The current issue of Time magazine, published during the most holy week of the Christian calendar, features a startling cover that asks the piercing question: “What if there’s no hell?” The cover story outlines the controversy over the new book by mega-pastor Rob Bell, Love Wins.
Bell suggests that Christ’s redemptive work will eventually see the salvation of all men, hence the implication of the title that the love of God will overcome His wrath against sin. This is a humanly appealing thesis that appears every so often throughout history. Bell has written a new book, but in reality he has simply repackaged the age-old heresy of universalism for 21st century readers.
I write this brief essay on Good Friday afternoon, the annual commemoration of Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Among the difficulties with Bell’s thesis is that his words undermine the reliability and consistency of the Christian faith. Like so many spiritual termites, his ideas destroy the integrity of an orthodox understanding of Scripture so that it eventually crashes under its own weight into a heap of insignificance.
How can there be any eternal merit in the death of one that proclaimed blatant falsehoods—even if they were uttered for an admirable purpose? For Jesus Himself repeatedly spoke of a place for the unrepentant “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:42-48).
It was Jesus who spoke of the Final Judgment when all men will be divided into two groups, those who will enjoy the blessings of eternal life and those who will “go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
No, one cannot properly call himself a Christian when he denies these plain words of Christ Himself. It is intensely difficult to contemplate the reality of a sentence of unending torment and suffering. But Scripture unambiguously proclaims this frightening reality. No amount of wishful thinking can change the plain sense of the inspired text.
To subscribe to the reality postulated by Pastor Bell is to confess that there is no such thing as Scriptural authority. Instead, our faith – and our God – become whatever we choose to make them. Bell is thus guilty of proclaiming a gospel, not the gospel of Christ but the gospel of post-modern relativism. Whatever seems right to each person becomes the truth for him.
May God enable us to defend the deposit of truth that has been entrusted to us by the Apostles (2 Timothy 1:13). The proliferation of repackaged heresies requires a renewed effort at exterminating the termites of theological compromise.