I remember exactly when I rebelled against Hell and, consequently, God. I was sixteen and our family was visiting the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. I had separated from the group and climbed down into a kiva, the ceremonial room of the ancient cliff dwellers. As I stood there and let my vivid imagination take me back hundreds of years...I suddenly shot back to the present with an almost audible shriek,
They didn't know Jesus, did they?
I was crushed. As we left, my eyes streamed with tears watching the dwellings disappear around a curve. What was I supposed to think? Where they all in Hell? This was not the first time I had wept about Hell. Ever since I was very young, Hell has held a startlingly clear reality for me and caused me to be very passionate about evangelizing others. But this time, a whole new aspect had hit me. And I didn't like it a bit.
Through my tears I asked my Dad where they were, this beautiful people, now that they have died? He said we have to trust that God is good, He is loving, He is just and He is in control of the situation. But that the Bible is clear: those that have not claimed Jesus as their Savior are condemned. (John 3:16-18; John 3:36; Romans 10: 9-10; etc.)
I wasn't okay with that. Even though I wasn't as articulate, creative or verbal about it as Rob Bell, I came up with some of my own theories regarding who exactly was going to hell and what exactly hell was. They made me feel a little better. But only a little. Because I knew what the Bible said, and the Bible is not what I was trying to believe. It's not what Rob Bell is trying to believe, either.
Releasing my own ideas and surrendering them to God wasn't easy and it didn't happen for a while. It took about a year, actually. Once I hopped off the foundation of the Bible being all true, I rearranged the bricks. Tossing out a couple that I found repelling, I hopped back on trying to smile and ignore that my once-firm foundation had begun to shake and crumble. Praise God for His grace as He saved me from the impending collapse. He lifted me, a sobbing crumpled mess at the foot of a wooden cross during summer camp. It was so hard, but the release was beyond freeing.
You can't have Grace without Justice.
You can't have Love without Wrath.
You can't have Power without Holiness.
There are plenty of things I don't understand. There are plenty of things I struggle to believe. Thank God, He is helping me through that like He did the centurion. But unlike what the world says,
making your own reality isn't an option.
Anyone that has ever looked at the reality of Hell shrinks back in horror. I hate the reality of Hell. Jonathan Edwards hated the reality of Hell. Unlike the media's depiction of those freaky hellfire and brimstone people, Evangelical Christians are not jumping up and down saying, "Yay! Hell!" But it is a reality, a necessary reality because of God's awesome holiness. Not one speck of sin is acceptable to Him.
I pray that no one would have to endure Hell, not Rob Bell, not Gandhi, not even Hitler. I hope for every person that has died, somehow God would be gracious, and perhaps they have heard and will confess with their dying breath. That they would hear is a major motivation to spread the Gospel. Hell's reality is something we all have to struggle with, begging God for understanding, but -
His Word is not a self-serve buffet.
I know where Rob Bell is coming from - because I've been there. The reason he has been so adamantly opposed by many people is because we have all wondered about the severity of Hell and we know the perils of rejecting it. It is a complete departure from the only true God of the Bible.
Rob Bell is confused, lost in the frightening forest of his own will. Unfortunately, he has invited a lot of people to have a party there with him. I pray that he will come around to a clear Biblical understanding and his charisma, conversational style and cultural sensitivity will be used for building God's True Kingdom.
It's amazing, the more I seek after God, ask, read and pray, the more I am given complete and total peace in knowing:
He is good.
He is loving,
He is just,
He is in complete control,
He knows what He's doing,
His purposes will not be destroyed,
His Kingdom will come,
And even the blasphemy of Rob Bell will be used for His own glory,
the gracious, just, loving, wrathful, powerful & holy
the gracious, just, loving, wrathful, powerful & holy
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Note: I need to make sure you don't think I'm making a call on where anyone is spending eternity. All I have is what God has told me in the Scriptures and that's what I'm applying and acting upon. I'm going to tell the Gospel and leave the rest up to my loving Heavenly Father. He does a lot better job at ruling the universe and eternal destinies than I ever could.
If you would like a more in-depth discussion from folks that have read "Love Wins" here are some great sites:
Kevin DeYoung, “God is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday Schoool is Still True: A Review of Love Wins,” March 14, 2011.
Albert Mohler, "We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology", March 16 2011