How Are You Leading in Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins?

Rob Bell has ignited a firestorm of controversy with his recent book Love Wins.

How is the controversy affecting those whom you lead?

What sorts of responses are you coming up with when discussing the issue?

Are there any particular parts of Scripture or resources that you are using to walk people through the issues at stake?

  • Tanase Andrei

    Universalism…nothing new under the sun!

  • Melvin Abundo

    Here in the Philippines, Rob Bell isn’t very popular. So there isn’t much to say about him here. But as in most ministries, questions about whether God is a loving God or a just God always pop up. The main answer to this would be to go back to the Bible. Always the Bible. A most helpful picture in the Bible is the cross, where justice and love meet.

    With this obsession for what the Bible says, we have seen students become very passionate for the Gospel. A tenderheartedness for Jesus actually develops with an understanding of wrath, and of course, grace.

    Here’s one of our students preaching on Ephesians 5, a passage all about the way we live on this side of eternity.

    Always the Bible.

  • Brian Barela

    hey everyone this is Brian the Blogference founder. After you type your comments, please click “Post as…” and login with Facebook or Twitter. that way if others want to connect with you beyond this event they can add you as a friend easily. Thanks!

  • Josh Waidley

    Thoughts on our response to the Rob Bell controversy as Crusade Staff:

    1) We need to be sensitive to the fact that many students like Rob Bell and will read him. Instead of blasting him and calling him a ‘heretic’ or worse, we should actively engage with the questions he is bringing up.

    2) We should engage in the questions with love and understanding and a healthy dose of humility. Instead of telling our students not to read the book and how much we disagree with Rob Bell, we should use it as an opportunity to dive deep into scripture on issues of heaven and hell with students, many of whom may have never had a chance to explore a deep, Biblical view of either.

    3) We should see this firestorm as a teachable moment, for students and staff. The biggest issue I see in the whole thing, even more than heaven and hell, is the incredible and seemingly unchecked pride and arrogance of both sides of the issue. Rob Bell’s book description calls him a ‘Christian rock star’; it is the most pompous, arrogant thing ever and a reflection (I think) of the way his own publicity has gone to his head. On the other hand the whole Reformed movement was calling for Rob Bell’s head based on the book DESCRIPTION and exhibited an embarrassing lack of love and respect for a Christian brother. No one reached out to him, no one engaged in dialogue with him, they just killed him via blogs and blog comments. The whole thing is sad and shows the dangers of pride and power and you can bet at least some students, probably some of your more skeptical and cynical students will have recognized it.

    4) We have to act and live our lives as staff in humble Christ-like ways and that includes our reaction to this whole Rob Bell circus. No matter how much we disagree (or agree) with any of it, we cannot simply come in guns blazing and tell our students not to read him, because, lets face it, that will simply make them want to read it more. So engage, go to the Bible, be open to learning from all of this yourself and above all, check your own pride and heart….sorry for the long comment 😉

    • Brian Virtue

      Great analysis. I agree. So many opportunities for learning, teaching, and dialogue turn into divisive and anxious situations. It makes me think of the caveman who when they first see fire pop up, they would go quickly to try to put it out as fast as possible out of fear without considering what opportunities and possibilities there might be. That’s the image that comes to my mind with dynamics like this, regardless of what the actual catalyst for reaction might be.

      • Dan Birch

        Brian + Josh,

        I think I just fail to see that Rob Bell is just bringing in a new perspective that we should evaluate carefully. Rob bell is literally preaching something anti the bible, in all different denominations, he is against the basis of our faith. This isnt about calvinism, this isnt about justification, this isnt about spiritual gifts. This has gone over the line. I think we need to be more guarded at this point, and I’m not getting that sense from your two posts. I’m not sure if ROb Bell is saved to be honest

        • Brian Virtue

          Dan – is 100% of what Bell is doing bad/heretical? That’s what I’m picking up as your perspective and even though I’m not an apologist of Bell I typically have appreciated some of issues he tries to approach from a different perspective. Granted, in this case it seems like he is over the line and though I haven’t read the new book, I still highly doubt there is nothing there whatsoever from which I couldn’t learn something or be challenged in – even if it’s just to formulate a clearer argument for why I disagree with him.

          But I think there’s more that must be done besides just protect young people from bad theology and a false gospel. We also have to live out the true gospel in that process and rarely does that gospel cause us to quickly dismiss new (or even historically re-hashed) perspectives and alienate folks for the sake of right theology. Granted – we should guard the faith, but we can do it while modeling it in our actions and behavior at the same time. There’s been a few the last few weeks that I think have done that well, but not as many as I’d like.

          I don’t disagree with you that this is a really important issue for the faith and for the church today and that non-Biblical or anti-gospel arguments should be met head on. I’m just uncomfortable with much of what is done in the name of protecting the faith and there still needs to be enough humility in our position to be able to be learners in that process. Being open to learning and seeing things from somebody else’s perspective doesn’t always mean opening the door to be ravaged by hollow philosophy.

          • Dan Birch

            Hey Brian,

            As far as your question is this heretical let me just repost the IN DEPTH book review on a credible source on LOVE WINS:

            “Hell appears to be more about what we do to each other than what we’ve done to God. Bell reads Jesus’ warnings of divine punishment as addressing only the temporal, rather than both the temporal and the eternal. These warnings were for the religious leaders of the day, and had very little to do with some other reality or some other time, he argues (pp. 82-83). Instead, hell is “a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep without our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way” (p. 95). There’s no fire and no wrath, at least, none that is extrinsic to us.

            Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.”

            DENYING the existence of hell is heretical. I dont need to read the book if their is enough evidence from trusted sources of what it says. In fact it look at the Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 2:

            “Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. ”

            I mean PAUL is publicly calling out people who’ve said the resurrection has already occurred. Whats more heretical saying that or saying hell isnt eternal? there pretty close in my book

            Your right, if Bell’s message isnt heretical than it changes this discussion but I think its obvious that it is to me. And thats really my heart, not to condemn but to protect and stay faithful to the word and not culture or making people feel good for it

            • DJ Jenkins

              Seems like this is the crux of the discussion:

              Has Rob Bell crossed into the realm of a false teacher? Is he denying level 1, conviction level doctrine?

              If he is, then our warnings would need to be strong like Paul talks about. If not, then we should have a much different tone.

          • Tim Casteel

            I would say Rob Bell is in the same category as Brian McLaren. Not 100% bad/heretical. But definitely to be taken with a big grain of salt.

            For instance, I think Bell’s Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and other books have some good insights and can be learned from. But I would not EVER recommend one of his books/videos to a student. Same for McLaren. I think we (conservative evangelicals) can learn a lot from him on thinking about reaching this generation of lost students. He raises the right question, and often finds the right answers when it comes to cultural engagement, just not theologically. But I would never in a million years recommend a McLaren book to a student.

        • Brian Virtue

          Dan – I kept thinking about that last sentence and it was sticking with me so I came back to comment. I do think we probably are not in a position to make statements about whether somebody like him is saved or not. I think that reaches beyond what we could possible know for sure about one way or the other so bringing up questions about his personal salvation is probably not helpful, though discussing the essentials of the gospel and where he might be veering off orthodox in his theology is totally fair game.

          • Dan Birch

            Yeah I know what your saying what I really meant was I’m HONESTLY NOT SURE. Just in the same way, we make assumptions that everyone on your campus leadership team is a christian and is saved, I think its fair NOT to be sure about someone so off about the bible or at least it seems lately. I think at the end of the day we need really take Rob Bell matter seriously because of the amount of influence he has on the world.

    • DJ Jenkins

      Brian & Josh,

      I agree this is a great opportunity for dialogue and exploring with our students what the Bible says about heaven and hell. I rush too quickly in my own mind and heart to pronounce “heresy” or other things, and this probably does expose sins of pride in me.

      But I am curious. At what point to you “pull a Paul” and call out someone publicly, like Paul did with Peter a la Galatians? Or when you see Paul instructing Timothy and Titus how to speak to false teachers, how do you know when someone has crossed into a false teacher and to have strong rebuking reactions to protect your people?

      Love to hear your thoughts on this!

      • Josh Waidley

        d.j. This is a great question. Personally now that the book has come out I’m fine with people calling Rob Bell out for his historical inaccuracies. As staff I think it is good to be concerned for our students on issues like this and not want them to be led astray so to speak. I would say though that simply calling RobBell a false teacher and telling students to not listen or believe him does nothing for them. Our students should be encouraged to engage and think for themselves on these issues. And discipleship plays a big part in it, walking along side students and trusting the Spirit to lead them. We can’t tell our students what to think and believe but we can encourage them, influence them and most importantly bring them to the Bible to find answers.

        • DJ Jenkins

          Yeah I think I agree overall Josh. I do truly want to shepherd people and not freak out and say, “Stay away!!!!” I truly believe these are teachable moments.

          I really do struggle with the appropriate response though. Having seen John MacArthur call out Driscoll/Patrick/Acts29 I am sensitive to uncharitable rebuke and potential injustice in it.

          On the other hand, I see the way Paul talks about false teachers and how he rebuked Paul publicly (and Paul was an Apostle!) and it just seems totally different than approaching someone to dialogue with them (Bell in this case).

          I am for sure in process here. Any thoughts Josh or Brian(s) on what to do with those scenarios in Scripture? How does that apply to us today?

          • Brian Virtue

            Great question – I’m in process on this too.

            By the way Galatians 2 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. I find it completely fascinating and rich. But to see Paul take on Peter is big time (and in front of people). I imagine “A Few Good Men” type of drama.

            I know it’s often referenced as an example of doctrinal correction to theology that is undermining the heart of the gospel – it’s inclusive offer of salvation to all who repent, Jew & Gentile. That’s how I used to look at it.

            After working in ethnic ministry for several years now I still see it that way, but also see it a bit differently in that there is an in the moment need to advocate for the powerless. Peter essentially is not just being hypocritical and pleasing the circumcision folks, but he also is shaming the Gentiles and creating two classes of folks. I believe Paul engages publicly both because of the doctrinal implications, but also out of a passion to advocate for the “2nd class” Christians in that situation. If Paul didn’t speak out for them, who was going to? That example has huge implications for today, though our perspectives on power as a majority culture organization is pretty limited and I’ll say it – weak.

            So there’s a doctrinal need to protect the essence of the gospel, but he also models that gospel through his advocacy of the more powerless brothers and sisters in a crucial moment that could empower and unify or divide.

            That’s a tangent I guess, but I love that passage and it’s interesting to think about what parallels there might be.

            I had thoughts related to Matthew 18, but just can’t bring myself to keep going tonight. Got to shut it down for a while. But I have no problem at a certain point where it’s clear what the positions are on the table, taking a public position on Bell or his book – in an effort to graciously bring correction and repentance if that need be the case.

            Galatians 2 was interesting because it was an in the moment violation of the gospel that was totally marginalizing Gentile believers – Paul had to speak up in the moment or let the injustice prevail. That also seems to be the case elsewhere where false teachers are exploiting or abusing power. But in general I think there are enough examples and instructions to win people over through dialogue. Didn’t go back and look closely, but Priscilla and Aquila found Apollos and he was off in his gospel. They engaged in dialogue and filled in the blanks and won him over. It’s not really the same, but the talking and winning over is illustrated. I think if there’s apostasy, there has to be some kind of public statement at some point, but it’s not either/or in my mind with the ongoing dialogue to build relationship to win them over.

            That’s my initial stab at that :)

            • DJ Jenkins

              Those are good thoughts Brian. And the “power/fighting for the 2nd class” stuff totally makes sense and is very interesting.

              I think even more interesting than that though is how Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to deal with false teachers. Peter was an Apostle, not a false teacher. But Paul tells Timothy and Titus things like strongly rebuke them or have nothing to do with them or pray that they have repentance and may escape the snare of the devil. CRAZY stuff.

              But it is anything but encouraging dialogue with them. I totally believe we are to dialogue and “believe the best” with our brothers and sisters, but that seems to not be the case when they are false teachers.


              • Brian Virtue

                I guess in my mind I hadn’t really moved to a place of thinking about Bell as a false teacher yet. To me it’s more of a brother/sister thing. I know the obvious question is – at what point does one become a false teacher? and then what do you do? But I’m not there with Bell yet. I need to read more for myself, but until then I’m not ready to go down the false teacher road like others have. I think it’s premature and my growing sense is that Bell himself is in process on some of this stuff (though I confess that’s my subjective intuition). I’m curious how he responds to all this stuff over the next year. That will either confirm many people’s perceptions or open up another chapter in his articulation of his theology.

                I would guess if someone was a “false teacher’ then there are some clear suggestions on what to do with them – but there’s some gray there for me as to when someone earns false teacher status. Others are clearly quicker to use that label, but I’m not ready to do that yet with him in this situation.

                Hard stuff to sort out here in my mind.

                • DJ Jenkins

                  Dude for me too. I think, based on what I have read of Bell, that I am comfortable placing him in that category. I don’t want to be uncharitable, and I have picked up the book (on audio) so I myself can see what he is saying so I can better judge. But it is tough.

                  This is a helpful discussion for me. I do think we should be cautious (I should be cautious) to put someone in the false teacher/heretic category.

                  It will be very interesting to see how Bell responds to all this. I am praying for him. Oh the impact he can have!

                • Brian Barela

                  here’s one question i have for you DJ–do you think he’s writing a purely theological book?

                  for the emergent church the narrative is most valuable, and i would say theology is second/not their top priority.

                  so if i wrote a poem and you thought i was writing a research paper you and i would have very different judgments/expectations.

                  i’m wondering if there is some of that going on w this.

                  as you listen let me know if you notice any hints of this.

        • Dan Birch

          Josh again,

          If we are put as overseers by God over the sheep entrusted to us in the movements. We need to NOT LET THEM COME TO THERE OWN CONCLUSION.

          Example: “would you let your 3 year old son play with knifes until he makes up his decision on whether its good for him to play with knifes?”

          No, we need to protect the students in our care. This isnt a justification issue anymore, its more serious than that

          • DJ Jenkins

            This all seems to come down to how serious of an error we think Bell has here, it seems to me.

            If this is a 3rd-level doctrinal issue, like is their a rapture or not, then it is not a “knife in the hands of a 3 year old” issue.

            But if it is it is a 1st-level issue, a “something other than by faith in Christ alone” type thing, then I think Dan’s characterization is fair.

            What do you think Josh?

      • Brian Barela

        i noticed a lot of people on both sides of the issue online (especially twitter) correcting/rebuking him more for personal gain than genuine love.

        i’d be curious to know how many of them tried to reach out to Rob Bell personally before just tweeting into the air that he’s a heretic.

        i’ll be honest and say that I’ve lost some respect for Mars Hill and Desiring God because of the manner in which they responded online.

        and although I was never a huge fan of Rob Bell the fact that he is so unwilling to take a stand has all but eliminated his credibility.

        • Aaron Badenhop

          Good thoughts Brian. I think this is just as much an issue of teaching about humble and thoughtful responses, especially in the public sphere, as it is about good Bible interpretation.

          For example, McClaren’s critique of Mohler on this issue is worth noting, though I am far from being a fan of McClaren:

          People are making assumptions they should be cautious to make with Bell, especially in regards to his intent. At the end of the day I am guessing I will disagree much with the conclusions that Bell comes to, but I have been disgusted by the response of those who are supposedly in the “right”.

      • Brian Virtue

        My response wasn’t in really in reference to the actual theological debate, but the predictable panic and reaction that would very quickly throw labels like apostate and heretic around. I have no problem with people publicly assessing Bell’s theology and stating what they disagree with or what they are concerned about or what. In fact, now that the book is out I have no problem with people publicly calling him out if they feel the need to as long as there’s some measure of dialogue and openness to talking through the issues in case there are learning opportunities. And I do believe from what I’ve read of Bell is that he usually raises good questions or issues to be considered even if we may part ways on some of his conclusions.

        Historically we’re really quick to throw people under the bus out of anxiety and the comfort of clear black and white lines. Typically learning moments are lost as people focus on preserving their positions. Even if someone deserves serious rebuke or correction, we should stay classy. Maybe even more key is that we should try to stay in relationship with folks in an effort to win them back as opposed to alienating and burning bridges. That’s much of the vibe in the back 1/5th of the book of Matthew. But that requires maturity and grace – something that we often lack when anxiety runs high.

    • Dan Birch


      I think this is one of our biggest disagreements ever:) I have to be frank right now.

      How can you say we need to be careful of what we say about Rob Bell infront of our students? If are students are watching Rob Bell we need to be quick to point them in a new direction.

      For example, if you were eating poison everyday, I would tell you to STOP EATING POISON” Any gospel that does not include HELL is a false gospel

      Think of the bible, how many times does Paul publicly name those who are preaching a false gospel? Or even mention “demas” who fell away after doing ministry with Paul side by side.

      I think after this recent book its pretty much a given that any christian should not LISTEN to rob bell what so ever. That doesnt mean they can make HURTFUL comments but we need the protect the “sheep” Thats part of the gospel, protecting those we care about.

      I agree that people are not humble about it, but whats even worse is the message that Rob bell is proclaiming, which is anti-the message of Jesus. Its not just a disagreement anymore, he has gone over the line. I would hope that you see that.

      • Josh Waidley

        Dan I would ask if you have read the book? Or are you basing your very strong opinions on the opinions of others?

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried, or be concerned about our students. But there is a difference between ‘protecting’ our students and basically what I see as intellectually censoring our students (ie, telling them what to think, who to read, who to listen to, ect). Our students should be able to engage in these topics and as staff we should offer to walk through it with them, especially when it comes to controversial topics like this one.

        What would be more effective? To say a student who is interested in all this, “Rob Bell is a heretic and you should not read him because he is preaching a false gospel” or to say “why don’t we go through the book together” and to lovingly AND honestly seek Biblical truth compared to Rob Bell’s book?

        There is nothing wrong with asking big questions like the one’s Rob Bell is asking in his book, no matter how much I disagree with his conclusions (based on excerpts I’ve read). But this conversation is not about our views as staff on Rob Bell being a heretic or not, it is about how we are going to lead in response to this current conversation. And telling your students “Rob Bell is a heretic, don’t read him, don’t listen to anything he says ever again” without reading the book, without engaging with questions he is bringing up (which students probably are interested in), and without a loving humble attitude is hardly Christ-like leadership.

        • Dan Birch

          I see your point. Honestly I’m not gonna read the book, I don’t need to cut myself with a “knife” to know that it is pointless. I read the in depth book review from Challies which is very credible and enough for me to respond.

          As well as would I say to a student yes “Rob Bell is a heretic and you should not read him!” YES I WOULD. I dont want to over spiritualize this but look at the bible

          “Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica”

          “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.”

          I think its clear we are supposed to call out false teachers or christians lead astray by specific name. This is a conviction level issue with Rob bell, I break FELLOWSHIP with him, therefore we should treat it the same way.

          Their isnt anything wrong with asking big questions, but there is something wrong when you CLAIM you are a follower of christ and leading people astray. I don’t think your argument stands in light of Rob bell’s message to people. If you wrote a book like Rob bell’s you would be kicked off Campus Crusade staff i’m pretty sure.

          I guess josh I just feel like your treating this issue the same as calvinism or some 2nd level disagreement and not holding and guarding DOCTRINE like Paul says to timothy.

          • Josh Waidley

            First of all if I wrote a book like Rob Bell’s I would be rich and set for life if I got kicked off staff 😉

            Just kidding.

            Again, though this isn’t an issue of what is Doctrinal/Orthodox/Heretical/whatever. The issue isn’t what side I’m on, or what I think of Rob Bell’s opinion. The issue is how we as staff are supposed to react and lead our students in this whole mess.

            And I just think reacting by telling any student who will listen that Rob Bell is a heretic, and don’t pay any attention to anything he is saying presupposes our students are all ‘sheep’ will believe anything anyone tells them, whether it is Rob Bell or Dan Birch. We need to encourage disciples who can think for themselves and actively seek Biblical truths in these areas. Telling them that Rob Bell is a heretic and not a Christian and to never read him seems to say, ‘don’t ask those questions, don’t go there, just believe everything I (as staff) say is orthodox cause I am smarter and more mature than you’. Which even if it was true seems like an overbearing parent who is convinced they are supposed to control every decision in their child’s life even when that child grows up…which is wrong I think.

            Honestly I think we as staff should be leading our students into engaging these questions because there is going to come a point in their life when they won’t have you telling them what is/isn’t orthodox and who they should be reading/not reading. Part of being in college is learning adulthood and part of adulthood especially Christian adulthood, is being able to think and discern truth for yourself (which I’m guessing Dan you definitely disagree with based on what you said earlier “We need to NOT LET THEM COME TO THEIR OWN CONCLUSION”). As staff walking alongside them and (hopefully) wanting them to become holistic, well-rounded disciples of Jesus part of that process is taking a look at tough questions based on what the Bible says, not what based on we tell them. You think Rob Bell is a heretic, fine, well then engage with those questions and point, go to the Bible and allow the student to make their own decision.

            We should be in that process with them and trust the truth of Jesus will be revealed instead of simply telling them to not ask questions, to not engage and to listen to everything we say.

            • Brian Virtue

              I like that Josh – we have to help people in the age 18-22 age range and upward learn to make decisions for themselves. That’s adult. That’s leadership development.

              • Phillip Baron

                As long as we truly understand our role.

                Someone who decides to not trust in Christ alone for their salvation is making a decision for themselves. Someone who decides that they want to continue to be carnal is a decision they make for themselves.

                I can’t force them to make the decision I want them to make. But i am responsible for what I do share and say to them. That is heart of this issue.

                When dealing with students, I need God’s wisdom on understanding where they are in their spiritual journey and is needed for them at that time.

                A new believer that is struggling with the deity of Christ and is given a book written by Jehovah Witnesses on why Christ is not God, would not be encouraged to read it. An older Christian with a stronger Biblical foundation may read it to solidify his/her arguments regarding Christ’s deity. For the new believer, i would focus on the Biblical basis of Christ’s deity and tell him/her that the Bible should always be our starting point.

                So with the issues of Bell’s book it’s the same principle. If I have some students who grew up in a Christian home, but only have “hand me down’ Christian faith and is really struggling with it, i would not recommend the book, but first go through scripture in dealing with the issues. I don’t want to continue the “handed down” faith, but allow them to struggle with the passages until they own it for themselves. Then you can walk with them as they see what others like Rob is saying and be able to defend for themselves what they believe.

                So the goal as chosen shepherds is to continue to bring those entrusted to us to Christ and help them mature by allowing them to wrestle with the scriptures as God’s spirit works in them to conform them to the image of Christ. As the foundation is laid in their heart and mind, we want it to be strengthened by allowing them to wrestle with the issues of life including books like this one. Increasingly it’s less of me and more of Jesus leading and guiding them.

                Just remember we can’t make the choices for them, but will give an account of what we do with them.

                • DJ Jenkins

                  I agree with this Phillip overall. Josh, I think you are saying some great stuff, that WE should not be the final call of orthodoxy, but we should teach people to go to the Word. But I think Phillip gives some good qualifications for how far we go depending on where people are at.

                • Josh Waidley

                  Yeah I totally agree with Phillip as well and probably should have qualified my ‘adulthood’ statement. I was making more general discipleship observations/hopes and pushing back against the idea all students shouldn’t be trusted to think for themselves or that we should tell them what to think/control what they think. Clearly not every student is in the same category and we have to be wise and discerning leaders. Well said Phillip!

              • Dan Birch

                Yeah i agree they need to think for themselves Brian, but we also have a huge influence on their spiritual walks with God.

                do we let them make up how to do evangelism? or do we let them to figure out how to read the bible? or Do we let them come to there own conclusions about sex outside of marriage? No we direct and teach them what God wants and why he wants it.

                In the same way we need to teach them, how to discern what a heretic is, and than the proper response behind it. I am in TOTAL AGREEMENT that we should create a “robotic” culture where every student does what we say, or hates on who we hate, but I do think with Rob bell it has come to the point where we need to be honest with any student who asks. And not show anymore Rob bell stuff in our ministries.

            • Dan Birch

              Ok ok I get what your saying:)

              Maybe we can find A NICE WAY of telling people Rob Bell is a heretic.:) I agree with people thinking and testing things I just think this is more serious I guess.

              agree to disagree on how we should let people know about heretics I guess

          • Karl Udy

            I noticed that the tagline for the challies website was “informing the reforming” which suggests that it will give a review from a Reformed point of view.

            • Dan Birch


              It doesn’t matter if its a reformed perspective, the issue of hell existing or not isnt a reformed issue. Its a Christianity issue, thats why people across denominational lines are calling rob bell a heretic. And just because a website is coming from a reformed perspective doesn’t mean they evaluate everything in terms of the 5 points of Calvinism. If Rob bell isn’t preaching a different gospel, we should be ware of that and join together across every denomination to stop it

  • DJ Jenkins

    As an MTL (or Campus Director for those not in CCC) I am concerned with the impact potential that Rob Bell has. Many of the young Christians are really impacted by him because of his amazing communication skills, his well-produced Nooma videos, and that he is a really cool guy.

    So personally, the way I have responded is to get the book myself (audio) and read it. Still need to do this. I have also been reading several reviews from several sources to get a rounded perspective. I have sent out some of those reviews to our Cru Facebook/Twitter pages and recommended our students read them.

    I don’t think I will do anything else right now unless I hear our students picking it up and reading it a ton. My biggest concerns lie with what seems to be to be some serious “Bible gymnastics” to get the interpretations and conclusions Bell comes to. Combine that with most of our Christian students not having a firm grasp on proper hermeneutics and that makes for bad results.

    Love to hear what others are doing.

  • BetsyG

    I find it interesting that people are critical of the people who are challenging Bell and his theology. Aside from Piper’s quick “Farewell Rob Bell” (which was disappointing), what I’ve read has been a thoughtful response is disagreeing with him. In an age where we seem to run to technology for connection and community, all of a sudden people are disappointed that “people in the evangelical community didn’t call Rob up personally and say, ‘Bro, what’s going on here?’ ” To flip that around, I would imagine Rob didn’t give it a thought to call a few of the more notable theologians of our day (Ravi, Sproul or your faovorite) and say, “I’m thinking about publishing a book on hell, let me run this by you.” So, all of that to say, he wrote a book. A very controversial book. It’s out there in cyberspace now, for all to discuss. And yes, what will we do with it? I am taking the opportunity to talk about eternal destinations with people. I think it pushes us back to the Bible- ALWAYS the Bible, as someone said here… we need to know the real thing so that the counterfeit can be spotted a mile away. As much as we like the sound of heaven, hell is a real place too.

    • Brian Virtue

      Dude for sure did not help himself out here in many, many ways. But I’m not sure it is on him to make sure everybody is cool with it, though it would have been smart to do this type of work in the community if he sees himself a part of it. I don’t know who was in the loop and who wasn’t. If he is going the direction he is going, he deserves the critiques. But he need not be attacked and young generations of students don’t need to be spooked into anti-rob bell paranoia. I fully agree with you that there are great opportunities created by this to teach and discuss what the Scriptures do teach and offer a real hope in Christ. I hope that’s what we’ve all been doing already! But perhaps there’s a greater hunger to learn among young people out there through this.

  • Karl Udy

    I have just read the comments here and my views would probably be more along the lines of what Josh and Brian have been saying.

    I also have not read the book but have read many reviews and from what I can ascertain this book puts Bells’ theology if not heterodox, then right at the edge of orthodoxy. However, I do believe it is opening a good debate because most people’s ideas of heaven and hell owe more to Dante that to the Bible, and this book I think will certainly push people to re-examine what the Bible really has to say about the topic, which I think will be a good thing.

    Dan, I struggle with some of your comments because they seem to indicate that you have a low view of students and their ability to engage with theology. I have tried for a long time when a controversial issue comes up, to not dictate to students what they should believe but to help them get a clear perspective of the issues involved in the controversy and let them make their mind up for themselves. I think if we don’t give our students room to discover for themselves what they believe, we actually retard their ability to develop spiritual and theological depth themselves, and we run the risk of creating a bunch of burnt, disaffected students who want nothing to do with us when they graduate because we treated them like children, and didn’t allow them to think independently or come to their own conclusions about things. I understand that your heart is that you don’t want to see students sidetracked by heresies, but I think that your approach is likely to be counterproductive in the long run. If they are going to lead our movements, we need to be able to trust them to make good decisions and discern the truth.

    • Dan Birch

      Hey Karl,

      Yeah I definitely get what your saying, and let me just clarify, I am all FOR students coming up with there own ideas, and own theology. I guess what I’m trying to communicate is this isn’t a THEOLOGY issue, this isn’t Calvinism, or spiritual gifts, Rob bell is making heretical comments. I think I’m seeing a lot of people on this blog underestimate their own students, I don’t care if I’m on staff or not I can give my opinion and students will listen, and weigh it to a certain degree. I think I’m just wanted to promote staff if asked to let their students know Rob Bell has made some heretical statements and they should really be careful around his material. I’m not PREACHING against Rob bell, i just don’t want this issue to be treated like another theology issue, is needs to be a little stronger, and i think staff need to really evaluate what HILLS they die on theologically, at what point do you draw the line? I don’t go around and tell students not to listen to Rob bell, but if they ask me I’ll tell them, and if I see them reading his material I will warn them. Thats my point really.

      • Karl Udy

        OK Dan, from some of your other statements, I wasn’t quite getting that this is your approach. I’d be interested to know what exactly you think he’s teaching that is heretical.

        • Dan Birch

          Basically I think he’s teaching everyone goes to heaven, and hell doesn’t exist. Which is heretical to me.

          • Karl Udy

            From what I’ve read so far, it seems as though he is saying that hell is not necessarily a final destination, and that people can respond to accept Christ after they have died. Now, I’m not saying that that makes it orthodox, but it does seem to be a different issue to what you’re arguing against. Also, he seems to take a view similar to NT Wright’s on heaven. NT Wright has said in a number of his writings that heaven is not our ultimate destiny, and his views are well within the bounds of orthodoxy.

            I think your view is an inaccurate characterization of what Rob Bell is saying. If instead you said that he’s teaching that all will be saved, you may be correct, but I don’t know myself if that is what the book is actually saying. If it is saying this then I believe this is a false teaching.

            One thing that is important to understand as well, is that this book and Rob Bell are coming from a very postmodern understanding of the world. What matters most to them is the overarching narrative. It seems to me that his major issue in writing this book is that the story that has been told by the church does not reflect the character of God. The best way to win over people who believe the story of “Love Wins” is probably not by shouting “heresy!” or even dissecting the theology. The best way is to tell a better story.

            If “Love Wins” is wrong we need to tell a story that demonstrates God’s character better than “Love Wins”.

        • DJ Jenkins

          One of the things that was helpful for me to read was that Bell apparently isn’t advocating a traditional universalism view. Traditional universalism teaches it doesn’t matter if it is Jesus, Buddha, Allah, whatever, God made all the the religions and so they all lead to him.

          Bell says he agree with John 14:6 that Jesus is the ONLY way. So apparently he is teaching “universal reconciliation”, that is, EVERYONE will one day be reconciled by Jesus, whether now, or in eternity future. Hence, the title, “Love Wins.”

          Is this heresy, if is is what he is truly teaching? I would argue yes. No some argue he is not teaching this. That is fair. That is a good debate. I wish Bell would answer questions more straightly so we could know!

          The other thing I read in this review (, if it accurately represents what Bell is saying, is that Bell teaches that universal reconciliation has ALREADY HAPPENED FOR EVERYONE. This happened when Jesus won his victory on the cross. This is the basis for why everyone, in the end, gets reconciled to Jesus no matter what. This eliminates the need for faith in Jesus if true. Or perhaps Bell would argue that everyone will be won over to faith in Jesus. Either way, reconciliation is universal.

          This, I would argue more strongly, again, if accurate to what Bell is teaching, IS heretical and even MORE of an attack on the gospel. If Bell is saying everyone is already reconciled to God then it is a different gospel, one worthy of an “anathema.”

          I dont’ know if this is exactly what Bell is teaching. I still need to read the book (got my copy). But would anyone here argue that, if true, those things AREN’T heretical?

    • DJ Jenkins

      Karl, I agree overall we want to build up our students to have a firm theology grounded in the Bible and not in what we say.

      But I keep going back to how Paul instructed Timothy/Titus to deal with false teachers. It is anything but letting people be “in process.” I just read in Titus today that Paul says the false teachers much be silenced because they are upsetting the faith of some.

      Paul has much more of a tone of protecting the sheep than allowing them to come to conclusions.

      Now, this all changes if you don’t believe Bell has crossed the line into false teacher. But if we (and I think Dan and I would say, in our best estimation, that Bell has crossed the line) think he has, we HAVE to take a harder stance if we are to follow Paul, right?

  • Jake Demaray

    the goings on of the last couple weeks, with the initial post on the gospel collation with the book trailer and publisher write up to the live question and “answer” (did you see what i did there?) time, i have to say that it’s really brining be back to when “the shack” first came out. in fact if i remember correctly there was something going around that william p. young was something of a universalist himself.

    i know i’m still pretty new to the whole ccc staff realm but from what i’ve experienced, read, and studied i’ve already had some first hand experience on how books that teach a different kind of gospel can really screw up a new or developing believer as well as an unbeliever.

    i was taking a student sharing in a dorm and we talked to a kid who pretty much held “the shack” as his gospel. he held those words up above what even the Bible says. anytime we tried to quote scripture to him he would respond, “well the shack said…”

    without some heavy handed leading and some vary specific guidance when it comes to very grey areas like this it is very easy for someone to take this book as fact. i mean it’s truly heartbreaking that i can’t send a student to the Bible books store to just pick out a book to read.

    and for me this whole rob bell issue isn’t something new with this book. i’ve had problems with many of his past books and a couple of the nooma videos. i agree with tim in that i would never suggest a student pick up one of his books.

    bell has this way of never really fully committing to anything… you can see this in his books, in his interviews, and during the live event that took place a day before the book came out. he never answered any of the questions. part of me wonders if that was part of the marketing because i now feel like i have to pay the $15 to pick up the book just to find out what he’s actually talking about.

    thus far i’ve read bell’s books, i’ve listened to his church’s podcast on several occasions, i’ve seen the nooma videos and i can say there’s much better material out there. i can’t make any judgement calls on where he stands with Christ but i can honestly say that the lies and mis-truths that he’s put out so far have smelled so sweet. like the interview posted above said, he’s joined up with a “gospel” that is completely un-offencive.

    if you want to check out the live question and no answer session with an editor from newsweek where bell dodges questions about the book you can check it out here.

    • Brian Barela

      jake sadly i feel like self-marketing was the winner in all this. as you noted those who have “benefitted” most are Bell and those who came out against him before the book was released. it seemed like a rush to be first to condemn him in the most self-righteous and conservatively postured manner.

  • de

    This is an interesting discussion and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the comments.

    In Destino our students don’t have a clue who Rob Bell is (or John Piper for that matter). When I saw this topic I didn’t really even want to read it because it just isn’t anywhere near my ministry reality. We’re not doing ministry in the White Evangelical stream. But the broader conversations in the comments do apply and have been worth my time.

  • Dennis Leskowski

    As the CCC Campus Director whose campus is 15 minutes from Mars Hill and whose 450-student CCC movement has about 100 students attending Rob Bell’s church on Sundays, we have taken an approach that has developed Biblical awareness, critical thinking, and emphasizes “charitable scholarship” from those who are “pro-Bell” and “anti-Bell”.

    Our methodology involves alot of “roundtable discussions” in person and through the new FB groups of people who know each other on his books, and prioritizes face-to-face and inter-personal communication instead of blogs and tweets. Why? Because we need to interact like postmodernists if we are to EFFECTIVELY reach postmodernists. (I realize this approach my sound strange to established modernists who feel like we need to blast airhorns at everything that moves, but I lost my copy of the Jerome’s Vulgate Bible years ago and I’ve been doing alright without it).

    My goal is to help every student PERSONALLY learn how to think Biblically through these issues (and take it issue by issue, and not succumb to the good/bad split). I feel like we’ve done well and it’s been encouraging to see solid development in our students.

    (If you would like more specific information on this book or anything regarding Rob Bell’s teaching, church and books, feel free to contact me at – as I will not be posting any more information on an on-line forum about it – as it’s counter to the route we’ve committed to. Thanks!)

    • Brian Barela

      good thoughts dennis!

    • DJ Jenkins

      Wow thanks for the perspective. That is cool to hear how you guys are walking through it being so close.

  • Stephanie Raquel

    At the end of the day, it comes back to what are the recorded words of scripture on the matter of life after death?

    GREAT summary of what the Bible says on Hell by Mark Driscoll from, here:

    Our church of about 2,000 adults has pulled the NOOMA videos from our small group resources library. Not that there was anything in there that was necessarily offensive or heretical, but to avoid furthering Rob Bell’s sphere of influence and to give our leadership some time to pray and further evaluate.

  • Rocky Waters

    If theology was REALLY the issue here, Taylor and Piper would have kept their trap shut until the book was out in print (and then have read it!) before posting scathing reviews. It’s ridiculous. Inexcusable. And embarrassing.

    To be fair, I’m not defending Rob Bell here. HarperOne and Bell are clearly marketing geniuses. BUT, I haven’t read his book, so I choose to withhold judgement. Surprise!….it’s not that difficult to do!

    • Brian Barela

      rock i think the drive to sell a book is a bigger factor than many assume–Bell HAD to know that by not taking a stance that Piper, Driscoll and the rest of that crew would go after him.

      and that Piper, Driscoll, and the bloggers who posted reviews before reading would garner extra pageviews and attention.

      this discussion has been very balanced and healthy–most likely because the post did not take an extreme stand and there had been time for more information to come out from Bell.

      from my vantage point BOTH sides lost–and i think the US Christian white upper middle class church lost as well.

      • Rocky Waters

        Yes, not too many “wins” for the Kingdom here. And certainly the executives are laughing all the way to the bank. Just checked…Love Wins is #4 on Amazon right now!

        I just can’t grasp how people can review or even comment on a book without reading it. Maybe comment on someone’s blog content, etc, but without having reading the book, what do you REALLY have to say about the book itself?…and especially in the current context (i.e., irresponsibility) that this whole situation has created.

        I’m baffled…(if you can’t tell).

        • Brian Barela

          lol. i’m just frustrated. we look just like everyone else, or “mere men.”

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