While I realize I may be late to the party, I tend to get lots of questions from friends and family when it comes to issues surrounding theology and/or Rob Bell.  I was apparently in “wave two” of Amazon’s shipments of Bell’s newest book, Love Wins, so I just got my copy on Wednesday.  Having now read it and processed it a bit, let’s answer the questions I suspect I’ll be asked, along with a review of the book.

Additionally, I’m simultaneously posting a separate article about the nature of hell and a number of different viewpoints on the subject (and why there might be room for doubt in the study of pareschatology – the study of what happens between death and the final state).

The Short Review

First off, there is nothing really “new” in this book that you won’t find in some form in the writings of other Christian authors, whether in the early Church fathers or in famous writers like C.S. Lewis, whose The Great Divorce and The Last Battle both communicate many of the themes mentioned in Love Wins.  Additionally, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary (where Bell was trained), after reading the book, notes that Bell’s theology is still within the stream of Orthodox Christianity.

Let’s start with a quick Q&A style review (You can see a transcript of one interview here) for those of you that just want the answers to the most-often asked questions about this book:

Is Rob Bell a Universalist?

No.  He has reiterated this in multiple interviews since the publication of the book.  In Universalism, as in Determinism, there is no room for free will, and according to Bell, one of the primary characteristics of love is the freedom to choose apart from coercion.  Thus, in Universalism, Love does not Win.

Does Rob Bell believe in Hell?

Yes.  In the book, and in subsequent interviews, he makes it clear that he believes that Hell truly exists, both now on earth and in the future, past death.  He states, “I believe in Hell now.  I believe in Hell when you die.  I believe God gives people the right to say “no”, to resist, to refuse, to reject, to cling to their sins, to cling to their version of their story.  There’s a whole chapter in the book on Hell, and I think we should take Hell very seriously.”

Does Rob Bell believe that Hell will be empty?

No.  While he does communicate the rationale for an empty Hell that Christian Universalists give, he does not assert it as certain truth, again stating that there are people who reject God and will be in Hell.  Additionally, in his November 2010 sermon at Mars Hill Bible Church on Matthew 25 (the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids), he states that each of us will have an end date, past which we can no longer join the wedding party – and that we should be urgent in being prepared.  His co-pastor, Shane Hipps, also confirms this Mars Hill Church teaching in his March 6 sermon, “When the Bowl Breaks”.  (You can read the MHBC FAQ on Love Wins, as well, for more of the church’s view on its’ pastor’s new book.)

Why did Bell write this book?

Many people, as they come to learn about Christ and Christianity, have questions about the afterlife – often times conflicting questions.  Bell believed that these folks were being mis-served by answers that treat these questions all under an umbrella of certainty (regarding eternal, conscious punishment, and the Gospel being functionally sold as fire insurance), where there have been a multiplicity of views throughout Christian history.  Thus, ultimately, voices of certainty may have done more harm than good.  This interview from MSNBC has a good response from Bell on this question, as well.

Then what is the hubub about?

Bell states (similarly to first century Rabbinic Judiasm) that the Kingdom of God/Heaven exists both here and now, and then later into eternity, when God renews the earth.  Similarly, Hell exists both here and now on earth, and continues into eternity.  In his view, there are a number of churches who treat the Gospel as a message of relocation.  It is all about getting your ticket now to avoid hell after you die, at which point you will be whisked away to some other place called “Heaven”.  Instead, he says that the Kingdom of God/Heaven has already come and that it has already begun to exist today and will continue on after we die.  The Gospel is about how we treat people and live now, and we trust in God to take care of what happens when we die.

No, really.  What is the hubub about?

Fear and loathing. In short, a vocal group of Christians have mistaken contending for the faith with contenting for their systematic interpretations.

It is about a group of Christians who feel threatened when a position they have carved out with certainty (on a topic about which the Bible is neither explicit nor clear in terms of God’s mechanism and action) has been undermined.  A popular pastor outlines a number of different possibilities that have existed throughout the history of Christianity – possibilities that mess with the systems these people have built their faith on – so they have decided to circle the wagons.

Bell’s writing is not didactic – a logical paper laid out on an orderly outline – but, rather it is a narrative, with more questions than answers, and room for uncertainty.  Those who crave certainty do not find it in his writing, and therefore feel that Bell is threatening the faith of others who should be given that certainty – even if no such certainty exists in the Bible.

What if Bell is Wrong?

In the same interview as above, he states, “If there are billions and billions and billions of people – if God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who have never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of, then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

So should I buy the book?

In my opinion, both Sex God and Velvet Elvis are his better works, though Love Wins is still pretty good, though probably written more for group discussion than solo pleasure reading.  Probably the most important concept that he conveys is the importance of harboring epistemic humility – of being just as skeptical of your own interpretations of non-essential, unknowns (like pareschatology and eschatology) as you are of those who disagree with you.  If you have had questions about the afterlife you were afraid to ask, or if you’ve been abused by “Turn or Burn” theology, this is probably a book for you.  Even so, I would still encourage it as a group book, rather than as a solo book.  Discussion is very important to any tough subject – especially one with as many unknowns and misunderstandings as the mechanics of the afterlife.

The weakest arguments in the book are around the use of aion – the linchpin of the Christian Universalist position on Hell – and some of the poor prooftexting regarding this same view.  I do not think he probably gave this view the defense that its true believers would have preferred, but probably enough to get the gist of their argument.  I think his use of the rock that Moses struck in Exodus in his discussion on inclusivism is also a stretch, as well (though I understand he was using it as a metaphor, not a justification).  Even so, some of his observations on invclusivist views (like with the age of accountability, and with those who have never heard Christ’s message) were still well-presented.

One thing that really annoyed me, in a departure from his previous books, was the lack of footnotes/endnotes.  All of his previous books were heavily endnoted, and those notes provided a good deal of interesting, funny and insightful information – both on the sources of his material, and (for readers longing for more didactic exposition) rationale for its inclusion in the book.  Love Wins has no footnoting or endnoting, and it suffers greatly for its absence, particular for readers wanting to follow up or “Bereans” wanting to test what was written.  I do not know if this was Bell’s choice or that of his publisher, but it was definitely a mistake.**

The Longer Review

This book is somewhat of a Rorschach Test – if you are looking for it to confirm what you already believe about Rob Bell, it will probably supply you with the self-confirmation you seek (though if you’re purchasing a book to confirm what you already believe, perhaps you can spend your $15 on something more productive).

For the Big-R Reformed Crowd

If you are Reformed and you believe that “Not Reformed” is analogous to “Not Saved” or “Heretic”, you will hate this book.

In fact, the Reformed Crowd, dubbed “Team Hell“, jumped the starting blocks, blasting away at this book, weeks before it was even published (with the Godfather of All Things Calvin helping cast Bell as Michael Servetus, dismissively tweeting “Farewell, Rob Bell”).  The promotional materials from HarperOne and the promotional video (in which Bell questions the certainty of Ghandi’s being in hell – not that he claimed Ghandi was in heaven.  No, Bell just had the temerity of pondering that maybe we ought to let God decide exactly who is in hell, rather than pronouncing who we believe for certain to be there) were enough to set off Team Hell.  Following this, Martin Bashir, a congregant of Calvinist Tim Keller, tossed a bit of red meat to Team Hell by playing a bit of gotcha journalism, doggedly hounding Bell with number of false dichotomies in a TV interview (which Bell seemed much better prepared for in a later interview with Sally Quinn).

Basically, you could say that the Big-R Reformed crowd, in general, reacted exactly the way the public has come to expect their caricature Christians to react – intolerant, mean, and ready to eat their own young before going after yours.

Why, you might ask?

Newsflash – Bell is not a Calvinist, nor does he support systematic theology.*

In Love Wins, Bell pretty much confirms this.  In fact, he probably sets himself up as an anti-Calvinist.  And in the Christian blogosphere, where this 5% of Evangelical Christianity screams louder, longer and meaner than the other 95% of Christianity combined, it’s no surprise that Love Wins has been received with very little of what might resemble love.

As one blogger tweeted, on seeing the trending of Rob Bell in Twitter:

“For a moment I was afraid Rob Bell had died. But then I realized that it was just a few Calvinists hating him into a trending topic.”

First and foremost, Calvinism is dependent on a hell which exists as eternal, conscious torment – the seat of sinners in the hands of an angry God.  As such, any doubt about this hyper-exclusive view of the afterlife is anathema.  Bell’s multiple options on how hell has been historically viewed (even though he claims none of them fully) will be one of Team Hell’s primary obstacles with Love WinsWhat, they ask, is the motivation for accepting Christ, if people outside of right-thinking, right-believing Christians might still wind up escaping the flames of hell?

(In an interesting side-note, if it wasn’t so sad, it would be amusing to note all the twisted ways the theology of the accusers have to go in attacking Bell:  like with the insistence that we cannot forgive others, unless we can depend on the wrath of God to punish them for us.  Somehow, that just doesn’t seem like forgiveness…)

Next, and almost as important to the Big-R Reformed crowd, is Bell’s view of man as having free will to choose or reject God – because one cannot truly love if that “love” is borne of coercion.  This flies in the face of the deterministic view of strict Calvinism, which has no room for human free will, insofar as it pertains to accepting or rejecting Christ.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Bell also portrays Christus Victor, Ransom Theory, and other theories of atonement as equally valid means of communicating Jesus’ sacrifice as PSA (Penal Substitutionary Atonement) (the only Reformed view of atonement).  Bell treats the different views of soteriology as metaphors used to convey the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice, rather than choosing one (PSA, of course) as the concrete, certain mechanism of atonement.  And then, to add insult to injury, Bell (via the Apostle Paul) expands the view of atonement beyond the individualistic view of salvation to one of reconciliation of all creation.

And finally, Bell gives voice to a belief that most Christians hold to some degree – that of a limited inclusivism.  This is a view that people who have never had an opportunity to hear about Christ, or understand his message, still might have a place in the world to come.  If you believe in the “age of accountability”, you already hold to a form of inclusivism.  If you believe that it is possible for God to show mercy to an indigenous inhabitant of a distant island, who has never even met or heard of a Christian, you already hold to a form of inclusivism.  This view runs counter to Reformed Christianity, as well, though it also runs afoul in broader Evangelical circles, if their impetus for missionaries is to “save people” who would otherwise (in their view) be certainly damned if they were never ministered to.

What it comes down to, Bell argues, is in living the Gospel (as a set of actions – not works that save, but as acts of gratitude) rather than teaching the idea of Gospel (as concept/belief with required assent).  We have the choice of bringing about heaven or hell in our lives here on earth by living or rejecting the Gospel, and when we die, we will continue on in those choices we’ve made.

So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will “get to heaven”, that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer into the club.

The good news is  better than that.

This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties.(178)

For the Rest of Us

So, if you’re not in the Big-R Reformed crowd, and you can accept a little bit of mystery in Scripture, you very well may enjoy this book.  Realize, as I noted earlier, it is not didactic – so if you’re looking for a structured set of apologetics, you will be sorely disappointed.  Additionally, you need to realize that one of Bell’s aims is simply to expose the readers to some other views from the history of Orthodox Christianity, not to claim one specific view as the “correct one”.  As he noted in his pre-publication interview:

I’d say it’s very important when you’re bumping up against [mystery], to not turn your speculation into dogma. And I think we’ve seen a lot of that, which is people saying, “This person’s there, this person’s there, this is how this will unfold.” But we have no available video evidence. So I think it’s very important for people of faith to say, yes, I believe in heaven. Yes, I believe it’s real. Yes I believe it’s somehow intermingled with this reality, and yet somehow separate from this reality. How exactly all of that works out, I don’t know… And beyond that, there is a point where we are firmly into mystery and speculation. Let’s enjoy that speculation, but when someone drives their stake into the ground and says, “No it’s this.” Well, great, that’s what you think.

The realm of pareschatology is very much the realm of speculation.  Yes, we have some Biblical direction on that speculation, but it is not explicit in its descriptions of the mechanics of the afterlife, but it is rich with symbolism and metaphor and light on logistics.  Love Wins attempts to create room for this uncertainty from the standpoint that the ambiguity we have been given by God is intentional, because our actions today matter and what comes tomorrow – in life or in death – is God’s.

Probably the best chapter of the book is the second to last, “The Good News is Better than That”, which uses the parable of the Prodigal Son as the underlying metaphor for how those inside and outside the church can fail to see the good news presented by Christ.  In this chapter, Bell tackles the “theology of evacuation” that has permeated much of American Christianity.  In it, he also tackles the subject of self-appointed “watchmen” and their poisoned keyboards:

Inquisitions, persecutions, trials, book burnings, blacklisting – when religious people become violent, it is because they have been shaped by their God, who is violent.  We see this destructive shaping alive and well in the toxic, venomous nature of certain discussions and debates on the Internet.  For some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don’t articulate matters of faith as they do. (183)

The book is not without its faults.  I cannot express strongly enough how disappointed I am in its lack of footnoting (as above).  In his previous books, the footnotes have been very helpful in group discussions, and knowing where Bell pulled various Scriptures or ideas from.  They were far more helpful than those in most books.  Additionally, Bell probably tries too hard when he lays out the Universal Reconciliation position on hell by pulling some Scriptures which are obviously out of context, or by quoting Augustine selectively.  Even so, he does a commendable job of weaving in the Eastern Orthodox view in the chapter on Heaven and with hints in subsequent chapters.  Truthfully, this may be because the latter has more logical Biblical and cultural support than the former.

All in all, Love Wins is a good book.  Not necessarily a great one (a category in which I would include his previous works, Sex God and Velvet Elvis), both for its brevity and its shortcomings noted above.  Even so, it raises a number of questions that ought to be honestly discussed.  The optimist in me hopes that pastors and their followers will actually have those honest discussions, leaving room for disagreement.  The realist in me, though, suggests that there are churches and tribes who will use these questions (and their “correct” answers) as tests of faith, thus instituting their own versions of hell on earth.

Shalom

*-Whether you see this as an indication of heresy or sanity may be another Rorschach Test, in and of itself.
**- I tend to believe it was probably HarperOne’s decision, as mass-market book readers do not tend to like footnoting/endnoting, because it breaks the flow of the text and interrupts the reader.  Even so, it should have been included in the book, somehow

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74 Comments(+Add)

1   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 27th, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I was surprised by the lack of endnotes too. It does definitely make reading less of a task, but it’s nice to have them for the sake of seeing an author’s thought process. Beside that, another thing that annoyed was the clear dustcover. It looks a library book.

2   Neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 10:15 am

thanks for the review (the short portion)… since i have not read the book, it adds depth to the other reviews and commentaries i have read.

it is possible the foot/end notes were ommitted to emphaize the narrative genre.

i’ll admit – for clarity and i opposition to those who say we are all in lockstep agreement with each other) that i only skimmed “The Longer Review.”

i found it unnescessarily confrontational – but maybe that’s just me.

3   Nathan Myers    http://anothernathanmyers.com
March 28th, 2011 at 11:19 am

Thank you so much for this review. Your thoughts are clarifying, give a great overview to the book, and just very meaningful.

My wife and I have already started recommending this link to our friends and acquaintances, and will do so going forward.

To place your review in context, these kinds of discerning contributions have a ripple effect out into places you never will know; which is an intimate part of the healing, hopeful good news of God.

4   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 28th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

#2, Without making an official count, I have feel like I have noticed you making the disclaimer that you are typing something to show that we are not all in “lockstep agreement.” My question is, why are you doing this? What do you hope to gain? Why must you prove this?

5   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Joe – it’s OK, and I’m Ok with Neil taking that position – I’m probably more confrontational in the “longer review” portion than I needed to be (I was being specifically pointed for some friends of mine), even though I would still back up those thoughts. Neil is less confrontational that I am, and as a pastor, would not be quite as strident or hyperbolic. I can respect that, just as much as I respect you (someone probably more confrontational that I am, though sometimes not by much ;-)

Nathan – thank you, and grace and peace to you.

6   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 28th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

It’s funny, Chris, that you say that VE and Sex God are your favorite Bell books. I think I would say this and JWTSC are my favorite. Perhaps the fact that they tend to focus more on the “big picture” aspect of the Biblical narrative, and they are bit more defined in their scope. Although, it’s also been quite a while since I’ve atually read the first two books.

7   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 28th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Chris, I get that it’s OK. And I will admit that I am sometimes put off by it. I’m just trying to understand. I sometimes feel that Neal, like all of us probably, has different standards for issues that we can be confrontational on. For instance, there was a few days when Neal and I disagreed about how we should be writing toward John Chisham and I was told to dial it back a bit, or whatever. Then when John Chisham went after the Palestinians, which is something very near and dear to Neal’s heart the gloves kind of came off.
I honestly don’t care about that at beyond a trying to understand level. I keep seeing this phrase and I’m curious what is the motivator. Instead of guessing or trying to assume, I figured I’d ask.

8   neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

re #4

joe, i am not making comments for the purpose of disagreement. however, over the past couple weeks when i have disagreed (with other writers here) – i have pointed it out.

this was mostly tongue-in-cheek and directed at those who continually demean us as being in complete agreement with each other.

i suppose the point has been made.

9   neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

re #7

joe, that’s a pretty fair assessment. there was a time i thought you too hard on tboy – to put it another way, too ungracious.

somewhere along the line he convinced me he was not interested in graciousness – receiving it or dispensing it. accuracy, reality, kingdom – they mean nothing to him if he gets the chance to promote his ethnocentrism and modernist worldview.

i forget what the tipping point was – it may have been his racists attitude against the arabs, or any number of things…

…bottom line is – he fits and illustrates the definition of a troll. the best thing we can do, and the thing that will confound him the most, is just ignore his lunacy. the thing a troll hates most is not being able to bait a comment or misdirect an argument. when/if he decides to play nice, if he decides to have even a heated argument and not play the troll – we will.

10   Neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

re 5;

…and i also still like piper. but i must admit the tweet was embarrassing.

i commented on the longer review b/c i thought it more again calvinists than about the book. in hindsight, the section For the Big-R Reformed Crowd was what i was addressing. the rest, including the “For the Rest of Us” was more “book reviewesque”

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Makes sense, Neil. All is good w/ me – and yes, the whole Big-R Reformed thing is one of my hot buttons… (You should have seen the first draft :)

12   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 28th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

#’s 8 and 9.
Thanks for expounding. I appreciate it. I was wondering if you were hoping to get one of them to say, “Oh, I get it now!” or whatever so I thought I’d ask.

13   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 5:02 pm

“and yes, the whole Big-R Reformed thing is one of my hot buttons”

You can write the forward to my book. :)

14   andy    
March 28th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Thks for the review, i’m in neither camp, and i’m sure Bell makes some great points in the book, if he’s anything its a great communicator…

Butttt i can’t help feel Bell brought a lot of the “hubub” on himself…He releases a deliberately provocative video, and then everyones up in arms when people bites..

I guess unprovocative doesn’t sells, the other reason he wrote the book , lets not kid ourself otherwise

15   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
March 28th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

What is “Reformed” anyway? How would you describe it accurately (avoiding sarcasm and the like)? Trying to understand…

16   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
March 28th, 2011 at 6:55 pm

The fact is, that Hell by any other name is not hell, that Jesus by any other name is not Jesus, and we do not choose to not be part of the ’story’, we are chosen by God to be part of the story. We are by default condemned. All this hubbub is about Bell denying the Gospel and making it man-centered and up to man, not up to God.

His Gospel is Christless, and it is ananthema. it is no Gospel at all.

17   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I reserve the right to group all forms of Calvinism into many different names, reformed being one. :cool:

18   Neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

All this hubbub is about Bell denying the Gospel… – tboy

the more often you make this (never substantiated) claim, the more i wonder just what you think the gospel is.

19   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 28th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

All this hubbub is about Bell denying the Gospel and making it man-centered and up to man, not up to God.

“What’s with this guy healing on the Sabbath?!?! Who’s he think he is? Doesn’t he know that the Sabbath is about God, not these freakin’ people!”

20   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Hell by any other name is not hell?

Pray, tell us, which hell? Gehenna? Hades? Tartarus? And how do arrive at this conclusion – what is the hermeneutical basis for your choice? Is it eternal, conscious torment? Annihilation? Or what? And what is your biblical basis for stating this as a certainty, above any other interpretation? Why does it matter?

21   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 28th, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Here’s the the real Hell! (Hell, MI, that is…)

22   Neil    
March 28th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

of course, we ask these specific questions (how does bell deny the gospel? how is it christless? what is your biblical basis for eternal punishment?) with no expectation of any answer… just more trollish cliches.

23   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 28th, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Well, no answer is better than a copy-paste job from some KJV-Only site that relishes in proving that 99% of humanity (but obviously not them) will be eternally, consciously tortured for eternity (rather than some actual independently studied Scripture and interpretation, along with contextually quotes passages from the disagreeable work)…

24   Tim    
March 29th, 2011 at 12:05 am

Team Hell is such an interesting rhetorical device. Someone had their thinking cap on.

25   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
March 29th, 2011 at 9:32 am

Jesus’ words on Hell (Gehenna)
“fire” Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41
“everlasting fire” Matt 18:8, 25:41
“eternal damnation” Mark 3:29
“hell fire” Matt 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47
“damnation” Matt 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47
“damnation of hell” Matt 23:33
“resurrection of damnation” John 5:29
“furnace of fire” Matt 13:42, 50
“the fire that never shall be quenched” Mark 9:43, 45
“the fire is not quenched” Mark 9:44, 46, 48
“Where their worm dieth not” Mark 9:44, 46, 48
“wailing and gnashing of teeth” Matt 13:42, 50
“weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30
“torments” Luke 16:23
“tormented in this flame” Luke 16:24
“place of torment” Luke 16:28
“outer darkness” Matt 8:12, 22:13
“everlasting punishment” Matt 25:46

26   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 10:17 am

Well, that’s an impressive list of Scripture. Let the exegesis begin…

27   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:23 am

A.W. Pink puts it like this:

“. . . that the wrath of God is a Divine perfection is plainly demonstrated by what we read in Psa 95:11 ‘unto whom I swear in My wrath.’ There are two occasions of God’s ‘swearing’: in making promises (Gen 22:16); and in pronouncing judgments (Deut 1:34 ff.) In the former, He swears in mercy to His children; in the latter, He swears to deprive a wicked generation of its murmuring and unbelief. An oath is for solemn confirmation (Heb 6:16). In Gen 22:16, God says, ‘By myself have I sworn. . . .’ In Psa 89:35, He declares, ‘Once have I sworn by my holiness.’ While in Psa 95:11, He affirms ‘I swear in my wrath.” Thus the great Jehovah Himself appeals to His ‘wrath’ as a perfection equal to His ‘holiness’; He swears by the one as much as by the other! Again, as in Christ ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Col. 2:9), and as all the Divine perfections are illustriously displayed by Him (John 1:18), therefore do we read of ‘the wrath of the Lamb.’ (Rev 6:19).” (A.W. Pink The Attributes of God)

People today, including Bell who says

“If there are billions and billions and billions of people – if God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who have never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of, then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

, HATE the concept of a God who possesses an eternal wrath. All people want to know about God (if, indeed they want to know anything at all) is about His love. Men create in their minds the concept of a God who is all love and nothing elsethey make an idol in their heads. like Bell in saying ‘Love Wins’ The Bible, however, is absolute about the fact that God is a God of wrath. God’s wrath is the reason for the necessity of the Gospel (Rom 1:16-18)–atonement and salvation by grace are required because of God’s righteous wrath against sin. The question is why is salvation necessary? It is salvation from the wrath of God. The righteous wrath of God. For the believer, deliverance from wrath is our great hope (1 Thess. 1:10), and God’s wrath is turned aside (propitiated) for believers by the Blood of Christ (Rom 3:25-26; 5:8-9). God’s wrath against sin and sinners is so great that He sent His Son to die in the place of those who were to be redeemed–no lesser sacrifice would do. If we deny wrath, we essentially deny the gospel.

28   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 11:29 am

Jesus’ words on Hell (Gehenna)…
…“eternal damnation” Mark 3:29

this example only works in the kjv. in the greek it is “eternal sin.” there is no mention of hell or gehenna in this entire pericope. now, as ominous and significant as this is, how does it speak to the question of hell as a place of conscious eternal torment? in fact, how does it speak of hell at all? if someone teaches that this speaks to jesus’ words on gehenna, they would be teaching something false since they are not his words on gehenna. again this is ominous and significant – but it is not jesus speaking about gehenna.

29   Tim    
March 29th, 2011 at 11:41 am

So we get a list of phrases culled from a search engine of scripture, and then an explanation from an extrabiblical source.

Sola scriptura? Don’t think so.

30   Eugene    http://eugeneroberts.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:43 am

For God so eagerly wanted to pour out His wrath that He sent his only Son…

31   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 11:44 am

Jesus’ words on Hell (Gehenna)
“fire” Matt 7:19,

no mention of hell or gehenna here. the context is about bearing fruit. so the idea of fire is obviously an agricultural metaphor… bad bracnhes are cut off and burned.

if the fire is literal, does this mean our salvation is based on works? does this mean that we are also literally cut with a blade of some kind.

again, while this warning is significant to apply this to hell, to say that jesus is speaking about gehenna when it is nowhere even hinted at inn the context is to make the test say something it does not say.

32   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 11:51 am

Jesus’ words on Hell (Gehenna)
“fire” Matt 13:40, 25:41

these verses also do not mention gehenna… and the former is another agricultural metaphor.

they do, however speak to punishment, so they are closer to being relevant.

the former sounds more like annihilation – since, if the fore is literal you would expect to result to be as literal as well.

the latter clearly speaks of eternal consequences. unfortunately the basis of the consequences is not belief vs unbelief, or even right belief, but works – specifically how we deal with the poor. something i pointed out recently and was soundly mocked for by the very person who offered this as proof of eternal conscience punishment.

33   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 12:11 pm

PB – Alright, let’s take a look at these (noting that you seem to have fulfilled my prediction of cutting and pasting from a KJV-only work):

“fire” Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41

None of these references Gehenna – they are all references to “fire” in parables (trees, weeds and goats), with no indication that the objects (trees, weeds and goats) are perpetually burning. Every indication is that they are consumed in the flames. Additionally, since these are parables, and not literal descriptions, why is it we should accept a literal view of the fire when we accept everything else in them to be figurative?

Either way, this would be just as supportive of annihilationism over eternal, conscious punishment (actually more so).

“everlasting fire” Matt 18:8, 25:41

Matt 18 references Gehenna (as do the synoptic duplicates of this teaching), but (again) Matt 25:41 does not. And again we’re claiming that half of Jesus’ statements (about hands, feet and goats) are figurative, yet the fire is literal. Also note that it is the fire that is eternal, not the objects thrown into it.

Either way, this would be just as supportive of annihilationism over eternal, conscious punishment (actually more so).

“eternal damnation” Mark 3:29

“eternal damnation” only appears in the KJV. The other primary modern versions (NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT) say “is guilty of an eternal sin”. This doesn’t speak at all to Gehenna or the nature of the afterlife, but rather to the seriousness of the sin.

“hell fire” Matt 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47

These are all synoptic equivalents of the cut off your hand/gouge out your eye/cut off your foot vs. your whole body metaphor. So, again, the literal meaning is a physical location – Gehenna, the Hinnom Valley – the town dump, which was constantly kept burning to reduce the refuse to ash and prevent spread of disease.

Either way, this would be just as supportive of annihilationism vs. eternal, conscious punishment.

“damnation” Matt 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47

These are all synoptic equivalents of the same statement (with Matt 23:14 missing from most modern translations), and none of them translate it “damnation” (only the KJV does this). The common English translation is “greater condemnation” or “punished most severely”.

Neither of these references Gehenna, and neither suggests anything about punishment for eternity.

“damnation of hell” Matt 23:33

No modern translation uses the phrase “damnation of hell”. They are either “sentence of Gehenna“, “sentence to Gehenna“, or “condemnation to Gehenna“.

This one is actually fairly problematic for you, though. Is Jesus referencing the city dump (possibly referencing their destruction in 70 A.D., or using figurative language about it), or is he referencing the Rabbinic belief about Gehenna (which some date as an oral teaching pre-Christ, but which was not physically recorded until they codified the Talmud in the third century)? If he is referencing the Rabbinic belief about Gehenna, you’ve got a problem, because their belief about Gehenna was that it was a place of extreme punishment for up to one year, after which the soul would be released to Olam HaBa – the world to come. Or, in the case of only the most wicked, the soul would then be destroyed.

Jesus never gives an explicit description of what Gehenna means when he says it, so it must be assumed that his audience understood what Gehenna meant. There is no record – in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Philo, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha or any other First Century works – of Gehenna as a place of eternal torment. None. The only references to Gehenna and the afterlife are the Rabbinic ones, which were written down in the third century. And, it should be noted, the Rabbinic view of Gehenna fits better with Mark 12:40 (and its synoptic equivalents) because only this view of Gehenna allows for greater and lesser amounts of punishment.

“resurrection of damnation” John 5:29

Modern translations have “resurrection of judgment” or “resurrection to be condemned”. But the question is – do you really want to be citing this?

those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

There is no indicator that the “good” are those that believed the right things and that the “evil” are those that believed the wrong things. Life vs. judgment is based on “have done what is good” or “have done what is evil” in this teaching. Even so, nothing is specified as to what the judgment/condemnation consequences are.

“furnace of fire” Matt 13:42, 50
“wailing and gnashing of teeth” Matt 13:42, 50

Ok, we’re back into parables, and there is no mention of Gehenna. Additionally, there is no indication that the weeds/fish/wicked are not consumed in the fiery furnace, which would just as easily support annihilationism.

“the fire that never shall be quenched” Mark 9:43, 45
“the fire is not quenched” Mark 9:44, 46, 48
“Where their worm dieth not” Mark 9:44, 46, 48

This is all from the Mark passage I’ve covered previously in the comments, and in my article on hell. It is (again) the teaching on cutting off your hand/eye/foot vs. your whole body. This again brings up the conundrum of what his audience understood Gehenna to be. The most likely (and literal) meaning is the city dump (in which this teaching makes perfect sense), though the Rabbinic meaning would be valid, as well.

Additionally, (chucking the KJV for a modern translation), the repeated phrase “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched” is taken from Isaiah 66, where the Assyrian army is lying dead in the Hinnom Valley: “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.

So Jesus’ reference seems to be to the literal place, and the reference of the worms not dying and the fires not being quenched are not inclusive of those tossed into them. As Isaiah notes, the bodies of the wicked are dead and being eaten by maggots (which “magically” appeared in dead bodies and disappeared without dying by turning into flies) and burned by fire.

This doesn’t help the argument for eternal, conscious punishment at all.

“weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30
“outer darkness” Matt 8:12, 22:13 [and 25:30 - you forgot that one]

“outer darkness”, because of the verb/noun order, is better translated “outside, in the darkness” because, in both cases, it is not a reference to a place, but rather a reference to a position (”outside/outer”) with a condition (”darkness”). (Also note there is no reference at all to fire). In each of the three times this phrase occurs in the Bible (all in Matthew), it is in a story about king and kingdom.

So what is it they are “outside” of? The kingdom. This is not specifically a reference to a time after death, but a condition where one is outside the kingdom (which exists both in life and after life). And there is weeping and gnashing of teeth because they are outside the kingdom. This is not a specific reference to the afterlife, at all, and is not suggestive of conscious, eternal punishment in any way.

“torments” Luke 16:23
“tormented in this flame” Luke 16:24
“place of torment” Luke 16:28

And here I thought you chose Gehenna as hell, PB, not Hades. But that’s what happens when you cut & paste w/o studying what you’re citing first. You can see my article on hell for a fuller discussion of this passage, but to summarize:

1) This is a parable, and cannot be automatically assumed to convey literal truth;

2) You’re dealing with Hades/Sheol – “the grave” (which is pre-Judgment, not post-Judgment);

3) The Rabbinic view of Hades/Sheol is that the good and evil are segregated there, with a river or chasm between them (much as in Jesus’ story), awaiting the final judgment. So, if you want to argue that this parable is literal truth in its use of the Rabbinic cartography of Hades/Sheol, you’re going to have to turn around and argue that Jesus was not conveying the Rabbinic cartography of Gehenna when he used this word without further explanation to his audience (unless you want to support the idea that Gehenna bears similarities to Purgatory). Eisegesis is a slippery slope, but that hasn’t stopped you before.

“everlasting punishment” Matt 25:46

I wondered if you’d ever get here. I deal with this in the article on hell, as well. I would not necessarily take the UR view of this passage, but I would also point out that annihilation is as much “everlasting punishment” as eternal, conscious torture. So this passage doesn’t discount the possibility of annihilationism.
__________

Is this all you’ve got? To this point, you’ve not given any support for epistemic closure in favor of eternal, conscious punishment. In fact, the Scriptures you’ve cited would just as easily, if not more logically, support annihilationism…

34   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

God’s wrath is the reason for the necessity of the Gospel (Rom 1:16-18)

But how does he say God’s wrath was manifested against them? (Rom 1:24-32) As my old prof would say, you forgot what the “Therefore” was there for. Therefore (because of God’s wrath), He gave them over to sinful desires, shameful lusts and a depraved mind. When they are saved, in this life they have no longer been given over to these destructive forces.

If we deny wrath, we essentially deny the gospel.

If we deny “wrath” as I suspect you are defining it, it has little or nothing to do with the gospel.

However, if we view wrath as Paul defines it in vv. 24-32, the salvation He offers, escaping this wrath, is to rescue us today from being given over to our sinful desires, shameful lusts and depraved minds, as members of the Kingdom. And the gospel does save us from these things (and Bell affirms this almost weekly in his sermons, and multiple places in Love Wins). The problem with “wrath” isn’t that Bell denies it – it is that you insist that “wrath” can only be manifested in eternal, conscious torture, which is not the case.

35   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 29th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

That passage by A.W. Pink that tboy posted is a good example of why I have such a problem with typical Reformed theology. They start with an assumption, than they work backwardss to find texts that back up that assumption. Is there any evidence at all that the way the Jews read those Scriptures lead them to believe in the wrathful, schizophrenic God of Calvinism.

And another thing. In a limited atonement view, only the Elect are spared God’s wrath. The non-Elect are destined to have it poured out upon them. What is the purpose of warning the un-Elect about which something they have no say in anyway?

36   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 29th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

[God] is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods–the gods of human manufacturing–despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do.

Brennan Manning

37   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

What is the purpose of warning the un-Elect about which something they have no say in anyway?

What fun is being right if you don’t get to say “I told you so”?

38   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

That passage by A.W. Pink that tboy posted is a good example of why I have such a problem with typical Reformed theology.

this may be typical reformed stuff, but it is certainly not limited to just calvinists.

39   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

God’s wrath is the reason for the necessity of the Gospel (Rom 1:16-18)–atonement and salvation by grace are required because of God’s righteous wrath against sin. – tboy

this is not true. the necessity of the gospel is sin. god’s wrath and how he expresses it is just one interpretation of the result of sin.

40   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

All people want to know about God (if, indeed they want to know anything at all) is about His love. Men create in their minds the concept of a God who is all love and nothing else–they make an idol in their heads. – tboy

i’m not sure what the first sentence is supposed to be saying – but the bit about “if they want to know anything at all” is definitely ad hominem. as if those who have studied and come to a different conclusion did so without the same seriousness you have come to your conclusions.

given yoru use of the scriptures in #25, i gotta think you do not take them that seriously… i mean, if you did i would expect you to use them with greater care and accuracy.

41   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

If we deny wrath, we essentially deny the gospel. – tboy

this is, of course, a non-sequitor. that god will display his wrath against sin is obvious. that he will do so as outlined by some systematics is not.

issiah is clear that god’s wrath was poured out upon jesus… and there seems to be more to come. but saying to deny the wrath as you see it play out is tantamount to denying the gospel is… well… wrong.

chris l, does bell deal with the question of wrath? what does he say about it?

42   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

The elephant in the room is how does one avoid either hell or annihilation after death. Eternity is what it is, but just what is the gospel and just how does one effect it in his soul/spirit.

43   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

chris l, does bell deal with the question of wrath? what does he say about it?

He deals primarily with its temporal incarnations, in the result of sin:

“So when people say they don’t believe in hell and they don’t like the word ’sin,’ my first response is to ask, ‘Have you sat and talked with a family who just found out their child has been molested? Repeatedly? Over a number of years? By a relative?”

Some words are strong for a reason. We need those words to be that intense, loaded, complex and offensive, because they need to reflect the realities they describe.

And that’s what we find in Jesus’ teaching about hell – a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experiences and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity. Something we are all free to do, anytime, anywhere, with anyone.

He uses hyperbole often – telling people to gouge out their eyes and maim themselves rather than commit certain sins. It can all sound a bit over-the-top at times, leading us to question just what he’s so worked up about. Other times he sounds just plain violent.

But when you’ve sat with a wife who has just found out that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and you realize what it is going to do to their marriage and children and finances and friendships and future, and you see the concentric rings of pain that are going to emanate from this one man’s choices – in that moment Jesus’ warnings don’t seem that over-the-top or drastic; they seem perfectly spot-on.

Gouging out his eye may actually have been a better choice.” (72-73)

44   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

The elephant in the room is how does one avoid either hell or annihilation after death.

It’s not an “elephant in the room” because it completely misses the point. Following Christ is not about avoiding hell, and treating it as hell-avoidance leads to missing what is in front of us here and now. Following the gospel is not self-interest or a fire insurance policy. If you can trust God today, why do you think He could not be trusted tomorrow?

The rich young ruler chose to reject Christ because he couldn’t trust him with his wealth and riches – if Jesus was just trying to save him from hell or annihilation, you’d have thought he would have given the man the “big picture” about what would happen when he died. Instead, he allowed the man to go on, because his choice was made w/o threats or coercion and revealed his heart.

If you have no impetus to follow Christ unless you know that there’s a specific “drop dead date” (literally), then is your heart really in service in the first place? Or is it just seeking its own insurance policy for self-preservation? And if so, does Jesus really need that kind of help in the kingdom, the kind of help that only gives if it gets something in return?

45   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 29th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

To me the question of “how does one apply the Gospel” really gets down to whether we view the Gospel as some sort of transaction or deal with God, or as a proclamation of Jesus’ lordship. If we see it as a deal with God, the questions of “where do I sign” or “what are the terms” seem to make sense. But I don’t see Jesus or Paul talking of the Gospel in these terms. They simply are proclaiming something that has happened, is happening, and what will happen. So the question is will people submit to this Lordship willingly or not.

46   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I believe the gospel is completely about eternity with earthly residuals that are inportant. What shall it prfit a man if he gains the whole world, or acts like a Christian, but loses his own soul.

47   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I admit that to ignore the “here and now” is against Biblical mandates, however eternity is of supreme importance.

earthly = 80 years.

eternity = forever.

It’s a question of math. :cool:

48   neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

chris l.,

does bell deal at all with “wrath” – that is, does he speak about god punishing sin in any way? or is all his tlak about the negative aspects of sin reduced to just the natural negative aspect.

by natural negative aspects i mean the pain that is caused by infideltiy or rape… or whatever sin.

49   neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

seems so much of the talk is about extremes…

god is love.
god is wrath.
god’s love saved all.
god’s wrath is the point of the gospel.
the gospel is all about eternity.
hell is now.

these are all statements that are true to some extent, but when any are elevated to the exclusion of the others they become – in tboy terms – idols.

50   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 29th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I admit that to ignore the “here and now” is against Biblical mandates, however eternity is of supreme importance.

There is a difference in saying the Gospel is about eternity and saying it is about avoiding hell and/or annihilation. The Gospel is in a very real sense about eternity simply because the Kingdom is eternal. The key thing is that as Kingdom people that we are investing are time and energy into things that will last and actually be present when the Kingdom is fully present.

51   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
March 29th, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I want to know the bottom line for all you Bell-i-acs (if I can be called troll by a ‘respected’ community member, I can certainly change Bell’s name and his followers, eh?

1. If there is no eternal consequence for sin, why did Jesus have to die?
2. If one can be in the Kingdom/heaven/new heaven and new earth by doing good, or by really believing in whatever form that your God takes, then why be a Christian?
3. If we really just build a sail for the wind of God then can my sail call God by one of three million manifestations and still be okay?
4. Why was the decalogue and the rest of the law written if God did not really mean it or if He would just look past man’s activities?
5. Is the Lake of Fire really permanent? does it really exist?
6. Did God write the Book of Life, and then we get to edit it based upon our choice?
7. What does God mean when He uses words like wrath?

This is a good conversation starter. I like this open ended question thing.

52   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

#6 – God writes the Book of Life based upon our choice.

53   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I’m taking my wife out for her birthday tonight. I will continue on with your new topics once we reach a conclusion on your previous one – which was to prove epistemic closure for the doctrine of eternal, conscious torment, and not annihilation or any other view of hell. Once we’ve finished that topic, we can move on to a new one.

54   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

sometimes the blogosphere provides a conscious torment. I just pray it isn’t eternal. :cool:

55   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 29th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Hi John,
I’ll answer #1. Rob doesn’t say there is no eternal consequence. Your trying to imply that he does proves you haven’t read the book. He quite clearly states that some people may end up in Hell forever.

56   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

i was ’bout to start responding to tboys questions in #51 (and thanks for calling me “respected”) when i saw chris l’s reminder that we should finish (get responses to) previous topics before moving on.

so, how ’bout. would you care to respond to the previous topics (e.g. #31, #32, #39, #33, chris’ questions…)?

57   Neil    
March 29th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

…for all you Bell-i-acs (if I can be called troll by a ‘respected’ community member, I can certainly change Bell’s name and his followers, eh? – tboy

…though i called you a troll by pointing out how your behavior overwhelmingly fits the commonly accepted definition of a troll. i did not make the term up.

in other words, i did not make up the term “duck” – i simply looked it up, saw its characteristics, then pointed out how you walk and quack and…

we have sufficiently demonstrated that we are not defending bell as opposing unfair characterizations and accusation and, even more so, discussing the issue his book raises.

58   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

If there is no eternal consequence for sin, why did Jesus have to die?

1. Who said there are no ‘eternal consequences’?

2. Why does the eternal consequence have to be conscious burning in fire? (as if the eternal reward is a white cloud and a harp. seems to me if the Eternal Reward is Jesus, then the eternal consequence is, by juxtaposition, not Jesus. wouldn’t that be hell?)

3. Your question is just semantically silly. Jesus did not die because there is eternal consequence for sin. Jesus died because there is sin. Eternal consequence exists because people reject Jesus.

4. I don’t think anyone here has said there are no eternal consequences. What we are debating is what those eternal consequences actually look like. All the imagery you mentioned is, indeed, present. But what do they mean in context? And what do they look like to the person who has decided he does not want to spend eternity, whatever that means, with Jesus?

I believe that any life, now or later, temporal or eternal, physical or spiritual, apart from Jesus, is, in fact, hell.

jerry

59   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 10:54 pm

2. If one can be in the Kingdom/heaven/new heaven and new earth by doing good, or by really believing in whatever form that your God takes, then why be a Christian?

1. Who said this? No one here said this. I’m fairly certain that Rob Bell has not said this. Chris Lyons has not said this (in the OP). Who said it? I suspect this is some form of red herring you want us to chase around to distract us from your utter hatred of anyone whose theology differs from yours.

Therefore, the question really requires no answer. It’s absurd in this context.

60   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:01 pm

4. Why was the decalogue and the rest of the law written if God did not really mean it or if He would just look past man’s activities?

Interesting phrase you used, ‘if he would just look past man’s activities…’.

1. Who said this? I don’t recall anyone here saying this. Hey, Chris, did Rob Bell say this in his book anywhere?

2. Here’s what a master theologian said in one of his books: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Paul, to the church at Ephesus, 2:14-18.)

So, I guess you will have to ask Paul the apostle why God wrote the Decalogue and then ’set it aside’.

Isn’t the entire concept of Grace predicated upon the idea that ‘God looked past man’s activities’? Seriously?

61   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:10 pm

5. Is the Lake of Fire really permanent? does it really exist?

According to the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 20:

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And:

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

So it appears that someone will be awake and aware in the lake of fire. At best we can say that the false prophet, the beast and Satan will be awake and aware and tormented day and night forever and ever.

It appears also that ‘all whose names are not found written in the book of life’ are thrown into the lake of fire. Kind of hard to deny that. I’m not willing to write this off as mere apocalyptic imagery or metaphor. However, I will ask another question: does it say that those who are throne in will be tormented forever and ever?

Is the fate of those poor souls the same as that of the beast, false prophet, and the satan?

What is ’second death’? So I sort of agree** that this poses some problems for the exegete (especially those who see Revelation as mere apocalypse–which it is and is not.)

62   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

6. Did God write the Book of Life, and then we get to edit it based upon our choice?

I’m not really sure I understand this question or what you mean by it. I think we had a hand in writing it based upon the choices we have made in this life…that is, our response to God’s revelation in Jesus, Messiah.

I don’t think God scripted the history of every single person who has ever lived and ever died.

So, if you mean the former, yes. If you mean the latter, no.

God has scripted the plan by which we will know him and the plan by which he will reveal himself to us. He has scripted the plan by which we will be saved. I think it is all very clearly explained in Ephesians 1.

But you will likely tell us that Ephesians 1 tells of scripted lives. I will tell you that is a poor and unrighteous way of understanding Ephesians 1. It is the plan (Jesus) and the goal (sonship through Jesus) that is predestined.

I have said before that I cannot in good heart and mind believe in a god who has created billions of people for the sole purpose of condemning them to a place called hell. Apart from a free will to choose God’s love, there is no real justice in this universe.

63   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:21 pm

If we really just build a sail for the wind of God then can my sail call God by one of three million manifestations and still be okay?

This is a thoughtless, insipid question because no one here has said anything of the sort. You continue to impugn the orthodoxy of the people of this blog only to satisfy your own sense of righteousness.

It demands no response whatsoever.

64   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 29th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

**to finish the thought from comment #61…I agree insofar as the fact that yes, there is a lake of fire and that I do not think this is mere apocalypse. Others will argue differently. However, we will disagree on what is going on in that lake of fire. While I agree there are going to be some people there, we have to first decide who and what they will be doing. Will they be awake and aware? Or is it the second death (which will lean me closer to the annihilation theory). The lake is prepared for the satan, the beast, the false prophet and they will be awake and aware.

Is that true of the people thrown into it? The text is a bit unclear.

Apocalypse it is. Yes. But the first verse of the book makes it clear that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. That is, the primary goal of the Revelation is the revelation of Jesus. I’m not going to worry too much about the rest because if I read the Revelation only to get information about the destiny of the lost, then I have missed the point: I am supposed to be seeing Jesus on every page, in every stroke of the pen.

I’m reading the book to see Jesus, not much else. Reading it to see everything else is why so many people misunderstand and utterly miss the point of the Revelation. They miss Jesus in their haste to find everything else.

65   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 11:43 pm

However, I will ask another question: does it say that those who are throne in will be tormented forever and ever?

No, it does not.

Is the fate of those poor souls the same as that of the beast, false prophet, and the satan?

Right after they are thrown in, the lake of fire is referred to as “the second death”, which would not suggest consciousness…

66   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 29th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

1. Who said this? I don’t recall anyone here saying this. Hey, Chris, did Rob Bell say this in his book anywhere?

Not that I recall…

67   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 30th, 2011 at 12:58 am

anywhere I have used the word ‘throne’ with reference to a motion of the arm, I meant to say ‘thrown.’

Stupid homophones.

68   Tim    
March 30th, 2011 at 8:55 am

Jerry is homophonic.

69   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 30th, 2011 at 11:08 am

“Jerry is homophonic.”

But he still could be a saved believer! :)

70   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 30th, 2011 at 11:37 am

If we could rate comments I would give #68 six stars out of five. Well played, sir.

71   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 30th, 2011 at 11:38 am

Also, here’s probably the best review of Love Wins that I’ve read. It is not uncritical, but it also “gets” the point that Bell was trying to make, and shows that (in a number of ways) the critics’ response to Love Wins has already proved Bell’s thesis correct…

72   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 30th, 2011 at 11:55 am

And here’s an awkward Easter dinner conversation waiting to happen. Jacob Piper (son of John “The Don” Piper) has a blog (22 words: http://twentytwowords.com/ ), which lists “Love Wins” at the top of its sponsor list.

“Pass the gravy, Dad, if you haven’t excommunicated me yet…”

73   Neil    
March 30th, 2011 at 11:58 am

that is a good review… though not so much a review as an argument for bell’s thesis and people’s missing of the point.

74   Neil    
April 1st, 2011 at 9:52 am

apparently we have answered all of tboy’s objections to his satisfaction.