Friday, March 18, 2011

Is Bell a universalist?

Rob Bell's church has issued a public clarification:

Ironically, the statement unwittingly confirms that Bell is a universalist in the very process of denying that Bell is a universalist.

                                LOVE WINS FAQS
[Frequently Asked Questions]
We hope this FAQ helps you interact with the book, Love Wins. For information on Mars Hill’s beliefs, see our Narrative Theology at
Does Love Wins affirm that Jesus is the only way by which we are saved?
Yes. Love Wins is clear, our only hope for reconciliation with God is found in Jesus alone because of all he accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Rob shares in Love Wins his belief that the only way to God is through Jesus by quoting and affirming Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [pg. 154]. Mars Hill affirms that Jesus is the only way to inherit salvation, how exactly that happens, however, is a matter of mystery that we do not claim to have all the answers to. As Rob says after quoting Jesus, “What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him” [pg. 154].

But so-called evangelical universalism says the same thing. Everyone is saved through the atonement of Christ.

What does Love Wins say about heaven and hell?
Love Wins recognizes heaven and hell to be realities all around us. We see hell everyday through the atrocities of war, famine, human trafficking, broken relationships, and abuse. We also see heaven all around us through acts of love, kindness, and compassion. 
There is also the reality of heaven and hell in the future. Our ultimate future hope is a restored creation under Christ where God will dwell with us forever on a restored heaven and earth [Rev 21-22]. There are many who accept the invitation of the life of heaven and many who reject the invitation. Those who reject the invitation experience a purifying “fire” of judgment in hell, yet there is hope. We live in the hope that the redemptive work of Christ is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Love Wins helps us have a biblical imagination that leaves room for the hope of the redemption of all while recognizing humanities free will to continue to reject God.

That is universalism. Hopeful universalism. There is a hell–a purgatorial hell. Hell is remedial punishment. And the possibility of postmortem restoration remains a live option. 

Does Love Wins promote Universalism?
No. Rob isn’t suggesting Universalism [all will be saved, regardless of their faith]. He is proposing that God’s love is so big that the invitation to God’s grace may extend into the next life so that all could be saved. Love Wins clearly points to the centrality of Jesus and the work of his life, death, and resurrection and the hope that Christ’s work will bring restoration to all. Jesus is the only way to God.  God’s love does not force anyone and there may be those who continue to reject the invitation extended to them. Love Wins speaks often speaks of human freedom [72-73, 103-104, 113, 115, 117]. Rob shares, “Love demands freedom. It always has, and it always will. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.” [113]
That's consistent with so-called evangelical universalism and hopeful universalism. According to evangelicalism, people are saved through the atonement of Christ. Moreover, they are saved through faith in Christ. However, that may be postmortem faith in Christ.

Likewise, hopeful universalism doesn't insist that everyone will be saved in the end. Rather, God must always leave the door open.

What matters in hopeful universalism is not that God actually saves everyone, but that the damned are never abandoned by God. God never gives up on them.

There's always the possibility of final restoration. And, conversely, there's always the possibility that some will remain irreconcilables.


  1. I think Bell also demonstrates the folly of what happens when you take Arminianism too far. His universalism seems to stem from two false presuppositions that Arminians have a danger of tending toward: 1) Love is the primary (sometimes, only) attribute of God; and 2) man's freedom is the thing that makes man, man.

  2. "I think Bell also demonstrates the folly of what happens when you take Arminianism too far."

    I think another folly of Arminianism when taken to its logical conclusion is Open Theism.

  3. In my estimation Bell just goes beyond the doctrine of Christ:

    2Jn 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
    2Jn 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
    2Jn 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
    2Jn 1:11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.


    Heb 3:12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
    Heb 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
    Heb 3:14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

    Knowing very very little of this man, taking admonition from those citations, it is clear from what I do know of Bell, and sense, he has left the confines of the doctrine of Christ all True Elect Believers are to remain within, [2 John 9}; and, what he seems to me he is venturing into now with this book Love Wins weakens whatever hold he himself did have on original confidence, [Heb. 3:14].

    But again, Election is predetermined and foreordained so we can confidently assert of us, the Elect, this:

    Heb 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
    Heb 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
    Heb 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
    Heb 7:28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.


    Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
    Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

    It seems in view of verse Hebrews 8:11 what Bell is doing by teaching through Love Wins to "Know the Lord" he does what God reserves, that revelation, for Himself to do by the Sanctification Work of the Holy Spirit?

    It is the Spirit Who adds daily to True Fellowships around the world "such as are being saved".

    Once the Sanctification Work of the Spirit has begun in an Elect soul, He adds them to a True Fellowship where that soul can then come to experience the "joy" John writes about, here:

    1Jn 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--
    1Jn 1:2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--
    1Jn 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
    1Jn 1:4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.