‘Love Wins’ – the start of an evangelical debate about universalism?

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/02/26/rob-bell-universalist/ (1119 comments and counting!)

Bell’s book isn’t out till the end of the month, but already it’s generating buzz. ‘Love wins’ – everyone ends up reconciled with God. Hell is emptied. Apparently that’s the substance of his book.

I understand why conservative, moderate and even many progressive evangelicals find this disturbing or dangerous. At stake for them is motivation for evangelism and the integrity of the Bible.

Universalism has not been on the radar enough to register as a serious option for evangelicals. I wonder if this book will bring it onto the radar as one (to the chagrin of opponents) or whether it will widen the gulf between postmodern (post)evangelicals and the rest. A new test of orthodoxy? ‘Do you deny the heresy of an empty hell?’  “Gregory Macdonald” put forward a biblical case for universalism several years ago, and recently followed it up with a collection of writings from univeralist theologians over the years, called All Shall Be Well.

I don’t see much chance of this debate being irenic. There is much at stake on both sides. May there be an irenic converation in the middle and may all of us be ready to be wrong, be ready for God to speak truth through someone we least expect.

3 thoughts on “‘Love Wins’ – the start of an evangelical debate about universalism?

  1. Hi Nathan,
    I listened to that video on Justin Taylor’s post and nowhere could I find Rob Bell explicitly confirming univeralism. Yet most of the responses were vitriolic.

    There is no clear evidence from that video that Rob Bell is a ‘heretic’ as many respondents and the author of the post believe.

    For s sight that claims to believe in sovereign grace, what I saw was gracelessness. Rob has not even published the book yet but we find hundreds of people claiming he is a wolf or a heretic or teaching falsehood.

    Rod Bell raises significant questions relating to the nature of God and the nature of hell and what the good news might mean. These are issues that need to be addressed.

    I do not know if Bell is a universalist regarding salvation or not. Nor do I know whether Rob Bell is a pluralist or an inclusivist regarding the path to God. I do not know whether Rob believes that hell will be empty or whether he is an evangelical annihalationist.

    Yet on the basis of that video and a blurb on his forthcoming book, hundreds of people have written him off. What a disgrace! Is it any wonder that judgemental and graceless Christians are turning so many people off Jesus? Why will these people not wait until the book is published so that his statements can be read in context?

    John Arthur

  2. Hi Nathan,
    I was a bit angry after reading Justin Taylor and most of the responses he got, that I misinterpreted him somewhat. For this I apologise.

    Justin thinks that Rob Bell is probably a universalist though he concedes that he might be an annihalationist. The first respondent labels Bell a wolf and in the second response Justin Taylor agrees.

    I found the whole approach of this post shameful. Admittedly, Justin claims to have read some chapters, but he has not read the whole book nor have his respondents.

    I think that respectful dialogue is the way to go on such a difficult topic but, like you, I doubt that it will happen.

    John Arthur

  3. There is lots of vitriol for a book not yet published! The only certain thing is that it will be widely read and scrutinised for heresy. 🙂

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