Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bell's Hells (Part 2)

  • a person who holds religious beliefs in conflict with the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church
  • a person who holds unorthodox opinions in any field (not merely religion)

Oops! I guess that makes me one. I guess it makes anyone who is not Catholic one, too. In fact, I guess that everyone is a heretic at some point in their life. Nice to know it's an inclusive term...and also one that is relatively pointless to throw at others.

Well, this is the second part of my contribution to the whole mess that swirls around Rob Bell and his "Love Wins" book. I'll even post the same video that got the thing going on my FaceBook page. After that, I'm going to go on a rant about things I have observed on this whole issue. Yippy!

In case you're curious, here is a link to the first portion.

#1. The title of this clip is absurd. Claiming that "Pastor claims hell does not exist," and then having an interview in which the preacher talks about the very real existence of hell, is akin to someone saying that I deny the existence of baldness, and then having me talk about my own hair loss for 5 minutes.

#2. Rob Bell believes strongly in the existence of hell. My friend Dan Hay is still hogging my copy of Velvet Elvis, so I can't give you every page number. However, I do recall that on pages 147-149, Bell writes extensively about the existence of hell. Bell just happens to believe that both heaven & hell are not merely places you go to after you kick the bucket. Bell believes that they are also current and present realities that confront the living.

#3. In Velvet Elvis, Bell makes an interesting statement. He says that "Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is also full of forgiven people." This should lead the reader to a couple of thoughts:
A) Bell believes that on the cross, Jesus' sacrifice brought forgiveness to everyone. The only question is wether or not people will accept that. If they don't, well, they have hell to pay. (For the record, I don't agree with him. I believe that Christ has extended forgiveness to everyone. Either way, you get the same result.) B) Bell is an "Arminian" when it comes to the whole "Predestination VS. Free-Will" debate. And that brings up a very important point...

#4. The vast majority of people who go into seizures when Bell opens his mouth are "Calvinists"... and often some type of Dispensationalist, too. (Not that all Calvinists are anti-Bell) It seems that he more hard-core you are on that issue, the more likely you are to find Rob Bell infuriating. (John Piper being a prime example of that. He's so Hyper-Calvinist that John Calvin is probably to wishy-washy for him.)

#5. Every person brings their baggage to the table when thinking about Jesus. We need to admit & acknowledge that. It colors our view of scripture. Our little, finite brains love to try and figure out the infinite God of the Bible entirely. We get him down to a nice, easy formula, and then go into fits when someone else has a different formula...and then claim that the other guy doesn't believe in "Truth."

This brings up another issue...

#6. For the record, I want to state what, in my opinion, is the most important quote in the Bible. (Again, it's just my opinion.) "Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) That's a pretty absolute statement by Jesus. Not much there for wiggle room.

I'm willing to be flexible on a lot of theology. Personally, I find the whole Calvinist VS. Arminian debate to be completely ridiculous. It doesn't do much in helping me love my neighbor as myself, so who really cares? However, there is one area that I will never bend on, and that's the centrality of Jesus. I take him at his word when he said that he is the only way.

I want to be clear though. I'm talking about the Jesus of the four Gospels. NOT the Jesus of the Book of Mormon. NOT the Jesus of the fraudulent bible that the Jehovah's Witnesses use. NOT the Jesus of the Koran. And NOT the "Santa-Christ" Jesus of the "Name it & Claim it" money grubbers who have turned Jesus into a divine vending machine and/or genie. NO, just stick to the Gospels, thank you very much.

If you follow that Jesus, then you are my brother or sister. If you don't, then you are not. Simple as that.

#7. So let's say that you & I are on the same page, scripturally speaking, when it comes to the Jesus of the Gospels. Well then, I'm willing to listen to what you have to say. I may not agree with all of it, but you're still my brother/sister.

In fact, a story applies to this: You heard about the 4 blind guys who were asked to describe an elephant? One dude grabs an ear and says that an elephant is like a sail. Another grabs a leg and says that an elephant is like a tree. And so on it goes. Which one was right?

They all were.

Each dude brought their perspective on an elephant based on the experience and truth that they, in their own limited way, had learned. And so it is with the God of the Bible. So why all the fuss? Isn't there enough room at the table for a lot of expressions and experiences of Jesus?

#8. Rob Bell brings a lot of this grief on himself, and only has himself to blame. It would be handy if he would state plainly what he actually believes. He likes to ask a lot more questions than he likes to answer. (Still, I would say that there is place for that, too...even if it bugs me.)

Maybe he is falling into the mistake that a lot of famous preachers fall into. Maybe he likes the sound of his own voice. Maybe he likes controversy. Maybe he says things knowing full well that it will get people all worked up. If that's the case, then I'm disappointed in him. But he would hardly be the first to do so. (Try checking out the promotions for John MacArthur's new book, "Slave." He strikes me as a guy who really, really likes his own hype.)

"Conspiracy", my behind! :P

#9. If you don't know who Dr. Greg Bourgond is, shame on you. I said that I was willing to be flexible on a lot of stuff, and I will even go after...hopefully in a gentle way, others who I disagree with. But if you trash talk this guy in front of me, you better duck. (And I think that my book-hogging friend, Dan, would agree.)

You can check him out on your own.

Anyway, some time ago I asked him about Rob Bell. Dr. B told me that when it comes to Christian leaders, there are three basic types. Elephants = Billy Graham, Rick Warren. Guys who you pretty much know all about before they enter a room. Lions = Bill Hybles, John Piper, Benny Hinn. (OK, just kidding about that last fella) Guys who are hard-charging for God. Lizards = Rob Bell. Guys who can squeeze through the cracks in the wall to get in where no one else can.

Every single one of them is needed by the church, and used by God for his mysterious purposes. Without them, we would be missing parts of our body that we need to be whole. It hardly means that we have to agree on every single issue...but we all (Should) have a passionate love for the Jesus of the Gospels.

Pastor Scott at Living Waters told me that when Christians fight each other, Satan loves it. In fact, I would argue that this in-fighting is a nonsensical luxury that the American church has. Most of the Christians around the world either think that our behavior is stupid, or they are simply trying to survive the day from persecution. The American church has an unhealthy tendency to eat it's own. (I know that from personal experience.) We need to knock it off.

#10. Finally, a thought about Hell. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who actually LIKE the idea of Hell. They might not say it openly, but just do a little pushing and you'll see it. They like the idea of punishment for naughty people, because they assume that they won't end up there. They like the idea of secretly being able to judge others because their hands are clean of "That" particular sin. (I can say this because I am very guilty of it. I admit it.)

We want to see justice, and we should. But we should be rather careful about taking on the roll of God. Go back to Genesis 3. Trying to be God was what got us into this mess to begin with. Let God do his thing however and in what ever manner he chooses. Let's not beat each other up over things that could be discussed in a polite manner over a cup of coffee.

It's just a thought.



P.S. Here are some links to other blogs and articles that I find very informative. Enjoy. (I find this one to be particularly good, and it expresses how I feel about the big picture.)

This is the original blog post that got the whole stink going.

This was a great response to the post above.

P.S.S. My usual routine is to find a music video that helps illustrate the point I was writing about. In this case, I think I'll just have some fun. And since we're talking about Hell and such, well you'll get the joke...I hope.

Feel free to bang your head.



  1. I love you brother but I don't love Rob Bell. I'm not about to trash talk him but as I said on Facebook, I will just do without him. There are so many other great teachers out there that will lead me down a path of greater understanding God's word.

    I do have to say that I'm fairly excited about being mentioned, not just once, but twice in today's edition of Joe Conrad's talking points! WOOOT! Now, I'll just go dust off that copy of Velvet Elvis so that we can get together for coffee soon! Let me know! Otherwise I'll see you at Skogrand's party!

  2. You should love him Dan, just perhaps not everything he says or believes. He is still our Christian brother. But doing without him is fine. I don't gravitate towards all the christian thinkers out there either.

    While I disagree with some of Bell's stuff, I still think that "Everything is Spiritual" will go down as one of the best pieces of Christian Apologetics I have ever seen, and I've found it to be a very effective & useful tool for witnessing.