Love Wins (part 3)

The title of chapter 3 is “Hell”; and as the title states, Rob Bell starts to explain his view of hell. I will probably need to go back and read this chapter again because at best it is vague. This chapter is interesting, but you don’t finish it knowing exactly whatBell believes. I think he believes hell is real, but I am not sure. At times it sounds like he sees hell as an idea, or something we create only here on earth. Again, I am not completely sure, but that is the impression I get.Bell goes into some detail trying to explain that the Hebrew and the Greek words and understanding for “eternal punishment” does not necessarily mean “forever.” Rather, “eternal” could simply refer to a period of time. Something like when I have stood in line for a long time and say, “I stood in line forever” when in reality it wasn’t but a few moments. This leads me to believe that at least part of what Bell believes is that hell (either here or there) is a place people go to learn whatever it is God wants them to learn because of their own hard-heartedness and disobedience. Once they have learned that lesson, they will repent and God will forgive. If I have read Bell correctly here, his idea sounds like a modified form of karma and transmigration (reincarnation), except instead of learning what we need to learn in several lifetimes, we learn what we need to learn in one lifetime and some unknown period of time after death. (Again, I may have misunderstood him here, but that is the problem, I am not sure what he is saying.)

One thing he does say, that I tend to agree with, is that God’s judgment, or wrath is always done for a reason, and that reason is to correct, not simply to punish.

Early in the chapter he discusses sheol, hades, and gehenna, but does so to prove that the Hebrew understanding, and what the Old Testament teaches, is that life and death are two ways of being alive.

 My lack of fully grasping what he is saying could be because he is smarter than me. So, if you have read the book, please help me out.

Here are some quotes from chapter 3:

  • “…the Hebrew commentary on what happens after a person dies isn’t very articulated or defined. Sheol, death, and the grave in the consciousness of the Hebrew writer are all a bit vague and ‘underworldly.’ For whatever reasons, the precise details of who goes where, when, how, with what, and for how long simply aren’t things the Hebrew writers were terribly concerned with” (p. 67).
  • “Some words are strong for a reason. We need those words to be that intense, loaded, complex, and offensive, because they need to reflect the realities they describe. And that’s what we find in Jesus’s teaching about hell—a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experience and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity. Something we are all free to do, anytime, anywhere, with anyone” (pp. 72-73).
  • “Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death” (pp. 78-79). [I really like this quote.]
  • “What we see in Jesus’s story about the rich man and Lazarus is an affirmation that there are all kinds of hells, because there are all kinds of ways to resist and reject all that is good and true and beautiful and human now, in this life, and so we can only assume we can do the same in the next. There are individual hells, and communal, society-wide hells, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously. There is a hell now, and there is a hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously” (p. 79).
  • “Jesus did not use hell to try and compel ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’ to believe in God, so they wouldn’t burn when they die. He talked about hell to very religious people to warn them about the consequences of straying from their God-given calling and identity to show the world God’s love” (p. 82).
  • “This is not to say that hell is not a pointed, urgent warning or that it isn’t intimately connected with what we actually do believe, but simply to point out that Jesus talked about hell to the people who considered themselves ‘in,’ warning them that their hard hearts were putting their ‘in-ness’ at risk, reminding them that whatever ‘chosen-ness’ or ‘election’ meant, whatever special standing they believed they had with God was always, only, ever about their being the kind of transformed, generous, loving people through whom God could show the world that God’s love looks like in flesh and blood” (pp. 82-83).
  • “To summarize, then, we need a loaded, volatile, adequately violent, dramatic, serious word to describe the very real consequences we experience when we reject the good and true and beautiful life that God has for us. We need a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep within our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way. And for that, the word ‘hell’ works quite well. Let’s keep it” (p. 93).
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8 thoughts on “Love Wins (part 3)

  1. I have not read the book, but based on the above quotes, here is my response: What a bunch of philosophical bunk! The problem with many modern expounders of the scripture is they think that after 3,800+ years of OT; 2,000 years of NT; and over 1,200 years of the English Bible, they have a whole new take that scholors have never discovered before. Bell may be a great Christian man, but his teachng would be rejected by Packer, Schofield, Luther, Calvin, Graham, Tozar, and thousands of true Biblical scholors who took the Scripture as it was written and expounded on it. Are we really supposed to believe that he has found some new revelation about heaven and hell that the great church fathers and scholors througout the ages have missed?
    The ultimate punishment of the wicked is an act of God’s perfect justice,equity, and mercy. If there is not a real heaven and hell, the children of God would be obliged to live with the children of the Devil for eternity. Where is the justice, equity and merch in that?

    • Hey Rick,

      I don’t personally agree with most of what Bell has said, but he has not said anything new. He states as much in the first chapter, and having studied a little church history myself, the questions he is asking and the conclusions he is reaching have been asked and reached before. Packer, Schofield, Calvin, Graham, and Tozar would not agree with him, but Luther may have very well believed in some of what Bell is saying, and the Catholic Church (of which many of our church fathers were a part) still believe in purgatory, a place after death where people get another chance.

  2. Sorry, last sentence should read: “Where is the justice, equity and mercy in that?”
    And one final point: the problem in the world today is not a lack of understanding of heaven and hell, it is the acceptance of the Biblical proof of both, living accordingly, and witnessing accordingly.

  3. The Catholic church created a lot of non-Biblical tenets to make people subservient to the Catholic church, rather than to Christ and the Word.They manipulated the Word to fit their purposes, and relied on the uneducated masses to listen to the church rather than Truth. That was the basis of Luther’s revival.
    Purgatory has no sound Biblical basis. It is a falsehood of the Catholic Church designed to keep people relying on indulgances, reciting the mass or rosary, etc. to give the dead another chance.
    If Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for our sins (it is), if we are eternally secure (we are), if our debt is paid in full (it is), and if God accepts us not based on our own righteousness but on Christ’s (He does), then Purgatory has no place in Christianity.

    • Rick,
      You are correct about purgatory being used by the catholic church to keep people relying on indulginces. However, some church fathers believed in it before that time in history, and they still believe in it. (I agree with you that purgatory has no sound biblical basis.) This belief is part of church history, and even Luther wrote some things that suggest that he believed in the possibility of some type of second chance after death, and I consider Luther to be a hero of the christian faith. I will post later about a chapter Bell has on Christ, but I will go ahead and tell you that Bell believes however all this stuff happens it happens through and because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. I wish he would be more clear on things, but that’s his style.

  4. I think the point from quotes above is why do we use “Hell” as our number one motivational tool? I have not read the book but I have purchased it to read, I assume that Bell believes that Love is a better motivational tool. When people squirm under the use of “hell” they defend themselvs with the concept if you do not solve the helishness on earth do not talk to me about the hell in the afterlife. I assume that Bell believes that love is a more powerful argument to seek God.

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