In a new book, Love Wins, Rob Bell appears to come out in favor of universalism, the view that all without exception will be saved. The Bells were featured in a November 2004 Christianity Today issue on the Emergent Church. Readers may be aware of Bell’s flirtation with universalism. On pages 151-152 of Velvet Elvis (2006) Rob tells the story of a stranger paying his bill for him at a restaurant. The waitress told him he had nothing to pay because it had already been paid. “My acceptance of what [the waitress] said gave me a choice: to live like it was true or to create my own reality in which the bill was not paid.” Here’s his explanation:
“This is our invitation. To trust that we don’t owe anything. To trust that something is already true about us, something has already been done, something has been there all along. To trust that grace pays the bill” (p. 152).
One blogger says, “This illustration is not Biblical. Rob’s illustration paints a reality where everyone is already forgiven (universalism) and whether you believe it or not, you owe nothing. But this is not Biblical. The Biblical teaching is that we are all guilty – we all owe a bill we can’t afford, and can never afford, and only if we repent and put our faith in Christ, essentially throwing ourselves at Jesus’ mercy, then and only then our bill is paid. But Rob teaches that our sin debt is already paid whether we believe it or not; whether we confess our sins or not; whether we repent or not.”
Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition has read some advance chapters and you can read his blog here.
Watch this video by Bell advertising his book and tell me what you think!
For any of you who follow my blog, my book The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell, might be helpful.
Discussion Questions: How would you prove that universalism is a heresy? What steps should be taken with Bell, do you think?