Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Rob Bell Teaching Hell is Empty? (Reprise)

A few days ago I asked the question, Is Rob Bell Teaching that Hell is Empty? The question was triggered by comments from John Piper, Albert Mohler, and some of their Calvinist brethren. After having read Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins, I have say they jumped the gun—boy did they ever jump the gun. I don’t agree completely with Rob Bell’s book, but concerning hell it appears that he is saying that not only is there a hell, it is a literal place of torment, and if we go there it is our own fault and no fault of God’s.

It isn’t always easy to follow Rob Bell’s thought pattern because he asks so many questions and it isn’t always clear whether he is asking to make a statement or simply asking because some people will ask those questions. He seems to flirt with the idea that people may be able to repent after they have reached hell, so hell may not be eternal and yet he also has much to say about the possibility that those who go to hell will continually reject Christ throughout eternity anyway. He also flirts with the idea that the world religions might be another way to come to Christ. I think that is dangerous theology, considering how much the Bible has to say against idol worship, but I think I can agree with his assessment that God provides the opportunity for all men everywhere to be saved. We just don’t agree on how God does that.

Bell repeatedly says that God gives us what we want. If we would rather turn our back on God and go to hell, that is our choice. But Bell doesn’t like the idea of using hell to compel people to believe in God. Even so, Bell doesn’t make hell any less hot. Even though Rob Bell isn’t as far removed from the truth as what his Calvinist critics thought, I don’t expect they will like his book. He walks that fine line that allows for both freewill and the sovereignty of God without swaying very far to one side or the other.


Mary Patrick said...

Hey Tim,

I haven't read the book yet. You must have gotten it online and stayed up all night to read it. I first discovered Bell through this Nooma series, and found those thought provoking. I especially liked the one titled ‘Rain’.

Paraphrasing one of my favorite authors and Pastors Greg Boyd says, Joseph wrestled with God and was blessed. We shouldn't be afraid to ask God hard questions. Given the freedom to do so, keeps us rediscovering just how awesome a God we worship.

I enjoyed reading your blog.

p.s. I’ve also started reading the Oz books. Public domain is a wonderful thing.

Timothy Fish said...


It didn't take me very long to read it. I like the statement you paraphrased.