In past years, one of my children was exposed to the teaching of Rob Bell by means of at least one of his Nooma videos played in my former church’s youth group, and presumably in some ways through his influence on the teacher of that class. Knowing his interest in Bell’s teaching, and being singularly interested in keeping up with who’s teaching what, I urged him a number of times that Bell’s teaching is not good for an orthodox church. The rest of the time I would tease him in a good-natured, but persistent way, that “Rob Bellion” is as the sin of witchcraft! This is my own personal play on the KJV’s translation of Samuel’s words to Saul when he refused to obey the Lord’s commands regarding the spoils of his fight with Amalek, whom he was to wipe out entirely as God’s appointed means of judgment against them for the way they attacked the children of Israel at Rephidim while they were still lead by Moses and the pillar of cloud and fire (1 Samuel 15:23; cf. Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19). Notice from the parallel line of 1 Samuel 15:23, that Saul’s “rebellion” is tantamount to a rejection of the word of the LORD regarding his plans to judge and destroy his enemies (see the whole passage, 1 Samuel 15:1-35). Such is the heresy of the universalist Rob Bell.
Justin Taylor at “Between Two Worlds,” a Gospel Coalition blog, shows Bell’s promotional material related to his latest book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, surely not to help sell his book, but to raise our awareness of how Bell’s trajectory towards theological liberalism is becoming more and more apparent in his growing trend of teaching the heresy of universalism. This is the doctrine that, in eternity, regardless of one’s reception or rejection of Christ during his lifetime, everyone will be forgiven and reconciled to God, and none will justly spend eternity hell. It’s funny how so many people who break the law wind up complaining about the fact that they had to suffer the consequences of their crime. This is analogous to the fact that unbelievers find the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell so unattractive. Hell, condemnation and the righteous judgment of an infinite, eternal and holy God is bad public relations for Christianity, if you listen to Rob Bell. But compare the concept of universalism with what the Lord Jesus said in John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Here, Christ clearly states that the condition for escaping condemnation is faith in him. Reader, be clear: if you do not trust the Christ of the Scriptures, not the Christ of any cult’s misinterpretation or “reimagining” of him, not the Christ of the Gnostic gospels, but the Jesus Christ of historic, apostolic, catholic, orthodox, evangelical Protestant Christianity, then you are already under the condemnation of God. If you persist in this unbelief, you will not be saved in the end. Your end will be the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Confess that you are indeed a sinner, repent by turning from your sins and cling to Christ (Acts 26:18) who suffered for sinners in every nation, sinners like you (1 John 1:8-10). Reject your false gods and goddesses (you know who you are!), and run to Christ, who lives to justify the wicked who repent and believe.
With Rob Bell, on the issue of universalism, finding the error in his teaching is no longer a matter of reading between the lines. Watch the video below and you will see Bell himself explain how we need to deny the Biblical doctrine of eternal, conscious torment in Hell because it makes people reject Christianity. Apparently, what the world thinks about Christianity is more important to Bell than what God reveals in his Word. Read Taylor’s post, “Rob Bell: Universalist?”
If you find that your church has been, or is being exposed to the teachings of Rob Bell, I would suggest that you present the facts regarding Bell to your pastor and patiently, but persistently, help them see that he is not just an emerging evangelical postmodern hipster, but a theological liberal of the first order whose materials ought to be avoided by every church and Christian that loves the Word of God. This is a process I had the regretful duty of engaging in myself back then.
This article by former co-founder of Brian McLaren’s Emergent Village, Mark Driscoll (who later separated from them when they began showing signs of postmodern liberalism) navigate what he calls “The Emerging Church Highway.” It would also behoove you to read D. A. Carson’s book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and It’s Implications (2005, Zondervan).