In a recent post on the God’s Politics blog by Lynne Hybels, wife of mega church Willow Creek pastor, Bill Hybels, she asked, “What is an evangelical?” It’s a question that has graced the cover and inside pages of Christianity Today for several decades. I am not sure why we as Christians keep asking this same old question. Yet I predict if we keep making the same inquiry, eventually someone will come up with a new definition that will radically change the meaning of what it means to be an evangelical.
It was bound to happen.
Joining other theologians like Brian McLaren, author of “A New Kind of Christianity” (HarperOne, 2010), Pastor Rob Bell climbed aboard the bandwagon of redefining Christianity in his recent bestseller Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
One area where Christianity is refined with these “progressive theologians” is the inclusivity of salvation, also known as universalism. Is God going to permit everyone to enter heaven regardless of their acceptance of Christ or do individuals need to ask Jesus into their lives to receive eternal life?
In chapter four Bell wonders, “Does God Get What God Wants?” In other words, if God desires everyone to experience salvation according to 1 Timothy 2:3-4, then everyone will be saved. Read the passage, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [knowledge of the truth.
He starts off by explaining the sad plight of people who do not accept Christ as their Redeemer. No disagreement there.
Bell goes on to describe the doctrinal statement of several churches as found in their weekly bulletin or websites, in which the reader is told “he or she will suffer conscious, eternal torment in hell unless they accept Jesus” (pp. 95-86). Pastor Bell pokes fun at these congregations, “Welcome to Our Church!” Bell’s a real barrel of laughs about a matter that should not be ridiculed.
Yet on these same church websites, according to Bell, are “extensive affirmations of the goodness and greatness of God” (pg. 96). Bell sets up the reader when he conjectures, “That God is mighty, powerful, and ‘in control'” and that billions of people will spend forever apart from this God, who is their creator, even though it is written in the Bible that ‘God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2).“So does God get what He wants?” is the question raised by Bell. Will all people be saved or will God have to come to grips with the fact He doesn’t always get what He wants? (pg. 98). If not, then this great God ends up in failure.
To make matters worse, Bell attempts an end run around the issue by compiling various Old and New Testament verses that claim God is the creator of all mankind and that all people are His children (pp. 98-99). In light of this truth, history is about a God who “wants all people to be saved.” So why is it that the “old and outdated” Christianity teaches some people will not be embraced in love by the Father for all eternity but will spend forever burning in hell?
This man who calls himself a pastor fails to treat this issue fairly by not mentioning the fact the God of love demonstrated His love and offer of eternal life to His creation in the event of His Son Jesus dying for the sins of all mankind. Romans 5:8 says, ” But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
After this total slam on Christian traditional teaching, Bell continues quoting from Psalm 65, Isaiah 52, Zephaniah 3 and Philippians 2 to prove it is the Lord’s intention for everyone to know the Lord and that “all people will come” to know God (pg. 99). In Bell’s world no one will spend eternity distanced from God. Even the unsaved will wake up and worship God and the end of time will be one big happy celebration where everyone knows Jesus.
If my memory serves me well, I can recall many failures in the Old Testament that went unchecked by God. The Lord did not always get what He wanted – an issue of man exercising his free will in rejecting the goodness and plan of God. From my reading of the Jewish scriptures I remember an entire generation of Israelites that left Egypt in the Exodus and wandered in the desert for forty years until over a million of these wanderers died in their sins. Only Joshua and Caleb from that first generation made it into the Promised Land. Did God fail? According to Bell, He did.
Then there was a whole array of evil kings who ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel. They oppressed their people, worshipped idols and entered into treaties with foreign nations against God’s instructions. We cannot forget the period of the Judges when “everybody did that which was right in their own eyes” and rejected the ways of the God of Israel.
Yet Bell insists God does not fail. His proof? He argues all people will be reconciled with God (pg. 100).
Here’s the way Pastor Bell explains it, “In the Bible, God is not helpless. God is not powerless and God is not impotent” (pg. 101). Because it is God’s desire for all men to be saved, then everyone, according to Love Wins ends up winning.
Of course, God is good to all His creation (Psalm 145).” His anger lasts for only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime” (Psalm 30).
When Bell quotes these verses he completely discounts man’s free will that resists the goodness of God and chooses to rebel against His loving kindness. However. Bell states that “God . . doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found” (pg. 101). Where does it say that in the Bible? We can say God’s unconditional love never gives up on a person, but that person can resist the Lord’s offer of grace up until his death. Face it, people do spend eternity in hell. In Pastor Bells’ world, hell is a vast, empty wasteland where only Satan and his cohorts will reside. I wish it were true.
Despite Bell’s wishful thinking, look at the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds. Not all the seeds bear productive fruit. Some wither and die. As Jesus applied this parable to His preaching the good news of salvation to people, He admits not everyone will receive the seed. Some reject it because of hardness of heart, worries in the world, persecution, the deceitfulness of riches and worldly distractions. Out of the four soil samples Jesus describes, only the last sample actually bears fruit, ” And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).
Bell has lost his moorings when it comes to the fact humans reject the good news of salvation by the power of their own choice. He even accuses God of being unfair for sending people to hell for eternity only because they committed some finite sins in the few years they spent on earth (pg. 102). When it comes to sinful man standing before a holy God, Bell is disconnected from biblical truth. Romans 5:8-9, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
It is true God doesn’t give up seeking and looking to save people’s souls. Yet that doesn’t mean everyone He seeks to be saved will be found. Romans 9:27 explains “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’
If Bells’ theology was correct, there would be no remnant. Everyone would be saved.
In this controversial fourth chapter of Love Wins there is little emphasis on the cross of Christ – the very response necessary to answer the false theology espoused by Bell.
Once again, Pastor Bell leaves me confused as to his theology only because he doesn’t have a grasp of the Scriptures. Bell is a prime example of a Christian who only knows a few favorite verses, but fails to have an understand of the full counsel of God – the entire story of the Bible.
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