An Orthodox response to “Love Wins“, the Rob Bell book/personal conjecture, which questions the existence of hell, and whether God would be so mean as to allow anyone, no matter who they are or what they believe, to spend eternity there….is quite simple. In many ways Orthodoxy may seem deep and complex, and yet in other ways, like when it comes to apostolic faith, Sacred Truth… it is very clear, clean and simple. So how do you know who or what is right? For the Orthodox that’s easy. We don’t ask “What does Rob Bell say?” but rather “What has the Church always taught, everywhere, always, and by all…” “What has Christ, His apostles, the Church Fathers, the Councils, and Holy Tradition unanimously taught for two millennia…?” This is what we believe and confess. Not what some young(ish) hip, cool, question asking, answer dodging preacher/performer spouts in order to sell books due to ‘controversy’. In the Orthodox church there is no controversy over this issue. Only clarity and unity.
From the Orthodox point of view “…the gates of hell are locked from the inside…” in other words, if in this life you mocked, scorned and rejected God, then in the life to come that same spirit of rebellion and rejection will continue. How could it be otherwise? The real pain of hell, is to know what you could have had for eternity (paradise) and knowing that you made your choice for that reality… now. Today at this very moment, and that there are no “mulligans”, or do-overs in soteriology. Bottom Line? God loves man. It is man who chooses not to love God.
Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ loves us, and God desires that none perish but that all come to eternal life, and yet mankind has been given the most wonderful gift from our Creator called “will”, “free-will” “synergia” for God will not force anyone to love Him here, and He certainly will not force, coerce or expect anyone to love Him there (in paradise) who did not already love Him here and now. Christ taught clearly and cleanly on Hell. What Christ was absolutely clear on, Rob casually, albeit in a very hip ‘culturally cool’ way – muddies. Heaven and Hell are realities not because I, or Rob Bell, or anyone else say they are, or are not, they are real and true because God has called them such, and the Church has taught this from Scripture since Day One. They are realities for every person in every age and the “ticket” to either destination, heaven or hell, is “purchased” by Grace, by a Faith that is manifested by works – right here, and right now. Once the last breath is breathed… it’s too late.
“So what should I do?” Repent and Believe. It should never be my place, or work, or concern, and neither Rob Bell’s to determine “who gets in – and who does not“, but rather that we look to our own unworthiness, to my unworthiness, to my sin, and rebellion and confess, repent, believe and receive the gift of eternal life…relishing in God’s unseemly and yet loving “injustice” for if He was truly “just”, no one, not a one of us would be allowed in. But what about ‘evangelism’? St. Seraphim of Sarov said this , “Aquire the Holy Spirit, and thousands round about you will be saved.” So in the end who wins? Or what wins?
Love doesn’t win. Rob doesn’t win. Faith – in action wins.
HELL, unpopular as it is among modern people, is real. The Orthodox Church understands hell as a place of eternal torment for those who willfully reject the grace of God. Our Lord once said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched where `Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’ ” (Mark 9:43, 44). He challenged the religious hypocrites with the question: “How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). His answer is, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). There is a Day of Judgment coming, and there is a place of punishment for those who have hardened their hearts against God. It does make a difference how we live this life. Those who of their own free will reject the grace and mercy of God must forever bear the consequences of that choice.