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East Sparta Christian Church
Loving God and loving people in the Sandy Valley!
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Love Wins

Get Your Own Gutensite
May 16

This week I finished reading Rob Bell’s new book: Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. It was an interesting read and I highly recommend it for anyone who feels like thinking really hard. Rob Bell has received mostly bad press from Christians because of this book. There was a fairly positive article on it in the New York Times titled “What if there’s no Hell?” which pretty muchly makes Rob’s initial argument. He wants to know how much of what we know about heaven and hell and the afterlife comes from cartoons and movies and campfire stories and how much comes from the Bible.

On a personal level I thought that most of what Rob had to say was very useful. And I always think that it is helpful to sort what the Bible says from what we think the Bible says. I have to admit though, that (as is nearly always the case with Rob Bell for me) there came a point in his thought process where I began to wonder how much of his thought was shaped by his own preconceptions rather than real Biblical study. I always have to pause for a minute when I hear someone ask the question ‘Why would I want to worship a God like that?’ I understand where the question comes from, but couldn’t you just as easily ask: ‘Why would I worship God if he refuses to fit into my little predefined box?’ For Rob Bell, there is obviously a part of him that rejects the idea of Hell on an emotional level and his understanding of God is that God reflects that same emotional rejection.

The traditional understanding is that God is a God of both perfect justice and perfect mercy and that he extends his mercy through Christ to anyone who will receive it. But anyone who refuses to receive God’s mercy must be subject to God’s justice. Romans 3:23 tells us that everybody has sinned and that we fall short of the glory of God. That means that if we are subject to God’s justice then we are in big trouble. That is why Jesus had to sacrifice, suffer, and die in order to make the payment for all of our sins. Rob Bell’s understanding is that even God’s justice is secondary to his love and that in the end God’s punishment is always for the purpose of bringing redemption. In this view, hell, if it existed, would be a place to convince sinners to turn to God and when they turned to God they would be welcomed into heaven with open arms.

Though I disagree with some of his theological conclusions, I do appreciate Rob’s heart in seeking out true answers and in bringing God’s love to people. I especially appreciate his emphatic call to work on bringing love to people here and now just like we hope we will do someday in heaven.

Do you have images of Hell that come more from Hollywood than the Holy Word? What do you think Hell will be like?

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Heather Bailey

May 22, 2011 6:46 PM

I hope I never find out what Hell will be like.  I believe I am saved by GRACE and will spend eternity with Jesus, wherever that may be, on a new earth, in heaven, in a new matter where He is, that is where I want to be.  I have studied the book of Revelation and am glad that God is the one who has it all in control and I will continue to trust him, whatever it looks like.


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