Do I disagree with or denounce Rob Bell?

This debate continue to rumble around and it continues to make me think. I’ve realised I’m not as clear as I should or could be on what the Bible teaches about hell that there are differences between what I think, what I would like, what I’m comfortable with and uncomfortable with and some of that needs resolving. Some tension is good but part of the reason I continue to blog about this is so I can reach a clearer position and respond better to some of the challenges that have come about on both sides.

I think Rob Bell poses some good questions and there have been some good responses. There have been a fair number of bad responses too and again part of the reason to continue to think these things through is so that I don’t end up making a bad response in a bad way. Which is why love has lost in much of what has been said and meanness has won.

I’m currently reading Love Wins and as ever because Rob Bell is a good writer it is a good read and there’s much to commend it. Really. Part of what frustrates me about the whole debate as seen so far is an inability to simply disagree but a compulsion to move from that point to denunciation. I’m not sure that’s strictly necessary.

Take this from John MacArthur:

“Has Bell shown any more commitment to gospel truth, or any more devotion to the principle of biblical authority than Hitchens or Chopra?”

Which is frankly a ridiculous question.

And the point of his radio series as one of the commenters on his blog says, “Hence the reason for this series; to show how the god Bell believes in, the christ Bell believes in, is NOT the God of the Bible nor the Christ of the Bible…And that God and Christ cannot save.”

So anyone who listens to Bell and trusts in the Christ that Bell preaches is preaching a false gospel. Doug Wilson calls him a false teacher. We just don’t need to go that far (do we?) and it’s those sort of reactions that put a Christian debate on the cover of Time magazine.

More helpful would be reasonable engagement. I’d love to see Keller debate with Bell, I think they disagree but I think Keller would engage with the ideas. I’d buy that DVD.

Interestingly Adrian Warnock (who has come up with a spectrum of belief on this – missing a few options I think) is debating with Rob Bell on the Unbelievable radio programme. That should be well worth listening to.

Anyway there’ll be more on Bell and Hell as I continue to read the book and think through this issue.



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6 Thoughts to “Do I disagree with or denounce Rob Bell?”

  1. Graeme McDonald

    Sensible comments.

    I’m currently reading Love Wins and I have to say that much of it i agree with. What bothers me more than Rob Bells ideas is the vitriol that is coming from the mouths and fingers of fellow Christians. Does my agreeing with many of Rob Bells ideas mean I am not a Christian? That I refute.

    I’m a relatively new Christian (regaining my faith in the past couple of years) but all this denuciation really saddens me and confuses me.

    Is it really Rob Bells popularity they dislike so much? I sometimes wonder if that is the case

  2. Adrian Warnock

    Phil, I would be interested to know which options you feel I missed out. Anhililationism is the main one I suppose, at the time I thought it complicated it a bit in terms of aski g essentially how many are in heaven. Maybe I should construct a more complex spectrum. Hope you enjoy the debate on Unbelievable?

    1. Hi Adrian, yes looking forward to the debate, great that you had the opportunity to do that. Yes I appreciate it depends how complex you want to make the spectrum and I think if was framed just in terms of salvation then you’ve more or less covered it. I think Rob’s view is that the overwhelming majority are saved but not all because even post-mortem some continue to reject Christ.

      But in terms of responses hell, then yes annihilationism is the missing response and it’s now a substantial reaction in evangelical circles so worth a mention. Other traditions such as the Catholics have purgatory and many have argued that Bell’s hell functions as such. But as you say that makes things much more complex. If you do something more complex this post is very helpful

  3. Rob Mason

    I’ll be interested to hear Adrian Warnocks interview with Rob Bell on Sunday. Given what I think is Adrian’s clear perspective and Rob Bell’s previous answers maybe there will be a glorious opportunity for Rob to be crystal clear – though if Martin Bashir can’t get a straight answer…. ???

    For those in theological circles Phil, your comments are helpful and noteworthy, but for many of our folk who sadly only want to know what stuff to read that is helpful and what to avoid, my advice is still the same. – Avoid Rob Bell.

    1. Hi Rob, I guess if you think Rob Bell is heretical then avoid, if you think he’s just confusing then sure he might not help but I’m happy to engage the debate with people because the more they think it through themselves and wrestle with the better.

  4. Rob Mason

    I advise to avoid because too many folk I talk to these days don’t think through things for themselves… I don’t think this is a good thing myself, but since it is distinctly unclear what he believes and therefore how he is recommending people should live.. then it is better avoided.

    For those who are capable, enjoy and would be encouraged by a discussion then they absolutely should read and discuss… again I want to encourage everyone to think about things deeper than what should I eat and what should I wear, but the reality is that many people barely give God a thought in their day, without being confused by Rob’s recent stuff…

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