Somebody Call the Heresy Police! (Not)

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

There’s some buzz on the neoReformed blogosphere (Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung) today that megachurch emerging celebrity pastor Rob Bell is finally coming out as a universalist based on the above video and the publisher’s description of his forthcoming book:

Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

My thoughts:

  1. Bell’s video is excellently produced and asks legitimate questions that every Christian and non-Christian wrestles with, or at least should.  Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung may choose to bury their heads in the sand all they want and ignore any such questions, including when believers and non-believers ask them.  That’s real missional and pastoral.
  2. Neither the video nor in the publishers’ blurb affirm universalism, the belief that everyone goes to heaven or that there is no hell.  In fact, the publishers description merely affirms with Bell that God’s love wins out over his wrath (which is the orthodox Christian position.  See: Jesus Christ.) and at most, the Arminian evangelical position (which was Christian and not heretical, last I checked, unless you want to posthumously go after C.S. Lewis as a heretic, too) that God does not willfully condemn anyone to hell — he merely gives humans the ability to choose freely.  Even such theological softies as R.C. Sproul (please note irony – he’s one of my theological heroes and should be for any Calvinist) loudly reject the notion that God willfully and wrathfully condemns anyone to sin and hell positively in the same manner that he saves and elects.
  3. If people like Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung devoted even a fraction of the energy to sharing the Gospel that they currently devote to speculatively policing it, perhaps the Church would truly rise up in ways unimaginable.
  4. Bell could still come out as a univeralist and I’ll sound like an idiot, and I am slightly uncomfortable with some of his positions, missiology, and disdain for propositional truth… but I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that he’s not a heretic, that he’s a partner in the Gospel, and that accusations of heresy are thrown around far too lightly among neoReformed blogosphere prima donnas.
  5. Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung going after Rob Bell for his supposed heretical doctrine is as if Britney Spears and Justin Bieber went after Sara Bareilles for lack of musicianship.  Whatever happened to theological discourse in this country… or music, for that matter.  I need to stop making such a fuss about pseudo-celebrity fundamentalist wannabe-theologian bloggers and megachurch celebrity pastors.  But so do American Christians.

3 thoughts on “Somebody Call the Heresy Police! (Not)

Add yours

  1. A few comments :)1. His video does provide legitimate questions and concerns — nowhere in JT or DeYoungs’ posts did I see any evidence of ‘burying one’s head in the sand’ as you mention. There’s a fine line between missional and over-contexualization, and Bell is walking a very fine line with regards to that.2. It’s true that the video does not explicitly affirm universalism, we’ll have to wait for the book to be released for that one. But I won’t be the first to say that, 1. Bell is dancing with some dangerous language, and 2. I wouldn’t be very surprised if he’s presented in his book as such. Additionally, Sproul rejects the concept that God willfully condemns to sin but NOT that He elects the chosen, predestined them before they were born (see: Ephesians 1).3. A judgment call by you that you will have to stand by :P4. If Bell truly does come out as a universalist (and note I don’t know either way as of now), I stand JT’s stance on false teachers and the Gospel. Secondary theologies such end-times beliefs, covenant/dispensationalism, old/new earth creation — these things can be argued with (with the final authority being the infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture) BUT — when it comes to HOW you are saved, this is no longer people sharing beliefs, this is a false Gospel. and I’m not afraid to say that if you believe there is another way to heaven other than by faith, through grace in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, you are a false teacher. End discussion.5. Criticism — especially in response to published works given to the public for debate/response — should always be taken with a grain of salt, but taken well. By being published, you put yourself out there — if Rob Bell can’t handle that, maybe he shouldn’t write books for people to read 🙂

  2. @pennilessthinker –  1. I think we need to ask those questions out loud though, because it’s what we think and it’s what non-Christians think, no? And they are advocating burying their hands in the sand by summarily dismissing any such questions as “universalist.”2. I was trying to say that Sproul rejects “symmetrical double predestination” without using those words i.e., God doesn’t willfully condemn in the same manner he elects and loves. I think you get the idea 4. Teaching that there is *certainty* in salvation apart from by grace through faith in Christ is false… but there’s still a lot of room in-between. The Bible isn’t clear about the fate of those who never hear the Gospel, for example, beyond their judgment on the basis of natural law. Again, the inclusivist position (a la CS Lewis, the boy who thought he was following Tash but was actually following Aslan, or the Renaissance scholastics who believed Plato and Aristotle were in heaven) isn’t one I agree with, but it’s definitely not heresy, either. Purgatory and annihilationism are also alternatives to the traditional Protestant view on hell that are not heresy. With regard to how high the “bar” for salvation is set, I side with my apologetics prof who made the case that it’s not ours to set or see where it is and it’s not even a question that the Bible is particularly concerned with. The bar for “faith” cannot be set higher than Abraham and Melchizidek, who had no knowledge of “Jesus Christ” or penal substitution or even his resurrection but were credited with faith nonetheless. I’m content with that ambiguity. @jopan –  you’re right about it being sickening in some ways… all the bickering and slander, especially if non-Christians were to see it. I still can’t believe the Gospel Coalition lets Justin Taylor blog. It is a great moment to raise relevant questions with non-Christians and young Christians.. and for supposedly mature Christians to ask ourselves whether we’re able to “give a reason for the hope that we have” when it comes to the Problem of Hell.

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