Rob Wins. Or does he?

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.

Anaphora!

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6 thoughts on “Rob Wins. Or does he?

  1. Wonderfully written! It is so sad – in the beginning of his ministry, Rob had some thought provoking points, but over the years and increasing popularity, his message and approach has dramatically changed – even to the point of participating on a forum of non-christian leaders moderated by a wicken high priestess.

    Following Christ is all about humility and working toward becomming more LIKE Christ – not becomming him, deciding who get’s in and who doesn’t or, more importantly if hell even exists.

    God is God, He can do what he wants, how blessed are we that He is merciful and loves mankind!

    • My intent is not to disparage or berate him, or to even question his faith. When it comes to that I am no judge, except over my own sinful actions. But in the end for me, it is about “authority” – in the Body of Christ who has it, and where does the authority come from. In Catholicism it is the Pope. In Protestantism it is every person ie. Solo Scripture (“what does it mean to me? etc.”) 42,000 denominations today etc.

      In the apostolic Church authority rests in the witness of the Holy Spirit who has, and still, guides Holy Tradition, i.e. a living faith that teaches and believes what the Church has said, and continues to say about matters of faith. Rob I am sure is a good man, and wants to do the right thing. Part of this whole “emerging, emergent, next-gen” theological school is about “asking the questions – BUT NEVER – providing anyone with answers”… as people are supposed to fill in their own assertions or find their own.

      But this has never been the case of the Church throughout the centuries. Christ has spoken, His Body, the Church holds forth what his clear teaching has stated.

      I stand not in condemnation of Rob Bell, but concern for this new(but not so new) hermenuetic of “here’s what I think…”

      mc

  2. I haven’t read Rob Bell’s latest, but this conversation sounds like theology – “my/our interpretation is ‘right’ or yours is ‘nontraditional’ combined with “what is/are” or “I have” the “real truth” or “the answers”. What about baptism? What about ‘God with us’. Doesn’t the “loosing” and “binding” of the “church” ebb and flow with the ages? So, is Mars Hill in Grand Rapids not or less church than the amorphous “orthodox” church heralded above? As a “Lutheran” Christian, I’m kinda partial to the ‘theology of grace’, particularly as espoused via the crossings community.
    (see http://www.crossings.org).

    Also wondering if we aren’t somehow “using” Christianity as a bogey for “human ethics”- what if it is nothing of the sort? How about john bell’s hymn (don’t believe it’s a relation but who knows?):

    Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

    Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
    Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
    And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

    Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
    Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

    We may decide to answer this way: “Lord…let me turn and follow you…where
    your love and footsteps show. Thus, I’ll move and live and grow in you and
    you in me.”

    If we sing/pray this, aren’t we by definition “unorthodox’? Looks nothing like the world I live in and in fact makes the world I live in look like hell…

    Grace and peace

  3. Excellent post !!! However, Could you please clarify the statement in the last paragraph:

    “The Orthodox Church understands hell as a place of eternal torment for those who willfully reject the grace of God.”

    What do you mean by eternal torment? Literal fire? what? Who is doing the tormenting? God?

    I am not disagreeing or debating, but think you need to clarify these words and what the Orthodox view of Hell as Eternal Torment is as compared to what a a Protestant may think who may read this post and those words. Thanks

    • Good question. Obviously neither myself, no anyone else has direct experience from which we can relate exactly what eternal torment will be. Is it fire? Or not? Certainly the Jesus and the NT speaks of fires, flames, and the Rich Man in the parable of Lazarus speaks of heat, flames and physical thirst. But from the teaching that I understand from the Church, our Bishop and my priest… ‘torment’ is simply to know the suffering reality of what you could have had (eternal bliss and communion with God) and yet you do not have because of unbelief and indifference to the invitation of the Gospel in this life… it’s like being famished and seated at a banquet and no one invites you to eat, and in fact, you are prohibited from eating. This torment in one sense is the eternal remorse and sorrow of seeing bliss with God, and yet knowing that you will never partake of it.

      In its broadest sense, man chooses to alienate himself from God and thus brings tormenting on himself. God is the lover and pursuer of mankdind… God is not a masochistic punisher who enjoys banishing children, for in fact “God is good and loves mankind”… God desires that all come to salvation through faith…. in the end it is man who decides to bring torment and punishment upon himself by the choices and beliefs he makes in life right now. As to literal fire, and physical pain? I cannot say? Who can? All we must know, is that today is the day of salvation, do not harden your heart. We must also pray, repent, and live in humility for who among us justly deserves salvation? It is only mercy and goodness of God that any of us has hope. Thank you for reading and for your comment. Forgive my ineptness and ignorance.

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