When the criticism of You Know Who’s recent book “Love” Wins began (the quotation marks are mine because “love” as well as God and sin are redefined by Rob Bell), I was sore disappointed.

Bloggers: I am angry. All this Rob Bell debate and I’ve not seen ONE pun. No “clear as a Bell.” Not even “Hell’s Bells.”

— from my Tweet on March 3

Author Mike Wittmer's summary of what Christians believe: including truths they either may not know or unintentionally ignore, but which they must not willingly reject.

Fortunately things have gotten better: Michael Horton titled his review series “Bell’s Hell.” And others have managed to draw in, not only a balance of careful Biblical reasoning while showing grace, but warnings to beware very real heresy that slanders God and will hurt people.

Here’s the best of the myriads of reviews and articles I’ve found about Bell’s work specifically, and universalism/inclusivism/et cetera in general. (I might also recommend my own series, before all this, about how some Christians, including C.S. Lewis, may drift outside of Christ’s teaching on salvation exclusively through faith in Him, but not willfully; they’re not heretics.)

  • Justification by Death?, an October 2010 Tabletalk article by R.C. Sproul, before all the Bell stuff began ringing. Sproul addresses the idea subconsciously assumed by many people — once even his own child! — that death itself guarantees entrance to Heaven.
  • Justin Taylor’s original Feb. 26 post that started the outrages — either against Rob Bell, or against those who suspected the leader was leaning universalist based on his pre-publication press. (It seems the latter criticism has faded, rightfully so, based on Bell’s book now releasing and proving that the suspicions were correct.)
  • John Piper’s Feb. 26 Tweet saying, simply “Farewell Rob Bell,” then linking to Taylor’s column that same day. Lots of folks piled on Piper. Now his remark does seem justified.
  • Aaron Armstrong’s and Tim Challies’ March 9 review, the first actual review I saw.
  • On Mike Wittmer’s site, but authored by Jeremy Grinnell: Justice Wins, March 14, an eyebrow-raising-for-the-right-reasons parody of Bell’s promotional video, turning Bell’s own strategy of asking only limited and leading questions against him.
  • Kevin DeYoung’s March 14 lengthy review of the book (he also made it into a PDF).
  • Journalist Martin Bashir’s now-famous March 15 MSNBC interview with Bell, who when given direct and probing questions about the book and his beliefs, constantly evaded.
  • Al Mohler’s (of course!) book review on March 16: “We have seen all this before.”
  • Christian talk-radio host Paul Edwards interviews Bashir himself, March 17, giving more background about the journalist’s reasons for asking Bell tough questions, then later criticizing the author’s evasion and refusal to pursue the truth of what Christians believe.
  • Southern Seminary held a talk about the book in specific and universalism in general, March 17, between Denny Burke, Al Mohler, Russell Moore and Justin Taylor.
  • Michael Horton’s Bell’s Hell review: part 1, part 2, March 21 – 22.
  • The Hell of Pomo Thought by Douglas Wilson, March 24. Wilson has some different ideas (i.e. “federal vision”) but here he’s spot-on. I especially appreciated his sarcastic defense that C.S. Lewis was a universalist based on the last Chronicles of Narnia. “Shoot, why do we need experts? We know how to read children’s literature.”

Finally, just a few issues with Bell’s book, also frequently shown elsewhere:

  1. It’s anti-Biblical, and not accidentally. Again, Bell must re-define things like love, sin, Hell, even Heaven, and worst of all God Himself, to make his System work.
  2. It’s not new. Fringe elements of Christianity, including liberalism, already says all this.
  3. The author plays loose with facts. Insisting that he’s not a universalist only works if he redefines universalism too narrowly (such as everyone goes to Heaven immediately after death), outside the common definition of believing all people can somehow go to Heaven anytime even after death. This redefinition is at best naïve; at worst it is intentionally deceptive. Others have rightly criticized Bell’s selective use of quotes from church history, such as claiming Martin Luther takes his side, or that historical figures who were open to universalism/inclusivism represents the “mainstream” of Christianity.
  4. It sends Bell and others scrambling to insist this “new” belief system does too fix things like sin-must-be-punished. The problem: sin is still redefined beyond Biblical parameters.
  5. This System is based on reactions against either real or simply perceived myths about Christians who believe in Hell — one must conclude such people are more than happy to pulpit-pound and condemn anyone to Hell that they like.
  6. Bell has constantly referred to himself being a pastor who needs to reach out better to hurting people. Is he truly the only leader to have encountered hurting people? What of the many Christian pastors who have (whether they’re right or wrong is another point) counseled and directed hurting people to the Gospel, including those nasty Hell parts, which remind us that God will carry out vengeance against those who’ve abused us?
  7. Why do so many people follow Bell’s and others’ example, and act so unloving toward those who disagree with them? If this is really a supposed “higher” way of viewing God’s love, then surely their actions should match. Thus if God will somehow “love-melt” even the heart of Hitler after the dictator’s death, surely they can show some more “love” for those well-meaning-but-naïve Christians who are still stuck on this nasty notion that God is a God of love and holiness, and Scripture is clear about Hell’s reasons and duration?
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