Rob Bell has ignited controversy among Christians with his new book, Love Wins. Bell has been very influential in the spiritual lives of many people, especially twentysomethings. He is the pastor of a church with an attendance of over 10,000 and is considered one of the most influential pastors in America. While popular and influential, he is controversial and many are leery of his teachings. I believe he has been difficult to criticize because he asks a lot of questions, does not typically give a lot of answers, and has not clearly set forth his beliefs. His newest book, Love Wins, clearly defines enough of his beliefs that many conservative evangelicals determined that his beliefs are wrong, are a re-formulated version of liberal theology, and are heterodox (go ahead a look it up, I had to).
I quickly read through the first half of his book and read a few reviews (I was going to read the second half tonight, but the book is so popular that my local bookstore is sold out). For those unfamiliar with the controversy, Bell claims that God’s love will win everyone over to Him. Even if a person fails to accept Christ during his life on earth, the person will accept Christ in another life. He believes no one will spend eternity in a literal hell.
While many have reviewed the book and given their opinions, I will share a few of my thoughts, which will probably be spread over a few blogs.
First, Bell, in his book and some television interviews, explains that his views are not new but have been taught for over 2,000 years. By making this claim, he tries to give credibility and authority to his beliefs. While I not an expert on church history, I believe that others have taught these same views for 2,000 years. However, that does not mean his beliefs are true. Rather, it simply means that these false teachings have been in existence for 2,000 years. The fact that others have taught the same thing does not mean that it is true. In fact, we know that false teaching existed 2,000 years ago. Paul, in his epistles, was constantly attacking false teaching and encouraging people to guard the truth. In my view, Bell has just joined a 2,000 year line of false teachers.
Second, I think Bell refuses to believe that a loving God could send people to a place of eternal fire and pain. So, he has re-imagined God, the Bible and the gospel. Since hell is too cruel of a fate for anyone, Bell created his own doctrine in which no one suffers eternally and God accepts everyone into heaven. His doctrine certainly does not come from the Bible, but is his own creation.
Third, I am amazed at the relevancy of 1 Timothy 1:3-7. Independent of the Bell controversy, my Bible study led me to these verses. In these verses, Paul tells Timothy to charge people not to teach a “different doctrine”. In explaining the different doctrine, he refers to “myths and endless genealogies”. One commentator says false teachers were using the Old Testament Law and genealogies to make up all kinds of new doctrines that lead people astray. Bell is doing the same; he is making up his own doctrine, which leads people astray.
While I have not read everything that Bell has written, I have always been frustrated with him because he asks a lot of questions but rarely, if ever, gives definitive answers. I think his questions, without answers, lead people astray. Interestingly, Paul, in verse 4 says that the “different doctrine” leads to speculations. The false teachers raised questions, but provided no answers. These questions had no spiritual value, but led people into arguments. Rather than provide clarity, false teaching leads to confusion and obscures God’s truth. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that God’s plan is not implemented by human imaginations, but by faith. Wow, what an accurate depiction of Rob Bell – speculations, questions but no answers, confusion, and replacing faith with human imagination.
Bell’s supporters denounce his critics by claiming the critics hate him. In reality, love should motivate people to criticize Bell’s teaching. In verse 5, Paul explains that love motivates him. Rather than hate Bell, love causes people to signal warnings against Bell’s errant teaching. How can it be loving to support Bell’s teaching when it is wrong and leads people to hell? Instead, love demands a warning against his false teaching and challenges people to read and study the Bible so they can discover the truth. No one gets a second chance, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).