreted as Jesus’ experience of being “abandoned” to physical death. Such would be a terror to the human “flesh” to which the Son was subject as Jesus. We will *never* fully understand what happened at the crucifixion. I wouldn’t build my theology on vague assumptions about it.

            Apart from the Ransom Theory, why would God abandon Jesus to death? Well, Jesus *was human. He was going to die someday regardless. We often forget that. It teaches us something about humanity that we would crucify perfect good, doesn’t it? And after all, God “abandoned” the Son to birth in a manger, all the indignities of humanity (think about that one for a bit), an early life in obscurity, poverty during his ministry and his fair share of exhaustion, frustration and ultimately torture at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities. The penal-substitutionary theory doesn’t offer an tremendously helpful additions in this area as far as I’m concerned.

            4. In response, I could ask: What do you do with Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45 (Jesus speaks here of his *own purpose) and 1 Timothy 2:6 where Christ is specifically described as a “ransom”? Or I could point to the vast number of passages that indicate “salvation” is dependent on what we *do (Likely your response would be to interpret these passages in terms of your own understanding – try to explain “ransom” in terms of punishment. That doesn’t work well because the word in all cases is “ransom.” I could do the same, pointing out the broad variance in translations of this passage (I am no Hebrew scholar), observing that the “offering for guilt/sin” does not require punishment, that the “delight” of the Lord at his “bruising” was due to the salvation achieved through it, that while the KJV translates verse 11 to support the “satisfaction” theory (God is satisfied by Christ’s suffering), many other translations illustrate that the one who is “satisfied” is the suffering servant himself (NIV, ESV, NRSV, NAU) by seeing his offspring and the prolonging of his life (v. 10).

            Or, I could risk offending some who demand inerrancy of Scripture that doesn’t claim such for itself and reiterate that perhaps *all these are metaphors, legitimate ways of understanding though independently they may be fundamentally incomplete by virtue of humanity’s finiteness.

            Final Note: I have defended the Moral Influence model here because I think it is too often discarded out of hand (with those who ascribe to it) and because I think it contributes a vital aspect of the incarnation/atonement. I do not think it is satisfactory on its own. I hope this answers your questions. God’s peace to you.

          • Bromly Egerton

            I am working on a reply… (probably around 10000 words… :) ) I’ll just say this right off, though, how on earth can you say that the Word of God may not be inerrant? “All scripture is given ** by God ** “. Did God make mistakes when He inspired Scripture? I’m afraid if we can’t settle on this one, we have no common grounds for discussion whatsoever. Absolutely we shouldn’t get tied to translations of the scripture – but the originals ** at least ** we should realise that they are inspired. I’m afraid we just can’t go any further in our discussion until either you agree to at least the inerrancy of the originals (notice I’m not fighting for INFALLIBILITY [the fact that the Scriptures CANNOT be errant], which I could and ought to do, just for the inerrance [the fact that they don’t have mistakes]. )

            If we don’t settle this first, we have no common grounds of discussion. I’ll respond to the issues that are legitimate in your comment above, but if you back up your answer with errors in the text, I will only point to the Scriptures as the inerrant WORD OF GOD.

          • Scott Dossett

            Friend, you will not injure me by ending the discussion (and you may save us both significant time). I have only been trying to help you understand a different perspective by answering questions honestly. Our discussion is not going to change my beliefs. I’ve spent nearly 40 years in conservative evangelical circles, I know your perspective intimately. Out of respect for you, I have made none of my primary points based on any assumption of “errors” in the text. I attempt to do the same for all my conservative brothers. In fact, I have yet to find it necessary to do otherwise to make my point.

            Still, I would have thought that Christ should be our common ground for discussion, not a particular belief about scripture. Nonetheless, I do not believe the scriptures are “inerrant.” I have given only one of many, many difficulties. The typical solution for inerrantists is to attempt to “explain away” those difficulties. But explaining away a difficulty does not actuall make it go away. For years I tried to hold the same line, but that line will not hold. I do believe the scriptures are *inspired by God. This is what scripture claims of itself, as well that it is useful for teaching, encouragement and even rebuke. I believe scripture is true. I believe it is authoritative. I believe it is uniquely special in its revelation. I am not inclined to believe something about it (inerrancy) – that it neither claims for itself nor can be demonstrated of it.

            Just remember that if you insist on “inerrancy” as a common ground of discussion, you will have to write off about 1800 years of Christian history (and arguably, the Bible itself). The doctrine of “inerrancy” is a decidedly new development. All faithful believers have believed that Scripture is true, that it is trustworthy, that is authoritative (though not the only authority). Only recently – in the past two hundred years or so – have people begun to insist that it is “without error,” that it must be literally understood and that all statements in scripture are unilaterally and objectively true (in spite of the contradictions this generates). This does not mean that God has deceived by his revelation, but that his revelation came by men (except in Jesus) in all their humanity.

            Perhaps someday, in the presence of God, I may discover that the scriptures have indeed been “inerrant” and that each of the myriad contradictions and apparent errors are due simply to wrong interpretation. It is unlikely, but I concede that God is bigger than me. In the meantime, God has given me reason to complement my faith, and I am responsible to use it. As a side note, what difference does it make to claim that the *originals are inerrant if we have no access to them?

            God be with you brother, if you can still call me such. God be with you even if you can’t.

          • Bromly Egerton

            Oh dear. I must be a bad communicator indeed. What I meant to say is that the common grounds for our discussion must be the Scripture, and if we don’t agree that the Bible is inerrant, then our common ground for discussion is gotten rid of. Also, I hope I didn’t convey the idea that you are an infidel. Even though it is not up to me to judge your spiritual condition of believer or un-believer, I sincerely believe and hope that you are Christian, a blood-washed believer.

            Thank you for your kindness demonstrated in your comments… Most people I know who hold an opinion like yours would tend to hammer it down on my head with no respect whatsoever… Thank you for not doing that – demonstrating a true spirit of love. I hope I have done the same…

            I think this is going to be the end of our discussion for now… We’ll talk about it again on the other side of the river… and see who was right!

          • Randy Davenport

            Jesus taught about hell. Since He is God, He cannot lie. Therefore hell is real. I suggest you look at some good evanglical scholars. Also check out the fine scholars at the Southern Baptist Seminaries, Dallas Theological Seminary, Criswell College and others colleges, universities and seminaries.

          • Scott Dossett

            I graduated from “a good evangelical seminary.” In fact, I have Billy Graham’s signature on my Diploma. I’m fully versed in the Evangelical scholars. That doesn’t mean I agree with them. Jesus taught about hell, much of his language is obviously metaphorical. Metaphor is not lie, it is descriptive language about concepts which are difficult to describe.

        • Seekingtruth

          I am so surprised that so many intellectuals read Bell’s book and did not understand what it was saying. Thanks for the exegesis thereof. It seems to me that we need a new hermeneutic of both the Bible and modern books to be able to judge.

        • Felipe Rodriguez

          U funny. God help u. Please don’t pray for me. I don’t need it. A very spirited formed orthodox thought by Jesus himself.

      • Phillipianman

        Perfectly summarised. The word of God remains sacrosanct and infallible no matter how many Bible scholars are churned out of seminaries. Their diverse interpretations will not change the meaning of the Word of God any more than they will whitewash the essence of an almighty God who was, is and is to come and forever will be the same.

        • notaboutus

          Thanks Laban.

        • Jaime L. Alviola

          Amen, brother.

      • Jared Howell

        I mean this in total respect my friend but you say that the bible is clear about what hell is. I agree with you and I don’t at the same time. I can honestly say that as much as I’ve read scripture, I can’t really wrap my mind around the idea of “eternal separation” from God. At the same time, I can’t wrap my mind around what this endless torment will be like. What does Hell look like? Is it a physical realm or is it in another dimension that only God has seen? The Bible absolutely address this topic but I’m not sure its as clear as we claim it is. The very descriptions you stated above are not very specific which leads to questions.

        Questions such as: What is Hell like? Where is it? What is Heaven like? Where is Heaven at? If God loves us how could he let people go to Hell? Why would God create Hell if its so bad and He is so good and loving?

        Its questions like these that spur people to attack and blame and judge the asker. Rob Bell has asked VERY tough questions but aren’t these the same kind of questions that unbelievers ask all the time? How can we learn to lead people through these questions unless we can engage in thoughtful and loving discussions of these legitimate questions amongst ourselves.

        Its one thing to ask ridiculous questions like, “Can God make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it?” Obviously that’s a totally inane question. But if our faith isn’t big enough for us to walk through the legitimate questions without fear, then there are bigger issues with our theological picture of God.

        Rob Bell is great at asking provocative questions and at speaking from different perspectives than what I’m use to. Put simply, He is a great at deconstructing theology. However, he is bad at putting it back together. Thats why I would never hand Love Wins (or any book like it) to a new believer who is still developing the basic foundations of their faith. But, there is nothing wrong with a mature christian struggling through these questions.

        • Jaime L. Alviola

          Pastors should not themselves place stumbling blocks before their flocks unless they also have the answers to demolish them and make the road to Jesus Christ plain and smooth. I think it’s only fair that pastors who are supposed to be teachers of the Word of God should know the answers first before posing any provocative questions to his audience.

    • Not_a_Theologian

      Hi Scott, I am not a theologian, nor do I claim to be one but it seems to me that the parable Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man gives us indication that after death there is a literal hell. I am told that most scholars, not all I am sure, believe/deduce that Jesus’ parables were often (again, not always) based upon true life experiences and issues that were common for his day. If Jesus told a story about a man who went to hell and lifted his eyes up to ask Abraham for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to provide a very small amount of relief to his suffering then I would take from Jesus, had He told me that story first hand, that there is a literal place of torment we refer to as hell, And, furthermore, that this place is experienced after death. To suggest otherwise seems to be blasphemous. Is there any other teaching that Jesus gave that indicates that hell is here on earth or that we are currently experiencing hell? I do know that Jesus told the man being crucified alongside Him that today he would be with Him in paradise, so again, I draw from that encounter that there is a place of paradise provided for those that recognize Him as the Messiah Redeemer and that it follows death. I’m not mad at you or Rob Bell, or anyone else for that matter, for thinking through their beliefs. I believe the exercise is healthy. I do think, though, in this day and time (probably any day or time) that our conclusions in a book should be very clear in order to eliminate any confusion. So many these days try to read into any semblance of vagueness. And we know that when someone proports to be an authority on a subject (usually a author) their writings can cause others to follow beliefs that may be incorrect. We really should be overly cautious when leading others so that we not lead them astray.

      • Seekingtruth

        Well said @ Not_a_Theologian!

      • Scott Dossett

        It doesn’t matter if you’re a “theologian,” but it *is* important to consider multiple viewpoints and evaluate them fairly. If you listen to only one side of a discussion, you’re almost certain to believe what they tell you.

        It is NOT true that most scholars believe that Jesus’ parables were built on actual life experiences. They were often built on possible hypothetical situations but then “blown up” to unrealistic proportions to make a point. Though not always. The primary characteristic of parabolic language is that it is similar to metaphor/simile and events/character reactions are amplified.

        Modern Christian writing could do with a few less “dogmatic conclusions” and a lot more instruction in critical (not the bad kind) thinking.

        • Randy Davenport

          The only viewpoint that is valid is God’s and his found in his unchanging, inerrant Bible. Other viewpoints do not matter. The first rule in understanding the Bible is to take things as literal unless context says otherwise. For example the 10 headed monster in Revelation is not literal because later God tells us what it means (a 10 nation coalition).

          • Scott Dossett

            Randy, this is *your* first rule of understanding the Bible. I would say – along with many solid scholars – evangelical, conservative and liberal – that interpretation begins with recognizing your own bias (“interpretive lens,” if you prefer) and attempting to meet the text on its own terms. “Inerrancy” is something the scripture never claims for itself. It claims “inspiration.” Your concept of inerrancy is a recent development in history over the last few hundred years.

      • Heretic?

        If Jesus told a story about a man who went to hell and lifted his eyes
        up to ask Abraham for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to provide a
        very small amount of relief to his suffering then I would take from
        Jesus, had He told me that story first hand, that there is a literal
        place of torment we refer to as hell, and, furthermore, that people in hell can communicate with people in heaven. To suggest otherwise seems to be

        Just sayin’ is all…

        • Scott Dossett

          What Jesus told was a “parable.” Which Lazarus do you think he was talking about? The one that was still alive? Or some other Lazarus? Why the reference to “Lazarus” at all? Is this a hint at something symbolic? Maybe, maybe not. Does it deserve some thought… I think so. If Jesus said it was better to gouge out your eyes and cut off your hands and feet rather than to have them as a stumbling block? Would you consider it blasphemy not to do so?

    • Ezza

      It is interesting to note that often when Jesus spoke of hell he was talking about the burning rubbish dump in the valley outside Jerusalem. However HE also spoke of the eternity aspect of hell so the question about hell has two sides. A life of life, light and increase or a life of death darkness and decrease both here and now and in eternity. It’s good to ask questions and the quality of the question often makes the man. Jesus’ questions to religious leaders at 12 years of age astounded them. Rob has done the right thing stepping back for the sake of the body but its sad when shepherds are injured by sheepbite. However shepherds need to be careful not only what but how they feed the flock. It might have been good for leaders to come around Him and as in early Christian context discuss even if it gets a little hot. Possibly this showld have been a discussion with mature leaders way before it was a book and before the message went tot he church en mass. I am yet to read the book and this is a general comment at the moment.

      • Scott Dossett

        I agree wholeheartedly that Rob has done the right thing in stepping back. And I think there should be some acknowledgment by his critics that he has acted rightly in doing so.

        I don’t know Rob Bell. I have no vested interest in him and I don’t agree with everything he says. But I have become so weary of accusations hurled by church leaders for individuals asking honest questions. I think every time someone accuses another person of heresy, they ought to have to study heresy throughout church history. I think it would teach certain church leaders some much needed humility. After all, for those of us reading this site, Protestantism itself was heresy! (Council of Trent, 13th session, Chapter 8, Canon 11).

        • Jaime L. Alviola

          Heresy from the viewpoint of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church but not from the teachings of the Holy Scriptures! It was the Roman Catholic Church which included the Holy Bible especially the translations in its list or index of forbidden books!

          • Scott Dossett

            The Roman Catholic Church was the *only church. Heresy according to their teaching was the *only heresy.

    • Mike

      Jesus described it as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm does not die. John describes it as the lake of eternal fire and the second death. Yeah, lots of room for discussion right there!

      • Scott Dossett

        It’s also described as a place of darkness. Raging eternal fire AND darkness?Seems like it would be hard to find a dark spot in all that fire and brimstone. Unless, of course, the language is metaphorical.

        • Peter Pallin

          I have deleted my post

          • Bromly Egerton

            Do you mean to say that you were in hell before you were saved and afterwards you were in heaven? Also, the Bible clearly teaches that we are to be sent to heaven or hell AFTER the judgement day. I don’t want to argue with you, but I have serious doubts about your experience. And hell is not hell because of all the demons there. As a matter of fact, there is a specific point of time (according to Revelation) when the demons will be cast into hell. Hell is hell because God is pouring out HIS wrath on those who are disobedient.

            The Bible teaches that non-believers are to be sent to hell at a particular point. “for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” I’m just pulling that verse to show you, people have a choice now, and afterwards, there is judgement – hell.

            Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto menonce to die, but AFTER this the judgment” (Emphasis added) Judgement and hell come after death. Also, if you see devils, don’t believe what they say. And I’m not doubting that you saw a devil. I just doubt what the devil said. The devil is the father of all lies. DON’T TRUST DEMONS!!!

            Anyhow, all that to say, I believe the devil you saw was trying to mislead you. So don’t be deceived. “Test the spirits, to see which ones are from God.”

          • Peter Pallin

            I have deleted my post

          • Bromly Egerton

            Okay, I agree with you to some extent. That is to say, it’s not that important to worry about what the afterlife is going to be like as we’ll be there soon. At the same time, if you deny the existence of hell, you will not sense the urgency about bringing people to repentance that you ought to, and the people you do talk to about the afterlife will not sense the urgency they ought to about preparing themselves to meet their God (Amos 4:9-12)

            So I agree that we shouldn’t worry so much about the afterlife as about how we can grow in love and in the knowledge of Christ here and now – with the ultimate end of treasure in heaven (Col. 3:1-7 – notice especially the “therefore” in verse 5) in view (Matt 6:19-20).

            To often we focus primarily on the things of earth. We need to become a heavenly minded people. We are like the man in the parable of Luke 12:16-21, focusing only on the carnal things of this earth, rather than the spiritual things which will affect us for eternity.

        • Mike

          is it possible for fire to be so hot you can’t even see it? Yes. The Bible never claims to be metaphorical. So don’t pretend it is simply because you don’t like what it says.

          • Scott Dossett

            The Bible uses metaphors all over the place! Are you kidding me? Good Lord man, have you read it!? I suppose you believe the earth is really set up on pillars (Job 9:6, Psalms 75:3)? I presume you have lost a limb and an eye or two because they are stumbling blocks? I’m not even going to dignify this line of thought with further comment.

        • notaboutus

          So now you’ve decided to be literal…or have you? What’s it going to be Scott? Do you believe that an actual hell exists in the way it is described in the bible or not?

          • Scott Dossett

            Your sarcasm aside, I have not. ;) I’m pointing out the difficulty in your line of reasoning. If you’re going to be dogmatic about scriptural images necessarily being literal… take them literally in all cases. But the apparently contradictory images used in scripture make it seem relatively obvious that they are meant metaphorically. So, yes, I believe it exists as it is described in the Bible. And no, I don’t believe it exists *literally as it is described in the Bible.

    • Bromly Egerton

      Absolutely, if C.S.Lewis or John Stott don’t believe in hell, then be very careful of their works. However, read the Narnia series, and C.S. Lewis puts a very literal hell in there.

      • Scott Dossett

        No, he doesn’t. He puts a very figurative one in there.

        • Bromly Egerton

          Granted, everything in the book is figurative. But his hell is as literal as his heaven. The final judgement in the book was the permanent blinding of those who had chosen not to see, and the eternal sight-giving to those who had chosen to see.

          However, I believe the point is more that what a person believes on hell is likely to dictate their theology. Therefore, I don’t bother reading the * religious * works of those who do not believe in hell. But as to other works, when I’m reading C.S. Lewis, I’m not reading him to gain insight in theology, but rather for the sake of entertainment and interest. And his Narnia is wholesome entertainment.

          I think we have a hard time distinguishing between a man’s theology and the other areas of his life. Many Americans voted against Romney because they disagreed with his religious beliefs. But he’s NOT a religious leader, rather, he’s a political leader. We need to start distinguishing between what a man believes when it comes to religion and our willingness to be with them on other issues.

          Example : I disagree with Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses. However, I will not refuse to associate with them. However, the closer a person’s beliefs match with mine, the more I will be able to connect with them on a personal level. C.S. Lewis’ beliefs are close enough to mine that I can enjoy reading his stories.

  • graylgg

    It seems to me that Bell is too busy trying to be famous than lifting up Jesus Christ before the world. Just saying….

  • AMOS8

    Rob Bell is THE victim … not truth, not the church, not those who now have a “different gospel.”

    We who have challenge or criticized are just judgmental, if not just evil (or worse than evil, a “fundamentalist” … those who insist that we adhere to and not undermine fundamental truths).

    There is no place in the Body of Christ for correction, discernment, refuting, rebuking, or for calling out false teachers.

    All those who teach in the church must be good.

    Rob Bell was merely asking, “Did God really say…” [As does Brian McLaren, et al] The loving and tolerant among us should accept him and anyone else who attacks God’s Word by teaching that it is a “human product” and NOT a divine product.

    We all have varying views on various topics so … DO NOT call out Rob Bell for his attacks on Scripture! Coddle him, love him, accept his attacks…

    • David

      What??? I understood nothing you just said.

    • Richard

      My fear, Amos, is that the people who believe this way will applaud you rather that noticing how firmly your tongue is planted in your cheek. (I liked the semi-veiled Genesis 3:1 reference)

      • AMOS8

        Thanks, I wondered how many would pick up on that and the tongue-in-cheek approach.

        • notaboutus

          Demonstrating the absurd by being absurd. I like it. Great comment.

        • Cam MacMillan

          Everyone….everyone picked up on it. It wasn’t clever, and it’s unhelpful, actually. Not one person who isn’t accusing Bell of heresy has said anything like that. Your hyperbole is misplaced. No one has said there’s no place for correcting. rebuking etc. You also don’t seem to have a clue with respect to Bell’s actual theology and I imagine you’re taking your cues from what you’ve heard of been told. You might even have read a little of Love Wins, but I’m sure you already knew what you thought of it.

          Seriously folks, “heresy” seems to be the evangelical equivalent of “socialist” in politics – a term used by those who have no idea as to its meaning to avoid having meaningful discussion.

          • AMOS8

            “No one has said there’s no place for correcting. rebuking etc.”

            This assertion is partly right, yet steeped in error. Most defenders of RB/false teachers do two things:

            1. Get all upset when someone points out errors in their boy and will rebuke, attack, “correct” them all day long. (so, yes, they do believe in rebuking, etc … in one direction!)

            2. At a minimum, they discourage discernment and attempt to shout down those that speak up. They might say, “we should seek balance” “Let’s just dialogue about it…” and “stop the hate” and “so-and-so is just trying to _____ (e.g. some well-intended endeavor to … “find a more forgiving religion” what could be so wrong about that?)

            “having meaningful discussion(s)” about doctrine, theology, God’s Word with someone who believes and teaches that God’s Word is a “man-made product” and not “divine”?

            As I have asked and wrote elsewhere:

            When does an inaccurate view of the Bible = accurate theology?

            “The Bible is a man-made product” = man-made theology!

            Yet people here are defending RB’s theology/view of Scripture as
            “What’s the big deal? He is just asking questions!” “He is just trying
            to be more balanced.” “He is seeking to find a more ‘forgiving’

            Rob Bell is NOT the problem!

            [There are many, and there will always be many RB’s]

            The problem here is the people who defend RB and minimize attacks on Scripture.

            Those who compromise with those who compromise Scripture and the bigger danger and do more damage than false teachers.


            C-Mac … speaking of not being helpful … don’t be part of THE problem by compromising with compromisers of Scripture.

            “Heresy” is defined differently by different people, but if we define it as: beliefs or teachings that are contrary to orthodox teaching then of course what RB believes and teaches is heresy. I would even think that his adherents would where this as a badge of honor (because of their frequent disdain for “orthodox” teachings, etc).

            If you cannot see the glaring (and subtle) problems, errors … and even “heresy” in what he teaches then we are in two different worlds. If you do see them and are not overly concerned … and feel a need to defend him, then it is worse than two different worlds.

            “You also don’t seem to have a clue with respect to Bell’s actual
            theology and I imagine you’re taking your cues from what you’ve heard of been told. You might even have read a little of Love Wins, but I’m sure you already knew what you thought of it.”

            That could be the single most over played card in all of this. This started before the book came out, and continues to this day…

          • C-MAC

            AMOS8, I’m willing to engage on substance. But accusing me of compromising with compromisers of scripture is exactly the type of thing that gets us nowhere in these things. It’s baseless until you give specific examples. It amounts to name-calling for the purposes of discrediting.

            It seems that Bell becomes the specific target of the people who fear that “liberals” (note this term is rubbish and I’m only using it so we don’t have to get into length clarifications) are eroding traditions and place of scripture. What I hear consistently in many posts is a position on “infallibility”, “literalism” etc. Let’s be clear, no one here is following scripture literally or could pitch a case for complete infallibility. What’s being attempted is to ironclad one particular interpretation (and yes, all scripture for us in this day and age gets interpreted….every last word of it) and insulate it from opposition. As a result of this fear, Bell’s work gets saddled with all kinds of things that simply aren’t in there. Example: universalism. I understand the fear of that position – it reduces faith to shabby sentimentalism, disregards sin, and trivializes the revelation of Christ. I think people hear “Bell is a Universalist”, hear that he challenged the understanding of hell, and say, “oh, I know where this leads” and proceed to level all kinds of accusations that just aren’t accurate. Maybe some of Bell’s supporters have said something about finding a more forgiving religion, but that’s never been something he’s said, and not something I’ve picked up. Now, I do think that he would like to see more forgiving Christians, as we all would.

            Please hear me, and if you disagree with this, ok, but I truly think this is the crux of Love Wins: bringing a more immediate notion of heaven and hell. We can be living in hell now, and into eternity. We can be living in heaven now…in God’s reality now, which carries into God’s good future. Jesus indicated that eternal life was now – so what does that mean? It has to mean more than “we’re going to heaven when we die”.

            That position does not compromise scripture, and if so, please tell me how. If Jesus really wanted people to pray a prayer and be judgmental petty people until they get hit by a bus or die of old age, I’ve missed the point. There has to be a more meaningful here-and-now story than the American church is telling. I don’t think that’s heresy, and I don’t think it’s compromising scripture.

            C-MAC…I like that…I’ll use that as my posting name.

    • tim bray

      Rob Bell was merely asking, “Did God really say…

      Someone else posed that question once before (Genesis 3:1) Just sayin

  • brotherjohn


    Do you remember who else said “did God really say…”
    Oldest diabolical trick in creation…

  • Rev Lonnie Bennett

    Yes Hell has always been a HOT subjest

  • Disciple_Steve

    My experience in debating Bell is simple. If there is no hell why did Jesus have to die? Why did we need to be saved? And from what? The whole story and “persona” of the devil (satan, lucifer, the enemy) means nothing then either. If lucifer was struck down from heaven along with a 3rd of the angels, and they being spiritual beings, what’s to keep us from the same judgement in our rebellion? ALL HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF GODS GLORY. You then have Luke 16:23-27 the story of the rich man in hell! No, Bell has offered a gospel that is false. Even if I’m wrong I will choose to error on this side than not.

    • AMOS8

      Jesus did not die for our sins.

      We don’t need to be saved.

      Those are the notions (or egregious heresies) of liberal theology and the emerging church. “Jesus died to show us an example of sacrifice, not atone for sins…”

      • Disciple_Steve

        Where in my statement above did I say Jesus died for our sins? Your position is heresy. Romans 5:6, Romans 5:8 & 1 Peter 3:18
        For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God. In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit. Amos8 you need to stop in Jesus name what you are doing! I pray Holy Spirit guard the eyes and ears of this who read your writings and those that you have influence over! You are very dangerous!

        • AMOS8

          Or… perhaps you could re-read what I wrote … perhaps more carefully this time?

      • Cam MacMillan

        AMOS8 – Those ideas never appear in Bell’s work.

        Disciple Steve…Bell never said there wasn’t a hell – he’s challenging the Greek ideas that took root in the early church and asking honest Christians to drop the “you’re going to Hell” attitude that overtly, or covertly underlies much of American religion and think critically about what the Gospel means here and now. A coherent Christian articulation of what it means that “the Kingdom is among you” would go a long way to improving what churches are trying to communicate.

  • @pastortomweaver

    When men disregard the scriptures and in place set man’s thought and opinion as ultimate, they come against the creator of the Universe. Poor matchup.

  • Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Hodges

    To be fair I have not read the book, but a 3,000 decrease in membership speaks volume about what they think about the book.
    Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Hodges

  • Phredd

    I love how everyone who goes on about Bell’s false gospel and quoting Genesis 3 choose to ignore other Biblical passages, for example, those that go into how fellow followers should treat each other and address controversies, sins, and false teachings. We aren’t told to be screaming about it on the Internet, in social media and to the media… rather than to the person you believe to be in the wrong. VERY few people have actually spoken to Bell himself about it – which is what the Bible teaches. So are Piper, MacArthur, Chan, etc., etc., also false teachers who need to be called out, since they violate Jesus’ actual words as well? Something to think about…

    • TimeBender

      Your right…however 3 of those men are preaching the value of Jesus crucified…and one is calling into question if it needed to happen at all.
      If i had to choose a side….ehhh…

      • Cam MacMillan

        Sorry TimeBender, Bell has consistently over the 12 years he was at MHBC preached the value of Christ’s death and resurrection as historical events that changed human history. Do not conflate the issues addressed in Love Wins with the Gospel. If there’s a notion that Bell questioned the need for Jesus’ crucifixion/resurrection, let’s be clear – that’s never been up for grabs with Bell.

  • Glen

    Sadly, there are many views expressed in these comments that seem so hateful and self righteous. I have read Bell’s book. Though I do not agree with all of his views, there is room for him to question what we believe as Christians. I think questions challenge us to discover the truth behind what we believe and not just regurgitate some robotic answer.

    The truth behind the Gospel is about setting people free from sin. I know that many of Bell’s views are unorthodox, but I think his heart was in the right place. I think we have all made mistakes at one point in our lives.

    I would like to allow the Holy Spirit to work in Bell’s life and extend him the grace needed to discover the truth. None of us have a clear understanding of heaven and hell. In fact, it is because of the limited information in relation to other topic that some people feel they need to fill in the gaps. I think this is human nature.

    I know that Bell would like to eliminate the need for the final judgment. Love like that isn’t bad, even though it doesn’t fall in line with scripture. I think the bigger picture here is what Love is. Love allows us as Christians to accept people who have views that are not orthodox as well as those views that are anti-Christian.

    Christians are called to practice love in ways that are outside of our nature as human beings. If we are to follow the example set by Christ, we will be praying for those who suffer even if it is a result of their own choices. May God Love and forgive us all in spite of ourselves.

    • TimeBender

      Giving him the ABSOLUTE best bennefit of the doubt….

      You don’t question things like this from the pulpit authoritatively
      Even if it’s not done authoritatively…it’s seen as authoritative because he is the HEAD pastor.

      There is a time and a place for those questions and its for the people who are ready for “Meat”…not to be thrown at EVERYONE and to lead others astray who misunderstand.

      • Glen

        I would agree at the pastoral level. I am finishing my last couple terms for my MDiv. I have gotten use to challenges of the faith, and the growth that follows. I think on a purely academic level such questions are a useful tool. However, I do concede that on a pastoral level one has to be very careful not to lead people down the wrong path. Blessings :)

    • Ellis

      Unfortunately, love like that nullifies another attribute of God, his righteousness. (I won’t even address the question of truth.) Hence judgement and …you guessed it, HELL. Once we start rewriting scripture, qualifying it or interpreting it by standards other than …uh scripture, with input from the Holy Spirit, so that it fits in with a doctrine of our manufacture and purpose, you might as well discard it all and thereby God. Hence, concepts of scriptural inerrancy and divine inspiration. Provision was made for man to be brought into right relationship with God a very long time ago, in type and in it’s fulfillment in Jesus. Choices were made to be had. Grace was extended. Those are the mark of a loving God. But, as stated God is righteous as well, and sovereign, and Creator. He has an expressed means for bringing His to salvation and keeping them. And though it flies in the face with the thought that we should be able to come to Him on our terms, at least for some, such is not the case. Love is a wonderful thing, but without repentence and faith and the product of that faith, in terms of confession, verbally and by a changed life, there is no salvation, Rom 10: 9,10 among others. Why are so many so loath to accept that God says what He means and means what He says? 2 Tim 4: 3,4. When posited with a doctrine that is hard, like eating the flesh or drinking the blood of Christ, as were his followers in Jn 6 or the problems so many in our day have with issues like hell, it helps sometimes to reflect on who God is, in His entirety. Because, He is the one that will deal with us in eternity. Keeping that in mind, in conjunction with our own status as mere creature, loved but subject to, is hell such a reach? Remember this, in 2 Pet 3:9 KJV, the apostle writes:

      “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but
      is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all
      should come to repentance.”

      That would tend to indicate that if one does not repent, go through that whole believe/confess process that one would…well, er, perish. Hell?

      And on a lighter note your closing was apt, May God love and forgive us all..despite..’cause any righteousness any of us have is the product of Someone else’s grace and mercy. I take comfort that God glories in the fulfillment of all His word, whether it fits in with what we perceive to be desirable or not, now or with greater understanding, I pray, later.

  • peterhamm

    I have in fact read the book.

    If he was my pastor and he wrote that book, I’d leave the church over it, yes I would. And, for what it’s worth, I think all the rest of Bell’s books are quite good. But he has gone off the deep end.

    • Kieth Noll

      I think Rob Bell is right on!!! We say that God is love. Agape love. And your telling me that this God of Agape love is going to torture the lost forever and ever through out the ceaseless ages without end. Doesn’t sound to loving to me!

      How long will hellfire burn? The Bible teaches until the wicked are consumed. The Bible Speaks repeatedly of the destruction of the wicked. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

      The death referred to is “the second death” that is placed in contrast with everlasting life. See also Ps. 37:20; 2 Thess. 1:9. The fire of hell will turn them into ashes. “And the day that cometh shall burn them, saith the Lord of host, that it shall leave them neither root or branch… And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under teh soles of your feet.” Mal. 4:1-3 Sinners “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; Which is the second death.” Rev. 21:8. “yet a little while, and teh wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” They shall be as though they had not been.” Ps 37:10; Obad. 16. Sin will be eradicated-not perpetualted throughout eternity, and sinners will be destroyed – not given an eternal life of torment. See also Job 21:30; Ps 21:9; 37:9,10, 38; 68:2; 104:35; 145:20; Isa. 47:14; Ezek. 18:4, 20; 28:18,19; Nah. 1:9,10; Matt. 7:13; 10:28; 13:40; John 3:16; 2 Pet.3:9,10; Rev. 20:6,9,14.

      • Ellis

        You make a good argument for a two dimensional god, untrue to his own word, subject to the limitations of a finite mind that discards the bulk of those attributes
        commonly acknowledged as being characteristic of his person, by the orthodox community, for reason, and changable rather than immutable. For your sake, I hope that you have some concept of conviction by the Holy Spirit. But hey, you obviously have some awareness of what Scripture says. Normally, I would go for the gentle approach. Something tells me it would be ineffective. Thank Jesus for prayer.

        • Fernando Villegas

          “You make a good argument for a two dimensional god, untrue to his own word.”

          You’ve got to be joking, considering how much of God’s “own word” Keith referenced!

          You’re right. God is true to his word. And his word clearly shows that death is death (not life in perpetual torture), and that sin and sinners will one day be consumed.

          • Ellis

            God is loving, but He is Righteous as well. He does not tolerate perpetual, unrepentant sin. Jesus spoke more on the reality of hell, a place of eternal torment more and more authoritatively than anyone. If you are feeling lucky, why not just go out and buy a lottory ticket. One way or another heaven or hell, the soul lasts forever. If you want to consider scripture, you had better do so in its totality, “the whole counsel of God”. Half truths lead to…well, er… you know.

  • John Wolfe

    Here is an interesting question… If people go to hell when they die, why does Jesus say that we will receive our reward, whether death or life, when He returns the second time?

    • TimeBender

      Jesus also said to the thief next to him on the cross “Today we will be in paradise”.
      My opinion after connecting some basic dots….
      When you die, you go to “Sheol” or “Paradise” or Abraham’s Jesus referred to it.
      Then upon the second coming and Great throne judgement you get your reward.

      That’s my best stab at it…

      • Ellis

        Some orthodox western teaching had Jesus “set the captives free” from paradise, Abraham’s bosom, to go with Him to heaven, leaving those that were ultimately to be judged in Hades/Hell. When a believer dies he goes to heaven.

        One view suggests there will be three judgements. The Bema seat judgement, judgement seat of Christ for believers- think crowns to cast at His feet, the judging of the nations and finally, the great white throne for those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life, not the one you want
        That is not definitive, hope it helps.

      • Fernando Villegas

        “Jesus also said to the thief next to him on the cross ‘Today we will be in paradise'”.

        And yet, three days later, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus told Mary Magdalene that he had not yet ascended to his Father.

        So…how could the thief on the cross be with Jesus in paradise on Friday, if by Sunday Jesus had still not been in paradise?

        Given that, would not a more accurate translation of the Greek be: “Surely I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise”?

        And when would he receive the reward of being with Jesus in paradise? When Jesus himself said the reward would be given, when he returned.

        This seems like a much more natural and consistent interpretation of the relevant texts.

  • John Wolfe

    One more thought question… If Jesus died the second death for the saved, was that death eternal torment? If not, then what death dead Jesus die for us?

  • TimeBender

    “Working on a Talk show opportunity….”

    I can see it now…
    4pm-Pastor Rob
    5pm-Judge Judy

    That could be a epic disaster..

    Imagine this guy on a daytime talk show, preaching the “Love of God” with the Dr.Phil and Oprah “spin” on it.
    Sounds like him….eehhhh…Wait…Did i actually type that?

  • Brian

    Pray for the ability to intercede on Rob’s behalf and ask that God would encourage and convict by the power of the Holy Spirit. If he’s as lost as many are saying, he needs the same ernest prayers and unconditional love that your lost neighbor needs.
    Heresy should not be taken lightly and the need to restore the heretic in question shouldn’t be either.
    Concerning the three thousand: I hope many church plants result and that the lives of those believers involved will be better for it.

    • Ellis

      Hear, hear. Wise words my friend. And the right spirit.

  • Ty Bradley

    Good for Rob Bell. As usual, this kind of discussion separates people who view their Christian faith quite differently. One side views the other (if its not an oversimplification to reduce it to two sides in the first place) as being under-educated on the Bible because the inductive bible study/research process that orthodoxy encourages seems patently ignorant on its face to this crowd. To them (and I include myself in this “them”) any exploration of biblical Christian faith that gives a priori credence to tradition and orthodoxy before it even begins to rigorously examine the Bible and its subject matter is laughable, no less so just because a majority of Christians (or at least Christian leadership that gets to write the history of how Christians have thought) throughout history have held to that set of beliefs.

    The other side accuses the first of bringing secular humanist ideas into a discussion where they do not belong, out of a desire to square their Christian faith with what “seems” right to them as human beings rather than the hard facts of what the Bible “says.” They see these liberals as not only being in danger of not being Christians but of endangering the salvation of others as well. The Bible should be read with the end result in mind to this group. If what you read, no matter how much research and study you do, causes you to arrive at conclusions that are not accepted by the orthodox tradition that has remained more or less consistent since the time of Christ, then you need to abandon that thinking/reasoning and accept that there is nothing new under the sun. God’s sovereignty demands that we accept that God has preserved proper interpretation of Scripture over the 2000 years of building God’s church.

    The traditionalist side has much less problem calling the “liberal” side evil/sinner/heretic, etc than vice versa. They are very eager to vocally condemn those who dare to think differently than the mainstream about the Bible and what it “says.” Not so with the progressives, they tend to avoid name-calling. Even so, there is a definite unspoken (out of a desire to be polite and accepting of people’s differences) sense among them that reactionary, angry traditionalists are typically ignorant blow hards who, had they been raised with a different set of teachings as “traditional” and “orthodox” would be just as righteously indignant in defense of those alternative beliefs as they are with what they have been given. In other words they have checked their brains at the door and couldn’t formulate an authentic thought about biblical Christianity if they tried, precisely because they believe a deductive review of the Bible, its history and context is sacrilege and presumptuous.

    While recognizing that the traditionalist argument has merit, my bias is for the other side (which Im guessing is obvious). 95% of everything I believe about the Bible and Christian faith squares nicely with traditionalist/orthodox views. But, I am not about to shy away from those areas where my rigorous study of the Bible and its various interpretations has led me to conclude things to be true (or at least up for lively debate) that are decidedly opposed to traditionalist views any more than Martin Luther shied away when he was labeled a heretic for suggesting the Bible spoke differently than traditional orthodoxy maintained…certainly not just to avoid being called a hell-bound heretic by people who have no greater claim to determining what is biblically authoritative than I do.

    I don’t know if there is a “hell” where non-believers are going to be tortured eternally or not. I certainly hope there isn’t. What matters to me is that I was lost and in darkness until the Spirit of God lifted the scales from my eyes and the hardness of my heart. I was able to see that God’s desire to be in relationship with me was so strong that God became flesh and in the person and work of Jesus Christ did what I could not do, bridge the gap that existed between us. I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that Jesus is the Lord of all, Word become flesh, conqueror of death. Whether that saves me from “hell” that would otherwise be my fate, I’ll find out soon enough. I do know that it has saved me from a life of lost hopelessness, a life of living by the way of this world, striving against others in an endless and fruitless attempt to fill the void that only God could fill in my life. If, through His death, resurrection and accession Christ ultimately bridged the gap for all humanity, and that as all flesh bends knee and confesses He is Lord they are at the same time welcomed into eternity with God then no one would be happier than I. I don’t need people to burn in hell in order to make my salvation from a life of lost hopelessness truly mean something…it is more precious to me than anything else.

    • Dave

      I loved how you carried the progressive banner of respect for differences, and no “name calling” of those you disagree, except for those “checked their minds at the door” “ignorant blowhards.”

      • Cam MacMillan

        Mr. Patchin – is that what you took from that? Wow. Telling.

        @c92a78228fefb83c7eacc8137cabac4c:disqus , I think you captured the essence of Love Wins. Well said.

        • Dave

          Cam, I took many things away from the comment. I posted about what spoke the loudest to me.

          • Cam MacMillan

            I know – it spoke louder than a story of God changing a life.

            …forget the fact that he was merely saying there a perception among “liberals”.

          • Dave

            Ty was not “merely” saying that was the perception among liberals. His full post made clear those words were his view. He denigrated one group for “name calling” while simultaneously attacking and name calling those with whom he disagrees. They hypocrisy was blatant and undermined his story of “scales” falling from his eyes.

          • Cam MacMillan

            No Dave, you undermined it.

            He showed his cards at the start. He also used evil/sinner/heretic as words that are used to describe his camp.

  • Bill

    That’s disgusting! Does he not believe the word of Jesus? “In My Father’s house…..” and the “Rich Man” in hell?

  • Liliana Stahlberg

    Anything else other than “Love Wins” is heresy and practically tribal religion of cave men. Truth has never had too many adepts because people want to have a religion that tells them how good they are and how bad others are; most people are happy for others to go to hell; it is the level of thinking and feeling of an amoeba!

    • Ellis ’bout a belief system based on how bad we all are? With the exception of our Creator of course. You might check that one out Liliana.

  • Daniel

    Hell should be a stronger motivator to Christians to get busy sharing.

  • Lawrence Cameron

    “Poor history equal poor theology.” It is obvious from many of the comments just how poor the academics are among modern Christians. They say they embrace a Biblical worldview and yet they are ignorant of the influence of Greek philosophy and persian mysticism into the Church’s theology. Yeah for Rob who did his research and in a good and true Hebraic fashion raises questions, and not answers. Jesus was asked several questions. He answered them Hebraically; we other questions of a higher value. There is a real shortage of scholarship among the “Pop” churches today that profess they are Biblically sound. They might consider doing more research and less condemnation.

  • ServantHeart2012

    Not a huge fan of Rob Bell, but not a hater either. Haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. God’s word is sufficient for me. Good day.

  • Pastor Al

    Personally, I read the book and have no problems with anything he said. What I do have a problem with is the evangelical community branding someone a going to hell, heretic because they happen to not hold to the same doctrine as everyone else within the community. Good thing the government doesn’t allow burning at the stake anymore. Oh, by the way, Jesus had the same problem as Rob Bell: cf. John 6:66

  • Cam MacMillan

    @google-4c9debdcb474b31273bfffa5fabc8e4f:disqus – thank you for trying to bring balance to this discussion. Honest question to those who are labeling Bell as heretical: what’s your attitude toward NT Wright’s position on these same questions? Wright and Bell have very similar views and Wright is very hesitant to be as black and white on the literal, eternal damnation idea of hell as some of you seem to be. I’d like to have you come out and be as dismissive on Wright’s pastoral and scholarly record as you as with Bell.

    I’ve listened to Bell long before the book came out. Anyone trying to level an accusation that he’s soft on sin or any other point that is central to the Gospel (redemption, reconciliation, resurrection – note, if your Gospel needs a hell to make it compelling, it might not be the Gospel) simply hasn’t bothered to understand the whole of his theology before leveling condemnation. Love Wins addresses a particular topic and is not the totality of Bell’s work. Interesting that the first poster’s comment amounted to “I don’t have anything personal against Bell, but he’s eternally damned.” THAT’s the attitude Love Wins was trying to uncover in people who claim to follow Christ and continuously fall back on damnation. It was a classic “let those who have ears to hear” message. As far as I could tell, the book made no conclusion, which would be a fair complaint to make against Bell. It did, however, raise questions about what the church says about an all loving God, and what how it acts to in delivering that message. There has to be more discussion around the “traditional” Christian ideas of heaven and hell as being eternal spiritual reward and eternal spiritual punishment. Pagans believe that. Such ideas are as old as human existence and do not reflect an ancient Jewish understanding of the questions. Bottom line – hell is real, heaven is real – let’s get some accurate understandings of what that means for the Christian message.

  • AMOS8

    To what extent should we give credibility to the doctrines of (or even listen to) the person who believes the Bible is a NOT a “divine product” but is a “HUMAN PRODUCT”? This is the foundational belief of Rob Bell.

    In a lot of ways, this book is a red herring for his devotees and those who share a similar low view of the Word (liberals, pseudo-moderates, emergents, etc). “Love Wins” is merely a product of his view of Scripture. I am infinitely more troubled by his view of God’s Word and how he teaches it than this book.

  • Jeff

    There is problem here that is much bigger than Rob Bell and a book that is reflective of many things that others have said before such as C.S. Lewis. The problem with Love Wins is that Bell was a pastor held to a role of accountability and authority. Unlike Lewis who wrote as a respected scholar and public figure who never lead a group of people under church leadership. 3,000 people leaving a church is a problem for the church, who shepherded them? Mars Hill shouldn’t be Rob Bell’s church any more than the other Mars Hill is Mark Driscoll’s church. Mega church is a dangerous leadership problem for Christian communities. Multi-sites help a bit and small groups to some degree, but what we need are more community focused leaders and interdenominational accountability. Bell should have been passing the drafts of that book to people who would give counsel around before it was ever sent to a publisher. Those other leaders shouldn’t be yes-men and women under the glare of Bell’s fame. Criticism after the fact only divides the Church in the eyes of the world.

  • Dan Clemens

    A friend and I have been discussing LOVE WINS. I wanted to dislike it just from what I had read. I quit reading about chapter 4. A friend challenged me to read chapter 6. I was facinated by the telling of the Prodical Son story. My firend ended up saying about this article… “not sure the 3000 people read the
    book the same way i did…….i thought his premise was to focus on the saving
    grace of Christ now… that we don’t live in Hell down here……..and that
    the Christian life ought not be focused on fire insurance……and that none us
    should be so sure we understand God’s story for Heaven and Hell……”

  • AMOS8

    When does an inaccurate view of the Bible = accurate theology?

    “The Bible is a man-made product” = man-made theology!

    Yet people here are defending RB’s theology/view of Scripture as “What’s the big deal? He is just asking questions!” “He is just trying to be more balanced.” “He is seeking to find a more ‘forgiving’ religion.”

    Rob Bell is NOT the problem!

    [There are many, and there will always be many RB’s]

    The problem here is the people who defend RB and minimize attacks on Scripture.

    Those who compromise with those who compromise Scripture and the bigger danger and do more damage than false teachers.

  • DaveEkstrom

    The biggest problem to me is not whether hell exists but whether God’s word can be trusted on the matter. Bell’s exegetical method of different “stories” in the Bible is just so much equivocation. We start with what Scripture affirms and we go from there, where ever it may lead us. This is what faith is all about. A God who would exclude multitudes from heaven is very different from a God who couldn’t or wouldn’t. Which God is the true God? The God of the Bible or the God that makes you feel good?

  • truth Is truth

    We have to be very careful here. The supreme court is now looking at gay marriages, marijuana is legal in Washington State, hell is not real, heaven is too exclusive? What is going on people? Truth is truth is truth. Truth does not change with culture our our postmodern opinions. Let God be true and every man a liar.

  • Robert

    Heresy. At best.

  • Howard Wagler

    I believe that early on, Rob brought some great questions about how we are doing church these days. I pray for the leaders and folks at Mars Hill in Rob’s departure, and the departure of one of their teaching pastors Shane Hipps as well.

  • Ronnie

    I have been reading your comments on Rob Bell’s book, which I DID read and you have said everything I would have said and probably better.
    Grace bro.

  • Kaushal

    This was bound to happen. But feel pitty for him and his wife who are making themselves feel martyrs for what they believe to be true.

  • Mark

    What of the statements that seem to be a common thread in these comments is, “Is it wrong to ask questions?” What do you all mean when you use this statement? Is it asking questions for the purpose of discovering Truth? Or is it asking questions for the purpose of casting doubt upon the Truth?

  • sfdemo

    I read all these comments that there is no Hell does no one read revelations anymore!!

  • garoach

    You show a great ignorance in your comments. If you will take time to study the words translated “hell”, you will not find the connotations that are currently connected with them. The majority of the early church taught universal salvation through Jesus Christ. I will not waste time trying to convince you of this. I feel sure that would be an exercise in futility. The serious question I would like to pose to you and others who call this “heresy” is: Do you base your beliefs on a true exegesis of Scripture or on the traditions you have been taught and have unquestioningly have accepted. I feel I know the answer to that question, as I would once have argued as you do, but was forced to amend my beliefs after a year-long study attempting to disprove Christian Universalism. Instead of being so ready to condemn, perhaps you should follow Jesus’ COMMANDMENT (John 13:34) to love.

    Just so you don’t think this is an anonymous rant, I will include my email address.


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