It's Easter time and so it's also time for the media to use the Bible for their Christian target practice. Over the last 10 years I do not recall an Easter season that did not have a magazine cover story challenging the Bible and Jesus Christ. Evvvvvrrrry year you will see a story like this pop up at Easter time.
Don't you just love how the Executive Director of TIME magazine jams the "Rob Bell is not a liberal" lie down our throat? Note too how she does it: she immediately slams the "evangelical" label on him and says he is a popular pastor of a mega church. Well, I apologize, a guy with these credentials must surely be a conservative theologian.
Note too how Nancy poo-poos what Bell is trying to do: He only "redefines what Hell is." In other words, the Son of God may have come with a message, but Rob Bell has a better one.
We are dumb. You are stupid. Christians who believe Jesus wasn't kiddin' when he spoke are crazy ol' dinosaurs who need to get hip with the times. Liberals are progress. Progress is truth--period.
The liberals did not set out to destroy Christianity. To the contrary, they were certain that they were rescuing Christianity from itself. Their rescue effort required the surrender of the doctrines that the modern age found most difficult to accept, and the doctrine of hell was front and center on their list of doctrines that must go.
They argued that the doctrine of hell, though clearly revealed in the Bible, slandered God’s character. As it turns out, theological liberalism is not only a rejection of biblical Christianity — it is a failed attempt to rescue the church from its doctrines.
Liberalism just does not work. Bell wants to argue that the love of God is so powerful that “God gets what God wants.” So, God desires the salvation of all, he argues, so all will eventually be saved — some even after death, even long after death. But he cannot maintain that account for long because of his absolute affirmation of human autonomy. Even God cannot or will not prevent someone from going to hell who is determined to go there. So, if Bell is taken on his own terms, even he does not believe that “God gets what God wants.”
Similarly, Bell’s argument is centered in his affirmation of God’s loving character, but he alienates love from justice and holiness. This is the traditional liberal line. Love is divorced from holiness and becomes mere sentimentality. Bell wants to rescue God from any teaching that his wrath is poured out upon sin and sinners, certainly in any eternally conscious sense.
Missing from his Gospel is any clear reference to Christ, any adequate understanding of our sin, any affirmation of the holiness of God and his pledge to punish sin, any reference to the shed blood of Christ, his death on the cross, his substitutionary atonement, and his resurrection, and, so tellingly, any reference to faith as the sinners response to the Good News of the Gospel. There is no genuine Gospel here. This is just a reissue of the powerless message of theological liberalism.
H. Richard Niebuhr famously once distilled liberal theology into this sentence: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
We must never believe that we can do a public relations job on the Gospel or on the character of God. We must never be unclear and subversively suggestive about what the Bible teaches. The problem begins even with the book’s title. The message of the Gospel is not merely that love wins — it is that Jesus saves.