I know that I am contributing to the problem by mentioning this, but Rob Bell’s book Love Wins has inspired the cover story of this month’s Time Magazine, and I think I officially have Rob Bell fatigue. The article is titled “What If There is No Hell?” (read here). This is a yearly tradition for the media which loves to cover something edgy around the time of Holy Week. It appears that we all made it too easy for them since the fake codices and the “nail from the cross” didn’t keep everyone’s attention long enough. Instead, everyone is talking about the pastor who denies the traditional view of hell.
I hope Bell is giving a portion of his hefty pay check from all these book sales to some useful cause, because unless he signed his contract wrong we have all made him rich.
My question would be back, ‘What If There Really Is A Hell?’ But this does not make any so-called cover today! And I have had Bell Fatique for weeks myself!
@Fr. Robert: Now that would be controversial!
I’ve had Rob bell fatigued for a while…just saying.
To be honest, when I saw this yesterday, I said to myself, “I hope Bell is a man of integrity, not allowing all this to ruin him as a Christ follower.”
From what I’ve read about Bell, his church is big on missions.
@Ryan: I think I have had it as well. I am just now articulating it.
@T.C.: This is one of the dangers of thinking through such a subject in front of the public. I think it pushed Brian McLaren further and further along because he had to say something a little more edgy, a little more controversial. Also, once you say this kind of thing the Neo-Reformed come out swinging which tends to make one defensive which then leads toward a further pendulum swing. I pray the best for Bell.
I have heard the same about Mars Hill.
Yes, that “pendulum swing” is something. To be honest, I don’t get this feeling about Bell though. I don’t see him quite in the same light as a McLaren. I’ve read two of McLaren’s books, older ones, but not the newer, “edgy” stuff. Yeah, I pray the best for Bell. As you know, only time will tell.
i hardly think its Rob’s fault.
@T.C.: I don’t expect it either, but the success of this book does worry me a bit. I guess I imagining if I were Bell. If I had this type of success and suddenly there were people on one side patting me on the back and people on the other side calling me a heretic it would be hard to avoid writing for my supporters in the future. It would be hard to change my mind even if evidence suggested that I should. It would be hard not to get entrenched as the person who had a novel insight into something.
@Mark: I don’t know if it his fault, but I don’t think he has done anything to prevent it from going the way that it has gone. I mean, I would say Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor are as much to blame as Bell for this since (1) I had no idea that the book was going to be published until they went all polemic on Bell and (2) the publisher captured the moment with an early release date. But I do think Bell has gone along for the ride.
Um, yeah I am pretty sure he did. He did their interviews and then made a statement at his church. If I were him I wouldn’t have engaged either. He did the right thing in my opinion. The loudest noise often comes from the shallow end of the pool! 😉
@Mark: As I think about this whole debacle I become less sympathetic of Bell’s response. He engaged a hard theological question, as a pastor, and then bounced around doing cute interviews where he either responded with “poetics” or got smashed (like the MSNBC interview). And now he provided our media with its annual “hot-topic-before-Holy-Week-to-distract-people”.
Not well done.
That being said, as I said, I think the TGC people are as much to blame. They threw gas on the fire and contributed to the mess it has become.
From my perspective the collapse of Hell need not point to universalism but ought to bring up a serious reconsideration of the doctrine of conditional immortality
It is the concept of a kind of automatic soul immortality which logically requires a place to put the immortality of the wicked – calling for concepts like Hades, Hell, etc.
But the various teachings about the immortality of human souls are not exclusive to scripture. Like concepts of Hell, the idea that immortality is universally bestowed upon human beings is copiously attested in Greek and other pagan literature but not easily squeezed out of the Bible.
With Conditional Immortality, the idea is that a relationship with God is required for eternal life. There is still a just punishment at least for the atheist – his shunning of God gives him exactly what he expects in dissolution, cessation of existence. God would join with the atheist who turned to him at any time in life (and believers have an evangelical responsibility to plead with atheist also) but God must finally walk away if there is no receptivity. There’s no real destructive annihilation involved. You simply ‘go nowhere’ if you don’t connect with God’s Spirit reality during this life.
(Brian, I am in complete agreement with your negative judgment of articles published during Christmas and Easter season in magazines written and edited by unbelievers, like Time and many others).
@John: It is frustrating that once again, as we move toward Holy Week, it is something like this that has consumed us. At least it has a close relation to resurrection. Resurrection as it relates to eternal death is something that needs to be seriously discussed.
You note that eternal “life” (i.e. resurrection life in my opinion) is no guarantee. I agree. I don’t think annihilationism is impossible, but there does seem to be that nagging tradition that the lost are “resurrected” unto punishment. In some sense they are given “existence” but not “life”.
I assume you hold to an annihilationist position. What is your interpretation on Daniel 12.2, Jn. 5.28-29; and Rev. 20.11-15 which show a theme of “resurrection” that leads to a sort of “living death”? These tend to be proof texts used against an idea like annihilationism.
Note, Matt. 25: 46 / Acts 24: 15, (verse 25 also) etc. We simply must be bound by the Text itself in the end!
@Fr. Robert: While Mt. 25.46 is a bit more vague it would seem Acts 24.15 also says what I am saying. It is this idea that even the wicked are resurrected. It seems they are resurrected for punishment. Therefore they exist, even bodily, but not like the “living” exist bodily.
Interestingly this is an idea totally missing from Pauline thought. Resurrection always seems to be about life in the age to come.
@Brian: Note, Paul talked to Felix about the.. “righteousness, self control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24: 25), Felix became afraid! Indeed a healthy fear is central to the Gospel! (Jude 23) Sadly, very sadly, this being lost today in the more “emergent” type churches & theology (so-called).
@ Fr. Robert: I’m not denying that the Apostle foresees a judgement. I am saying he doesn’t provide many details either in his epistles or his Lukan depiction in the Book of Acts. In other words, the Apostle may have had something similar in mind to a “resurrection unto death” but he isn’t as specific.
If we still look just within Paul, we need to see perhaps his Jewish Pharisaism. But when we look at the whole the canonical revelation, i.e. the Bible, we see more fully. Revelation 20 is profound! That chapter is more than just recapitulation, but a crowning revelation and fulfilment!
@Brian: I appreciate your ability to hear. I’m finding that resurrection into punishment is huge in Greek religion and philosophy but not so much in the Jewish tradition.
In the Daniel text “everlasting contempt” need not be viewed as anything other than the opposite of the “everlasting life” which is mentioned in the same verse. Contempt is a word which simply means beneath recognition. And there is no greater disgrace or shame than to be the one who did not show up for life.
In Rev 20 I read that Hell/Hades is simply emptied out (i.e. dumped) and this emptiness then disappears in a lake of fire.
My understanding of John 5 is that the ‘resurrection of Judgment’ is the second death – simply the opposite of the ‘resurrection of Life’ spoken of in the same verse.
One has to be careful to see the texts without associations derived from unscriptural Hell-preaching which tends to read things into the text.
@ Fr. Robert: It would take a canonical approach to arrive at a traditional doctrine of “resurrection unto judgment”. I am not disagreeing with that. All I am emphasizing is that it is interesting that it seems to be totally missing from the Pauline tradition which consumes such a large part of the New Testament.
@John: While I don’t know if I see something with a Greco-Roman source as being necessarily negative, because I don’t think we can make easy divides between Second Temple Judaism and its surrounding influences, it is possible that it comes from interacting with the pagan world. I guess in part this would hinge on whether or not we see the Book of Daniel as greatly influenced this direction and then the Johannine tradition as following. Even then, we are hard pressed to find anything within Judaism that doesn’t have some correspondence with the surrounding nations that interacted with Israel over the centuries, whether that be the idea of a law or the desire for a king.
I’m still a little confused about this being on the cover. Down here in Eugene I picked up both last week’s issue of Time Magazine and this week’s and never saw even a hint at the Rob Bell article. At any rate, I liked the article, although I felt the timing of it was completely for monetary value. It’s not that difficult to figure out that with most Christians gearing up for Easter celebrations, Time saw an opportunity to raise a few dollars (and consequently continue the controversial stir of Bell’s book).
After reading through Bell’s book, I didn’t get the sense that he is preaching something strictly Universalist; I got the sense he was arguing that we get what we deserve. If we want to live in sin and do things our own way, we’ll get to… forever.
What has bugged me since the book’s release is that even after it’s been made available to critics, they still allow others’ pre-conceived notions of Bell to develop their own pre-conceived notions. They’ve allowed figures like Piper, DeYoung, Tucker, Driscoll, etc., to give an opinion about Bell to them instead of reading it for themselves. Just bugs me.
Even still, Bell frustrates me also. For starters, I disliked the question after question after question after question… after question structure of the first chapter. When you raise that many questions in a text (for rhetorical purposes or not) there ought to be some explanation. I felt his book was extremely lacking in that department.
All in all, I hope the issues raised in his book would be discussed more at length in the lower circles of church (i.e. Bible studies, smaller ministries). Whether we side with Bell or not is a different matter; these issues, at the very least, need to be discussed because from my experience, more and more people have a Sunday-school theology where heaven is filled with fluffy clouds, golden everything, and angels feeding people with grapes (and Philadelphia creme cheese). This vision, I think, needs to be tarnished.
Jeremy: It is evident that Time Magazine wanted a piece of the pie that Harper One has baked. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know whether Bell is being rightly criticized concerning his views, but like you I am tired of Bell and his critics. I don’t know why people give much attention to Bell as he mimics Socrates and I don’t know why Bell thinks he is Socrates!
Comments are closed.