Chapter 6


In this chapter, the next to the last in Rob Bell’s book, he continues to demean the gospel, mock God, and call into question His character.  The entire chapter is built around his explanation of the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.  I’m not going to go through every detail of that story and Bell’s comments, but I’m going to point out a few things and then address Bell’s following comments about God.  Rob Bell, in interpreting  this story, says:

 In this story, heaven and hell are within each other, intertwined, interwoven, bumping up against each other.  
       (page 170)

The only way heaven and hell are in this story is if you give heaven and hell new definitions, ones that are not found in the Bible. 

Bell defines hell by saying:

       First, an observation about hell.  Hell is our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.  (page 170)

Actually, the Bible teaches that hell is a place that God casts people into where He can destroy both their body and soul (Matt. 10:28).  Heaven and hell are never spiritualized into some present-day reality that people experience in this life through their choices. 

Then Bell again calls into question the character of God, basically saying that the God which most people believe in, because of what the scriptures teach, is cruel and vicious.

Bell says:

       Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way, that is, the way the 

       person telling them the gospel does, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have 
       no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell.  God would, in essence, become a 
       fundamentally different being to them forever.  A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths 
       to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who 
       would ensure that they had no escape from and endless future of agony.  (pages 173, 174)

Again, that is not what the Bible teaches.  The scriptures teach that men are already condemned (John 3:18, 19) and that unconverted men are enemies of God through wicked works (Col. 1:21); in essence, they are already under God’s wrath because of their willful sin and disobedience.  All men, before coming to Christ, are already in a state of ruin and guilt.  God, who is loving and rich in mercy, has provided salvation and pardon for all those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 3:16).  They will not have to perish.  God will give them eternal life, even though they do not deserve it.  If someone dies in their sin, God does not “in the blink of an eye” become a different God to them altogether.  One who is vicious and cruel.  God stays the same because He is God and does not change.  God stays holy and true and gives men the justice due their sins, not only for their sins against other men but also for their sins against God. 

Bell continues:

       If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities.  If there was an actual human dad 

       who was that volatile, we would contact child protective services immediately. 

       If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions 

       about whether a being like this could ever be trusted, let alone be good.

       Loving one moment, vicious the next.  Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the 

       blink of an eye.

       That kind of God is simply devastating.
       Psychologically crushing.
       We can’t bear it.
       No one can.  (page 174)

Those really are blasphemous statements.  Notice Bell never mentions man’s sin.  Bell never mentions what God says about the condition of unconverted men.  Bell just acts like God owes men everything.  If God doesn’t give us everything and then some, then He really is not God and can’t be trusted.  The scriptures do not teach that God is volatile or that He switches gears after one dies.  God is always consistent.  Men are condemned; Christ came to save those who believe.  The only people who could possibly agree with what Bell wrote above about God are those who don’t read their Bibles and those who let their emotions tell them what is right instead of the word of God.  That has been the central theme throughout Bell’s book: evaluating God by what fallen men think He should do.  In essence, making God in their own image.  A God that satisfies their definition of what is right and wrong. 

Bell continues:

       And that is the secret deep in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don’t love God.  They can’t,

       because the God they’ve been presented with and taught about can’t be loved.  That God is terrifying and
       traumatizing and unbearable.  (page 175)

So back a chapter or two, Bell says that we can’t resolve the tensions of whether God sends people to hell forever or whether he reconciles everyone; and here he says that a God who sends people to hell for their sin can’t be loved.  See how he talks out of both sides of his mouth?  He wants to deny that he’s saying or teaching something but then comes against what he doesn’t believe.  And no, Bell doesn’t love the God of the scriptures.  This chapter of his book is the most telling chapter about what Bell believes about the God of the Bible.  Bell has his own god he worships; and, as he said, he cannot love the God of the Bible, because the God of the Bible is not made in his own image. 

Bell continues:

       Sometimes the reason people have a problem accepting “the gospel” is that they sense that the God lurking 

       behind Jesus isn’t safe, loving, or good.  It doesn’t make sense, it can’t be reconciled, and so they say no.  
       They don’t want anything to do with Jesus, because they don’t want anything to do with that God.  
       (pages 175, 176)

Actually, the Bible tells us why men don’t accept the gospel. 

       For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  

       (John 3:20)

       But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of 

       them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine 
       unto them.  (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

       But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  

       (1 Cor. 1:23)

So people don’t believe because…

They do evil and don’t want to be exposed.
They are blinded by Satan.
The crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews
And foolishness to others. 

Bell continues:

       A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s 

       missing the point of it all.  (page 179)

No, the gospel isn’t just about how to “get into heaven,” but it’s certainly part of it, and a very important part. 

       For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the 

       kingdom of heaven.  (Mat. 5:20)

If Jesus talks about it, then I’m ok with it.

Bell continues:

       An entrance understanding of the gospel rarely creates good art.  Or innovation.  Or a number of other things.  

       It’s a cheap view of the world, because it’s a cheap view of God.  It’s a shriveled imagination. 

       It’s the gospel of goats.  (pages 179, 180)

And that’s what it’s really all about…creating good art.  Remember all those verses about creating good art?  Remember how the apostles preach about art in the book of Acts?  No, because it’s not there and “good art” is irrelevant.  The gospel of goats is one that redefines biblical terms, teaches “truths” with out-of-context verses, and calls God’s holy actions into question. 

Bell then gives his ultimate advice about the God of the Bible.

       Have nothing to do with that God.  (page 182)

Bell continues:

       Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue.  God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but 

       Jesus has paid the price for our sins, and so we can have eternal life.  However true or untrue that is 
       technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God. 

       Let’s be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God.  God is the one who rescues us from death, 

       sin, and destruction.  God is the rescuer.  (page 182)

Notice how Bell says “however true or untrue.”  He’s not willing to say whether it’s true or not.  Always trying to give ambiguous, grey, middle-of-the-road explanations.  What Bell says in that paragraph is really only partially true.  Yes, Jesus does rescue us from death, sin, and destruction; but it is God who ultimately passes judgment on men and condemns them for their sins.  The devil doesn’t cast people into hell; God sends them there (Mat. 10:28).  God doesn’t rescue men from a lake of fire created by some other being.  He rescues men from the lake of fire that He has created. 

Bell again says:

       For some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don’t 

       articulate matters of faith as they do.  (page 183)

This is Bell’s second and last effort to silence those who he knows will be coming against what he teaches.  Let’s not forget that Bell has said some believers are like demons, some might be guilty of sinning against children and will be drowned by Jesus, those who believe in traditional salvation have a weak and powerless God, and those who believe in the God of the Bible believe in a God who can’t be loved.  Now that he’s got all that out of the way, it’s time for him to tell us that if we criticize him, it’s because we think it’s the highest calling, and we are simply doing it because we don’t “articulate” matters of the faith the same as he does.  Am I, and are others, simply not “articulating” matters of the faith as Bell does? 

Is that really the problem?  The problem is that Bell is teaching something altogether not found in the scriptures.  Was Paul attacking and defaming Hymenaeus and Philetus simply because they were saying the resurrection was past?  Was Paul all bent out of shape and just wanting to show his allegiance to his God?  No, Paul cared about the Body of Christ and didn’t want them to be led astray and have their faith upset.

       But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread 

       like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the   
       resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some  (2 Tim. 2:16-18)

Of course, the devil does not want you to question what Bell is teaching, thus the warning against criticizing and attacking him.  Bell is perverting the word of God and still wants to remain under the umbrella of Christianity.

Bell concludes the chapter by again taking a few verses out of context to show that God has already saved everyone, but he again fails to mention the verses that say people must believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to be saved.  (John 20:31)

So to summarize, Bell says the gospel isn’t about “getting to heaven,” even though Jesus mentions that as part of it.  More importantly though, he says you don’t have to believe in that mean, cruel, vicious, unlovable God that you’ve been holding on to.  Bell has a new God you can believe in, one not found in the scriptures, one that can be found by using snippets of verses taken out of context, one that can be found by avoiding a great portion of the Bible. 

And thus…his good news is better than God’s.

Click here to go to chapter 7