Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Go to Hell

No, I don't want anyone reading this to go to Hell; not figuratively or literally. I just couldn't think of a clever blog title, and I knew this would get some attention. I guess it was inevitable. With all the talk about Rob Bell's new book and the theology of Hell, I have been asked by several people exactly what my opinion is on Rob Bell and Hell in general. So, I'm going to very briefly state my opinions on both and then don't plan on addressing it anymore. Personally, I think that most of the discussion on this issue is simply bandwagon jumping, in my opinion. When controversy comes along, it seems that everyone feels compelled to be a part of it. Regardless of your opinions of Bell and your beliefs on Hell, this issue has caused unjustified division in Christian circles. Without even attempting to understand where Bell is coming from, many well intended Christian leaders have attacked him with anger, criticism and in my opinion, flat out hatred. The Kingdom of God is no place for this kind of disunity, and if we took the time to listen, discuss and understand each other, we might find that we don't have such opposing beliefs. Surely not in the realms of heresy.

I'm basing this blog on the video posted below of MSNBC's host, Martin Bashir, interview Rob Bell about his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I encourage to read my thoughts and then give the video a look. A friend of mine asked my opinion on it, so this is my point of reference for the purposes of this blog. The first thing that catches my attention is how the media become devout followers of Christ when it benefits them most. In most cases, the media present themselves as antagonistic, angry and basically ignorant toward Christianity. In this case, Bashir seems to think he is a theologian, rather than the usual bias talking head. So, immediately I don't feel that there is much creditability in this interview.

Allegedly, Bell is being accused of being a Universalist, a theological doctrine that believes that all people will eventually be saved and go to Heaven, even after death. Hence, the Universalist typically does not believe in Hell and hold to the view that many different paths will lead to eternal salvation. Regardless of Rob Bell's beliefs, which I do not think are Universalist in nature, Bashir immediately tries to pigeon hole him and basically attacks him, rather than listening and understanding where he is coming from. I cannot say that I've read his book yet, but will after all the hysteria fades away. But from what I've heard, reading Bell's previous books and knowing something of Bell's theology, I think people are twisting his beliefs before understanding. Basically, what I believe Bell is doing is calling people to focus on the love of Christ FIRST and being urging people to be compelled by that only. Rather than scaring people into the Kingdom of God, Bell is choosing to see the opposite and brighter side of the spectrum. As for what happens to people who are "apparently" not believers, what he is saying is that none of know for sure, and it's not for us to judge. I believe that 100%. God is God and God will do what He wants with the eternal destination of their souls and their individual spiritual journeys. What Bell seems to be saying is that most Christians jump to assumptions, almost with joy, when someone dies and from an outward perspective, never accepted the truths of Christ. Why is it that we do this? If Hell is real, which I believe it is in a very real way, why is that usually our best selling point? If the God is love, and we show people love, we are in essence showing them God and that He alone has the power to save someones soul. In my opinion, when the Gospel is presented in it's pure form, without selfish motivations, it ultimately overshadows the reality of Hell.

It ultimately comes down to one thing and one thing only. We are NOT God. We don't save, judge or condemn anyone. As followers of Christ, we are called to present the truths of Christ, how our lives are transformed and different and love people unconditionally. God alone deals with the afterlife. I have chosen to leave that in His hands and believe that He gives EVERYONE equal opportunity to be with Him in eternity. None of know what happens to a person spiritually just before they leave this world. None of know what factors have developed over their lives. None of us know what seeds of truth have been planted possibly many years ago and have been left dormant. None of know what hurts and suffering people carry with them from the past. And nor of us know how God chooses to intervene, or not intervene just before a person crosses over to the afterlife, especially those who have never heard the truths of Jesus Christ. Let's leave all that up to God and show people why following Christ is a better alternative, regardless of eternal outcomes. Or do we really believe that it is? To me, that's a more sobering thought than the realty of Hell.


Christopher said...

I attended Becki's Nooma class this summer and my Lifegroup is currently working through some of these videos. Myself... I like Rob Bell and how he approaches his Biblical teachings. What disturbs me about this video is that it appears to be a witch hunt.
Even after being asked the same question twice, and giving the same answer twice, Rob is asked the exact same question a third time. This makes me feel like the interviewer is saying "No... I don't like your answer... it doesn't fit where I want to go... so I'll ask again..."
I agree that it appears that the interviewer is 'cherry picking' some of the most harshest comments, and most theologically complicated, and using that as his ammunition. Even if Rob could have answered every answer 'correctly', I don't know if the interviewer would have understood it deeply enough to understand it. (And some of the answers would take a long time to fully explain too...) I don't believe you can distill God and Christianity into a series of clean 'IF-THEN' statements like an introductory logic class in college. (And yes, I AM a scientist, so I AM speaking in my area here). Whether you agree with Rob in part, in whole, or not at all, this is no easy area. Just like there are countless numbers of 'apparent' contradictions in the Bible (rich man=heaven is to passage=eye of needle) I firmly believe that there are truths out there that are not attainable to human understanding.... but they are still the truth none the less. Yes there is a God. No, I am not Him. Therefore, I am OK in not understanding everything... but that doesn't stop me from trying to understand Him more and more every day. Some people don't like it when God doesn't fit into their little 'god-shaped box' they have.... and that's the problem. We're human and we should stop trying to put the eternal God into a finite man-made definition.(sigh...)
No, I haven't yet read the book. Yes, I probably will. I look forward to hearing what others have to say on this.

Kristin said...

Thank you,Jake for linking us to this video. Our group is one of those that have been using the Nooma videos so we are somewhat familiar with Rob Bells and his philosophies.
I, like Jake and Chris think there is a lot out there that we do just need to leave up to God. We do not understand Him or know all of his ways, but we need to just keep looking. If we are searching for the truth, and God is the truth we will find God. And not everyone will find Him on the same path. We as Christian leaders need to let God work even when we don't know what is happening.
I will definitely look into this book

Robb Vasquez said...

Very nice, JKamps.

reformedlostboy said...


this is presicely how I responded to the critics before the book's release. Now that it has made some rounds it is clear that Rob is unapologetically promoting false teaching. There have been numerous reviews done by trusted teachers that go deep into Love Wins and expose the problems. I recommend that if any plan to read this book they would prepare themselves with discernment before sitting at Rob Bell's feet. Some reviewers I would recommend are: Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Russel Moore, and Al Mohler. After reading some of their responses you'll have a pretty good flavor for why they came out so strong before the book's release.