Posted by: minnow | May 9, 2011

What If…

In a recent on-line discussion, spurred on originally by a response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, I found myself saying the following (with a few minor differences) to one of the commentors who holds to a traditional doctrine of hell:

You said, “I don’t say that non-believers go to hell… the Bible does and that is where Mr. Bell is leading people astray.” Yet the point [several of us] are making on this post is that the Bible, does not say that non-believers go to hell IF BY HELL you MEAN a literal place where they will be tormented for the rest of eternity. You tell us the Bible says it is true but you have shown no proof. On the other hand, [the author of this post] has explained very carefully how the places where the Bible uses the word hell are actually talking about a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem or the grave or a place in Greek mythology. He has also explained what is wrong with constructing the concept of hell from the parables we most often use to do so.
You told [one commenter], “If Rob Bell is correct, than he is really saying that Jesus is a fool.” But, I am not sure how believing Jesus wants us to work toward bringing heaven to earth or forgiving those who hurt (curse and reject) us is the same as saying Jesus is a fool. Nor do I understand how bringing heaven to earth negates the need for the cross. Just because everyone’s sins are forgiven it doesn’t mean we weren’t sinful to begin with. If everyone in the world broke their leg would we be able to just ignore our need for a cast or would we all still need to have our legs set in order to be healed?
We are repeatedly told things about the concept of forgiveness–to forgive those who sin against us, to love our enemies, to take the log out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of someone else’s, to forgive without ceasing (7 times 70), to hate sin but love the sinner, or that we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive others. But we think God is a hypocrite (AKA does not do what He expects His followers to do) if we insist the only way He can be just is to torture the non-believer for the rest of eternity, no matter how he or she has lived his or her life. What if God’s love really does cover a multitude of sin? What if His love is actually able to figure out how to get what scripture says He wants—for no man to parish? What if salvation really is a no strings attached gift and not earned by us saying the right thing before we die? What if God is truly sovereign, loving, and just rather than simply vengeful by human standards? What if I am actually taking the Bible at its word more than you are?

The recent killing of Osama Bin Laden has brought out the best and worst in many of my fellow Christians.  I hesitate to write but cannot stop wondering if some of the best and worst reactions might also reflect the lines drawn between those who do believe in a literal hell and those who do not.

I have heard a lot of talk about justice finally being served from people I think would have a difficult time imagining Bin Laden standing next to them in heaven.  And while my stomach tightens every time I entertain the idea of facing the people I would personally have difficulty standing next to in heaven, I need to also reconcile how my guilt  has been covered by an innocent man, sent by a loving Creator, who willingly took my place before the judgment of Death and rose.  How can I call that “justice” no matter how well I “believe”?  My God’s love for me, my Savior’s gift to me is not justice; it is unexplainable, unconditional, life changing, love from the Sovereign Lover of my soul.


  1. Hello Minnow….it has been a long while since I have visited your blog.

    I have issue with Rob Bell in his whole theory on hell.

    I have not read Mr Bells book but I find the excerpts that I am reading hard to swallow.

    If he thinks that he needs to create controversy in order to keep people interested, then he is only worried about selling books and booking speaking engagements in my opinion.

    When preaching Christ and Him crucified to a lost and dying world, and if you are reaching out to the widow, the needy, the homeless and the cripple…how can it be in need of any assistance from us to make it “more interesting”?

  2. Thanks for visiting. I am just starting Bell’s book myself so I don’t know exactly what he has to say. However, I highly doubt his motivation for writing about anything was to stir up controversy or simply make the gospel story more interesting, though I don’t doubt some of his detractors have characterized him in such a way. And just as a point of information, I think his fellowship does quite a bit to help those in need. While it is my understanding that they don’t routinely collect an offering per se Bell did ask his fellowship to bring coats ones Sunday last winter so they could pass them on to children in need. They also are involved in a mentoring program at an inner city GR elementary, a clean water program with 20-liters, a refugee ministry in West Michigan, and a ministry to help to create economic opportunities in emerging nations. (Those are just the things I was able to gather from a few minutes of on-line research. I’m sure there are probably other things they do as well.

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