Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is Rob Bell Teaching That Hell Is Empty?

The award for the most anticipated book for the month of March as to go to Rob Bell’s Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived from HarperCollins. Even before the book officially releases, people are already speculating on what it says. In both the product description and the video featuring Rob Bell talking about the book, it appears that the book is going to declare that God won’t actually send people to hell for eternity because “Love Wins.”

One possibility is that this is just a marketing ploy. In the promotional stuff I’ve seen, Rob Bell asks a bunch of questions without giving the answers. Though he implies that the view that hell is hot and full of billions of people may be wrong, he doesn’t actually say that in the promotional material. He only asks how people know that. He also suggests that his view of things is more optimistic than the view most of us hold. But here again, he doesn’t actually tell us what his view is, only that “Love Wins.”

Well, of course, Love wins. God is Love and God wins. His 11,000 church members notwithstanding, whatever his says in his book, there are answers for every question he asks in his promotional material. How do we know that the leaders of non-Christian religions are in hell? The Bible says so. How do we know that hell exists at all? The Bible says so. How do we know that it is hot and it is a place of eternal punishment? The Bible says so.

If as some suppose, Rob Bell holds to a Universalist doctrine, he cannot do so without rejecting the Bible. In our understanding of God, it is important for us to recognize that God is Love, but let’s not redefine love to be something that it is not. A loving God can still send people to hell just like a loving parent can tan a child’s backside. But unlike the punishment that a parent gives a child in hopes of training him to be a better person, God sends people to hell because he is Holy and there is no room in his presence for the unrighteous. Because of his love, he wants all people to be saved. Because of his holiness, he sends many people to hell. Out of his love, he provided a way for us to become righteous, but not all will.

As I said, this may just be a marketing ploy. It may be that Rob Bell will answer all those questions he asked by stating what the Bible teaches. Or it could be that he turning his back on the truth in the interest of building his fan base. Either way, we’ll find out on March 29.