what the hell!? making sense of the fiasco with rob bell, john piper, and a book we’ve yet to read.

Sorry, I thought this was a funny and appropriate title for this post. Maybe not.

I am doing the world a huge favor because I know that no one has heard about the brouhaha that transpired this past Saturday over some dude named Rob Bell or rather, a book he’s written that is yet to be released and Gospel Coalition, John Piper, and the legions of “new-Calvinists” that see it as their convictions to defend and contend for orthodox Christianity. [Read Part 2, The Most Important Thing.]

So…this blog post about Bell’s upcoming book  pretty much declared Bell to be a universalist and that was the match that set off the firestorm. Perhaps, we should add Rob’s book to our list of Christian books that should NOT be published. 😉

What are your thoughts about the fiasco?

As usual, here are some of my random & vomitaceous thoughts:

Rob is a friend…

Now, let me go on the record and share that I like Rob. I’ve blogged about him – with praise and pushback. We’ve emailed several times. He’s shown some tweet support for One Day’s Wages. In short, I’m proud to call him a friend and a brother in Christ.

So, it pained me to see so much venomous stuff being written about Rob.

Me like the Universalist Post

This might be hard for some of you to believe but I liked the original post by Justin Taylor that set off the firestorm. I actually think it’s important and on occasion, for people to “fight” and contend for our convictions.

I’ve gone on the record before that I’m cool with folks contending for the gospel but not being jerks in the process. And J. Taylor wrote a decent post. He wasn’t being a jerk in my opinion.

But there was a slight problem.

What the hell?!

The “slight problem” is that the author of the blogpost and to my knowledge, the countless others who were slamming Rob Bell hadn’t even read the book. Huh? What?

How can you devote 90% of a blog post declaring someone to be a heretic; disguised as an angel of Light, blah blah blah – but without having actually read the book?


You throw someone under the bus and basically declare someone – in your worldview – a heretic based upon a video vignette + a book jacket?

Did Piper really tweet, “Farewell Rob Bell”?

I have a great deal of respect for John Piper. As such with Rob Bell, I don’t agree with everything Piper but am humbled by his passion and commitment to the Gospel. His book Desiring God was incredibly influential in my younger days as a Christian. I’m going to assume that one of his staff who usually tweets on behalf of Piper. Again, I’d be shocked if it was Piper himself and if it was, I’d be so disappointed.

And if it was one of his staff or for that matter, John Piper himself…

Shouldn’t there be an apology for the poor taste in usage of these words?

Seriously, in hindsight, someone of Piper’s wisdom and maturity should see that tweet and assess it’s simply not godly or Christ-honoring. Whether it intended to be or not, it was simply wrong…and I am hoping a formal apology is made.

The Importance of Theology

Theology is important. No matter what others may say or think, it has great value and importance. In fact, I would contend that one of the aspects that ails the Church is the lack of theological depth and substance. The [C]hurch are a bunch of lightweight theological dummies.

But my point is that while theology is indeed very important, it’s not the most important thing. If theology was the most important thing, we’d be screwed as salvation would rest in humanity’s ability to understand with absolute clarity. [Read What is the Most Important Thing?]

Clarity & Mystery

There are some aspects that are absolutely essential to our faith. They are non-negotiables. They are the facets of faith that we hold as “closed-fisted issues”; matters of our beliefs that we are willing to fight on the hill for. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we can acknowledge that we don’t know everything; that we have questions and even doubts about certain things. While we might be attracted to absolute clarity, we  must yield to the possibility that there are some things that are mysterious; they are not fully attainable – as of yet. I would say that while we cling to the essentials of our faith, we are not any less Christian by asking questions.

So, seriously, what the hell?

We’ll try to tackle that and the question of universalism for the next post. We’ll write a book together.

We’ll trend, baby. We’ll trend.

On a serious note, I shared above that I’m proud to call Rob a friend. But friend or not, no one exists on an island to themselves. We all serve a God, a Kingdom, a Savior, and a Gospel that is greater than us. And it may be possible that he may be drifting towards the trajectory of a “universalist” (or “inclusivist”) and as much as it “feels” right and good, I’d disagree with him. But the point is…we really have no idea from a video vignette or book jacket cover.

My closing thoughts:

The Gospel is greater than conflicts!

91 Replies to “what the hell!? making sense of the fiasco with rob bell, john piper, and a book we’ve yet to read.”

  1. Wow! I’m looking forward to reading the book when it comes out. I’m disappointed in the gospel coalition’s fierce debate on theological perspectives. While I agree that good theology is important, I wonder who’s idea of good theology is it? It seems that the conservative, neo Calvinist right speak the loudest and I don’t hear much humility, mercy or friendship in their tone. “our way or no way” just might be their team slogan.

    I wouldn’t be considered “emergent” if that is even still a conversation these days. And I wouldn’t agree with Bell if he’s advocating that everyone avoids judgement, punishment as a result of sin.

    But I wouldn’t slam the guy either. I’d try to have lunch with him. Send him a halmark card or something. Yelling at hime and calling him names does get his attention or get him to open to thoughts different from his own. It only ignites the the folks who are already fired up about liberal theology.

    Thanks for letting us know the saga continues 😉

  2. Good post Eugene. I agree on several fronts:

    1. Any confrontation/rebuke should be based on Matthew 18 – (assuming there was no prior conversation) a Tweet is a terrible way to do this. In fact, biblically, do we ever say “Farewell” to anyone? Ever? I don’t think so.

    Even if someone ‘steps away’ (which we don’t know if Rob has without a book or a response from him) do we ever say “Farewell?” Is this is good practice? Should pastors/shepherds do this? Should we have said “Farewell” to Anne Rice or Ted Haggard or anyone else who ever sins? Does God ever say Farewell to us? I hope not.

    2. The real winner here is Bell. His book has been top 50 on Amazon this week and #1 for faith books. This means he is selling a TON of books. Honestly, this whirlwind of controversy is probably landing him on the NY Times list for the first time. The controversy is spreading his message more than a massive PR campaign ever could. So in the name of “protection from the false teacher,” a public, and perhaps unbiblical rebuke has backfired. Bell might even hit the NY Times list the first week, and I would conservatively project this book to make him well over a million dollars.

    Oh well… thanks for letting me share. That is all.

    1. thanks john for the comment.

      i have no idea how the publishing world works but i’m sure the publishers are grinning ear to ear right now. and i think you’re right, it’ll easily get on the NY Times bestsellers list.

  3. I had never heard of Rob Bell until this weekend. What does that make me?

    Anyways, I wonder why The Gospel Coalition (they will now have a special session in their annual conference on this topic!) and Justin Taylor went after Rob Bell. There are so many clear heretics, such as the Prosperity Gospel preachers that Piper is so prominently against. Why don’t they go after those guys BY NAME? Why single out one universalist? Again, I’m asking this because I still have no clue who Rob Bell is… Was he formerly affiliated with the Gospel Coalition? It just strange to go after one guy

    Eugene, why don’t you email Rob and ask him personally?

  4. Seriously, I was shocked… as in, mouth agape and speechless – at both the blog post and Piper’s tweet (his tweet on the heels of another very demeaning blog post on his own website in response to Obama’s decision about the Marriage Act). I also don’t have an issue with people defending the gospel and having personal beliefs. However, my incredulity results from the fact that they did not read the book. Why make assumptions about the book and about the author based on a PROMO vid and EDITOR’s summary? Why cause this kind of divisiveness prematurely? In my friend’s words, Rob Bell is obviously a marketing genius. I’m starting to think this is all a very good controversy. It is helping me to see that John Piper is also human.

    1. if this was all part of a marketing ploy, i’d feel the need to take a shower. not against folks selling their stuff but if there’s direct manipulation. i’m sure that wasn’t the case as no one could have predicted the eruption.

      but that’s just me.

      1. I sorta predicted it. Of course you’ll have an uproar if you challenge long held beliefs like an eternal hell. And the way the marketing guys did it, knew how to spin it. Controversy sells.

        The more controversial we try to make ourselves, the more attention we’ll get and will find a niche.

    2. While I don’t know Rob Bell, from what I know of him I doubt that he intended to provoke an uproar for the sake of promoting his book. I’m sure he expects an uproar at his words these days considering it seems to happen everytime he does something new, but that doesn’t mean he intends to cause it.

  5. Thanks Eugene, I haven’t read the book yet, but I know a lot of people concerned with Mars Hill method of teaching, which as you point out is also true of Piper or anyone one else that has braved putting out a thought on theology in practice. I don’t agree with your statement about theology only because the nature of theology is understanding of God, Scriptures, etc. and it affects how we live out our faith. Salvation is theological just as much as one’s opinion of heaven and hell (also a part of the salvation story). But, I too was saddened by the lack of discourse on specific points of concern and the use of all out Christian “biting and devouring” without proof of bad teaching clearly brought out.

    I think, as you say, there should have been “push back” rather than attacks.

    1. can you clarify some specifics about the statement, “I know a lot of people concerned with Mars Hill method of teaching…”? i listen to the sermons from Mars Hill regularly and can’t see where this is coming from…

  6. This is good discussion and important for the church. I would like to add my two cents and say that while I agree with you, I can also disagree to an extent. Now, I know that that sounds contradictory, so give me a brief moment to explain. The Word of God is sometimes seemingly contradictory to us in a similar manner, and from what I have seen so far, both points of view can be seen as biblical. It is times like these that some (like Rob Bell) would say that that is because the Bible IS contradictory…well, I strongly disagree. What then are we to do with these seemingly contradictory points? I can tell you the first thing that I do is pray. Pray for understanding. Then I look for godly men and women, and seek wisdom in a multitude of counsel. Now, back to the point that I started with, where I can see both sides. In the Word we see where we are to be kind to one another, lift each other up, not get caught up in religious arguments, all the good things that you are writing about in this blog. We must, most definitely strive for peace in the Body. However, we also see where there are times to speak boldly and openly as Paul did with Peter in Galatians 2, and confront the issue. I am not saying that I KNOW what is right in this situation, I am saying that both scenarios are right and good depending on what the Holy Spirit reveals in each situation. All that to say that just because someone has a harsh criticism does not mean that they are in the wrong. The Lord may be leading them, as with Paul confronting Peter, to openly point out their flaw. Leave it up to the Lord to reveal which.

  7. While the church calls the world to repentance, I think the Church needs to do some repenting as well. I feel the reformed camp needs to repent from putting Calvin and theology on the pedestal, and the theologically unsound churches repent from exchanging truths with lies…and I need to repent from being critical and rebellious…P. Eugene, great post!

  8. I believe John Piper tweeted in the same context of what D.A. Carson said about Brian McClaren. “He has largely abandoned the gospel,” in this case, “farewell.”

  9. A couple thoughts:

    1. Twitter is such a powerful tool. It’s really scary how much good or bad can be done within 160 characters. I wonder what James the apostle would have to say if he had to write about taming our tongues again 😛

    2. As much drama as there is, more than anything there needs to be a lot more meeting and discussion rather than finger pointing and commentary from afar. Matthew 18 comes to mind.

    3. Coming back to the technology theme my thoughts seem to be hovering on I appreciate Pastor Eugene’s closing comments on how no man is an island to themselves. For all the ways we can connect and/or communicate through Facebook, Twitter, what have you, I think its ironic how we use those modern tools to become islands anyway.

  10. This may remind some of you a similar controversy that occurred in the 80’s over the book “Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved,” by Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I don’t know if Bell addresses this work by von Balthasar but it, along with his trilogy “The Glory of the Lord” offer profound insights into this theology. Both Balthasar and Karl Barth (along with Adrienne von Speyr) suffered these same accusations and one can gain insights into our present controversy by studying theirs. At the end of his third volume, von Balthasar proposes that we consider the question of eternal damnation not so much from the perspective of man (“What does man lose if he loses God?”), as from the standpoint of God: (“What does God lose if he loses man?”). What would it mean for God to have to condemn one of His creatures? According to Balthasar, we have become too accustomed to posing the question of eternal damnation abstractly, as though the outcome were a matter of indifference. In Jesus Christ, God has revealed his desire to save all of mankind. As absolute love, God has involved Himself in the drama of our salvation precisely to the point of being abandoned and dying the death of a sinner “in our place.” The loss of a portion of mankind, although a real possibility, would be an unspeakable tragedy for God and likewise for the Christian who is united in Christ to each member of humanity. Christians, who by baptism are given a share in the mission of Christ, are called to hope and pray for the salvation of all men.” I think von Balthasar asks the right question “Dare We Hope That All Men (sic) Be Saved,” From what little I know of Bell’s work he seems to be asking some important questions as well. Obliged, Daniel.
    (p.s., as for Piper he could benefit from an understanding of von Speyr who wrote: “The first step in learning to love others is the attempt to understand them…to get or to understand people always means to look at them from God’s angle, from the point of view communicated through Him. It is not a science, but a pure grace.”)

  11. We’ve got to reserve judgment until the book comes out, for sure. But at the same time, Rob’s video HEAVILY hinted at Universalism. He asked, sarcastically, “Gandhi’s in hell? Really?”

    Well, we can’t say for certain because we’re not God, but yeah, he probably is. Yes, you do have to believe in Christ to “go to Heaven.” Scripture makes that clear. If we stray from that, we’re straying into something the is not a “Christian” faith. It’s something else. That was my fear when I watched the video. But again, let’s reserve judgment until the book comes out. If our fears are realized, then yes, there does need to be a public rebuke and correction of Bell from Christians and Christian leaders.

    1. I think you’ve got to be careful. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father but through me.” Meaning only Jesus gets to be the judge (thank God). He didn’t say you had to profess a certain creed, or pray a certain way. He gets to decide, period.

      Besides, the way you phrased it (‘you do have to believe in Christ to “go to Heaven”‘) no Hebrews who lived before Jesus would be in heaven. I’m sure you don’t mean that.

      1. Most certainly they are, as they were given the written Torah, which was the old covenant; a framework for receiving God’s grace through faithful trusting. Even though the Pharasees and Torah teachers, and the rabbi’s after them, teach many things about the Torah that are true, they were off target to the extent that nob-Messianic Judaism makes of the Torah a legalistic system that perverts it’s true intention, which is to receive God’s grace. The new covenant which is the living Torah, the Messiah, has made this true purpose of the written Torah stand out as never before…

  12. I’m not sure why people assume that the promotional blurb and the video necessarily point to universalism.

    They could pretty much equally point to annihalism and/or inclusivism. Perhaps to some those are heresies of an equal level, but they sure are a huge jump away from universalism.

  13. “Love… always protects, always trusts…”
    I’ve read plenty of remarks about Rob’s book with the notion that it is out of love.
    I wonder if we’re practicing Love well. What if we sought to understand his position first.

    I think the key is love and humility.

    If we love our brothers, we would first protect him from the onslaught of accusations. We would also trust first before going into assumptions and speculations.

    Also, Humility is a big issue here. This man has obviously got some major influence in Christendom. I would first ask, in humility, why.
    Why does what he have to say strike a chord in people? (This also sets one on a firm foundation of respect for his audience. Just cause they like him doesn’t mean they are all stupid and brainwashed, can’t think for themselves, can’t filter things out) I think preachers and Christian leaders often think that lay-people are just too stupid to know the difference between light and darkness. Pretty disrespectful if you ask me.

    I would also, in humility and as a student of God, ask…
    If this guy really did become something like a Universalist, what would prompt him to do so? What did he read, who was he influenced by, what happened in his own life that would lead him to these theological thoughts? I don’t have to agree but I can sure learn from his journey and how his ideas evolved over time.

    To Protect Truth (our versions of it) or to Protect our Brothers in Love. ???

    Orthodoxy AND Orthopraxy, right?! Hmmmm.

    “Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
    – Saint Francis of Assisi

  14. I am a Jurgen Moltmann fan, and in his book The Coming of God, which focuses on eschatology, he points out many scriptures that support both double option and universalist theology. His argument, therefore, is that either theology can’t be defended by scripture alone. So then the conversation becomes more one of philosophical theology, and he makes compelling points for both sides. In the ends, he lands somewhere in the middle, and embraces the tension that brings.

    Anyway, I appreciate his writing and perspective, and I think he speaks to this discussion directly and articulately.

  15. Maybe john piper thought ” farewell rob bell” was funny just like you thought “what the hell?” was funny. Piper I would think just wants to follow his conscience on this issue and ensure those that follow him are aware that rob seems to be departing from the bible. Like the idea of thinking out of the box but maybe rob should use his God given talents to delving more into the unreachable riches that are in it.

  16. I enjoyed your insight and had the same reaction. My only caviat is that Rob Bell is knowingly using controversy to push his book. He knows that just by questioning Hell people are going to freak out and cause back lash and bring attention to his book. I dont condone the back lash and have even had to reign myself back in, knowing that i have yet to read the book. I guess we will all see in the end…no pun intended!!!!

    1. I really like this observation. The reaction against anyone suggesting univ. is so extreme, and I’m sorry, I really don’t think it’s concern for those who will supposedly roast in hell. I think it’s more people bummed that without the threat of hell, it will be so much harder to get people to do what they want!

  17. You’re a generous man, brother Eugene. I agree that the urgency of some to pronounce a final verdict on Bell as a heretic is a failure of both restraint and responsibility. On the other hand, Bell’s theology seems to have drifted considerably in recent years.

    The dance of balancing grace and truth is a delicate one. Personally, I’m saddened by this whole situation and the intensified intra-evangelical polarization that will likely ensue. Oh, that we may be one!

    For some refreshingly sober clarity in all this, John Dyer offers some helpful comments on the role of quick-trigger technology in these blogosphere backlash-fests:


  18. Ever since Rob Bell wrote Velvet Elvis, people have been talking about how he is a heretic without having read a word he said.

    Rob Bell challenges the “us vs. them” mentality that most of the world holds. To Christians this is usually the “who is going to Heaven, and who is going to Hell” question. He wants to change the question, and this is what upsets people.

    What did Jesus do every time that someone wanted him to make a judgement about someone else? He pointed it back at themselves because they weren’t in a place to judge. When the religious leaders brought the woman caught in adultery to his feet, he put it in their faces that they had no right to judge that woman, and then he (the one person there who could have judged) forgave her.

    I’ve listened and read a lot of what Rob Bell has said, and I think he always tries to get people to look at themselves before trying to look at what other people are doing, which sounds a bit like what Jesus did. But to some people it sounds like universalism.

    We should question Rob Bell’s take on things, but fairly, and no differently than how we question any other author or pastor. I agree with Bell that we need to change the question. We need to stop working within a framework of “us vs them”, and start loving people as Jesus did.

    As for Ghandi. Bell hasn’t said that everyone goes to heaven. He just questions the assumption that only the people who call themselves Christian are going to heaven. Ghandi is an interesting example as he is someone strongly influenced by Christ’s teachings, and said that he would be Christian if it weren’t for the Christians.

    I haven’t really come to any strong definitive conclusion on this kind of stuff, but I’ve decided that God’s grace reaches far beyond what we would expect. So, while I can’t know for sure, I can’t help but think that people like Ghandi would be welcome in God’s Kingdom.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I think deep down Rob may be saying what a lot of people have been thinking and hoping for much time. There are many more universalists out there, but they are afraid to say anything. If this book is about this, whether you agree with it or not, you have to respect for Bell for standing up for his beliefs. He will be viciously attacked for it for sure.

      1. Yeah, I think a lot of everyday run of the mill people understand the sense of “some form of” universalism. Maybe people like Rob because he seems more regular, maybe these theologican types like Piper are just mad that if people are listening to RB it means they aren’t listening to him. There’s a lot of pride and desire for control in everyone.

  19. The nuances of “is he or isn’t he” that seem to consume church people, and the near puzzle-like way that so many of these discussions work to piece together language so as not to violate a theological rule, is the very reason I don’t associate with church anymore and find it, generally, to be a very dangerous place. Rob Bell is one of the few teachers I’ve ever heard who, I imagine, would understand that. So: I caught that this huge controversy was running around the web and read a few of the blog posts. I just wanted to post here that I appreciate the balance shown on this site and some attempt to cut the man a little slack. I don’t care what he believes, personally; when I hear him talk, I get the impression he would accept me where and for what I am. That trumps most of the christian shit floating around.

  20. This whole thing has been frustrating to read about in the past few days, especially the comments of people writing him off without having ever read his book. (this filtering down from Justin Taylor to my facebook friends) I agree with Rachel Held Evans in this post http://rachelheldevans.com/rob-bell-heaven-hell-universalism
    when she says that the questions Bell is asking are important ones, questions that people are already asking. Right now we don’t really know where he’s going to end-up in terms of answering these questions in his book, but I think the fact that he’s asking them reflects a sincere desire of many believers who wrestle with these issues and to keep pursuing God. I would be surprised if Bell comes-out on the side of full-fledged universalism, my guess is that it’s a form of inclusivism, which frankly, I’m ok with. I’m saddened that Piper and others are publicly crucifying Bell for bringing-up questions and issues that are real for so many people in the Church. To me this just shows how closed-off they are in dealing charitably with sincere believers who have valid questions. Let’s wait and see what Bell actually says before forming any opinion about it.

    1. Bell believes in post-mortem purgatory and a choice to receive Christ and heaven after death. It’s published on his church’s website in the Q and A section.

      I guess Piper was right… not in a demeaning way, but Bell has gone more mainstream and out of the narrow evangelical form of Christianity.

  21. I preached on hell a couple weeks ago, even before I knew of this brouhaha. I mentioned a few alternatives to the traditional view on hell. I had 4 people get up and walk out. Some are still threatening to leave the church. I’ve been told the Spirit is no longer present when I preach. I’m thinking of writing an inspirational praise chorus with the catchy title “People Need Their Hell.”

    1. Well, I hope that doesn’t get you too down, because just think of all the people you might be giving a faint faint hope that maybe Christianity isn’t abusive after all.

  22. I loved Rob Bells book Velvet Elvis. I remember, before I read the book, that many called Rob Bell a heretic for what he had written. So before making rash decisions, I will wait to read his upcoming book for myself. I, myself, don’t believe in a universal salvation for all mankind. And to those who dont’ think there is a REAL place of eternal suffering and torment; I hope you don’t find out the hard way. 🙂

    1. I enjoyed your teaching. I was struck by what you said (paraphrasing), “There is no such thing as ‘great men’ or ‘great women’ of God. Rather a great God working through ordinary men and women.”

      Admit that I come from a legalistic background and find that I still can be so. Yet, I am thankful that God reveals these moments and that I am no longer blinded by my own legalism. Jesus has told us what the two greatest commandments are for his church. 1-To love God above everything and 2-to love others as ourself. Yes, doctrine and theology are important, but as you stated in your teaching, without Jesus they don’t matter.

  23. Wonderful conversation. My observation is that I can’t help but see the similarities between what is happening in the hearts of the Evangelical leaders namely Piper and the Religious leadership of Israel in the time of Christ, of whom I’m sure that Piper would never want to be associated.
    Their response to the radical teachings of Christ of the generosity or God, and the way that he scandalously touched the unclean, ate with notorious sinners, associated with tax collecters was exactly the response of Piper and the evangelicals in regards to Mr Bell. to try to shut him up, shut him down, assasinate his character and (God forbid it happen to Rob) ultimately killed him. Why? its abundantly clear: to protect their positions of authority, their doctrines and their livelihoods. It is always those who feel they have the most to protect who are the quickest to attack. Imagine how many books Piper would have to rewrite, how many recants he would have to make if he were to actually believe in the incredible, scandalousm overwhelming grace and generosity of God. The Gospel isn’t nearly as good as we think it, it is infinetly better.

    1. While I admit that part of me feels a bit the same way, we also need to be careful not to judge John Piper as unless we know his life, and his heart, we are in no place to judge his relationship with God.

      Good and faithful people can be wrong, which is good news for all of us as God in His grace forgives and accepts us with all of our faults. And we all have faults. I choose to assume that John Piper and the other critics are good Christians who maybe just needs to learn that criticizing and/or dismissing another author like this isn’t productive.

  24. A lot of things cannot be understood without your sins being taken away first, and revelation. A lot of things in the Bible cannot be proven which just glorifies, but taken as Truth and experience combine after time creating true knowledge in your heart. Expressions of the heart are often misunderstood. GOD always sees the heart, so judgements are better left undone. But it seems relationships are formed in men only after struggles. I wouldn’t be surprised if Revs Piper and Bell became good friends eventually.

  25. Bell’s belief in post-Mortem purgatory and a choice to choose Christ and heaven after death… what are your thoughts?

    Emotionally, something I wouldn’t mind being true, but biblically.. seems just a bit of a stretch to make it work.

    1. Where exactly did you find that Bell believes in a “Post-mortem purgatory”? Provide links please. I cannot recall any such time where Bell said or wrote that he believes that.

      Plus, the traditional idea of “purgatory” is an idea about what happens after people die. “Post-mortem” means, “after death”. So to say “Post-mortem purgatory” is to repeat yourself.

      1. Andy – this is, to a great extent, what Rob Bell’s book is about. He says that when the Bible says that someone is put into “eternal fire”, a better translation would be “intense correction”. The main idea he argues in his book is that that people will still be able to repent and come into a saving relationship with God after they die. This idea mirrors purgatory in a lot of ways.

        1. I admit that I have not read the book yet, so I cannot answer to that. However, something that “mirrors purgatory in a lot of ways” doesn’t mean that his official position is belief in purgatory.

          I have read and listened to much of what Rob Bell has done for years, with the exception of his latest book, and in that I cannot think of any time where I would directly compare what he’s said with the traditional idea of purgatory.

          In my understanding, Purgatory itself has historically been understood not as a place where people have another chance to repent, but rather a place of temporary punishment for sins with the purpose of purification. This has distinct differences with how you portrayed Bell’s ideas.

          1. “This has distinct differences with how you portrayed Bell’s ideas.”

            I think you have me confused with PJ. I was just explaining what PJ was referring to in Rob Bell’s book.

            However, if you’d rather pick apart what PJ said than learn what he meant, that is your choice.

            1. No, actually I was responding to your statement.

              You said, “The main idea he argues in his book is that that people will still be able to repent and come into a saving relationship with God after they die. This idea mirrors purgatory in a lot of ways.”

              My point is that Purgatory has historically not been understood as a place where people will still be able to repent after death. Thus your description of what Bell wrote does not mirror Purgatory.

              I’m not trying to pick apart anything. I’m sorry if I’m being a bit technical, but I prefer that people don’t put words in other people’s mouths, and that is in my opinion what PJ did in saying that Bell believes in Purgatory. If in saying “Post-Mortem Purgatory” he actually means something outside the traditional historical definition of the word, then let him explain.

  26. May I refer you to a view of hell that is in between the view of universalism and the view of unending conscious torment. This book is making quite a splash among scholars and theologians:

    The Fire That Consumes
    A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition
    By Dr. Edward William Fudge

    “This internationally acclaimed book…concludes that hell is a place of total annihilation, everlasting destruction, although the destructive process encompasses conscious torment of whatever sort, intensity, and duration God might require in each individual case.”

    to order this book:


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