Is it really shocking to people that Rob Bell’s forthcoming book appears to be poised to challenge historic Christian beliefs on the afterlife?  Do we too need to join John Piper in tweeting, “Farewell Rob Bell”?  Are all these Christians who think Bell has come out as a universalist being mean and unfair?  What does the fact that this discussion has blown up to fairly epic proportions on the interwebs say about how we communicate?

Well here are some articles to help you navigate these waters:

  • Here is Justin Taylor’s original post that spawned some 1,396 comments and 27,400+ recommendations on Facebook. For the record, Taylor updated his post and said, “I should have been more careful in my original post not to imply that Bell is definitely a universalist. He may believe that some people go out of existence and are not thereby saved.”
  • Here is Part I and II of a review of Love Wins by someone who is reading the book and some additional thoughts.

But he [Bell] makes no apology for his declaration that while Hell is a real place, and people will go there, it’s not forever. Ultimately, God’s love will prevail for every person and they will be restored. So I would say that what the recently-released promo video for Love Wins suggests, the book confirms.

My Thoughts:

So were Christians hasty in calling Bell a heretic? Probably and additionally we probably all have a bit different definitions of “heretic.”  Unless Bell lets his publisher release statements that in no way represent what he has written, it is safe to assume that Bell is in fact challenging 2000 years of  church history in his book.  Does that actually surprise anyone?  Does that necessitate what people have been calling an evangelical excommunication by John Piper?  That brings up a whole host of questions:  should we be excommunicating people via Twitter? Who made John Piper the Pope of evangelicalism? Were Piper and Bell up until recently retweeting each other and commenting on each other’s Facebook statuses?  What is my point in writing and posting all this?  I suppose my point is simply to point out how crazy all this talk about Rob Bell is.

If I wrote a book and I did not want to make a decisive step away from historic Christian doctrine–then I would never let my publisher release a statement that says I am “arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.” That said, such a statement at least holds out the possibility of Bell being annihilationist. However, if the above review is correct, that does not seem to be the case.  I am bummed that we have decided to have such a massive discussion about this prior to the book releasing and yet I also think that Rob Bell probably wanted this to happen–thus I have come to the conclusion that we are all crazy.

Twitter, Facebook, and blogging have changed the way we communicate for good and for ill but in each instance they reveal that healthy communication continues to elude our grasp.  That is about as shocking as Rob Bell challenging historic Christian beliefs.



  1. Various forms of universalim have been part of the church from Origen onwards, so I don’t think he is going against 2000 years of church doctrine, just some of it.

  2. It will come as a shock to absolutely no one that I am ridiculously excited to read this book. I hadn’t been following all the hubbub about it and had no idea what a big deal it had become. It seems about right though. Heaven forbid someone ever question anything. Or that people become informed of all of the facts before they tar and feather someone. Thanks for this post, Drew.

  3. @Ian, sure universalism has been a part of Christianity since Origen but since Origen most have determined universalism to be contradictory to the Bible and thus unorthodox. I should have been more clear. Anyway, my main point was that we are all crazy and don’t know how to talk to each other.

    @Kiel–you are welcome, just wanted to bring a little reason to the maddness. I will be interested to see firsthand how Bell handles life’s biggest questions.

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