Let me begin by saying that I haven’t read Rob Bell’s book and I don’t plan on it. The initial video trailer was enough to indict, and the corresponding interviews (with Martin Bashir, and George Stephanopoulos) and book reviews (DeYoung, Mohler, Burk) are enough to render him guilty as charged.
From the day “Rob Bell” started trending worldwide on twitter I have been thinking about how Love Wins will impact the American conception of Christianity. And I’ve concluded that while Love Wins is a devastating departure from orthodox Christianity, there might be some ways to look at this situation with optimism. Let me explain.
First of all, let me say what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that Love Wins is a great way to help us step outside our theological comfort zones and consider alternative views of God. Unfortunately, a lot of the blogs I stumble across are in defense of this idea that deviant teaching is good because it shakes people up and helps them reconsidered their staunchly held views. They’ll say something like, “Well if Rob Bell is over there on the left, and you’re over the on the right, we should appreciate Bell because at least he’s helping bring people to the balanced middle.” Others will simply get angry at all the people calling out his defection, saying things like “this is why the world doesn’t like Christianity.”
So much is wrong with those statements it’s hard to figure out where to begin.
The statement about Bell bringing people closer to a balanced center only works in a post-modern world that doesn’t like to admit the reality of an absolute truth. If there is no fixed truth, then the best we can be is somewhere is the middle of two extremes. But if there is a fixed truth, and that truth is know-able, then even slight deviations from the truth are dangerous (and untrue, believe it or not). Ultimately, this whole debate comes down to an issue about who the holder of authoritative truth is. Does the Bible hold knowable, definitive truth? That’s the big question.
If the answer to that question is yes, then to drift toward the “balanced middle” is not good. Because it’s drifting from truth. And like I said, if there is no definitive truth, let’s just walk the balance beam until we die, and make no bold claims because ultimately we’re simply not sure about anything. But if truth can be nailed down, it makes no sense to drift away from it because, again, that would to believe something that’s not true. Which is stupid. So our calling is to establish the truth by understanding what the Bible says. Once that’s established, it does us no good to change things around to make them more palatable. Which is exactly what Rob Bell has done.
So the reason I’m optimistic that some good can come out of this not because it’s “shaking things up” and helping us out of our theological comfort zones.
I am optimistic this can benefit the church because a line in the sand has been drawn. If you’re with Bell, you’re over there. If you’re not, stay. There’s no standing on the fence anymore. Bell clearly espouses a false gospel, and to endorse Bell is to endorse a heretic. The American church used to be so broad and all-encompassing that it was incredibly difficult to distinguish the wheats from the tares, but Bell’s bold assertion of universalism, which opposes scripture, minimizes Christ, and despises the cross will make the true gospel glaringly different than the one popularized by Bell. The lines are drawn. Such an attack on the most important message in the universe is not something to hem and haw about. The fault-line in evangelicalism is deeper and wider because of this book-quake, and now the gap is too big for anyone to straddle. Pick sides.
But don’t take it from me. I’ll let the Apostle Paul do the real dirty work: “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). That’s more harsh than anything I have to say.
I’ll say it very clearly: Rob Bell has deviated from the saving gospel, and is propagating a gospel that does not save. Don’t listen to him.
And though I know that in the wake of this book will be many– maybe thousands of people deceived by the falsehood of its teaching. But this is my optimism: I hope it becomes apparent that Bell’s gospel has no power to save, and that the true gospel blazes brightly against it.
I hope and pray that the glorious difference of our gospels gets highlighted. I hope that as Rob Bell takes interview after interview, curious viewers think hard about the controversy and go to the Scriptures to see which is true. I hope this ignites thousands of conversations about the true gospel. I hope it refines the church’s collective ability to articulate the gospel. I hope the potential devastation of Bell’s concepts are minimized by stalwart keepers of the faith, who cling tightly to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” I hope they guard the good deposit, and entrust it to faithful men.
I am deeply saddened by this apostasy, but I am optimistic in our sovereign God, who will get his glory.
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This post assumes the reader kind of understands the claims Rob Bell’s new book is making. If you are not sure what it’s all about, take some time to watch the book trailer, some interviews, and then read some other reviews.
The main problem with Bell’s book is his belief that it is unjust of God to condemn sinners, and therefore he is obligated to save everyone eventually, no matter how they respond to Jesus in this life. Instead of outrightly denying orthodoxy, he simply redefines terms. The product of all this man-centered, Bible-neglecting theology is a castrated gospel that can’t save.
I hope this doesn’t create a firestorm, but if you have any questions or comments, they’re more than welcome.