Here at Gentle Reformation we have made the conscience decision not to engage in endless internet controversies and cyberspace name-calling. Self-admittedly we are reluctant to put up our dukes, and we sigh deeply when in church courts (a more proper boxing arena than the internet) we are called upon to handle conflicts. To that end we have declared in our guiding principles we will not cry "Wolf!" very often. Yet I feel the need to do so today.
The blogosphere is abuzz about a new book by Rob Bell called Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. So much so that even Good Morning America covered it, and today I heard he went on the show himself. Bell is the influential pastor of Mar's Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where thousands go to hear him each week. Perhaps he is even more influential in his use of the internet (the reason I am commenting here). He is extremely talented in his communication and artistry skills. At the risk of spreading his influence, see for yourself how slick he is in the following video promoting his book. Notice how he seeks to disarm you with cleverly-placed scenes from an art studio; a story about art that caricatures a classic view of hell; quiet yet compelling music in the background that stirs your soul to wonder; his own cool, street-wise demeanor; and, most importantly, his incessant questioning.
By his own admission and through faithful reviews of his book, Rob Bell's hells become apparent. He says he does not deny hell but he means the "hell" on this earth. The hell described so clearly in the Bible as a place of eternal punishment will be empty according to him. "Every person who ever lived" will eventually wind up in heaven, whether they enter it in this life or the next one. Sorry, Mr. Bell, but I have to do it. "Wolf!"
The positive side of controversy is that the Lord often uses it to awaken His people to truth. Indeed, some of the greatest moments in church history, bringing clarity regarding Biblical teaching, have come from doctrinal disputes. Now would be a good time to sharpen your understanding of hell. Here are a few ways to do so:
Watch a secular reporter expose Rob Bell on TV for his Biblical infidelity. It makes for a great contrast to the video above. (By the way, the reporter's using of the tsunami catastrophe to pose the dilemma of the false alternatives on whether God is caring or all-powerful was addressed by me in a sermon this past week. Listen here if interested.)
In 2008 our congregation sponsored an evangelistic outreach on heaven & hell called Hope for Eternity with Pastor Ted Donnelly from Ireland who wrote the above book. Take some time to listen to this masterful presentation of these subjects given before a live audience where unbelievers were in attendance.
Most importantly, read the Bible for yourself, such as Matthew 25:31-46 or Revelation 20:11-15. Honestly meditate on how much the Bible speaks about judgment. Consider how the Japanese tsunami is a vivid picture on this side of eternity of the wrath of God. Then pray for unbelievers and speak the gospel to them. Nothing will sharpen your mind and heart more.