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James K.A. Smith:

The question, then, is just what compels one to be an evangelical universalist? Some resort to prooftexting, operating with a naive, selective reading of Scripture. I’m going to do the evangelical universalist a favor and ignore such a strategy, only because I think it can be so easily refuted. (Many of these evangelical universalists would pounce on such selective prooftexting in other contexts.)

No, the motivation for evangelical universalism is not really a close reading of the Bible’s claims about eternity. Instead, it seems that the macro-motivation for evangelical universalism is less a text and more a hermeneutic, a kind of “sensibility” about the very nature of God as “love” (which includes its own implicit sensibility about the nature of love). Two phrases you will often hear from evangelical universalists involve hope and our imagination. (For a sample combination of this constellation of concerns, see Lauren Winner’s essay on Rob Bell in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review.) The concern is often formulated something like this:

1) “I can’t imagine” that a God of love would condemn Gandhi to hell. (Always Gandhi. Why Gandhi? As Ross Douthat asks, can you insert Tony Soprano here? Doesn’t the evangelical universalist case of Gandhi imply a kind of salvation by works? But I digress…) Or, as Winner puts it, evangelical universalists “can’t imagine their secular friends aren’t going to heaven.”

2) “I don’t know if all will be saved but I hope this will be true.” I’m firmly committed to the particularity of Christ, the evangelical universalist will emphasize. I just hope that God’s salvation is not so particular that he only saves some. And it is precisely God’s love and mercy that make me hope in this way.The question then is: are these hopes and imaginings sufficiently warranted to overturn the received, orthodox doctrines concerning final judgment and eternal damnation? Are these sufficient to overturn the narrative thrust of Scripture and the clearer reading of biblical passages that suggest otherwise?

Read the rest for a thoughtful response.

And for those continuing to follow the Rob Bell discussion, here is a radio debate/discussion between Bell and Adrian Warnock. From what I’ve been able to hear thus far, they get into quite a few issues and Adrian handles himself quite well.

Update: For those who want a book-length response to Bell, Michael Wittmer has published the first (though I’m sure not last).


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Comments:


47 thoughts on “Can Hope Be Wrong? On the New Universalists”

  1. Justin Ennis says:

    In the parenthetical statement on item 1 he says, “Always Gandhi. Why Gandhi? As Ross Douthat asks, can you insert Tony Soprano here? Doesn’t the evangelical universalist case of Gandhi imply a kind of salvation by works?” YES! I think this is not a digression but is absolutely critical. It is not “a kind of salvation by works” but is exactly salvation by works because of the supporting question in the background. When Bell asks, “Gandhi’s in hell? He is?” the question he has chosen to ask is fundamentally a question based on our beliefs about Gandhi’s works. If he had instead chosen Hitler the background question would have been the same but his question wouldn’t have had its desired effects because Hitler’s works are not Gandhi’s works. So the core premise is salvation by works. As with all salvation by works, it leads to a frightening conclusion if it is thought about enough. If Gandhi is in heaven then I can’t get there because I am not doing the good works of Gandhi. I am depending on the blood of Christ because I don’t have the works of Gandhi to fall back on.

    1. Billy Liu says:

      I don’t think the main issue is really about Gandhi’s good works. I don’t think Rob Bell believes Gandhi is in heaven for sure. We can similarly use Hitler or Tony Soprano as examples. How do you know for sure where will those kind of guys end up? They could have repented and accepted Christ somewhere along the line, right? Point is only God knows. So unless God informed you… If you are really prophet and has special revelation from God, that’s fine… then you can know for sure where they end up. Otherwise, fact is that we don’t know for sure. We will only know where we will end up!

      Even as so called ‘Christians’, how do you know if you’re a sheep or a goat? Of course I do hope that I’m not one of the goats who Christ would end up telling me to go away! For sure a lot of ‘Christians’ will be surprised by the fact that Jesus won’t know them when he returns. (So based on that, you can tell that I’m not an Universalist.)

      I don’t wish to side with anyone, but I’m kinda tired of all the Rob Bell bashing. If Rob Bell is going to hell, let Jesus make that final determination. If you say ‘farewell’ too soon to someone and then end up seeing that person in heaven or perhaps in hell, wouldn’t that be kinda embarrassing? ;)

      Clearly there are mis-communications…, folks here kept on calling Bell an Universalist, but Bell consistently claims that he’s not! So who should I believe? Just based on Bell’s book title along, I do believe God does universally loves everyone. I do believe God/Love can win. No argument there. If Jesus’ gonna send Bell to hell, hey, who am I to argue with my Lord? If Jesus accepts Bell in heaven, hey, I’d be happy to see him in heaven. Universalist or not, it’s irrelevant to me. What’s more relevant is whether or not we are truly the kind of ‘Christians’ that Christ wants us to be.

      1. If this were true, then Rob Bell would have made his point better using Hitler rather than Gandhi.

        People call Bell a universalist because of what he teaches despite what he claims to the contrary. It like if I were to say, “I don’t believe in the Regulative Principle, but we really shouldn’t worship in any way not prescribed by the Bible.”

        1. Billy Liu says:

          Some folks might then say, ‘if Hitler is in heaven, that I’m not going!”

          Or if you insist that somebody like Gandhi is absolutely for sure in hell, then some might also find God to be mean and they don’t want to goto heaven to such a mean God!

          No matter what we say, people can always find issues with it.

          With God’s Word, people can also often times interpret it differently too. Hence we now have a gazillion different Christian denominations. Who’s right who’s wrong? The point is, only Lord knows. None of us can know for sure for we are not God. We can only give and do the best we know how based on our understanding. God knows our hearts. I kinda doubt God is the kind of God who uses a legalistic rule book to judge us. Or if you get certain theological doctrine wrong… then it’s hell you’ll go! God’s thinking is way beyond ours.

          How God judged Gandhi or Hitler?

          Jn21:22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

          1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

            If God said, “If I send Hitler, Gandhi, and Rob Bell to Hell, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

            I’d still follow God.

            1. Billy Liu says:

              Amen. Wherever Gandhi is is for sure irrelevant.

              What more important is indeed for us to follow Christ.

              I have no problem with God telling me Gandhi is in hell.

              I only have a problem when people start to claim that so and so are in hell. How can this be known? Are you God? Or have you been to hell and back?

              If Gandhi stubbornly denies Christ, for sure he will perish in hell. No argument there. But my point is we don’t know that for sure what happened. We’re not God. We’re not Gandhi. We haven’t been to hell and back. One simply cannot say with absolute certainty where Gandhi is now.

              1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                “One simply cannot say with absolute certainty where Gandhi is now.”

                I have no problem with people who say something like, “I can’t say the following with absolute certainty, but with a high degree of confidence in God’s Word, Gandhi is in Hell.”

              2. Billy Liu says:

                The issue isn’t about God’s Word at all. We all can say amen to that. If Gandhi stubbornly rejects God to the end, no doubt he will be in hell. No argument there.

                The gospel, the good news, on the other hand, gives sinners the chance to repent, to respond to God. If Gandhi or Hitler genuinely repented in their heart and God sees it, then of course things could change for them. It’s how people respond in their hearts that makes the end results high dynamic and unpredictable.

                Even for Calvinists who believe God has predestined certain folks for hell…, even if that were the case, we still don’t know who God has predestined who to where, right? Point is we’re not God! We just don’t know.

                The best ‘prediction’ we can make is for ourselves… for we can see our own hearts. I can sing all the praises I want in church, but if continue to refuse to do what my Lord calls me to do, then I have high degree of confidence, based on God’s Word, that I’ll probably be sent to hell along with the rest of the unrepentant sinners.

                Now, to explore this further, what about aborted babies or young children? How about the mentally illed/challenged? People suffering from dementia? What about some of those tribal people or anyone who honestly just don’t know or don’t understand what the gospel is all about? Are you pretty confident that God will send all of them to hell?

  2. Phil says:

    Hope is like a gun that can destroy or can defend.
    It’s like a knife that cuts so well it even cuts your hand.
    Like a jackpot from the lotto stealing dollars every day
    Or a gentle kiss of promise that can easily betray.

    Hope has disappointed me and hope has seen me through.
    Hope has left me wondering and shown me what to do.
    Hope has guided, and misguided with no trace of doubt.
    And hope has led me off the path and hope has brought me out.

    I’ve stared at hope until I saw the whites of its own eyes.
    I’ve seen its raging promise stifle doubt and swallow lies.
    I’ve watched it’s wounded body writhe and fight to hold its course.
    I’ve seen it breathe its last and die to leave a rotting corpse.

    I’ve been right there when hope endured and character appeared.
    I’ve seen hope shoulder heavy loads and wipe away a tear.
    I’ve been the one to hope through night—awaiting my next breath.
    I’ve also witnessed hope transcend the certainty of death.

    Hope fuels the soul like nothing else, relentlessly pursuing
    Whatever course it’s set upon, its good or its undoing.
    Hope cannot be trusted though—it takes you for a ride
    But hope endures forever when truth is on its side.

  3. Leslie Jebaraj says:

    Guess many has not read Gandhi’s lastest biography, Great Souls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Soul:_Mahatma_Gandhi_and_His_Struggle_With_India

  4. I think Smith astutely moves the discussion straight to an issue of hermeneutics, but at the same time, he seems to out of hand dismiss all evangelical universalist exegesis as a result of their framework. I think more examination of their framework’s undergirding and exegesis is necessary to make such a broad move. I would say that for sure his post applies to Rob Bell, well, because his work is exegetically weak. However, some of the other evangelical universalists, such as Nik Ansell, Thomas Talbott, and Robin Parry offer much more substantive arguments. I’d love to see some of the Reformed thinkers deal with these rather than continuing to set up Rob Bell as a straw man, because he is easily refuted. Beginning to deal with these thinkers and their exegesis will move the discussion along on a much deeper level. At any rate, if anyone is interested, I’m offering some thoughts on my blog about Smith’s post in the next few days.

    1. Jon Coutts says:

      Hear hear Randy.

      1. Jon-

        How much longer will you be at Aberdeen? I’ll be there this Fall to work with Webster (unless he decides to boot me to Greggs since I want to focus on herm. and universalism).

    2. TJ says:

      Randy, The reformed guys are not responding to Rob Bell because he is the low hanging fruit on the evangelical universalist tree, or a straw man as you say, they are responding to him because of the massive popularity of his book. Scholarly treatments of these subjects do trickle down into the pews, but Bells book is more dangerous precisely because it is being read on such a popular level. The bottom line is Bell is going after the sheep, not the shepherds.

      1. Fair enough TJ. I would still want to say that Smith’s critique is not handling the real issues involved in evangelical universalism, namely the exegetical work that is somewhat laid out by Bell. The reason I point forward to other universalists is that they have actually engaged in the exegetical work that Bell attempts to build off of with little success in my opinion. I think Bell fails to build on this work because his purpose is more to raise the issue for others to discuss than to offer any substantive answers (as aside and a hopeful vocational theologian someday, I don’t know that I am completely comfortable with this method). And this is again why I would like to see Reformed pastors/theologians deal with the thinkers (Parry/Talbott/Jersak/Ansell/Greggs) behind the thinker (Bell).

  5. Jose says:

    Does it bother anyone else that so many (like the last two comments) use these good blogs to advertise their own sloppy works?

    Any way to limit this self-promotion?

    1. Jose-

      Sloppy works? I am not self-promoting any more than the original post about the whole Rob Bell fiasco here was (the very first post pre-book is what I’m referring to), but simply calling for discussion. And well, I’m not going to clog Justin’s comments up with my long-winded response to Smith. So, actually, I’m trying to be a good steward of his blog and comments section.

      Further, my brother in Christ, I’m actually pursuing a PhD focusing on the topic of universalism and hermeneutics in a British school with one of the best systematic theology programs in the world. So, be careful how you use the word sloppy. Just because you don’t agree with someone’s views and thoughts doesn’t mean you call them sloppy. I too am a Reformed, evangelical theologian who is attempting to think generously through these issues. I simply want to drive this discussion deeper. Is there any harm in that?

      1. Jose says:

        only that you need to hear yourself talk and that you need a platform.

  6. Ron Francis says:

    There is great insight into this issue looking at it in this context. After reading the Smith post, I could not help but recall how in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian not only has a desire to get the great burden of Sin off his back at the Cross, and to progress the narrow path to Heaven, but also keeps a great concern and desire that his wife and children would be able to join him.

    It seems true that we all do have great desire for this end. But as the discussion shows if we give up on the teaching found in the Bible where will we turn to go to for this life?

    Just read John 6:60-69 for a powerful insight on this.

  7. Nicolas says:

    I’m glad that, at least, a better understanding of Biblical universalism is starting to be grasped.

    I just want to share with you how the conclusion to the whole Bible has a very universalist ring to it all — a hope that (in the words of Isaac Watts) “… if any criminal in Hell shall be found making a sincere repentance, I cannot but think that the perfections of God will contrive a way of escape …”

    Throughout the book of Revelation, the “Kings of the Earth” and their “Nations” have been the enemies of Christ and the Church (6:15, 11:2, 17:2 &18, 18:3 & 9 & 23, 19:15 & 19). In chapter 19:19-21 they are destroyed and presumably end up in the Lake of Fire.

    And yet, in Rev. 21:24-26 these former wicked Kings of the Earth and their Nations appear in the New Jerusalem! Note that both terms are used together, here, and are clearly the very same “Kings of the earth” and “nations” frequently mentioned earlier in the book. They come in through those ever-open gates — and the leaves of the tree of life (we are told) are “for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2).

    In Rev 22:14 there is the seventh and last of the seven benedictions in Revelation, giving a completeness to the message. It describes a process of post mortem conversion, with washing robes, healing from the leaves and entry in through the ever-open gates of the New Jerusalem.

    As if that wasn’t enough, Rev. 22:17 has the Spirit and the Bride inviting the thirsty to receive the water of life without price. Note that in Revelation, the term “Bride” has only been used of the Church Triumphant, not the Church of this world. They are calling and inviting … whom? Well, who else is there but those outside the New Jerusalem in the Lake of Fire? No wonder they are referred to as the thirsty!

    Indeed, the wicked and impenitent cannot enter the New Jerusalem, as it repeatedly says (21:27, 22:15). But the post mortem process goes on, inviting the thirsty. There is indeed “Hope beyond Hell”. The Bible allows us to cherish such a hope, and pray that it can be very successful, if not completely successful.

    This is the wonderful message of hope in the Bible which should inspire us with love and praise. Far from killing evangelism, it fires us with confidence and love.

    Nicolas.

    1. Thomas says:

      Nicolas,
      It would seem to me that an interpretation of Rev 22:14-17 would not infer a postmortem experience except that of John. The angel shows him these things, the vision of the New Jerusalem concluding in verse 5. The angel is very much present in the closing verses of Revelation, however, the vision of the future has concluded. The Spirit and Bride are beckoning to those who might read the words of John and know their King who rules that wonderful land.

      As for Rev 21:24-27, would it not stand to reason that if there are wicked kings and nations, there are also good kings and nations who honor the one true King? Could it possibly be that they are the ones who walk by the light of the lamp which is the Lamb? Or perhaps it means they simply forfeit their “glory” which is now found in the New Jerusalem. They themselves aren’t there, but the glory they always sought was found completely in submitting to Christ the Lamb.

      Please don’t misunderstand me as throwing you under the bus. I’m just trying to understand where this line of thinking comes from if Jesus very clearly tells stories of some being left out of the Kingdom eternally. Grace and peace, bro.

      Thomas

      1. Nicolas says:

        Thomas,

        Thank you for your gracious reply. I’ll just add a few more short explanations, not to convert any body, but at least to share how Evangelical Universalists understand it.

        The Greek phrases for “the nations” (ta ethne) and “the kings of the earth” (hoi basileis tes ges) all through Revelation are exactly the same as used in Rev 21:24. For a quick check, compare 18:3 and 21:24 which both have both terms together. It would be very odd if St. John the Divine were to suddenly change the meaning of these words here at 21:24 without any warning.
        In his commentary, Robert H Mounce quotes Glasson’s comment that the words “the nations” and “the kings of the earth” are not entirely appropriate. He also quotes Rist that John has failed to modify them to suit his own views.
        I don’t think we need to be so negative! Let’s just take John at his word.

        I know what you mean about the heavenly vision ending at 22:5. But then the whole book seems to run in circles with each additional cycle adding more information. In fact one circle seems to end with a strong universalist note at the end of ch 5. Another ends that way with 15:4. And so the whole book in ch. 22.

        So it seems quite normal for there to be another dip back into the vision at 22:14. And it’s interesting that while the saints of this age(7:14)have washed their robes, those in the vision of the age to come (22:14) are washing their robes (present continuous).

        I admit that it’s not always easy to see where the cycles begin and end, but I feel what I’ve shared is right.

        re your comment “Jesus very clearly tells stories of some being left out of the Kingdom eternally.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the difficulty surrounding the NT word “eternal”. The word aionios is an adjective of the word aion (an age). Like many others, I take the adjective as describing the age to come — telling us not the length of time (how long) but the quality of heaven (what kind). And so the eternal punishment and eternal life of Matt 25:46 give us no length of time information at all, only that these are things of God’s divine plan in the age to come.

        Enough of me — God bless us all. We depend on it! Happy Easter.

        1. Thomas says:

          Thanks for the reply, Nicholas. I agree aion is used as a qualifier, but to qualify the length of time. In “Love Wins,” Bell implies that Jesus uses aion in saying both “this age” and “the age to come” in Luke 18. But Luke uses the Greek words kairos “this age” and aion “the age to come.” It definitely speaks to the quality of time, but in relationship to the previous time period. Kairos has a beginning and end. Aion is qualitatively different in a quantitative regard having a beginning and no end. I would venture that the word would have multiple layers of richness to the original readers that would point to both quality and quantity of time. It seems the tension around aion centers on some saying it’s strictly quantitative and others saying it’s strictly qualitative. Can’t it be both?

          I hope you had a blessed Easter! He is risen indeed!

    2. PaulE says:

      It seems to me that the Spirit and the bride in Revelation 22:17 are calling “Come!” to the one who in verse 12 says “Look, I am coming soon!” and again in verse 20, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

      1. Nicolas says:

        thanks ! If “him who hears” (17b)is Jesus … ?

        I’m wondering if the present active participle of verse 14
        “those who wash”
        isn’t the same as the present active participles of verse 17
        “he who hears”
        and
        “he who desires”
        — in other words, that this is talking about the same people.

        The only other present active participles between these two verses are in verse 15 describing those “outside” the city who are loving and practicing falsehood — ie also those in the future vision.

        1. PaulE says:

          Sorry, I should have gone further in my exegesis, especially since I realized afterwards that you connected the invitation to living water to the call to come.

          I don’t think “him who hears” is Jesus. John prophesies that the Spirit and the bride call “Come!” to Jesus. Then John begins to invite others into this choir. He invites those who hear his prophecy (Revelation) to join the Spirit and the bride in saying “Come!” I understand it like this because in the following verse he is warning “everyone who hears” and then references “this book”. The rest of verse 17 is a continuation of that invitation, and I think in this light the thirst/living water picture is much more easily connected to John 4 than to the lake of fire.

          I do think you’re right in connecting “those who wash” to a degree to “he who hears”. Jesus sent his angel (vs 16) with the words of the prophecy (Revelation), to call the hearers/readers to wash their robes before he comes that they might enter the gates and eat rather than being shut “outside”. John is extending the same invitation to receive living water, to join those who eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return.

          By the way, thanks for sharing your own insights. Definitely looking more into this “cyclical” pattern you describe.

          1. Nicolas says:

            Indeed, the wicked and impenitent cannot enter the New Jerusalem, as it repeatedly says (21:27, 22:15). But the post mortem process goes on, inviting the thirsty. The process goes on inviting whosoever will (Rev 22:17). It’s with this understanding that I see Matt 7:31ff as talking about part of a process, not God’s final solution.

    3. Jose says:

      Your argument does not hold up. Rev 22 makes it clear people remain outside the kingdom.
      Note also Matt 7:13ff. Few find life, not all. Most head to destruction.

      1. Jose-

        Could at least add something of substance with your comments rather than simply being dismissive? At least state your position, rather than outright denigrating people. That isn’t helpful to anyone. In fact, it is clearly failing to follow the commands in Scripture to love one another; Christ even tells us to love our enemies. So, either way, if you consider those who disagree with you, your enemy, then you must love them. As evangelicals, we must start being loving in the way we are handling criticism of one another. People are noticing.

        One of my close friends attends a liberal seminary, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and the topic of Love Wins has entered their classrooms. Not because the theology is anything they would struggle with and thus need to talk about it, but because of the way evangelicals are handling themselves. My friend said he left class ashamed and disheartened because his witness as an evangelical was greatly tarnished by those amongst us who could not handle themselves properly when having tough conversations.

        I’m not calling for sappy, sentimental love and grace towards Bell, but tough love. Tough love still has an element of love in it! We need to learn to balance justice and love better in the Reformed movement, letting grace flow through our critiques, especially those of fellow evangelicals.

        1. Michael Smith says:

          Thank you brother Boswell for allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to show Himself through you in your words. I also agree with your earlier comment in the thread that there is better cases made for Evangelical Universalism, Trinitarian Universalism, Christian Universalism, Universal Reconciliation, or whatever one wants to call this view. Out of the ones you mentioned, I am familiar with Robin Parry, a.k.a. Gregory Macdonald, author of The Evangelical Universalist, and have read a little of Thomas Talbott. They are both excellent. I recommend another excellent resource and that is Dr. Richard Beck’s blog series on Universalism at his blog entitled Experimental Theology. Just scroll down the page and you will see the series link on the right side of the page. I too would love to see people thoughtfully interact with the best cases and do so in a manner that wonderfully displays our Triune King! Thank you again brother.

  8. Open 24 Hours says:

    I am amazed at the moment with just how the collapse of American supremacy parallels and coincides with the collapse of American christianity.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      I’m not amazed.

      It makes perfect sense to me.

  9. Barry says:

    James K.A. Smith is a theologian I greatly respect so it’s good to hear this thoughts on the blog because they often offer a fresh, yet sound, perspective.

    Thanks JT.

  10. John Cherry says:

    heres a video addressing the Rob Bell controversy and universalist claims. called Jesus Wins

  11. Daryl Little says:

    I’d like to go on record, contra Bell’s assertions…that I don’t hope that he’s right.
    I don’t hope that everyone will end up in heaven. What I hope for, is that everyone repents. Although, I don’t really even hope for that, the Bible says they won’t so how can I legitimately hope for that.

    I hope that God saves all of His elect. And that no one the God is after gets missed. I hope that because hope does not disappoint.

    I think it’s sinful to hope for something the Bible tells us won’t happen. To hope like that is to put forward the possibility
    that God needs to rethink things.

    I certainly don’t hope for that.

    1. Jon Coutts says:

      Daryl: For the record, if you read Bell’s book you see that his hope is the same as yours: ‘that everyone repents’. But where you see the Bible saying you can’t legitimately hope for it, Bell does, and finds plenty of passages to support that reading. He may be wrong, but I’m not sure the hope itself is sinful.

  12. “I don’t know if all will be saved but I hope this will be true.”

    I can grant this: it is good to yearn for the salvation of everyone we know although we know that not all will be saved. In the common vernacular, it may be okay for Bell to use the word “hope”. But Biblical hope is one of knowledge. Our hope is in Christ, for example, not out of some lack of assurance, but because we know that He is true to His promise. Given this, Rob Bell doesn’t seem to espouse much of what he knows, but rather meanders around those things that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know, for example, whether Gandhi is in heaven or not and this is supposed to make some sort of point. This is why his theology isn’t very substantial.

  13. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “If Gandhi stubbornly rejects God to the end, no doubt he will be in hell.”

    I’m pretty confident you’re right, Billy Liu!

  14. Gary says:

    I find the following interesting. So many who condemn Bell also adamantly believe the following three things: a) babies are born as sinners. b) sinners must come to Christ in repentance and faith, to be saved. c) all babies who die go to Heaven.

    How do those three points go together? Where does scripture support an “age of accountability?” I think the answer is that we simply want to be believe in a God who would not send any babies to hell, so that’s what we believe. But isn’t that the same line of thinking that Bell is using? Why are we safely in the fold while Bell is a heretic, for using the same line of reasoning?

    1. Billy Liu says:

      Such faulty logic cannot really be called ‘reasoning’! ;)

      I think the main point is that none of us are saved due to any ‘reasons’.

      It’s all by God’s grace(and thru our faith) that we’re saved. Now, for those who have little or no faith because of young age and mental incapacity or for those who haven’t heard of the good news, God will judge them accordingly. I don’t believe we’re called by God to judge them, but to simply spread the good news to them and to love them.

      God is love. Love is good. Love will definitely win just as good will always triumph over evil. I haven’t really read Bell’s book yet, but I really don’t see what’s the big deal about it.

    2. So, let me get this straight:

      Premise 1: If some people believe these three things and also condemn Rob Bell, then Rob Bell is above reproach.
      Premise 2: Some people believe these three things and also condemn Rob Bell.
      Conclusion: Therefore, Rob Bell is above reproach.

      Is this what you are saying?

      1. Gary says:

        What I’m saying is that you can’t criticize someone for using the same line of reasoning that you yourself use.

        1. So who on here were you responding to that has expressed that line of reasoning?

  15. Gary says:

    Also, I meant to ask, can someone tell me the page number in Bell’s book where Bell claims that all will go to Heaven?

    1. To be sure, I haven’t read the book. I don’t want to waste my time. Everything I’ve heard seems to indicate that it is a rehearsal of some things that Rob Bell doesn’t know. I did watch the interview with his publisher and I can say that he didn’t say anything he seemed certain about there.

      So the evidence I have is that Rob Bell doesn’t teach much of anything in the book except by implication. If he implies anything, then it’s universalism. The only reason he doesn’t come right out and say it it seems is because he also wants to deny it. If he isn’t implying universalism, then he isn’t implying anything – and he therefore really isn’t teaching anything. So why write a meaningless book? Much more, why read a meaningless book?

      1. Gary says:

        It’s really quite sad what you wrote. How can so many who have never read the book condemn it? For all of the calls of heresy that I’ve heard, I only know two people who have read the book. Full disclosure here, I have not read it either. But then again, I’m not criticizing it. To both of my friends who read the book, I asked them to tell me where in the book Bell claims that all will go to Heaven. Both friends told me they can’t find any such claim in the book. I posed that same question here and all I get are the sounds of crickets chirping.

        1. I trust the opinion of those like JT who have read the book who have demonstrated themselves over time to be thoughtful and biblicaly discerning. As I said, I have also watched the interview with his publisher. if that didn’t properly characterize the book, then what was the point of the interview? If his response to the question of his universalistic tendencies isn’t central to his thinking with regard to what he’s saying in the book, then what is he saying? If he says anything it’s “I don’t know anything and neither do you.”

          Well, in this world we can’t absolutely know the particular salvation of individuals other than ourselves, but we can
          discern the salvation of some others within reason. We have to be able to. Otherwise, we have no basis for functioning withing the Body of Christ, the existence and purpose of which is clearly revealed in scripture. We know for certain the principles of salvation from the scripture. What I see Rob bell teaching is only those things we can’t know (we can’t know if other people are saved) as though we need to deny some things we can know for sure (1. God is absolutely sovereign; 2. God provides all things, including our faith; and possibly by implication: 3. some people are going to hell) by using an argument not taught in the Bible (God loves us so much that He leaves us up to our own devices). That’s a formula for heresy. If Bell taught something different in the Bible, then why didn’t he clear things up then? After all, he knew people would read his book and come out with, “Oh! So that’s what Rob Bell was really trying to say. Well, that’s what he told us in that interview after all.” This rather than, “What? That’s not what Rob Bell said in that interview. He’s not terribly consistent, is he?” I’ve heard the former rather than the latter.

          And for what it’s worth, if I condemn the book, it’s for the teaching therein. If Bell doesn’t teach in his book what those who have read it say he teaches, which I have heard directly from him in the interview, then the book is fine. But what the teaching he espoused in the interview with regard to the book, I reject.

          What’s interesting is that you seem to be condemning people who have read the book. How can you condemn them where they have read the book and you have not? You would actually go against the teaching that Bell espouses in the interview.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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