I have a few initial comments and you of course will choose if you want to read further.
#1. You cannot nail Jello to a wall!
#2. I believe this book is all about stirring controversy in order to sell books! (It worked with me, lol)
#3. Save your money and don’t buy this book!
In the book that has caused such a fire storm, Rob Bell alludes strongly to the assumption that everyone goes to heaven or universalism. However, he is wise enough to never make this statement and he is a master communicator who has done damage to those who will read this book, hear what they want to hear, take it as affirmation, and walk away from the clear teaching of scripture.
Here are several quotes from the book. I will make some bolded remarks in groups of quotes.
“First, I believe that Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us. It is a stunning, beautiful, expansive love, and it is for everybody, everywhere. ”
“There are a growing number of us who have become acutely aware that Jesus’s story has been hijacked by a number of other stories, stories Jesus isn’t interested in telling, because they have nothing to do with what he came to do. The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.”
“I’ve written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, “I would never be a part of that.” You are not alone. There are millions of us.”
“This love compels us to question some of the dominant stories that are being told as the Jesus story. A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”
I agree that God’s Word is a story of love, I have often referred to the Bible as God’s love story for us, His creation. However, there is no way to read the Bible and describe God as being without justice.
“Of all the billions of people who have ever lived, will only a select number “make it to a better place” and every single other person suffer in torment and punishment forever? Is this acceptable to God? Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow this, and still claim to be a loving God? Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life? This doesn’t just raise disturbing questions about God; it raises questions about the beliefs themselves. Why them? Why you? Why me? Why not him or her or them.
If there are only a select few who go to heaven, which is more terrifying to fathom: the billions who burn forever or the few who escape this fate? How does a person end up being one of the few? Chance? Luck? Random selection? Being born in the right place, family, or country? Having a youth pastor who “relates better to the kids”? God choosing you instead of others? What kind of faith is that? Or, more important: What kind of God is that?
The sad fact is that Rob Bell asks a multitude of leading questions and he never answers for himself. He has done a lot to cast doubt and I think it is sad for those who will be mis-led by his questions.
“This belief raises a number of issues, one of them being the risk each new life faces. If every new baby being born could grow up to not believe the right things and go to hell forever, then prematurely terminating a child’s life anytime from conception to twelve years of age would actually be the loving thing to do, guaranteeing that the child ends up in heaven, and not hell, forever. Why run the risk?”
I find this comment to be offensive to God.
“Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.
This is from an actual church website: “The unsaved will be separated forever from God in hell.”
This is from another: “Those who don’t believe in Jesus will be sent to eternal punishment in hell.”
And this is from another: “The unsaved dead will be committed to an eternal conscious punishment.”
I would never use these statements on a church sign but that does not invalidate them, according to Scripture.
Will all people be saved, or will God not get what God wants? Does this magnificent, mighty, marvelous God fail in the end?
I don’t know about you but it appears that Bell believes if everyone is not saved, God is a failure. Yet, he says that he is not a universalist.
This insistence that God will be united and reconciled with all people is a theme the writers and prophets return to again and again. They are very specific in their beliefs about who God is and what God is doing in the world, constantly affirming the simple fact that God does not fail.
Yet again, Bell says he is not a universalist.
Is God our friend, our provider, our protector, our father—or is God the kind of judge who may in the end declare that we deserve to spend forever separated from our Father? Is God like the characters in a story Jesus would tell, old ladies who keep searching for the lost coin until they find it, shepherds who don’t rest until that one sheep is back in the fold, fathers who rush out to greet and embrace their returning son, or, in the end, will God give up? Will “all the ends of the earth” come, as God has decided, or only some? Will all feast as it’s promised in Psalm 22, or only a few? Will everybody be given a new heart, or only a limited number of people? Will God, in the end, settle, saying: “Well, I tried, I gave it my best shot, and sometimes you just have to be okay with failure”?
Again, the theme of God being a failure.
A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all.
I do not totally disagree with this statement.
Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God.
Wow is all I can say about that!