Saturday, May 7, 2011

LOST LOVE - A Response to Rob Bell's "Love Wins"

Rob Bell's latest book LOVE WINS had gotten a lot of coverage, and its thematic presentation of the Gospel or more precisely "another Gospel which is not another Gospel" has further defined and clarified the followers of biblical truth from those of emergent falsehoods.

In this article I will be presenting the views and web links to articles by Ken Silva, Tim Challies, Kevin DeYoung and Al Mohler in their countering of Rob Bell's treatment of the Gospel message with a series of articles on TTUF, along with a few comments of my own.

UPDATE (5-29-11): Todd Friel from WRETCHED reviews Rob Bell and his heterodox and even heretical statements - watch all these clips here:

WRETCHED on Rob Bell

~~ end of update

During any major sporting event, if we miss the televised program, we will ask someone after the fact, "Who won?" and once we find this out, the following question of "What was the final score?" is usually asked; because we want to know not only who won, but by how much.

In LOVE WINS, Bell presents the idea that God wins all, a sort of 'shut out' on souls between the contest of God and Satan. There is no one that goes to hell (except for a kind of hell of their own making here on Earth by refusing the Gospel and not allowing the work of 'Christ' into their lives), or at least their experience there is short lived; that is to say, they may be in hell for a while, but in the end, love wins and all souls eventually are redeemed (an idea originally promoted by none other than Origen, who himself was either Gnostic or heavily influenced by that Grecian philosophy [I believe the former]).

Sounds like Universalism, doesn't it? To understand the erroneous notion of Universalism, please feel free to visit our primary web site The TRUTH Under FIRE for the following article -
CHRIST'S COURT - Soon In Session

Universalism is also known as Universal Redemption/ Reconciliation(the following link is a source of such Universalists and their beliefs)
Christian Universalism

God's love is seemingly measured by the numbers, that somehow the Divine expression of agapeo love (to be selflessly committed and devoted to another with no regard for oneself and whose unconditional service looks for no return) is glorified by the idea that no one is lost or condemned.

However God's love is manifestly measured by the sacrifice that God Himself committed to, in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ and His atonement that paid for our sins by dying on the cross.

This is the singular method of salvation, and those who would seek redemption from their lost condition must come to the Father through the Son, for there is no other way to heaven but by Jesus and through His Name
(JOHN 14:6; ACTS 4:10-12).

The explicit submission to, and belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel is required in order to acquire salvation. Bell suggests that Christ's salvation reaches further than the domain of Christians, that Muslims while remaining Muslims, Hindus while remaining Hindus, etc. can be saved by an amorphous assent and credence to Christ (and where such 'belief' is expressed "Jesus" is usually deleted from His title of "Christ"), and thus while God's love for such sinners is abundant and enduring up until the time of the Judgment, it's not received other than by His Son and the way of the cross. Such love is lost on them for they reject it by rejecting the pure and true Gospel.

Let's have a look at what Ken Silva has to say about this book by Bell:

"Sadly, mainstream evangelicalism became spiritually spineless and embraced the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church, now upgraded to 2.0 with its newer, more clearly delineated, postmodern Progressive Christian theology, which these rebels against the final authority of the Word of God will often refer to under their circus 'big tent' as Emergence Christianity.

"Years of poisoning its own young by using EC teachings in their Young Adult and Youth groups has opened the door for its pro-gay agenda and its non-gospel of universalism right within the heart of younger sectors of evangelicalism. That’s why lately I’ve been giving you peeks at its bleak future of division and compromise of God’s Word; and for nearly six years now, in articles like Is Rob Bell Evangelical? and Rob Bell Is Definitely Not Like Jesus, I’ve been warning you that Bell’s doctrine is not at all in line with the historic orthodox Christian faith."

Tim Challies quotes Rob Bell's book (Tim Challies and Aaron Armstrong read an advanced copy), Love Wins and shows what he truly believes regarding salvation through Jesus Christ and the meaning of the cross for the people of all religions (for a look at Mr. Challies article on Love Wins, visit the following site - Tim Challies Review of Love Wins):

"As soon as the door is opened to Muslims. Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.
"Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true."

"What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody."

MATT 7:13-14 
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

(and on a side note for those who would bring doubt to this truth:

MATT 7:15 
¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.)

"And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe."

JOHN 10:7, 9-10 
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

JOHN 14:6 

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

JOHN 8:31-32 

¶Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

"People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways." Refer back to John 14:6; the one that leads people to Jesus has been, and always will be the Father as well as the Holy Spirit:

JOHN 6:44 

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

JOHN 15:26 

¶But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

"Sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t."

ACTS 4:12 

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

…"Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name 'Jesus' that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation—grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness—the Creation as we now know it is in a fallen state - all of creation groans and travails to be delivered from the bondage [of sin] that it's in. Creation does not demonstrate God's grace, or peace, love, acceptance, healing or forgiveness. Nature can be as deadly and indiscriminate as a nuclear blast with its myriad tornados, earthquakes, pestilences, etc.

ROM 8:21-22 
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

"What we see Jesus doing again and again—in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him living like him, and trusting him—is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work."

This work is the work of the Gospel which alone is the answer for redemption and this is what must reach this lost, blind, corrupt and fallen world in ever widening parameters; but what we are seeing rather is a widening intolerance for the Biblical Gospel and the Truth, and widening heresies and apostasy taking its place.

ROM 1:16-17 
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
"The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it." (Preface, vi)

The Gospel has never been lost, it is not lost, nor will it ever be lost; the Gospel is everlasting and cannot be abrogated by the religion of man -

REV 14:6 
¶And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

"A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic (emph. mine) and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (ibid)" Refer back to MATT. 7:13-14; also -

REV 5:9 
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

ROM 8:9 

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

JOHN 1:12-13 

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

"Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires. (p.115)"

Ken Silva responds to these statements and beliefs of Bell:
(Bell's Mars Hill Bible Church Meeting Re: LOVE WINS - Be sure to watch the video clip at the end).

And now to Kevin DeYoung who summarized much of what Bell believes in the following:

"Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next.

"There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity…"

Mr. DeYoung comments:

In the blog buzz leading up the release of Love Wins, there was a lot of discussion about whether Bell is or is not a Christian Universalist. After reading the book, I see no reason why the label does not fit. Now it’s true, Bell believes in hell.

But he does not believe that God pours out his wrath on anyone forever (I’m not sure he thinks God actively pours out wrath on anyone at all). Hell is the sad suffering of this life (p.71). Hell is God giving us what we want (p.72). Postmortem hell is what we create for ourselves when we refuse to believe God’s story, when we resist his love (pgs.170-71, 172, 177). There is hell now and hell later.

Here is another quote by Bell:

“There are all kinds of hell because there are all kinds of ways to reject the good and the true and the beautiful and the human now, in this life, and so we can only assume we can do the same in the next” (p.79).

DeYoung comments further:

So why do I say Bell is a Universalist if he believes in hell? Because he does not believe hell lasts forever. It is a temporary “period of pruning” and “an intense experience of correction” (p.91). Bell’s hell is like purgatory except his “period of pruning” is for anyone, not just for Christians who die in a state of grace as Catholicism teaches…

At the very heart of this controversy, and one of the reasons the blogosphere exploded over this book, is that we really do have two different Gods. The stakes are that high. If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming. I do not use the word lightly, just like Bell probably chose “toxic” quite deliberately. Both sides cannot be right.

As much as some voices in evangelicalism will suggest that we should all get along and learn from each other and listen for the Spirit speaking in our midst, the fact is we have two irreconcilable views of God.

For an exhaustive treatment of Love Wins by Kevin DeYoung, visit this site (note, while this article is quite long, I highly recommend it as it is extremely well written, valid in every respect, and has a precision in pointing out the errors of Rob Bell that in my opinion is quite impeccable).

DeYoung's approach to addressing the errors of Love Wins is dealt with by looking at seven areas: Bell’s view of traditional evangelical theology, history, exegesis, eschatology, Christology, gospel, and God

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins”

DeYoung states:

These are strange sentences because they fall in the chapter where Bell argues that God wants everyone to be saved and God gets what God wants. He tells us that “never-ending punishment” does not give God glory, and “God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (p.108). So it’s unclear where the sudden agnosticism comes from. Is Bell wrestling with himself? Did a friend or editor ask him to throw in a few caveats? Is he simply inconsistent?

Similarly, at the end Bell argues, rather out of the blue, that we need to trust God in the present, that our choices here and now “matter more than we can begin to imagine” because we can miss out on rewards and celebrations (p.197). This almost looks like an old-fashioned call to turn to Christ before it’s too late. When you look more carefully, however, you see that Bell is not saying what evangelicals might think. He wants us to make the most of life because “while we may get other opportunities, we won’t get the one right in front of us again” (p.197). In other words, there are consequences for our actions, in this life and in the next, and we can’t get this moment back; but there will always be more chances. If you don’t live life to the fullest and choose love now, you may initially miss out on some good things in the life to come, but in the end love wins (pgs.197–198).

We've heard from Ken Silva, Tim Challies and Kevin DeYoung; now we turn to two articles written by Al Mohler, the latter of which he answers Brian McLaren, another Emergent, who comes to the aide of his colleague and friend, Rob Bell in defense from Mohler's supposedly effrontery.

In his first article entitled We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology, Dr. Mohler writes on the emergence of emergent church perspectives:

"For the last twenty years or so, a movement identified as emerging or emergent Christianity has done its determined best to avoid speaking with specificity (emph. mine). Leading figures in the movement have offered trenchant criticisms of mainstream evangelicalism. Most pointedly, they have accused evangelical Christianity, variously, as being excessively concerned with doctrine, culturally tone-deaf, overly propositional, unnecessarily offensive, aesthetically malnourished, and basically uncool.

"Many of their criticisms hit home — especially those rooted in cultural concerns — but others betrayed what can only be described as an awkward relationship with orthodox Christian theology. From the very beginning of the movement, many of the emerging church’s leaders called for a major transformation in evangelical theology."

Mohler continues: "And yet, even as many of these leaders insisted that they remained within the evangelical circle, it was clear that many were moving into a post-evangelical posture. There were early hints that the direction of the movement was toward theological liberalism and radical revisionism (emph. mine), but the predominant mode of their argument was suggestion, rather than assertion.

Rather than make a clear theological or doctrinal assertion, emerging figures generally raise questions and offer suggestive comments. Influenced by postmodern narrative theories, most within the movement lean into story rather than formal argument. Nevertheless, the general direction seemed clear enough. The leading emerging church figures appeared to be pushing Protestant Liberalism –just about a century late."

In this excellent article Mohler points out that this 'new' book by Rob Bell (someone that he compares with Harry Emerson Fosdick, liberal pastor of International Riverside Church in New York City, a church regularly sponsored by the Rockefellers) simply reiterates and re-institutes the old fashioned theological liberalism of over a century ago that expresses a denial of hell, that supports the view that salvation is attainable post-mortem; he rejects the idea that a person must come to a personal knowledge of Christ in this life in order to be saved. “What if the missionary gets a flat tire?” he asks.Dr, Mohler documents Bell's view of universal salvation by the following beliefs of the Love Wins author:

But this is how Rob Bell deals with the Bible. He argues that the gates that never shut in the New Jerusalem [REV 21:25] mean that the opportunity for salvation is never closed, but he just avoids dealing with the preceding chapter, which includes this clear statement of God’s justice: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” [REV 20:15] The eternally open gates of the New Jerusalem come only after that judgment.

Mohler comments on Bell's Inclusive message and contrasts this with the straight forward message of the Bible regarding the Gospel specifically and generally the entirety of scripture:

"Bell clearly prefers inclusivism, the belief that Christ is saving humanity through means other than the Gospel, including other religions. But he mixes up his story along the way, appearing to argue for outright universalism on some pages, but backing off of a full affirmation. He rejects the belief that conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, but he never clearly lands on a specific account of what he does believe.

"Tellingly, Bell attempts to reduce all of the Bible and the entirety of the Gospel to story, and he believes it is his right and duty to determine which story is better than another — which version of Christianity is going to be compelling and attractive to unbelievers. He has, after all, set that as his aim — to replace the received story with something he sees as better.

"The first problem with this is obvious. We have no right to determine which “story” of the Gospel we prefer or think is most compelling. We must deal with the Gospel that we received from Christ and the Apostles, the faith once for all delivered to the church. Suggesting that some other story is better or more attractive than that story is an audacity of breathtaking proportions. The church is bound to the story revealed in the Bible — and in all of the Bible … every word of it.

"But there is a second problem, and it is one we might think would have been learned by now. Liberalism just does not work. Bell wants to argue that the love of God is so powerful that “God gets what God wants.” So, God desires the salvation of all, he argues, so all will eventually be saved — some even after death, even long after death. But he cannot maintain that account for long because of his absolute affirmation of human autonomy. Even God cannot or will not prevent someone from going to hell who is determined to go there. So, if Bell is taken on his own terms, even he does not believe that 'God gets what God wants'.”

And if 'love wins' does that mean that holiness and justice lose? That would seem to be the implicated conclusion to Bell's writing, Mohler commments:
"Similarly, Bell’s argument is centered in his affirmation of God’s loving character, but he alienates love from justice and holiness. This is the traditional liberal line. Love is divorced from holiness and becomes mere sentimentality. Bell wants to rescue God from any teaching that his wrath is poured out upon sin and sinners, certainly in any eternally conscious sense. But Bell also wants God to vindicate the victims of murder, rape, child abuse, and similar evil. He seems not to recognize that he has undercut his own story, leaving God unable or unwilling to bring true justice."

Another 'Gospel' in Bell's Nutshell liberal theology -

"It begins in the sure and certain truth that we are loved. That in spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong deep in our hearts and has spread to every corner of the world, in spite of our sins, failures, rebellion, and hard hearts, in spite of what has been done to us or what we’ve done, God has made peace with us.

"Missing from his Gospel is any clear reference to Christ, any adequate understanding of our sin, any affirmation of the holiness of God and his pledge to punish sin, any reference to the shed blood of Christ, his death on the cross, his substitutionary atonement, and his resurrection, and, so tellingly, any reference to faith as the sinners response to the Good News of the Gospel. There is no genuine Gospel here. This is just a reissue of the powerless message of theological liberalism.

H. Richard Niebuhr famously once distilled liberal theology into this sentence:
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Niebur's view of liberal theology!

Dr. Mohler's article drew the attention of Emergent writer and teacher, Brian McLaren. Here is the link to Mohler's response with quotes from McLaren himself

A Theological Conversation Worth Having: A Response to Brian McLaren

Here are some gleanings from the above article:

Brian McLaren:
"Now communication is nearly always tricky, as any of us who are married or are parents know. The speaker has a meaning which is encoded in symbols (words) which then must be decoded by the receiver. That decoding process is subject to all kinds of static - for example, interference from the biases, fears, hopes, politics, vocabulary, and other characteristics of the receiver or the receiver’s community. If the receiver then tries to pass the meaning - as he has decoded it - on to others, there is more encoding and decoding, and more static. That’s why, with so much encoding and decoding and re-encoding going on, the challenge of communication across many cultural time zones is downright monumental."

Al Mohler:
"Communication is indeed “nearly always tricky,” but McLaren’s argument leads to interpretive nihilism. Can we really not know what the Gospel is? If this is true, the church is left with no coherent message at all. All of our attempts to define the right form of the Gospel are just human interpretations, he insists, and we must avoid “excessive confidence” in any telling of the Gospel story. McLaren warns that we must avoid “a naive and excessive confidence,” but that we can retain a “humble confidence.” But his argument leaves us with very little idea of how this “humble confidence” is to be found, since “no articulation of the gospel today can presume to be exactly identical to the original meaning Christ and the apostles proclaimed.”

That statement leaves us with only approximations of the Gospel — some presumably better, some worse. And we would in fact be left with nothing more precise or authoritative than that but for one thing — we have the Bible. We are absolutely dependent upon the New Testament way of telling the Gospel of Christ, and the apostles were determined to pass along the Gospel as a clear and understandable message to others. This is why Paul instructed Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” and to “guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” [2 TIM 1:13-14]

If we cannot know what the Gospel is, then there is no such thing as the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” [JUDE 3] If so, we have nothing definitive to say."

McLaren argues that the traditional understanding of hell presents a God who is not loving, even by human standards.
In his words:

"If a human father decided to throw his child in a fireplace for just ten seconds as punishment for disobedience, we wouldn’t fault the father simply for being unsentimental: we would say such behavior was unholy, an act of torture in violation of our most fundamental sense of justice. Any definition of justice and holiness that involves being unsatisfied unless the imperfect are suffering eternal agony seems to many of us as unworthy of a human being and if so, how much more unworthy of God whose justice must be better than our own."

Al Mohler:
"That argument is straightforward enough, and we need to look at it closely. The central problem with McLaren’s formulation is that such logic destroys any faithfulness to the totality of God’s self-revelation about himself. It presumes to judge God by human conceptions of love — and this is precisely what God himself rejects. He will not allow himself to be judged by humans. We simply do not have an adequate moral vantage point from which to make judgments about the character of God. We are, as in all things, utterly dependent upon God’s self-revelation and self-definition.

We do not know who God is by knowing what love is. We understand love by knowing who God is. But Brian McLaren seems quite ready to judge God by human standards of love and justice. In his most important book, A New Kind of Christianity, he rejects the Genesis account of God’s actions in the story of Noah, describing the story as “profoundly disturbing.” As he concluded, “In this light, a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship.” He responds to other texts in a similar way.

But God explicitly rejects such a human determination of his character. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah declared. [ISAIAH 55:8] Instead, God defines his loving character like this: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [ROMANS 5:8]

For more of these points and counterpoints by McLaren and Mohler please review the article at the link provided above.

And finally, in case you missed this, here is a video of Rob Bell, interviewed by Martin Bashir where this anchor deftly cuts to the heart of the issue, making Bell visibly uncomfortable and somewhat tepid ambiguous in his answers:

Love Wins Rob Bell MSNBC Interview

Its imperative that in the presentation of the Gospel, we must be quite clear that salvation is in the Person of Jesus Christ, and that a cognitive, explicit confession of the Savior on a personal level, a repentance from sin and a sinful lifestyle, and a surrender of our hearts and lives to Him as our new LORD and MASTER is required to complete the transaction of imputation by the Righteous LORD.

No one will be 'accidently' saved, or saved by some ambiguous assent to God in the Person of Jesus, or professing faith in Jesus while remaining Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, etc.

Whatever one was before coming to Christ, that is done away with where spiritual/religious matters are concerned and considered part of one's old life; the believer receives and embraces new life in Christ as His new creation!

2 COR 5:17-19 
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation

Rob Bell seems to declare that LOVE WINS no matter what, but in making such a declaration, he ignores the fact that there are eternal consequences for those who travel the broadway, those who are the children of disobedience, those who are children of darkness, and of whom no salvation is evident, for they bear no fruit to the glory of God the Father, and are therefore ineligible for heaven and eternal life, for without any fruit and genuine good works, there is no certainty for salvation. Of such the LORD declares Himself:

MATT 7:23 
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The love that could have been theirs to experience for an eternity is lost on those who refuse the LORD that offers it; indeed, that love is lost to them!

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