What is certain is that Saturday, within the blogosphere/Twittersphere, there was quite a stir (i.e., Taylor, Harris, Piper, and Turner) regarding the video trailer and the blurb from the back of Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. What is still uncertain is the full extent of exactly what Bell will argue as to the nature and reality of hell within the pages of his book.
Though nothing entirely conclusive can be drawn from the video/blurb itself, it would seem that what Bell is positing is some form of universalism or a variation of annihilationism. However, it’s best to wait on hard and fast conclusions/labels until after the book has been read/released.
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins. [Publisher Description]
Again, while it is too early to state conclusively where Bell falls on his doctrine of divine judgment and hell, it is never too early to dig more deeply into the subject for ourselves that we may be discerning in these matters.
Below is a sampling of some resources I hope will be of assistance as you search the Scriptures for yourself (a la Acts 17:11) regarding the nature and reality of hell:
- “Hell As Eternal Conscious Punishment”, by Robert A. Peterson
- “HELL: Remembering the Awful Reality: Pastoral Perspectives on Hell” (9Marks eJournal; Sept/Oct 2010, vol. 7, iss. 4), contributors include Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Greg Gilbert, Andy Naselli, James Hamilton, and Gavin Ortlund
- “Reasonable Damnation: How Jonathan Edwards Argued for the Rationality of Hell” (JETS 38/1 (March 1995), 47-56), by Bruce W. Davidson
- “Saved from the Wrath of God by Jesus”, by Collin Hansen
- “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, by Jonathan Edwards
- “The Horror of Hell”, by Tom Ascol
- “The Importance of Hell”, by Dr. Timothy Keller
- “Universalism: A Historical Survey”, by Richard Bauckham
- “What Does Paul Teach About Hell?”, in Hell Under Fire, by Dr. Douglas J. Moo
- Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (ed. by Chris Morgan & Robert Peterson) with contributions by: G.K. Beale, Daniel Block, Sinclair Ferguson, Al Mohler, Douglas Moo (see above), J.I. Packer and more
Of all the teachings of Christianity, the doctrine of hell is easily the most troubling, so much so that in recent years the church has been quietly tucking it away. Rarely mentioned anymore in the pulpit, it has faded through disuse among evangelicals and been attacked by liberal theologians. Hell is no longer only the target of those outside the church. Today, a disturbing number of professing Christians question it as well. Perhaps more than at any other time in history, hell is under fire.
The implications of the historic view of hell make the popular alternatives, annihilationism and universalism, seem extremely appealing. But the bottom line is still God’s Word. What does the Old Testament reveal about hell? What does Paul the apostle have to say, or the book of Revelation? Most important, what does Jesus, the ultimate expression of God’s love, teach us about God’s wrath?
Upholding the authority of Scripture, the different authors in Hell Under Fire explore a complex topic from various angles. R. Albert Mohler Jr. provides a historical, theological, and cultural overview of “The Disappearance of Hell.” Christopher Morgan draws on the New Testament to offer three pictures of hell as punishment, destruction, and banishment. J. I. Packer compares universalism with the traditional understanding of hell, Morgan does the same with annihilationism, and Sinclair Ferguson considers how the reality of hell ought to influence preaching. These examples offer some idea of this volume’s scope and thoroughness.
Hell may be under fire, but its own flames cannot be quenched by popular opinion. This book helps us gain a biblical perspective on what hell is and why we cannot afford to ignore it. And it offers us a better understanding of the One who longs for all people to escape judgment and obtain eternal life through Jesus Christ.
- Four Views On Hell (ed. by William Crocket)
What do the Scriptures say hell is? John Walvoord argues that it is a literal place of smoke and flames. William Crockett defends a metaphorical view, punishment but not necessarily literal fire. Clark Pinnock presents conditional immortality – punishment but not forever. And Zachary Hayes explains the concept of purgatory.
- Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment, by Robert A. Peterson