Rob Bell Takes on Hell

I normally wouldn’t weigh in on any debate about an author without having done him the curtsey of reading his book.   However, I viewed the trailer for Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and found it, well, disturbing.

Bell is a master communicator. He sells a lot of books and has a wide following. When I teach theology, I tell my students (all adults) that they need to be more careful about the books they buy from Christian booksellers, because not all those books contain biblical truth. We need to be discerning in everything we read.  I will admit that I get tweaked when I hear statements designed to provoke and titillate and question basic tenants of the Christian faith, like Mr. Bell does.

In the promo piece, Bell states that “Jesus rescues you from God [who would send us to hell].” Whoa. Did you really mean that, Rob? I mean, Jesus and God the Father are ONE with the Holy Spirit. Is Rob saying that Jesus saves us from himself? This seems to be just off enough to cause some serious concerns about his theology.  Granted, I have not read the book and I’m going off a trailer. But like I said – Rob Bell doesn’t make statements like this without meaning them.

There has been a lot of death and destruction in our world in recent weeks. Yes, it has gone on since Adam and Eve first sinned. . . but lately it seems worse. Hell is a timely issue, and an important one to pursue. But to indicate that no one is going to hell as Bell does in his promotion of the book, raises red flags. Rob is right though, “what we believe about heaven and hell is vitally important.”

I like what Chip Ingram states about the issue of hell.  In his book “God: As He Longs for You to See Him,” Mr. Ingram writes:

“It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27 NASB). Death and hell may be unpleasant subjects, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking about them. They are unavoidable. In fact, death and hell are not even negative subjects when properly understood. Hell is the clearest evidence that God is serious about preserving the dignity and freedom of humanity. Because he respects our will, he has reserved a place for all who say, “I am the captain of my own ship, I will live my own life, and no one can tell me what to do.” We can’t love someone unless we choose to accept him or reject him. God treats us as free moral agents and  will honor our rejection of him for all eternity. C. S. Lewis was right when he described only two basic views of life—those who say to God, “My will be done!” and those who say to God “Thy will be done!” One of those statements represents your life. Hell preserves the dignity and the freedom of people who stiff-arm God. God’s justice says, “I’ll create a place of retribution so anyone who wishes to stay away from me can do so.” Hell is serious, and it’s as real as heaven.

Those who end up in hell know the answer to the question that’s often asked: “How could a good God send anyone to hell?” A good God doesn’t send anybody to hell. A good God sent his Son so that no one would have to go to hell. Anyone who goes to hell has said, “God, I don’t want your will or your Son. I want my will.” God honors that heartfelt desire. Those in hell have chosen to be there.” 1

Did Jesus save us from God? Not really. Jesus saves us from the wrath of God that we deserve because of our sin. Jesus died to save us from ourselves!

Will you go to hell? That ultimately is a choice you make. It’s between you and God. There are many people who claim to be “Christians” but continue to live by their own will and not God’s. It’s not my place to determine if they are going to hell or not. God knows and will make that determination Himself.

I need to know that God is not only a good and loving God, (He is!) but also that He is holy and just and that He will take care of my enemies. I’m not praying for destruction of those who hurt me. God can show mercy and grace (He has to me), but for those who are unrepentant, who sin and hurt others, I want to know that God will take care of judging them rightly. Goodness weigh with justice. Love protects His own children. If there is no accountability or consequences for our sin, then what good is the Gospel? Why would Jesus need to die such a horrific death if that was not what WE first deserved for our own sins. THAT is the good news.

In the meantime, you have a choice to make. “My will” or “Thy will.”  Serve yourself, or submit your entire life to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of Creation who says He is THE way, THE truth and THE life – the ONLY way to get to heaven. 



1 Chip Ingram,  God as He Longs for You to See Him. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 2004) pp 164-165.

For a good analysis from someone who has actually read Rob Bell’s book, I encourage you to check out this review by Tim Challis.