Love Wins: Rob Bell, John Piper, and Upset Christian People

Piper-bell Over the weekend, quite a squabble started over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins—an ironic title considering the tone of those on both sides of the squabble. John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Josh Harris and others implied or stated directly through their tweets that Rob Bell had jumped the theological shark this time…that he had become a universalist. At issue was a video promoting the book. Piper’s tweet was based on one from Justin Taylor…which also linked to the video. I have embedded the video at the bottom of the post (best viewed full-screen).

The essence of the critiques levied against Piper and friends was a perceived judgment of Bell’s beliefs and perhaps even salvation (perceived universalism) based their perception of a book they supposedly hadn’t even read yet—and a man they did not know (supposedly). I found the criticisms against Piper and friends at least as ruthless as those they issued. I’ve watched with great interest some of the traffic back and forth…and marveled at the judgmentalism on both sides.

Here are some observations in fairness to Piper and friends:

  • Piper, Driscoll, and others do know Rob Bell quite well. Those familiar with the history of the Emergent Church movement know this. They certainly know him and his teachings better than virtually anyone in the twittersphere. 
  • From their writings, you can tell both follow Rob Bell’s teachings and perceive a slalom in his orthodoxy. What I’m saying is these guys don’t freak out ignorantly. They aren’t making a rash judgment based on one video. John Piper certainly has his faults, but he isn’t poorly read or uninformed. 
  • My guess is they have read the book—or at least significant parts of it. I’m guessing here, but often pre-release copies are given to “heavyweights” out there. 
  • Universalism is heresy. If in fact Bell is a universalist (though as of now I don’t buy that at all), condemning it as heresy is absolutely right. I am troubled by those who are either too uncomfortable with the idea of hell to think anyone will go there or believe all nice, socially active people will go to heaven. The Bible’s teachings are relatively clear on the subject. Jesus is Lord and the only way for anyone to come to the Father. Those for whom Christ is Lord go to heaven, those who deny Him go to hell. People can disagree with the Bible’s position on the subject of heaven and hell, but not so much with whether or not that’s what the Bible says. It’s not fundamentalist or simplistic to believe that. It’s been the nearly unanimous understanding of the Church and it’s theologians for 2000 years. Even atheists don’t generally challenge what the Bible says about heaven and hell. They just don’t believe there is such a thing.  
  • Bell’s video is clearly made to provoke. So, if it brings him some heat…we shouldn’t feel too bad for him. I know he’s trying to sell books…but the video is designed to portray at least a feaux-universalism. I just don’t think that’s a good idea for a Christian leader. If the video is a publicity stunt, shame on Rob Bell. If it’s not…well…

 Having said that:

  • If Rob Bell’s critics haven’t yet read the book, they should reserve comment until they have.
  • I’m not sure social media is the place to air such critiques. It would seem more productive for all involved to have spirited debate in another forum.
  • Rob Bell is a very good thinker and one of the most gifted communicators the Church has seen in a generation. We should seriously consider what he’s saying and examine it honestly before dismissing it.
  • Piper’s tweet, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” is over the line. One has to interpret a bit, but it seems to me a judgment of Bell’s salvation, standing a Christian and the cutting off of personal relationship. It’s certainly too much for a social media outlet.
  • I agree with Scot McKnight’s analysis, “Justin (Taylor) may be right about what Rob believes, but if he is wrong then he owes Rob Bell a huge apology. I want to wait to see what Rob Bell says, read it for myself, and see what I think of it. Rob is tapping into what I think is the biggest issue facing evangelicalism today, and this fury shows that it just might be that big of an issue…Frankly, John Piper’s flippant dismissal of Rob Bell is unworthy of someone of Piper’s stature. The way to disagree with someone of Rob Bell’s influence is not a tweet of dismissal but a private letter or a phone call. Flippancy should have no part in judging a Christian leader’s theology, character or status.”
  • I’m amazed at the number of pastors that are offering some support for the heaven and hell position Bell conveys on the video–regardless of his actual views. That’s the subject for another post.

So here’s what I plan to do.

  • Read the book.
  • Give Rob Bell the benefit of the doubt…tie goes to Rob.
  • Whether or not this book is theologically off the cliff, I will continue to preach what I believe the Scriptures teach—that Jesus is Lord and the only name given among men by which we must (or can) be saved. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. We don’t work our way to heaven. It’s faith in Him. Alone.
  • If Love Wins is biblically truthful on the issue of heaven and hell, lots of apologies need to be issued toward Rob Bell by Piper and friends.
  • But, I hope Rob Bell will be more careful in the future with how he presents himself and his ideas. Presenting oneself as at least a feaux-universalist for publicity isn’t cool…if in fact that’s what’s happened. I’m going to assume that’s not what happened.
  • Love needs to guide our discussions of everything from truth to ways we communicate truth.

That’s my take. What’s yours? Why are heaven and hell such volatile topics when they are discussed today? Do we need to reexamine the church’s historical position on the subject?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

31 thoughts on “Love Wins: Rob Bell, John Piper, and Upset Christian People

  1. Ask John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Michael Horton, and other Modern Reformation leaders about double predestination (the belief that before anyone was born they were assigned by God to either Heaven or Hell) and whether anyone that holds a different opinion is a brother or sister in Christ. I think the answer to that question will help explain the conflict between Piper and Bell. And it will save a lot of time.

  2. Tim I agree with every bit of that. I also believe the questions you pose at the end are entirely valid. Agree or disagree, one of the things I’ve always appreciated about Rob is that he provokes me to examine or at least reexamine why I believe what I believe and to me that is always a blessing.

  3. When it comes to deception, the “love” of God’s word will always appear harsh. Doesn’t make it any less loving. Jesus reacted quite strong when it came to deception and those deceiving. But read the book, one must, before speaking for or against it.

  4. Chris,
    That is an excellent link… its a great summary of all the passages concerning “hell” and is pretty unbiased in its evaluation of them.
    Good stuff.

  5. Does anyone ever think to take what the bible says and believe it. Just because one thing is present doesn’t mean the other isn’t true. God’s love and wrath do not contradict each other. They are both part of His character. That’s where Rob Bell and his intellectual Christianity is at error. Human beings cannot fully grasp everything. That’s why we are saved by faith. We just believe it without fully understanding. Digging sometimes just makes it worse. God is not sending any innocent people to hell. No one is innocent. For all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans3:23).
    I for one am very grateful to the Lord for providing solid teachers like John Piper and John MacArthur who are not afraid to call out these false teachers like Rob Bell. Love and Truth are what Jesus teaches. Both. Not just love. Both are essential. Jesus taught how important truth is (John 16:12-15). Praise God for John Piper’s and John MacArthur’s who shepherd people by letting them know of these false teachers. They are slick and they deceive the elect itself. Rob Bell can confuse anyone with his intellect. Very smart man. But leading many far away from the truth. That’s the truth whether you’re a fan of him or not.
    Do we want to obey Scripture or do we want to rationalize things so we feel better about them? I think that’s where I find my trust in who is going where with this. John Piper wants to be faithful to the Scripture. Rob Bell wants to rationalize something socially so that more people give their life to Christ. In our human minds Rob Bell would be the more pleasing approach. But I for one desire to obey God and His Word, not appease my conscience and feelings.

  6. I’d actually say that Love Wins is somewhat of a Rorschach Test: If you can’t stand Bell, or have always questioned what he had to say, you will read the book through that lens and find what you’re looking for. If you’ve been on the fence about him, you’ll still be there. If you’ve read him charitably in the past and found that, even when you disagree, he is still within the stream of orthodox Christianity, you will still find that he’s there. One of his stated purposes in the book is to get folks to study what is actually in Scripture, and to ask the tough questions – and accept fuzzy answers and to be charitable to others who do, as well. For example, here is an examination of what the Scriptures actually say about hell, and it is possible to take them seriously, yet come up with a different answer than eternal, conscious torture.

  7. First I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed the discussion and that I’m impressed with the grace with which the discussions have been made.
    I can’t say I’ve spent years studying this subject. I’m a Christian, grew up in Charles Stanley and Andy Stanley’s churces in Atlanta. I’ve enjoyed studying John MacArthur, John Piper, AW Tozer, etc. Unfortunately my knowledge of Auburn University football outweighs my knowledge of the subject being discussed.
    However, there is one thing that jumps out at me when listening to Rob Bell’s questions (and the question that must ignite the search to have “hell” match up with the character of God). He paints a picture of a God that “sends us to Hell”, and seems to struggle to reconcile such a God to a God of grace and mercy.
    What jumps out to me is that this approach seems to do what our culture does a lot these days….remove personal responsibility from the equation. My thought is, God doesn’t just smite us with this “disease” of sin and then send us to hell because of it. WE sin. WE separate ourselves from this Holy God by OUR sin. The separation from God and the destination of Hell because of it, is caused by US.
    Rob Bell seems to paint a picture of unwilling humans innocently sent to Hell. He changes the need to be saved from OUR own sin to being saved FROM our savior. If you skip right over that flaw in the foundation of his argument, then the rest of his points probably seem appealing and make great sense. To me, if I view MYSELF (as a sinner) as the cause of this separation and take responsibility for creating the need for a savior, then it changes everything. Most importantly, it ceases to create a problem matching God’s character to the potential destination of Hell for those sinners (like me), who never seek Him has the savior.

  8. Just wanted to chime in with something Paul said about the subject.
    1 Timothy 6:3-5 NIV84
    If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

  9. Tim,
    I had decided not to reply because I desire for conversations to remain fruitful, and don’t want to “push things”. When I sense in my spirit that a conversation may devolve into something less than beneficial… then it’s time for me to step back. God can take care of Himself… 😉
    But, then I responded to El Goyo down below… so I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you or anything.
    I don’t know if you have access to my email address, but if you do, you’re always welcome to ask me personally about how I handle certain scriptures, or even how I handle the fact that the vast majority of historical orthodoxy has seen my view as heresy.
    We have reached different conclusions, but we can agree that our God is great and worthy of all praise.
    God bless on your journey, Tim, I’m absolutely sure he will.

  10. @Tim Byrne
    After doing my long study, I started reading authors who support the idea of universal reconciliation. Talbott’s book was definitely a good read. He was incredibly scriptural and logical in his approach to the question.
    My wife and I are also excited for the conversation that has been stirred. I hope the conversations that happen will yield great fruit; namely, a more comprehensive and balanced view of God’s character.
    God bless you Tim, Im absolutely sure he will 😉

  11. In all of the reactions I have read so far about Bell’s book, I am very surprised that Scot McKnight is the only one (that I have seen so far) who has differentiated between the different “types” of universalism (i.e., Christian Universalism, Evangelical Universalism, etc.). Many of the critics seem so eager to refute “universalism” in general that any form of it is all lumped together into one group and condemned.
    I too have done some study over the past several years on this topic and I am somewhat excited that this theology is coming back from all those years in church history to the surface of the evangelical world in a very “explosive” way. Like Bell demonstrated in the video, these are questions that have answers with serious implications.
    From what I understand Christian Universalism to hold, some of the main and only differences from traditional “orthodox” Christianity seem to be the finiteness of hell and free will in the afterlife (neither of which are explicitly and irrefutably addressed in Scripture). Everything else (exclusivity of salvation through Christ, existence and function of hell as separation from God, grace, justice, belief, repentance, and God’s love) all seem to be truths that both traditional Christians and Christian Universalists share.
    From what I have read in DeYoung’s and other’s reviews so far gives me the impression that not only does Bell raise many of these questions with certain “universalist” conclusions, but that he doesn’t scripturally defend them as well as he (or others) could. I just bought the book today and I’m curious to see how well Bell defends some of these conclusions.
    Another book to consider on this topic that I have found to give one of the better scripturally-interpreted views on Christian Universalism is “The Inescapable Love of God” by Thomas Talbott.

  12. “Rather than the other…” The bible does not portray *uni*versalism, but it *does* portray *re*versalism. (Mt 7:21-23; Lk13:22-30; Lk 18:9-14). Don’t replace reading with sitting and soaking.

  13. Aaron, thanks for the feedback. I have done my own study on the subject beyond Vine’s and Strongs (haven’t used either in many years), and have simply reached different conclusions at a number of points…but not all.
    It is fair to say that vivid descriptions of hell are not plentiful in Scripture. However, they are not nonexistent…and they are certainly more plentiful that “second chance after death” or “salvation through afterlife torture” texts.
    I agree with Dr. Kapsner’s comments on “zoe,” but would add it has other uses in the New Testament and other words are used in eschatologically oriented texts (something I’m confident he knows but omitted because it wasn’t germane).
    I believe it’s much more difficult to build a textual case for either universalism or after-death conversion than it is to build one theologically based on a perceived nature of God found in the Scriptures. In my humble opinion, much moreso than those who come up with detailed accounts of what hell will be like and who will go there, those coming with a universalist or conversion after death, must read “behind the text.” Despite George MacDonald and perhaps a couple of others, the overwhelming weight of historical theology affirms the orthodox position on heaven and hell. This obviously doesn’t mean it’s right…but it is worth noting.

  14. Tim,
    I also appreciate your transparency in what you believe and your honest objections to this way of belief and scriptural interpretation.
    When I started my journey, the driving question was one of the character of God… nothing else. As I studied, what I found along the way rose new questions and ultimately drove me to what I now believe. The objections were many as I worked through this… For anyone with a lot of time invested in popular theology, this is a very hard transition.
    If you are open to truly studying this, I would urge you to study the semantic range of the greek words translated as “hell” and “eternal”. Don’t leave the definitions up to Vine’s and Strong’s, look up every place the greek and hebrew words were used in the original transcripts and study the context. When I did this, biblical support for everlasting torment fell apart entirely.
    In addition to this, I also found it helpful to study the literary history of the ideas of hell and post-mortem judgment. Hell as proposed by popular Christianity has its roots in ancient mythology. The mythology of hell was a cultural revolution that occured between the last writings of the OT and the Birth of Jesus (and obviously didn’t end there). Hell as we know it is not rooted in the OT or the Gospels or any other scripture. Obviously, we have used scripture to determine the criteria for ending up there… but that’s about it.
    The few passages that do speak clearly about “hell”, and who goes there, say nothing about faith… it’s all about works (and in the case of the Rich man and Lazarus, it seems to be about whether or not one was comfortable in life).
    So, supremacy and exclusivity of Christ aside; Regarding the idea that this makes a mockery of discipleship, I would say that Dr Kapsner’s comments apply.
    “Everything in the Gospel of John about the word “life” (zoe in the Greek) points to the idea that our salvation is an ongoing release from the power of sin in which we begin to experience the actual life and power of God that begins now and continues through eternity.”
    “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
    Discipleship and salvation is not mocked regardless of whether or not we believe in universal reconciliation. No matter when it happens, a person moving from darkness, death and suffering into life and communion with his magnificent loving Creator God cannot be mocked.
    Thanks for being open to the conversation Tim, sometimes it’s not an easy one 😉

  15. Aaron, I agree that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I personally don’t read that Scripture to say that all will do so after having some taste of hell…only following Jesus under torture. I read it to mean that all will see and acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship now or in the life to comet. Granted, it’s a parable, but the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus seems to picture hell as a conscious state of torment for even one who acknowledges Jesus as Lord…after what appears to be his judgment. From a theological standpoint, I can understand how someone would want to get to McDonald’s standpoint. However, it would seem to be incongruent with the overall weight of Scripture as I read it, and seem to make somewhat of a charade out of discipleship in this life.
    I thank you for your transparency on your own spiritual journey. Thanks as well for your comment.

  16. Dr. Kapsner,
    I appreciate what you had to say regarding Lewis and MacDonald (I’m a bit MacDonald fan personally).
    Who’s to say that the supremacy and exclusivity of Christ are in question here? If our passing from this existence if not the last chance for “salvation from hell”, then it does not follow that universalism = denial of Christ’s exclusivity regarding salvation.
    I spent 2.5 years struggling with the question of hell and the character of God. Through a lot of study of the scriptures, I’ve come to the place where I can say that I personally believe that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
    “For hell is God’s and not the Devil’s. Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death. Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sin, from the evil in him. If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father. ‘Salvation from hell’ is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell, and not the evil of sin, is the terror.”
    “The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins. He came to do more than take the punishment for our sins. He came as well to set us free from our sin.”
    -George MacDonald

  17. Dr. Kapsner,
    I think many of the questions Rob Bell raises in the video and promotional materials are good. There are certainly legitimate critiques of the way Christians have used heaven/hell as a tool of manipulation, downplayed sanctification, judged others too quickly, etc. My issue is that of the exclusivity of Christ. Regardless of what people have believed through the ages about how heaven and hell “happen,” there is relative agreement on the exclusivity of Christ. That agreement is based on repeated and straight-forward claims of Jesus, Paul and other biblical writers. To the extent Rob Bell’s view of salvation strays from that core conviction of Scripture, I fear he is in danger of teaching falsely.
    Having said that, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, and a fair hearing to his book before I or others dare speak ill of him.
    Thanks for weighing in.

  18. It’ll be interesting to see what’s actually in the book. I believe C.S. Lewis and his mentor, George McDonald, were comfortable with the notion that our chance for eternal relationship with God does not expire when our physical bodies breathe their last. Interesting to think that there still might be decisions to be made after we die, and the judgment is not immediate. I’m not saying that’s obviously biblical, just that theologians were comfortable with the notion. There is a lot of “truth” that is not found in the Bible.
    What I do believe is the gospel is not some “ticket to heaven” when we die because we say some sort of “magic faith prayer” and God stamps our soul at an alter call…..that’s for a different post. Everything in the Gospel of John about the word “life” (zoe in the Greek) points to the idea that our salvation is an ongoing release from the power of sin in which we begin to experience the actual life and power of God that begins now and continues through eternity. Does this include heaven when we die? Of course…..but Bell is on the money in his critique of common evangelical notions of salvation IMO.
    Dr. Peter Kapsner
    Bible and Theology
    Bethel University
    St. Paul, MN

  19. This is what is written in the Product Description of “Love Wins” on Amazon: “Now, in ‘Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.” I think this makes the basic premise of the book clear, though there will be many details to iron out.

  20. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of the video was to create interest in (and sell) Rob’s new book. Rob is provocative, he always has been. But he raises some interesting questions. And I agree with Dr. McKnight, Piper’s comment was not worthy of someone of his stature. An important step in clarifying your beliefs is to talk about and even defend them. So the fact that the publicity campaign for Rob Bell’s book has provided an impetus for Christians to actually do theology (to figure out what they think about God) is a positive thing. Even if you disagree with Bell, it’s important for Christians to wrestle with what they believe. Another great resource on heaven, what it’s like and who will be there is “Heaven Revealed” by Dr. Paul Enns, released this month by Moody Publishers. I recommend it. Here’s the amazon page:

  21. Look forward to hearing the “rest of the story” after you read the book. Let me know if it’s worth buying. Also really thrilled to read on your update that you are getting close to having your first baptisms. Like I told you early on that will be a thrill. Keep up the “discipleship” part of your blog.

  22. Matthew 18 isn’t an issue, that’s why I’m curious why he brought it up. It seems that he’s making a suggestive move that Bell is doing something sinful. But then again, I’m doing to DeYoung what Taylor did to Bell; trying to read past what they actually said and did.
    I think CT and Beliefnet are just wrong, it’s a caricature. If people cannot themselves say which groups they’re in and out of, who can?
    Publishers want to be provocative. Bell wants to be provocative. The one person who isn’t interested in this conversation is Rob Bell. This all plays into his hand.
    My hunch is you’re more in the neo-reformed camp than I am (everyone is more in that camp that I am, because I’m not in it at all), thus making you more sympathetic and me less so to Piper et al…

  23. DeYoung himself says it’s not a Matthew 18 issue…don’t get the problem. As far as the Emergent stuff…as I said…his affiliation is not the question. I’m not saying he his. It’s his ideological similarity that makes people (again, CT, Beliefnet, etc.) associate him with that movement.
    As far as the overall strength of DeYoung’s argument… I agree that one can surmise at least a sketch of Bell’s thesis from the video and publisher’s notes. Then the question is…what do we do with it?
    Good discussion.

  24. Tim,
    In the early days of the conversation – before it became everything it became – I lead the EmergentHouston cohort. He is friends with Brian – as are many people well outside of Emergent circles, but Bell has consistently distanced himself. In fact, he’s had 1 conversation with Tony Jones who for years was the National Coordinator for Emergent Village.
    If they know Rob, that’s all the more reason to pick-up the phone or shoot an e-mail rather than hop on Twitter.
    Justin Taylor has read chapters and he took the bait.
    I don’t think DeYoung defense is all that great! Seems to mean: “You’re stating an affirmative in a question” and “Don’t question my atonement theory.” Plus, the Matthew 18 text isn’t a viable place to turn. Rob Bell didn’t “sin” against anybody. But, of course, for the neo-reformed crew, the beginning place for everything is sin. I think the critics of the critics are right in saying, “If these people were really concerned about Bell and what he’s saying,” how is Bell, the church or anyone served by Trial By Twitter?

  25. One more thing… for the record…I’m a fan of Rob Bell and have learned a ton from Rob Bell over the last several years and hope to continue to do so…heretic or not 😉

  26. Sean…thanks for commenting…
    -I didn’t claim Bell was in the emergent movement… but that when one studies the history of the emergent church…Bell and his relationship to Driscoll, etc. is a part of it’s lore. The likes of CT in 2004 and Beliefnet yesterday still refer to Rob Bell as part of the emergent movement. Love Wins is endorsed by McLaren and other emergent guys. As I see it there are few things distinguishing him from that crowd…the only thing that separates him is his desire not to be put in a box…which is fine with me. My broader point was that those who claim Piper and Driscoll don’t know Rob Bell or his teachings are mistaken. They go way back.
    Justin Taylor’s blog says he read chapters of the book sent to him by the publisher and doesn’t say anything about Piper or Driscoll.
    Kevin DeYoung’s blog actually offers a formidable defense of Taylor and company.
    I don’t believe Barth was a universalist…though some accused him of it. Even if he were…he is one 20th century theologian among centuries of church teaching. My understanding of Barth is that we cannot confirm or deny the possibility that all will be saved–but we can hope all will be saved. My hunch is this is what Bell will argue when I read the book.
    Totally agree on the propriety of Piper’s quote, as I hope you could tell by the post.

  27. Wrote a long comment, then had to sign in. Lost the comment. Here’s the gist.
    1. Bell was never with Emergent, distanced himself every time he was asked.
    2. These guys haven’t read the book. Justin Taylor’s original blog admits it.
    3. Piper was out of line and should know better.
    4. The only sin you can commit that’s not covered by grace by the new neo-reformed police is question substitutionary atonement. God will save you through grace if you kill someone, but not if you have any questions about the way he saves you and who saves you. Kevin DeYoung – the flame thrower of the neo-reformed – said as much in a blog post today.
    5. I can understand why pastors, preacher, theologians defended Bell. Universalism, which we don’t know whether or not he believes, has been around the church for a very long time. Karl Barth, who is as serious as serious gets in theology was a universalist: “God’s yes is stronger than man’s no.” That’s not out of the blue. Many people believe it, and they are not completely without warrant for doing so.
    Brief thoughts…gotta run.

  28. Ya, its quite possible that’s what it is. Or it could simply be a genuine prompt for his book. We’ll probably never know his intentions regardless of the books material. We can try to make the best assumptions of both.
    Best case scenario:
    Rob Bell- his book takes a look at Jesus’ teachings on the subject and simply uses his video to ask good questions that all followers of Jesus should ask as a prompt for his book.
    John Piper- he read the book, talked to Bell personally, found out he is teaching universalism and then publicly condemned him to hell via twitter.
    Bell still wins.

  29. Good stuff, Jordan. I too hate when Christians simply malign someone for asking provocative questions…and also think Piper’s tweet was way out of line. Having said that…the publicity stunt side of this bothers me (if that’s in fact what it turns out to be). Rob Bell will sell plenty of books without something like this.

  30. Thanks for your words Tim. Well said. Although, I’m not sure I would give Bell & Piper or even Bell & Taylor a tie on this one. Until the book comes out and I can read for myself, its not even close. Piper’s flippant tweet was juvenile to say the least. But to be a little more real… Piper was pridefully “playing God” thinking he had the right to make this kind of judgment call. And doing in through twitter? You’ve got to be kidding me! No tie here. Bell wins.
    Given, Rob’s video was intentionally provocative and designed (quite well) to sell books. But whats wrong with asking some really great provocative questions? These are the same questions I get asked by the college students I work with on a daily basis. Rob doesn’t make any declarative statements here. He simply asks questions that every Christians needs to ask. How can we have a solid faith if it is not strengthened by good questions?
    Have we become a community of people that damn our own for asking questions? I hope not. As long as this is the case in any particular congregation, they will cease to see another legitimate conversion.
    I’m looking forward to reading Rob’s book. It would be a tragedy if a leader of his stature has strayed away from the teachings of Jesus. I just don’t see how anyone can claim he has done this from this video. Alas, I’ll have to wait until the end of March.