One of the surprising points in Rob Bell’s Love Wins is that Martin Luther is cited as being open to second-chance salvation after death. Bell writes:

And then there are others who can live with two destinations, two realities after death, but insist that there must be some kind of “second chance” for those who don’t believe in Jesus in this lifetime. In a letter Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, wrote to Hans von Rechenberg in 1522 he considered the possibility that people could turn to God after death, asking: “Who would doubt God’s ability to do that?”
Again, a good question.
And so space is created in this “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” perspective for all kinds of people—fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God’s love.

This is a good illustration of the difficulty that will face reviewers of this book. It’s easy to make a claim, but it takes time and effort to explain why the claim is wrong and to demonstrate the actual truth of the matter. To be sure, Bell’s misuse of Luther is relatively minor compared with, say, his handing of Scripture (which is among the worst I have ever seen in a published book). But it’s still instructive to work through even an offhand claim like this.

So let me point you to Carl Trueman’s careful analysis that shows Luther did not believe what Bell implies. Even if you are not interested in Bell’s book, it’s still a helpful post on basic historical methodology and integrity.

Here is Trueman’s conclusion, which focuses on why Bell’s method of argument is actually bad for having a constructive conversation, and also on the perils of using theological soundbites:

Popular books written for popular consumption are vital in the church; and Bell is to be commended for seeing that need. Further, when such books simply put forth an unexceptionable position, there is no real necessity for any scholarly apparatus; but when they self-consciously present themselves as arguing for significant or controversial paradigm shifts, the author really does need to cite sources. This is crucial because such citation allows the reader to engage in a conversation with the matter at hand. Indeed, the failure to do so actually prevents the reader from checking such for herself. In short, such an author does theology by fiat, adopting a dictatorial and high-handed approach which precludes constructive dialogue, whatever “conversational” rhetoric the author may use to describe his intentions. The message is not one of dialogue; it is rather ‘Trust me: everyone else is wrong, though I am not going to give you the means to judge their arguments for yourselves.’ That kind of approach lacks any real critical or dialogical integrity.

Building arguments on theological soundbites, especially from the works of prolific and sophisticated theologians such as Luther, is surely very tempting in today’s instant internet age. We all want our fifteen minutes of fame but none of us want to spend any more than fifteen seconds doing the grunt work necessary to achieve it. Yet, like a lady of easy virtue, such an approach may have immediately seductive charms but ultimately proves a rather cruel mistress for the would-be historian. It also says much (and none of it flattering) about the competence of the editors at Harper, that they did not seize on this elementary error and correct it. Checking sources, especially when they seem to say something unexpected, is surely the most basic task of both author and editor.

The book will, of course, sell many copies, far more than anything I will ever write, I am sure. But then so did Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; and that was a book with which, from the safely controversial content to the sloppy historiography, Rob Bell’s latest offering would appear to have much in common.

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108 thoughts on “Rob Bell on Martin Luther and Salvation in Hell”

  1. Jared Wilson says:

    Oh my. Trueman reveals with stunning clarity that Bell isn’t just being obtuse: he’s being deceptive.

    1. SD Houston says:

      Amen!
      And let’s face it: corrupt theology results from a corrupt heart.

      What kind of great sins must Bell be committing to have a greatly distorted theology?

      1. Nick Plath says:

        Good point Houston. Bell obviously has a big sin in his life. That’s the only explanation for how far off the deep end he’s gone. Maybe he’s a closet homosexual. Either way, it feels good to know that we aren’t as big of sinners as Bell.

        1. Dan Klyn says:

          Nick:

          Clearly you’ve not read Love Wins. Have you read the book of Matthew?

          The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.

        2. Gary McQuinn says:

          Nick,

          I am far from a Bell supporter, and my heart breaks over the reality that many will be led astray by the message of this book, but I agree with Dan, the Gospel leaves no room for self-righteous and speculative or suggestive attacks against others, especially in a public forum. By all means, let us defend sound doctrine, but baseless, ad hominem attacks are not helpful or gospel-centered. The Gospel moves us to look to Christ for mercy for ourselves (Luke 18:9-14), and to pray that God would be merciful to others as well. I am the worst sinner that I know.

          1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

          1. Raul Zamora says:

            Gary

            I think Nick is being facetious, and trying to point to the error of harsh criticism against Rob Bell, when most have not even read the book. You missed the point all together and I think it wise to first read the book before coming to any conclusions. Here is a well reasoned critique on Rob Bell’s book worth. God Bless

            Raul

            reading.http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/marchweb-only/rob-bell-universalism.html?start=1

  2. Chris R. says:

    Again, Justin, thanks for posting. Clear the heads.

  3. Thank you for this link over to Trueman – that was a great read. I appreciate the hard work and time that is being spent to carefully dissect and explain each issue.
    Courtney

  4. Andy says:

    HarperCollins should really pay you all for doing such a fantastic job at marketing and publicizing this book. It’s incredible. Of course, I’m sure you take your self-appointed job as guardian of the church so seriously that you are blinded to the obvious sales ploy that’s at work here. I’m sure too that even if you were aware that you are being played your self-gratifying/justifying desire to “be faithful” would make you continue regardless.

    What’s truly unfortunate is that all this just makes more people listen to Bell and only fosters pride amongst those who would never agree with him. The reason why Bell will gain adherents is because those who aren’t so fearful as The Gospel Coalition et al are tired of controversy in the church and leaders shutting down debate before it happens. So, all those who already fear that conservative evangelicalism is hostile and combative will just be edged further along their path away from hyper-conservative evangelicalism. This is just poor pastoring, all around. It’s not for nothing that it is said evangelicals/fundamentalists make liberals.

    1. Have you read Bell’s book, Andy? If not, then you’ll notice next week that Bell is hostile and combative to those who believe the gospel he caricatures. If readers are truly tired of controversy in the church, then they won’t enjoy ‘Love Wins.’ Bell aims to pick a fight; otherwise his barbs make no sense.

      Surely HarperCollins knew that a pastor with evangelical readers denouncing evangelical belief would sell a lot of books by drawing criticism from evangelical reviewers. That’s indeed obvious, as you said, but it’s hardly commendable from the perspective of shepherding the flock. And it doesn’t make much sense to blame the reviewers for defending themselves and particularly the gospel against such attack.

      1. Jonah says:

        I think it’s also worth noting that it probably isn’t the every day member of a congregation coming to read Justin Taylor’s blog on the Gospel Coalition. People reading this blog are likely ones who will encounter (or be shepherding) people reading Rob Bell’s book as the new hit Christian book. I think it’s important to equip those people to be able to dialogue about the book. It’s one thing to send out rapid-fire tweets about Rob Bell being a heretic and it’s another thing to lovingly (and fairly) engage Bell’s book for the good of the Gospel. Getting so upset and posting an angry blog comment probably doesn’t help move the conversation along much. One of the worst things that could happen in response to Bell’s book is a bunch of evangelicals getting in arguments with one another and sounding like clanging gongs while they do.

      2. Andy says:

        I don’t think Bell is a good pastor either. But neither do I think he is hostile or combative, merely provocative. That’s what he does. Raising questions is not being hostile. I think you have confused disagreement with your theology as “attack.”

        It absolutely makes sense to question why everyone has fallen into this obvious publicity trap. These reviewers are just giving HarperCollins/Bell what they want and expect. And make no mistake, HarperCollins/Bell want that reaction for a reason. They know that denunciation like what has happened doesn’t play in today’s world and that it will only discredit the conservative movement in the eyes of the more moderate evangelical world. All I’m saying is that there are better more pastorally sensitive ways of disagreeing with Bell than trying to portray him as a heretic or a “wolf.”

          1. JB says:

            You commented earlier about “self-appointed guardians of the church”. I pray that comment was not intended to be as caustic and mean-spirited as it sounds. However I believe we are guardians of truth- though not self-appointed… 2 Timothy 1:14.

            1. Andy says:

              It probably is. Look, I realize that for some people “standing up” and “defending the truth” are noble things that should be applauded. But for others, it is deeply offensive and presumptuous. I don’t think it’s because folks like me don’t believe in truth or just are cowards without backbone. Quite the opposite. For some of us, we think the Gospel, Jesus and the Bible are incredibly difficult and complex, mysteries requiring a lifetime of struggle and questioning to understand and be faithful to them. It is therefore frustrating when people talk about the Gospel as if it is simple and obvious and those who raise questions that lead in directions other than a certain neo-Reformed as obviously out-of-bounds and false teachers.

              1. Gary says:

                I agree with much of what you are saying. Parts of the Bible are in fact quite complex and difficult to understand. Those areas will lead to differing opinions.
                I too am frustrated with the MacArthur types who come across like they have the Bible 100% completely figured out. However, there are other parts of the Bible that are in fact quite clear and when people offer differing opinions on those parts, then we know we have a problem. This is one of those cases. Jesus clearly said, Broad is the path that leads to destruction and many find it. Narrow is the path that leads to life and few find out. If you don’t think that’s clear, then nothing in the Bible will be. This is precisely the reason why today we have so many “churches” full of people who can live however they want and believe whatever they want, and still call themselves Christians.

        1. Gunner says:

          Andy,

          The author of this blog is a seasoned veteran in the publishing industry, and most of those whose responses have drawn your ire are also estabished authors. They are well aware of the marketing approaches involved, and they certainly are not “falling into the publicity trap.” They are actually desiring to be faithful to such an extent that they’re willing to appear (in your eyes) as though they’re naive, so that you might be helped. That approach is actually quite Pauline.

          I’m surprised that you’re so hotly against “those who are falling into the publishing trap” and so silent when it comes to objecting against those who are using doctrinal issues to set the “publicity trap” in the first place. That inconsistency would be worth pondering.

          Gunner

        2. Danny says:

          Wow. Andy your read into HC/Bell’s intentions as much as Bell reads into the text of scripture. Perhaps you have a future as a HC author. BTW, did you not post your original post to evoke a response???

      3. Dan says:

        Beg to differ – just an ordinary layperson here, who is interested in theology and the latest ideas making their way thru the church. While blogs aren’t a sub for church they are helpful for informing, and giving advance notice of expressions that could turn up in my own church (plus some explanation of what was happening in the past while I was a proverbial deer in the headlights, swallowing past forms of Bell-like teaching w/o batting an eye).

    2. Philip Moyer says:

      Dear Andy,

      Your comments about Mr. Taylor are devisive and ungodly. He is not a “self-appointed . . . guardian of the church” as you say he is. The last time I checked (and maybe this has changed) he was an elder of a church (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/about/). Additionally, the Gospel Coalition has a wonderful council of godly men who are submitted to Christ and have been appointed as pastors and elders who don’t allow Mr. Taylor to say things willy-nilly. So, Mr. Taylor is not a man who does not submit to authority or who appoints himself. He has been appointed (Eph. 4:11). Therefore, you must not say such things about a man who is appointed by God to guard and shepherd the flock.

      In Christ,

      1. Andy says:

        Phillip, is it possible that you view these people as godly because you agree with them and you share their culture of Christianity? And how is it that Taylor and the rest of these folks are allowed, on the basis of their own relatively recent and narrow view of the Gospel not in dialogue with the wider CHristian church, to accuse Rob Bell of heresy and being a false teacher but when one likewise accuses them for being Pharisaical it’s “ungodly”?

        1. Philip Moyer says:

          Dear Andy,

          Thanks for your reply. These men are in conformity with Scripture and the historic Christian faith (I can’t speak for all of them since I haven’t read or heard all of them). These are not recent discoveries that they are making. These are not recent trends. They are upholding the faith as it has been handed down through Scripture and the Christian fathers over many centuries. They are not speaking falsehood of Rob Bell as you did of Mr. Taylor. Rob Bell is “self-appointed” and Mr. Taylor is not.

          I do agree with these men and I do share their culture. You are right. But there is one Truth. And truth is measured by Scripture. The duty of an elder of the church is to refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9) and that is what is being done here. The verses following say, “there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers . . . who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain . . . for this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” Mr. Taylor is doing just that, but especially protecting those who love Christ from straying to false doctrine.

          In Christ,

        2. Gary says:

          Cool that you chose to use the word “narrow.” Jesus used that word as well to describe the path to Heaven.

    3. Brad says:

      Hi Andy,

      I don’t think the controversy came along until Bell wrote his book. So you might want to contemplate the possibility that Bell was looking for a fight when he wrote his book – unless, of course, you want to argue that Rob didn’t see any of this coming…even after he evoked Martin Luther (of all people) in the pages of his tome.

      I think Rob went into this project with eyes wide open, and like previous titles, was looking to be intentionally provocative for the sake of “conversation”..and, ultimately, to be heard.

  5. Jacob Lee says:

    Well done…thank you for putting into pratice 2 Timothy 2:24-26!

  6. Dan Klyn says:

    Excuse me, but where is Mr. Bell claiming to have an authoritative understanding of the totality of Luther’s doctrine? Where does Mr. Bell claim that it is Luther’s “position” that there are second chances? And where does Bell posit that the so-called “second-chance” scenario for what happens to those without faith after death is The Singular Correct Interpretation of scripture?

    He makes no such claims, and you folk are behaving as if the questions he explores in the book are being presented as answers for the reader to tuck into their pocket and accept as The Right Doctrine. Maybe your planks are interfering with your ability to appreciate Bell’s specks?

    Trueman (ironic name) counters the argument Bell never makes with a blanket generalization:

    “Even the briefest reading of, say, Luther’s Larger Catechism would indicate that his mature position allows no space for such postmortem second chances”

    W.B. Yeats as a “mature” poet went back and re-wrote some of the works from his youth to their detriment. Trueman’s assertion that later in life, Luther would not state the “second chance” as his “position” on the issue does not un-do the historical fact of Luther having allowed for the question to be asked and the possibility to be allowable within orthodox Christian belief, and his having allowed for God to move in mysterious ways.

    Bell argues that there is room within orthodox Christian belief to ask these questions. And a rich tradition of orthodox Christian belief and discussion that allows for God to not be systematically figure-outable.

    I’m disgusted, frankly, by Trueman’s rhetorical duplicity and Taylor’s complicity in refuting stuff that Bell does not argue in Love Wins, or anywhere else. Trueman states as scholarly expert opinion that “Luther does not in fact seem to have said anything like that which Rob Bell seems to imply that he is saying”. But people… read the quote from Luther’s letter:

    “It would be quite a different question whether God can impart faith to some in the hour of death or after death so that these people could be saved through faith. Who would doubt God’s ability to do that? No one, however, can prove that he does do this”

    The way Mr. Bell cites this in Love Wins is clearly not, as Trueman and Taylor impugn, a distortion of the fuller context of the letter.

    But to Andy’s point, the digital blight of your ideological pogrom against sincere questioning of Facts We Know Are Absolutely Totally Irrefutably True About What God Is And Is Not Like has propelled Love Wins into the best seller lists. Congrats for that!

    1. Hart says:

      Thanks Dan!!

    2. Niles says:

      “Bell argues that there is room within orthodox Christian belief to ask these questions. And a rich tradition of orthodox Christian belief and discussion that allows for God to not be systematically figure-outable.”

      Come on, now, Bell doesn’t seem to just be asking the question. He’s saying with the small, small quote from one of Luther’s letters that Luther “insists that ther must be some kind of ‘second chance’ for those who don’t believe in Jesus in this lifetime.”

      Bell is making it seems that Luther is “creating space” for this view as legitimate and normative, when in the very next line Luther says, “No one, however, can prove that he does do this… Otherwise every sermon, the gospel, and faith would be vain, false, and deceptive, since the entire gospel makes faith necessary.” So, he grants the question, but doesn’t leave the answer open-ended, as Bell makes it seem that he does.

      The whole problem is that Bell is not just asking questions. He’s making points and claims that some of us feel are contrary to the gospel.

      1. Hart says:

        @Niles: doesn’t matter how small, it is still a quote. IMO: “No one, however, can prove that he does do this…” even with the part you include, does suggest wrestle within Luther which is the point of Bell’s book from what I gather (no matter how suggestive). I do respect the fact that you think that Bell’s ‘suggestive’ queries are contrary to the gospel but I have read other scholars such as John Stott who wouldn’t feel that way. I also just read that Richard Bauckham has done the forward for Edward Fudge’s ‘The Fire that Consumes’, a book I have some quibbles with but again represents another gospel faithful opinion. See here: http://rogereolson.com/2011/03/05/n-t-wright-richard-bauckham-british-evangelicals-and-me/#comments

        1. Niles says:

          @Hart: I see what you mean. But the problem is this: Bell equates fielding the question with acceptance of the doctrine. Just because he asks the question, which he does, doesn’t mean that he answers it in the affirmative. He blatenly says in the next sentance that there’s no proof that this is the case – in other words – he doesn’t think that this is the case. There’s the rub. Luther doesn’t think this is the reality – Bell makes it seem like he does.

          I’m aware of Stott’s position on annihilationism, and I (and many more learned and faithful brothers than me) disagree with him.

          1. Hart says:

            Thanks Niles. plz permit a few questions to clarify where you stand: You agree with Trueman that it is fine for Luther to raise a question ‘with rhetorical flourish’ but it is wrong for Bell to use rhetorical flourish? Do you think that Bell actually thinks that Luther affirmed some type of universalism? Wouldn’t it be fairer to assume that just like Luther was building a response to issues at hand with use of to quote Trueman again ‘rhetorical flourish’ that this is what Bell is doing? and finally: so you disagree with Stott but do you consider Stott’s position to be contrary to the gospel and therefore heretical?

            1. Niles says:

              @Hart: Sure, it’s fine for Luther to address or even bring up any quesion he or his friends might have had. It’s the conclusion to the question that matters. The rub is that Bell uses Luther’s fielding of the question to insinuate that it was Luther’s position. I say this because Bell’s equation seems to be:
              1.The question is raised, “he considered the possibility that people could turn to God after death, asking: ‘who would doubt God’s ability to do that?'”.
              2.The acknowledgement that it was a valid question.
              3.”And so space is created in this ‘who would doubt God’s ability to do that?’ perspective.” Thus, this was Luther’s perspective and thus a valid perspective for prostestants.

              This is the conclusion that Trueman refutes. It was not a perspective of Luther’s, only a question that was considered in one sentance and denied in the next.

              Secondly, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know Bell’s total view on Luther’s view of universalism. But the problem, again, is not that Bell is using rhetorical flourish. He’s making statements. He’s not making a comment in passing, as Luther did, and then denying that it’s the case; he’s writing a whole book to make a statement. I realize I’m at a disadvantage since I haven’t read the book, but from all the available information, this is what it seems like to me.

              I disagree with annihilationism, and so would disagree with one who would teach it. It just doesn’t seem like a valid position given the NT writings of Jesus’ teachings. I know that’s not really a fleshed out arguement. But there you are. As far as it being contrary to the gospel: It is at least contrary to the teaching of Christ and weakens the justice of God. I really do respect Stott and believe him to be a brother in the faith.

              We’re all wrestling here, but somethings are clear, and we are to stand for those things. That’s all.

              1. Hart says:

                @Niles: I am really appreciating your feedback. Like you say, we are all wrestling although some things aren’t as clear for me as they are for you I think.

                You say: “The rub is that Bell uses Luther’s fielding of the question to insinuate that it was Luther’s position.”

                Isn’t this what many of Bell’s critics did with his question-asking video? Insinuate his position from suggestive questions? We all insinuate, for me the key question is WHAT does Bell insinuate?? IMO Bell wants to insinuate that Luther at some point ‘wrestled’ with this issue and therefore we can. It’s hard for me to believe that Bell doesn’t know where Luther concludes and that it wasn’t some type of universalism.

                You say: “But the problem, again, is not that Bell is using rhetorical flourish. He’s making statements”

                I agree so let’s note the statements that he makes which as others have noted sound very N.T. Wright Surprise by Hope- esque. As you said, he has written a whole book on
                it.

                To be honest I was hoping for a clearer, more straightforward answer to my question about Stott. You seemed confident in stating that Bell’s statements are contrary to the gospel but don’t seem as confident with Stott position. Consider:

                In Evangelical Essentials, p. 327, Stott wrote: “I am imbued with hope. I have never been able to conjure up (as some great Evangelical missionaries have), the appalling vision of the millions who are not only perishing but will inevitably perish. . . . I cherish the hope that the majority of the human race will be saved. And I have a solid biblical basis for this belief.”

                I reckon that Bell is awfully close to Stott’s position.

              2. Niles says:

                @Hart:Here’s the difference between what Luther said and what Bell is doing – Luther made a statement in passing (one thought in one letter) and gave an answer. Bell is throwing out several questions in the video – several questions. When one throws out several questions that seem to insinuate that he believes that all are ultimately saved or that he has a soft view on hell, and then respected theologians/elders/bloggers come out (having read the book) saying that this is the case – then, no, it’s not the same.

                I don’t think that a one line response in one letter means Luther really wrestled with this. He considered it and promptly gave an answer. You assume he wrestled it because perhaps you do. And that’s ok. Trueman made the point that Luther really didn’t based on the rest of his work.

                I’m more unclear on Stott’s position because I have read a lot of his material and respect him greatly, but haven’t read the full text of where he afirms, or mostly hopes for annihilationism. I am more confident on Bell’s position because it’s a bit more fresh, don’t you think? Not too many threads on the reference you gave. The hope of such a respectable theologian as Stott doesn’t change the words of Christ that many will not be saved. It is not a pleasant thought, but it is true. Furthermore, Stott says the “majority”, not all. Even if his biblical case was convincing, I hope it is, then it still means some would be lost to eternal judgement – again, a greatly unpleasant reality, but a reality nonetheless.

                It seems to me that Bell’s position is universalism, not annihilationism. So, while both while seemingly nice, they are ultimately against the teachings of Christ. Do I really need to proof-text that?

                It’s been nice chatting, Hart. May the Holy Spirit give you clarity on what has been revealed. I pray that your heart is continually encouraged with the gospel of grace and filled with peace.

              3. Hart says:

                @Niles: yes it has been great chatting. grace & peace to you as well.

                I think I will agree to disagree on Bell’s communicative techniques. I believe it’s non-scholarly but appropriately thought-provoking.

                You say: “I am more confident on Bell’s position because it’s a bit more fresh, don’t you think?” Forgive me, if I think this is a bit of a cop out. You admit earlier to not even being sure of Bell’s position. You are most certainly right that no hope of a respectable theologian can change the words of Christ yet the discussion is on the ‘meaning’ of Christ words. I am afraid we are all in the same boat of discerning the ‘meaning’ that is the nature of doctrine and theology. For example I have bible loving friends who believe that the souls of Christians go to heaven after we die but Irenaeus and Justin Martyr theology don’t seem to permit this. for e.g. see here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/6828395/IRENAEUS-JUSTIN-MARTYR-ON-THE-DOCTRINE-OF-THE-IMMORTAL-SOUL-AND-THE-AFTERLIFE

                I think that I am familiar with all the relevant text re:hell etc but I do narrative theology, so I am guessing we will have a different read on those text.

                Bell’s position seems to be some form of conditional immorality which goes hand in hand with annihilationism, with a hope of most being saved like Stott.

                thanks again*

              4. Hart says:

                BTW: I am very grateful for this blog. There is never a day that I don’t find something meaningful on it.

              5. Niles says:

                @Hart: You asked, “Do you think that Bell actually thinks that Luther affirmed some type of universalism?” I responded, “Secondly, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know Bell’s total view on Luther’s view of universalism.”

                Then you say, “Forgive me, if I think this is a bit of a cop out. You admit earlier to not even being sure of Bell’s position.” (on hell or universalism)

                Friend, these are two seperate topics. I’ll assume you just misunderstood the two. There are quite a few issues we’re discussing. Forgiven you are indeed.

                Now, you can call my admitting that I haven’t read Stott’s material in some time, and have recently read many articles and postings on Bell’s new book (including all his promos), thus I’m more freshly thinking through Bell’s issues than Stotts a cop-out, if you want. It’s just that in one day of discourse, I haven’t been able to go home, pull out his books, and put a lot of thought into Stott’s position. Or really do I plan on doing so.

                I too have friends that disagree about other certain secondary topics that aren’t addressed as directly by scripture, such as the intermediate state. BUT, there are topics that are broached more directly – such as hell and the reality that it will be populated by people who do not place their faith in Christ for the atonement of their sins and thus are still under God’s wrath. The early fathers, while helpful, are not infalible and had arguments. We must read with discernment, of course.

    3. David Goodrich says:

      Well said, Dan. Really well said. Thank you for chiming in and speaking so eloquently and thoughtfully to bring sense to these matters.

    4. lander says:

      Trueman’s article gives the quote context:

      Luther did not believe in salvation apart from faith imparted by God, nor did he believe God imparts faith after death.

      Bell misrepresents Luther’s position in the letter and fails to consider mounds of Luther’s stated beliefs.

      On Stott:
      Some align Bell (postmortem conversion?) with Stott’s ruminations on annihilationism. Annihilationism is brutal judgment followed by extinction with conscious pain and suffering in the anticipation of that extinction. There is no postmortem conversion in annihilationism.

      On numbers and the caricature of the orthodox view of hell:
      Why do some insist the ‘traditionalist view of hell’ results in “very few” redeemed? Most Reformed/Wesleyan traditionalists have confidence that there will be a vast sea of redeemed humanity (Rev. 7:9).

      So why the caricature: “a handful of saved vs. billions of unsaved people in hell who made mistakes and deserve a second chance”? Why? The caricature helps to make the orthodox position seem narrow and unloving, when it in fact is hopeful and encouraging to evangelism: “Repent and believe, and you can be one of the vast horde of the redeemed.” This gives the evangelist great confidence that there are some in every setting to whom God will impart faith.

  7. SD Houston says:

    This is one of the best posts I have seen on this situation.

    And it makes this debate even more important. Why? Because that little punk, that cretin Rob Bell is using Luther, of all people, to justify his perverted views. Luther is one of the fathers of Grace, not some wimpy Universalist. Bell is appalling in his use of Luther.

    Defend His Grace, don’t pervert it, Rob Bell.

  8. Niles says:

    @Andy – Wow. Your sarcasm and tone are much louder than your points. Which, luckily enough, weren’t very helpful anyway. Way to blast a brother for standing up for the gospel and trying to be helpful. If more people are listening to Bell because of this blog, its probably a good thing – at least they’ll have an idea of how poorly he handles biblical and historical text and not waste too much of their time.

    @everyone else: I thought this point from Trueman’s post was really helpful:

    “Further, when such books simply put forth an unexceptionable position, there is no real necessity for any scholarly apparatus; but when they self-consciously present themselves as arguing for significant or controversial paradigm shifts, the author really does need to cite sources. This is crucial because such citation allows the reader to engage in a conversation with the matter at
    hand.”

    And that’s a really big problem. When arguements like this post describes are put forth with historical claims that are not cited, there’s no conversation encouraged. It doesn’t make individual reflection easy. It leaves one to ponder philosophically, assuming that what Bell says is true. Which Trueman promptly squashed.

    1. Andy says:

      Niles – Way to blast a brother for blasting a brother. And way to blast a brother for reading the Bible differently than you.

      I’m just bein’ real with my emotions brother.

    2. Niles says:

      I feel you, man. When you come out guns a blazin’ with a tone like that – I wouldn’t expect to just get dainty comments back.

      Also, my comment wasn’t because you’re reading the Bible differently than me. It was because you’re blasting Justin for standing up for the gospel. I see you’re point (he’s doing some marketing – sort of). But your sarcasm-filled conclusion is off-base. For example “This is just poor pastoring, all around.” Really, bro? Standing up for the gospel is poor pastoring? I can’t think that you really think that.

      Peace to you*.

      (*not sarcasm)

  9. Kim says:

    Oh dear; and they say women get emotional…

    Before everyone jumps on Trueman (and thinking that his name is “ironic” seems to me to have absolutely nothing to do with the argument at hand) for his arguments, do read the entire article carefully. He points out exactly where he gets his information about Bell – an advance reader copy of the book. It is not as if he is guessing about Mr. Bell.

  10. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “To be sure, Bell’s misuse of Luther is relatively minor compared with, say, his handing of Scripture (which is among the worst I have ever seen in a published book).”

    I think you have to define what you mean by the term “worst”.

    1. It’s a type of sausage.

  11. JB says:

    I don’t understand why so many are upset that those like Justin Taylor or Tim Challies are putting Bell’s words under scrutiny. Should these things not be tested?? We are such a whiny and wimpy society that we do everything- even sacrifice truth if necessary- to ensure that no one is offended.

    Mr. Bell put his words out there (with a price tag) but it is un-Christian to comment on them in any way that is not flattering?? That is senseless. Thanks for your Berean-eque critique JT!

  12. donsands says:

    Yep, Rob has no problema making things up as he speaks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsVkeMZCkOg&feature=player_embedded

    He is one of the worse teachers I’ve ever come across. With so many pastor-teachers as gifts from our Lord, why do people even give this fellow the time of day?
    I do pray for Rob to turn from his making things up, and study the Word, and learn the Word, and be a doer of the Word. Amen. I pray that for myself as well.
    Thanks for the post.

  13. michael says:

    Trueman’s analysis of Luther’s statement shows that Bell is not interested in doing serious research or stating the truth. I thought Bell went to Wheaton (the HARVARD of Christian Universities) and Fuller? His work looks more like he went to a degree mill.

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      Michael: have you read Mr. Bell’s book?

      If one were to address you in the terms you’ve framed the discussion in, one might say that your rush to judgement and uncritical embrace of Trueman’s “scholarship” shows that you’re not interested in doing serious discernment work or in testing your pre-baked conclusions about Truth.

      But if one were to talk like that, one would not honor God or be living up to what one says one believes….

  14. michael says:

    Dan Klyn seems to acknowledge Trueman’s academic credentials with regards to Bell’s book for he wrote of embracing

    “Trueman’s ‘scholarship…in doing serious discernment work or testing…about truth.'”

    I am glad that you have come to this conclusion. Oh wait, did I just pull a “Bell-ism” in my writing???

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      The way you folks use the word “seem” is unseemly

      1. michael says:

        And What Bell proposes as “love Wining” is unloving!

        1. Dan Klyn says:

          Have you read Love Wins? How do you purport to understand what Bell proposes in the book, then?

          For the sake of discussion, let’s say that Bell’s proposal is that a solidly scriptural, widely within orthodox Christianity view of what God is like and what happens after we die allows for belief that Christ’s redemptive work within and outside of time and space is perfect and total and all-encompassing. And that while Grace is endless, punishment and hell are not.

          Allowing for Christ’s work and God’s grace to be perfect and total is definitely at odds with a 21st century North American Evangelical turn-or-burn, forever torturing billions of souls reading of scripture and of what constitutes Christian orthodoxy. But dear fellow, even if you must insist that your beliefs in a forever-torturing God are Correct, your argument in this thread is deeply flawed. What Bell posits (if my ham-handed summary after reading the book several times is accurate) is not unloving. It’s the good news.

          1. michael says:

            This thread was about his bringing Luther and Bell’s lack of accurate representation to support his arguments into the debate, not necessarily about the totality of his book, which I have no problem admitting I have not read. If I read it and everything that I have read about it and everything his video suggests turns out to be fully inaccurate, I will personally write bell a letter apologizing for any way I misrepresented him. (Though he wouldn’t know me from Adam – course he may or may not believe in a literal Adam anyway).

            I do not accept the premise that one can be scriptural and orthodox on who God is and yet unorthodox in what happens when we die. If one is truly orthodox on who God is, one will be orthodox on death. But it seems as though he is definitely positing that there is no eternal punishment. And Eternal punishment or turn-or-burn is not merely 21st century North American Evangelical my friend.

            The reason for it being unloving is what he says may sound like “good news” to the people, but when the “good news” is not based on truth, it turns out to be one of the most unloving things one can do.

            If I were a loan officer and I told Bill and Sally that “yes” I can approve you for the home of your dreams, that indeed is good news. But my friend when in fact they cannot afford the payments (they were approved on “funny accounting”), that “good news” turns out to be a deep sting when the home is foreclosed on and they will rue the day they were given that “good news.”

            Better to warn of the sting of hell now, than to feel the pain of the sting for eternity. True love must be based on truth, not 21st century post-modern, faulty, non-sense, mean what ever one wants, narrative, hermeneutics.

            When it comes down to it. As far as I can tell, one of us believes in eternal punishment and one of us doesn’t. Only one of us is right!

            1. Dan Klyn says:

              Michael, whose skills as raconteur delight me and must surely delight his Creator, concludes:

              > As far as I can tell, one of us believes in eternal punishment
              > and one of us doesn’t. Only one of us is right!

              Hmm. Or one could say only one of us is prideful enough to insist that his beliefs are Correct and that the answers to the questions Bell raises are necessarily zero-sum games.

              Your God is triune – why so impossible for you to understand or permit a non-dual approach to talking about and working through who this God is?

              Using your analogy of Bill and Sally and their loan officer, what if the loan officer wrote down, in several places, that the purview of the purchase agreement was “all things.” And what if elsewhere in the same document, the purview of the agreement specifically precluded the garage, back yard, attic etc. from the scope of the agreement. And what if this document were comprised of 31,000 or so sentences, written across the span of thousands of years?

              True love must be based on truth. Yes. And while the certainty with which you insist upon your capacity for Knowing For Sure What Is True And What Is False, and the brittleness of what you allow for in the discussion space (it’s either this, or it’s that) may be the “new normal” of North American Neocalvinism, your zero sum game is just as peculiar to the centuries-long stream of belief in orthodox Christianity as the supposedly-heretical interpretation of “eternal punishment” as not being tantamount to forever/infinity.

              Read the book, tho. Your inner prooftexter will find it challenging!

  15. Pingback: New Leaven
  16. Brian says:

    “Did you read Bell’s book?”

    Have you read Justin Taylor on John Owen and his careful editing work at Crossway? But that did not stop you from making judgments about Justin.

    We have Bell’s sermons, interviews, panel discussions, etc. in spades on the web. The Bell’s thoughts in the upcoming book are not new to many at the Gospel Coalition. The criticism here is not over the top. It is to be expected when someone with popularity in certain quarters pokes an eye at Christianity as historically understood. We are not stopping Bell from doing anything. We are not stopping his supporters from continuing to support him. And what Bell does impacts the churches of the regular readers here. With the Cafeteria Christianity of America, “young” reformed churches minister to people who have imbibed the wells of John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Osteen, Bell, and many other popular authors and teachers. And no, we are not buying all their books, listening to every sermons, and so on and so forth.

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      Putting Mr. Bell in the same category as Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen is totally “over the top.” And while I stand convicted of not having read Taylor and Owen prior to their attacks on a book they didn’t read, it’s peculiar in the extreme for you to be convicting me thusly and then breaking your arm patting yourself on the back for not doing the hard work of discernment with regard to Bell’s teachings.

      1. Brian says:

        Reread Dan Kyln. The accusation from the 1000 plus comments from Justin’s post from late Feb. was that this reformed movement was coming out of their enclave to attack Bell without really knowing Bell. Most readers here would have known about Bell for quite a while and what he teaches. If you reread, Bell’s teachings come to us. All sorts of stuff comes into our churches through a cafeteria approach to spirituality. Yes, Bell does share a category with Osteen–“he is popular.”

        1. Dan Klyn says:

          Mark Driscoll is popular. Ergo he and Rob Bell are just like Joel Osteen.

          Brian: your rhetoric is faulty.

          1. Brian says:

            Rob Bell is popular, Mark Driscoll is popular [though I have yet to see it around my neck of the woods except among pastoral types], and Joel Osteen is popular. I did not compare and contrast any of them, so perhaps my point that the popularity of a religious teacher can bring the views of said teacher to your church without being on “heresy hunt.”

            Velvet Elvis, Seeds of Compassion (and “His Holiness, Dai Lama”), the Gods are not angry, “there are forgiven people in hell,” a rock star printup and interview in the life section of the local newspaper [not necessarily his fault for the rock star treatment but it was enlightening to see his vibe] and I could go on and on. You assume the regulars here have not went to the sources–of course, it is not going to go to be all the sources–but we are not prone to just take someone’s word for it.

            I will pivot hard away from the you committed “equivocation fallacy” and me saying, “no, I didn’t” rabbit trail. Consider this quote:

            “A sinless state! ‘Oh, ’tis a heaven worth dying for!’ I cannot realize any thing about heaven but the presence of Christ, and a perfect deliverance from sin–and I want no more–I am sick of sinning–soon I shall be beyond its power.”

            Was this dying Christian leader over 200 years ago seriously misguided? Did waste his life seeking to go to India to preach the gospel though was unable to go? Was he a horrible person for thinking that the people of India were to be lost eternally if the gospel be not preached and believed? Do we just chalk up this “misguided” Christian leader’s thoughts to the evolution of religion and declare ourselves much more enlightened now and we will trust that God will forgive him for his horrible views on the afterlife? Dan, this is what is at stake here. Regardless of what you think of the regulars here. I assure that many have thought through the horrible possibilities of eternal divine punishment. Sometimes we wish it was not so, but if it so, and we pull back, unwittingly we assure that more people will go there. I am sure that many here are tormented like myself for a lack of boldness for Christ at times. You are disappointed that you believe that many have been unfair to Bell. I assure you that many do not relish opposing Bell. A large and great cloud of Christian witnesses has to be explained away if where Bell is leading is true–they believed in that “psychologically crushing” doctrine.

            1. Dan Klyn says:

              Brian:

              > Was this dying Christian leader over 200 years ago
              > seriously misguided?
              > Was he a horrible person for thinking that the people of India
              > were to be lost eternally if the gospel be not preached and believed

              Of course not. Please read the book – you’re defending yourself and your beliefs against insults Bell’s work never levels.

              Love Wins, to quote Greg Boyd’s admittedly non-objective review of the book, is “mainly about the unfathomably beautiful character of God revealed in Jesus Christ and therefore about the unfathomably good nature of the Good News.” The book does not say you’re an idiot if you believe in a literal Hell. Nowhere is there a declaration that adherents of Bell’s theological perspective are “much more enlightened now” than the troglodytes who’re preaching turn or burn.

              > I assure you that many do not relish opposing Bell

              I take you at your word

              > A large and great cloud of Christian witnesses
              > has to be explained away if where Bell is leading is true

              Calvinism is too big to be flawed? Late-period Luther too sacrosanct to allow for other thinkers to come to honest disagreement?

              I get what you’re saying about how the media phenomenon around Mr. Bell’s work has placed these teachings in your face, and that the current discussion is not some sort of Heresy Hunt. Fair enough. That being said, the shrillness of the freakout and the un-Christian personal attacks that’re spewing forth from the penal substitution and limited atonement crowd belies (in my biased view) the brittleness, arrogance and fundamentally exclusionary nature of these systematic theologies.

      2. Greg Long says:

        Dan, Tim Challies did read the book and offered a critique. Have you read it? Do you agree or disagree with it?

        1. Dan Klyn says:

          I *did* read Mr. Challies’ critique. I’m certain that many readers will come to an honest disagreement with the ideas in Mr. Bell’s new book. Challies’ piece does not strike me as honest disagreement, but rather a rush to find and then unload on the choicest bits from the text of Love Wins that appear to be most widely at odds with Challies’ and his audiences prejudices.

          I also find Challies’ timing to be shrewd: on the eve of the launch of his own book.

          1. Greg Long says:

            Oh, OK, I understand. You criticize everyone who hasn’t read the book, even though from all accounts the book falls right in line with the promotional video that made it clear exactly where Rob Bell is.

            And someone who has read the book and offers a critique is dishonest (“does not strike me as honest disagreement”), is in a “rush” and “unloads on the choicest bits” to a prejudicial audience. Oh, and he’s just doing to sell his own book.

            But it’s others on here that are, according to you, acting “unseemly” and not honoring God or living up to what they say they believe.

            Uh-huh.

          2. Chad says:

            It’s usually the choicest bits that require examination.

            Your review of Challies’ review doesn’t strike me as an honest disagreement.

            1. Dan Klyn says:

              Greg and Chad: you’re right. I’m biased.

              But please:

              > from all accounts the book falls right in line
              > with the promotional video that made it clear
              > exactly where Rob Bell is.

              The cavalier way you throw around the word “all” … if you allow it here, why so stingy with that word when it occurs in scripture in reference to Christ’s work of redemption being all-encompassing and transformative of “all things”?

              The accounts you’re reading tell you Bell is a heretic. You’re not reading all accounts:

              http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/rob-bell-is-not-a-universalist-and-i-actually-read-love-wins/

              Please counter with “Boyd is a heretic too”. That’ll be helpful.

              I can only insist on the honesty of my disagreement with Challies’ review. Even if you subtract the fishy, self-serving context (i.e. Challies new book coming out during roughly the same time Love Wins), his language seethes with contempt for Bell’s thesis:

              “Ultimately, what Bell offers in this book is a gospel with no purpose”

              Nice sound byte. And rubbish rhetoric. In fact, it’s a knowing untruth and glaring mis-characterization of Bell’s work. Challies’ conclusions were bricked-up well before a cursory “reading” to find the stuff he knew he’d never be OK with.

              If you Know For Sure Your Doctrine Is Right, you’re not having a discussion. You’re applying a litmus test. The key difference between what Bell, Boyd et. al. teach and the Neocalvinist freakout could be stated like this:

              Bell: I don’t have all the answers, but this is what I’m working through

              Piper: I have the answers, and yours are wrong.

  17. donsands says:

    “What Bell posits (if my ham-handed summary after reading the book several times is accurate) is not unloving. It’s the good news.”-Dan

    “Christians do not need more confusion. They need clarity. They need teachers who are willing to deal honestly with what the Bible says, no matter how hard that truth is. And let’s be honest—many truths are very, very hard to swallow.

    Love does win, but not the kind of love that Bell talks about in this book. The love he describes is one that is founded solely on the idea that the primary object of God’s love is man; indeed, the whole story, he writes, can be summed up in these words: “For God so loved the world.” But this doesn’t hold a candle to the altogether amazing love of God as actually shown in the Bible.” -Tim Challis

    I have to listen to Tim’s review and even find that he has explained what Rob’s book is most likely saying. And as Brian just explained, Bell is out there with his shallow and humanistic teachings.

  18. Mike Smith says:

    Even if all the conversation here over the last couple of weeks hasn’t been helpful, a lot has been. Thank you Mr. taylor for allowing the discussion to take place. However, I don’t think it’s over:0)

  19. John says:

    If there’s a Trueman fanclub, I want in. The man is brilliant. That being said, all of Bell’s writing can be summed in two words: theological anthropology. Bell’s rhetoric is shaped by a certain view of mankind that seems to directly contradict Paul.

  20. Loren says:

    As an observation it is noticeable how many fewer comments there are this time around as the reality of what Mr. Bell actually believes (or doesn’t believe) sinks in. The intial shock and automatic defensiveness is understandable when you hear disturbing information about the belief a teacher you have benefited from in some way maybe for a long time. Perhaps now that some time has passed and a more cognitive assessment is taking place, I suspect there are many “supporters” who are wondering if what Mr. Bell is/has been teaching is sound doctrine. I hope so anyway.

  21. Steve Martin says:

    I’m a Lutheran who is not an expert on Luther.

    But Luther did say some pretty regretable things. He also said a lot of very wonderful things.

    He was a real sinner…that’s for sure.

  22. steve hays says:

    Andy:

    “HarperCollins should really pay you all for doing such a fantastic job at marketing and publicizing this book. It’s incredible.”

    Of course, that was part of Justin’s nefarious scheme all along. Didn’t you know he’s receiving kickbacks from HarperCollins to puff Bell’s book by using reverse psychology?

    Unfortunately, Kevin DeYoung has Justin’s office bugged, so Kevin is now demanding a cut. But if Kevin should suffer a terrible “accident,” that’s because Justin tapped his contacts in the Chicago machine. Don’t be taken in by the nice-guy facade. Behind Justin’s cherubic demeanor lurks a criminal genius.

  23. donsands says:

    “I also find Challies’ timing to be shrewd: on the eve of the launch of his own book.” Dan

    Wow. This is where the truth of Christ, “You shall not judge” comes in my friend. Serious matter to judge Tim this way.

    Look, if you like Rob Bell, then like him. He is a terrible teacher of the Word. In fact, he doesn’t teach the Bible, and he makes things up. It’s documented.
    So don’t go and judge others hearts. I know when i do, and am called on it, hopefully, after the sting has subsided, I repent, and may even grow less self-righteous from the rebuke.

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      Steve: the simple fact is that Challies’ book is coming out during the same time as Bell’s book, and Bell’s book is going to eclipse Challies ability to get press during the launch. Occam’s razor.

      And then, heavenly days! In the same breath that you accuse me of violating Jesus’ warning about being judgemental you declare:

      > He is a terrible teacher of the Word.
      > In fact, he doesn’t teach the Bible, and he makes things up.
      > It’s documented.

      Documented where?

      This statement is preposterous, hateful, evil, and wrong. Shame on you.

  24. Steve Martin says:

    There is a differnce between ‘judging’, and ‘critiqing’for the sake of the gospel.

    None of us know anyone’s eternal destiny (that’s why Jesus said, “don’t judge…”.

    But we have every right to criticize another Christian when they are veering off the message of Scripture.

  25. donsands says:

    “None of us know anyone’s eternal destiny”

    I do.

    1. The Call says:

      donsands = God?

      1. AStev says:

        I think he’s making the point that he knows his own eternal destiny. As each of us should.

      2. donsands says:

        You think you’re tough? Are you trying to get tough? Huh? Answer me.

  26. Jill says:

    After asking, “Who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” Luther continued in his letter to Hans von Rechenber, “No one, however, can prove that He does do this.”

    It is disappointing that Bell didn’t include this key point. If he had, Luther’s words wouldn’t have been twisted to defend Bell’s pathetic theology.

  27. Steve Martin says:

    .

    Good point, Jill.

    Unfortunately many have twisted Luther’s words to defend their “pathetic theology”…even many Lutherans!

  28. Dan says:

    I read Carl Trueman’s piece last night and thought he did a careful job explaining how Bell had taken Luther out of context, and to fit his own personal views. Trueman’s a sharp guy who cares both about orthodox Christianity as well as academic integrity as regards presentation of history.

  29. steve hays says:

    Dan Klyn

    “Steve: the simple fact is that Challies’ book is coming out during the same time as Bell’s book, and Bell’s book is going to eclipse Challies ability to get press during the launch. Occam’s razor.”

    I didn’t originally intend to finger Challies as one of the coconspirators, but since your sleuthing as outed him, yes, he’s in on the racket.

    Of course, the fact that he churls out book reviews at the rate of rabbits procreating might lead the gullible masses to assume the correlation you cite has about the same statistical significance as roosters crowing at sunrise. But you and I know better, don’t we?

    Truth be told, Challies has been churning at book reviews at this prolific rate so that when the publication of his own book dovetailed with his review of Bell’s book, this will be dismissed as just a coincidence by the gullible masses. In fact, Challies’ second-grade teacher informs me that Challies has been hatching this plot since he knee-high to a grasshopper.

    Of course, some cynics speculate that Bell timed the publication of his book to synchronize with the release of Challies’ book, so that he could cash in on Challies’ name-recognition.

  30. Brian says:

    Dan Klyn,

    Just refer to the promo video from Rob Bell, Dan. I can ask questions behind the question as well.

    If what the Bible teaches on heaven and hell is better than we dreamed or have been taught, and if my view is “misguided and toxic,” and if my view was held by many millions of forebears both small and great, both reformed and non-reformed, Bell is in fact saying that he has a better view than many, many that came before him. He is right that the question behind the question can be the better question. And he does have answers after all. I thought only narrow-minded tribalists doled out answers?

    I will not be replying back on this thread. I will not say that it has been fun because the stakes are too high whoever is right. I hope we are sobered through these discussions rather than gratified through “winning the argument.”

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      Noun: Swoop-n-Poop

      1. A disingenuous rhetorical interjection that’s intended to “score points” but not carry a discussion forward

  31. I don’t claim to know a lot about many things, but there are just a few things I do know quite a bit about. Martin Luther, his writings, and his theology, is one of those things.

    I can state, categorically, that Rob Bell is full of dreck on this one.

    1. Dan Klyn says:

      Rev. McCain –

      If Mr. Bell claimed that Luther’s “position”- at any time of his life – was that there is some sort of “second chance” for those who die without faith, he’d be full of dreck.

      But that’s not Mr. Bell’s claim.

      Read the book.

      1. Justin Taylor says:

        Dan, I’ve read the whole book (but one doesn’t need to do that to evaluate Bell’s claim—Trueman excerpted the only part about Luther). Bell clearly implies that this is Luther’s position (“there are others who can live with two destinations, two realities after death, but insist that…” Then after the quote he says, “So [therefore] space is created for…”).

        I do agree with your counsel for people to read the whole book. I think it is much, much worse than people are assuming, given its mocking tone, caricature, logic, and especially its use of Scripture. It is unlike anything I have read. In fact, I will be very surprised if Christian Universalists will be excited about it after viewing the case that Bell makes for his position.

  32. It is offensive to me that a guy like Bell is trying to pull in Luther to prop up his views.

  33. donsands says:

    “donsands = God?”

    That is a dumb comment on your part The Call.

    I do know my Mom is with the Lord. I know my wife, and many friends are written in the book of life. All who die without Christ are not with the Lord. Those who die in Christ are with the Lord.You can know some eternal destinies for sure. And there will also be many I don’t know. And I thank God for that.

    “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Phil 4:3

    1. Gary says:

      Matt 7:21-23 paints a picture of many people who were assured that they were going to Heaven, who were instead turned away.

      As John MacArthur pointed out once, the people in this passage aren’t atheists. They are people who went to church every week and served faithfully.

      Forget Rob Bell, the rest of us who are so self-assured (I’m at the front of that line and looking right in the mirror) need to examine this passage and beg for God’s mercy and grace.

    2. Marsha Thomas says:

      This borders on presumptuousness and a lack of humility my dear brother.

      No one can have absolute certainty. Nor can you tell what the inner state of another being is like. They may show professions of faith but only the Lord truly knows who is saved and who isn’t.

      Donsands’ comment is dangerous because it shifts the focus away from the grace of God and God’s knowledge to the mere assumptions of man.

      Few would be so bold make these claims, donsands.
      You cannot know for certain about another’s eternal state. Please care for your soul instead and pray to The Lord that HE saves, not that you assume you know who is saved.

      Repent, donsands. In the name of Our mutual Lord.

  34. Jeff says:

    “This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4)

    “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7)

  35. I’m wondering if it is always necessary to read an entire book of heresy. When one “openly” denies hell, that says it all for me.

    I love reading Trueman’s thoughts.

  36. donsands says:

    “Repent, donsands. In the name of Our mutual Lord.”

    I wonder if Paul repented from what he wrote?

    1. Tina Santos says:

      Woah. Did you just put yourself on the same level as the Apostle Paul? Please do not do that. Read C.J. Mahaney’s book on humility. You are making some dangerously boastful claims here.

      1. Greg Long says:

        Seriously? Donsands is not “putting himself on the same level as the Apostle Paul.” He’s simply saying, like the Apostle Paul, that we can believe that someone is in Christ because of their faith in Jesus Christ and love for all the saints.

        I’m not sure what’s so controversial about that.

  37. donsands says:

    “Thanks but I can handle my own battles.”

    Hey, I didn’t give this comment JT. How can that be? Weird that someone used my name.

    I actually appreciate what Greg said. He spoke the truth. Thanks Greg.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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