Archive for the ‘Hell’ category

Rob Bell: Your Concept of Love Is Not Credible

July 13, 2011

Richard Lovelace, some 32 years ago, had some great words for Rob Bell and those who would argue that “love wins” where there is no wrath and reality of hell. Lovelace writes:

“The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers.  God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church.  But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness.  And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell.  It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable.

The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be legitimately resolved by remolding his character into an image of pure benevolence as the church did in the nineteenth century.  There is only one way that this contradiction can be removed: through the cross of Christ which reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son.  In systems which resolve this tension by softening the character of God, Christ and his work become an addendum, and spiritual darkness becomes complete because the true God has been abandoned for the worship of a magnified image of human tolerance.”


– Richard Lovelace, Dynamics for Spiritual Life, 84-85 (emphasis mine).

John Piper, Rick Warren, and the Purpose Driven Life

May 27, 2011

Let’s just pretend for a moment you did not read the title of this blogpost.  Let’s pretend that there was an anonymous Christian minister who explicitly affirmed the following:

I am passionate about the glory of God above all things.
I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God in all things, including sin and tragedy.
I believe in exhaustive, meticulous divine providence.
I believe in the doctrines of grace, including total depravity, unconditional election, and particular redemption.
I affirm the five solas of the reformation and consider myself a monergist both in justification and sanctification of the believer.
I believe in the eternal, conscious torment in a literal hell.
I believe that substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel.
I believe in that the imputed righteousness of Christ is essential to the nature of the gospel.
I believe that God saves us from Himself by sending us His Son as the wrath-bearing propitiation in my place.
I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
I believe that those who die never hearing the name of Christ will not go to heaven.  They need to hear the gospel, and the church must go to them and make Christ known in order for them to be saved.
Everything I do in life and ministry has an overarching missionary focus.

Having considered these personal beliefs and affirmations, what well-known evangelical preacher might we be talking about?  John MacArthur? Sounds a lot like him. Albert Mohler? Possibly. D.A. Carson? Perhaps.

Who is it that made these personal affirmations?

Rick Warren.

If you don’t believe me, watch and listen for yourself.

Like just about every other evangelical leader I respect, I don’t agree with everything Rick Warren says and does, but I found this interview very clarifying and confirming.  I cannot imagine the controversy and criticism both John Piper and Rick Warren will receive from this interview, but I’m grateful they made this agreement, having demonstrated a substantive, constructive, engagement on important issues from two very different perspectives.

I don’t know of two pastors in our country who have more influence on my generation than John Piper and Rick Warren.  They have asked that we pray for them, especially in regards to pursuing humility, fighting pride, and stewarding their influence for generations to come.  God has given these men incredible platforms to display the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray for them and their continued usefulness in such enormous proportions for the advancement of the gospel both in breadth and depth for many years to come.


Let’s Tell Them!

March 29, 2011

Revising God by Hating Hell

March 2, 2011

Clark Pinnock commenting on why he rejects the classical position of hell as eternal punishment:

“I am rejecting the traditional view of hell in part out of a sense of moral and theological revulsion to it.  The idea that a conscious creature should have to undergo physical and mental torture through unending time is profoundly disturbing, and the thought that this is inflicted upon them by divine decree offends my conviction about God’s love” (emphasis mine).

– Clark Pinnock, “The Conditional View” in Four Views on Hell, edd. Stanley Gundry and William Crockett (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996), 164.

From the comments and questions on Rob Bell’s video trailer to his book, I’m guessing that Bell shares a lot of the same sentiments that Pinnock does.  Here’s an excerpt from Bell in his video:

See, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is, and what God is like.

Bell is right about that, but unfortunately, he along with Pinnock and others are willing to reduce the character of God to one attribute and subject all of his other perfections secondarily to the love of God.  This God-revision is necessary on account of what they have determined to be moral and loving. Consequently, when you start with your sentiments rather than the God who has the right of self-revelation, you are left to reveal the god of your sentiments rather than the God who is.  And it is hubris is the highest degree to define God to our liking rather than the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

The bottom line is this: universalists (or inclusivists) want to believe that all the world will be (eventually) saved.  Their wishful thinking is determinative, and the justification of such thinking warrants an understanding of God that makes His love incongruent with and unaccountable to the rest of his attributes. Carl Henry correctly asserted,

“The subordination of divine righteousness to divine love leads to arbitrary conceptions of agape in which God’s judgment and wrath do not come to full scriptural expression, and from which grossly unbiblical consequences are still deduced” (Aspects of Christian Social Ethics, 168).

Furthermore, in order to make room for the many/all, they reduce the character of God to love and fail to give account for His glory, holiness, justice, righteousness, and wrath.  The manifold perfections of God which shine so brilliantly are shrouded by cloudy sentimentalism, as Ajith Fernando states,

“The universalist idea of the whole (message of the Bible) contradicts such a significant portion of the parts that it simply cannot be regarded as a legitimate representation of the whole. . . . When we ignore those parts of Scripture which we find unpleasant, we will end up with an understanding of the message of the Scriptures that has no place for wrath and hell” (Crucial Questions About Hell, 120).

In the end, it is not simply that love wins. Glory wins. Justice wins. Righteousness wins. Holiness wins. And why is this?  Because God is holy, righteous, just, and altogether glorious in all of his perfections.  And only such a picture of God can tell the whole story of the Bible and adequately portray the drama of redemption in which Christ our King as the lamb who is our righteousness, who absorbed the wrath of God, and vindicated the justice of a perfectly holy God adopting sinners into His family.

When we are left with the God of the Bible in all of His excellencies and perfections, we are brought low to the ground in woe because of His glory, in worship because of His grace.  And no one will be wringing their hands wishing they did not have a God like this.