Well, this morning I sat down to go over my RSS feeds, using Feedly (which taps into Google Reader). And, LO AND BEHOLD I FIND ROB BELL. Not just a little Rob Bell, but A LOT of Rob Bell. Rob Bell, for those who don’t know, is the Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan and behind the very popular Nooma videos (which we’ve used at Girdwood Chapel) and the Velvet Elvis Book (which I really enjoyed).
Well, he has a new book out called Love Wins and it’s causing quite a stir as it appears that Rob either enters in to UNIVERSALISM or at least touches on it, perhaps saying that God’s love is so big that hell is an empty place. Let’s be clear. I’ve not read the book. I’ll probably read it after it’s out next month. So, all I’m doing now is reading reviews–by people who have not even read the book but all have their opinions.
But, I’ve been known to get my toes up to the line of universalism, but never able to cross over. I want hell to be a small place because the grace of Christ is so big but I put my trust in God to make the final designation, knowing it will be good and just. The words of one of my professors, Geoffrey Wainwright, still rings in my ears:
It may or may not be Christian to be universalist. It is definitely NOT Christian to not want to be one.
There’s a lot going on here. Is universalism heretical? What does our understanding of hell tell us about God? Are Jews who were killed by Hitler, now with Hitler in hell? Does God’s holiness demand that hell is a big place and heaven for a select few? Are those who believe in universalism damned to eternal fire?
Hey, these are big questions.
So, it is with great anticipation that I saw all of these links today.
First, the cartoon above from Naked Pastor.
Second, an account of how the media has spread this from Challies.
Third, a post from Hacking Christianity which reflects on an anti-condemnation book getting condemned.
Fourth, Rachel Held Evans says Bell is asking some good questions that people are already asking:
Will only a few select people make it into heaven?
How does one become one of these few?
Are people like Ghandi and Anne Frank really in hell, along with millions and millions of other people?
Do we need a loving Jesus to rescue us from a hateful God? Is this what the gospel is all about?
Is the gospel good news or bad news?
What is the essence of God’s character?
Fifth, over at Connexions in Wales, one comment on a post says:
The early church seemed eager to excommunicate people over such matters as having the wrong tonsure. You’d think we might have learned something since then. Apparently not. Pharisaic Orthodoxy is so much easier to try than Christian love and grace, it appears.
Sixth, a more critical (and theological one) from Trevin Wax. Read the comments to see how it shakes up.
And, lastly, from Justin Taylor and The Gospel Coalition, another critical look at Rob Bell’s potential universalism.
Look, all of this is before the book has been released.
But I think we have here the classic debate between holiness and hospitality. They are both good. And I sometimes find it hard to camp out in the middle.
We’ll find out more after the book release on March 29th.