Sunday, May 22, 2011
I took the time to read and ponder Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins." In it Rob implies that people can restore a relationship with Christ after death and that hell itself may be a place of intense pruning rather than a place of eternal punishment. He's been accused of being a universalist. That is, the belief that eventually everyone will make it to heaven. He's also been accused of blurring the important doctrine of eternal punishment or hell.
It's confusing that such a gifted communicator and thinker can go so wrong. He himself claims not to be a scholar or theologian and frankly it shows here. Even if you disavow those titles if you claim to be a pastor you have to be responsible when you interpret scripture, even more so when God has allowed you to have a mantle of influence, whether you wanted it or not.
I believe he is a very sincere Christian leader and passionate pastor. I have heard nothing but good things about his character and service to the Kingdom. In this case he's careless. It's okay to write a book that will stimulate discussion and cause people to think through their faith, however, it must always be anchored to the truth and "Love Wins" was not.
Here's the short answer. I'll give you the joy of discovering the details. A scholar and theologian from Western Seminary put his finger on the problem with Love Wins. Bell refers to an interpretation of the greek verb, kolazo (punishment, which he implies can mean "correction" or "pruning") to make his argument. The bible however uses the noun, kolasis. He then camps on a shade of meaning used by Plato 400 yrs. earlier and in other secular non-biblical settings. Bell also uses the greek noun aion (eternity, which he claims is not a concept the biblical writers used), while the Bible uses the adjective aionos. The adjective clearly means unending time. He gets a shade of meaning from the noun form. Yes, I know, technical...but very important. If you read the Bible with the correct tenses it clearly talks about eternal punishment in hell for those who don't know Christ. That's why every english translation of the Bible that we have translates those sections "eternal punishment" and not "intense period of pruning."
Bell attempts to paint of picture of reality with an unbalanced view of God's love. God's love is perfect. So is His Holiness, Justice, and Wrath. God is glorified by his grace and love in heaven and God's holiness and justice is glorified in hell. God is perfect and glorified in all of His creation.
The truth is love will win...but not quite in the way that Bell suggests. The conversation goes on...but lets stay anchored to the truth and be found faithful to accurately interpret it.