Tim Challies’ Review of Rob Bell’s Book “Love Wins”

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Thanks to Terry for pointing out Tim Challies recent review of Rob Bell’s new book. I have a lot of respect for Tim Challies but even if I didn’t, he quotes Bell’s book in numerous places in his review and Bell says some very troubling things. Tim is not one to take things out of context but is one who is usually very careful to be fair with people so his review troubles me all the more about Bell’s new book. To sum it all up, it seems Bell is saying that based on his own carefully constructed definition of things there is basically no place called hell and universalism is the way things go. Sounds like he jumps through lots of hoops to make it sound like that is not what he saying but probably is what he is saying.

Here is how Tim ends his post,

Christians do not need more confusion. They need clarity. They need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. And let’s be honest—many truths are very, very hard to swallow.

Love does win, but not the kind of love that Bell talks about in this book. The love he describes is one that is founded solely on the idea that the primary object of God’s love is man; indeed, the whole story, he writes, can be summed up in these words: “For God so loved the world.” But this doesn’t hold a candle to the altogether amazing love of God as actually shown in the Bible. The God who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), who acts on our behalf not so much because His love for us is great, but because He is great (Isaiah 48:9, Ezekiel 20:9,14,22,44, 36:22; John 17:1-5).

That’s the kind of love that wins. That’s the kind of love that motivates us to love our neighbors enough to compel them to flee from the wrath to come. And our love for people means nothing if we do not first and foremost love God enough to be honest about Him.

0 Responses

  1. This is probably going to sound rude, but at the end of the day, I see Rob Bell as a rock star wanna-be who goes about his teaching in an edgy, artsy way. I guess I take what he says about as seriously as U2’s Bono.

    But other people take him more seriously than Bono. So I guess this will remain an issue. But it doesn’t really rock my boat.

    1. It wasn’t that people were saying John Piper was way far off on this. I thought he point was why criticize someone if you haven’t even read their book. At least that is how I took it.

    2. Let me modify that a bit…he went beyond being critical on this one. That is what was distasteful to so many toward Piper’s approach.

  2. Matt, I’m wondering if Rob Bell’s book is also promoting the theory of the atonement called “moral influence.” Does Bell (and McLaren) see the cross merely as an inspirational story? Does he not see its sacrificial value, in terms of it satisfying God’s wrath and justice? I know I’m probably simplifying what they teach (having not read any of their books) but just posing a question.

    1. There are two things that I think are going on here and one comes out of the other. I think a lot of this is a great big pendulum swing. Much of the hip/pop Christianity of today is a reaction to or a rejection of a “model” of “doing church” that they just don’t understand. Because they have been trained to deconstruct things, even sacred things, they are asking all sorts of questions and coming to some good and healthy conclusions and some not so good ones. They see the church as an unhealthy institution that is dying, ineffective, and distant from what they read in the New Testament. Part of that is because the church does have some areas to improve. But another part of that is due to a misunderstanding due to generational differences. I have been guilty of asking the older members to understand the culture of the younger ones without also stressing to the younger ones that they need to get to know the older Christians and understand them too.

      So what you see happening is a change in the way they see how God is working in the world and how God has acted in the world. Because they have seen the church be pretty insulated and not living out the commission in a meaningful and communal way it has shifted their view of God to be more distant from the church and closer to the downtrodden. Part of that shift is a change in what they are seeing Christ doing on the cross. I do believe the sacrificial component has been lost. That is also partly due to not wanting to say people are wrong or recognizing sin for what it is. If you don’t really believe in evil or at least believe in a toned down view of evil then your view of what the cross was all about changes. I am rambling here but hopefully I have said something helpful.

    1. He makes a good point about theologians vs. Bell on that. But that brings up the issue of whether or not you can trust someone’s take just because they are a theologian. Theologians certainly differ on these things as well. The problem is the people who are most easily influenced are reading Bell, not these theologians.

  3. Thanks for the link and review.

    I guess this will all be more clear in a few weeks, right? I’ll tell you one thing I’m glad the emergents are coming clean that their beliefs are so completely and utterly heretical. But then again, it’s a bit weird for them to cut the caginess, and be so straightforward.

    Makes me think they have come to the realization that today’s churchgoers are so biblically illiterate that they can be served any old heresy and won’t know the difference.

    We must affirm how the Bible teaches that we are saved from the wrath of God by grace through faith in Jesus. Th realithy of the wicked, unbelievers and unfaithful in hell.

    We strongly resist and condemn those who deny the very words of Jesus and God.

    John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

    Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

    Hebrews 10:26-27 – “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

    1 Thessalonians 1:10 – “…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

    2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 – “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

    It is a grievous sin to deny the very Word of God. it is sad beyond words that this appears to be precisely what Rob Bell and others within the dwindling emergent movement.

    Woe to those who speak falsehood and call it the gospel.

    Yet. this particular lie, you see, is one that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden:
    “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!'”

    Just wonder how long before we start hearing this unversalist type false gospel in churches of Christ???

    Sadly, the people of God have a long, long history going back to the OT of generally reflecting the values and beliefs of the culture and religions around them.

    We must not remain silent and be caught off guard.

    God bless,
    Robert Prater

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