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Does the Christian View of God Need Revising?

As kids we compared one another’s fathers to prove “my Dad is better than your Dad”.  When my son Justin was attending kindergarten, he informed me about a kid in his class who boasted his father played baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Since I am a baseball fanatic, I had to check it out.

After spending an hour investigating the Dodger website, I concluded Justin’s friend was lying.  In fact, the kid’s father did not even work in the Dodger front office as a business executive let alone as a baseball player.  I told my son his friend is making up stories about his Dad.  I then proceeded to tell my kindergartner that I used to play first base for the New York Yankees!

Speaking of dads, in chapter seven of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins,  the Pastor compares our earthly fathers to God the Father.

The Theology of a Bi-Polar God

In light of Bell’s comparison, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan comes up with the reason why people  do not accept Jesus. Bell wonders, “If your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years . . . no amount of clever marketing . . . will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality” (page 175).  In light of this statement the author sums up what his view of hell is:  hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God (pg. 175).

If we had a human father who like the God of Christianity was loving one second and then cruel the next, we would tag him an “abusive father.”

Therefore, the God portrayed by followers of Jesus is both loving and cruel.  Therefore, how can Christians expect anyone to accept the Christian message of a cruel, abusive God the Father after also being told God so loved that world that He sent His Son to die on a cross to save people from eternal torment? (more…)

Can’t God Do Anything Right?

In a recent post on the God’s Politics blog by Lynne Hybels, wife of mega church Willow Creek pastor, Bill Hybels, she asked, “What is an evangelical?”  It’s a question that has graced the cover and inside pages of Christianity Today for several decades. I am not sure why we as Christians keep asking this same old question.  Yet I predict if we keep making the same inquiry, eventually someone will come up with a new definition that will radically change the meaning of what it means to be an evangelical.

It was bound to happen.

Joining other theologians like Brian McLaren, author of “A New Kind of Christianity” (HarperOne, 2010), Pastor Rob Bell climbed aboard the bandwagon of redefining Christianity in his recent bestseller Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. 

One area where Christianity is refined with these “progressive theologians” is the inclusivity of salvation, also known as universalism.  Is God going to  permit everyone to enter heaven regardless of their acceptance of Christ or do individuals need to ask Jesus into their lives to receive eternal life?

In chapter four Bell wonders, “Does God Get What God Wants?”  In other words, if God desires everyone to experience salvation according to 1 Timothy 2:3-4, then everyone will be saved.  Read the passage, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [knowledge of the truth.

He starts off by explaining the sad plight of people who do not accept Christ as their Redeemer. No disagreement there.

Bell goes on to describe the doctrinal statement of several churches as found in their weekly bulletin or websites, in which the reader is told “he or she will suffer conscious, eternal torment in hell unless they accept Jesus” (pp. 95-86).  Pastor Bell pokes fun at these congregations, “Welcome to Our Church!”  Bell’s a real barrel of laughs about a matter that should not be ridiculed.

Yet on these same church websites, according to Bell,  are “extensive affirmations of the goodness and greatness of God” (pg. 96).  Bell sets up the reader when he conjectures, “That God is mighty, powerful, and ‘in control'” and that billions of people will spend forever apart from this God, who is their creator, even though it is written in the Bible that ‘God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2). (more…)

Mapping Your Way To Heaven-No Room For Error

A most frustrating experience is finding yourself lost in an unfamiliar town and then having to ask strangers for directions to your destination.

Usually, you’ll get one of several responses when you’re dependent on others to get you where you’re headed:  the local guy who’s lived in the town all his life but never heard of our destination; the directions a stranger provides confuse us even more; the person that provides directions based on making rights and lefts at fast food landmarks that are located in obscure locations and the person who gives us great directions but his accent is so thick, we have no idea what he’s saying.

In Rob Bell’s highly influential book Love Wins, the author attempts to map out instructions on how to check-in to the Heavenly Hilton in God’s eternal abode. Like many travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity, the information Bell provides is unclear and leaves us more confused then when we started.

If I was lost and needed to book a room in heaven, I’m not sure Rob Bell’s theology would help me or anyone else.

As I remarked in my last blog, Bell confuses God’s earthly kingdom and His heavenly realm. I call it a “marble cake” theology.  He cannot differentiate between the chocolate and vanilla swirl; it’s all blended together and indistinguishable.  (more…)

Imagine There’s No Heaven

As you read Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, it becomes apparent that as confused he is about the existence of  hell, he is just as muddled in his beliefs about heaven. He is quick to point out that in all the descriptions he finds of heaven in contemporary Christianity, “heaven is obviously, somewhere else”  (Love Wins, pg. 24).

Bell thinks he can make his point about “heaven being elsewhere” by using a nonsensical list of questions he must have pooled from his church’s kindergarden department: “When we get to heaven what will we do all day?  Will we recognize people we used to know? What will it be like? Will there be dogs there?” Because the Bible does not give us a full descriptive response to Bell’s questions, the assumption is that believing heaven is somewhere else is problematic.

The reader is blindsided by Bell when he brings up the fact not all people will be in heaven according to Christianity. Not all our uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters . . .  nor even our parents will necessarily make it to heaven (pg. 25).

Behind Bell’s questioning is his underhanded aim to plant doubts in the reader’s mind whether heaven is a real place and whether God is cruel by not allowing everyone into heaven regardless of their relationship to Christ.

A big chunk of Bell’s chapter on heaven is devoted to  Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. There Jesus  engages a wealthy young man in a conversation about eternal life.

However, Jesus, according to Bell, blows a great opportunity to tell the man how to get to heaven. Instead, the Lord talks to the man about keeping the ten commandments and focuses on his relationships with other people rather than God. Since the ruler thinks he’s kept all the commandments dealing with treatment of others, Jesus tells him to go sell all his possessions and take care of the poor. Bells concludes from this encounter Jesus was not concerned with telling the man how to go to heaven.

(more…)

The Salvation Controversy That Won’t Go Away

Pastor Rob Bell’s best-selling book Love Wins has come and gone despite being plastered on the front cover of Time Magazine in April 2011.  The focus of the dilemma raised by Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI,  is whether hell is a real place and is God going to “send anyone to hell” in the final scheme of things.

Bell’s controversial views attracted the hearts of people who would rather not think about hell and their eternal destiny and just hope for the best when it comes to the afterlife.

In addition, Love Wins caused an upset among evangelical Christians who believe the pastor is denying the fundamentals of traditional Christian doctrine.  Samaritan’s Purse  President, Franklin Graham even went so far as calling Bell a “heretic and a false teacher” on FOX-TV’s Bill O’Reilly show.

Though the heart of the conflict is no longer in the lens of the media, Christians cannot allow Bell’s denial of Christian truth to be ignored. However, the real controversy is not about Bell’s view on hell, but rather on his teaching on salvation.

In his book Bell asks a series of rhetorical questions that would ordinarily come from a fifth grade student inquiring about God’s fairness.  In today’s blog, I’d like to respond to some of Bell’s juvenile questions. (more…)

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