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13 April, 2011 / theexpositor

Rob Bell: a Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?

Dr. John MacArthur offers some insight on Rob Bell in this article at Grace to You blog.

Given those facts, you might think any true evangelical would reject Bell and his teaching outright. But evidently many in the American evangelical movement think they are obliged simply to accept at face value Bell’s claim of orthodoxy. No less than Mart DeHaan, voice of Radio Bible Class, decried Bell’s critics, portraying them as the divisive ones for pointing out the unsoundness of Bell’s teaching. DeHaan wrote,

I’m left wondering… are we allowing love (and truth) to win now… by using threats of group pressure and blackballing of brothers like Rob, and those who openly or secretly stand with him? Is that really the best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy? [emphasis added]

The biblical answer to DeHaan’s question is clear and fairly simple: The best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy is to “[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching . . . to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers . . . who must be silenced” (Titus 1:9-11).

We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell (cf. Matthew 23:15).

In a series of posts this week, we will demonstrate from Rob Bell’s own published works that he has long been hostile to virtually every vital gospel truth; we will consider some of the questions he has raised about what the Bible has to say about hell; and we will compare and contrast what Bell is saying about hell with what Jesus said about it.

Buckle in and get ready to be challenged. These are admittedly some of the hardest truths in the New Testament, but there’s no reason anyone holding authentic evangelical convictions should find the subject confusing or controversial.


Read the entire article….



  1. Dutch Rikkers / Apr 14 2011 14 58

    John MacArthur holds to the age-of-accountability idea; soyou can say that he too is a universalist: he believes that all people go to heaven–if they die before they are 12. Is that a biblical affirmation or is it a church-contrived “mercy affirmation”? John Stott’s (and significant others’) annihilationism is also a mercy affirmation that is not explicit in Scripture (though hinted at in statements about the death of both body and soul).

    I would like to hear these big-name critics come out with clear statements about their own beliefs and opinions on universalism, age-of-accountability, and annihilationism. If they don’t, they are wimping out. If they take the biblical statements straight, they will have to affirm this:

    “All people must hear the gospel and accept Christ to go to heaven and avoid hell. Therefore, every person who has ever lived or will live (regardless of age or manner of living or relative innocence) who does not make a clear decision for Christ before they die will burn forever in conscious torment.”

    Will any of them dare to say this? It’s easy to pick Rob apart on his exegesis, but that’s not the big issue. The big issue is “heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived.”

    While I know that Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible is considered too ecumenical by many conservatives, I think that this statement about hell in the dictionary is interesting:

    “Jesus did not proclaim a doctrine of hell nor describe damnation, and spoke only marginally of hell. His proclamation of the kingdom of God invited one to choose salvation or doom, yet Jesus did not preach dualism. Many contrasting metaphors for hell indicate God’s wrath and punishment. The notion of eternity indicates a final punishment, but not necessarily one that extends for all times. Ideas of complete destruction and infinite punishment over against universal love, mercy, and reconciliation exist throughout Scripture and Church history. Ultimately damnation is not an absolute and remains contingent on God’s will and grace.”

    That would tend to support Rob’s conclusions (regardless of the breezy, fuzzy, and/or ADHD manner in which he arrives there!).

    In Revelation 1:18, Jesus says, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Eugene Peterson paraphrases it like this: “I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates” (The Message).

    I think that’s ample affirmation that in the end, Jesus decides. I am glad that He does and the theologians don’t!

    • theexpositor / Apr 14 2011 15 09

      John MacArthur, The “Age of Accountability”,

      I think the best way to answer that is to say this: There is no “age of accountability” identified in Scripture, as such. There is nothing in the Bible that says, “Here is the age and from here on you are responsible!” I think the reason for that is because children mature at different paces. That would be true from culture to culture, and from age to age in history.

      So the Lord in His wisdom didn’t identify a specific moment. God knows when each soul is accountable. God knows when real rejection has taken place; when the love of sin exists in the heart. When enmity with God is conscious and willful. God alone knows when that occurs.

    • theexpositor / Apr 14 2011 15 12

      John MacArthur, The Love of God, Part 1

      And furthermore, you’re telling me that God wants everyone to be saved? Then why would He devise a plan that has most people going to hell forever? And if God is a God of love and He loves everybody, then why doesn’t He just save everybody? Is He incapable? And if God is the loving Father of humanity, why doesn’t He act like a…like a human father who loved his children, who would never allow his children to make choices that would result in their destruction if he could prevent it or overrule it. If God is a loving God why did He allow sin in the first place and death?

      Those questions are reasonable and they need answers. There are a number of suggested answers. One is the answer of universalism. Universalism is a doctrine believed by many that teaches that in the end everybody will be saved, that ultimately the saving plan is universal and God’s going to save anybody and in the end everybody is going to heaven and hell will not exist. That’s how some people answer the problem of if God loves the whole world then how could He possibly send everybody to hell, except that few that believe. They answer it by saying that well in the end He won’t do it. In the end His love will prevail and He will save everybody. That’s universalism.

      Other people answer the question with a theory called annihilationism. Their solution is well in the end God takes the believing people to heaven and the rest He puts out of existence so they completely go out of existence, experience no consciousness at all, they are non-existent so they can’t have any conscience…a conscious suffering. There is therefore no hell of punishment, just annihilation. And there are not only individuals who believe that but there are groups of people who believe that. There are churches and cults that believe that. So some people solve the problem by just having everybody saved in the end and other people solve the problem by having all the unsaved people just go out of existence so that they have no conscious suffering at all because they don’t exist anymore.

      The problem with those two views is that you can’t defend them in the Bible. I suppose to some degree it would salve our human emotion a little bit if we could buy in to either of those. It would certainly eliminate some problems for us. First of all, we could feel comfortable about everybody and we could sort of kick back as far as evangelism goes cause either they’re going to be saved forever or they’re going to go out of existence forever and what’s the difference? So let’s no worry about anybody, there’s no ultimate hell so why be involved in evangelism? It would make life comfortable emotionally and it would certainly make life comfortable in terms of any responsibility. The problem is the Bible doesn’t teach either of those.

    • theexpositor / Apr 14 2011 15 13

      Do these two quotes from MacArthur answer your questions Dutch?

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