In political theory, there is a concept called the Overton Window, and its general function is this:

At any particular point in time, there is a range of “acceptable” views on any particular subject.  This “window” of views can be “opened” or “shifted” through the serious suggestion of a view significantly outside the mainstream.  In doing so, even if the “radical” suggestion is not adopted as mainstream, the window of “acceptable” views will be increased.

Opening the Overton Window can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the subject at hand.  Additionally, the attempt may utterly fail if the person trying to open it does not have the perceived gravitas to do so, or if the window of “acceptability” has sufficient rigidity in its foundation.  As I have read Love Wins, read its critiques – from positive to negative and all spots in between – and listened to Rob Bell’s responses to questions/criticism surrounding it, I’ve come to the conclusion that, strategically, the goal of Love Wins was not to promote a particular view of hell as superior to another, but rather to open the Overton Window on the doctrine of hell in order that the Gospel might be better seen as independent from it.

The Thesis is the Thesis

As I have read numerous reviews of Love Wins, I have been struck by an odd correlation.   The way the reviewer interpreted Bell’s thesis paragraph (page vii) almost always predetermined how they would review the entire book.  Here is the thesis paragraph:

This love compels us to question some of the dominant stories that are being told as the Jesus story. A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and that to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.

Reviewers have tended to interpret this two ways:

Option One: Bell is saying that the practice of equating the rejection of hell as eternal conscious torment as a rejection of Jesus is “misguided and toxic”.

Option Two: Bell is saying that the doctrine of hell as eternal conscious torment is “misguided and toxic”.

While basic English syntax should clearly indicate Option One is Bell’s intention*, those who have been the most scathingly critical (or commented on the book without reading it) have chosen Option Two as their interpretation of Bell’s thesis. In doing so, it is no wonder a number of them found the rest of Bell’s narrative confusing or contradictory (looking at you, Justin Taylor).

By failing to understand the thesis of the book, many of the reviewers, critics and re-posters (90% of whom haven’t actually read the book) end up dueling straw men or heading down tangents that are not even the focus of the book.  Additionally, a number of the critics (John MacArthur, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, John Chisham and the rest of the hyper-Calvinistic wing of neo-Reformed theology) ironically end up proving Bell’s thesis (Option One) correct in doggedly refuting Option Two, as if it were what Bell was arguing.

Bravo.  Yay team.  Let’s all hold hands and sing:

And they’ll know we are Christians by our certain and doctrinally pure view of hell and the wrath of God…**

Following the Actual Thesis

If we follow Bell’s actual thesis, which is a call to epistemic humility (allowing for doubt or the possibility of equally possible interpretations of the same set of Scriptures) over epistemic closure (disallowing any doubt as to the “correct” interpretation of a set of Scriptures) when it comes to issues of pareschatology, eschatology, the mechanics of soteriology, the book is not at all confusing.

Because one of Bell’s purposes is to refute the epistemically closed view that a denial of eternal, conscious torment in hell is a denial of Jesus, he provides multiple views of both heaven and hell from historic Christianity.  This includes the Eastern Orthodox view of the afterlife, the Hebrew view of the Kingdom of Heaven (as supported by NT Wright), annihilationism,  Universal Reconciliation, and several points in between.

He also tackles the question of “who’s in and who’s out” of hell, by laying out the exclusivist and inclusivist views, and all points in between, with the most emphasis given to the “exclusive inclusivist” view (also espoused by C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham).

In terms of soteriology, he describes six or seven views, including Penal Substitution, the Ransom View (held by C.S. Lewis) and Christus Victor.

In each of these cases, Bell’s purpose is not to pick any one as the “correct view”, but rather to examine that there are multiple views within orthodox Christianity, and to examine how allowing the mystery in the actual workings of God to exist as a mystery rather than as a certainty might actually allow us to live the Gospel as Jesus taught it, with the emphases he gave it.

Love wins, according to Bell, regardless of whether hell is empty or if it is populated for eternity.  Our desire should be identical to God’s – that no man should perish.  If this means that God saves everyone in the end, that would be awesome.  Our desire should also be that God is, indeed, love – which requires that man have free will to either choose or to reject Him without coercion.  If this means that man’s choice to reject God leaves him apart from God for eternity, Love still wins.

The Danger

In talking to a highly-trusted friend of mine about Love Wins, I was reminded that one of the dangers of this discussion would be if one came away believing that if everyone will be saved in the end, there is no need to ever choose to follow Jesus in this life.

I agree, and I’m pretty sure (as he’s said in multiple interviews) Rob would agree, as well.

Bell makes the point that the time to decide is urgent, and that time only moves forward for us, and that Jesus’ admonition is to choose now, today, and that there are serious, possibly permanent, consequences to rejecting him today.

Just because we are not completely certain about eschatology, pareschatology and the mechanism of soteriology does not mean that we have not been given clear glimpses of their vectors.  As such, the mode and method of hell is unimportant, and the call of the Gospel to live in the Kingdom of God/Heaven is relevant today, for today, for tomorrow and for eternity.

Bell’s purpose in opening the Overton Window that has been held shut by the white-knuckled neo-Reformed churches surrounding his hometown – as someone with the gravitas to do so, and with the historical orthodoxy to back him – was simply to allow room for the church to breathe.  To accept mystery where it ought to exist, rather than force certainty and a false gospel of evacuation.

Shalom

* – As much as my eighth grade English teacher drove me to distraction with her (literal) communist sympathies, the few useful things she taught me were sentence diagramming and basic written logic. Despite her political proclivities, I continue to find myself wishing some folks (looking at you, Kevin “I’m Not Dennis” DeYoung) had Mrs. Waggoner for English, as well.

** – Just doesn’t have the same ring as the original song…

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 15th, 2011 at 4:56 pm and is filed under Open Thread, Original Articles, Theology, book review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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87 Comments(+Add)

1   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 15th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

It is posts like this that in the end make this blog worth reading.

This is an outstanding and well written piece of blog.

Thanks for writing it.

2   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 15th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Well said, Chris.

After hearing Bell speak in person earlier this week I came away with a lot of respect for him as a pastor. I think it’s very easy to turn the issues he discusses into purely academic endeavors, but I believe Bell is really writing and speaking simply because he loves people and he has a heart for hurting people. Every chance he had, he turned the conversation back to the fact that the Father loves everyone unconditionally. He even gave something of an altar call at the end of the talk (in a UCC church, too!).

3   Rick Frueh    
April 16th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

And the defense of Rob Bell now inlcudes as treatise by a political operative. The cavalry continues. The nervous energy is palpable.

Rob Bell = Who cares anymore?

4   Neil    
April 16th, 2011 at 8:17 pm

i cannot believe you listed john chisham along with macArthur, piper, deyoung.

5   Neil    
April 16th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

rick, you have long ago made the point that you really do not care about anyone’s opinion.

6   Rick Frueh    
April 16th, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I do care about two opinions. Mine and God’s, which are sometimes the same.

7   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 17th, 2011 at 1:21 pm

#6 hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

8   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
April 17th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

The only window that Rob Bell has gone through is Out the window of Orthodoxy and into the window of the christian new ageism and occoult practices.

And all of his minions who worship him and his teachings follow and defend him.

9   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
April 17th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Rob Bell is an idol to many, they follow Him and His word in preference over the written Word of God and the Word made flesh, Jesus. Why are you surprised, Rick?

10   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I am surprised at the lengths some will go to defend him. At some point, even if you subscribe to his opinions, you should just let it all go. It seems so obsessed.

11   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

An entire post anylizing why people disagree with Bell??? It would be like me with an entire post suggesting that men that disagree with Calvin do so because they do not have the “perceived gravitas” necessary to accurately open the Overton window.

Wow!

12   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 17th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

If you are surprised at the lengths people will go to defend Bell, Rick, I’m more surprised at the lengths people will go to to attack him. Does it not bother you in the least that people are resorting to out and out lying in their reviews? Or should we just allow Christianity to become something in which facts simply don’t matter anymore and let the ends justify the means. If we perceive someone as a threat to our worldview should we simply be expected to use any means necessary to silence him?

To me this isn’t an issue of defending anyone as much as it’s an issue of simply not letting lies go unanswered. It’s one thing to disagree with someone on factual grounds. It’s another to start smear campaigns to destroy someone.

13   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

People’s opinions are not lies. Anyway, it is quite difficult to lie about Bell’s beliefs since it is quite difficult to know what they are. By labeling all who take issue with his words as “liars” you are not dealing with the issues but engaging in ad hominen language.

I guess I am a liar because I take issue with Bell.

14   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

John MacArthur, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung

All liars.

15   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 17th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Anyway, it is quite difficult to lie about Bell’s beliefs since it is quite difficult to know what they are.

I don’t find it difficult at all, really. He’s pretty firm in his stance on the things that matter.

John MacArthur, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung

All liars.

As it relates to this issue, unfortunately, yes, they are. Although, regarding Piper, I don’t know if he’s actually said anything about Bell’s book after his infamous tweet.

16   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

“As it relates to this issue, unfortunately, yes, they are.”

One man’s opinion is another man’s lies. So MacArthur can call you a liar if you disagree with him? You guys are special. You take offense to PB calling Bell a liar (which I do not approve of) so you call him a liar.

The blog playground.

17   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 17th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

It’s pretty simple, Rick. “Quoting” a passage in a book while intentionally leaving out context that goes against the point you are tying to make is simply dishonest. If it were a politician doing it, we wouldn’t have any problem calling it lying. Why is it any different if a pastor does it?

If people want to disagree on substance, that’s fine. If people want to resort to attacking based on what they think someone is saying and it’s easily proven that’s not what he’s saying than that’s simply dishonest. Why do have such a hard time accepting the fact the fact these men aren’t telling the truth?

18   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Yep, it’s pretty simple. :cool:

Sleep well.

19   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 17th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I didn’t think the post was so much a defense of Bell as much as it was an explanation of what Bell’s book is about–which so many people, a number of whom have not read the book, have distorted and confused.

20   nathan    
April 17th, 2011 at 7:54 pm

the issue at stake isn’t even Bell.

The issue at stake is a dude named BOO BOO KITTY SCREW could have written a book while pastoring in Kathmandu and if he was treated sloppily then everyone has the right and the responsibility to rebuke it.

Why?

Not because the opinions of Boo Boo Kitty Screw matter. But because the WHOLE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH ALL OF US HAVE TO LIVE gets tainted by patently dishonest, crappy ways of disagreeing.

Rick, I think you’re great. But Chris L isn’t “taking issue” with people “taking issue” with Bell.

Bell deserves a lot of criticism, but it’s rarely along the lines of what the cage fighters think.

The issue is “defending X”, WHEN IT WASN’T THREATENED in the first place!!!

It’s about the nitty gritty of the Christian comportment that you consistently have called people to take up and live into.

Ultimately, Bell, along with Piper and the other tantrum team members, are of no consequence.

But holding people’s feet to the fire when they critique what they clearly do not understand is fair, right and always needed.

So, yeah. The guys Phil rightly called liars…actually are liars. Some have built whole careers on lying and impugning the character of people with whom they disagree.

THAT is a character problem and actually is worthy of…”impugnment”…if that’s even a word. ;)

Why?

Because Piper, DeYoung, et. al. claim that they are the only ones faithful to Scripture, implying they love Jesus more, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum ad infinitum.

So they have set the standard and they have to live up to it…

Nobody else strikes that tone of “We’re the pure ones” with the Bible AS A BASIS for their CREDIBILITY.

Just. say’n, friend. Just say’n.

21   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I do not agree that the word “liar” is accurate to those who confront what they deem as unbiblical. Perhaps self righteous. And sometimes they judge a person AND his teachings.

And for the record, I have never said nor suggested that Rob Bell is not a Christian. I have never really thought that way as well. I have lied about other things, but my views about Bell’s teachings are not lies.

Right or wrong, they are my genuine views.

22   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

“I have lied about other things”

Let me clear that up. I have said “I’ll be there in ten minutes when it was most unlikely etc., etc., etc.. Those kind of lies.

23   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 17th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

“Those kind of lies.”

As if there’s a difference. :-)

24   Rick Frueh    
April 17th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

There is in the natural. Like lusting after a woman iis different than lusting after a six year old.

Same but different. (karate Kid)

25   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
April 18th, 2011 at 7:21 am

. . . those who confront what they deem as unbiblical.

It’s not that they “confront,” brother. It’s that, as Chris L and Phil have clearly pointed out, they accuse Bell of saying something. They provide a quote from his book to prove their accusation. But when you read the quote in it’s context, it is clear that, not only did Bell not say what they said he said, he said the exact opposite. He made a point with which no one would disagree. And so in order to make sure their followers agreed with them and disagreed with him, they omitted key sentences in the quote.
That’s pretty dishonest.

26   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 18th, 2011 at 10:26 am

I was joking. (hence the smiley)

But thanks for the gross visual your provided in order to illustrate your wisdom.

That comment ought to be deleted.

27   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

“But when you read the quote in it’s context, it is clear that, not only did Bell not say what they said he said, he said the exact opposite.”

Or…people can and do read some things very differently, especially when approaching that which they (or all of us) read with a certain preconception.

Also, I suggest that language provides ample opportunities to say and write things that are so broad and so general that, yes, almost no one can disagree.

Jesus is the Savior of the world.

Mormons? Yes!
JWs? Yes!
Babtists? Yes!
Moonies? Yes!
MacArthur? Yes!
Warren? Yes!
Crossan? Yes!
Bell? Yes!
Lyons? Yes!
Frueh? Yes!

See? Can’t we all get along? :cool:

28   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

“Also, I suggest that language provides ample opportunities to say and write things that are so broad and so general that, yes, almost no one can disagree. Jesus is the Savior of the world.”

And that sentence may have been spawned from theologies that are completely at odds with each other.

29   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
April 18th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I love how Baptists are right after JW’s and Mormons.

30   John Hughes    
April 18th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and that to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus.

I haven’t said much on this issue because I haven’t read the book (and won’t spend money buying it) but to me Bell has set up a false dilemma. Speaking from a Baptist perspective I would argue that, yes, hell is a central truth of the Chistian faith, but to reject this is not to reject Jesus, BUT to reject Biblical truth. I don’t know of anyone that says if you don’t believe in Hell you won’t go to Heavan if you are born again.

On the other hand, since Jesus did speak on Hell more than He did Heaven, I guess in one sense it might be accurate to say that if you reject Hell you reject what Jesus said or you’re calling Jesus a liar. But again even these examples are not rejecting Jesus as savior. Bell’s premise is an implication that those that hold this view are equating the non-belief in Hell as a rejection of Jesus as Savior. So again Bell is not being clear.

This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.

Seriously? in the classical view of Hell, Jesus’ love and sacrifice are shown to be MORE loving, not less. **If** Hell is real – ** if ** Hell is horrible and Jesus died to rescue and deliver us from it (among other things), this is hardly a subverion of the gospel, but rather its heart. Bell knows this. That opening premise is quite the straw man.

31   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 18th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I haven’t said much on this issue because I haven’t read the book (and won’t spend money buying it) but to me Bell has set up a false dilemma.

Perhaps you missed the PB comment the day the book was published in which he said exactly what Bell characterized: That because he (Bell) did not believe that hell was conscious, eternal torture that he (Bell) was denying Jesus. And it was the essence of Justin Taylor’s pre-publication gripe that led to Piper’s Twitter dismissal.

So, call it a “false dilemma” if you will, but Bell’s critics have been using it as a crutch to beat him with.

Now, when you say “hell is a central truth of the Christian faith”, are you saying that this “central truth” is that hell is conscious eternal torture? Or could it be an unconscious eternal consequence (annihilationism), or would that be “rejecting Biblical truth”?

On the other hand, since Jesus did speak on Hell more than He did Heaven, I guess in one sense it might be accurate to say that if you reject Hell you reject what Jesus said or you’re calling Jesus a liar.

1) I might dispute the premise that Jesus spoke more on Hell than he did Heaven, since you get a multiplier effect of the 11 times he mentioned gehenna, since most of those are synoptic repeats of an identical teaching (”better to cut/pluck/sever (body part) than have the whole body thrown in the dump”).

2) And since the word he uses “gehenna” is, literally, a real place his audience was familiar with, are you calling him a liar if you acknowledge this interpretation without demanding a figurative one based upon an application of Greek mythology or Dante as a parallel symbology?

3) And since there is a history of orthodox belief in the harrowing of hell (which is in the Apostles’ Creed), the concept of the dead being witnessed to by Christ is not a completely foreign concept, is holding this belief as a possibility truly declaring Jesus to be a liar?

Seriously? in the classical view of Hell, Jesus’ love and sacrifice are shown to be MORE loving, not less.

Not necessarily – it depends on how it is presented, because this is not only tied up in the question of how hell operates, but also in the question of who’s in and who’s out, and in whether or not his sacrifice was only for the purpose of securing post-mortem fire insurance. Depending on the systematic theology you use to try and tie these together, particularly classic Reformed theology, you can end up with something that doesn’t much look like love all that much at all.

No straw man at all.

32   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

The exsistance or nature of hell is not the real issue. The real issue is when you say Jesus can be found in other religions, and that an unredeemed sinner outside of Christ can die in his sins and yet somehow can be eternally redeemed, well that is a very importanat issue and is a form of universalism.

The way some who hold to that view insulates them form the dreaded universalist label is that they insist some lost souls will still reject Christ on the other side of eternity. It is all so “Lord of the Rings”.

33   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 18th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Regarding the other religions question, at the event I was at someone asked Bell what would happen to the good Buddhist she knows after he dies, and Bell simply said he does not know and that is not for him to say what will happen.

The way I see it, there is a big argument happening in evangelicalism at the moment that has quite a few smaller arguments attached to it. We saw a foreshadowing of it a few years ago when John Piper and N.T. Wright released their dueling books about the meaning of justification. On one side you have Piper insisting that salvation is a transaction that we engage in, and on the other side you have Wright insisting that salvation is something God has been doing all along and we are invited to partake in it. It’s hard to see a solid middle ground between those two positions. Bell is heavily influenced by Wright and his critics are largely in the Piper camp.

The debate isn’t really about Calvinism or Arminianism anymore. It’s really something much more fundamental than that. In someone like Piper’s view, the question of where individuals end up for eternity is paramount. In Wright’s view that question still matters, but it’s in a different way. That question is tangential to the plot. The plot is all about God’s plan to call His people out for the healing and restoration of the world.

34   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

” what would happen to the good Buddhist she knows after he dies”

Doesn’t the person asking the question have a Bible? Bell is now the authoritative source? Here is my answer:

Although I cannot say for sure anyone’s eternity, but given the Scriptural evidence, and based upon the Buddhist dying in his sins and in unbelief, I would have to say he is not with Jesus.

Bell avoided the issue. Hypothetically, can a lost sinner die and somehow ened up with Jesus, according to the Scriptures? As is his style, Bell’s answer is unspecific and noncommital.

35   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

BTW Phil – You reference Bell and piper and Wright and Armenius and Calvin – what do the Scriptures teach or do they not address the swubject at all.

As far as God’s plan for the restoration of all things which includes everyone getting carried away and dumped into eternal restoration and redemption, it is curious that centuries of Bible teachers failed to notice that little tidbit.

Again, that view is just a dressed up universalim.

36   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
April 18th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Although I cannot say for sure anyone’s eternity. . .

:)

. . . everyone getting carried away and dumped into eternal restoration and redemption. . .

To whom are you referring? Who, in this conversation, teaches this?

37   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 18th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

As far as God’s plan for the restoration of all things which includes everyone getting carried away and dumped into eternal restoration and redemption, it is curious that centuries of Bible teachers failed to notice that little tidbit.

Actually, if you talk to Eastern Orthodox Christians, the way they view salvation is much more along the lines of a restoration model.

As far as creation being restored being a new idea – it’s not. Here’s what Iranaeus, one of the earliest church fathers, had to say about it:

It is fitting, therefore, that creation itself, being restored to its primeval condition, should without restraint be under the dominion of the righteous… And it is right that when creation is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God… that is, the productions of the earth…

—St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father (140–202 A.D.); Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus of Lyons, passim Bk. 32, Ch. 1; 33, 4, The Fathers of the Church, CIMA Publishing Co.

Here’s what St. Paul had to say about it:

For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now… (Rom 8:19-22)

So as a Protestant who believes that Scripture is the corrective measure we go by, not our traditions, I’m willing to say that what I’ve thought in the past may not be correct. I’m willing to concede that the view of salvation I had before was very limited in its scope. To me it’s almost the opposite of what you are accusing me of, Rick. I see the type of escapist Christianity espoused by many American Christians to be the historical anomaly, not the norm.

38   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I have no problem with the restoration (or new) of creation. But does that include all created souls spending eternity in one place with Christ?

I am not accusing you of anything. I suggest that a total restoration view that includes all souls is universalism regardless of the outward package.

39   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 18th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I am not accusing you of anything. I suggest that a total restoration view that includes all souls is universalism regardless of the outward package.

Well, no one here, no Bell, espouses what you’re talking about, so I don’t really understand why you keep on going back to it.

I don’t how your answer to the Buddhist question is any different than Bell’s at a fundamental level. You say you aren’t sure, and Bell said he doesn’t know. What’s the difference? Really.

40   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I say I’m not sure as a disclaimer, but I say that the Scriptures do not say that. I respond to a family whose lost loved one dies by saying I do not have first hand knowlegde as well. I just don’t inlcude the rest. That’s the difference.

When a lost Budhhist dies he is seperatated from Christ forever.

41   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hence the missionary effort, unless the missionary effort centers upon a higher level of enlightenment which is both Buddhist and universalist.

42   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 18th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Is Jesus found in Fruehianity?

43   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 18th, 2011 at 5:30 pm

In the theological system of Fruehianity, is there a hell?

44   John Hughes    
April 18th, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Who is championing this favorable view of Eastern Orthodoxy theology in evangelical circles? It keeps coming up around here a lot. It’s almost like a footnote to the Christian Universalism camp who have found some sympathetic historical support in Orthodoxy and have jumped on the Greek bandwaggon because it (supposidly) lends credence to their view.

45   John Hughes    
April 18th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Technical note. My comments are getting published before I hit and the system thinks its double posting

46   John Hughes    
April 18th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Note to self. Greater than / lesser than symbols are reserved characters.

47   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 18th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Who is championing this favorable view of Eastern Orthodoxy theology in evangelical circles?

I would say that the EO view on most of theology and doctrine is unknown by 99% of Christians in America. Even so, as a church in practice and in doctrine, they have changed very little since the fifth century, particularly after the Great Schism in 1054. As such, they are a view into church belief and practice of more than a millennia ago.

Their view is not really “kind” to the universalist view, except that their vision of hell is in the presence of God instead of apart from Him, and it is the sinner’s nature, not God’s, which makes it “hell” for them. Even so, the Greek/Dante version of hell never entered the EO church’s view of hell because it was primarily popularized in the church after the Great Schism.

48   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 18th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Who is championing this favorable view of Eastern Orthodoxy theology in evangelical circles?

I wouldn’t say anyone in particular is “championing” EO theology (that in and of itself is a rather vague term, anyway – as the Eastern church doesn’t really have anything like the systematic theologians of the West), but I think there is a renewed interest in historic Christianity from a number of people. One thing to remember is that in the late 80s/early 90s the Jesus Seminar people tried to reinvent the “historical Jesus” with some very bad scholarship. Unfortunately, there are people who took this stuff seriously, so it lead to the need for people to actually do some good work on the matter that was previously lacking or forgotten. Theologians like N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington III, FF Bruce, Richard Hayes, etc., all have contributed to a theology that takes our history more seriously.

On the less academic side, you have people like the late Robert Webber who wrote a lot about marrying charismatic worship with more liturgical traditions. Of course, then you have the Emergent Movement which had an interest in getting back to historic roots. Even the Passion worship movement, which is pretty mainstream, released an album that had the Phos Hilaron, one of the earliest Christian hymns, on it.

I just think there are a lot of people who want to have actual historic roots to their faith. I think much of evangelicalism comes off as pretty shallow from both an intellectual and historic level. I personally know several people who came to know Christ in Evangelical churches but then converted to Orthodoxy a few years down the road.

49   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

#42 – The conversation has spiraled downward into adolescent name mocking and even suggestions of Jesus’ absence.

What else is new.

50   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 18th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Oh God Rick, grow down a little.

51   Neil    
April 18th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

We saw a foreshadowing of it a few years ago when John Piper and N.T. Wright released their dueling books about the meaning of justification. – phil

the nice thing about their debate was the fact that neither referred to the other as the spawn of satan… or made their interpretation tantamount to be a follower of jesus. nor did they, as far as i could tell, write rebuttals against comments that were taken out of context, then edited to mean something other than what was originally intended.

52   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
April 18th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

And no one Twittered, “Farewell, NT Wright.”

53   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

“Oh God Rick”

I do hope God was not used as an adjective. :cool:

54   Rick Frueh    
April 18th, 2011 at 9:42 pm

It is profoundly more valuable to be justified than to understand all the theological particulars of justification. Somehow I feel that in eternity most doctrines will be revealed as infinitely more profound in their simplicity.

55   John Hughes    
April 19th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Now, when you say “hell is a central truth of the Christian faith”, are you saying that this “central truth” is that hell is conscious eternal torture? Or could it be an unconscious eternal consequence (annihilationism), or would that be “rejecting Biblical

truth”?

I’m saying conscious torment in Hell has been a “central truth in both Catholic, Reformed and Armenian theology (until very recently). Is that central enough?

2) And since the word he uses “gehenna” is, literally, a real place his audience was familiar with, are you calling him a liar if you acknowledge this interpretation without demanding a figurative one based upon an application of Greek mythology or Dante as a parallel symbology?

First, I am not saying I personally hold the view that one is calling Jesus a liar if they do not believe in a literal hell. I said one could understand how some might say this. We have discussed gehenna in a previous thread, so I think my position on that is known.

56   John Hughes    
April 19th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

3) And since there is a history of orthodox belief in the harrowing of hell (which is in the Apostles’ Creed), the concept of the dead being witnessed to by Christ is not a completely foreign concept, is holding this belief as a possibility truly declaring Jesus to be a liar?

Thanks! I needed my morning S T R E T C H. :-)

57   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 19th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Thanks! I needed my morning S T R E T C H.

It is difficult defending a belief you don’t hold yourself, so gimme a break ;-)

Even so, the harrowing of hell (i.e. that Jesus witnessed to those who had died before he came) does raise the legitimate question about the actual salvific event occurring post-mortem.

One could legitimately ask – “If Jesus gave those people who never heard of him before his earthly life a chance to accept him after death, why would he not do the same for those who never knew him after his ministry on earth?” Or is their salvation tied up in whether or not his disciples and their disciples reached them in time, and the unluckiness of the timing of their death will determine that they will burn forever in hell? And when Jesus witnessed to the souls in Sheol, was his offer a “one-and-done” deal, or did they have a time limit, or was it left open-ended in some fashion?

(And just for the record, I think that much of Protestant and Catholic tradition have read more into the “harrowing of hell” than is present in canonical Scripture over the years. Even so, the event does raise questions that aren’t simply dismissed as a “stretch”.)

I’m saying conscious torment in Hell has been a “central truth in both Catholic, Reformed and Armenian theology (until very recently). Is that central enough?

Annihilationism has been a stream of thought just as long as “conscious eternal torment” – Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Arnobius believed in some form of annihilationism. Origen believed in Universal Reconciliation (and was denounced as a heretic 300 years later…

And as far as Reformed theology goes, Luther believed in conditional immortality (and was criticized by Calvin for it), which is a form of annihilationism. It is only the neo-Reformed theology (the Reformed church of the modernist era, which has come to demand certainty in doctrine more than the fathers of their movement did) that has considered “conscious eternal torment” to be “central” to their theology.

And, of course, the Catholics have purgatory to deal with.

So to say that “hell (as eternal conscious torment) is a central truth” of the church is quite misleading when looking at the history of the church – particularly when examining it outside of the United States.

58   Rick Frueh    
April 19th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

The existance or essence of hell is not salvific, and the “this group believed this and this theologian believed that” is irrelevent to the entire discussion. The Catholics believed this, and the the reformed believed this, and Irenaeus and Martyr and Arnobius and Luther and Origen believed this and that.

What do you believe and what do the Scriptures teach? See what happens – the “orthodox” and the “nonorthodox” pin their hopes on what others believed. And they are fearful of identifying their own beliefs based SOLELY unon the Scriptures. It’s either the early church or the Hebrews or the historical interpretations etc., and they hitch their doctrinal wagons to someone elses wagon.

59   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 19th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

What do you believe and what do the Scriptures teach? See what happens – the “orthodox” and the “nonorthodox” pin their hopes on what others believed. And they are fearful of identifying their own beliefs based SOLELY unon the Scriptures. It’s either the early church or the Hebrews or the historical interpretations etc., and they hitch their doctrinal wagons to someone elses wagon.

That’s the thing, though. I think that Scripture is somewhat ambiguous about this issue, so that’s why I think it’s valuable to try to learn from all these different schools of thought.

What do you believe and what do the Scriptures teach? See what happens – the “orthodox” and the “nonorthodox” pin their hopes on what others believed. And they are fearful of identifying their own beliefs based SOLELY unon the Scriptures. It’s either the early church or the Hebrews or the historical interpretations etc., and they hitch their doctrinal wagons to someone elses wagon.

I honestly don’t understand this position. Even people who are genuine Biblical scholars who are proficient in the original languages, history, etc., admit that they don’t have everything right. So if they can exercise some humility in that respect, why shouldn’t I? Of course there are some things which are core beliefs, but I don’t think the nature of hell falls into those.

60   Rick Frueh    
April 19th, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Then just what are the Scriptures absolutely, uncompromisingly clear about? Even the exclusivity of Christ has now dripped into other religions and after life church services. And just who is a “genuine Biblical scholar”? The proficiency in original languages, if that is a prerequisite for complete understanding, renders Christianity as eliticism and intellectual Bourgousie. Many Calvinists would heartlily agree with that views.

But at least you are honest, Phil, the Scriptures are ambiguous.

61   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 19th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

If I were going to define what the core is as to what defines a Christian, I would pretty much say it’s those items laid out in the Nicene or possibly Apostle’s Creed. As to the question of how one becomes a Christian, I’d say it’s by responding to the Spirit’s call and choosing to follow Christ.

I don’t see that the issue of other religions is necessarily at the core, although, for those who are adherents to other faiths, I’d remind them that Jesus said that no man can serve two masters, and that following Christ is the way to life. Beyond that, I am not their judge.

Btw, Rick, I never said the Scriptures were ambiguous about everything. There are plenty of things they are perfectly clear about, like the importance of loving our neighbor and caring for the least of these. Let us not become like the Pharisees who were experts in the letter of the law but neglected the Spirit of it.

62   Rick Frueh    
April 19th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

So the Scriptures are clear about works and ambiguous about faith. You cannot judge those who worship Buddha or Allah, but you can judge those who do not love others as themselves.

I have yet to find someone who loves his neighbor when his neighbor is Ken Silva or Ingrid Schlueter. And if the Scriptures are clear about feeding the poor but murky about those who follow someone other than Christ, then it is of no doctrinal use at all.

But it makes for good discussions.

63   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 19th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

So the Scriptures are clear about works and ambiguous about faith.

They are pretty clear about orthopraxy (noting that “works”, as you are using it, is a pretty dismissive term that none of the disciples would have used in the same context). They are also pretty clear about who Jesus was and what the events of his life were – the things we are to have faith in. They are *not* clear about all of the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that the Calvins and Pipers and such want absolute certainty about, even though this certainty does not exist in Scripture.

Did Jesus live? Yes.

Is Jesus the Son of God? Yes.

Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes.

Is Jesus the Messiah? Yes.

Is Jesus the only way to the Father? Yes.

How exactly does all of that work? There metaphors used, but the exact mechanism isn’t there – so it’s not all that important to die on that hill.

64   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
April 19th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

If I were a betting man, I would wager a lot of money that this conversation (or something very close to it occurred about a year ago.) In fact, comment #63 looks a lot like a comment from back then.

65   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 19th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

#64 It wouldn’t surprise me. It is a common canard to respond to a request for liberty/mystery in some aspects of faith to create a black/white scenario where if we accept some mystery or uncertainty, we must be advocating that everything (or all faith) is uncertain.

66   Rick Frueh    
April 19th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Nope. I am a mystic and love mystery. I hold very loosely to the Trinity and I believe a practicing homosexual could still be a believer. But what is clear, what must be clear, is that unless a sinner believes on the Lord jesus Christ before death he will be seperated from Christ forever.

Clear. :cool:

(Those are prescription glasses that help me see the Scriptures clearly. I call the lenses the Ummin and the Thummin.)

67   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 12:13 am

Which is probably a correct interpretation but misses the point by about 100%.

68   Rick Frueh    
April 20th, 2011 at 10:18 am

Nope. That has always been THE point. A point which is rapidly fading.

69   Neil    
April 20th, 2011 at 10:34 am

…and the “this group believed this and this theologian believed that” is irrelevant to the entire discussion. – rick

this is true, only if you think you cannot learn from others.

70   Rick Frueh    
April 20th, 2011 at 10:45 am

Or if you think you cannot be deceived by others. Also, the man who teaches something very Biblical on Monday, can turn around and teach heresy on Tuesday. And those who gave his words weight on Monday, are the most susceptible to be deceived on Tuesday.

71   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 20th, 2011 at 10:49 am

Or if you think you cannot be deceived by others. Also, the man who teaches something very Biblical on Monday, can turn around and teach heresy on Tuesday. And those who gave his words weight on Monday, are the most susceptible to be deceived on Tuesday.

So what’s the point of this then? That we shouldn’t trust anyone? We’re all popes unto ourselves?

Certainly we shouldn’t idolize anyone, but how else do we learn anything if not by humbling ourselves. You are at the point of being absurd now Rick.

72   Neil    
April 20th, 2011 at 11:48 am

Or if you think you cannot be deceived by others.

to claim that the opinions of others (without distinction) are irrelevant, is to say that they have nothing to teach us/you. which is a form of arrogance.

to say that they do have something to teach us means we believe we cannot be deceived is incorrect. of course we can be deceived.

Also, the man who teaches something very Biblical on Monday, can turn around and teach heresy on Tuesday…

this is true. but serves as a warning about “how” we learn from others, it is not a reason to deny that we can, or to argue that we should not learn from others.

73   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 11:50 am

Nope. That has always been THE point.

Too bad Jesus and Paul didn’t seem to believe that.

But at least you’re transparent in your belief that the Gospel is nothing but fire insurance and the church its viral marketing arm.

Whatever.

74   Rick Frueh    
April 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

“But at least you’re transparent in your belief that the Gospel is nothing but fire insurance and the church its viral marketing arm.”

Creative. I like that, and basically with a little different verbiage you are correct. Even if you reject the “fire insurance” part, we still are its “viral marketing arm” – or ambassadors and epistles for Him.

75   Rick Frueh    
April 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

BTW – I asked Paul and he believes like I.

76   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
April 20th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

#75: yet, we’re still at odds with the specifics on hell to a degree. But we’re making progress. :)

To be honest, Bell himself seems deceived to a great extent (as opposed to an out-and-out wolf). God knows the heart. He’s working out his beliefs in the public forum which is causing a lot of angst, and perhaps is not the wisest approach, though it has gotten people talking and questioning. Others are circling the wagons. Interesting to observe.

On the other hand, it also reveals a lot about evangelicalism. The issue, if you really get down to it, is that when you question the doctrine of a fiery, eternally painful torture chamber, for some it’s like the loose thread on a sweater. If you pull on it, what might happen? Might it all just unravel?

It would be interesting if they hosted a forum to debate the subjects at hand, though not sure who would ever facilitate it and if Bell would be brave enough to attend, instead of playing victim in the media.

77   John Hughes    
April 20th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Or is their salvation tied up in whether or not his disciples and their disciples reached them in time, and the unluckiness of the timing of their death will determine that they will burn forever in hell?

I think the crux of the matter is that we don’t believe in the sin nature, that all are separated from God and that everyone is deserving to go to hell. The underlying belief seems to be that everyone deserves to go to Heaven.

78   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I think the crux of the matter is that we don’t believe in the sin nature, that all are separated from God and that everyone is deserving to go to hell. The underlying belief seems to be that everyone deserves to go to Heaven.

1) “go to Heaven” is probably a misnomer, but rather “participate in the Kingdom of Heaven both now and into eternity.”

2) It’s not about what we “deserve”, but rather what it is that God desires. And, as Phil notes, it’s a difference of view between Piper’s “transactional” model of Justification and Wright’s “participational” model. And it is partly rooted in the original culture of the message of the Gospel. Jesus & Paul’s use of “you” is almost always plural, and their religious culture and experience was completely community-based, not individual-based. As such, salvation is much more than an individualized transaction and experience. It isn’t until the invention of the printing press that a fully individual-based culture emerges, followed by individual-based philosophy (modernism) in which salvation is completely seen as the experience of the individual and not the community. As such, when you go back to the original culture to whom the Gospel was spoken and preached, it is more about the kingdom God desires and the community He created to model and live in it (the Church) than about transactions each individual needed to fulfill to gain entrance to the kingdom.

79   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Even if you reject the “fire insurance” part, we still are its “viral marketing arm” – or ambassadors and epistles for Him.

God isn’t asking for marketing, He’s asking for action. “Making disciples” is about action (oh noez! – wooooooooks – ewwwwwww!), not about mental assent to a collection of beliefs and interpretations. Selling fire insurance completely misses the point.

80   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

BTW – I asked Paul and he believes like I.

Paul Washer, maybe.

The Apostle Paul, though, lists a significantly different purpose for believers.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

81   Rick Frueh    
April 20th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Good works are essential for exhibiting the Person of Christ. Faith without works is dead. However works without faith is a fraud.

82   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 20th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Good works are essential for exhibiting the Person of Christ. Faith without works is dead.

this is only lip service to good works if you believe this:

Nope. That has always been THE point.

83   Tony Clay    
April 25th, 2011 at 3:05 am

Isn’t the real point/message of ‘Love wins’ and other books of the same ilk that we all have a moral dilema with what we call the Gospel (Good news) in that we are expected to go out and preach a good news to the ‘unsaved’ that hinges on the threat of Hell. We struggle with how this could be good news and perhaps wonder if maybe some of the good bit has got lost somewhere down the line.
The idea that God has given us free will to choose but if we choose wrong we can not be part of his perfect human race and therefore must spend eternity in a death camp called Hell …doesn’t seem fair
nor ultimately loving. Perhaps this is why so many have rejected our good news.

84   Tony Clay    
April 25th, 2011 at 3:17 am

The question I struggle with is this: is it morally responsible for a creator God to creat beings with free will knowing that the majority of them will not choose to have a relationship with him and so have to be either destroyed or suffer eternally ? If our creator didn’t have a plan to eventually redeem all of mankind then a) he would be as irresponsible as the genetic engineers today and b) as degenerate as Hitler !

85   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
April 25th, 2011 at 10:02 am

The question I struggle with is this: is it morally responsible for a creator God to creat beings with free will knowing that the majority of them will not choose to have a relationship with him and so have to be either destroyed or suffer eternally ?

That’s only a problem if you believe God possesses complete foreknowledge about everyone’s choices. I believe there’s enough Scriptural evidence to suggest that God doesn’t operate out of this. There are plenty of times when God seems legitimately surprised by human choices.

In other words, in order to create people who had the ability to freely choose to love Him, God had to grant them the freedom to reject him as well.

By the way, the heart behind your question is why I think many people who espouse a deterministic worldview end up being drawn to complete universalism. If there’s no room for real free will, then well God is on the hook for everything.

86   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 25th, 2011 at 10:05 am

is it morally responsible for a creator God…

Just for one observation – we, as humans, do not have the full background and experience to judge what is or isn’t “morally responsible” for God. We do not know all of the options He has to choose from, nor the benefits/side-effects of those options, nor do we truly know the nature of the human soul and its form/function. We often start with the assumption of the immortality of the human soul, but (as Luther posited), it may not be that the souls of those not in the book of life are “destroyed or suffer eternally”, but rather that they are simply allowed to expire – that they are not given new bodies in the age to come. Thus the consequence is natural to the “lost” soul, and the age to come is a reward. We don’t know.

Bell’s point is that heaven/hell are not the point of the Gospel, though we’ve often made them, truly, the “only game in town”. If you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you read that Jesus went out and “preached the Gospel” long before he was killed. What was this Gospel?

87   Rick Frueh    
April 25th, 2011 at 11:29 am

There many philsophical paradoxes that do not make sense to the human understanding. That only reveals that we are at the mercy of our own finite minds, our educational level, our upbringing, and many other variables that have a very difficult time embracing truths that do not make sense to us.

We remain at the mercy of written revelation.