Monday, March 30, 2009

A little follow-up

Saturday night I posted about the severity of sin, and how a faulty view here leads to patently anti-Biblical views of the atonement and of hell. Sunday we went to church, and listened to a very, very convicting sermon on hell. Give it a listen this week (unfortunately, they only keep them up for a week, no free archive).

The intro in particular struck a chord with me, as Pastor MacDonald described the tremendous sorrow that always accompanies discussing the reality of hell. I may have been particularly sensitive to that point because I was had just read this snippet from the Rob Bell interview I linked to, where he responds to a question about whether he believes in a literal hell, and his response was still stickin' in my craw. He says:

"...I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. Like your friend, does he want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side? Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that."

This paragraph illustrates so well why I can't stomach much of what Bell says. First off, you have the postmodernism shining through loud and clear (far more clearly than even the most postmodern secularist would ever dream of, by the way). The question is a simple "is there a hell", and somehow his answer is all about what people believe. Wow. This is postmodernism on steroids and crack. His response assumes that whether or not there's a hell is not an objective reality, and turns into a "whatever you think is true for you" nonsense. Somehow, this type of thinking is supposedly compatible with Christianity. Still waiting for an explanation of how.

Then you have the combo ad hominem/strawman attack. This is really a beauty, actually. Falsely assuming that there's no objective reality, Bell then claims that anyone who claims that there is a literal hell is only doing so because they really want there to be (hello, Mr. Strawman!), and then based on this attacks their character. This is beyond absurd. Compare his strawman Christian to an actual godly man such as James MacDonald or Alistair Begg, men who weep over the thought of people suffering eternally, yet still proclaim the message. Obviously, the strawman claim of them just really wanting people to burn isn't anywhere near true.

So why would such men preach about hell if they don't (yet) rejoice in the eternal suffering of others? What possible reason would they have to preach about something they don't enjoy thinking about, that moves them to tears? Could it be.... that it's TRUE? Memo to Rob Bell: God's Word clearly proclaims the reality of hell. No matter how much the thought disturbs us, it is true. For a Christian to believe God is hardly a character flaw.

Ironically, in questioning the character of those of us who believe God, Bell shines a light on his own deficiency. By attacking us for believing God, he reveals his own deliberate, overwhelming doubt. See, Bell is definitely a smart man, well-educated, certainly capable of reading with comprehension, and he's read the Bible a few times at least. There is simply no way an honest reading of scripture could leave the question of hell unsettled. The evidence for a real, eternal hell of torment is utterly overwhelming. His doubt is not an accidental mistake, but can only be intentional, stubborn refusal to believe God.

In his accusation, Bell essentially calls us sadists - we just really, really want people to burn and suffer forever, apparently. The truth is, we simply believe God and act accordingly, no matter how it makes us feel or how much the message offends (talking about hell certainly isn't popular!). Bell, on the other hand, surely must know the truth, but insists on pretending otherwise. Possibly it's because of how it feels, perhaps it's so people will like him more, maybe some of both. The end result is not unlike a doctor who sees his patient has cancer, but because he doesn't like talking about it, and the patient really doesn't want to hear it, he never says anything. Apparently to Rob Bell, that doctor exhibits great character, while the doctor who does his job despite the sorrow is a wicked sadist who just wants people to have cancer and suffer.

And with that, I go to pray for my own repentance from any doubt or ungodly attitude, then for Rob Bell. First for his repentance, and if that won't happen, then for his poison influence on the church to cease. May God grant us more faithful preachers of the Word and less peddlers of doubt.


MWuertz said...

I found that "literal hell" thing intriguing, so I ventured over to the interview. I read through some of the comments on the entry and the first one was about that very thing. The author replied, "I wish I would have had more time to explore this issue further with Rob, however I had already exceeded my interview time with him. I want to say that the emotion of what he was saying, which may not come through in a manuscript was that many Christians get so hung up with the doctrinal issues and miss the heart of evangelism which is to love those people who don't know Jesus and do everything possible to keep them from being separated from Him. If we had as much zeal for people as we do doctrine sometimes, it would overshadow the need to hammer those issues so hard. Maybe it was more like "yeah I believe in hell but let's focus on loving people and showing them Jesus, rather than telling them where they are going to go." Also, during the session earlier that day at the conference (Isn't she beautiful), Rob did specifically say "of course I believe in a literal hell"." So Bell does believe in a literal hell...Interesting...very very interesting...

Tha Deuce said...

I think a very valid point you may have partially overlooked is the fact that the Bible speaks of a literal hell. A place of fire and brimstone; the second death; eternal suffering. It speaks of it as a literal place where the eternal spirit of man suffers an eternal state of death and irrevocable, total separation from God.

Another one of the postmodern fallacies that so many of the "christian lites" have adopted is that they believe that the Bible is only stories and not the literal, authoritative Word of God. So they accept part of its teachings and reject others.

You combine these two large points, and you have the core of the disbelief that there is a literal hell. The same core reason that some that call themselves ministers can condone or particiapte in a homosexual lifestyle.

This attitude effectively rejects the Bible as absolute truth, and therefore nullifes the grounds on which these people believe that they have accepted eternal life. In essence, their own lack of faith in the Word of God has doomed them to an eternity in a place they don't believe exists... :)