Love Wins, am I going crazy?

So I heard all the chatter on social media and in blog space about how some high profile ‘theologians’ think Rob Bell is a heretic based on the promo video for his new book.

I watched it a few times and I have come to some conclusions.

  1. Rob Bell never makes a single doctrinal claim in this video. Not one! He simple submits some questions and some hypotheticals.
  2. Rob Bell asks questions that I myself have asked and continue to ask. I hope you are continuing to wrestle with these questions too and hopefully you are in a position to help other people wrestle with them.
  3. Either all these other ‘theologians’ watched a completely different video than I did or they are¬†categorically¬†against people asking tough questions. I’ll understand if they got a different version of the video for ‘theological rock stars’. Does anyone have a copy I could check out. But if they are opposed to people asking questions than maybe they need to choose a new career. DMV maybe?

Am I being too simple? I’m open to discussion. Help me out. Do I need to read more into what he is saying?

30 thoughts on “Love Wins, am I going crazy?

  1. gavin papit

    Yeah I don't get it either. I especially don't understand why those rock star theologians are so quick to call Bell a heretic when the book they are criticizing hasn't even come out yet! That's way worse then just judging a book by it's cover, which (since Flannel was involved in the design I'm sure) is another awesome cover for team Bell.

    Why are we so against questions if theology is simply the unpacking of our understanding of God? It's not like we have it all figured out…at least I don't think I do.

    Maybe we're alone here though.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:55 am
  2. The assumptions started from people who got an early release of the book and some of it's chapters from the publisher to review. Piper has read those chapters hence his post as well as some of the gang at reformation 21. The rest are drawing conclusions from those they trust that have received a copy of those chapters as well from the book.

    February 28, 2011 at 11:59 am
    1. That was one of the first posts I read and then Jeremy Apel and I had a good conversation about it, and to reach any conclusion based on the video at least you have to make some assumptions…which I don't think is fair even if Rob Bell has a track record in their minds.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm
  3. People are reacting from the writings of people who have been given copies of chapters form the book to read. Here is John Piper's post from observations he made of chapters given to him as well as the publisher's press release…

    February 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm
    1. Thats not John Pipers post. that is Just Taylors post.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm
      1. you're right however john piper linked to it from his twitter account stating, "farewell rob bell" go check it out. i think if you say that it's pretty much agreed on

        February 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm
        1. Pretty rough tweet from Piper. In full disclosure, him and I don't see eye to eye all the time –

          February 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm
  4. There are three possible reasons they are calling him a heretic (now, I don't know who exactly is calling him this, but I can imagine).

    1. They are connecting him with the others who have asked these questions in recent years whose conclusions do border on the heretical (i.e. Clark Pinnock, Robert Farrar, Gary North). This is classic "guilt by association".

    2. In the video, the questions are asked with an "edge" to them (surely you can admit that his tone of voice sounds more rhetorical than querying). This suggests to many, myself included, that the answers are going to be in line with finding a way to posthumously allowGhandi into heaven even though orthodox beliefs on salvation would mitigate against that. Therefore, some might infer that his rhetoric means he is going to come to a soft position on hell.

    3. The so-called "hyper-grace" movement has made a lot of inroads in seminaries and churches in the past decade. As a response, many theologians have their radar up and are quick to respond to yet another treatise on heaven and hell. They are guessing that Rob Bell's approach is not to reiterate what classic evangelicalism teaches on heaven and hell and will therefore be heretical in some respect. This is guilt by assumption. This is what happened with McLaren when he tackled this issue in Christianity Today, and even though he never stated that a non-believer could be saved, neither did he deny it. He has not written for CTI since. Bell needs to be very careful.

    Like you, I will wait to read the book. But I also won't hesitate to call him a heretic if in his book he varies off the course of classic biblical doctrine.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm
    1. Once again you bring a level head to heated discussion Mike

      February 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm
  5. I agree with you 100%.

    I think that people were more upset at this excerpt than the video (which I must admit, is interesting. Maybe his publishers put a spin on it):

    Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm
  6. My mistake: Robert Farrar CAPON…in my haste, I missed his last name.

    February 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm
  7. [New Post] Love Wins, am I going crazy? – via #twitoaster

    February 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm
    1. joeday

      RT @m_vince: [New Post] Love Wins, am I going crazy? – via #twitoaster

      February 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm
    2. andrewbredow

      @m_vince Good post. I think you just need to be a mindless drone and jump on the bandwagon to get upset about that.

      February 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm
    3. rosslester

      RT @m_vince: [New Post] Love Wins, am I going crazy? – via #twitoaster

      February 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm
    4. _his

      RT @m_vince: [New Post] Love Wins, am I going crazy? – via #twitoaster

      February 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm
    5. John_Madeja

      RT @m_vince: [New Post] Love Wins, am I going crazy? – via #twitoaster

      February 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm
  8. Aaron

    Have you read the description of the book from Harper Collins? It seems to say that Bell's conclusion is universalist. Now, there are 2 possibilities: 1) this is his conclusion, or 2) this is hype, focused on selling the book. If it's #1, that's troublesome. If it's #2, that's cheap, and patronizing, and sort of dishonest, considering the subject matter. If it's #2, that makes me question motives.

    Also, I'm a bit surprised that the concept of hell is "controversial", according to Harper's description. I feel like it's historical orthodoxy, going back to (at least) the Athanasian Creed…The backlash against the backlash seems to be saying "don't judge the book before it's released!", but the description of the conclusion seems plain, unless it's dishonest or superficially provocative. So, if Harper's description is not accurate of the content of the book, why is Bell partnering with them in publishing it? And if their description is accurate, why are we having this discussion?

    February 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm
    1. I look at it from the point of view of someone resistant to Christianity, which is Bell's audience. I feel that the video is voiced very well for that. For people opposed to Christianity hell is controversial.

      I relate to this because I am involved in a ministry that puts a lot of effort into reaching people who are resistant. Not simply people who are not Christ Followers, but people who are very resistant.

      Harper Collins is not a Christian publisher, as it were, and they will market a different way then Christians are used to.

      This is what pains me:

      A Christian (rob bell) chooses to go deep into 'enemy territory' and from his own 'side' rocks are hucked at him? He is trying to engage a conversation with people most Christian leaders gave up on long ago. Look at it from their eyes and the marketing is spot on. I forgive him for not being transparent with the people who are throwing rocks at him, he has to keep himself in the game with a different audience.

      I'm not saying he is or isn't making false claims in the forthcoming book, anything conclusion I come to their would simply be an assumption. For all I know he could be way off…we'll have to read it and see.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:50 am
      1. amy

        exactly what I've been saying. In fact your original post up there is precisely what Jeff and I were saying on Sunday morning. Further, I shared on a discussion forum "It's only the impression being given by the new evangelical reformed preachers who are promoting and perpetuating this smear campaign that Rob Bell is a universalist. Rob Bell says absolutely nothing of the sort in the release or the video."

        And I also said "Neither one of us sees anything in his video clip that says he is embracing Universalism. He doesn't state any facts in the video clip- he asks, "Really, someone knows Gandhi is in hell?" because you know, Gandhi is quoted saying he loves Jesus, so who knows? Who knows? Seriously? Rob Bell DOES state accurately that mainstream, modern "Christianity" IS turning away people who see it as hypocritical and MEAN. He is right! And not only is he right about that, but I personally feel that MOST Of the "church" today is the "religious leaders and Pharisees" that Jesus fought against when He was walking in the world 2000 years ago.

        "I am not a Rob Bell "fan" but neither am I fan of taking a short video clip and a publisher's write-up, and start a mad internet campaign SMEARING a man and his FAITH and his WORK. That's just WRONG. When that kind of stuff happens to the men who are leading this campaign (or at least perpetuating it) they get REALLY UPSET. This isn't fair and is another representation of the "We're the only real Christians" mentality of the new evangelical reformed movement."

        March 1, 2011 at 5:45 am
      2. Aaron

        Thanks for the good discussion, Vince.

        I'm all for marketing—not just a little, but even a lot. I think we should always be honest and authentic in our marketing though. If Bell is pretending to be unsure about something that (by definition) he should be sure of, he's not being authentic.

        I would disagree that hell is controversial for people opposed to Christianity. If someone simply doesn't believe something, that makes it the opposite of controversial. It's controversial if someone says they are a Christian and do not affirm the existence of hell. Jesus taught a lot on hell. God's messengers in the past talked a lot about coming judgement. It wasn't judgmental, it was a caution, a warning, a plea.

        "In Love Wins, Bell goes to the heart of these issues and argues that the church’s traditional understanding of heaven and hell is actually not taught by the Bible." ( Pretty strong statement. If the church's traditional understanding of hell is wrong (going back to the Biblical accounts and early church), that has serious implications.

        March 1, 2011 at 6:32 am
  9. Justin

    What troubles me about Rob Bell is his lack of transparency. He seems clearly to hide his hand, so-to-speak, about what he believes on huge matters. He just won't come out and say in plain statements what he feels and believes in his heart and mind about eternal things, and that troubles me, and I don't think I'm alone on this. He's a pastor. Pastor's are obligated under God to shepherd the sheep, and a massive part of being a good shepherd is being transparently honest, and showing the people you are leading where you stand. If you don't believe that God sends people to hell, say it. Don't side-step the issue by raising questions and putting doubts in people's minds, never to be answered and leaving them to fill in the blanks. This has been the pattern of Bell's ministry. People listen to him and leave thinking, "That sounded nice. I feel good about myself and other people. Does anybody know what he meant by that?" At best, lack of transparency is poor leadership. At worst, it's calculated dishonesty.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm
    1. For me I have to balance being a leader of Christian leaders and being a voice to a resistant culture. Most pastors have given up on this because it is too hard and there are a lot of Christians who think their pastor exists to pump them full of Christian content.

      We need to be gracious with our leaders an allow them to engage culture realizing that even with an entire book it is just a small piece of a much bigger conversation.

      Bell hasn't said anything that is heretical in the video so I won't criticize him and I certainly won't criticize him for what he hasn't said.

      I also don't mind a little marketing when it comes to the Gospel, Melinda Gates did a great Ted talk on why even when humanitarian groups were implementing something that was going to save lives they still had to do a lot of marketing. I'm gonna have to blog that today now.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:03 am
    2. amy

      Pastors are obligated to shepherd, sure…. but there is no requirement for pastors to emphatically state anything as absolute truth that there are no absolutes on. Frankly, hell IS controversial even among Christians. Orthodoxy teaches that hell is the perception of those who are without God for eternity- not a tangible PLACE, but a state. Catholics teach a different hell. Protestants have multiple interpretations of hell depending on whether they follow one tradition or another- there is no one agreement among all concerning what hell is. So why can't a pastor, just like many of us, say "I don't know. I don't understand. That's why HE is God. My mind isn't capable of wrapping around the bigness of God. But I trust Him. I trust Him to be in control. I trust Him to lead me. I trust Him to give me the love for others that He wants me to share. I trust Him to give me the grace to care for them, and I trust Him to bring THEM into His fold, by His love that lives through me."

      Because I have a lot MORE respect for THAT kind of a pastor than one who says definitively that A, B, and C are Absolutely True based on their proof texts and the theologians of the past who were also merely men…. none of whom can possibly wrap their minds around the bigness of God.

      March 1, 2011 at 5:55 am
      1. amy

        Frankly, I'm afraid to state emphatically what I believe about any one thing, because God is teaching me daily and my understanding changes as He teaches me. Some things that I thought I believed beyond a shadow of doubt 5 years ago, I don't believe at all anymore. Why? Because my beliefs then were formed around what men told me. But other men say different. And so I study. I hold everything against Scripture (and there are many many different descriptions of what you call Hell in the Bible, and my understanding is that Rob Bell examines each one in his book).

        March 1, 2011 at 5:58 am
  10. I think that anyone who watches the video or reads the blurb has to admit that Rob is jerking some chains. You are correct that he is not making theological statements, but he is being very provocative. It's great marketing, but not necessarily great communication. The confusion that has been rampant since it has gone public makes this clear. So, why is everyone so shocked when Bell does what he has consistently done throughout his career?

    The funny backlash is that I almost never read any of his stuff because he is so sensationalist.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:06 am
    1. I wrote a follow up for this post here –

      I think some marketing tact and creativity is necessary. Contrary to the belief that the Gospel is so holy and pure that we need not package it to get it to the people.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:41 am
  11. […] Thinking,Leadership with 1 Comment During a great conversation yesterday on Love Wins I brought up a Ted talk that Melinda Gates gave back in […]

    March 1, 2011 at 9:19 am
  12. One of your fellow Texans, Ralph Neighbor, told a conference once there were two types of non-believers. He called them "Type A" and "Type B". Type A believe there is a God and want to relate to him in some fashion. They either don't know what Christ offers through the cross or have turned away from it.

    Neighbor calls "Type B" non-believers "resistant" to the Gospel and to God. He challenged the church to spend 95% of its efforts on the easy harvest – the Type A – and allow gifted and called people to tackle the very hard and resistant harvest – the Type B.

    My brother…if you are seeking to reach that Type B person, more power and blessing on you. I find it too tiresome and outside my calling. However, I have read Rob Bell thoroughly (his entire catalog) and I conclude he isn't very good at it either. He appeals more to the Type A. And this book (perhaps) won't appeal to the Type B who have rejected God, hell, heaven and the Afterlife completely. The result of this book may be the same as what happened to Pinnock. Bell will be ostracized and get cynical about the church. I hope it won't happen that way, but almost everyone who tries to tackle this issue ends up there.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm

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