Rob Bell

When I was 16 I saw a video called Flame on this video series called Nooma, by this young, creative, up and coming pastor named Rob Bell. When I was 17, I had just begun a great spiritual growth, when I picked up this book called Velvet Elvis. It changed my perspectives on Christian discipleship, the God who is present and active. Since then, I have enjoyed many of his nooma videos, his lecture series and his other books.

Recently, he released this video for his upcoming book, Love Wins:

Do I believe in Hell?

If Hell is so important to the Biblical narrative, why is not mentioned in the Old Testament? When Jesus was teaching about hell, he uses this word for it in Greek called Gehenna. Gehenna, was a burning pile of garbage at the gates of Jerusalem. You see Gehenna mentioned in the Valley of Hinnom which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament (2nd Chr. 28:3. 33:6, Jer 7:31. 19:26). I believe Hell exists right now. Just, like I believe Heaven exists right now.

Do I believe in a physical place of Hell?

When we understand how Hellinistic Philosophy shaped our early tradition, we develop an eternal understanding of the human soul as immortal. Consequently, we developed a theology and tradition that believed that God is A.) All loving and B.) All merciful and all just. There is no mercy and justice for torturing someone for eternity for a wrong confession of faith during a humans life span.

What I do support, is a theological stance, which is called Annihilationism. This teaches that God is both all loving but maintains his all merciful ways. When the soul enters hell, God destroys the soul. This allows for God to maintain eternal consequence but not eternal suffering.

Do I believe Gandhi is in Hell? Honestly, I don’t. When I look at those who God holds up in Hebrews 11, the heroes of faith, we have a woman who was named Rahab who was chosen as God’s faithful heroes of faith, however, she did not fall in line with the chosen lineage of Judaism. By those standards, she would have not been included in God’s chosen saved ones. You also get this in the Old Testament with people like Ruth. While I am not a universalist, I believe that there are people who carry the essence of Jesus. They spread the Way of Jesus. They bring Faith, Hope and Love into humanity, and, lead humanity into Ressurection. We see very thoroughly that God uses those who are outside of our tradition, and, brings them into the light.

A few years ago, I fell in love with the Mennonite tradition of faith. Mennonites vow for mainly a few things:

1. Any understanding of the Bible or life, must be understood in Christ. The Old Testament God must be wrestled with because he must look like Christ. We must see ourselves and society through Christ’s eyes.

2. The Kingdom of the World and The Kingdom of God are different. Christians are called to pull heaven down to us, like we hear in the Sermon On The Mount.

3. Christians are called to be agents of non-violence, like Christ was. Christians are called to social justice, to look after the orphans, the oppressed and the widows. The least of these.

So when, I open my Twitter account and find that a pastor says “Farewell Rob Bell”. When I see people posting things that he is a heretic, that he is not a Christian. When I see people condemn him to hell, it deeply saddens me.

It deeply saddens me, when we need to tear each other down. That we feel the need to throw the stones at each other, even though we have all sinned.

It deeply saddens me when I hear such extreme spiritual abuse. It saddens me, like it saddens me when I hear about a single Mom being torn down for having a child out of wedlock (which I heard recently). It saddens me when I hear us tear down homosexuals (whether we agree with it or not). It saddens me when I hear people tear down Rob Bell. It saddens me when we use God as a weapon, for our own cause. God exists for all people. The Church was meant for people, not against them. Jesus said they will know God through our love for each other.

Even if Rob Bell is a universalist (which I am quite sure he is not), how can we as Christians not pray that God isn’t universal? How can we in our right mind, in our right souls, wish someone to hell? We should want life for all people. We should not use our energy against another person.

The most renowned Christian ethicist is a man named Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas once wrote, “We were not created to kill one another, we were created to commune with each other.”

I hope that is our goal for each other.

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9 thoughts on “Rob Bell

  1. Peggy says:

    Hell is what we make for ourselves right here in our daily life. Over differences in color of skin, social policy, belief system, ethics, morality codes. Essentially, it is anything that moves one away from God/love at any time. Check out Ignatius of Loyola on consolation and desolation.Hell is what we encounter when we do not love one another. Eternity is not linear.

  2. Peggy says:

    Also…I have always 7understood the gospel message as LOVE WINS!!!! The message of the cross is that love in utmost humility goes to its death for the sake of all people, for the sake of the the world/the universe. BUT love wins, because it always resurrects life. Our physical nature may die and go to dust, but the love of God in us lives …in linear time and in nonlinear time (kairos) if you are alert to the spirit within you while you walk the earth. Godward movement is not limited to chronos.

    • mfries05 says:

      Love your thoughts, recently I heard Richard Rohr say its heaven all the way to heaven, its hell all the way to hell. Love the idea of Christ consciousness, that’s the mystic in me though.

  3. Eric says:

    Thanks for the post. I hope that God isn’t as vindictive as some of the Rob Bell naysayers. I’d honestly never heard the theology of Annihilationism before. Does it follow a double-predestination sort of line? Or is it more based on sin? Just curious.

    I’d never thought of God as destroyer in such a light before. I like it (at least in this context). I love where you end up though with the Hauerwas quote. Certainly a great mantra to have with all the animosity flying around.

    • mfries05 says:

      Thanks Eric,

      Annihilationism is the belief, that when we die the soul is destroyed, so, the eternal conscious and physical suffering that is often associated with Hell, is eliminated. So God destroys the soul, to eliminate the eternal torment. Maintaining his mercy and compassion.

      Something, that Bell might bring up in his book is something called Christian Universalism, which gives hell a redemptive purpose of repentance. Interesting concept to ponder.

      • Eric Clapp says:

        Definitely. As a Lutheran sem student, I’m hoping he draws on Bonhoeffer. In sections of his Ethics he talks about how all corners of reality (physically, metaphysically etc.) were drawn into the heart of God through the cross and resurrection. Interesting assertion.

        I read a brief article on annihilationism from Jeff Spencer. It definitely seems to be a coherent way of laying God’s benevolence with judgment.

        I don’t know what the book will say, but I’m excited to read it.

      • mfries05 says:

        I remember that part in Ethics. What’s not to love about Bonhoeffer right?

        There is really a lot of ways he could take it. Universalist, Christian Universalist, Inclucivist, Exclusivist (Which I hardly doubt). It was a risky book to write, but, a lot of authors are doing that right now (McLaren, Volf, etc…)

        I’m excited.

  4. David Bunce says:

    Thanks for your interesting comments – I enjoyed reading them. It’s also great to hear some reflections from the Mennonites (especially Mennonites that quote Hauerwas)!

    Of course, one interesting problem with something like Annihilationism is that it still leaves death as being the last victor in some ways – someone’s eternal fate is still decided by their state when they die, which then kind of raises questions about whether death really was defeated. It also leaves quite a lot of the power on human agency and ability to respond to Christ, which I would personally feel uncomfortable with.

    There’s been some interesting ideas to try and get around this problem: one of the most notable has been by a Catholic theologian called Karl Rahner who came up with a concept of the ‘anonymous Christian’, whereby people respond in true faith, hope and love to the calling of Christ’s spirit, even though they don’t consciously understand what it is they are responding to.

    Of course, like any theological proposal, it has its significant problems, but if you are wanting to hold an Annihilationist position, it’s well worth checking out 🙂

    • mfries05 says:

      David,
      Love your thoughts. I would call myself a Mystical Pentecostal Mennonite. Are you talking about Christian Universalism? Using Hell for redemptive purposes.

      Love Karl Rahner. I have heard the Anonymous Christian quotes. Augustine might call it the “desire behind desire”, that all desires lead us to a relationship with God.

      Hell, when treated concretely and humanly, would ask, and, potentially contradicting myself, eternal solutions for temporal sins.

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