Tag Archives: hell

Thoughts on Rob Bell (final part).

This is a sampling of what you find when you do a Google Image Search for “Love Wins.” 

Seriously, I didn’t expect to be so inspired by the sheer variety of representations of such a simple phrase. 

I just thought I was going to add some pretty pictures to my last (for now) Rob Bell-related post…. but the sheer number of ways “Love Wins” is re-cast, having inspired people to do so?  What can I say?  I’m moved by a Google search. 

It’s not just lip service that Rob Bell pays:  The simple message of “Love Wins” (as contradictory as Peter Rollins might find it) is clearly a compelling one, especially to post-Christians, the “de-churched,” or those jaded to institutional Christianity.  It strikes a nerve. 

rollins tweet love others win


It’s too bad that we have spent so much time… (for me, I have spent four blog posts, now)…. talking about hell and the implications for various Christian ideological/cultural parties… when we could have been discussing the simple appeal of the message—that I believe comes from something deeper than what some are accusing as the modern world’s need to “water down” the Gospel.

It’s the desire to affirm that love is the supreme attribute of God and the primary life-characteristic of the faithful (1 John 4:8, 16; 1 Corinthians 13:13).

It’s a desire to see the power of love in action, even in a world full of violence—a power to which Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, Martin Niemoller, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi and now our brothers and sisters in Egypt, have testified. [At the cross, God Himself testified to that power, in defiance of the Roman juggernaut… and demonstrated how pitifully powerless the worst of human violence was, when it came into contact with His outstanding, out-lasting, out-of-this-world love.]

It’s saying that God wins, to say that love wins. 

For God is Love. 

And God’s desire?  That the world might be reconciled to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).   Our desires line up with God’s, when we long for the earth to be renewed, for heaven to come to earth.

“But wait!”  you might say. 

“Don’t God’s love and God’s justice have to balance each other?”


         It’s called mercy for a reason, after all.  Undeserved.

         And if that were the case, why doesn’t the Bible have balancing passages that say “God is justice?”  Seems like it would, were it an equal component of God’s character to His love.

No, we understand God’s justice through the context of God’s love.   God will hold us accountable for how we have wronged each other; He will make things right again, as the Righteous Judge, and settle accounts between every oppressor and every oppressed. [How He does this, however, is not for us to speculate.]

Earthly parents give consequences for broken rules, but if they lock children in their room forever, that would be considered unadulterated child abuse.  (Never mind if they set that room on fire!) Loving parents enact consequences, but they also forgive relentlessly, time and time again, without limit.  Is the love of parents greater than God’s love? 

This message?  That God’s love will dry up eventually, so get on board while you can?  Doesn’t strike me as good news.

Am I a universalist?  No.  (Course, I don’t think Rob is, either.)

Do I probably agree with Rob?  Don’t know until I read the book; based on interviews and reviews, I’m guessing that I’ll agree with 90% of him, at least. 

I say what I do above about God’s love for the purpose of highlighting the inherently scandalous nature of love, not to take a theological position.  I don’t have the answers. But within the huge range of possibilities of the nuances we highlight regarding our beliefs about heaven and hell, can we at least maybe, at least try, perhaps just once, pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top, let that AMAZING RADICALITY OF GOD’S GRACE AND LOVE, AND THE CONQUERING OF SIN AND DEATH BY A DRAMATIC LOVE-ACT OF GOD HIMSELF, SETTLE INTO OUR HEARTS…. and chew on it for a while? 

Speaking of Egypt— While Evangelical Christianity is wetting its pants over Rob Bell, there’s a WHOLE lot going on in the world.

Stuff that Christians, who claim to serve a GOD OF LOVE, should be VERY concerned about. 

Read this, if you haven’t already, regarding this sad fact.

Rather than spew vitriol, which is a testimony to some other God other than the Crucified One which we follow…

Perhaps we should instead testify to the God of Love.  You can start right now by giving to the Adventure Project.  Then give to the Red Cross for Japan and Libya.  Then learn more, speak out more, get in the ears of your leaders for the sake of the voiceless more, sit with the poor and hurting and get to know their names more, pray more, listen more, and celebrate more. 

That’s what “Love Winning” looks like. 

Christ on Earth.  In You. 

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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in justice, love, theology


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Thoughts on Rob Bell (part three).


What view of Revelation 20-22 do you take?


This whole Rob Bell debacle seem to be basically about competing Bible interpretations [Again, still waiting on my copy… so all these posts could be completely off-base.] It’s not even about who interprets the Bible more literally than the other… it’s really about a) which verses you pick to be representative of what the vague terminologies about hell actually mean, and b) as I said in yesterday’s post (perhaps a bit too casually), whether or not you take the images of atonement in the Old and New Testaments and try to blend them all into one singular event, or if you are okay with saying that atonement happened in a variety of ways.

The (b) on this list deserves a more thorough explanation—and since atonement is one of my FAVORITE theological subjects [yes, I am a nerd.   And I don’t know nearly as much as I act like I do.  I’m a know-it-all nerd.  God help me. ]  I will have to come back to this later. 

As for (a), allow me to offer one example, from the Book of Revelation.

If there is only one view of hell that’s “biblical,” then I guess the image must be that of Revelation 20:10—> where the devil, and beast and the false prophet are all thrown into a lake of fire and sulphur, and tormented day and night for eternity.  And sharing in that fate, we should include everyone who does not give the hungry food, give the naked clothes, or visit prisoners, because in Matthew 25:46, Jesus says that these will face “eternal punishment…” which must mean “eternal torment,” based on Revelation 20:10. 


REV 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

REV 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

So, we’ll be judged according to what we’ve done… and the cowardly, faithless, etc…. [uh oh…] will be thrown into the fire…. and be killed.  It’s a “second death,” after being raised from the dead in order to be judged…So, they’re NOT eternally tortured, they’re just destroyed.  Okay, got it.

Oh, wait….

REV 21:24 The nations will walk by (the new City of God’s) light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

REV 22:12 "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

How can all the sinners be outside the city gates…. if they were annihilated?… Not being formally “punished,” but not being allowed inside the gates, which still I can’t imagine would be very pleasant…

But these three images can’t all be literally true. 

[But also the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are brought into the city…. in submission to the King of Kings….  so what does that mean?  And out of these passages, only 22:14 mentions anything that could mean “faith in Christ” is what “gets us into” the new city… but even that passage emphasizes “works,” and all the judgment passages seem to emphasize “works” over “faith” quite emphatically!  But that can’t be…. right?  Arrrgh! Smile ]

Look at the words of Jesus (and the meaning of the word “hell”), and you run into similar difficulties. 

The point seems to be…. nothing broken/no one who commits wrongs against God or others will enter the new city, that ALL people will be held to account for their lives, and that Jesus is the Judge.

Beyond this, do we even NEED to know or speculate?  (Or condemn differing opinions?)

Um….. can I at least wear clothes at the Judgment?

(Btw, acc. to Matthew 25, shouldn’t the people on the left panel be handing clothes to the people on the right?  Just thinking out loud, here….)

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in theology


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Thoughts on Rob Bell (part two):


What are the Fullerites saying?


Fuller in Pasadena- a.k.a. “The Mothership.”

I’m certain that these past few weeks, numerous conversations have engulfed the Catalyst and the Garth regarding Bell, the Gospel Coalition, and hair products necessary for the perfect faux-hawk.  But I have to wonder, given the education that I know I received, from a evangelical-yet-ecumenical seminary, if current and former Fuller students (especially those who have been a part of the school since it began consciously shaping its image as a “Post-Evangelical” school, although it would never call itself that) are feeling the same thing I’ve been feeling about fellow alum Bell:  “What’s the big deal?”

[Just to add, Fuller is where I went to seminary, in case you didn’t know.  And I think it’s a good school.  There’s also lots of other great places to get a seminary education…. but because Fuller is so massive—the largest seminary system in the country by far—and because it is an evangelical school and this Rob Bell situation is causing the most ulcers amongst the evangelical crowd, I am very curious as to what Fuller alums are thinking about all of this.]

After all, we’re not experts, but we read Stanley Grenz.  We read Clark Pinnock.  Some of us (inc. myself) had the privilege of studying directly under the late, great Ray Anderson.  We (and so many others) ingested N.T. Wright.  We learned about Barth…. all of them are respected voices in the evangelical community; all of them have nuanced, if not opposing positions, on the idea of hell.  Shucks, I even remember reading Donald Bloesch, thinking “Dude, this guy sounds just like the theology I grew up with” and then finding out that HIS view of hell is of a “sanitarium…” i.e., exactly what people are accusing Bell’s view to be!  Even our esteemed president, Dr. Richard Mouw, who is far from a left-wing apologist, wrote a blot post demonstrating that Bell indeed falls within the evangelical camp.  My colleagues and I didn’t all agree with the varying perspectives out there— but at least we would talk about the issue without throwing stones at each other. 

The rhetorical tone in the evangelical world is becoming more polemical, in large part thanks to some increasingly hostile voices (see previous post).  But at the end of the day, this is really not about competing eschatologies  (ideas about the “end times”)… this is about competing soteriologies (ideas about salvation)… or really, the need for some evangelicals to insist that penal substitution (the idea that Jesus took on the punishment for humanity’s sin) is the only “orthodox” way to look at things.   But there again, I’m thankful for my (admittedly imperfect) Fuller education, in that we learned about Aulen, Pinnock, Joel Green (now a Fuller professor), Eastern voices, and others who demonstrated the full range of atonement metaphors in the Bible—and that we need them all for a complete picture.

[I do wonder if Bell would say that “penal substitution” has become a corrupted doctrine in Western theology… b/c that’s probably what I would say:  “Substitution” is a biblical concept; “penal substitution” is mostly a 17th-century Calvinist concept understood through modern legal imagery.]

In other words… I have to imagine that, at least those who graduated from the largest evangelical institution in the country, who might come down with all kinds of opinions about hell— are looking at this Rob Bell thing, and saying…. “What’s really the big deal?”  We’ve been having this fight for ages!


Posted by on March 19, 2011 in theology


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Okay, okay… some Rob Bell-related comments (part one).

Well, on Tuesday I was nearly refusing to post about Rob Bell—mostly out of frustration that Love Wins has created so much, in all likelihood, needless attention. 

Now, only a few days later, I’ve hit my limit of standing idly by.

Especially since, after another period of blog-reading and reflecting (and subsequent fuming), I had no less than five blog post ideas pop into my head. 

And so rather than continue to fight this urge, I now present to you, the reader:  five mini-posts about the now-infamous Rob Bell…. over the course of the next five days. 

Ugh… I mean seriously, doesn’t he just LOOK evil?  With that perfectly placed hair, always wearing glasses…. and those, uh, hands!  Hide the children, already!

mini-post #1: Really, Kevin DeYoung?

[…see me have a mini-aneurism, after the jump.]

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 18, 2011 in love, theology


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