There’s not a Christian alive who does not know the contents of John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
What is there not to understand about this verse? How much clearer can Jesus be about the fact men and women come to the Father through Him alone? Yes, it is an exclusive statement that excludes the validity of other religious figures (and their followers) like Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna and every other so-called deity or religion. John 14:6 is everything but inclusive.
Is Jesus actually a backdoor Redeemer?
Leave it to Rob Bell to find a loophole in what I call a “Christianity 101 Bible verse”. Bell says on page 154 of his widely read book Love Wins, “What He [Jesus] doesn’t say is how or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through Him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore is happening through him.”
When I think of all the off-the-wall theological comments Bell makes in Love Wins, this is the worst. Would Acts 4:12 make it clearer for Bell? “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
For Bell to claim Jesus doesn’t “even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know they are coming exclusively through Him,” is heresy or just plain mental confusion. Is Bell saying a person who places his faith in Buddha is actually saved through Jesus; he just doesn’t know it. What about Satan worshippers? Where is this taught in the Bible? Are people who worshipped Molech or Baal in the ancient Canaanite culture actually worshippers of the God of Israel; they just didn’t know it. Why didn’t the God of Israel instruct Israel to enlighten the Canaanites instead of tearing down their altars and wiping them out?
Can Christianity be both exclusive and inclusive?
To further muddy the murky waters Bell states, “Jesus alone is the way to God. But it is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.” The only way to read John 14:6 is to see that on the side of exclusivity, Jesus is the only way. Pastor Rob is not fond of this teaching. In fact he paraphrases the kind of exclusion that is unacceptable to him: You’re either in, or you’re going to hell.
The inclusivity crowd, of which Bell is a member, holds all good people will make it into heaven. As long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you’ll be admitted into the final heavenly rock concert (pg. 155). But then there is another kind of exclusivity according to Bell that insist Jesus is the only way. However, this kind holds on to the belief that the saving love of Jesus will include all sorts of unexpected people across the cultural spectrum. Bell fails to give examples so I don’t know what he’s saying. He leaves the reader hanging in a confused state.
In the end it is Jesus who saves, says Bell. However, there are many possibilities Jesus opens to other religions. So if a Hindu does not accept Jesus, but he is a good Hindu, that person is saved through Jesus; he just doesn’t know it. Of course, the lack of mention of a cross is extremely bothersome. No matter what faith one comes from, the cross and the work of Christ must be confronted.
What must a person acknowledge about Jesus to be saved?
In traditional Christianity, a person is not saved by believing in Jesus and not knowing what that means. Believing in Jesus means believing n His person – Lord, Redeemer, Messiah and Son of God – and His work – dying for our sins on the cross. I cannot get any more basic.
In the rest of chapter 6 Bell dreams up the most confusing theology that is bound to lead the sincere seeker even further from the truth. Bell is very sensitive to the fact many seekers are presented a cultural Christ or a political Christ who has nothing to do with the Bible. I agree. Jesus is not a Republican nor is He is leftist revolutionary. Jesus does not speak in a southern accent nor is He a Dodger fan (Thank God!)
However, there is a Jesus everyone must accept. People don’t stumble or bump into this Jesus as Bell claims (pg. 158). The true Jesus is found in the pages of the New Testament not on the dial of Christian TV. Just because there are so many human-made kinds of Jesus, according to Pastor Bell, does not rule out the Jesus of the Bible. People who find Christ do not accept a Hindu Jesus or a New Age Jesus. People who find Jesus don’t find Him under another name such as Vishnu. His name is Jesus of Nazareth and He is Israel’s Messiah. He came to earth in fulfillment of prophecies uttered by the Hebrew prophets as recorded in the Jewish Scriptures not the Hindu Bhagavad Gita.
Jesus lived on this earth, died for our sins, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and is glorified at God’s right hand. We better get that information straight or we are not meetng the biblical Jesus.
Are Christians so brazen to claim we’ve cornered the market on Jesus?
Bell wants a universal Jesus (pg. 159). He says, “none of us have cornered the market on Jesus.” (pg 159). Bell forgets the Bible has cornered the market on Jesus.
Any Jesus that does not conform to the Jesus of the Gospels is “another Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 11:14 states, ” For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted . . ”
There is no room for “another Jesus” who comes in New Age clothing or dressed as a Sufi.
Can anyone have an opinion about a person’s relationship to God?
Here’s another confusing statement by Pastor Bell. He warns it is our responsibility to be careful about making “negative, decisive, lasting judgments about people’s eternal destinies” (pg. 160). If someone does not believe in the Jesus of the New Testament and ends up putting his faith in a syncretistic Jesus who is part Muslim, part Hindu, part communist and part Rastafarian, I’m sorry but that person has not accepted the truth about Jesus.
The real issue is this: Why can’t Bell come out and affirm the exclusivity of Jesus? He does and then he doesn’t. Bell says about Jesus, “He is the anwer, but He is also the question, the hunt, the search, the exploration, the discovery.” What esoteric slop!
The Love Wins author suggests that not everyone sees this aspect of Jesus but “everybody is sustained by it.” (pg. 161). Does that mean everybody is saved through Jesus but through Bell’s backdoor salvation? Bell is so unclear on his view of salvation. I must conclude he is a universalist since he leaves his readers in a misty fog about the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation.