On what Rob Bell could have said…

No, I haven’t read all the requisite material on the case, nor do I care.   I am not “damning” (no pun intended) Bell’s position.    I realize most of the annoying Calvino-bloggers Gospel Defenders have jumped on the case.  Of those, maybe 1% has read Bell’s work.   (Since when is the gospel ever not under attack in Calvinist circles?)

I don’t really care about the larger part of Bell’s arguments, nor whether he is a universalist.  I doubt he is.   Further, I doubt he is even correct in what he claims.  Unlike the Gospel Defenders I think I know what Bell is “getting at.”

There is a mental problem for many to say that God created most of humanity simply to roast them sadistically for all eternity.  Quite frankly, in perhaps less loaded terminology, this is an undeniable implication of the Calvinist position.  And Bell is correct to say there is just something “wrong with that.”  Further, Bell is theoretically correct to say that God “can” reach people in “different” ways.   And while Bell probably doesn’t mention this, the early church did not go out joyfully proclaiming that the wonderful gates of hell are now open even wider because of Jesus.

Unfortunately for Bell, though, the Church has condemned this facet of Origenism (and unfortunately for Calvinists, they are still Origenists).  Here is what Bell should have said:  I reject the theology that God created most of humanity simply to use for firewood in hell.  Further, I stand with the Church in rejecting Origenist final recapitulationist views.   On the other hand, it is not my business (authority?) to say who can and who cannot go to heaven/hell.

And if he were really bold, he could try to tie in Henri de Lubac’s arguments on Christ uniting humanity in some mystical way with the fact that universalism is condemned (it’s not entirely clear de Lubac was able to manage that).  In any case, that is a far healthier mindset that looking at Buddhist babies and chanting, “Firewood, firewood.”

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2 comments on “On what Rob Bell could have said…

  1. V says:

    There’s a pious belief out there that when Christ descended to preach to the dead, it was to all the dead throughout all time (and not just the dead Israelites up to that point, per the standard Dispensationalist position), thus giving those Buddhist babies you mentioned a chance to embrace the Gospel. I don’t know that I could fully embrace that opinion — it is after all conjecture (or, if we want to be super holy, theologoumena ) — but that’s about as close to universalism as I can dance.

    Or this:

    “The person that is struggling to the best of his abilities, who has no desire to live a disorderly life, but who, in the course of the struggle for faith and life, falls and rises again and again, God will never abandon. And if he has the slightest will not to grieve God, he will go to Paradise with his shoes on. The benevolent God will, surprisingly, push him into Paradise. God will insure that he take him at his best, in repentance. He may have to struggle all his life, but God will not abandon him; He will take him at his best possible time.”

    –Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

    Or anything St. Silouan said.

    As for Bell, I honestly don’t know what all the kerfluffel is about. It’s been pretty obvious where he stands on this sort of thing for a long time. His book Velvet Elvis is good for keeping your table from wobbling, anyway. Unlike the Reformed and Evangelical blogosphere, I’m not going to say he won’t receive salvation for being wrong.

  2. Brian MacArevey says:

    I have stumbled across your blog and find it extraordinarily helpful. Thanks 🙂 I believe that I could learn a lot from wrestling with the things that you are writing. I enjoy Hays, Wright, and the NPP in general, and have similar feelings about the teachings of the neo-Calvinists.

    As far as final recapitulation, are you convinced that this is an impossibility, or do you think that it could be a possibility, even though it is highly speculative?

    This is a difficult thing for me to understand, because, as I look at the character of God, as He is presented to us in the crucified and resurrected Christ, and the redemptive nature of judgment in the scriptures, I have trouble believing that God will all of the sudden be, and do, something other, and opposed, to His revelation in Jesus.

    I am also wrestling with the positions w/regard to some of these issues in the early church, and you seem to have a pretty good grasp on that subject. I would appreciate any help you could offer (but I know that these are big questions).

    Thanks 🙂

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