18 April 2011

Rob Bell's Unbelief in His Own Words

At the Grace To You blog, Dr. John MacArthur is continuing his series about the dangerous teachings of Rob Bell. This post is full of quotes directly from Bell's own books and teachings, illustrating his erroneous view of the doctrine of Hell, and, I would argue, subsequently revealing Bell's dangerous and deceptive understanding of soteriology. I'll post a few excerpts here from MacArthur's article, but as always I urge you to visit the Grace to You blog to read the article in its entirety.
Rob Bell's Unbelief in His Own Words
Rob Bell’s denial of eternal punishment goes hand in hand with a warped view of the gospel. No wonder. Each error fuels and exacerbates the other. Eliminate every hint of punishment for sin; ignore the wrath of an offended deity; dismiss the demands of divine justice, and you abolish any need for the gospel.
The only hell that exists in Bell’s theology is a state of mind or an earthly experience of suffering that Bell says God wants eliminated. But it’s up to us to live rightly in order to end whatever hell on earth we might suffer. By living the right way we can exchange our earthly hell for a strikingly earthbound sort of heaven.
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 148: "When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter--they are all hell on earth. Jesus' desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.
In that same paragraph, Bell ridicules the notion that the anguish of eternal hell is a greater and ultimately more serious problem than the afflictions of this present life.
What's disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth."
Side note: As I mentioned in a previous post, last week I heard Rob Bell speak live and I was astounded at his ability to shift any questions about Hell (meaning, as an eternal conscious punishment and actual place), and twist them so that he could respond with his idea of Hell in view, and that is "hell on earth" via pain, suffering, and plain old mean people (my words, not Bell's). If Rob Bell knew the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, he would not be suffering from such a misunderstanding. That of course leads us to one of the first points made by MacArthur in this series of articles: this debate about Hell (or the lack thereof) is only confusing if you think that Rob Bell is a Christian. Back to the article:
In Bell’s view, the reason eternal hell is nothing to be concerned about is because full reconciliation is already accomplished for everyone. Again, all people have to do is live accordingly:
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 83: This reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.”
In other words, the only remedy for Bell’s hell is something like the power of positive thinking. First of all, we must stop thinking of ourselves as sinners:
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 130: “I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.”
[...]
He turns faith on its head:
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 124–25: “Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves…. God has an amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.”
All those quotations are from sources that have been in print for years. These are not new opinions being floated by Bell for the first time. So when Love Wins denies the heart of the gospel message, as Kevin DeYoung points out below, why should we be surprised?
Kevin DeYoung, “God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of Love Wins”: Bell categorically rejects any notion of penal substitution. It simply does not work in his system or with his view of God. “Let’s be very clear, then,” Bell states, “we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction. God is the rescuer” (182). I see no place in Bell’s theology for Christ the curse-bearer (Gal. 3:13), or Christ wounded for our transgressions and crushed by God for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5, 10), no place for the Son of Man who gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), no place for the Savior who was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), no place for the sorrowful suffering Servant who drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath for our sake (Mark 14:36).
Ultimately, all of this goes back to Bell’s view of the Bible. Having rejected biblical authority, Bell has set himself up as his own authority.
[...]
...Rob Bell’s gospel is completely antithetical to the true gospel of historic Christianity.
Why would we be surprised at the stance he takes in Love Wins?
Read this article in its entirety here.
"Having rejected biblical authority, Bell has set himself up as his own authority." This is the key, the crux of the issue. Rob Bell's theology has no place for the true God of the universe, or for the true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or for the holy Bible as given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Rob Bell's gospel is not good news for anybody because it is a lie. Period.

What makes this story even more sad is that, in the midst of this "debate" (which is really not a debate at all unless you are wavering between believing God or believing man), we are approaching our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, with Rob Bell's gospel, there is no need for the cross or the resurrection! If everyone will ultimately be reconciled to God, then Jesus Christ died in vain, leaving the crucifixion to be nothing but a weak, powerless display of...what? Bad timing? Poor choices?

The good news is that Jesus Christ did not suffer and die in vain. The good news is that He did so out of obedience to His Father so that "whosoever will believe in Him will not perish but will have eternal life" (John 3:16). But perhaps Rob Bell has never read further, to verse 18 of that same chapter of John:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
The good news is that Christ died the death that we deserve. He bore the full wrath of God for every sin ever committed by those who come to Him in repentance and faith. Better still, He rose three days later, overcoming sin and death and securing for us the promise that those who are saved by Him will be with Him for eternity.

SEE ALSO:
Is Rob Bell "Evangelical and Orthodox to the Bone?" Hardly.
John MacArthur Speaks Out Against Rob Bell

Obligatory Rob Bell Update
Kevin DeYoung Reviews "Love Wins"

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