I doubt I can break the internet as much as Justin Taylor and John Piper have in commenting on a yet-to-be-released book by Rob Bell. But I can try.
Now, not 48 hours ago, I told you that I’m so over Rob Bell, and I don’t intend to eat my words. This post isn’t about him. But if you haven’t heard the ruckus, his new book is called Love Wins, and by its cover description, it’s about how a loving God wouldn’t cast most of his creation into hell.
A few days ago, influential blogger, Justin Taylor admittedly judged the book by it’s cover, and labeled Bell a universalist, a false teacher, a deciever, and an opposer to the gospel, and perinneal know-it-all, John Piper chimed in with such memorable tweets as “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Since then, a bunch of other bloggers have been blog shouting, all while the book remains still unreleased. It’s been a big brouhaha.
And that’s where I come in.
Lord, I Want to Be a Universalist in My Heart
One of our most guarded, treasured, and sacred Christian beliefs is the belief in hell…and how everyone is going there. Hellfire and damnation is pretty much the reaction you get from people when you suggest that maybe the whole world isn’t actually going to hell. You inevitably get a bunch of evangelicals foaming at the mouth, insisting that everyone is going to hell…except for them. If you say you have doubts about hell, you’re either going to hell, or you’re from hell.
I got into trouble with my wife when we were dating. I told her I wasn’t sure that only Christians go to heaven. She got a look in here eye that told me she was contemplating burning me at the stake. I clarified that faith in Jesus is the only sure way I know of to get to heaven. Everything else…well, I wouldn’t risk it. And that’s not some kind of “all paths lead to God” crap. That’s just my hope that Jesus saves everyone. Jesus never said universal salvation is true, and I certainly won’t teach others it’s true. She decided I wasn’t a completely flaming liberal Universalist heretic.
No Way In Hell
The one thing we forget when we get all huffy about heaven and hell is that God can do whatever He freaking feels like. If God decides that He wants to let everyone in heaven with Him, it doesn’t really matter how sure John Piper is that no one is getting in but him. And if God wants to change his mind about that whole salvation thing and dump everyone in a lake of fire, Rob Bell doesn’t have
to protest about it. I don’t think God is going to change his mind. But I’m not going to march up to the pearly gates and say, “God, you have to let me in! I said the magic prayer when I was eight!”
I might know why Universalism pisses off so many evangelicals. For most of us, if we were standing in line at the heavenly security checkpoint and God let in a drunken wife beater right before us, we’d whine because that’s not fair. We tried all our lives to walk the walk. We said the sinner’s prayer, we went to church, we fed the hungry, we followed God’s will. Why should a bunch of heathans and wife abusers, and Democrats and homosexuals get to go when they didn’t do one blasted thing they were supposed to? Does all the obedience and believing we did count for nothing?
If you are struck by the unfairness of everyone getting into heaven, it just shows that somewhere in your mind, you are still banking on the things you did in life to get into heaven, not God’s grace. Who am I to tell Jesus what the limits of his grace are? But that’s exactly what we do. Universalism always gets one reaction from reformed types and evangelical types: “There’s no way in hell those people are getting into heaven, and you’re going to hell just for suggesting otherwise!”
I have never heard a reformed or evangelical say to a Universalist, “I hope you’re right.”
There is something absolutely, painfully wrong with that.
We’re Never Going to Be Told
When it comes to our argument about heaven and hell, and who’s going where, I think it would be just like God to never let us know. I do not think our dead relatives are floating around, watching us, and I don’t think people in heaven will be able to see the people in hell. In fact, I don’t think the people in heaven will even be aware of hell. Millions of living Christians are tormented by thoughts of their non-Christian loved ones ending up in hell. Knowing in the afterlife they are being tormented in a lake of fire seems like that would put a damper on heaven.
I think in the end, we’re just going to have to put down our thirst for “justice,” and trust that God did what was right. Because He might never tell us how He did it.
Well that’s it. Tell me if I’m going to hell, or just hopelessly optimistic. Do you think the lines of heaven and hell cannot be moved?Or are you a closeted Universalist? If you are, I’ll see you in hell.