The Benefit of Rob Bell’s Universalism

I remember when Rob Bell‘s Velvet Elvis came out.  I listened to it on audio in my vehicle and remember the righteous indignation that arose within me when he stated that Christians lose nothing important should we discover that Jesus had an earthly father.  That statement is not only foolish (he would go so far as to admit that), but it turned out to be an early declaration of his apparent lack of interest in anything resembling orthodoxy or historic Christianity.

At the time, there was still a sense (at least among those not wholly-committed to discern the difference) that the emergent stream was just another lane on the emerging church highway, and it’s theology was not a new line of thinking altogether, but a shift of emphasis. Fortunately for anyone with the smallest amount of Biblical awareness, today the blurred lines have become clear and the wolves have removed their sheep’s clothing.

In Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins. – Harper Collins Publishers (emphasis mine)

The emergent pastors have long sought to dull the sharp edges of Jesus and the Bible, and now Bell writes in direct opposition to Jesus’ teachings and the entirety of the Biblical teaching on the subject of hell. (It’s not even a new position for those in his “theological” camp – Brian Mclaren, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones have beaten him to that proverbial punch.)

And in the same manner that removing the virgin birth calls the reliability of Scripture into question, to remove the reality of hell would place us at odds with the words of Christ himself.  One simply cannot hold to a high view of the Bible and agree with Bell.

At the Gospel Coalition Blog, Justin Taylor wrote, “it is better for those teaching false doctrine to put their cards on the table (a la Brian McLaren) rather than remaining studiously ambiguous in terminology.”

We who love and trust Christ actually benefit from the honest (though extremely misguided) admission of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt’s theological positioning and heretical doctrine.

The tragic reality is not only that they have set themselves apart from historical, orthodox Christianity (which would be heart-wrenching enough), but that each of these men have a high, public stage from which to mislead, misguide, and confuse those who do not have the Biblical awareness to see through their teachings.

Brian McLaren, considered the grandfather of the Emergent Village (the liberal organization started and led by those who agree with his Generous Orthodoxy) began questioning what a New Kind of Christian would look like in response to the postmodern shift in our culture. And last year, he released his theological treatise, A New Kind of Christianity, which has been dubbed by many who I respect, An Old Kind of Heresy. At the very least, we now have what McLaren believes – and whatever we call that belief-set, we can be sure that we cannot call it Christianity.

So thank you Rob. Thank you Brian. Thank you Tony. Thank you Doug. While I wish you would take the Scriptures and Christ more seriously, I no longer have to pretend that you are, in fact, “Christian” authors. You don’t even do that any more.


  1. Well, Crud! I really enjoy his Nooma series. Our small group had several wonderful evenings launched by one of those 15 minute video clips! I had thought he always had great insight & left it open for more discussion.
    I didn’t know that he has taken a turn into dis-proving the Bible.
    Sad. Thankfully, I think many secular things can hold truth of God in them. Now, I know Rob Bell is just that – secular.

    1. His Nooma videos are certainly interesting and creative, but they’ve never really probed the depths of Biblical truths. I always found them entertaining, and as you’ve experienced, they’ve led to some good discussions.

      Unfortunately, I would be hesitant to think that he “can hold truth of God.” He simply appears to have no desire to do so.

    1. Is there anything in that video that offers a shred of evidence that Taylor (or that I, for that matter) are incorrect in our discernment of Bell’s position?

  2. Interesting how you guys are all on your high horse…thinking that Rob Bell is the one that is wrong…have you ever thought to question yourself and your own faith…does the Bible really prove those things you say…or are you just reading from a modern lense forgetting that we all have been reading the bible in the wrong light for too many years. So what do you decide to take literally for figuratively in the Bible? We are all selective and all wrong…so why are you casting the first stone?

    1. Helene,

      It takes a significantly larger portion of arrogance to say that the bulk of respected theologians and pastors throughout the past two thousand years are wrong, than it does to hold fast to Biblical inerrancy and two millenia of orthodoxy.

      I would hardly state that I (or John Piper, or Justin Taylor) are casting the proverbial first stone anyway. Bell’s statements in the video, and in the upcoming book, aren’t even the first stone.

      In this instance, Bell, like the serpent in the garden, is simply asking the question, “Did God really say…?” And when that question is posed, we have a responsibility to speak up when the answer is “Yes!”

      1. Amen David. It is understandable that one would desire to sugar coat the gospel. Remove its fangs if you will, but it is often the medicine that tastes most harsh that heals. Jesus was not middle of the road. The statements He made were revolutionary and demanded a response. Either you believe the inerrantcy of the Word and take Jesus at His word as the exclusive savior, or you pick and choose what he says to suit to taste. However the tricky part becomes when to start and when to stop editing the Gospel. Without the God breathed truth of God in His word, whats the point of faith in any of it. It all becomes subjective, and I am afraid of that.
        God bless

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