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What SBC leaders are saying about Rob Bell’s book

To read Baptist Press’ overview of “Love Wins,” click here.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (BP)–Rob Bell’s latest book, “Love Wins,” denies key doctrines essential to the Christian faith, Southern Baptist leaders say.

Following are a sampling of what leaders at Southern Baptist seminaries are saying about the book:

— Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The Bible is clear on the truths of the exclusivity of the Gospel and the eternal nature of both heaven and hell. Jesus, Himself, spoke clearly to these realities and so that should settle the question for all who call Him Lord. He was not ambiguous or opaque concerning the issues as some modern theologians seem to take delight. Further, if Hell is not real and Jesus is not the only Savior, then we have spent billions of dollars and sacrificed precious lives for nothing. Such theological nonsense empties the cross of its power and makes a mockery of the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:18-20, which constitute the final marching orders of our Commander-in-Chief. If I have to choose between the machinations of a modern theological gymnast and the words of Jesus on any issue, I will go with Jesus every time. He can always be trusted. [A] theological revisionist cannot!”

— Page Brooks, assistant professor of theology and Islamic studies, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: “Rob Bell’s approach is nothing new. In two thousand years of church history, there is truly nothing new under the sun, even theologically. Bell raises several important questions in the first few chapters of his book, which he does very well with his emergent, postmodern style. Nevertheless, one can see the beginnings of his error at the very start as Bell redefines heaven and hell, and places love as the ultimate virtue of God. This becomes the central problem for Bell’s book: Hell is defined as what people make for themselves by rejecting the Gospel, but hell is not forever in the traditional sense of the term. The book is filled with exegetical gymnastics, historical inaccuracies, and eschatological knots that would even make John the Revelator have a headache. Bell may affirm he believes in heaven and hell, but not in the historical, orthodox senses of the term.

“The primary theological issue with Bell’s book is his emphasis on love as the primary attribute of God. While this is true, the Bible also teaches that justice and holiness are attributes as well. God’s love is also a just love, and His justice is also a merciful justice. In other words, we must see God’s love through His holiness and justice. It is not merely a ‘love’ that wins, but rather it is a ‘just love’ that wins. It is this ‘just love’ that we proclaim in the Gospel. If we exalt love as the only virtue of the Gospel, we undermine the reality of sin, which is an inaccurate representation of salvation and a disservice to the full offer of the Gospel to sinners. Nevertheless, I believe that we can listen to Bell in that he raises the questions for which modern society is trying to find answers. In a Western, postmodern culture where the ultimate societal value is love and peace for all, the questions Bell has offered are certainly in the minds of the contemporary, postmodern generation. I believe the church must be willing to answer these questions, no matter how often or in what manner they are asked.”

— Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary: “Doctrinal error, no matter how glibly presented, is still error. Universalism denies the Christian faith. Redefining heaven and hell to explain away the reality of God’s judgment contradicts clear biblical teaching affirmed by orthodox Christians for centuries. Making the Gospel more understandable in our culture is a worthy goal. Amending the Gospel to make it more palatable is not.”

— Albert R. Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (from his blog): “Time is running out on the Emerging folks. They can play the game of suggestion for only so long. Eventually, the hard questions will be answered. Tragically, when the answers do come, as with the case of Brian McLaren, they appear as nothing more than a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism. The publicity surrounding Bell’s new book indicates that he is ready to answer one of the hardest questions — the question of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ. With that question come the related questions of heaven, hell, judgment, and the fate of the unregenerate. The Bible answers these questions clearly enough, but few issues are as hard to reconcile with the modern or postmodern mind than this. Of course, it was hard to reconcile with the ancient mind as well. The singularity of the person and work of Christ and the necessity of personal faith in him for salvation run counter to the pluralistic bent of the human mind, but this is nothing less than the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.”

— Rustin J. Umstattd, assistant professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: “It is clear that Bell is not comfortable with the idea that billions of people may suffer in hell. But then, who is comfortable with that? The majority of evangelicals who hold to the orthodox understanding of hell (that there will indeed be people who ultimately reject God and as such are shut out from his presence) are troubled by its implications. But being troubled, even deeply troubled, by the implications of the biblical text does not give us a reason to abandon the text or force it into a mold that rests comfortably with us. It should be our goal to let the Bible be the source and shaper of our doctrine.”

— Thomas White, associate professor of theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: “If Rob Bell or anyone else denies hell and supports Universalism, he falls into a long line of heretics serving the ruler of this world — asking, ‘Has God said?’ and then twisting God’s Word with an intellectual sleight of hand that is neither creative nor unique. We know Jesus spoke of hell often. If the Bible is true, so is hell. To question such matters is to question the Gospel and biblical authority. Jesus died a substitutionary death paying the penalty so that man would not spend an eternity paying the penalty himself. Those who reject Jesus get what they have requested — separation from God. Those who repent and believe receive immeasurable grace. Matthew 25:46 makes it clear that if one is eternal, so is the other. The choice is clear and as old as the Garden of Eden: follow the ruler of this world or follow the Word of God.”
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. To read Baptist Press’ overview of “Love Wins,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34843

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