Rob Bell Briefing

There’s no way to keep up with (or link to) all the articles, blogs, videos, and reviews coming out about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, which is scheduled to release tomorrow (March 15).  Currently, his book is #8 in all of Amazon–a rarity for any “Christian” book.  I do not recall in my six years of blogging a controversy as heated and widespread as this one which just about every major secular media outlet is inquiring and every major evangelical theologian going on record by article, review, or just a tweet or two.

Today, there were several things that came out recently worthy of your attention.

1.  Here is a video of Rob Bell explaining why he wrote the book, in particular his controlling belief and presupposition that God is love.

I will just mention briefly that I believe the doctrine of the love of God has been historically the gateway to many heresies, and what Rob Bell is doing here is consistent with the convictions of liberal theologians for centuries. Bell is simply making an old heresy available to a new audience, and making it with style.

2.  Three substantive reviews came out today regarding the book.  The first one is by Kevin DeYoung, and it is a beast.  His review, though considerably long, is careful and rather comprehensive.  It is a must-read.  The second one is by Denny Burk.  Denny breaks down his review by addressing each chapter in Bell’s book.  A third review came from Christianity Today’s Mark Galli who takes more of a middle-of-the-road approach, expressing appreciation for Bell raising the issues but also challenging Bell at certain points.

3.  Doug Wilson makes his usually insightful observation about the denial of the existence of hell not as a matter of mere consequence in the afterlife, but making your life now a literal hell.  He explains:

What is less obvious is how those who deny the future reality of Hell are much more likely to create hellish situations in the here and now. Rob Bell believes that hell is what we create when we reject God’s love. Amen. But I would want to add the absolutely critical proviso that this love of God (that is so rejected) must be defined as He defines it in the Bible, and not as we would wish it might be defined in our Big Rock Candy Mountain versions of Heaven. In the Bible, love is defined as Christ bearing the brunt of God’s wrath against our sin. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). A denial of the wrath of God is therefore a denial of propitiation (which is bearing the wrath of God), and this in its turn is a denial of love as biblically defined. This means that to deny the reality of Hell is to deny the love of God which saves us from the wrath of that Hell, and to deny the love of God is the first step in creating our own little microcosm of that Hell, which Rob Bell is engaged in doing. He is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, and if he is right about what rejecting the love of God does (and he is), then it would appear that someone is trying to turn that place into Mars Hell.

4.   I was taken back by the comments of Richard Mouw.  I find these words to be very “mysterious.”  In today’s USA TODAY (13B), you will read the following:

But Richard Mouw, president of the world’s largest Protestant seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary based in Pasadena, Calif., calls Love Wins “a great book, well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus.”  The real hellacious fight, says Mouw, a friend of Bell, a Fuller graduate, is between “generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people.”

5.  Rob Bell shared on Twitter that the book release party in NYC’s Center for Ethical Culture will be streamed live beginning at 7PM EST.  So if you would like to hear more from Rob Bell himself, this would be a good opportunity.

6.  Lastly, Southern Seminary is hosting a conversation about the book this Thursday (March 17) from 2:30-4:00PM EST. The panelists will include Justin Taylor, Denny Burk, Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore.  This event will also be livestreamed and available through their website.

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7 Comments on “Rob Bell Briefing”


  1. […] Rob Bell Briefing « Provocations & Pantings. […]


  2. “What is less obvious is how those who deny the future reality of Hell are much more likely to create hellish situations in the here and now.”

    Not too sure about that. What of the southern American slave holders, those Christians who endorsed apartheid Christian fellow travelers of Nazism? If questioned I would gather that they all believe in a literal Hell. And the Islamist terrorists certainly seem to.

  3. SAGordon Says:

    The video clip sounds like pelagianism…or at least ‘hyper-arminianism.’ Taking love & choice to a logical, non-biblical extreme winds you right up in the mess of Bell’s ‘theology.’

  4. Steven Says:

    Bro. Timmy:

    Thank for compiling these resources. A couple of years ago Bro. Adrian Warnock linked to a sermon by Bro. C.J. Mahaney on the holiness of God (http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/06/c-j-mahaney-on-people-god-killed-sermon/). In the sermon, Bro. C.J. points out that, as opposed to Rob Bell’s position, if God has a overriding trait it is holiness. Thus, God’s love is a holy love.

    With this in mind, I think that you are correct. If we take God’s love, and divorce it from everything else the Bible says about love, we end up with these types of heresies. I also believe that Bro. D.A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, is an excellent reference for this discussion.

    Thanks again.

    Steven

  5. JD Warren Says:

    Timmy,

    Shouldn’t we see the category of Law being presented by Bell? It sounds like regurgitated Mainline Liberal Legalism to me. We need a healthy dose of Calvin’s three uses of the Law. God’s Law is Love. The Gospel isn’t Law. Yes, Love wins but we can’t love like Jesus did. He died and rose again to bear God’s anger toward us for not loving. It seems fairly simple when we understand the two categories of Law and Gospel. Can we not counteract Bell’s legalism and universalism with distinction of the two?

    Thanks for your work Tim

  6. Carl Says:

    In the MSNBC interview he did he was asked point blank if it mattered what we did with Jesus in this life. He said yes then avoided the issue. How could a Pastor do that if possessed with a desire to imitate Christ or Paul? We have great reason to be careful.

  7. Mark in Houston Says:

    Rob Bell is like creamy decorative icing on a cardboard shoe box. Dig thru the icing and you’ll not find any cake. In the end everybody finally realizes the disappoint he is trying to feed them.


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