Opening up this month’s issue of the (May 2011) MB Herald, readers will eventually come across a review-lite of Rob Bell’s controversial new book called Heaven and hell, here and now by David Warkentin, an MB pastor at Hyde Creek Community Church, Port Coquitlam, B.C. (davidwarkentin.blogspot.com).
Warkentin’s review accurately points out how Rob Bell believes that heaven and hell already exist here on earth (even though they are real places according to the Bible), and that reaction or cultural appeal seems to be the driving force of Bell’s theology. However, the review mistakenly states that Rob Bell is not a universalist. While it is true that he is not a strict ‘universalist’ by definition (and denies that he is a universalist), it is very important to realize that Rob Bell is a ‘Christian universalist’, and teaches what is called universal reconciliation.
Here is the difference:
UNIVERSALISM: ALL paths leads to God. You can be a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, whatever, and you get to God through your own path, whatever that looks like according to your faith tradition. In the strictest sense of Universalism, there is no Jesus, no Cross and no Hell. (Please note that these are the main points that distinguish Universalism from Universal Reconciliation)…
UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATION (a.ka., CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALISM): ALL people are ultimately saved through Christ. They may not have a complete understanding of who Christ is, but in some way, the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ constitutes the mechanism that provides redemption for all humanity and makes atonement for all sins. A limited form of hell is sometimes held to, but not always.
The MB Herald review also suggests that “Bell’s emphasis on the centrality of Jesus’ teachings should resonate with our Anabaptist roots as Mennonite Brethren,” and concludes that “Love Wins creatively presents a biblically relevant way of following Jesus in this world.” But how is questioning what Jesus said about eternity emphasizing the centrality of His teachings? And what about Bell’s past recommendation of Ken Wilber, and teaching youth breathing exercises like the yogi masters? Has Rob Bell consistently demonstrated a biblically relevant way of following Jesus by taking part in events like the Seeds of Compassion discussion panels with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu? This was an Interfaith gathering for bridging religious traditions, seeking to deepen understanding and find common ground with other faiths.
Do these things resonate with Anabaptist Mennonite Brethren roots? Hardly. It was Menno Simons who said:
“Where the spirit of God urges or moves to preach, there will the word be incorruptibly taught in the power of God…The Gospel, the word of God, preached unmingled, in the power of the spirit, is the only right, true seed from which are born the truly believing and obedient children of God. If the church of Christ brings forth children from the doctrine of man, and not from God’s word, she is not faithful unto Christ, and her children are not of his seed….”
This type of fruit must be taken into consideration before one can decide if Bell, or any Christian author, is presenting biblical teaching – no matter how popular they or their views are. It is a tremendous responsibilty to biblically review books by those in the church who are not teaching the pure the gospel or doctrinal truth, especially when it comes to the essentials.
Souls are at stake.
Hopefully this gentle review in the MB Herald does not encourage Mennonites to accept the unorthodox teachings in this dangerously confusing book by Rob Bell.
On Rob Bell, Hell and Mennonites
NEW ZONDERVAN CEO FAN OF ROB BELL
An Interview About Rob Bell’s Book “Love Wins”
Mocking Truth: Rob Bell’s False Hope, Worldly Heaven and Earth-Based Hell
Rob Bell, Mars Hill and Velvet Elvis—Repainting the Christian Faith
..Emerging Church Leader or Fully Emerged Apostate?
Old School Theology is Just Fine: a book review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins
Brian McLaren defends Rob Bell’s views on Hell
Rob Bell Calls for Civil Discourse, Has No Regrets
The Quantum Spirituality of Rob Bell
A critical review of Love Wins
By Pastor Larry DeBruyn
Heaven, Hell and Rob Bell – a Face to Face Debate about Love Wins