To hell with them fellas. Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.
Is Josey Wales more orthodox than Rob Bell?
Bell is the founding pastor Mars Hill Bible Church, a megachurch in Michigan, and a popular author, most recently of Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
As you may know, there's much controversy concerning Bell, particularly accusations that he's officially left the realm of orthodoxy with his denial of hell.
I've not read the book, so I can't speak to that subject as of yet, but I would like to offer a few comments as well as a few links for further reading.
First, I'd like to address what's been termed "optimistic inclusivism," which is in contrast to an exclusivist view.
Evangelical (assuming for a moment that term still has meaning) Christians adhere to the biblical concept of exclusivity where salvation is concerned. That is, salvation from the wrath of God only comes through Jesus Christ, the crucified & risen Son of God (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
As you might imagine, that's among the least popular tenants of Christianity. It's much more popular to assert that (a) because God is love/loving, (b) He saves everyone, regardless of their theological allegiances. Hence, love wins.
As Ed Stetzer points out, this is not an original thought with Bell, though his attempt as an alleged evangelical to seemingly persuade evangelicals is perhaps what's setting him apart.
The error, of course, is in starting with a concept of love and then attempting to conform God to it, including His actions. Rightly, we start with God and a recognition of His various attributes as well as an understanding that God's actions define love, rather than vice versa. We also must clarify whom it is God loves and how He loves various people in various ways.
As I understand it, the rationale is that we can hope that because God is loving that He will act in a certain way, particularly with regard to hell.
Second, I have to say I wonder if, at least practically speaking, many of us haven't unwittingly succumbed to such an optimistic inclusivism. Theoretically, sure, everyone who's not been saved from God's wrath by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is justifiably sentenced to hell to pay for their sin.
Yet, when was the last time you heard a person say, "So and so is in hell"? Won't we more than likely say, "I don't think he/she was a Christian, so he/she might not be in heaven."
Even if folks are content to express such about public figures, with whom we typically have little firsthand knowledge, what about family members? What about people we are confident had little to no interest in the things of Christ?
Do we practically become optimistic inclusivists? "Well, I hope Uncle Fester's in heaven, though I have my doubts."
I ran across an interesting article accusing 99.9% of pastors of agreeing with Rob Bell, at funerals, at least.
"I think pastors honestly have the hope that — despite evidence to the contrary — the deceased finds himself or herself in the presence of God."At some point, I intend to read Bell's book and to give a fair and informed assessment. Until that time, I will only contend that, according to the Scriptures, hell is not just an idea; it's a place, a place of eternal torment and punishment.
XX. The Judgment - God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world by Jesus Christ, when every one shall receive according to his deeds: the wicked, those apart from Christ, shall go into everlasting punishment; the righteous, those who are justified, into everlasting life. (Providence Church statement of faith)To negate (universalism, even optimistic) or minimize (annihilationism) hell is to do disservice to the Scriptures and those in whom the fear of God needs surfacing. Additionally, the character of God is attacked, as He is portrayed as "more loving" than He portrays Himself.
- Rob Bell's Bridge Too Far - The controversial pastor raises crucial questions, but offers answers that may sabotage his goals. (Mark Galli)
- We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology - In this new book, Rob Bell takes his stand with those who have tried to rescue Christianity from itself. This is a massive tragedy by any measure. (Al Mohler)
- Who's in Hell? Pastors' Criticism of Eternal Torment for Some Sparks Fierce Debate (Foxnews, HT Oilcan)