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Currently Browsing: Heaven and Hell

Can’t God Do Anything Right?

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). (more…)

Those Stubborn Bible Passages About Hell

Some things just won’t go away. For Pastor Rob Bell, author of Love Wins, the scriptures that mention “hell” and God’s judgment and punishment are a thorn in his side.

Slickness is Bell’s middle name when it comes to slithering out of having to sign a doctrinal statement that adheres to the Christian orthodox belief in hell –  a doctrine he rejects.

To water down the heated controversy over “hell,” Bell claims Jesus didn’t use the threat of hell to warn people of the serious consequences of not accepting His message of salvation.

Only Hypocritical Religious People Are Sent To Hell

Bell argues Jesus was mostly speaking to very devout, religious Jews who saw themselves as God’s elect people and thought they didn’t need to accept Christ.  In fact, when Jesus spoke about hell, He addressed individuals who “considered themselves ‘in,’ warning them that their hard hearts were putting their ‘in-ness’ at risk . . . ”  In other words, the religious people.

The people who would qualify as people who hardened their hearts during Jesus’ time were the Jewish religious leaders – the Pharisees, the scribes and teachers of the law. In Bell’s vernacular Jesus was not like most Christians today who use hell to warn people they’re going to eternal damnation because they aren’t Christians (pg. 82). Instead, Jesus used “hell” to speak to people who considered themselves spiritual and saved. In today’s world that would be “Christians.”

A few problems exist in Bell’s attempt to excuse himself from speaking about hell to non-Christians. (more…)

Hell No!

Hell is a serious issue.  Make no mistake about it, there’s no room for theological mistakes when it comes to what you believe about hell.

On the subject of hell, it’s Rob Bell’s questioning of the biblical teaching on hell in his book Love Wins that earned him the notoriety of being on the cover of  Time magazine

In his introduction to the subject of hell, Bell breaks down traditional Christianity into one simple formula:  If you sin, refuse to repent, harden your heart, reject Jesus, and when you die, it’s over (pg. 64). You’re going to hell.

A Loving God Would Not Send Anyone to Hell

The writer then sets up the reader by reminding us that God is loving and kind and full of grace and mercy, and then hints it would be out of character for God to send anyone to hell. What a classic set-up!  Here’s another more creative way of saying the same thing: “Why would a good God send anyone to hell?  After all, people are good and no one deserves to be assigned to hell by a loving God.”

Does Bell even consider the fact God sent His Son to the cross to due for our sins to keep us from going to hell?   I hope so.  (more…)

Mapping Your Way To Heaven-No Room For Error

A most frustrating experience is finding yourself lost in an unfamiliar town and then having to ask strangers for directions to your destination.

Usually, you’ll get one of several responses when you’re dependent on others to get you where you’re headed:  the local guy who’s lived in the town all his life but never heard of our destination; the directions a stranger provides confuse us even more; the person that provides directions based on making rights and lefts at fast food landmarks that are located in obscure locations and the person who gives us great directions but his accent is so thick, we have no idea what he’s saying.

In Rob Bell’s highly influential book Love Wins, the author attempts to map out instructions on how to check-in to the Heavenly Hilton in God’s eternal abode. Like many travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity, the information Bell provides is unclear and leaves us more confused then when we started.

If I was lost and needed to book a room in heaven, I’m not sure Rob Bell’s theology would help me or anyone else.

As I remarked in my last blog, Bell confuses God’s earthly kingdom and His heavenly realm. I call it a “marble cake” theology.  He cannot differentiate between the chocolate and vanilla swirl; it’s all blended together and indistinguishable.  (more…)

Imagine There’s No Heaven

As you read Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, it becomes apparent that as confused he is about the existence of  hell, he is just as muddled in his beliefs about heaven. He is quick to point out that in all the descriptions he finds of heaven in contemporary Christianity, “heaven is obviously, somewhere else”  (Love Wins, pg. 24).

Bell thinks he can make his point about “heaven being elsewhere” by using a nonsensical list of questions he must have pooled from his church’s kindergarden department: “When we get to heaven what will we do all day?  Will we recognize people we used to know? What will it be like? Will there be dogs there?” Because the Bible does not give us a full descriptive response to Bell’s questions, the assumption is that believing heaven is somewhere else is problematic.

The reader is blindsided by Bell when he brings up the fact not all people will be in heaven according to Christianity. Not all our uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters . . .  nor even our parents will necessarily make it to heaven (pg. 25).

Behind Bell’s questioning is his underhanded aim to plant doubts in the reader’s mind whether heaven is a real place and whether God is cruel by not allowing everyone into heaven regardless of their relationship to Christ.

A big chunk of Bell’s chapter on heaven is devoted to  Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. There Jesus  engages a wealthy young man in a conversation about eternal life.

However, Jesus, according to Bell, blows a great opportunity to tell the man how to get to heaven. Instead, the Lord talks to the man about keeping the ten commandments and focuses on his relationships with other people rather than God. Since the ruler thinks he’s kept all the commandments dealing with treatment of others, Jesus tells him to go sell all his possessions and take care of the poor. Bells concludes from this encounter Jesus was not concerned with telling the man how to go to heaven.

(more…)

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