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Rob Bell--Love Wins


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Fudge's is generally considered to be the most thorough historical treatment. Well it used to be, anyway.

From the old Fudge camp debates: It's interesting that of the over 200 NT texts dealing with the future estate of the wicked only one seems to indicate eternal torment (Rev. 14:11) The majority of verses indicate literal destruction/finality.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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MattPage wrote:

: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

:

: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

Really? Huh. This is a reference to "Gehenna", right? I thought that was associated with "the Valley of Hinnom", which is one of the valleys bordering Jerusalem.

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MattPage wrote:

: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

:

: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

Really? Huh. This is a reference to "Gehenna", right? I thought that was associated with "the Valley of Hinnom", which is one of the valleys bordering Jerusalem.

I would have to go back to my old computer to find the teaching and know which word for sure, but I think it was Gehenna. It was one of the more enlightening and interesting teachings I remember at Mars Hill, I've hoped for a long time to see some of it in book form where one can read it and take it in a little better.

I can say this about Rob's beliefs and the book: I am somewhat certain he sees hell as a literal place Jesus was referring to on earth, and that Jesus was using the place as a metaphor for sin. Also, in regard to heaven, if you were to look at Mars Hill's Narrative Theology, you'd see a belief that heaven is something that comes to earth, at the culmination of the ages, the recreation of all things. I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

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I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

On that, he and I are agreed. But there's nothing, really, to link a belief in an actual Hell and rapture theology.

Sure, it's just that the subtitle says the book is about much more than just hell, and I think his thoughts about heaven might turn just as many evangelical heads.

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Well, we can talk about the "eternal torment" debate (and we already have, though I forget in which thread), but my biggest problem with the way you presented your particular spin on conditionalism is that it seemingly leaves no space for the resurrection of the dead to judgment, ala John 5:27:

If anything, the conditionalist argument allows the resurrection verses to really shine. Truly dead men will be suddenly raised to life. Traditionalists place the individual souls already in heaven or hell (or some limited version of each), and at the trump being reunited-- teleported ala some cosmic transporter-- on earth with a waiting resurrected body. For what reason, I'm not sure, seeing that they've already been enjoying their respective estates in a soul state. Maybe the resurrected body thing will be a major upgrade to the soul state. In any case, this is a rather anticlimactic event, by that interpretation.

Conditionalists believe that all men die alike and that some will rise again to life everlasting on the final day. The others will simply cease to exist. Whether the wicked will get a resurrected body first before they are blotted out, is a matter of small debate. I happen to think they have already met their judgement.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest. It's about as reliable as the convenient traditions about there being a smallish gate in Jerusalem called the needle's eye.

I have to say, I've heard the "Gehenna" thing peddled about for ages. This is the first I've heard that this is off-the-mark. Could you expand on that?

Just as a side note, I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio called Gahanna. Depending on the source, and what the source might have at stake, the name was either taken from an Indian word meaning "three rivers" or a bastardization of the biblical trash heap. Since Gahanna was historically the scene of some notorious bars and brothels, I tend to favor the latter reading. Shockingly, the Chamber of Commerce does not agree.

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Well, in certain theological areas--and Hell is one of those--I am willing to suspend more systematic treatment of theological topics and allow tensions to remain. The Biblical witness is quite clear there will be a Future Judgment, and that that Future Judgment is something to be deeply feared. As Hebrews says, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." But beyond that, I'm not sure I can synthesize everything in the Biblical witness into a neat-and-tidy "position on Hell." I lean toward something more Metaphorical. I see little support for Purgatorial and Universalist positions.

Like many of the above posts, I have struggled with the doctrine of Hell that is promoted in most Evangelical circles. I have a hard time reconciling such a vision of Hell (see James Joyce's description of a hell-fire sermon in PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN if you want to know what I object to), but this is pretty close to where I'm at in my understanding.

Also, in regard to heaven, if you were to look at Mars Hill's Narrative Theology, you'd see a belief that heaven is something that comes to earth, at the culmination of the ages, the recreation of all things. I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

Perhaps, like myself, he has been reading the quite-orthodox N.T. Wright's SURPRISED BY HOPE. I tend to agree with this view.

Edited by Anders

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I believe they have met, I know Rob's a fan, and I do remember at least one time hearing Rob say he'd love it if we could fly Wright over to guest speak sometime.

Peter Rollins was back again last week, so I don't think that's ever out of the realm of possibility...

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I believe they have met, I know Rob's a fan, and I do remember at least one time hearing Rob say he'd love it if we could fly Wright over to guest speak sometime.

Peter Rollins was back again last week, so I don't think that's ever out of the realm of possibility...

Ha! I liked quite a bit of both of Rollins books that I've read too. If I had a car I'd drive down to Michigan and visit some time.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Planning. That's what it would take, Anders. You get to Detroit and we'll figure out the rest together. Particularly if Wright is the target.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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There have been a number of recent books on Christian universalism –e.g. If Grace Is True: why God will save every person, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland (2010) which I found very persuasive, with many supportive references from the bible. Other authors on the same theme --Gregory MacDonald, Thomas Talbott, Eric Stetson, Carlton Pearson, etc. So I don’t understand why people are making such a fuss about Rob Bell’s book.

I think it comes down to this: Bell is wildly popular, particularly with college students. I think the loudest critics think Bell is going to creep into their children's dorm rooms and snatch them away.

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You may have a fair point there Jason. So the question becomes: Snatch then away from, and to, what? From evangelicalism to, um... evangelicalism? I sometimes think it is cool hearing that we're "post-evangelical" but I don't even know what it means, and I'm not sure I think it's true.

Snatch them away to a place where there's an emphasis on words, because words have been used for posturing and pronouncing scarlet letters when they could instead be used to inspire hope and good for as many as possible, if not all?

Snatch them away from assumptions set in stone, the idea that they and only they have a core of beliefs that is 100% accurate, when maybe admitting we don't get it is the key to growth and conversation?

Snatch them away from a bullet point form of thinking that is unnecessarily rigid, laughably un-flexible? Snatch them away from their God or perhaps idol, Theology, instead of the simple message of love and grace and hope for all that could have been this church?

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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You may be right about that except that most of the evangelicals I know can't define the word "orthodoxy."

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Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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There have been a number of recent books on Christian universalism –e.g. If Grace Is True: why God will save every person, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland (2010) which I found very persuasive, with many supportive references from the bible. Other authors on the same theme --Gregory MacDonald, Thomas Talbott, Eric Stetson, Carlton Pearson, etc. So I don’t understand why people are making such a fuss about Rob Bell’s book.

Am i wrong in saying that this current micro-trend toward Universalism seems to have been spawned, largely, by philosophical conflicts over the traditional doctrine of hell? I don't know if this is true of Bell or some of the others you cited, but I know in the case of Pearson-- who i've heard interviewed numerous times-- that this is true. He couldn't wrap his head around people burning forever (who can?) so he took the leap that it's better that there's no eternal justice at all for the wicked.

There are some wonderful alternative views to a smoldering, eternal torture chamber that still allow for important verses on God's justice and judgement to shine. Universalism just seems like an unnecessary extreme in the opposite direction

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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You may be right about that except that most of the evangelicals I know can't define the word "orthodoxy."

I do agree there. I have no strong feelings either way about Bell (other than, "nice skinny jeans!"), but I know many, many people that are wary of him to varying degrees. I think to many Protestants, orthodox means something like, "what I believe." That said, I realize I'm guilty of this from time to time.

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I don't know that I've ever seen Rob in skinny jeans. He mostly sticks to black, and his clothes are typically cool in a nonchalant kind of way.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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if you were to look at Mars Hill's Narrative Theology, you'd see a belief that heaven is something that comes to earth, at the culmination of the ages, the recreation of all things. I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

I have a hard time with that "narrative theology." It is missing a few very fundamentally key elements, such as the function of the law as a revelation of the holiness of God which is responded to by the "obedience of Christ." I can't recall reading a basic statement of theology that so wholesale neglects Paul's "narrative theology" in Romans 1-6.

But I also find this particularly hopeless: "God will reclaim this world and rule forever. The earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us here in a restored creation." This isn't quite heresy, but it is sad. The NT teaches something far more majestic and faith-worthy than the reclamation and restoration of an already existing cosmic material:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'"

Revelation is certainly an obscure text, but one of the clearest statements it makes is that at some point in time, an incomprehensible creative transfer will occur between this world and "the world to come." There is an idea prevelant in these Rob Bell markets of contemporary evangelicalism that our current physical world is to be prized and celebrated because it will one day be the locus of God's restored Edenic presence. But this is not the case. This new world to come is so difficult for John the revelator to describe that he resorts to a collection of odd descriptive phrases (such as a world in which there is no more sea), all of which collectively serve as a witness to the dramatic act of God making all things new.

And this, of course, dovetails neatly with Paul's depiction of the current world as a womb, groaning with birth pangs as something glorious erupts from its birth canal as part of this eschatological revolution in which all things will be caught up in the unstoppable waves of redeeming grace that ebb through history from the cross. The NT describes what comes next as something different, as in: "and now for something completely different."

Any concept of the world to come less radical than this is impoverished, and doesn't quite grasp the significance of the argument from lesser to greater that the NT makes concerning the difference between Eden and the New Jerusalem. This doesn't mean we abandon the current world, or think of it as something that doesn't deserve our full attention and care. Quite the contrary. This is currently the place in which we apprehend the presence of God and His resurrection-bound victory in time and space.

(I may be misinterpreting this bit of the "narrative theology," but I am in part responding to Stef's description of it. And I hear this neutered eschatology in other places with increasing frequency.)

Edited by M. Leary

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An entire thread about denying that God condemns anyone to hell, and no one here has yet mentioned Jonathan Edwards.

He was a little more of a heavy-weight than your average modern evangelical. I think it's been pretty clear for years that fire and brimstone preaching about hell has been out of fashion in mainstream evangelical circles. This is further demonstrated that most of us who believe in the existence of hell don't seem to have a problem with Bell asking if God really condemns anyone there (Ryan gets allowances for his Calvinistic streaks). That being said, I can't help wondering if a little more fear and trembling about God's justice wouldn't be healthy once in a while.

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Right I've spent ages trying to find a particular post which it turns out that I actually never made, but I was thinking of this post (and this part of the discussion in particular).

This thread is another old debate on hell.

And we discussed Universalism here.

And there are others. All of these threads are from the old religion forum and thus now closed, so it's good to have somewhere to bat these ideas about.

Peter said:

: : : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

: :

: : Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

: Really? Huh. This is a reference to "Gehenna", right? I thought that was associated with

: "the Valley of Hinnom", which is one of the valleys bordering Jerusalem.

Ryan said

: I have to say, I've heard the "Gehenna" thing peddled about for ages.

: This is the first I've heard that this is off-the-mark. Could you expand on that?

I'm basing that on Stephen Travis "Christ Will Come Again" originally published as "I believe in the second coming of Jesus". p.197 says:

Gehenna (the Valley of Hinnom) was in fact the valley south-west and south of Jerusalem which had become a byword for all that is abhorrent to God ever since it had been a place of child sacrifice in Jeremiah's day (see Jeremiah 7:31f.). There is, incidentally, as far as I know, no evidence earlier than the twelfth century A.D. for the popular view that the Valley of Hinnom was Jerusalem's rubbish dump in biblical times.
The version of Travis I first read that in was in 1982 (original title) the copy I just took that from CWCA was 1997, so I suspect that were there any someone would have let him know in the meantime, as it doesn't really steer the conclusion either way in particular.

(Travis was VP of St. John's (evangelical) Theological college until his retirement in 2005)

Oh and I dug out some of my old notes on this (that I pulled together from others' research) and a couple of points I mentioned earlier

1 - "Traditional" view first mentioned by Tatian in 172 AD. Earliest example of universalism is Origen 254 AD. Conditionalism found in Epistle of Barnabas 90AD (though the date is perhaps a little early).

2 - Max Turner (scholar at the relatively conservative London School of Theology (fka London Bible College) gives this statistic:

Of the 264 refs to the fate of the lost, there are

- 10 to Gehenna

- 29 to destructive lake of fire

- 59 to destruction

- 20 to separation from God (no time indication)

- 108 to condemnation (unspecified)

- 15 to anguish (no mention of duration)

- 2 to eternal duration of punishment for humans

The reason I was thinking of the post above was SDG's post in it that cited 3 such passages. The difference between the two is that SDG thinks that there are two in Revelation that both count (14 and 20) because although only one of them counts when taken in isolation, they should be linked. Or something, but I'm not sure who I agree with here. I'm also not sure Turner's other one is Luke 16 (does this say that the punishment is eternal here), but I can't go into that now.

Matt

PS John Piper has apparently led the charge against Rob Bell with a vicious tweet. Can't say I understand why before anyone's even read what Bell is saying. This probably won't have reached the US, but I've got pretty bad deja vu from the Steve Chalke atonement issue a few years ago.

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I can't help wondering if a little more fear and trembling about God's justice wouldn't be healthy once in a while.

I would never argue with this. Whether hell is what we suffer as long as we reject him, or whether it's an everlasting torture chamber where your cries for mercy fall on God's deaf ears, disconnection from God is a condition to be feared and dreaded.

But I also believe in a Jesus that looks out over the world of his lost sheep and weeps for them. And if it hurts me to think about souls in torment, it must hurt him far, far more.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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CNN.

I do have some (probably simple) thoughts about the narrative theology but it's going to have to wait for now.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Here's a very speculative question:

In the Old Testament, Abraham does something unique: He prays for unbelieving cities. He doesn't pray, "Save Lot, and then blast Sodom and Gomorrah." He begs God to save a culture of unbelievers.

He didn't get his way. He said "If there is even one righteous man," but alas, there wasn't.

Christ is the only righteous man, of course. But what is Christ's example? What does our teacher do, in front of an audience, when the enemies of God are carrying out their worst crime against him? He asks God to forgive those who are killing him.

How heretical would it be to pray for the souls in hell, to pray that God will make a way to save them? To pray for mercy? To pray for those who went to their graves cursing and punishing Jesus?

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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CNN.

Best unintentionally hilarious stupid article paragraph ever:

But the Mars Hill Bible Church, which Bell founded, is not attached to any denomination. Were it attached to one - the Presbyterian or Catholic church, say - his book and video could raise eyebrows in the hierarchy and might lead to a church trial that could result in Bell's expulsion.
Were Bell a Muslim - a sunni or a sheite, say - then his views on the divinity of Jesus might raise a few eyebrows and result in his expulsion.

oh and "To be honest, it was a pretty rough weekend,"? Diddums.

Matt

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