People were debating the subject of hell not only in churches, but in the media. The book made the relatively unknown Bell suddenly famous in a way that he hadn’t been up to that point.
Among those who take the Bible as Godâ€™s literal Word, it has made Bell infamous. He misinterpreted what the Bible says and came up with his own view in place of Christ’s.
In the book,Â Love Wins, he redefined hell in his own understanding. In fact, he redefined it out of existence by making it consummated in things that happen in this life.
However, Bellâ€™s aberrant theological views in this book are not the first time he has departed from Christian orthodoxy.
He had been gradually morphing toward liberal heterodoxy for some time.
The book brought new attention to the doctrine of hell. For this attention, I suppose we should be thankful. Perhaps it will cause the true church to more clearly proclaim the biblical truth regarding this basic tenet of biblical Christianity.
In a promo video forÂ Love Wins, Bell exposes his misunderstanding of the gospel:
There is the question behind the questions, the real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary messageâ€”the center of the Gospel of Jesusâ€”is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus.
And so, what gets, subtly, sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that; that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good; how could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news.â€
Bellâ€™s view of Christianity is seriously distorted to say the least. Jesus does in fact rescue believing sinners from the wrath of God which we deserve for our sin. And this most certainly is good news for those who believe.
Yet the foundational premise of Bellâ€™s misunderstanding of the gospel is that the center of the gospel message is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus.
In other words, Bell asserts that hell is the punishment for not believing in Jesus, rather than hell being the justice that our sin deserves since we are born in trespasses and sins.
Unfortunately, many Christians donâ€™t seem to understand the gospel any better than Bell does. He’s simply amplifying what the average church-goer already thinks.
The predominant thought in the church today is the premise that from birth man is basically innocent and headed toward heaven until he willfully chooses to reject Christ as his Savior. At that point, his destiny shifts from heaven-bound to hell-bound.
But this premise completely misses the point of the gospel and our falleness from conception. Thereâ€™s a subtle twist in the way Satan and his messengers distort Godâ€™s truth to make God look unrighteous.
People donâ€™t go to hell simply because they reject faith in Christ, although, thatâ€™s certainly the reason that theyÂ donâ€™t go to heaven.
The fundamental reason any person goes to hell is because of their own unforgiven sin. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Because of our birth in Adamâ€™s fallenness, we were already headed to hell, already dead in trespasses and sins, already separated from God and without hope.
The reason Christians donâ€™t go to hell is because God in His infinite mercy and grace rescues us from our natural orientation.
However, apart from the gift of faith in Christâ€™s gospel, we all would have gone to hell for our own sins, whether we had openly rejected the gospel or never heard it in the first place.
Justice is where unrighteous people get exactly what they deserve in hell.
Grace is where unrighteous people get precisely what they do not deserve in heaven: cleansing, forgiveness, mercy, imputed righteousness from Christ, and all the inheritance of Christ. This is amazing grace!
Keep in mind, Bell has frequently taught an unbiblical view of hellâ€”one in which hell is not a literal place where sinners are justly punished, but more of a self-induced state of mind pertaining mainly to this life. In an interview in 2007, he said:
â€œI donâ€™t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. [Why would you] want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side?
Like if you are going to pick causes, if youâ€™re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, Iâ€™ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I donâ€™t understand that.â€ [Rob Bell, Ooze Interview (July 2007)].
For the Christian, beliefs begin with the truth that God has revealed in the Bible; beliefs donâ€™t begin with what I may want to be true or not. We donâ€™t get a vote on the moral laws (or physical laws!) that govern the universe.
I believe in a literal place of eternal conscious torment for unforgiven sinners because this is revealed by God in Scripture. My desires or personal wishes have no bearing on the truthfulness of any doctrine.
As a Christian who believes what God has revealed in Scripture, I believe all kinds of doctrines that are out of sorts with public opinion.
Almost everything I affirm as a Christian will put me at odds with one group or another and be deemed unpopular in the marketplace of ideas.
We canâ€™t base our beliefs on how it will â€œplay in the press.â€ The content of our preaching cannot be based on, â€œWhat do people want to hear?â€ Christians are under orders to proclaim Godâ€™s message to His people in the church and broadly to the world at large.
Rob Bell approaches Christian doctrines as one might go through a cafeteria line, picking those he finds appealing or tolerable and rejecting others for which he has no taste or desire.
We should pray for the church to have discernment regarding the subject of hell. People need to believe what God has revealed in Scripture and be changed to see Godâ€™s truth as both objective and knowable through His written Word, the Bible.
LoveÂ in the Truth,