Calvary Church

4216 West 204th St, Matteson, IL – 708-481-8300
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  • Bell on Hell

       Pastor, author and world-wide speaker Rob Bell has published controversial new book entitled, Love Wins.  Preliminary reviews from folks who have probably not read the book indicate that Bell is now teaching universalism, the teaching that in the end, all folks are redeemed, with or without Christ.  In other words, Hell is and will always be empty.  Being familiar with Bell’s teaching style, I think that we need to wait to actually read the book before we critique any conclusions that he comes to.

       For example, suppose that Bell makes the charge that most of us don’t really believe that Hell exists as a place of eternal punishment for those who have refused grace.  If we actually believed in Hell, why are we not far more active in keeping people from going there?  If we really believed that our neighbors were lost and doomed without Christ, would we not seek to find ways to bring them to Christ?  If my co-workers as well as the students who sit before me at this very moment are doomed, what am I doing right now to seek their redemption?  Might not my lack of zeal in communicating the gospel be easily seen as a lack of belief in an actual Hell?

       I have watched a lot of the tsunami footage from the recent earthquake in Japan and find myself in awe of the terrible power of such a horrible disaster, beyond normal human comprehension.  The debris laden water just would not stop. 

       Some of the footage that I saw was taken just as the warning sirens were going off and the waters were already rising.  What if the one assigned to sound the alarm had been silent?  Would we not assume that he did not really think that disaster was on the rise? How terrible it would be if he was just too lazy to push the right button?  What if he had been fearful about peoples reaction to the alarm, that they might be angry with him for sounding it?   I would assume that the “alarmist” would have been acting on second hand information, based upon what he had been told because the alarms began half an hour before the waters began to rise.

       Other footage, filmed from a hillside, showed folks seeking to escape the deluge.  One who sought to escape was almost overtaken (as many were) but was helped by to escape as the flood reached out for her.  Her rescuers actually imperiled themselves as they helped her to get higher than the waters would reach.  They saw death coming and sought to keep others from it.

       Allow me to expand this further: Do we live like we believe in Heaven or Hell.  If we honestly evaluate our lives, would those who observe us conclude that we are assured that wither one exists?

       Colossians 3 begins like this:

     Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   

       Are we really living in such a way that our priorities are not ordered by the culture, the life-way that surrounds us?  Is our thinking influenced adequately by a perspective that this is not where life ends?  Would others say of us, “Christ is their life!”?

       If Bell is embracing universalism, then there is no longer any need for him to have any concern for reaching others for Christ, or even to be involved with any social-based outreach at all.  In the end, if universalism is valid, everyone’s eternal destiny is already set, so why should we bother to seek to be of godly influence?

       On one of his shorter videos ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQlDOP49J7Y ), he questions whether or not Ghandi is in Hell or not.  Is his question rhetorical or actual?  As the video progresses, Bell sets up an obvious “straw man” representation of what we need to be saved from.  This leads me to wonder what Bell is actually driving at. 

       Take a few moments and read through this article if you have internet access: http://in.christiantoday.com/articledir/print.htm?id=2837

       In understanding Ghandi’s rejection of what was presented to him as “Christianity,” Bell could well reason that Ghandi “accepted” Christ, but rejected “Christianity”.  Is Bell actually confronting what he sees as a complete loss of the centrality of the Christian effort; to actually represent the person and work of Jesus in its totality rather than these cultural dilutions that we profess to be the Truth?  Is he concerned that Hell has become a central theme of what is often proclaimed rather than Jesus and the ultimate love that is found in him.

       Having read Bell’s work, I am not certain where he stands on a number of issues.  He hopes for a near-universalistic outcome but will not state that everyone in the end makes it into the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ.  Even though I believe he holds that most folks, even after death, turn to the love of God, he tirelessly seeks to proclaim the love of God incarnate in Christ.

       I disagree with Bell’s assessment on a number of Biblical fronts and fully believe that wide is the path that leads to destruction and most take that road.  There is also the narrow path that leads to life found only by a relative few. 

       Why is Bell so passionate about telling others about Christ, especially by deed, while I can be so passionless about it?  He seems to hold that God’s love will win almost all in the end, while I hold that they are senseless to God’s passion for them and are lost after this life unless I tell/show them.

       What does the way I live say about my belief regarding other’s eternal estate?

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