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Bell’s Hell is non-existent, and the Almighty is really a party animal

RENEGADE US pastor and author Rob Bell is heading for a fresh clash with evangelicals following his decision to author a teen version of his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which left fundies in a state of shock when it was published in 2011.

So great was the outrage that Bell had to leave the Mars Hill Bible mega-church in Michigan, which he founded.

rob-bell-there-is-no-hell

In a promotional video created for Love Wins: For Teens, Bell explains that his latest book – due out next month – is designed to teach youth that God is the life of the party, rather than the one that spoils everyone’s fun.

He begins:

What do you believe about God?” Is God somewhere on a cloud with a long beard, making a list of no’s?

For a lot of people, when you mention God, the first thing they think of is, ‘Oh yeah, God shuts the party down. But when Jesus talked about faith, when Jesus talked about God, one of the dominant images He uses again and again is that of a party.

He then explains that Christianity is not about saying no; it’s about saying yes.

It’s not about long lists of regulations and things you can’t do. It’s about saying a giant ‘yes’ to the world. So what you believe God is like really, really matters. It shapes you and it forms you in a thousand different ways.

But the book’s central theme focuses on misconceptions about Hell. He writes:

What if the idea of Heaven and Hell that we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if Jesus meant something very different by the concepts of Heaven, Hell and salvation from how we’ve come to understand them?

Although the original release of Love Wins achieved best-seller status, many who read is were left in a state of shock.

Reviewer Elliott Nesch noted that even in the preface of the book, Bell  lamented that:

A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in Hell.

Bell then asserted that such a belief is “misguided and toxic.”

Nesch fumed:

Is this belief truly misguided and toxic or is it the truth? Why is it that a staggering number of Christians believe that only a ‘select few’ will be saved while many will be damned? Because Jesus said so.

Nesch pointed to Luke 13 and Matthew 7 and decried Bell’s universalist insinuations that all men will be saved.

Rob Bell asks, ‘Will all people be saved, or will God not get what God wants?’ Bell likens God not getting what He wants to failure. Bell goes on to say that ‘God does not fail,’ obviously implying that all people must go to Heaven.

To Rob Bell, if Hell is real, then God is ‘terrifying, and traumatizing, and unbearable,’ and ‘can’t be loved.’ To Bell, the whole idea that ‘God will punish people for all of eternity for sins’ is an ‘unacceptable, awful reality. Thus, Bell is exchanging Biblical reality for his own reality, and teaching a god of his own image.

He breathlessly concluded:

Bell is operating under the fear of man and not the fear of God.

86 Responses to “Bell’s Hell is non-existent, and the Almighty is really a party animal”

  1. Lazy Susan says:

    Ken – God’s God is worth watching. I like the demolition of omniscience BTW.

  2. Angela_K says:

    @Ken “That’s a very telling statement. This can only mean the chances of the existing earth being produced by evolution are likewise 1 in almost infinity. Like the initial creation, the new heavens and new earth, and the resurrection of the body can only be brought about by the active working of God”

    It doesn’t need a god Ken, only in your warped mind could you turn around the odds to justify “creation” We know how our Universe started, how the Stars and Planets formed and how life evolved on Earth – it wasn’t divine intervention.

  3. Ken says:

    Lazy Susan – you are still echoing Dawkins – very much a blind guide! God is not complex in traditional Christian theology. You are also setting faith against reason. To my mind, the existence of reason fits better with the theistic worldview than atheistic, and why did modern science flourish in christian-influenced societies? I also think the God of the gaps is based on the misunderstanding that God has been invoked to explain what cannot be understood any other way. Christians believe in both the natural world woking under natural laws, and the ‘supernatural’. The former is the norm, the latter the exception, so increases in knowledge of the natural world are not directly relevant to the question of God’s existence, and there is nothing at all sinful in asking how the universe works. In the Christian view, God is the explanation of everything.

    I’ll have a look at your YouTube thing when I get chance!

    Angela_K – if we ‘know’ how the universe started and developed, then this would entail the certain falsification of the biblical worldview. I don’t think anyone actually claims that.

  4. Broga says:

    Lazy Susan and Angela_K: I think Ken has totally lost the plot. Replies are pointless because there is no sense in what he says. He is like Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word it means what I want it to mean. Neither more nor less.” The miasma of superstition has done for poor Ken and he is living in a fantasy world. He makes up what he thinks he wants to mean as he goes along. He needs another spell in respite care.

  5. Lazy Susan says:

    Ken –

    The complexity of God is greater than the complexity of the universe He created. He is omniscient, etc. Omniscience is not even theoretically possible for humans. Even a simple example will illustrate this. (Excuse me if I enthuse about this – I like maths.) When children need to choose one of their number to be “it,” they sometimes use the “potatoes” algorithm. They stand in a circle and each child puts in two fists and starting at a random point, they chant “one potato, two potato” etc and one by one the children are ruled out until only one remains as “it.” I am sure you are familiar with it. Now, the point is that there is no way for humans to predict the result of this procedure. You have to go through the steps to find out who is it. You may remember previous results, but we cannot predict the outcome, which is why it suits the children’s purpose. It is not a matter of using a computer that can do the sums really fast; that is just going through the routine by machine.

    Presumably God can predict the result without simulating the children’s potatoes. He is therefore of a higher order of complexity than we can conceive.

    That is just a simple, trivial even, mathematical or computing example. The whole point of using God as an explanation is that he is bigger, cleverer etc than anything else. So if you claim that “God is not complex in traditional Christian theology” you will have to explain a bit more.

    Why modern science flourished in christian-influenced societies is an interesting question, I agree. I am not a historian, but what I have read on this attributes the effect most specifically to Protestantism, with its emphasis on individuality. Did science flourish in spite of religion? Early scientists – Keppler, for example – were all believers, or at least that is what they say. Some like Copernicus may have been a believer but he felt it safer to delay publication until after his death, because he feared what the church would do to him if it got hold of him while he was still alive. Evidently he was not bothered that God would have control of his immortal soul. Perhaps he was not much of a believer after all.

    As for it being sinful to ask how the universe works, I refer you to a video by Neil DeGrasse Tyson where he refers to the Islamic Golden Age, 800-1100, before Imam Al-Ghazali came to prominence. (I have not read up on this yet, but I find Tyson persuasive.) It was Al-Ghazali, says Tyson, who argued that mathematics was sinful. The end result is that since then, Islam has been stuck in the middle ages. That is a serious point, and I am not at all confident that the same thing could never happen in other religions.

  6. David Anderson says:

    Unless Ken can prove his god and disprove all the other gods that haunt peoples minds on this planet, he still has all his work before him.

    “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (you know who)

  7. Broga says:

    @David Anderson: And the people who believe in all the other Gods do so with as much certainty as does Ken. So why believe him and not the others. As Richard Dawkins’, whose work Ken cannot understand, says, “Everyone is an atheist about all the Gods except his own. I just go one step further.”

  8. David Anderson says:

    @Broga: Yeah, perzakerly that. In my weaker moments I feel sorry for people like Ken. So brainwashed that they fail to see the true wonders of life, the universe, and everything. Then I remember the shite the religion has caused and is still causing and my sorrow disappears.

  9. Angela_K says:

    @Ken “if we ‘know’ how the universe started and developed, then this would entail the certain falsification of the biblical worldview”

    I can’t believe Ken said that, his bible is right and Physicists are wrong; such bristling arrogance from an ignorant mind! This from a man who doesn’t even understand basic school Physics or Biology. I’m gratified to know that I wasted 5 years in higher education learning how stuff works, even down to particle level when I could have read just one book.

  10. Broga says:

    @Angela_K: Ken reminds me of William Jennings Bryan of the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial. Bryan, a religious bigot was scathingly and wittily ridiculed in the despatches of H.L.Mencken. Bryan said that anyone who had read the bible knew more about science than all the scientists in the USA. Mencken set the USA laughing at the buffoonery of Bryan. Darrow, the defending lawyer, added to Bryan’s discomfiture. The following quote has relevance today:

    “AT one point during the famous head-to-head between Darrow and Bryan, on Day 7 of the Dayton trial, prosecuting attorney Tom Stewart rose and demanded to know “What is the purpose of this examination?”
    “The purpose,” answered Bryan, “is to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible, and I am perfectly willing that the world shall know that these gentleman have no other purpose than ridiculing every person who believes in the Bible.”

    “We have the purpose,” countered Darrow, “of preventing bigots and ignoramouses from controlling the education of the United States, and you know it, and that is all.”

    Anyone who wants to read about fundamentalist bigots held up to ridicule with a wit that produces outright laughter in the reader should read Mencken’s despatches.

  11. Angela_K says:

    @Broga. I read a lot about the Scopes monkey trial many years ago when I was a student and thought that the religious mindset was a hangover of a different age and that Scientific knowledge would displace the religious ignorance of the likes of W.J.Bryan[and Ken] – how wrong I have been proven. I agree Mencken’s despatches are excellent reading as are his writings in general.

  12. Ken says:

    David Anderson – all the religions of the world, the theistic beliefs (monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, panentheism and so on) are mutually contradictory in their defining beliefs. So rejecting one does not entail rejecting all of the others. On the contrary, believing in the biblical God entails rejecting belief in the Roman or Greek pantheon (or vice versa). It really is that simple!

    Lazy S – the non-complexity of God is not something I have ever read up on much. The more basic argument with Dawkins which I am more familiar with is that the God christians believe in was not created. Dawkins (and he is far from alone) seems unable to stop thinking in terms of God being of the same essence as the universe, and therefore had to have a beginning, or be the subject of scientific investigation.

    As for faith and science, there is nothing wrong with science, it is again being needlessly confrontational to see them always at loggerheads. So Angela_K is welcome learn all she wants about physics. Genesis is not a science textbook. It deals with other questions that science cannot answer. Science will not answer the question whether the biblical God exists, and it can become an idol in its own right.

    Whilst Scopes may not have been ‘fundamentalism’s’ finest hour, it’s interesting how the law was used back then to promote Darwinism being made available in schools, but the descendents of those involved now use the law to try to ban creationism as a scientific concept being taught in schools. Should Darwinian evolution be allowed to become unquestioned dogma? Isn’t that indoctrination, the mirror image of what fundamentalists are so often accused of?

    Quite what this has got to do with Bell’s hell, I don’t know! But at least I’ve managed to mention the subject of the thread ….

  13. Broga says:

    @Ken: You’ve hit the buffers, Ken. You take far more words than anyone else to repeat yourself. Unless you show a spark of respect for evidence and facts there is no point in responding to your comments.

  14. David Anderson says:

    Ken; All your waffle is OPINION. Therefore,dismissed.

    Absence of evidence is evidece of absence.

  15. Angela_K says:

    @Ken. Debating with you is pointless due to your repetitive nonsense. Science may not yet have all the answers, but for those we have, there is supporting evidence. There is not a single shred of evidence to support your assertion that a god exists.

  16. Stephen Mynett says:

    Debating with the likes of Ken will always be pointless as “faith” gives them all the answers they want without having the need to find reliable and tangible evidence, something they never manage.

  17. Ken says:

    Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence. Fixed that.

    “There is not a single shred of evidence to support your assertion that a god exists.” This is the constant atheist mantra – no evidence, said with more repetition than even I can muster. If you said you found evidences for God’s existence and christianity unconvincing, that would be credible asssertion, but claiming absolutely no evidence indicates to me an unwillingness to consider any evidence or rule it out in advance. Indeed the atheist definition of faith as ‘believing something for which there is no evidence’ eliminates any possibility of there being evidence!

    Some of the evidence that has convinced me of God’s existence is prophecy and answered prayer. Regarding the former, it won’t do to read an atheist web site refuting it without bothering to read the Christian case for it. On a different thread where this came up, I carefully read a ‘refutation’ of the Tyre prophecy of Exekiel, and it simply didn’t do the job. But I did at least take the risk of looking at the opposing argument. As for prayer, this too can be dismissed without examination.

    There are the traditional arguments for Gods existence – first cause, design etc., and a wealth of apologetic literature on the whole subject. Your hero Dawkins basically ignores it. He refuses to debate well-qualified Christian apologists. If there really is ‘not a single shred of evidence’ for God, any Christian debating him is at an incredible disadvantage, their position so untenable that Dawkins or any other atheist ought to win.

    I don’t think there is one single argument that can prove God’s existence, but the cumulative effect of all of them is considerable. It is certainly reasonable. Conversely, if God does not exist, what are atheists fighting against? If some arguments in favour of God and the bible are not always that convincing, the arguments against the bible (for example) are often appalling, and show an amazing level of ignorance. There is a desperation not to believe it, and why twist it to say what it doesn’t to try to discredit it? Even contradictory arguments will do providing they will point someone away from taking its claims seriously. It’s not rational.

  18. Broga says:

    @Ken: I’ll admit that you have something going for you. You are very funny. The problem for you is that you don’t realise that. However, that long load of waffle was, in parts, hilarious. Prayer, prophecy, Ezekial etc…. Oh please, Ken, no more. It is just too funny. I’m starting to hurt laughing at your comments.

  19. Lazy Susan says:

    Ken –

    One of the questions about God’s existence is what the word “exist” means. I am of the opinion that it is plain as a pikestaff that God does not exist in the same sense that my chair exists. As most believers say that God is spiritual, by which they mean immaterial, I will guess that you agree. I also guess that “spiritual” means that God is not all pervasive like a gravitational field or like the law which says 2+2=4. These things can be tested for; no objective test has ever revealed God.

    When I talk to believers, they always end up saying something like God exists “outside of space and time.” This is a different use of the word “exist” than any other, and it is hardly fair to say that God exists if that is what you mean. Love, beauty etc are generally considered to be “spiritual” and no-one suggests there is no love or beauty in this space and time. So just being “spiritual” (whatever it means – I don’t know) – would not seem to be a sufficient account of God not showing up here and now.

    OK, so God “exists” in some continuum where our senses and measuring devices cannot reach, and not merely beyond the event horizon. That may be so, but it makes God completely irrelevant to us here. If God cannot poke his finger in to our space-time continuum and fiddle with it, he may as well not exist. And of course believers claim that not only can God reach in from wherever he is, but also our actions and prayers can reach out from in here. This implies to me that it must be incorrect to say that God exists outside of our continuum. He evidently is a mover and shaker here in the same universe as us.

    But this leads to the contradiction that God is here with us in this world, in a material way, and yet we cannot detect anything. The evidence you give – prophecy and answered prayers – is really rather pathetic. Have a look in google for “why does god not heal amputees” or “god is imaginary” to get quite a good explanation of why this is so.

    Humans have been finding stuff out for the last several tens of thousands of years, and this accumulated knowledge is what makes our lives possible today. Only in the last few hundred years, have we developed a method of finding stuff out that works at all well. Religion, with its revelations, reverence for authority and inability to resolve differences of opinion, is grossly outdated and is now a serious threat to our well-being on this planet. The sooner we realize that, the better.

  20. Broga says:

    @Lazy Susan: Brilliant post: cogent, clear and irrefutable. A pleasure to read.

  21. Lazy Susan says:

    Broga – Thanks!

  22. David Anderson says:

    @Lazy Susan: Seconded. Notice how Ken put a NOT in my little quotation and thinks he made a big point. Well, I could do the same with him and if he says “God exits” and I say “God does NOT exist” would he see the mistake. He makes so many mistakes about what evidence is that I doubt he even understands the word.

    Here is some evidence Ken. Your creator is so great that he gave us a lovely sun that will fry us to a crisp if the human race survives that long. Although it is my personal opinion (note the word Ken) that we will have driven ourselves extinct long before that happens

  23. Broga says:

    @David Anderson: Ken is understood better when you appreciate two main aspects of his character. The first is that he is intellectually dishonest. And the second is that he lacks moral courage. I take an example from myself although in doing so I claim no personal virtue other than trying, as best I can, to respect the facts.

    If I am told that I got something wrong here I have a choice. (I am not referring to opinions which often differ). I can offer some facts which seem to support my view and decide to stick to what I said. Or I can say that I’m sorry I got that wrong. And I have done that a number of times. Ken is intellectually dishonest that he never admits he got any facts wrong and he twists and turns in an attempt to deceive.

    He lacks moral courage in that he never says he accepts that any aspect of his beliefs are wrong. He has to be right.

    The consequence is that he is an irritant and is often seen as a fool. I don’t think he is. I think he is terrified of accepting that he has spent his life clinging to superstitions which have corroded his freedom and caused him to have a much less satisfying life than he might have done. To spend a life cowering from the facts cannot be pleasant.

  24. remigius says:

    ‘On a different thread where this came up, I carefully read a ‘refutation’ of the Tyre prophecy of Exekiel, and it simply didn’t do the job.’

    Ken, you were shown factual evidence that the prophecy was wrong. Why can’t/won’t you accept it?

  25. Angela_K says:

    Ken is becoming rather tiresome because he brings nothing new to the party, just the same old arguments from authority.

    As Lazy Susan has said “exist” seems to be a flexible concept when it comes to religion. If god can really hear prayers and heal the sick, he/she/it must be part of our Universe and therefore detectable but if outside of our Universe will be unable to interact with ours. As we have pointed out countless times, this god is somewhat reluctant to prevent mass death from natural disasters or heal amputees. This same loving god has allowed a worm to evolve that eats the human eye from the inside causing blindness, African children in particular are victims. Now if, as Ken and his mates claim, god is such an all powerful good guy, why doesn’t he actually do the decent thing and stop this. I’m 100% certain that god doesn’t do anything useful because he is a figment of imagination and a mass delusion.

  26. Ken says:

    I don’t think the issue hinges on what the word ‘exists’ means! A couple of things:

    I gave examples of what to me is evidence. Prophecy was one, and Remegius, I carefully looked at the refutation of the Tyre prophecy and the writer (Stephen Carr) was sloppy to say the least, and didn’t make much effort to engage the conservative position. Answered prayer was the other one, which I agree is more subjective, but Broga managed to laugh it off unexamined. Both of these are examples of the invisible God being experienced in human life if you care to look into it carefully.

    You are all continuing to make the mistake of thinking you can devise a kind of test to prove God is there. You are dealing with a person, not a physical law. Answered prayer is at his discretion, so you can’t make it a hypothesis you can then test!

    I am aware of the ‘why doesn’t God heal amputees’ argument. Several problems with this:

    There is an assumption that God ought to heal such disfigurements or other diseases. The bible denies this, there is no right to be healed in a fallen world.

    When God took human form, this kind of miracle did take place and was recorded. You refuse to believe the record.

    You assume that such a kind of healing has never occurred since then. I’m not personally aware of it either, but that doesn’t mean it has never happened. That the biblical God does sometimes heal today I do not doubt, but he has made no promise to.

    All Christian amputees will get full healing at the resurrection.

    It would be nice from our point of view if God intervened in sickness or natural disasters and prevented them, but most of the population of the earth do not want an interventionist God. Quite the reverse. Any hint of God restricting human behaviour in the areas of money, sex and power and all hell is let loose. Why should God intervene on behalf of those who would only carry on in moral rebellion?

    What you want of course is some unmistakable supernatural sign that cannot be faked, but it doesn’t work that way. We have to be prepared to give up the one thing atheists are most determined not to give up, namely personal autonomy in determining what is allowed as evidence, of being in control. Creation, conscience and above all the bible are I think essentially the only evidence you will get in this life.

  27. remigius says:

    I give up!

  28. Angela_K says:

    @remigius. Me too, we are wasting our time. That last post by Ken was complete and utter bullshit.

  29. David Anderson says:

    Angela_K: Reading that last sentence in Ken’s screed, I think batshit is a better discriptive.

  30. Lazy Susan says:

    Ken –

    • “You are dealing with a person, not a physical law. Answered prayer is at his discretion, so you can’t make it a hypothesis you can then test!”

    That argument rules out any possible evidence you might present, or any use of logic, since God may capriciously do whatever he likes. All of theology can be dismissed as hot air. This is why religion is useless as a way to discover new stuff.

    Nonetheless, I continue to your other points:

    • “there is no right to be healed in a fallen world.”

    That’s not what the bible says, eg Matthew 17:20 “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” There are many direct quotes saying that prayers work.

    Does no-one in the world have faith greater than a mustard seed? Apparently some do, since you say some prayers are answered. So why are prayers for amputees never answered? Do the faithful never pray for amputees? Seems statistically unlikely (*).

    • “All Christian amputees will get full healing at the resurrection.”

    Words fail me here, Ken. Would you buy a used car from a salesman who offered you terms like this?

    • “Any hint of God restricting human behaviour in the areas of money, sex and power and all hell is let loose.”

    Are you referring perhaps to claims like Pat Robertson’s that gays are responsible for 9/11, or naked breasts cause earthquakes in the Middle East? If so, I’m not surprised there is a reaction to such claims, because they are unimaginably stupid and the last thing we want is world leaders like G W Bush or Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-un taking them as at all realistic.

    Just for the record, is that what you are referring to? If not, what, please?

    (*) “Seems statistically unlikely” – That about sums up my reaction to claims about your god or any of the thousands of other gods. I mean, do you really think that bare breasts cause earthquakes? I must admit I have not actually seen any research on this hypothesis, but …

  31. Ken says:

    Lazy Susan – I appreciate you largely just want to have a laugh, but despite that I will take the bait!

    1. Why isn’t specific answer to specific prayer testimony to the existence of God (not that prayer is an attempt to show this)? Atheists assume that enough vague prayer will garner enough vague answers, but that coincidence mixed with wishful thinking is the real factor at work. Coincidence could be an factor, but by no means always, and how many coincidences do you need to start ruling this out? I also think authentic Christianity is against making false claims to answered prayer.

    2. The NT promises on prayer do not add up to a formula – ‘How to get God to answer your prayer and them some!’ ‘The correct wording guarantees results – every time’! A moment’s thought will show this cannot possibly be the case. Prayer is not a mechanistic device, a way of manipulating God, and the bible does not confer ‘rights’ like some sort of heavenly welfare state. God never honours unbelief, and this is one reason for unanswered prayer.

    3. “Any hint of God restricting human behaviour in the areas of money, sex and power and all hell is let loose” simply refers to biblical admonitions not to set your heart on money (banker’s bonuses, stock market gambling, lottery or some aspects of welfarism), nor to be sexually unfaithful (adultery and divorce, or rape) nor abuse power (politicians, modern management techniques, and other control freak enabling including religious manipulation). You will see the outworking of this in every daily paper.

    I don’t see what Pat Robertson has got to do with this – he made some unwise remarks, and I think got the biblical picture largely the wrong way round. He ought to have said ‘God is not mocked, and you reap what you sow’.

    You will have to ask a Muslim about earthquakes!

  32. Broga says:

    Ken:

    “All Christian amputees will get full healing at the resurrection.”

    1. How do you know?

    2. What age will everyone be? My mum when she died was very old and very knackered. Does she stay like that?

    Thanks. I’m just looking for enlightment and some evidence to support your opinions would be a bonus.

  33. remigius says:

    ‘You will have to ask a Muslim about earthquakes!’

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask a seismologist?

  34. Ken says:

    “All Christian amputees will get full healing at the resurrection.”

    1. How do you know?

    I’ve taken a look at what happens at the end of the book.

    But what happens to Christians then isn’t something you need to worry about ….

  35. Broga says:

    @Ken: I ssume your silly answer is an attempt to avoid the truth and means that you don’t know.

    I also wonder in what state a week old baby enters heaven. Will it be able to talk, to think, to relate, need its nappy changed.

    I’m not worried about Christians. I know what happens to them and it is the thing which terrifies you. Like myself they enter the great void, their atoms dispersed and all is blank. The fantasy of a soul is just that. Wishful thinking.

  36. AgentCormac says:

    Ken

    For once, try reading something that isn’t from the ‘Fiction’ section.