[anzac] WHAT's WRONG with ROB BELL's GOSPEL?

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From: "REVIVAL List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2011 19:47:14 +1000
-by J. Lee Grady.

The popular author’s controversial book 'Love Wins' celebrates
God's love but drifts dangerously into Universalism.

I'm usually quick to speak my mind. But in the case of Rob Bell's
controversial book Love Wins, I've withheld comment until now
because (1) I don't think Christians should judge books before
reading them; (2) the theological issues addressed require careful
analysis; and (3) I have many young friends who are fans of Bell's
books, and they may write me off if I don't treat him fairly.

So I'll begin with a compliment. Bell is a masterful writer whose
prose is poetic. As pastor of the 7,000-member Mars Hill Bible
Church in Michigan, Bell has gained a following because of his
casual style, his ultra-cool Nooma videos and the previous books
he's released with Christian publisher Zondervan (especially Velvet Elvis).

With Love Wins, he's taking his message mainstream.
HarperCollins published it, and Time magazine featured a cover
story in April about the firestorm Bell has triggered among
conservative Christian leaders who have accused him of heresy.
So what's all the fuss about?

Bell's core theme is that Christians have been too narrow in their
view of God and His mercy. He argues that God loves people too
much to banish them to hell. In the end, he says, after this life is
over, everybody will find ultimate reconciliation in Christ. Bell
claims this is what the Bible teaches, and he suggests that
Christian theologians have promoted the idea for centuries.

He writes: "At the center of the Christian tradition ... have been a
number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever and
love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God."

That sounds a lot like Universalism, the idea that all spiritual paths
ultimately lead to heaven. But pinning the Universalist label on Bell
isn't easy because he doesn't write authoritatively. He muses, hints,
speculates and suggests his views, so not to offend. Rather than
preach with conviction, he invites his readers to a "conversation." It
feels friendly and non-confrontational.

Near the end of the book Bell sounds solidly evangelical when he
emphasizes that people must receive the grace God has offered to
us. But he sounds more like Oprah when he asks: "Has God
created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are
going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow
this, and claim to be a loving God?"

I can appreciate Bell's desire to distance himself from the
mean-spirited side of American fundamentalism. Young people
today are horrified (so am I) by self-righteous, Bible-toting believers
who burn Qurans or spew hatred toward immigrants or
homosexuals. Bell despises the "turn or burn" attitude that has
made Christians look judgmental. He also believes we've trivialized
salvation by turning conversion into a formulaic prayer, and by
focusing the Christian life on the idea of "getting into heaven." I
agree with him on those points.

But Bell is also guilty of trivializing salvation. He writes about an
ooey-gooey God of love but leaves out God's justice and holiness.
His gospel, at times, sounds squishy and spineless. You can't
correct the abuses of fundamentalism by disregarding the severe
side of God's nature. You can't bring balance by swinging the
pendulum too far the other way.

Because of Bell's popularity, Love Wins could steer the American
church into dangerous waters. You can ignore the book if you want,
but you can't ignore the fact that younger Christians are turned off
by certain attitudes in the church, and they need solid answers.
We must address the key doctrinal issues that Bell raises:

1. The reality of hell. Bell downplays Scriptural support for the
existence of hell while admitting that Jesus talked about it more
than anyone in the New Testament. At times he suggests that hell
is just a state of mind, or maybe a manifestation of evil on earth.
He also questions whether God would send anyone to hell since
He's so forgiving.

Yet when the apostle Paul preached the gospel he warned of "the
judgment to come" (Acts 24:25, NASB). The essence of the
gospel is that Jesus came to save us from eternal separation from
God. Don't we still believe this?

2. The exclusivity of Christianity. Bell makes a strong case that
Jesus died to reconcile all people to God, but then he suggests
that not everyone will realize it was Jesus they were praying to.
The inference is that Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists will show up in
heaven since they were responding to a divine impulse they didn't

If that's true, why did Jesus Himself say the road to salvation was
exclusively narrow and the road to destruction was wide? (see
Matt. 7:13-14). Why did He command us to take the message of
salvation to the nations? Why did the early apostles preach that
salvation was only in His name? Were they narrow-minded
fundamentalists too?

3. The necessity of evangelism. Bell comes close to ridiculing
Christians who share their faith, and he wonders if it's really
necessary for missionaries to share the gospel abroad. He asks:
"If our salvation... is dependent on others bringing the message to
us--teaching us, showing us--what happens if they don't do their
part? What if the missionary gets a flat tire?"

I'm sure Bell gets laughs when he repeats that line in a sermon.
But it's really not funny. He's suggesting that there's no urgency
about preaching the gospel, and that lives aren't at stake when we
ignore our responsibility to evangelize. Tell that to the apostle Paul,
who wasn't laughing when he said he felt an overwhelming
obligation to preach so he could save sinners (see Rom. 1:14).

Bell says he asked Jesus into his heart when he was a child, so
I'm treating him as a brother in Christ. I'm not picking a fight with
him. But I can't endorse Love Wins. The doctrines of heaven, hell,
salvation and damnation are too serious to be treated haphazardly.
May the Lord help us to reclaim a truly New Testament gospel in
an hour of spiritual compromise.

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