Rob Bell Did Not Choose the Easiest Path

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

The hardest thing for me about the whole uproar over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, (in which, according to reviews from those who have read advance copies, he dismisses the idea of hell as an eternal place of punishment), is that as much as I strongly disagree with many of his theological positions, I like the guy.  I have met him a few times.  I have read all of his books, seen all of his NOOMA vids, attended the Pastors, Poets and Prophets conference, visited Mars Hill Bible Church, and listened to hundreds of his sermons.  I once was fairly close to him theologically.  I have learned much from him even if I have drifted right while he has drifted left.

So, perhaps this post is a nostalgic effort to soften some of the criticism (including mine) of Bell but so be it. 

I don’t think Bell is choosing the easiest path.  By denying such a long-held and, in my opinion, orthodox doctrine such as hell as an eternal place of just punishment, he has been denounced by such popular Christian leaders as John Piper, Darrin Patrick, Matt Chandler, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, etc.  

If history is any guide, Bell’s popularity will drop.  My own church leadership is already re-thinking our adoption of the phrase “Love Wins” as it may come to connote something we don’t endorse.  Bell may not care but he is about to severe his relationship with evangelicalism once and for all. 

But Bell could have continued to fly the evangelical flag and simply refused to talk about hell…most do! 

Many of “evangelicalism’s” most popular pastors rarely if ever speak of hell.  I won’t name names (if for no other reason than to save the time from deleting nasty blog comments…I’m so glad conservative Christians don’t fall prey to the cult of personality…note sarcasm), but some of the most influential American preachers teach about family, finances, leadership, politics, self-image, dating or whatever but they rarely speak of our sinfulness and desperate need for Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and impute his righteousness to us, so that we may live eternally one day and serve passionately today. 

It is no mystery that most self-professed evangelicals believe in hell but also only believe that 4-5 people actually go there (Hitler, Charles Manson, their elementary school gym school teacher and the girlfriend or boyfriend that cheated on them in high school, etc., etc.). 

Why do they believe this?  because pastors never speak about it and therefore people assume you to go there you have to achieve a level of evil that earns you a TV special on Biography like Ted Bundy’s or John Wayn Gacy’s! They do not know the doctrine of original sin or the basics of justification.  They do not know because they have not heard and they have not heard because they have not been taught.  

I’m not sure which is worse–to deny hell or never speak of it but I know which is easier!

  1. Steve says:

    I have observed the firestorm that Taylor & Deyoung started with their concerns.

    I must say that this is one of the most refreshing opinions that has been put forth over the past couple of days.

  2. wordbn20 says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts here…thanks man

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