Rob Bell, you don’t WANT “fair”… trust me

In a recent interview with Sally Quin of the “Washington Post” – Rob Bell, the Minnesota Mega-Pastor who is now infamous for his book, “Love Wins” said the following…

“If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

As winsome and appealing as Rob is personally, and as reasonable as this type arguments sounds on a human level, Rob is failing to grasp a key scriptural teaching about the nature of man as it relates to the nature of God.  His human-perspective (instead of a scriptural perspective) appears to be what is causing him to veer off course…  Let me state the conclusion very clearly, and then we’ll unpack it..

NOBODY GOES TO HELL FOR NOT BELIEVING IN A JESUS THEY NEVER HEARD OF.  PEOPLE GO TO HELL BECAUSE THEY ARE SINNERS (Romans 1:18).

Rob Bell and many others make the mistake of  judging God by their human-sized perspective of what is “fair.”  They think that it is not “fair” that people who never heard of Jesus, and therefore did not have the opportunity to put their faith in him, wind up in hell.  But that’s a misunderstanding of how God sees the concept of  “fair” (and HIS is the perspective that matters).

If you want to talk about what “fair” is – here’s a quick synopsis for you… From God’s standpoint “fair” means that every single human being who has ever been born goes to hell, no questions asked.  Why?  Because we are sinners and He is holy. We have no right, no merit, no reason that can or should persuade such a holy, unfathomably righteous God to give us a place in His heaven.  That fact reveals to us just how fallen we really are (contrary to what the cult of self-esteem has been preaching to us for years), AND just how unfathomably pure God is.  Our condition compared to His makes the conclusion crystal clear…  God is not obligated to save any of us.  In fact, just the opposite is true were it not for His love that motivated His grace…

That leads us to another way to come at this is this:  It is by grace that anybody is saved… that means God (the Giver of the grace) gets to give His grace to whoever He wants (Romans 9:14-16).  That’s the very NATURE of what grace is…  You can’t demand grace.  Well, I guess you can but the one giving the grace has no obligation to concede to your demand.  If they did, it wouldn’t be grace anymore…

In the end Rob Bell, you don’t want “fair” – neither do I.  You want grace… Without it, we are all hell-bound.

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2 thoughts on “Rob Bell, you don’t WANT “fair”… trust me

  1. Hello,

    It may seem unfair to give someone chance after chance to Get It Right. But like you say, that’s what grace is. The thing is, God has made his grace available to all people, so that means God has chosen all people to receive his grace. The problem is not ‘To whom will God give his grace?’, it’s actually, ‘Who wants to receive it?’

    Our sinful condition makes it very hard to accept God’s grace, but that grace is available to all, because God has chosen to give it to all people. A life of sin is harder to live than a life of faith. This can be tricky to understand because we’re accustomed to thinking that sin is easier than faith. The reason sin seems easier is because we’re trained to do it from an early age by the culture and people around us, and by the time we learn about faith, to make the change is hard: that is, it’s hard to unlearn bad behavior in favor of something new. But once we’re transformed by faith, we find that it’s a much easier way to do life than by sin.

    Consider this for just a moment (it’s gonna sound pretty weird at first): God shouldn’t have created us to carry out his plans for creation if he knew we’d just screw everything up – that’s why in a certain sense he is obligated to exhaust every means of his power to offer us all that we need to carry out his will. But what I’m trying to say is, God didn’t build humanity upon something ‘fair’ – he built it upon his promise of love and grace. God from the very beginning made a promise to love us, a promise to pursue us, each and every last little sheep of his, all within the bounds of respecting our free will.

    That’s why I believe he will continue to pursue us with his love eternally, no matter the distance, because by his nature, that is, by his promise of grace and love to us, he has declared that he will love and forgive us over and over again, making his grace accessible for an eternity, if need be, and that this is so because it’s in order to bring himself glory. And again it’s totally unfair that God would give us chance after chance to get it right for all eternity; but in another sense, it would be totally unfair if God made us a promise of grace and tell us to forgive endlessly our enemies if he was unwilling to do it himself.

    Nothing can separate us from the love of God – that is, nothing can cut us off from it irrevocably – God’s love is eternally present everywhere, this side and the other side of the grave, and even our hardened hearts cannot eliminate the power of God’s love to reshape our will.

    And the essence of love is free-will, there’s just no getting around it. Why would a loving God go through all the trouble to give us free-will in the first place – that is, why would he allow us to have free will if he knew we’d just end up causing so much grief and pain – if he’s just going to take it away once we’re in Heaven? I mean, isn’t Heaven supposed to be the fullness of God’s love? Look at it like this: is Heaven really going to be a place where everyone does the right thing because they can’t choose otherwise? That everyone’s just going to love Heaven so much they can’t help but do the right thing and so they won’t miss free will? That we’ll basically be just a bunch of robots who can’t choose to reject all the goodness? If that’s the case, why didn’t he just create us like that from the get-go?

    See, my point is, Heaven, once we’re there, is something we’ll have to maintain through conscious choice and awareness, by full reliance on God, just like faith is now; it’s not something we will be maintaining as if on autopilot! And so if Heaven’s like that, then Hell ought to be the same: Hell will have to be a conscious refusal to submit to God’s love, just like it is now, and it will have all the same terrible consequences and increases in pain and torment, just like there are now (keeping in mind the current suffering in the world, imagine what continually refusing God’s love for a potential eternity would be like!!); and so if that love is something we have to will to refuse, then that means we are freely choosing it – God’s not forcing us to do anything! – and so we ought to have the freedom to turn from our ways, no matter how unlikely it seems that so hard a heart can choose to submit to God’s love. But if we have faith in God’s love…

    So anyway, yes, according to human understanding, it’s completely unfair to give people chance after chance; but even in human terms, if I promised to forgive you over and over, it would be unjust of me to go back on that promise.

    And that is the promise God has grounded humanity upon.

    • Joshua, thanks for chiming in on the conversation…

      I appreciate your thoughts – they seem to echo those of Rob Bell in many respects. It’s not that I don’t “get” your points, I just don’t see them as being Biblical. Without any desire to go back and forth, but also since it’s my blog, I’d like to list the places I differ with you (and that I believe the Bible differs)…

      1) There is a mysterious aspect of God’s “electing grace” – mysterious in the respect that we’ll never fully get it. Though God says He does not desire that any perish (2 Peter 3:9), there is still the very Biblical, and wide-spread teaching in the scriptures that not all people will be redeemed. In fact, He indeed HAS NOT chosen everyone to receive His grace (Matthew 22:14, Colossians 3:12, Revelation 17:14, all of Romans chapter 9). Your statement to that effect simply isn’t true.

      2) Your statements that begin with “God shouldn’t have…” or include the idea “He is obligated…” are pressing the boundary of appropriateness… for any creature to tell the Creator what He should do, or what He should have done, echoes the problem Job had in the book that bears his name… and it scares me for your sake.

      3) Your statement that “from the very beginning he made a promise of love to us,” is another statement that sounds good, but simply is not true. Go back to the beginning, to Genesis, and find a text that supports that. You won’t be able to. God did not create us for Him to love (though He does love us), He created us for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7). Any love or mercy He shows to us, He does for His own name’s sake, ultimately resulting in His further glory (Isaiah 48:9-11).

      4) You concept of “free will” is simply not Biblical. I won’t deny that we have a will, but it is within the limits of who we are – sinners, depraved and corrupt. Within that definition we are able to make choices, but the choice to seek after God is not ours because it is outside our ability. Only by His grace do any of us even seek Him, and that grace is not given to all people. Search the scriptures (not your own logic) and you won’t find the idea of “free” will anywhere… it simply isn’t there.

      5) Your arguments that are “Why didn’t God…” or “Wouldn’t He have…” are all based on human reasoning, not on divine revelation. Go to the scriptures for your answers my friend, not your own intellect. His ways are higher than yours, and therefore better and “righter.” (Isaiah 55:8)

      6) I noticed, quite painfully, that you’ve used no scripture in your argumentation… which is the problem with your position overall. It is all based on human definitions, not God’s. You are judging God by your own definition of love, not His. God is love… NOT love is God. There’s a reason John said it the way He did. God defines love, we don’t define Him by our definition of love. To do so is to come up with the perversions of His character that you have…

      7) You are so focused on God’s love being limitless that you are forgetting that God is infinite in whatever He is – that includes justice, holiness, righteousness, and many other qualities. It’s not as simple as you are making it out to be… because God is truly God-sized!

      My prayers are with you… that the light of the Father’s true character will illuminate your heart. Heresies always distort or misrepresent the true nature and character of God (which admittedly, is a very human thing to do), and you are crossing into that realm, my friend. The scriptures have to be the foundation, so I urge you to turn away from your human reasoning and by faith accept Who God says He is. You won’t understand it all… you can’t. Neither can I. That’s one of the many reasons why HE is God and we are not.

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