CHRIST IS RISEN! And, as Paul wrote, if he be not raised, then our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins. That’s the point of the day commonly called Easter.
Sadly, evangelical rock star Rob Bell, the focus of a new article in TIME (“What if Hell Doesn’t Exist?”), is making a splash with his universalist manifesto, Love Wins. If Bell is right and Hell will ultimately be empty, then the Crucifixion and Resurrection have no real meaning. In our view, Bell is leading people over a theological cliff.
Also: royal wedding and line of succession; beatification of John Paul II (on Beltane); rumored discovery of the God particle; a vision of Mary in the sun (link to video); the “Arab Awakening”; four years since Madeleine McCann disappeared; Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann appear at Liberty University with Rick Joyner and other “new apostles”; the Great Central U.S. Shakeout (either last Tuesday, the 19th, or next Thursday, the 28th, depending on who you read); and a new perfume inspired by the scent of human blood.
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I watched that video about the so-called ‘apparition’ of the Virgin Mary in Ivory Coast, and I did see what everyone was squeeling about–and,if you’ve ever seen images of the Virgin Mary on the “Miraculous Medal”, or in dipictions of the Virgin Mary, drawn in color, of the same image–that’s what appeared on that video–it was very strange to see that, while knowing all the while what was really going on–I left a note asking if anyone remembered about that “Project Blue Beam”, and told them even though I am a Christian there was NO WAY I believed for one single minute that was the Lord’s Mother in that so-called ‘apparition’–it’s trickery of the most low-down kind, I’m convinced of that!–but, since ‘they’ really did go this far while trying to deceive those people[not to mention the rest of us, along with them], I’d say things are quite a bit further along, towards Christ calling His Church off the earth, than even I thought before this–ALLELUIA, and AMEN!–A blessed RESURRECTION SUNDAY, Derek and Sharon!:)
In answer to the ruminations about the May 1st beatification of John Paul II, on the Catholic calendar this is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker – a feast established to counter the May Day celebrations in communist countries. Prior to this the post Resurrection celebration of St. Joseph moved based upon the dating of “Easter.” The dating is designed to play off of the tensions between Roman Catholicism and Soviet communism. While I know it’s not as sexy as occult parallels, it is more accurate and honest. Speculation is fine, but when one airs such speculation, one ought to conduct responsible historical research before so doing if one intends on airing those speculations to a broader audience.
You are accusing and labeling Rob Bell a Universalist before you’ve even have read his book.
Joseph: Fair comment, and we will talk about it on our next show.
Dude: That’s true, but what do you call someone who teaches that God created Hell as a way station that will someday be empty?
Do you guys even study the subjects before you talk about them? This show made a lot of unfounded claims. Hope future shows are better. So far, I’m not terribly impressed.
At least they come at these thing Biblically or try to. No one is perfect Dude and Earnest.
About that Rob Bell thing. Perhaps you all are not asking the right questions. Here are a few things that Christians should be asking their God about.
Why exactly does there need to be an eternal lake of fire? How does eternal punishment for finite sins equate to justice? Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime in order for it to be justice?
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly understand that God would need to exclude some people from his kingdom much in the same way that we as humans need to exclude violent criminals from our society. However, your God’s lake of fire does not at all resemble any known form of justice, peace keeping, or law enforcement.
Are you Christians really going to be singing praises to Jesus as he throws your “unsaved” friends and loved ones into an eternal fire of burning torment? Really?
Are you going to be happy in heaven knowing that your “unsaved” children, parents, siblings, or friends are getting what they “rightfully deserve” in Hell? Really?
When you say your God is just and righteous, do you even know what that means?
Just some food for thought.
Matthew I wonder how you can claim it is unjust when you yourself openly acknowledge that you are aware of the solution yet reject it anyway.God entered into the world as a man suffered and died to provide a way out. Yet fully aware of this you mock him and reject it. Perhaps you should consider begging for mercy rather that screaming for justice?
That last sentence in your reply to my previous comment says it all. Rather than answering the questions I asked, you simply confirmed that such questions are valid and worth asking.
If infinite torment for finite sins is to be considered justice, then perhaps the word “justice” should be redefined when used in a Chritian context. Furthermore, if “begging for mercy rather than screaming for justice” is what the Christian God requires, how then will his kingdom be any better than any other tyranical dictatorship? I see no difference.
When I woke up to reality about what the powers that be(both politcal and spiritual)are doing to humanity, I looked to Christianity for answers. But when I read the Bible, all I found was just more of the same old sickness. I found a God and a devil who look like nothing more than opposite sides of the same twisted coin. It becomes painfully clear when you realise there is a lot more to the Bible than John 3:16.
Unless, of course, Rob Bell and others of his ilk are actually correct, and maybe we’ve somehow misunderstood what the Bible teaches about the hereafter? I sure hope so, because if not, then I don’t see how the Christian God could ever be considered good or righteous.
One more thing, please don’t think that my intent is to be a blasphemer or anything like that. Because that is not my intent al all. I do, however, wish that Christians would think a little bit more critically about the implications of their beliefs.
Matthew, I would urge you to do some critical thinking yourself. From a logical point of view, hell is not a paradox or contradiction. It is simply what one embraces when one rebels against God and an objective moral order. Now that’s a personal choice. Though a sin may be finite, it is but an expression of an existential choice, which is not finite at all.
So let me see, you don’t think God could be righteous by allowing man the choice to reject him and embrace hell. Tell me, how much interference in your ability to make choices will you tolerate from God. I suppose you would start complaining about His interference in you life and how unfair it is.
The real issue here seems to be what you like or dislike. Do you want justice? What does that mean, Matt? Are you deciding this issue on your own or is there an external objective standard to contend with?
If the latter, then what shall we say of those who openly reject it? If I understand you, then that rejection doesn’t really matter and those who do the rejection should be elevated into the presence of God–a place that their choice affirms that they really don’t want to experience.
Now if it is the former, then you are simply talking about your preferences, not a morel imperative. Now why do you think that what you merely like or dislike should have moral weight?
You seem to want to make an emotional preference a basis to judge the credibility of divinity. That doesn’t seem to be clear thinking to me.
But the question you raise does deserve more consideration than I can offer here. Let me suggest that you read “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. I think you might find it helpful.
Well Derek you never read the book.
In the course of painting this magnificent portrait of God, Rob brilliantly raises pointed questions about the dominant evangelical view of hell as hopeless conscious suffering as well as about common evangelical views of God’s wrath, the nature of salvation and an assortment of other topics. But these are secondary topics next to Rob’s main focus: namely, the incomprehensible and unlimited love of God expressed on Calvary as Jesus prays with his last breath, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
“At least they come at these thing Biblically or try to.”
If their analysis of the issues is inaccurate, then who is to say that their “Biblical” is any less inaccurate? Come on, man. Instead rushing to these hosts’ defense like a bunch of zombified cult members, use some critical thinking skills.
Derek even admitted that he hadn’t read Bell’s book. So, he’s talking through his hat when he makes claims to his audience. Not only is that dishonest, but it’s slanderous. What’s so “Christian” about that?
I mean the guy is even trying to draw some sinister connection between the Pope’s beatification and Beltane. So what? I know a couple who celebrates their anniversary on Halloween. Are they drinking baby’s blood and sacrificing cats on an altar just because of a date? It’s almost like Derek wants the audience to draw similar conclusions about Catholics just because of one flippin’ date. Sorry, but I seriously doubt the local parish that sells pies for fundraisers is secretly conducting Black Masses or something. You can’t reach a conclusion like that based on one date.
I checked this program out because I wanted to hear a Christian perspective on the issues. But, this is something else and it sure as heck doesn’t feel too Christian to me.
Greetings Indy David.
How is an expression of an existential choice not finite? Could you explain that to me? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that. Still seems finite to me.
Now lets deal with some these strawman arguments that hellfire and damnation enthusiasts like to set up.
This whole notion of rejecting God equals choosing Hell is laughably juvenile. First of all, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “you know what…I think I want to go to Hell”. What does happen, however, is some people experience a bit of cognitive dissonance when contemplating such fundamentalist Christian doctrines. The result is that such people start asking questions like the ones I’m asking. That, however, is far cry from “choosing Hell”.
Also, it is NOT about my personal feelings or opinions. It is about what is self evidently moral versus what appears to be an artificially imposed system of reward and punishment.
Real morality is truly self evident. It does not require lengthy apologetics to justify it. You don’t need an apologist to tell you why it is wrong to commit acts of theft, violence, murder, or adultery. You can see quite clearly the negative effects that such actions have. You can also clearly see the ways that karmic justice will deal with people who commit such actions.
Been stealing other people’s stuff? You will be imprisoned and/or made to repay what you have stolen. Been commiting adultery? Be prepared to get your butt kicked by an angry spouse. Been murdering people? Then you yourself will die by the sword. Natural law and karmic justice are suffice to teach these very important moral lessons.
However, according to fundamentalist Christianity, the Christian God has a penchant for finding sin where no crime has been commited. Unless ,of course, we call these “thought crimes”. Did you momentarily admire the beauty of a person to whom you are not married? You’re guilty of adultery! Been remarried after a divorce? Also guilty of adultery! Have a grudge against a fellow human? You’re guilty of murder! Are you gay? You’re an abomination! Do you desire things you don’t have? You’re guilty of coveting! Prefer to enjoy life to the fullest instead of groveling before the throne of God? Guilty of idolatry!
And the list goes on and on. Fundamentalist Christians will say this represents God’s “higher moral standard”. That would probably be true if it wasn’t being completely negated by the fact that the Christian God is planning to do something a thousand times more hideous than any of the “sins” mentioned above. In fact, this whole notion of eternal hellfire “justice” makes the Christian God look a lot more evil and horrific than any so called “sinner” who is guilty of nothing more than thinking a thought.
One more thing. Thankyou for the book recomendation. CS Lewis has some pretty good stuff so I will very much like to check out that book. Thanks.
To those of you who are criticizing Derek and Sharon:
They seem to be reacting to the way Bell has been promoting his book rather than the book itself. And yes, Bell has, in fact, made himself look like quite the universalist with his promotional tactics.
I can assure all of you that the stance taken by Derek and Sharon on this matter is no different than the stance taken by all other Biblical fundamentalists.
And to those who have questioned whether or not their worldview is Biblical or not, I can tell you honestly that it is. Even though I disagree with fundamentalist Christianity, I’ve been listening to them for like five or six years now. So I can assure you that the viewpoints expressed on PID are well researched and very much in line with Biblical fundamentalism.
So relax and enjoy the show.
“So I can assure you that the viewpoints expressed on PID are well researched…”
How can you give us those assurances? Did you go with Sharon and Derek to the library and do the “research” with them? Well-researched analysis doesn’t deliver the sort of far-fetched stuff I heard on this show.
Hey Earnest Seeker,
I can give those assurances because I spend a lot of time looking at the same topics as they do….which means that regardless of whether I agree or disagree, I do understand how they reach their conclusions.
This program spends a lot of time looking at the esoteric aspects of current events. There’s a reason why it’s called PID…that’s short for Peering Into Darkness. Esoteric topics are usually pretty dark…especially for Christians.
If you have no interest in, or understanding of esoteric topics, then I can understand why you would be a bit confused and perplexed by what you hear on this show.
If you would like a better understanding of the type of research that informs the worldview of the show hosts, click the “Future Congress” link near the top of the page. You will see for yourself that they are not just making stuff up and carelessly throwing it out there, but rather, they are exposing aspects of current events which typically get ignored by the mainstream media.
No, Dude, I haven’t read Love Wins. I have watched his interviews with George Stephanopoulous and Martin Bashir, and I’ve read the accounts coming out of his home church over the concerns of his congregation with the theology of the book.
I’ve read excerpts of it and reviews from the likes of Albert Mohler and John MacArthur. If you want to take issue with me for concluding that those learned men, who have read the book, are correct in their judgment, you are of course free and welcome to do so.
Earnest: Are you saying that trying to live according to one’s understanding of the Bible implies perfection? We’ve said repeatedly on the program that we are by no means perfect and that absolutely no one should take our words as gospel. Now, I could have chosen my words more carefully regarding the beatification of John Paul II, but my question remains: why are theologically astute leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, who surely know that May 1 is an important pagan holiday, choosing that particular date? I did add, you remember, that perhaps it’s nothing more sinister than May 1 happening to be the first Sunday after Lent this year.
I’ll keep listening to the program with an open mind. I hope it gets better. That’s all.
I didn’t even imply that a person’s understanding of the Bible makes them perfect. But, I did say that your analysis of an issue isn’t bullet proof just because you come at it from a Biblical perspective.
And, a lot of people invest value in May 1 and not every investment of value is derived from occult thought. You’re basing all of your suspicions of the Catholic Church on a date. That’s not enough. In fact, there is so little evidence to merit suspicion that the item probably wasn’t worth mentioning. Did you bring it up just because of some hard feelings towards Catholics?
I’m not a Catholic. As a matter of fact, I haven’t found a faith yet. I was just checking out your show because I have listened to a lot of secular commentators and thought a Christian perspective should be given a try. But, all I heard in your analysis was a tacit condemnation of another sect of Christianity. I know a lot of Catholics and not one of them celebrates Beltane. This sort of petty in-fighting is one of the things that make Christianity so unappealing to others.
Christopher Hitchens, among many other atheists, have pointed out that the internal struggles within the faith undermine its claim to absolute truth and I think he is right. You’re only contributing to undermining your own faith when you make weak accusations against other denominations.
In the future, I hope you will analyze an issue on the basis of solid evidence, not speculation.
Greetings, Matthew, and thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate the time and care you took to respond. But I do have some comments.
You begin by asking how an existential position can be anything but finite. Do you mean to say that man is a finite creature? If he is, then you would be right. But if man is an eternal being–a being that transcends physical existence–then such a being’s existential decisions can easily transcend finite physical reality and play a role in eternity. You may disagree with this view, but it is clearly the biblical position, and the one taught by orthodox theologians from Paul to Clement of Rome to Augustine to Aquinas to Luther. That our human choices have consequences in eternity is both the glory and the burden of man, who is created in the image of God–even though he is a fallen creature.
Before I continue, a definition is in order. A “straw man argument” is an informal fallacy of relevance that typically occurs when one misrepresents the position of an opponent and then refutes the misrepresentation. Such arguments are not set up to defend a point of view that one embraces. Instead, the “straw man” is an unfair attack upon another view by misinterpreting and oversimpliyfying that view in an illicit effort to make it appear ridiculous.
I make this point in response to your contention that equating the rejection God with choosing hell is “laughably juvenile”. Please note that this is a ad hominem characterization of the view, not an argument. In fact, when you affirm,”…nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘you know what…I think I want to go to Hell’”; this is in fact a textbook example of a “straw man” argument. No Christian theologian argues this. Please quote a systematic theology that makes this claim, if you can.
Simply put, the doctrine that man chooses hell affirms that God and sin are incompatible. Man’s sin separates him from God. Such separation is the meaning of spiritual death, and eternal separation from God is hell. As man chooses sin, he reaffirms his independence and separation from God. Christ, as Paul tells us, is the way to treat this sin problem and find peace with God. But without repentance, man simply embraces this separation eternally.
Now you speak of “cognitive dissonance when contemplating such fundamentalist Christian doctrines.” I welcome your view, but again you characterize rather than argue. Are you calling Augustine and Aquinas fundamentalist? Are you claiming that Jesus Christ and Paul were somehow narrow and shallow. Matt, you may disagree with the doctrine of hell, but dismissing the Christian intellectual history to which I have alluded as simply fundamentalist seems less that rational.
As to moral virtue, are you certain that things are as self-evident as you believe them to be? You quickly point to the negative results of certain acts. Are you saying that the results make the act moral–that it is a moral act because of its results, rather than being good in itself? That’s Utilitarian Ethics. Is that how we are to determine morality? Are you saying that an act born in perfect greed, selfishness, and malice, might be applauded as morally good if good consequences come from it. Or is the morally good act a bit more complicated than this.
Peter Kreeft, a philosopher at Boston University, has a website (http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio.htm)on which he offers for free a number of lectures exploring topics such as the one we are discussing. He embraces orthodox doctrine, but he cannot be dismissed as a “fundamentalist”. He is a Catholic scholar who holds to an evangelical view of salvation. I would urge you to listen to “A Refutation of Moral Relativism”, a lecture in which he describes some of the difficulties surrounding the view you believe to be self-evident. You will find other resources there that you might consider helpful.
Finally, you seem to believe that God is looking to find sin where no sin exists. “Thought Crimes” is the term you use. Your example is the admiration of the beauty of one to whom you are not married. I must point out that this is a “straw man”, Matt. Scripture does not denounce the admiration of such beauty; rather, it denounces the use of the mind to entertain lust. Certainly you are not equating the two, are you? If you think scripture is, then you need to study some Greek and look at the Gospel passages more carefully.
But your comment here puzzles me. Do you find your true self in your bodily nature or do you find it better located in the life of your mind? Or do you think these are the same things? Much rides on your answer to this question. In Plato’s dialogue the “Meno”, Socrates discusses the nature of moral virtue with one who holds a view that seems quite similar to yours. Take a look. You will find it interesting.
May God grant you wisdom and grace to consider these matters carefully and guide you to find your true self. Repentance does not mean to beg God for anything. The Greek word actually means to re-think. In a Christian sense, it means to think our way home? And that’s seems both a rational and practical thing to do.
Earnest: Thanks for your cordial response. I do appreciate that, and I wish I’d waited to respond rather than doing so late last night.
I agree with you: our analysis of an issue is not bullet proof just because we try to approach things from a Christian perspective. That’s why we’ve said so often that people should do just what you’re doing — compare what we say against the evidence and come to your own conclusions.
As for the Beltane issue: yes, it was speculation. We did not imply that Roman Catholics are closet pagans, only asked why the Church chose that particular day out of all the year. As noted by another commenter above, the Church has a long history of setting feast days to coincide with and supersede holidays (atheist and pagan, apparently). The keeping of feast days in honor of particular saints — and the process of creating “saints”, for that matter — is not scriptural.
And this has nothing to do with our feelings about Catholics. We raised the same question about evangelical Christian leaders — more often and far more energetically — when they signed on to the May Day 2010 event at the National Mall, and for the same reason: apparently nobody in that learned and well-respected group thought holding a sunrise service on Beltane in the shadow of the world’s largest obelisk (i.e., the penis of Osiris) was just a little odd for a group of Christians.
Well said Indy David.
The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it, in your case its worth nothing because you never read it.
Unless a person reads this book with a preset agenda to find whatever they can to further an anti-Rob Bell agenda (which, you are doing, with out actually reading the book) readers will not put this book down unchanged. To me, this is one of the main criteria for qualifying a book as “great. You never read the book and then try to wiggle out of this fact by stating that some else read it for you…interesting to say the least.
So everyone , do not read your Bible because other people will read it for you and tell you what is acceptable to your faith.
Dude: what is the takeaway from Love Wins? What I cannot fathom is how Bell, in every interview I’ve read or seen, has taken more positions on the issue of universalism than a politician on the issue of raising taxes versus balancing the budget. In the end, the only conclusion one can reach is that Rob Bell is a universalist who doesn’t want to be called a universalist.
One more question: are you Greg Boyd? Because you keep lifting sections from Pastor Greg Boyd’s review of the book.
If you’d rather hear from someone who has read Bell’s book, I suggest this review from John MacArthur:
Please take this comment in the best way possible because it’s meant to be a sincere appeal. There are a myriad of reasons to shudder at the beatification of John Paul II – the most obvious being his role in an institution wide sexual abuse of children. Sadly, there are others – and there not the usual married priests and women priests debates. You know as well as I do that for the most part, people’s theology and notions of sanctity are a largely formed by the media. In the midst of it all, the very real reasons to be uneasy with the quick canonization process of John Paul II (he’s being pushed through faster than Mother Teresa)are lost. Such speculation muddies the waters and makes the genuinely needed critique of John Paul’s beatification and, presumably, future canonization more difficult.
Just to throw in my two cents, I did read Love Wins, and several chapters twice. I can confirm that he is in fact a covert universalist. He seems to call that better news, but it’s also non-sensical in the context of the whole Bible.
I always wonder why people say you have to read the book to call him out on his extremely flawed theology. His book promo and television interviews speak for themselves.
I found Love Wins challenging, although un-theological. Bell does not, though, argue that hell will be empty and he doesn’t argue that people won’t have free will to go to hell.
He argues that the choice of heaven and hell is up to the individual, and many will choose to reject the love of God and suffer. His questions, though, are good.
For instance, the argument so many have against universalism is this: “Doesn’t Hitler deserve to burn forever?” That raises two issues. 1. Jesus said that NO, Hitler does NOT, that the penalty for his sins have been paid. Evengalicals say that if before Hitler died, he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, then guess what… he is forgiven. How do any of us know he didn’t? How do any of us know what was in his heart? Jesus loved Hitler, and died for him. What if Hitler repented before dieing?
How about the 13 year old who hasn’t ever heard of Jesus and decides he’s an atheist? Is he in the same camp as Stalin (assuming Stalin didn’t repent before he died)?
Wouldn’t a million years burning alive be enough punishment for Hitler… or that 13 year old? How about 100 years? Think of it… 100 years of burning alive. Isn’t that enough? Are we who know the love of Jesus gleeful at that prospect?
Did God ignore Jesus’ request that He forgive those who were crucifying him? They didn’t believe, and yet Jesus interceded for them. Did the Father say, “forget it! They need to confess their belief in you!”?? What about the martyrs who, being tortured, plead for God to forgive those who are torturing them?
Won’t the love of God ultimately win everyone over? This is what Rob Bell asks.
Even if someone in this life utterly rejects Jesus, and in hell, learns that absence from God is utter hell (plus the burning alive part), and accepts that Jesus paid the price, will Jesus not advocate to the Father for that person?
I haven’t worked out the implications. I’ve seen the TV interviews and he does a poor job of giving a sound bite for something that took him a couple hundred pages to work out… and ultimately he didn’t work it out… He suggests that God’s theology is bigger than our understanding. And then he suggests we should go out and image the love of Jesus by serving others.