Posts Tagged ‘universalism’

An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, 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.

This product description, probably provided by Rob Bell’s publisher, has started a Tunisia reaction on Twitter and in the evangelical Christian world.

Until Bell’s book is out and his own remarks can be viewed in context, I’m not too interested in jumping into that fray.  What concerns me more is how many Christians seem to hold to principles of universalism or act according to such principles without any awareness of their own misunderstandings whatsoever.

If Rob Bell comes out definitively for universal salvation, then he is only another reflection of the times we live in. Rarely, if ever, does one hear any of the following words in Christian assemblies:  Hell, Satan, Devil, eternal punishment, the Lost.

Even in Bible-believing churches we have sugar-coated these words, preferring to speak of evil, separation, seekers, unchurched—if we reference such things at all.

I can understand a rationale for controlling the offensiveness of our public conversation, but is it possible that by removing these words from our common vocabulary that we have been naïvely, but dangerously covering up the horrible truths that those words represent.

You’ve probably heard of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon called Sinners In the Hands of An Angry God. Look at the points he made:

  1. God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
  2. The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
  3. The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God’s condemnation to Hell.
  4. The Wicked, on earth – at this very moment – suffer the torments of Hell. The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not – at this very moment – as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who – at this very moment – do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
  5. At any moment God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
  6. If it were not for God’s restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
  7. Simply because there are not visible means of death before them, at any given moment, the Wicked should not, therefore, feel secure.
  8. Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God’s wrath.
  9. All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell’s pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
  10. God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.—from  Wikipedia

I find myself shocked at the unmitigated declarations of these contentions! Not a word of mercy! Not a gracious note!  But after you get over the shock of reading such inflammatory rhetoric, ask yourself which of these ten principles is not true!

Probably either you agree in principle with all ten—or you are so reviled by them that you didn’t even finish reading the list. If you are a Christian and were reviled, then I have to pose these questions for you to think about?

1.            Do we now believe that people cannot be lost? We have spent a great deal of energy convincing a generation that grew up with hell-raising sermons that they can be saved by God’s grace. Have we, however, failed to preach the full gospel that also says, “ . . . and he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

2.            Do we still believe in guilt which is the God-given consequence of sin? Jesus did say, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).

3.            Do we truly believe that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6)?

4.            Do we believe that people are either slaves to sin or slaves to God (Romans 6) and that there is no other alternative?

5.            Do we really believe in sin? And do we believe that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)?

Even as I write these things, I’m tempted to just hit Delete and not pursue this—it is particularly disturbing—even painful.  But perhaps it should be more disturbing to me that I do not shudder when reminded of the wrath of God or that I  feel no visceral relief that I have been saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).

If we believe there is no sin, no guilt, no hell, then will we ever cry over Jerusalem as Jesus did? Will we go to our cross? Will we completely surrender?

We dare not anesthetize our theology nor our language, but especially not our hearts, against the evil of sin, nor the pain of guilt, nor the darkness of hell, lest we find ourselves in a place where we no longer fear the Lord!


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