Robb Bell’s latest book has raised a number of issues for me. The first is his way of communicating his views. Instead of stating what he believes, he asks a plethora of questions, many of which are essentially, ‘would a loving God condemn people to eternity in Hell?’ It is good to ask this sort of question, and asking questions is a valid communication and teaching method. However, at some point or other a responsible and influential author and teacher needs to state what he actually believes to be true, and why he believes it to be true. Unfortunately Robb Bell doesn’t really do this and as a result his readers are left to draw their own conclusions as to what he is saying.
This leads me to a second issue, which is the way many people have responded to ‘Love Wins’. I am surprised that so many critics have had the confidence, or temerity, to state boldly that Robb Bell is a universalist, a heretic, and even a hell-inspired false prophet without even entering into dialog with him and attempting to clarify his contentions. I even read early critiques that started with the words, ‘although I have not read the book I …’ This sort of attitude to a Christian leader is more than regrettable, it is just wrong.
A third issue for me is the apparent way in which Robb Bell seems to attempt to establish truth. I say ‘apparent’ and ‘seems’ because I, like others, can only deduce his theology from his flood of leading questions. The approach appears to be, God is loving and just; an eternal Hell is neither loving or fair; therefore Hell cannot be of God. The problem is that the second clause of this construct is simply Robb Bell’s personal opinion. Truth, as I see it, has its basis in the Word of God. The written Word of God is the Bible and the living Word of God, the Bible’s author and object, is the Lord Jesus Christ. So, truth is established by interpreting the Bible from a Jesus-centred perspective. And here is the rub; Jesus had quite a bit to say concerning Hell. Any valid contention that Hell does not exist must be responsibly Word-based or it fails to classify as an Evangelical Christian position.
Perhaps a better question to ask would be, ‘Why would a loving God consign people to eternal Hell?’ We would then attempt to answer this from a Christ-centred interpretation of what the scriptures have to say concerning sin, salvation, heaven, and hell.