Update: The best review of Love Wins is Kevin DeYoungs long, but theologically accurate blogpost found here.
Is Ghandi in heaven or hell? This is the question Rob Bell asks in his new provocative video, which promotes his upcoming book Love Wins.
Justin Taylor posted this controversial video on his blog last Saturday, and basically says Bell is a Universalist. Below is the video, but before viewing it let’s look at the definition of universalism.
Radical Universalism: Everyone will go to heaven no matter what they believe. “All roads lead to heaven.” Unitarian Universalists
Liberal Universalism: Views the Bible as an imperfect human document containing divine revelations, is not necessarily Trinitarian, and often downplays or rejects atonement theology. They stress “the all-inclusive love of God and tend to be more open to finding truth and value in non-Christian spiritual traditions”. Liberal Catholics, Unity Churches, the Emerging Church movement (Brian MacLaren, Rob Bell!), gaining popularity in some mainline Protestant denominations
Trinitarian (or Evangelical) Universalism: Hold a high view of the Bible, the Trinity, and that Christ is the only way, but reject that the Bible teaches eternal punishment (hell). “Christ died for the sins of the whole world and God will restore all things, right?”
Over at Justin Taylor’s blog, the comment count went nuts, sitting at 1,161 comments at the moment. Many of the defenders of Bell are saying either “Don’t judge, wait for the book to be released…who are we to say that’s heresy…why are you so sure your view of hell is right” or worse, “universalism is biblical”. Over 23,337 people have recommended this article on Facebook. John Piper tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell” on his twitter account and all the retweets put Rob Bell into the top 10 trending topics on Twitter Saturday. Pastor Kevin DeYoung did a similar post called To Hell With Hell and laid out 8 reasons why we need the doctrine of eternal punishment. Due to all the “controversy”, D.A. Carson announced today he was adding a extra panel discussion to the upcoming TGC conference on universalism and exclusivism.
To see other pastors/theologians/teachers comments on the issue, see the Christianity Today article here.
Why is this important to us, as believers?
1. Many Christians hold to some sort of universalism. They are coming out of the woodwork now that someone has addressed the issue head on. Not the plurality view (all roads lead to heaven). The view I’m speaking of here is either the evangelical universalism mentioned above (there is no hell) or the exception-type of universalism: the “who are we to say the man in the jungle who’s never heard of Jesus will be not be saved?” type.
I admit, in my early seeker-friendly days, I drifted this way. Why? Because the pastor I sat under implied this through his teaching. This pastor taught on hell. But I got the implication from some of his other teaching that “the guy in the jungle somewhere who’s never heard of Jesus” would get a free pass or something.
2. Romans 1:18-32 and total depravity are not taught much in churches these days. All mankind does indeed know God as creator, but suppress the truth in their hearts, exchanged the truth for a lie and refuse to worship Him. Instead they replace God with idolatry, therefore God turns them over to their own degrading sins.
John Frame summarize the doctrine of total depravity well:
Although fallen persons are capable of externally good acts (acts that are good for society), they cannot do anything really good, i.e., pleasing to God (Rom. 8:8). God, however, looks on the heart. And from his ultimate standpoint, fallen man has no goodness, in thought, word, or deed. He is therefore incapable of contributing anything to his salvation.
Also see Romans 3:10-12 where Paul quotes Old Testament texts to show how no one does good, no one is righteous, and no one seeks after God.
All this to say no one gets a free pass. Without Christ’s atoning blood, we are all lost to the lake of fire. As believers, we have to watch that we aren’t contradicting ourselves on this issue too. We constantly have to remind ourselves as believers how hostile we once were to God, how totally depraved we once were. And that it’s not an intellectual problem where we need more information, but a morality problem were our heart is a slave to sin.