A lot has already been said about Rob Bell and his forthcoming book, LOVE WINS.
Let’s take one more look at the words to his promo video and ask a few questions:
“Several years ago we had an art show at our church and people brought in all kinds of sculptures and paintings, and they put them on display. And there was this one piece that had a quote from Ghandi in it. And lots of people found this piece compelling. They’d stop and sort of stare at it and take it in and reflect on it. But not everyone found it that compelling. Somewhere in the course of the art show, somebody attached a handwritten note to the piece and on the note they had written: ‘Reality check. He’s in hell!’ Ghandi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure? And felt the need to let the rest of us know? Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case — how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe, or what you say, or what you do, or who you know, or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or baptized or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these ‘few’? And then there is the question behind the questions. The real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets suddenly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be ‘good news’? This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, ‘Why would I ever want to be a part of that?’ See, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising unexpectantly beautiful that whatever we’ve been told or taught, the Good News is actually better than that! Better than we could ever imagine. The Good News is that LOVE WINS!”
Here are several questions that occur to me:
1. Are all these questions a tempest in a teacup, or, better stated, a ruckus over rhetorical questions? Questions do teach, raise doubts, suggest possibilities, challenge the status quo, make other positions look foolish or cruel. Questions are not innocent. As an excellent communicator, Rob Bell knows this.
2. Should Christian leaders not strive to be above reproach? Why has Rob Bell not come out clearly and said, “Friends, I am not a universalist. Never have been. Never hope to be.” His silence certainly stirs up anticipation for his book’s release, but is silence a biblical stance to take or not take when one’s orthodoxy is questioned?
3. The obvious question is: Is universalism a heresy? If Bell is a universalist, should he be defrocked (kicked out of the ministry)? Should the spiritual leaders of his church take action against their pastor for his supposed heterodoxy?
4. What does universalism do to the gospel? Does it not eviscerate it? Is it not an insult to the atoning work of Christ? Although Scripture says that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked — and neither should we — should we all jump on the universalist bandwagon? What gets sacrificed if we do?
Discussion Questions: How can you prove from the Scriptures that universalism is a heresy? What advice would you give Rob Bell’s elders or spiritual leaders right now?