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Category Archives: ROB BELL

“FAREWELL, ROB BELL”: A BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO LOVE WINS — SOON TO BE RELEASED (Part 3)

Rob Bell’s book,  Love Wins:  A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, raises many questions about God’s justice, love, and greatness.  He quite obviously believes “the old, old story” about Jesus and the need to believe in Him in this life is not the biblical story and is, in fact, toxic.  My book, “FAREWELL, ROB BELL”: A BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO LOVE WINS, challenges Bell’s theology.

I’ve called Bell a representative of the “new universalists.”  Universalism says that allwithout exception will be saved, even if it takes eons for God to “persuade” them to believe.  No one will be eternally lost.

I am amazed that someone as respected as Eugene Peterson would say that “Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination [about heaven] — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”  Peterson, the author of The Message, believes that Evangelicals need to reconsider their doctrine of eternal punishment and that Bell is a voice worth listening to.

I suggested that three questions occur to me in light of Bell’s advocating post-mortem (after death) opportunities to believe the gospel.  The first question was: Does Bell’s position not make “decisions” for Christ irrelevant in this life?  The second question was:  What is the biblical evidence that opportunities for believing the gospel will be given in the post-mortem state?

The third question that occurs to me is:  How does Bell explain the imperative of missions and evangelism as commanded by Jesus and practiced by the Early Church?  Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus as giving marching orders to His disciples:

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It sure sounds to me that Jesus is serious about getting the gospel out now, to the whole world, and promises His presence to the very end of the age.

Discussion Questions:  If there will be innumerable opportunities in the after-death state to believe the gospel, does this not rob missions and evangelism of their imperative?  How might this perspective be a variation of the devil’s original “You shall not surely die!” of Gen. 3?

 

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“FAREWELL, ROB BELL”: A BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO LOVE WINS — SOON TO BE RELEASED (PART 2)

My book, due out soon from Amazon, is a refutation of the new universalism presented by Rob Bell in his best-selling book, Love Wins:  A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011).

Bell’s position is that death does not end all opportunities for salvation, that God will use as much of eternity to turn the screws tighter and tighter until all hearts are melted and all are brought into God’s family.

I said yesterday that three questions occur to me.  We looked at the first question:  Does that position not make “decisions” for Christ irrelevant in this life?  In his response to interviewer Martin Breshir, it seemed that Bell HAD to say that faith in Christ in this life is absolutely essential, immensely important.  But he did not explain why.

Our second question is this:

2.  What is the biblical evidence that opportunities for believing the gospel will be given in the post-mortem (after death) state?  Does Scripture not indicate that “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Heb. 9:27-28)?   A number of passages indicate that the WORSE thing a human being could possibly do is to die unprepared to meet God!  Jesus indicates this in Luke 13:15 by essentially saying, “Life is dangerous.  Be ready to meet God!”  He also teaches the same by the story of the foolish farmer who is in his LazyBoy recliner pouring over John Deere tractors as he prepares to tear down his old barns to build bigger ones.  He hears a voice, the very voice of God, which says, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).

As I’ve tried to show in my book The Other Side of the Good News, there is no biblical evidence that salvation will be available to any beyond the grave.  Where’s Bell’s evidence of his position?

Discussion questions:  The idea of post-mortem opportunities for conversion is necessary in the universalist’s theology.  Why is this the case?  If Bell is wrong — and I believe he is — what difference should this make in our sharing the Good News about Jesus with others?

 

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“FAREWELL, ROB BELL”: A BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO LOVE WINS (BOOK AVAILABLE SOON ON AMAZON.COM)

In several days I hope to have my short book entitled

“Farewell, Rob Bell”:  A Biblical Response to Love Wins

available on Amazon.com.  As much as I appreciate you Christian publishers out there (I’ve written for about five of you), I’ve decided to make my work available through Amazon’s “Create Space” medium.

This is a print-on-demand work and I’ll do my best to keep the cost low. You will be able to order a paperback copy at a modest price.

Some Christian workers may not have the time to read Love Wins, so my book is intended to provide brief, biblical responses to some of the key issues he raises.

Here’s a sample from the first page:



 

“Please do not panic — but you must remain in your seats!  We are in control of this aircraft now and no one will get hurt if you do exactly as you are told.  This plane is being hijacked!”

Imagine how you would react if you were a passenger on that airplane.  How much worse would you feel if you realized you were one of the hijackers?  A hijacker puts the lives of others in grave danger, attempting to take control of that which does not belong to him.

According to Rob Bell in Love Wins:  A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011), if you are an Evangelical Christian, you are a theological hijacker of the Jesus story.  And all Evangelicals are guilty of replacing that story with one that consigns the majority of the human race to hell.  Bell believes that the very idea that billions will suffer eternally isn’t a very good story, minimizes the greatness of God, and is, well, to use his word, toxic.  So, Mr. or Mrs. Toxic Evangelical Hijacker, how do you feel?

 

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A LITTLE BIT OF SARCASM: PIPER NEEDS NO DEFENDING!

In all the hub-bub about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, a number of us Bible-thumping, Jesus-story-hijacking, toxic Evangelicals have responded with virtual tomes of refutation.  Bell raises significant questions (350 of them by one person’s count!) and has a clear agenda of trying to prove that the traditional view of eternal conscious punishment should be replaced by a much better story.

Frankly, I think Pastor John Piper might have had the best response when he simply tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell!”  Piper has been castigated for “dismissing Bell from the Evangelical fold.”  I think Bell did that quite well by himself.  Doug Pagitt criticized Piper for such a dismissive comment.  Some of us were castigated for criticizing Bell’s book before it was

"See ya', Rob."

released (the promo video was quite incendiary).   Pagitt skewers Piper for his tweet, accusing him of threatening all young Evangelicals of the penalty of following Bell!

Frankly, I’m going to side with Piper on this one.  Sarcasm can be either hurtful or therapeutic!  Sarcasm has a long tradition in the Scriptures (see the many OT texts which mock idolatry), and is used by the Lord Jesus on several occasions.

Sarcasm might bring someone to their senses, a verbal cup of cold water

thrown in the face as it were.  It might seem like pepper spray, but “peppered by Piper in the puss” might shock one back into Scriptural reality!

Discussion Questions:  What do you think?  Was Piper’s dismissive comment about Rob Bell well-intentioned sarcasm?  Wouldn’t it be GREAT if Dr. Piper responded to this blog with his explanation and comments?!

 
 

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A Bell-Free Blog: What the Resurrection of Jesus Means to Me

“The resurrection is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.”  Today is resurrection Sunday.  What difference should the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ make in my life?

I understand that the early believers did not greet each other by reciting recent sports scores, but by one of them saying, “He is RISEN!”   And the other responding, “He is risen INDEED!”  But why do we hear so few sermons on Christ’s resurrection during the year — and it seems to be the only theme on a Sunday like today?

Paul’s treatise on Christ’s resurrection in I Corinthians 15 is well-known.  That document alone demolishes foolish views like the disciples stole the body, or Jesus’ resurrection appearances were merely hallucinations, or the disciples went to the wrong tomb on that Easter morn.

“He’s risen in MY heart!”

I Corinthians 15 shoots down the silly notion that what really matters is that “Jesus lives in my heart” (which even the Jesus seminar member Marcus Borg says!).  Robert Funk, Borg’s predecessor, stated that the bodily resurrection of Jesus didn’t happen and that the body was most likely eaten by dogs.

Jesus’ bodily resurrection demonstrates the Father’s approval of the Son’s work, proves that Jesus kept His word about “taking back His life again,” and guarantees our own resurrections (for those who have trusted Him as Savior).   The evidences of the “almost-empty” tomb (the graveclothes were left), the resurrection appearances, and the bold preaching of the disciples in the very city in which their Master was executed reminds us that we have good and sufficient reasons to believe the Gospel — even at the

THE ALMOST EMPTY TOMB

cost of our own lives!

Discussion Questions:  Why is the resurrection of Jesus important to YOU?  If you really believe He rose from the dead, what differences should that make in your life and mine?

 

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Questions Evangelicals Need to Work on in Light of “Love Wins”

Friends:

This vimeo is of the luncheon we had at Columbia International University after my talk (April 7, 2011) in chapel on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.”  By my count — but I’m a preacher so numbers tend to be exaggerated — there were about 90-100 students who attended and there was some lively discussion on the questions I (and others) raised.

I will post two vimeos here.  The first is of our luncheon talk; the second (which was posted on this blog earlier) is of the chapel message.  The luncheon vimeo was recorded with my Shih Tzu Scrabble by my side.  His picture is here and you can hear him grunt approval of what I am saying.  If some of you want to record your grunts of approval — or disapproval — please feel free to do so!

Discussion Questions:  What issues are raised in this vimeo that you would put at the top of the list for Evangelicals to work on?  What makes those issues so important?

Luncheon discussion after chapel talk:

Chapel message on “Love Wins”:

 

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My CIU Chapel Message on Rob Bell’s Book “Love Wins”

Friends:

Here is a 19-minute video of the message I gave at Columbia International University’s chapel this past Thursday (April 7th).  A good number of students came to the open luncheon afterwards and we had some good discussion, especially concerning theological areas we Evangelicals need to focus on.  I’ll post that list in my next blog.

Always interested in your comments.

Discussion Question:  What is the place of public debate on theological issues?  What steps can church leaders and churches take to correct false teachers, especially if their leaders support them?


 

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My Review of Rob Bell’s “LOVE WINS”

Friends:

Please click on the link below for my review.  Always glad to get your comments.

REVIEW OF LOVE WINS PDF

 

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IF ROB BELL IS NOT A HERETIC, I OWE HIM A BIG APOLOGY

I’ve called for Rob Bell to publicly repent of his universalism.  That call was not done prematurely.  I’ve listened to his full book (twice) on audio and am now reading the physical book itself.

I will be posting serial blogs as I work my way through the book.  I welcome comments because the issue of Evangelical Christianity versus universalism could not be greater!

My Comments on the jacket blurbs and Bell’s Preface:

Eugene  Peterson, a respected scholar and author of The Message, wrote a blurb for the book that says, “It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”  We will devote a future blog on that last statement: “. . . and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”

One jacket blurb asks:  “What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches?”  Let me remind us that the crux of the issue is not personalities, but biblical teaching.

Several comments on his Preface:

Bell begins his book with the statement: “Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us.” (vii)  (It’s quite an interesting study to look at verses in which Jesus says why He came, such as Mt. 5:17; 10:34-35; Mk. 1:38; Lk. 12:49; Jn. 5:43; 6:38; 8:42; 9:39; 10:10; 12:46.   These certainly teach much more than the idea that “Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us.”)  Of course God’s love for us was a paramount topic for Jesus, but was it “first and foremost”?  How about coming to do the Father’s will? . . .  Was His purpose primarily about US?

Please don’t miss Bell’s clear statements that “Jesus’s story has been hijacked by a number of other stories, stories [that] . . . have nothing to do with what he came to do.  The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.” (vii-viii).  If I understand Bell up to this point, I’m being told that I have missed the whole point of Jesus’s coming, I’ve lost the plot of His story, and, worse than that, I’ve hijacked His story with my own.  Hmmm.  Could a mere human like you or me do something worse than that?

He says he’s written his book “for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, ‘I would never be a part of that.’” (viii).  [I think for many of us, when by God’s grace we begin to understand our sin and the price Jesus paid to redeem us, our response would be:  “I could never have a part in that!”]

Ummm.  I think I’m a part of that. Because the “that” that’s he referring to is the viewpoint known as eternal conscious punishment.

Bell says, “You are not alone.  There are millions of us.” (viii).   This argument has sometimes been called an argumentum ad populum (an argument from the perspective of “if many believe so, it is so”).  This argument has also been called, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, argument by consensus, authority of the many, and the  bandwagon fallacy.  It’s nice to be able to say that one is not alone in what one feels, but the popularity of a position has no bearing on the truthfulness of that position.

Bell lays his cards on the table and says that “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better.” (viii).  The emotive words “a staggering number” and “a select few Christians” and “no chance for anything better” leads one to respond:  “Yeah!  And they’ve been duped! And what kind of God would be that stingy and preferential and . . . and . . . stubborn and unmerciful?!”

He then points out that this belief is so central for many Christians that to reject it is to reject Jesus.  How ought we to respond to that?  Bell says, “This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (viii).

Okay.  So I’ve hijacked the Jesus story and the story I give as His story is misguided and toxic and subversive.  I just want to understand where I stand.

Bell concludes his Preface by saying “My hope is that this [discussion] frees you.”  Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.”  Only truth frees.  If Bell is wrong in his attack on what Evangelicals have been preaching, then the result will not be freedom, but slavery to something other than truth.

One last comment on Bell’s Preface:  He states clearly that “nothing in this book hasn’t been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me. . . . That’s the beauty of the historic, orthodox Christian faith.” (x).  He is identifying his teaching with the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  As we continue interacting with his subsequent chapters, we must ask, “Is he right?”

 

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A Public Call for Rob Bell to Repent

Pastor Bell, in light of what you have hinted at in your previous writing (Velvet Elvis), and have now made quite clear in your present work (Love Wins), you have joined a long-standing heretical movement called universalism.  You profess that you and your church hold to Evangelical 

Pastor Bell, is Christianity the exclusive way to God?

Orthodoxy, but the facts are otherwise.  Your challenges to the wider Evangelical population to care about lost people encourage us to stand strong for the gospel, but you have departed from the faith once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints (Jude 3).

I appeal to you and to the spiritual leadership of Mars Hill Church to abandon the heresy of universalism and make your repentance public.

Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 speaks of “savage wolves” who “will not spare the flock.”  He further says, “even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

It seems clear that you have embraced a kind of “Evangelical” universalism advocated by false teachers like Philip Gulley, Thomas Talbott, Carlton Pearson, Gregory MacDonald (pseudonym of one of the leaders of the

These are rejoicing over your message, Pastor Bell.

“Evangelical universalists”), and apparently my friend of 40 years ago, Brian McLaren.

Please sincerely consider this challenge to repent and turn away from your error.  There are many Evangelicals who are praying that you will do just that.

Sincerely.

Larry Dixon

Columbia International University Seminary & School of Missions

Columbia, SC

 

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