Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

As C. S. Lewis reminded his friend,

“Did you ever meet, or hear of, anyone who was converted from skepticism to a ‘liberal’ or ‘demythologised’ Christianity? I think that when unbelievers come in at all, they come in a good deal further” (C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Mariner Books, New York, 2002, p. 119)

Anyway, to keep our “open minded” status I think it is good to read an Evangelical response to the offer of a “glamorous”, “liberal”, “deconstructionist” and “fancy” religiosity. I can not but wonder: how many passions and neuroses are hidden under the fancy masks of those who seek “originality”, self-esteem and appreciation of others at any price? How many philosophers are created from the need for deconstruction and exorcism of their suffering from childhood? How many relativistic absolutes are created from the rotten womb of the absolutism imposed by a rigid education? I would be the first atheist if I have to believe in a diluted God, created in my own image, who would not disturb me with His existence, but who should be a kind of Master of Ceremony, a puppet who responds to my autocratic commands. But about the conditioning, prejudices and socio-psychological analysis about how some of us are making theology, we will talk with another occasion.

Some quotes from Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” by Wittmer, Michael (Edenridge Press LLC., 2011):

Is Your God Too Small?

(…) Bell’s book seems to fall into this trap, for it begins with a rhetorically powerful story that uses the existence of evil in order to construct a one-dimensional view of God. (…) The real question is, “What is God like?” Because millions and millions were taught that the primary message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is willing to forgive everybody no matter who they are or what evils they’ve committed against the rest of us. So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that God is willing to forgive the perpetrators of evil, regardless of whether or not their victims ever see justice. That God is willing to let all things slide. Everything. But what kind of God is that? Can a God so uninterested in justice be good? How can that God ever be trusted? How could that ever be good news?

(…) Love and holiness are not competing perfections, but opposite ends of a continuum (as perceived by our finite minds) that reinforce one other. Each perfection needs the other to be what it is. Love without holiness becomes a squishy sentimentality, and holiness without love becomes an unholy focus on keeping the rules. Holiness isn’t holy if it’s not loving, and love isn’t love if it’s not holy. Chapter nine will explain how, despite Bell’s emphasis on God’s love, his diminished view of God’s holiness sells short God’s love, leaving us with a God who is neither entirely holy nor entirely loving.

Godly Hopes and Human Wishes

Bell offers no biblical passage which promises postmortem salvation, and his argument from what universalistic texts supposedly imply isn’t persuasive either. Worse, there are biblical texts which indicate that the suffering in hell lasts forever. When I first learned of Bell’s book, I immediately wondered how he would interpret the lake of fire mentioned near the end of Scripture and Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus. Both of these biblical texts strongly suggest that sinners in hell are not offered a second chance. What would Bell make of them?

(…) Rather than speculate where Scripture is silent, we should proclaim God’s glorious hope for the world, namely, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is no need to reach higher and offer promises that God didn’t make and we can’t deliver. Doing so turns biblical hope into false hope, the cruelest hope of all.

What Is New on the New Earth?

1. Bell’s present is too much like the future.
2. Bell’s future will be too much like the present.

Deconstructing Hell

(…) Like other theological liberals, Bell reinterprets Scripture’s stern warnings about hell until they fit the modern idea of what a loving God must do. And so he produces an indulgent, nonjudgmental God who sounds exactly like the god of popular culture. This is the Achilles’ heel of theological liberalism. The culture may be initially attracted to the liberal gospel of human reason and individual autonomy—finally we have a group of Christians who get it!—but soon enough, people realize that this weak-kneed version of Christianity is simply redundant. Most people think that they are basically good—certainly good enough to earn their way into heaven, though they probably should try harder to love their neighbor. This is essentially the liberal message, with Jesus thrown in for morally good but not biblically sound measure. Eventually the broader culture realizes that liberal churches are not saying anything that hasn’t already been said a hundred times on Oprah. So why bother telling the “Jesus story”? They logically ask, “If Jesus is nothing more than the way Christians talk about loving their neighbor, then why can’t we love our neighbor without the Jesus talk?” And so liberal churches decline, for people won’t make the effort to get up and go to church when they can sleep in and hear the same moral and uplifting message on television.

………………

Conclusion

We are not saved by the universal fatherhood of God or by a cosmic Christ who has written the general principles of life in nature. We are saved by Jesus Christ, our Redeemer King, who in history’s greatest and truest story defeated the powers of hell when he died for our sin and rose again. We are saved by this Jesus, and him alone. Since Jesus is God, and God is love, we may say that love has won. It won at the cross and the empty tomb, and it will win completely when our victorious King returns. Jesus will bring history to its climax, and he will live forever with his people in the everlasting joys of the new earth. Those who are not prepared for his return will perish forever, and so love must also warn. Why would you resist his love? Why risk everlasting torment in hell? God’s love has won, and so can you. Only repent and believe—in Christ alone.

4 thoughts on “Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

  1. octi

    Inca odata multumesc pentru articol.
    Am citit despre nonsensurile publicate de Bell si imbratisate de teologii liberali. Ma bucur ca cineva scrie despre asta. As fi vrut sa fiu eu acela dar fiind de profesie inginer minuiesc literele cu o neindeminare dureroasa. Totusi ma bucur ca imi regasesc gindurile neexprimate in articolele din acest blog.
    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  2. manuintrigatu

    Examine the best defense of positions with which you currently do not agree. He has reasons for believing the way he does; he is not just stupid. Bell is not alone! Bell nu vine din neant….sunt o gramada de teologi si exegeti ( atat vechi cat si moderni) care vad asemeni lui acest punct de vedere. Si…au argumente! Sa nu ne grabim ca Taylor, Piper sau Discoll sa il condamne inainte de al citi ( nu ma indoiesc Marius ca i-ai citit cartea). Ma refer la acei care nu l-au citit.

  3. octi

    Daca “.sunt o gramada de teologi si exegeti ( atat vechi cat si moderni) care vad asemeni lui acest punct de vedere” eu cred ca putem deduce 2 lucruri.
    Si anume:”sunt o gramada de teologi si exegeti” care gresesc.
    Nu este prima data cind au fost “o gramada de teologi si exegeti” care au gresit.

    1. manuintrigatu

      Trebuie sa recunosc ca anul acesta Bell si Volf m-au provocat foarte mult prin scrierile lor. Eu zic sa lasam sa se sedimenteze tema…si sa nu ne grabim. Desi nu ma astept, ma rog insa ca Bell sa adopte o pozitie corecta fata de iad. Oricum urmaresc subiectul cu interes si stiu ca aceasta disputa va aduce mai multa claritate asupra iadului. Disputa totdeauna e o ocazie pentru a aduce claritate. De fiecare cand s-au ridicat oameni sa vorbeasca despre adevaruri doctrinare, dragostea a castigat pentru ca adevarul a fost asezat acolo unde ii este locul adica pe podium.

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