Russell and Duenes

Rob Bell’s Video Promoting His Book on Heaven and Hell

with 10 comments

Pastor Rob Bell has a book out this month on heaven and hell. I’ll make no comments about it at this point because, well, it’s not out yet (although the arrival of this book, and what it might say, is already burning up the blogosphere.). But here’s a video he did in advance of his book’s release. I don’t want to write a long post about it, but suffice it to say, Bell is certainly playing some of his theological cards in this video, and his cards ain’t lookin’ good, biblically speaking. One question he doesn’t ask is: Upon what ultimate and final authority will we answer the questions you are posing?


Written by Michael Duenes

March 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

10 Responses

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  1. I like it.

    Regarding your Facebook comment about wrath, I know someone with a compelling perspective on that grounded in scripture. (Disc 4)

    I also recommend the 3 recorded talks at the bottom of that page, if you find the first one intriguing enough.


    March 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm

  2. it’d be interesting to see whether Love Wins turns out to be an assertive rejection of the “Wrath of God” language or just a confession of ignorance about the ultimate fate of others outside of himself. in either case, i can see him arguing from a biblical perspective. but it remains just that, a mere perspective.


    March 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm

  3. D-

    I like it better when you make your point without sarcasm.



    Did I miss your interpretation of Gen 1 and 2?


    March 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    • Thanks B. I will try to refrain from sarcasm in the future, although I consider it to be a virtuous means of communication at times, and I take my cue on that from Elijah, who when taunting the prophets of Baal used sarcasm: At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

      But I had a serious point to make, and so I should not have used sarcasm. Although I believe I’ve made my point about false dichotomies countless times before, but it doesn’t seem to reach some people, no matter how many times I discuss it.

      No, you’ve not missed by interpretation of Gen 1 and 2, but I’ve been diverted by certain other topics, as you can see. I have had it in my conscious mind, however, and plan to come back to the topic here shortly. Thanks for the reminder.


      russell and duenes

      March 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm

  4. I don’t get it… I suggested a link to a recorded talk that faces it head-on and deals squarely with scripture. Did you listen or only read the title? I have no problem if you don’t feel you have the time to listen. I posted the link because I listened to it and it profoundly influenced my own view on God’s wrath — without absolving the tension. I was interested in your views, if you had the time to listen. I appreciate your views when you’re honesty reflecting. When you throw out the phrase “false dichotomies” it does start to get old. Once I said that I actually feel bad for you being stuck in literalism. However, I don’t discount what you say by simply saying things like: There you are being crippled by blind literalism again.” Dichotomies are a tool. We can talk about dichotomies and explore them while realizing the real world is rarely just one or the other, and sometimes wrestling may reveal that the thing that troubles is resolved — for instance, by understanding God’s wrath and the object of wrath in a different way. Of course, whether that different way is true to scripture matters.


    March 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    • Thanks, Andy. Forgive my sarcasm. Bates is right, I shouldn’t have used it. And I will not use it with you again.

      Honestly, I listened to about 25 minutes of it and then couldn’t take it anymore. I just couldn’t take what I believe is his dishonesty with Scripture. But now I’ve listened to the whole thing.

      Right out of the box, he sets up a false tension between the OT and the NT, the cross as punishment and the cross as cure. He tries to say that the OT talks about punishment, but that the NT doesn’t. He says that from our perspective, the OT looks like it’s talking about a God of punishment and vengeance, but if we read the OT through the NT lense, then we won’t see God this way. Now I don’t care what you call this. If you don’t want to call it a false dichotomy, that’s fine. But it’s not true. BOTH testaments talk about God as a holy and vengeful God, about the cross as BOTH divine punishment and divine cure, about God as a God of wrath and God as a God of love. He clearly says that a person who believes this, as I do, is “religious,” and that I have to “try really hard” to make God a God of wrath.

      Then he says that everything in the OT is written through a “grid of shame.” That’s not true. I don’t even know what it means. Shame is not the only, nor the biggest problem people have in the Bible, sin is. Shame is part of it, but when one makes sin and shame synonymous, as this gentleman seems to, then he is simply incorrect. Adam and Eve were ashamed because they rebelled. Rebellion was their core problem, not shame. Shame was the result.

      He uses Paul as an example of someone who deserved to be “whacked by God,” but received love and mercy instead. Good. I agree with that. But he is trying to imply by this that God is not the “whacking” type. That’s the false part. I would like to know why he didn’t ALSO preach on the passage from Acts where Annanias and Saphira are struck dead merely for lying about money. You don’t have to call that “whacking” if you don’t want, but it certainly isn’t what Paul got. The NT, not just the OT, is where it says, “Vengeance is mine and I will repay,” and “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and “Whoever rejects the son will not see life but the wrath of God remains on him.”

      He claims that 2 Cor 5, “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them,” is talking about all people: unbelievers and believers. In a certain sense, yes it is. But it certainly is NOT talking about reconciliation and forgiveness of sins in the sense that all people everywhere will experience these things. They won’t. God indeed loves everybody, and yet some people will never be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God.

      I’ve never said, “God’s counting.” He’s not. I trust in Christ and my sins are totally and utterly wiped away, as far as the east is from the west. I believe this, and I believe God is a God of punishment. Lots of other people do too. But he seems to imply that this is “religion.” But why?

      He clearly belittles “justice” and “advocate” language, in order to convey only reconciliation language. This is not allowing the tension to stand. It’s getting rid of the tension, unbiblically.

      I agree with YOU, that “the real world is rarely just one or the other.” That’s what I’ve been saying. But Wayne is not saying this. He’s saying it’s all one way. No justice, only reconciliation. No justice, just cure.

      He defines wrath as “The full weight of God’s being brought against that which destroys the object of his affection.” He says that “Part of God’s loving affection is called wrath.” But just what is God loving in the finally unrepentant sinner who, according to Revelation, experiences the 2nd death and is thrown with the devil into the lake of fire? Is God showing his affection for them at this point? If he is, doesn’t this stretch the word “affection” beyond all bounds? I suggest that when we say, “God is love,” we must take pains to define this love. What is it based upon? What are it’s ends? Is it consistent with final punishment in hell? But he’s not wrestling with this. What is “the full weight of God’s being?” That’s a vague phrase. What does it mean? From what Scriptures does it come?

      His example of what “wrath” is has a certain appeal to it, but God’s wrath, in the Scriptures, is not just toward some amorphous “sin”, but against sinners. It’s sinners who have rebelled against him and belittled him and disregarded him and rejected him. We humans are the ones who are under God’s curse, in need of rescue. The chief object of God’s affection is God, and we have made ourselves enemies of God by our sins. This is what God forgives and removes at the cross. I don’t find him to be honest. He misquotes Romans 1:18, saying that the NT says, “the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness.” Actually, it says that the wrath of God “is revealed against all the unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in their wickedness.” “Unrighteousness” is not some thing that just hangs out there to be dealt with. PEOPLE are unrighteous. He talks in vague terms. He says God’s wrath will take this “corrupted AGE” and “turn it into a new heaven and new earth.” Now maybe you can go along with this kind of language, but I just want to know what it means when it comes to PEOPLE. Does this mean all “people” will be redeemed and brought into the new heaven and new earth, or will some not be? Why not say it unequivocally if that’s what you mean, Wayne? But no, we get this broad stuff, which creates ambiguity, not clarity. And ambiguity helps no one in the end. By saying the God’s wrath is like chemotherapy, that it brings healing, he implies that God’s wrath is never something that issues in ultimate, unending punishment of anyone. If he means this, say it straight out. I suspect he means it, but wants to avoid saying it clearly. Why? He says “God’s wrath in Revelation is the wrath that will consume THIS AGE.” That’s impersonal. Does that mean God’s wrath will consume the sinners who make this present evil age (Gal.1:4) what it is? Then say so? Stop hiding behind impersonal references to “this age” in order to soften God’s wrath. It’s dishonest, Andy, and I don’t like it. Give me the truth unvarnished. Tell me what, Wayne, the full implications of what you’re saying, and then we can talk about it. Don’t hide. God DID need Jesus to die on the cross to love me everlastingly, for I was his enemy. God also needed, as Wayne says, Jesus to die on the cross to heal me and bring me into relationship with him. BOTH! I agree that there’s no condemnation for those who are “in Christ.” He says this. But for those who are not “in Christ,” there will still be wrath, as Romans 2 clearly says. But he never talks about that passage.

      Look, Andy. I could keep going on and on, but I don’t want to. And I don’t think you want me to. I agree with all of the positive things he’s saying about the cross, and I’m glad he affirms them. I mean that. I don’t agree with his whole approach, but I certainly believe that Jesus’ death brought me into relationship with the Father, that Jesus’ death removes all my condemnation, and that I bear my sin no more. I will enjoy God in His kingdom forever because of Jesus’ death. These are glorious truths. The stuff he said at the end is the best, but I don’t know any Christians who would disagree. All Christians I know believe that Jesus comes to us to cleanse us of sin and transform us so that we are free and cleansed. But I believe all this WHILE ALSO believing that Jesus absorbed the wrath of God and that some sinners will never be forgiven and will remain under God’s wrath forever. Because that’s what the Bible teaches.

      You may say I have a closed mind, but I don’t believe that’s true. I just think this guy is being dishonest about the Scriptures. He’s being like Mrs. Seifert (Dan’s wife) when she came to UCLA to tell us why the Bible isn’t sexist, and then she only talked about Genesis 1, Proverbs, Galatians 3:28 and Jesus’ teaching. She failed to mention 1 Cor. 11, 1 Cor. 14, Eph. 5, 1 Peter 3, 1 Tim. 2, as though somehow these passages had nothing to say about it. It was fundamentally dishonest, and one of the non-Christians there knew it.

      The conversation I keep wanting to have with you is about, as Douglas Wilson say, “God’s fastball, high and inside.” What does that mean? It means taking ALL of what God says in the Scripture and believing it all: the pleasant and the unpleasant parts, the easy parts and the tough parts. I don’t say we have to fit them all together into a nice, neat package. I just say we have to believe them and let the chips fall where they may. But you and I have discussed this before, and at root, you hold parts of the Bible to be in error. You pit the Holy Spirit against the Holy Scriptures, as though one could be saying something different or contradictory with the other. If I’m misrepresenting you, please tell me. That’s the conversation I want to have.


      russell and duenes

      March 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

  5. D-

    You make a good case. I wasn’t aware of those NT references to wrath, and I generally agree with you. It seems like the current American Christian culture wants to focus on God’s grace, love, and inclusion, and avoid talking about His wrath, judgement, and exclusion.

    I sort of understand why. Most people do not respond well to threats.

    A note of possible disagreement with you, however. Don’t you think the overall tone of the OT is more focused on wrath and judgement, and the overall tone of the NT is more focused on love and forgiveness? Jesus didn’t strike fear in the hearts of those he came into contact with, but the OT constantly talks about people fearing God, and not in a negative way. “Eye for and eye” vs. “turn the other cheek”, “stone the adulterer” vs. “let him who has no sin cast the first stone” etc?



    March 7, 2011 at 9:59 am

    • Bates,

      I agree that people today want to avoid any “wrath” talk, but Jesus certainly engaged in a lot of it. He often talked about people being “thrown into outer darkeness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is the one who said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off…for it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” He also said, “Anyone who says to his brother, “You fool,” shall be in danger of the hell of fire.” Jesus is the one who told the Pharisees, “How will you escape going to hell?” Jesus tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” and “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” and “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age,” and “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” More examples could be added. So it appears that Jesus did believe in motivating people with hell and eternal punishment. A careful reading of the gospels shows that Jesus employed threats as often, if not more so, than reassurances of love and forgiveness.

      The same could be said of Paul and the other epistle writers. It’s a constant refrain. Indeed, the OT talks more about God’s wrath in a temporal sense, but the NT heightens the threats, turning them into threats of eternal punishment. How can one read the book of Revelation and not be sobered by this? So, while I agree that the tone of the NT is one that encourages people to trust in the goodness of God, it is also a place where God’s threats are severe (read Hebrews). People DO respond well to threats when the threats are real and the need for salvation is clearly perceived.


      russell and duenes

      March 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  6. Mike,

    I appreciate your long response and the time you took to listen and carefully think through what you wrote. Thanks.

    I don’t want to do the same, not now. Someday, as you say, we’ll have to have a long conversation.

    I read what you wrote carefully, and it’s food for more thought. I just want to say a couple things.

    1. I’ve heard Wayne say many times that he believes in hell due to the overwhelming references to hell in scripture. He adds that he doesn’t know how God will finally determine who goes to hell (who will go, to what additional lengths God might go, etc.). I know that’s ambiguous; it leaves room for God differently that what scripture seems to say. I know you won’t like that, but it relates to #2 below.

    2. I do believe that scripture is authored by people inspired by God, which is different that saying it’s literally inspired by God. I like the option of a process of revelation: that God revealed more of himself over time, so what was known of God in Judges, for example, was less informed than in Isaiah, and so on. I think the New Testament writers were closest to God’s perfect revelation — Jesus — and wrote about Christ with inspiration from the Holy Spirit. I don’t hold scripture to be in “error” when the human authors don’t perceive things the same way, but if by error free you mean scripture must always be free from contradictions and a process of revelation, then I disagree. I don’t want to claim that I know Wayne’s position, but I know for sure he believes in the ongoing process of revelation throughout scripture, and I think he would generally agree with what I wrote above. That may help explain what you perceive as his dishonesty. He, oddly as it may be, loves scripture very much but reads it less literally (more as emerging from a process).

    I know much of this will rub you the wrong way, and I’m not trying to convince you of my position. Someday maybe I’ll write my own views out more clearly, maybe more convincingly, and let you have at it.


    March 7, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    • None of what you said “rubs me the wrong way,” Andy. I’ll say more, but we all have to decide where our ultimate authority will reside, and mine resides in the revelation of God in Christ through the Scriptures. If God has been silent about a matter in the Scriptures, then I take an agnostic view about such matters. Where I believe he has spoken in the Scriptures, either implicitly or explicitly, then I have stronger convictions. I believe that God’s revelation is progressive, but believing that, I see both God’s love and God’s wrath take on a heightened form in the NT. Jesus is the foremost preacher of hellfire and damnation, as Doug Wilson says, and that needs to be firmly acknowledged, no matter what else we say about these matters.


      russell and duenes

      March 8, 2011 at 10:30 pm

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