Question of the day: Bell & Hell.

Last week while I was reading one of the blogs I’m subscribed to I came across an interesting paragraph in one of her articles. I asked her if I could use it for this week’s QOTD post, to which she was most gracious to oblige.

With all the buzz that’s going about Rob Bell and his new book “Love Wins,” there’s no wonder people are starting to question the two destinations of eternity. So, what do we say to people who are struggling with knowing what is true and what is not? What can you say to this fellow blogger to help with her uncertainty?

Here’s what she wrote last week…

“Lately I’ve been struggling with believing in Hell or not.  I know I’ve read the recently debated book “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. I know there’s a camp of believers that don’t believe in Universal Salvation.  I know to believe that everybody makes it into Heaven is seen as making the work of the cross void.  They wonder that if everyone makes it in the end then what was the point of Jesus dying on the cross? I think being raised to believe in Hell and then to hear the other side of the possible Gospel message is tough.  When one view is so ingrained in your brain that to wrap your head around the other concept is a challenge. I think all these differing view points are making my head hurt.”

Any thoughts to share with her?
Opinions on the matter?
Scripture to support your ideas?


Posted on April 25, 2011, in Question of the Day and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. The first point I want to make is that Rob Bell does believe in ‘hell’. It may be different to some understandings of it; but there is huge distortion to say he doesn’t.

    2nd point. Our modern reformed understanding of hell comes out of the medieval period of Catholicism and not that prior which was held by the early church. While the position of the Eastern Orthodox has been somewhat distorted over the years – it holds more to the historical understanding of hell that the early church held to – than what become distorted under the Roman Catholic rule and understood by the reformed camp today.

    Finally the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 is often used to support the concept of hell. Regrettably this understanding totally distorts the story and the narrative of what is actually going on in this passage. You can read more about it here

    Basically it is a continuation of the parables that start in Luke 15 and is a continuation of the rebukes that Jesus is giving the religious leaders.

  2. Thanks for your honest comment. I agree that Bell is understanding Hell in a possibly different way. I also think Love Wins is a reread needing to happen. It was a lot to digest.

  3. I like the redesign of your site! Much better!

  4. I’m with Brandon, I like the new look of the site, very nice looking.

    Also I would like to recommend anyone here read Kevin DeYoung’s Review of Love Wins, He does a fantastic job of looking at the problems of Bell’s book, not in just simply attacking the question raised but showing the exegetical errors and other things that Bell used to support his theory that were really out of context. you can find it here:

    This was helpful to me at least. If you agree with him or not it will at least give you a balanced view of the subject.

  5. Rob Bell does NOT believe in the hell that is described in the Bible, which is a literal, burning eternal place of torment. He might think hell is on earth, missing out on God’s blessings and such, but that is NOT what the Bible describes as the real Hell. And the story of the rich man and Lazarus – NOT just a parable, why are so many people all of a sudden saying it’s just a parable? It boils down to this….do you believe the Bible, or don’t you? It’s really that simple.

  6. My understanding of Hell isn’t derived from anything medieval.

    It came from reading the Bible and believing it for what it says.

    Imagine that.

    • Must say, I came to it the same way. I grew up in IFB hell-fire preaching churches, but that’s not where my understanding of Hell came from. Studying the Bible gave me the basic understanding and studying God’s Attributes (Justice in particular) cemented it firmly in my mind. Bell is not just questioning Hell here, he’s bringing into question God’s justice and hatred for sin, which ultimately puts him questioning God’s goodness.

      “How could a good God send people to Hell?”

      How could a good God NOT send evil people to Hell?

      • Does God send us to hell or do people choose to go their through the way they live their lives?

        • They go through the way they live their lives, that’s true. What puts people in Hell are their sins, but what I meant was that God is the One who puts them out when He says “depart from Me”. When He condemns them they do go to Hell, and it is their fault ultimately, but let’s not leave God off to the side like a helpless bystander. As Judge He must execute justice, so in the sense that a criminal is sent to jail by the judge, a sinner is sent to Hell by God. The judge had no part in the criminal’s crime, he is simply executing justice according to the law, same thing with God, who is the Judge of all the earth.

    • It naive to say that your not effected by the past…and also that your not reading into the text a pre-supposition that your not reading back into the text what you think it is saying … as against what the actual hearers of the word knew the author meant.

      All of us will read the Bible with some modern day cultural hermeneutic baggage / understanding.

      • Craig, are you implying that there really are no absolutes in the Bible, since basically we all read the Bible with predisposed suppositions based on our background/experience?

        • Laurie.

          No – I am not implying that there are no absolutes in the Bible. What I am saying is that we have to be careful in how we frame and understand what we believe to be an absolute over and above what Scripture is saying.

          Take your previous comment on Luke 16 as an example Laurie. Within the frame work of your world view – you are adamant that Luke 16 is talking about hell and not willing to look at the great context of that passage of Scripture which begins in chapter 15 and ends at Luke 17:10.

          The narrative context decides the scriptural meaning and not our world view… our world view deciphers what we think the scripture is saying… but when we do that we are guilty of reading back into the text what we think it is saying…

          Take for instance using Luke 16 again with the passage on divorce… again within the context of Luke 15:1 – 17:10 Jesus is not making a statement about the rights and wrongs of divorce – rather he is making a in your face statement to the pharisees that they have divorced God and married adulterous money… this upset the pharisees big time and again Jesus re-emphasised his point by saying you think God is on your side and against the poor – but I”m telling you that God is for the poor and against the self righteous rich…

          When we read this with the back drop of the Sermon on the Mount – we see a continuation of the same theme – Jesus is for the poor, the lost, the broken…

          • Craig, I do not think you are suggesting there are no absolutes in the Bible, but I have inferred from your statements that because Jesus’ purpose was to point out the sin of Pharisees, then Luke 16 cannot give any reference to a literal Hell.

            I would say that even though the Lord’s purpose was not to give abstract facts about Hell, it does not mean that what He said about Hell is no less true.

            In other words, He told about a real place to point out the sin of men. He did not speak of something totally imaginary or false to illustrate a point. Even if Luke 16:19-31 is a parable, it should be interpreted as His other parables. We do not look at Matthew 13 and say, “Well, this passage is a collection of parables; therefore, there is no such thing in life as a pearl or a mustard tree.” We understand that He spoke of real subjects to illustrate a truth. Even in the parable of the sower and the seed, just because the seed represented the Word of God does not mean that there is no such thing in life as seed. So, I would say it is incorrect to look at Luke 16, call it a parable, and conclude that because it is a parable then there is no such thing as torment, Abraham, Abraham’s bosom, a great gulf, flames, a drop of water, etc. Even if I thought that the passage was a parable and the Lord intended for the “torment” and “flame” to represent something else, it does not mean that there is no such thing as real torment and literal flame for the lost in Hell.

            Just my thoughts. I do believe the Bible speaks of an eternal place of torment for the lost, and I do believe that it is justice, not cruelty, when men go to that awful place. I also believe that I deserve to be there, and the ONLY reason I, along with countless others, am not and will not is because I have found what I do not deserve: mercy through the blood of the Lamb.

  7. James, I think I agree 500% with what you just said. Well written!

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