Bell, the Book, and a Candle
by John Mark Reynolds
Love moves the heavens and the stars. Love created the universe and love will win in the end. Rob Bell did not say this—Dante did—and Dante believed in Hell. Dante also thought all of us, including himself, in danger of going there for all eternity.
Dante believed in Hell, because of reason, reading the Bible, and because of love. If love is to win, then Hell must exist. Sadly, Rob Bell has chosen the culturally sterile, ethically bankrupt, and unloving position of denying love’s demand: hell exists and love built it.
It would be easier to disagree with Bell, if he were not so likable and also right about so many other things. Bell is admirable in being open to possibilities. Socratic questioning is a good thing and nobody should deny Bell the right to speculate.
Sadly, speculation can substitute for rigor and Rob Bell is not a very careful thinker.
Old books like the Bible require rigorous exegetical skills or they end up saying what we wish they said. Bell’s god ends up looking suspiciously like Rob Bell, never a good sign in a theologian.
Bell’s god will not take “no” for an answer. Like some cosmic lounge lizard, He follows you for eternity until you give Him a sympathy date. Bell’s god has more in common with Zeus, whose “love” always got what it wanted, than the Triune God of Scriptures. The good news about the God of the Bible is that He is nothing like Homer’s Zeus: God will let you love somebody else.
Love will win, but true love does not always get what it wants. If the beloved gets what he demands, love will accept the choice, even if that means rejection of the beloved. Our God knows our “no” means “no.”
Christianity has always been clear: if you don’t like God’s paradise, then you get to live someplace else. If you don’t like God’s rules, then God loves you enough to let you live by the rules you have chosen.
Bell struggles, it seems, with the notion that human choice counts for eternity…
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