Thinking About Hell?

With all the current flap about Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, perhaps you’d like to read again what CHRISTIAN STANDARD writers have said about Hell, universalism, and God’s wrath. Here are links to four helpful articles:

How Could a Loving God Send Anyone to Hell?
By Jeff Vines

The Wide Road Is Still the Wrong Road
By David Faust

What Should We Believe About Hell?
By Glen Elliott

In Praise of Wrath
By Tom Lawson

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  1. Donna Russert
    March 26, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    So since you mentioned the current “flap” about Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”, why have you not made a statement directly about the book and Rob Bell’s theology? You simply list some articles that seemingly dispute what Rob Bell states clearly in his books, but you do not comment directly on his theology at all. Why is that?

  2. March 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

    See several related articles at We’ll be featuring a more definitive response to the book in the May 22 issue of our print magazine.


    Mark Taylor

  3. May 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm


    I was a bit underwhelmed by your response(s) in the May 22 issue. Several observations:

    1) The introductory letter seemed to imply that Bell, in Love Wins, was teaching universalism, which a fair reading of the book (and especially follow-up interviews) would say is decidedly *not* the case. (For example, see this 90-minute interview/Q&A with Bell at Denver Seminary: or his informal “debate” w/ a reformed blogger on UK’s Premier.TV ) Rather, Bell was making a case for epistemic humility over epistemic closure when it comes to presenting the Gospel and answering questions on hell and the afterlife. He lists multiple historical Christian views of hell, noting that each has major problems with it, and chooses none of them as the “right” one, but rather leaves the tension between them purposely unresolved.

    2) Bell doesn’t deny the existence of hell, but rather affirms that it exists both now and after death. What he calls into question is the certainty with which some Christians teach/hold its manifestation and how God determines who is in and out of it. He does contradict one of your articles which argues that hell must be a selling point of the Gospel, suggesting that such a treatment neglects the temporal manifestation of the Kingdom for a theology of evacuation. A viral marketing plan for fire insurance, if you will.

    3) I suspect that Bell could just as easily have written the article you re-posted from Jeff Vines ( ), as he summed up much of the point Bell was trying to convey in Love Wins. Vines’ summation of how to answer the question “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?” – that it is their own free will and desires that put them there, and that for God to embody Love, the individual’s choice to reject him must exist – is the exact same answer Bell gives in the book.

    4) One of the best tests to make sure we’re not creating a Straw Man Argument is to say “Would the person whose idea I am criticizing agree with the way I’ve restated his idea”? In the case of Bell, I think you’ve created somewhat of a straw man in your own article on Heresy/Heretics. And in this particular case, since he’s made himself available for public & private interviews on the topics he wrote about in Love Wins, you’re also likely not lived up to the spirit of Matthew 18. (It’s also ironic that you mentioned Billy Graham, since Bell’s answer on “who’s in and who’s out” of hell was the same as Graham’s and C.S. Lewis’)

    5) Probably the best article in the Standard on the topic of hell was Glen Elliott’s from January, which noted that there is equal Biblical support for annihilationism as there is for eternal conscious torment. I found it interesting that May 22nd’s article against annihilationism primarily used extrabiblical argument in trying to suggest that this particular view is extrabiblical! (It also misstated that the annihilation position came about in the 1600’s. Luther believed in a form of it, and much of the early Jewish-Christian church did, as well. The view of the immortality of the soul is primarily borrowed from Greek thought, not explicit Scriptural exegesis. Perhaps it would be best if we followed our own tradition’s concept of being silent where the Bible is silent, and allowing multiple viable interpretations to exist in tension with each other, rather than trying to force an answer.



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