Outline for My Contribution to a Panel Discussion on Rob Bell, Tuesday, May 3, at Denver Seminary
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy,
A Guide to the Rational Analysis of Rob Bell
One of the ways in which the damned will be condemned is that they will see themselves condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion—Blaise Pascal.
I. The Bible on the Seriousness of Teaching the Bible
A. The office of teacher, preacher
1. Judgment of teachers (James 3:1-2)
2. Preparation for teaching (2 Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:7-8)
3. The need for knowledge in teaching (Malachi 2:7)
4. The danger of false teaching (Jeremiah 8:8; Matthew 15:1-8)
5. The danger of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-23)
6. Satan is the father of lies and must be resisted (John 8:44; James 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
B. The importance of critical thinking as a Christian
1. Love God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37-40)
2. Test the spirits (1 John 4:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:14)
3. Test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21-23)
C. Theological reasoning
1. Sound exegesis (biblical theology): 2 Peter 3:16
2. Sound theologizing logically (systematic theology): the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)
3. Avoid paradox, enigma, mystery as much as possible: we need to grow in the “knowledge of God”
4. Theology for the glory of God, the advancement of the kingdom (the mission of God), the good of the church and the world (Matthew 6:33; 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)
II. The Rob Bell Phenomenon
A. Books: Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Love Wins
B. Nooma videos: short, impressionistic, personality-driven
C. Ethos: undogmatic, exploratory, open-ended, skeptical, often flippant
D. Method or style in theology: raise questions, generate confusion, suggest possibilities; embrace tension and paradox; rejection of rational certainty (see Luke 1:1-4).
Reason: truth, knowledge, certainty
III. Love Wins: Some Issues
A. Apologetic purpose: win people who have rejected Christianity because of its doctrines of heaven and hell.
B. Good points
1. The earthly and present tense value of the
2. Addresses texts which seem to teach universalism
C. A few of the many problems with Love Wins
1. Not clear on justication by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8); may deny it
2. Not clear on substitutionary, penal atonement of Christ; may deny it.
3. No rigorous reasoning concerning the afterlife
a. Suggest post-mortem salvation, salvation in other religions (see Ephesians 2:12)
b. Touches on passages without sufficient development
a. Everyone is saved: God wants all to be saved; God gets what God wants.
b. Everyone is not saved. We can refuse God’s love.
c. We don’t know if everyone is saved or not.
5. These statements are inconsistent with each other; they cannot all be true
6. We need better thinking about issues of ultimate concern (Isaiah 1:18)
- D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Crossway, 2005). Helps explain some of the weaknesses of the emerging church, of which
is somewhat associated. Bell
- Douglas Groothuis, “What about Hell?” from The Christian Research Journal. On line at: http://www.equip.org/PDF/DH198.pdf.
- Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (InterVarsity Press, August, 2011). See chapters on hell and religious pluralism especially.
- Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity from the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity, 2000). Advocates a very different view of truth and epistemology than does
- Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology (Zondervan, 1987-1993). A thorough and rationally sound method of theologizing.
- J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007). Guide to the importance of a Christian mind, spiritual discipline, and charismatic power for ministry.
- Christopher Morgan, Robert A. Peterson, eds. Hell Under Fire (Zondervan, 2003). Defends the historic, orthodox view of hell.
- Robert A. Peterson on this, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995). His arguments against universalism and annihilationism are found in chapters eight and nine respectively.
- Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There, 30th anniv. ed. (InterVarsity Press, 1968; reprint, 1998). A stellar model of apologetic and cultural engagement from an evangelical perspective. Explains the faith/reason dichotomy that
- Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (1971; reprint, Tyndale, 2001). Modern classic.
- T.L. Tiessen, “Hell,” in William A. Dyrness and Veli-Matti Karkkainen, eds. Global Dictionary of Theology (
: InterVarsity Press, 2008), pp. 372-376. Downers Grove, IL
 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, trans. A. Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1966), 175/563, p. 84.