A newly released book called Love Wins by Rob Bell is (supposedly) causing a huge controversy in Christendom. The issue is over the doctrine of hell, which the emergent Bell hasn’t been very clear about in certain interviews and promotional videos lately. Because it’s no secret that in the past Mennonites have been fond of Rob Bell, and that even more recently, the October 2009 MB Herald issue featured Bell (under Currently in Sermons), some of us are wondering how the Mennonites are reacting to the current publicity over Bell’s latest work on his road to universalism.
As expected, a few postmodern Mennonites are beginning to sound off on this issue, like the odd Mennonite blogger here and there, an MB Forum discussion here, and even some young Anabaptist radicals. Even Menno Weekly has gotten into the hellish debate. After recommending readers to glean from the opinions of heresy’s front line defender Brian McLaren, their article then states:
It has been astounding to see the speed with which Bell has been denounced as a heretic and the forceful unwillingness to even raise the questions he poses. For me, this is a red flag. Why are so many vigorously defending a relatively specific doctrine of hell?
When you look at the Bible, there is no one consistent understanding of hell. For that matter, the concept of an afterlife in much of the Old Testament was non-existent. God blesses and curses you through your descendants, not in an afterlife (see the Ten Commandments). There is no consistent version of hell in the Bible, and what is there most certainly doesn’t look like what most people envision. The image of a red guy with a pitchfork and horns comes from Dante’s Inferno, not the Bible.
The doctrine of hell is powerful. Combined with a select few leaders who determine who’s in and who’s out, the fear of hell fuels enormous power and control. Even raising the question, as Bell has done, challenges the enormous power that many have enjoyed for centuries.
–Rob Bell and what we believe about hell and heaven
By Alan Stucky (pastor of Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church in Harper, Kan.)
Bringing reason to this postmodern madness is an enlightening review that Menno-lite has come across which definitely shines a bright spot light on the subject. Part One of the following very helpful book review (by a pastor at a Bible believing church in Colorado) notes that at the end of Rob Bell’s book there are no footnotes or references to back up his dangerous theology on this extremely important doctrine. (Perhaps he learned from his big mistake of recommending his readers study Ken Wilber for three entire months in endnote 143 of his book Velvet Elvis.) Instead of footnotes or endnotes in Love Wins, Bell has simply included a list that he encourages readers to look into and learn from. Mennonites will find it particularly interesting that among these…
Bell also lists Mark Baker’s edited book, Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary images of the Atonement. Baker’s book includes Brian McClaren, liberal theologian, other’s from Church History and still others who are outside Orthodox Christianity. Baker is a bright man with a PhD from Duke University and an associate professor of mission and theology at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. He lists better ways to share the Atonement of Christ other than using blood as the “metaphor” (Bell has talked about this in interviews just prior to the release of the book). I would argue a strong Biblical case that without blood (not as a metaphor, but literal blood), there is no Atonement of Jesus Christ for our sins. No other image represents the Biblical message of the Old Testament and New Testament!
It also lists Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Monk who was a Roman Catholic Priest who has written many books on spirituality including The Naked Now: Learning to See How the Mystics See. In 2008, Rohr presented a lecture entitled, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening calling us to be like Jesus and Buddha in our honesty. Rob Bell has quoted Rohr throughout the years. Rohr, in interviews has admitted to being a sort of a Christian Universalist (everyone to heaven for eternity and no one to Hell).
Source: Old School Theology is Just Fine: a book review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins (Part One) [Wednesday, March 16, 2011]
Bell’s reference to Mark Baker comes as no surprise. Baker is a professor at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, CA., and it should ring a bell with the Mennonite Brethren that he was recently left with no choice but to apologize for his remarks regarding penal substitutionary atonement (see here). A critique of his book, “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross,” which was required reading for pastors attending Fuller Seminary’s “2004 President’s Theological Conference for Pastors,” can be found here:
Recovering the Scandal of Liberalism: Disdaining the Cross
By Richard Nathan, M.A.*
As far as Bell’s recommendation of Fr. Richard Rohr, the readers of this blog will be familiar with the naked spirituality of this mutual friend of both Bell and Brian McLaren (see here and here). This alone should set off loud, clanging warning bells.
Another thing we learn from the above Sacred Outfitter review is that Bell’s book is endorsed by Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (paraphrase that a generation of biblically illiterate Christians has grown up on) as well as by Brian McLaren, who says, “In Love Wins, Rob Bell tackles the old heaven-and-hell question and offers a courageous alternative answer. Thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story – from beginning to end.” When McLaren recently spoke to the Mennonites at CMU he revealed what these ‘courageous alternative’ questions and answers are really about.
In the end, it won’t matter what Rob Bell says about Hell. All this publicity serves to prove is that, like his friends Brian McLaren and Richard Rohr, and now Mark Baker, Rob Bell is fulfilling what the Word of God already told us – that people would be gathering together teachers to tell them what their itching ears want to hear; alternative answers, otherwise known as fables or myths, changing the truth of God into a lie.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
If you want to know the truth about hell and universalism, open your Bible and read it, not the blood drained gospel of Rob Bell.
Read Part 2 of the Sacred Outfitter review of Love Wins here:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Old School Theology is Just Fine: Review of Love Wins (Part Two)