Tag Archives: Rob Bell

But God

(continued from previous post)

Looking back at Romans 5:8-10, how does it say that God shows His love for us? “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus’ death displays God’s love because as sinners we don’t deserve to have someone die for us. Paul makes this point clear by contrasting it with examples of people whom men are willing to die for. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” Rom. 5:7. Paul is pointing out that very few people would be willing to die for the sake of a truly righteous God-honoring man and that almost no one would be willing to die for your good and decent average Joe.

“but God”. Oh, aren’t those beautiful words. But God. God wasn’t just willing to die for the righteous or even for the merely good, God’s love is so great that He was willing to die for even the ungodly sinner. Paul puts an exclamation point on this idea when he states that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God”

While. We. Were. Enemies.

Our unredeemed, unrepentant, unreconciled state is out and out rebellion to God. In the U.S., just planning to assassinate the President is potentially a capital offense. What then can we say about our rebellion to God. God, who knit us together in our mother’s womb. God, who has given us every good thing that we have ever enjoyed. The penalty for treason against the Sovereign of the Universe is death. Scripture is clear, “the wages of sin is death”.

And we should expect nothing less from One who is just, fair and good. It is His justice that demands lawlessness be punished. It is His fairness that demands wrongs be righted. It is His goodness that demands evil be banished. When Bell asks “How could that God ever be good?”, he doesn’t seem to realize that it is because He is good that He opposes evil and, were it not for Jesus’ death, would pour out His wrath on us… because we are evil. “None is righteous, no, not one” Rom. 3:10, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming” Col. 3:6.

Bell seems to confuse goodness with permissiveness.

And to Bell’s second question “How could this ever be good news”, well I don’t know about you but I find the news that I am forgiven for a debt that I could never pay to be very good news. To be freed from a penalty that I rightly deserved and to be reconciled to a merciful Creator whom I had offended is wonderful news.

So, why doesn’t Bell seem to think that being saved from the wrath of God is good news? It seems to me that with Bell “what gets subtly sort of caught and taught” in his preaching and videos and books is that sin is just not that big a deal to God. Bell doesn’t seem to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. If sin isn’t a big deal, if it isn’t exceedingly sinful, if it isn’t turning our backs on the One Being in all the universe who we have more reason than any other to love, then Hell does seem like a truly unjust punishment. The world’s most outrageous overreaction.

Bell can only question God’s goodness and His justice if he diminishes sin, but when we diminish our view of the true wickedness of sin then by necessity our view of God’s holiness is also diminished. We start to imagine ourselves to be pretty good, that is to say, pretty close to God’s own goodness.

But diminishing the seriousness of sin does something else too, it diminishes the greatness of grace. Only when we stare across the gapingly wide chasm that exists between our righteousness and God’s, do we begin to get a sense for just how far God had to go to redeem us. Every inch of separation that our sin brings between us and God is an inch that grace has to cover. Every step that we take with our backs to God is a step that grace has to redeem. And this distance, this chasm, is filled from one end to the other with the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

The victory is the greatest when the odds are most difficult to overcome. The extent to which we deserve Hell demonstrates the extent to which Jesus’ death reveals God’s love and grace. Reduce one and you reduce the other.

I don’t know about Bell but I am very thankful to be rescued from the wrath of God that would be justly poured out on me were it not for the cross of Christ. And I do find this to be good news. Very good news.

I welcome any comments, questions, or concerns.

The Wrath of Who?

Not long ago Rob Bell released a video (here) promoting his newest book, Love Wins (reviews here and here). The video caused quite a controversy because, while Rob Bell had been, up to this point, considered a pastor within the evangelical movement, in the video he seemed to be promoting universalism. For those of you not familiar with the term, universalism is a teaching that takes several different forms but, at its core, holds that everyone (or almost everyone) will eventually be saved. That means Hitler and Nero and Stalin and Vlad Dracula and a host of other desperately wicked men could all eventually be in Heaven, even if they died in an unrepentant state.

Now, Rob Bell denies that he is a universalist. I would humbly submit that Bell find someone to explain to him what universalism is. For my part, I wasn’t at all surprised by the video. For years I’ve thought he was a closet universalist. But none of that is what I really wanted to address in this post.

This morning I was thinking about something Bell says at one point in the video, “What gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God… How could that God ever be good? How can that ever be good news?” In all the controversy swirling around whether or not Bell is a universalist, I haven’t heard anyone address this particular argument being made by Bell. Here Bell is questioning the nature of the Good News, of the Gospel, and the very goodness of God. Is he saying that the Gospel, as it is commonly taught, is actually bad news and that the God presented in that Gospel is not good? Those are strong charges.

Is he right? How shall we answer? How do we know what the Gospel is? Bell himself professes to teach what the Bible teaches, so what does the Bible say? There are a number of different passages that we could look to but I think that Romans 5:8-10 deals most directly with a number of the concerns that Bell raises.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Bell disapproves of the idea that “Jesus rescues you from God” but what does this passage say? Whose wrath is it that we are saved from? Does it not state very clearly it is the wrath of God from which we are saved? If it is indeed true that “Jesus rescues you from God”, that is, from His wrath, then how are we to answer Bell’s questions about the goodness of God and the goodness of the Gospel? Does the fact that we are saved from God’s wrath mean that God isn’t good or that the Gospel is not good news?

To be continued…