February 28, 2011

Rob Bell is Right. And You're Proving it.

As one who comes from the Church, I have to defend Rob Bell a lot - from others within the Church. Rarely because of anything they have read or seen him say directly. But, rather, someone they respect has cried "heretic" at Bell and his teachings at some point in time.

To be clear, Bell absolutely could be a heretic. If being heretical means being wrong about something. Here's what I know. He is a fabulous communicator who has brought the 21st century church into the 20th century with his Nooma video series. And his honest exploration and questioning of the relationship between the Creator and creation, both at the individual and collective church level has been a wonderful resource for my spiritual growth.

(Note: these same people who cry "Heretic!" at Bell would most assuredly do the same thing to me if I had a larger platform - remind me to show you some feedback I got from my latest Christian indie-rock album.)

Bell has a new book coming out called, Love Wins. I have embedded a clip above, where he teases the book with the thought-provoking question, "Do we really know who's going to heaven and who's going to hell?", pointing out that the Christian church has simply evolved into this group of people who believe their primary role is simply to classify those in each category.

And, in one united voice, as soon as this video teaser was released, the Christian community shouted together, "Rob Bell is a Universalist and is going to hell."

The irony was completely lost on them.

It's not about ignoring foolishness. Or accepting lies. It's simply discouraging that the church has stopped even trying to be thoughtful - stopped even listening anymore. Because if you were, you'd realize that Rob Bell's making you look like a moron.


Janelle said...

I have to disagree with you on discouraging the church from being thoughtful point.

I think people in the Church, of both conservative and liberal mindsets to the application of scripture, are being thoughtful about the issues we currently engage with.

Except I think people of Rob Bell's persuasion is not taking scripture seriously, and I think that is a grave danger. Strong doctrine is a good thing. The New Testament advises it.

Plus, by adhering to this viewpoint Bell delivers in his book, he is deeming himself a universialist. Should we as Christians take time to question our faith and think about heaven and hell? Absolutely.

But there is truth. Not only mere opinions but truth.

I prefer to speak the truth in love, though and not attack others. Calling Rob Bell a universialist is not un-loving, it's just stating something based on his own statements he has made.

Eric Olsen said...


I'm not sure Bell is deeming himself a universalist. He's definitely not making that claim in the video teaser. Perhaps he will when the book comes out. But that's a different topic entirely. It's the rush to judgment that bothers me, the thin-slice categorization of holy or heretic. The same problem Bell actually DOES address in the teaser.

Justin Elder said...

I could talk endlessly on this topic but though I'd add a quote that comes from Fredrich Buechner on hell that intrigues me: "Dante saw written over teh gates of hell the words "abandon all hope ye who enter here," but he must have seen wrong. If there is suffering life in hell, there must also be hope in hell, because where there is life there is the Lord and giver of life; and where there is suffering he is there too, because the suffering of the ones he loves is also his suffering.
"He descended into hell," the Apostle's Creed says and "If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there," says the Psalmist (139:8). It seems there is no depth to which he will not sink."

Unknown said...

The word Sheol or Hades is often confused when translated into English (I think Eric might appreciate this example of imperfection in our English translations). Both of these words were words for the underworld of the current culture’s mythology, that get translated as hell, the grave, or the Pit in English. They do not necessarily reference the hell of eternal damnation. The verse in Psalms is referencing, not hell, but the death that comes to everyone. So, even in death for believers, God is there. The Bible does preach eternal damnation. Erwin Lutzer wrote an excellent book on the topic of death and Sheol/Hades called One Minute After You Die. I would suggest reading it. In Hebrews 9:27-28 it says "And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."

On another note, I believe some people are really jumping the gun. Rob Bell makes his living off of controversial statements that make a lot of people question his orthodoxy, myself included. John Piper was the furthest out of line with his tweet. They’re basing their judgment on book that is not even out yet. But there are a few things that can be taken from Bell’s video. The phrasing he uses does imply a belief in some version of universal reconciliation or universalism. But warning people of the dangers of this is not a wrong thing, as Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, and Joshua Harris did.

But all this discussion is pointless without Rob Bell’s book. So we’ll see on March 29th.

Anonymous said...

I could see how this could be universalist....however, it will not be...that is a gaurentee...if anything it is marketing at its best, give controversy and let people buy the product to see for themselves.

it seems clear to me that he is saying what should be said. Love is what Christ was about, love won. we miss love through our own judgement of people, how is that loving?

why cant we repackage the gospel for the 21st century with 100% accuracy?---just as parenting has changed over the years, so has the way people will perceive their Father.

how do we reach the lost? tell them they are going to hell? honest but abrasive. demonstrate love, real love through Christ.

marketing Christianity becomes harder second by second, after all, marketing is a way to let people be exposed to something they really do need (in this case, honestly need).

i think this book will do this

Eric Olsen said...

man, i wish i knew who you were anon, because you not only hit the nail on the head, but defend my industry (marketing) the same way I see it!

Unknown said...

I have read the book and what is disheartening to me is that 'loving' Christians are more upset with Rob Bell than they are with Westboro Baptist. 'Loving' Christians can't seem to deal with the possibility that some sinner or possibly some one of another faith could actually see Jesus. It is like they have their own little club and they don't want others to enter into it. They say they do but only if they behave the way they want them to or the way their pastor says. They are full of hate but will not admit it. They cannot wait for their enemies (or people of other faiths) to get what's coming. Being a life long Christian it is has been very disappointing to watch. And anyone who believes a word of the Left Behind series books or anything written by LaHaye loses all credibility.

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