Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church near Grand Rapids, MI has caused quite a kerfuffle over a video that was released promoting his new book to be released later this month entitled – Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
After Rob Bell tells the story about Gandhi and the piece of art, he says:
Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?
Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question [is], “What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?
This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, why would I ever want to be a part of that? See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.
The good news is that love wins.
Some quick thoughts… First, I can’t critique the book since I haven’t read the book, and I’m going to withhold judgment on the book until it is released and I have read it. Second there is no doubt that Rob Bell is a brilliant communicator. Third while I haven’t read the book I am concerned about the video above.
While yes he is asking questions that some in our culture are asking and does not provide outright answers it would be disingenuous (or naïve) to assume he isn’t trying to teach something. He asks leading questions designed to create doubt in the traditional view of Christ’s work on the cross.
If Bell comes out as a universalist I wouldn’t be surprised. His approach to theology and Biblical interpretation has troubled me. Then again if he ends up defending the traditional, orthodox position of Christ’s atonement, heaven and hell one has to suggest the marketing of this book is manipulative.
Regardless of what is said, I doubt Bell will add anything new to this age old debate.