In 2011 the debate of the year amongst Christian bloggers was over hell and the views put forward by Rob Bell in his book ‘Love Wins’. But do other, less controversial, leaders also share Bell’s view on hell?
Quite possibly. That would change the controversy I suspect if it was widened to include those two luminaries.
Let me make my case. In reading some of the multitude of posts about Rob Bell in recent days, I discovered the following.
I came across Tom Batterson who as a bookseller has read an advance copy of Love Wins and quotes from it. Let me share those quotes.
Could God say to someone truly humbled broken and desperate ‘sorry too late?’ Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in only to hear God say through the key hole ‘Doors locked, sorry If only you had been here earlier, I could have done something but now its too late.
Now let me quote Tim Keller from The Reason for God (p76).
Modern people inevitably think that hell works like this: God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives, he casts our souls into hell for all eternity. As the poor souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says, ‘Too late! You had your chance! Now you will suffer!’
Can you spot the difference? Not sure I can. Batterson then quotes what he sees as the final position Rob Bell comes to.
… In speaking of the expansive, extraordinary, infinite love of God there is always the danger of neglecting the very real consequences of God’s love. Namely God’s desire and intention to see things become everything they were intended to be. For this to unfold, God must say about a number of acts and to those who would continue to do them ‘Not here you won’t.’ Love demands freedom. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.
The people on the bus from hell in Lewis’ parable would rather have their ‘freedom’, as they define it, than salvation. Their delusion is that, if they glorified God, they would somehow lose power and freedom, but in a supreme and tragic irony, their choice has ruined their own potential for greatness. Hell is, as Lewis says, ‘the greatest monument to human freedom.’ As Romans 1:24 says, God ‘gave them up to…their desires’. All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that? (p79)
There are only two kinds of people – those who say to God, ‘thy will be done’ to God or those to whom God in the end says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn’t be Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. (The Problem of Pain)
Can you tell those three apart? Not easily you can’t. So maybe we’ll be asking questions about Keller’s theological trajectory but I doubt it. Lewis is already living his. Either way if those quotes are accurate Bell could easily say ‘I’m just agreeing with Tim Keller or CS Lewis’.
It’s fine to disagree with them all, but perhaps things would have been different had he an endorsement from Keller instead of Brian McLaren! We shall see.