Tonight I had the pleasure of giving a lecture called “Rob Bell and the Cultured Despisers: The Liberalism of Love Wins” for Chinese Gospel Church in Chinatown, Toronto. As you can tell by the title, it is a critique of Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins, where I locate him in the history of theology, particular theological liberalism.
I reference a number of helpful sources in the paper, so I thought I’d link them here for further information if anyone who attended the lecture wanted to check them out.
Kevin DeYoung: God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School is Still True
Carl Trueman: Easy Virtues and Cruel Mistresses (on Martin Luther)
Michael Wittmer: Christ Alone site (first book length critique of Love Wins)
J. Gresham Machen: Christianity & Liberalism (foreward by Trueman and opening chapter)
Francis Chan and Preson Sprinkle: Erasing Hell
Here is my review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Much has already been said about the book, so I tried to take a bit of a different track with it. As you can imagine, I’m not favourable to it. Thanks to Credo Magazine for posting the review.
It appears that earlier drafts of Love Wins by Rob Bell were found in a dumpster that shed some light on the process of writing. Check it out here.
Don Carson, in his talk on universalism at the 2011 meeting of The Gospel Coalition, made reference to Richard Bauckham’s essay on the history of the subject. I thought I’d link it for people’s interest. Bauckham is a world-class scholar — a generalist who has the authority of a specialist on any subject he writes. This article should prove to be an embarrassment to any who might buy into Rob Bell’s historical-theological claims in Love Wins hook, line and sinker. Check out Richard Bauckham, “Universalism: A Historical Survey,” Themelios 4.2 (September 1978): 47-54.
I already posted this on my own blog, but it was initially written for the Sola Scriptura Ministries Blog: Hell is Eternal.
Filed under hell, rob bell, ssmi
With all of the chatter about Rob Bell’s potential universalism in the blogosphere one discussion that has emerged is the use of the Greek word aionos in relation to an eternal hell. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a prominent proselytizer in the Toronto Jehovah’s Witness community a couple of years ago. The Watchtower Society is notoriously annihilationist—they deny that humans go to hell for eternity, rather they are just snuffed out—and so this very discussion of aionos came up. The conversation was unfortunately one-sided as the only Greek he knew was the little he’d been armed with to attack unsuspecting evangelicals. Thankfully I had my diglot, so it was easy to demonstrate from the Greek text that hell is indeed eternal.
My argument came from a comparison of two texts found near the end of Revelation that use the phrase eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn which can be translated literally as “into the age of the ages” but is better understood idiomatically as “forever and ever.”
The two texts that we looked at are Revelation 20:10 and 22:5. The first deals with the devil, the beast and the false prophet who have been thrown into the lake of fire where “they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever” (v. 15 includes those not in the book of life). The second is from that glorious passage about the New Heavens and New Earth that speaks of there being no night and no need for light or the sun because the Lord God will shine. We are told by the Revelator that the saints will “reign forever and ever” in this glorious new dwelling place.
It was a simple comparison and made the point with clarity; so much so that my JW friend admitted that he did not know what to say. I have questioned him since then and have yet to receive an answer. The problem for him, of course, is that he wants to affirm that God’s people will reign forever and ever, so he gladly takes the phrase literally in 22:5. However, his theology drives him to deny that hell is a place that is forever and ever, and when confronted with the same phrase in 20:10—written by the same author and appears only within a few chapters of each other—he was placed in quite a condundrum. We could add to his problem—I didn’t, he had enough to deal with already—the fact that the phrase is regularly used in Revelation to refer to the eternal life and dominion of the Lamb (Rev. 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7) and in two other places in reference to the damned (Rev. 14:11; 19:3). When the weight of verses are brought to bear upon the meaning of 20:10, it can only be concluded that the lake of fire will be a place of endless torment for the damned (cf. Rev. 14:9-11; 21:8). Greg Beale agrees: “The context here [20:10] and in the whole Apocalypse must determine whether this is a limited time or an undending period, and both indicate clearly that the expression refers to an unending period” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 1030).
Note: This post will appear on the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog.