Tag Archives: Rob Bell

Do all religions lead to God? A lecture by Mike Licona

Mike Licona is one of my favorite Christian apologists. I’ve met him, and he is very very down to Earth and direct.

Here’s a lecture where he defends the view that having accurate views about Jesus is very important in order to be rightly related to God: (45 minutes)

Summary:

  • even in the ancient world, Christians were persecuted for their exclusivity
  • some people feel that exclusivity is unfair, but feelings don’t determine truth
  • there are three views of salvation: universalism, inclusivism, and exclusivism
  • does the Bible teach universalism?
  • Paul writes that sincerity is not enough to be saved (see verse below)
  • Paul writes that an accurate view of God is required to be saved
  • Paul writes that those who reject Christ will not be saved
  • John also writes that those who reject Jesus will not be saved
  • Jesus says that you have to have true beliefs about him to be saved
  • Jesus says that the way to salvation is narrow and few find it
  • there is broad agreement across the New Testament for exclusivism
  • the earliest Christians held to exclusive salvation
  • the probability, historically, that Jesus made exclusive claims, is high
  • what about those who have never heard the gospel?
  • what about babies and the mentally handicapped?
  • what about those who are sincere but don’t believe?
  • what about the obligation to be tolerant?

If there is one good verse to take away from this lecture, it’s Romans 10:1-4:

1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Sincerity doesn’t count. What counts is knowledge.

Another thing I really, really liked the part at 33 minutes where he tells the story about the desert and discussion group he participates in with his wife and some non-Christian couples. If there is one reason for me to get married, it’s that my wife and I could discuss interest things with people we have over,  and that would be fun.

J Warner Wallace answers: can a loving God send people to Hell?

J Warner Wallace
J Warner Wallace

I stole this image from James Warner Wallace’s Facebook page. Without asking. He is a cold case detective. So, I could get arrested. If I suddenly stop blogging, then would one of you please bail me out of jail?

Now just a quick note about the title of this post. I do NOT believe that a loving God “sends people to Hell”. I think people freely choose to separate themselves from God because they don’t want to relate to him. People who go to Heaven are people who freely choose to respond to God’s unilateral offer of forgiveness. People who go to Hell are those who freely chose to reject his offer of forgiveness.

Anyhoo, six podcasts on Hell from Please Convince Me.

Number 1:

In the wake of Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins,” many people are beginning to question the nature and existence of Hell and how exactly God decides who must go there. For many, the idea that our temporal, finite sin on earth should deserve an eternal punishment of infinite torment in hell is ridiculously inequitable. Why would God torture infinitely those who have only sinned finitely? Jim addresses this objection and answers listener email.

The MP3 file is here.

Number 2:

A loving God would never create a place like Hell, would He? Any God that would send people to a place of punishment and torment is unloving by definition, right? In this podcast, Jim responds to these foundational objections to the existence of Hell. In addition, Jim comments on the Harris / Craig debate and answers listener email related to hearing God’s voice.

The MP3 file is here.

Number 3:

In this podcast, Jim answers the objection that God would send people like Gandhi to Hell (simply because they are not Christians) alongside people like Hitler (who have committed unspeakable atrocities). How can a reasonable and just God be the source of such inequitable punishment? Also Jim answers listener email related to the power of prayer, the importance of evidential apologetics and the grounding for objective morality.

The MP3 file is here.

Number 4:

Isn’t it unfair for God to penalize people who are otherwise good, just because they haven’t heard about Jesus? A good God would not send good people to Hell. Jim responds to this objection and answers listener email related to the Craig/Harris debate, pre-existing mythologies that are similar to Jesus, and the difficult, exclusive nature of “election”.

The MP3 file is here.

Number 5:

If God is all-loving, why doesn’t he “reform” people rather than simply “punish” them in Hell? Skeptics sometimes argue that a God who simply punishes his children in Hell is a sadistic and vengeful God, unworthy of our worship. Jim responds to this objection and answers listener email related to the nature of “election”, the evidence for “annihilationism”, and a political quote related to same sex marriage.

The MP3 file is here.

Number 6:

A Loving God would love all of His creation, right? Wouldn’t He make sure that everyone goes to Heaven (regardless of what they might believe in this life)? A loving God would never limit Heaven to a select few and allow billions of people to suffer in Hell, would He? Jim responds to these objections and answers listener email related to Christian “essentials”, the appropriate response to fallen teachers and the nature of “debate” as it relates to Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig.

The MP3 file is here.

I’m listening to the last one right now, and he is really mad at Rob Bell for being evasive in his debate with Adrian Warnock. I could not agree more. I was writing up a snarky summary of that debate but Bell literally made my ears bleed with his disingenuous questioning of anyone who asked him straight yes or no questions. Sometimes I feel like the bad guy for being harsh and snarky with certain people, but Wallace was just as upset with Bell as I was with Bell.

There could be more podcasts coming in this series, but these are so good I though I would link to them right away. I’ll keep an eye out for new ones.

The one thing I do disagree with J Warner Wallace on is that he is a Calvinist, and I believe in the middle knowledge view of salvation. William Lane Craig has written about his concerns with Calvinism, and I talk about those concerns in this post and link to some debates in there as well.

Related to the problem of Hell, is the problem of religious pluralism – what about people who say that you can follow any religion and still be approved by God? Here is a debate on religions pluralism, featuring the king of pluralism John Hick.

Related posts

Doug Groothuis states the central problem with Rob Bell’s book

Dr. Doug Groothuis was asked to serve on a panel discussion of Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins”.

He wrote an outline, and posted on his blog. (H/T Doug)

Here’s the core problem he found with Bell’s book:

4. Bell seems to advance three propositions in Love Wins

a. Everyone is saved: God wants all to be saved; God gets what God wants.

b. Everyone is not saved. We can refuse God’s love.

c. We don’t know if everyone is saved or not.

5. These statements are inconsistent with each other; they cannot all be true

I am not sure why anyone is reading this book – it’s logically inconsistent. And whenever you ask Bell questions, his stock reply is to ask you questions back without answering. He makes an assertion, you point out how he contradicts the teachings of Jesus, and then he says “I don’t know, do you?” or “do you long for everyone to be saved?” or “do you know if universalism is true?”. These are verbatim quotes from his debate on the Unbelievable show. It is so bad that I listened to the first 30 minutes and just quit. I would rather listen to Christoper Hitchens – at least he is clear about what he believes. Rob Bell makes John Dominic Crossan sound like Hugh Ross.

Mary Jo Sharp responds to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”

I met Mary Jo Sharp and Roger Sharp at the EPS Conference in Atlanta. They are awesome. Mary Jo is really passionate and animated, and Roger is really friendly and engaging.

Here’s Mary Jo’s article on the trendy universalist pastor Rob Bell.

She quotes Bell:

Pastor Bell states that Mithraism was an influential religion of the first century and Mithra’s “followers believed he was born of a virgin, he was a mediator between God and humans, and Mithra had ascended to heaven.” He also makes similar comments on the god, Attis, and discusses a little about emperor worship. After discussing the emperor worship, he states, “In the first century, to claim that your God had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, well it just wasn’t that unique. The claims of the first Christians weren’t really anything new. Everybody’s god had risen from the dead. What makes yours so special?”

What? That’s news to me… I thought the doctrine of a single bodily resurrection prior to the end of the world was unique to Christianity.

Mary Jo assesses Bell’s assertion:

Finally, I think the obvious problem that should be noted is Bell’s statement, “Everybody’s god had risen from the dead. What makes yours so special?” In the Roman worship of Mithras, there is no recorded death story. Hence, there is also no resurrection story. So, from the evidence we have on Mithras, we can know that not everybody’s god died nor did everybody’s god rise from the dead. How can a comparison be conscionably made between Jesus’ resurrection story and a non-existent resurrection story? This comparison is illogical and should not be made. I would respond to Pastor Bell’s rhetorical question by answering that Jesus actually died and rose from the dead. Therefore, the early Christians had a very unique story if they were approaching Mithraic worshipers in the first century with the good news!

So Bell lied. It sounds like he is using “The Da Vinci Code” movie as a historical source in order to equate Christianity with Greek and Roman religions, in order to make the case that all religions are the same. That way, people can believe anything and still not go to Hell.

There’s more in Mary Jo’s post, but there is one outright mistake (or lie) by Bell. Why are people buying this book? It sucks.

Glenn Peoples adds:

None of the Mithras mythology depicts him being killed for humanity. In fact, he is not depicted as being killed at all. On the contrary, it is Mithras himself who does the killing! As is seen in the most widely use image of Mithras, he was said to have slain a great bull. Actually the very earliest reference to this event is from the close of the first century (AD 98-99), so it is post Christian, but setting that aside, Mithras’ death is not depicted at all. For the earliest reference to the slaying of the bull, see R. L. Gordon, “The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection),” Journal of Mithraic Studies 2:2. Read it online here. As there is no depiction of Mithras’ death in any ancient mythology, there is likewise no depiction of any resurrection.

Swedish scholar Tryggve N. D. Mettinger (I can only wonder how his first name is pronounced!) is professor of Hebrew Bible at Lund University in Sweden and a member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Stockholm. Although he claims that there were in pre-Christian antiquity a few cases of myths of dying and rising gods, he makes two important admissions in his monograph, The Riddle of Resurrection. Firstly, he affirms that he is going against a “near consensus,” and a consensus held not by Christian scholars, but by historians in general. Secondly, while he suggests that there existed myths of gods rising from death, he never suggests that the accounts are similar to that of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact he concludes the opposite:

There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world.

Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wicksell, 2001), 221.

I find it interesting that so many people will buy a book based solely on Bell’s stylish appearance, complete with trendy glasses and hair, and his appealing universalist message. No one is buying it because they think it’s true – Bell isn’t in a position to know what’s true.  Why listen to a stupid person? It’s like going to have your fortune told, or reading horoscopes. It sounds good, but it’s not real.