Rob Bell, the former mega-church pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, created a firestorm in 2011 with his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The popular book and it’s author were also highly criticized in evangelical circles (eventually including a mass exodus of congregants from Mars Hill) because of its Scripturally contradictory suggestion that all people will eventually be saved (that is, “love wins”), and that Hell is not a real place of eternal torment, punishment, or destruction for those who do not follow the Messiah Yeshua. By what means did Bell come to contemplate such unfounded ideas? Love Wins reveal His characteristic approach to dealing with Scriptural truth:
Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires. (115)
In other words, when Scripture fails to agree with Bell’s opinions, he determines that “we can’t” answer these difficult and important “tensions.” There’s just one problem with Bell’s assertion: we can answer them. The Scriptures—the supreme and sufficient written Word of God—clearly say that those who don’t know God and obey the Good News will suffer “age-enduring destruction” (2Thessalonians 1:6-10, cf. John 3:36). Indeed, the Master Himself defines the exact length of time that “eternal fire… [and] punishment” will last: they co-exist forever alongside the “eternal life” of the righteous (Matthew 25:41-46). Rob Bell’s theology and approach to Scripture are a prime example of how the hostile influence of rationalism—the supremacy of man’s reason—leads one to undermine the authority of Scripture and render its truth defective. In Bell’s case, rationalism also helps him to ignore the passages that don’t fit with his personal beliefs, emotions, or experience, and sends him down a road of complete confusion and utter uncertainty.
And this is exactly why, when Bell was asked recently if he was for “marriage equality” (that is, same-sex marriage), he was able to reply,
Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.
And who did he credit with such an enlightened movement away from God’s own, clear teachings on homosexuality?
I believe God [is] pulling us ahead into greater and greater affirmation and acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters and pastors and friends and neighbors and coworkers.
Affirmation that those who self-identify as homosexuals are also God’s creation? Sure. Acceptance of them as fellow human-beings who deserve fundamental rights and simple, decent respect? Of course. But to affirm and accept their choices and sins, especially among those who claim to be followers of Yeshua? By what authority can Bell suggest such a thing? By the authority of affirmation, acceptance and “love”… by the self-appointed authority of rationalism. Indeed, Bell does not consult Scripture as the only sound, true and authoritative viewpoint. On the contrary, he is highly in favor of
What happens when you are all suddenly exposed to thousands of different viewpoints… it can call your own [viewpoint] into question and it can have this refining fire dimension to it…
And when your viewpoint is not the viewpoint of Scripture, then down the road of rationalism you will go; you will be tethered to nothing to keep you from being “pulled ahead,” not by God, but by every thought, idea and emotion that you encounter.
Notice the progression (or regression) of ideas here: if one part of Scripture (i.e. “Hell”) can be called into question, then no parts of Scripture—including those about homosexuality—will carry any weight of authority with you. You will ignore the parts of Scripture that offend your emotions, and redefine God’s “love” according to what you think it should look like.
Bell says, “There are lots of people that have a strong sense that there is more to life and need guidance and help, and that’s why I’m here.” The question is, are Rob Bell’s followers prepared to be “guid[ed] and help[ed]” straight into hell? …because that’s where the rationalistic influence of “thousands of different viewpoints” leads. Personally, I would rather trust my soul to the sole viewpoint of Scripture—the only reliable, unchangeable, “refining fire” of the perfect Word of God.