Rob has mastered a technique used in the art/science of persuasion; that of asking loaded questions rather than stating an opinion or conclusion. One example: “Does God get what God wants?” He reasons that God loves everyone, and wants everyone to be saved; therefore, an all powerful God does get what He wants and everyone will go to Heaven (chap. 4). God wants many things. He wants love. He wants holiness. He wants good things for us. He wants justice. He wants us to “Choose this day whom we will serve” (Josh. 24:15). He wants His purpose in election to stand (Rom. 9:11). God does not want people to sin (The Ten Commandments). While God does not want man to sin, man is a free moral agent (can choose to sin). If all God wanted were to make us happy, He would have turned Adam and Eve into robots, and prevented them from falling. No fall, no pain, no unhappiness.
Rob teaches that people on earth experience “hell” when terrible things happen to them (p. 70-71). He holds that there is no eternal punishment for those who reject Christ. He goes to considerable lengths (and imaginations) to discard the Bible’s simple proclamations on Hell. He attacks the teaching of Jesus on Hell in Luke 16: 19-31 (p. 74-79). Rob classifies Hell as a parable. This is not a parable, in that Jesus used the names of people: “Lazarus” and “Abraham”. Jesus never used names of people in His parables. Even if this teaching in Luke were an allegory, the lessons learned include conscious suffering. Christ did not teach something that is false. Furthermore, a parable (picture) is not as pronounced as the real thing (a picture of a woman burning in a house is not as severe as the woman actually burning in the house). Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other person in the Bible.
In Matthew 25, Jesus the Judge separates the sheep from the goats and sends the goats to “eternal punishment”. This does not fit into Rob’s philosophy, and he proceeds to alter it by saying that the Judge sends goats to Aion, a Greek word that may be translated “age” or “period of time” or “a time of trimming” (p. 91-92). The actual word used in Matthew 25:41, 46 is aionion which means “eternal”. While aionion comes from the root word Aion, it is completely different in meaning. For example, the Latin word aqua means water. One of its derivatives is aqueduct. “The Romans built aqueducts” is a true statement. To substitute the root word (aqua) and say, “The Romans built water” is a false statement. Rob belabors this issue as one who is trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole; it just does not fit. If his incorrect hypothesis were true, and this verse were not about eternal punishment, but an “age” of time, the Judge sends sheep to “eternal life” in the same verse; thus, “eternal life” for them must be temporary.
Rob stresses a tolerance of others but is most intolerant of Evangelical Christians. His book has a permeating theme that those who care most about going to Heaven care the least about helping people on earth (p.45. 78-79). This is not true. The organizations that have helped the most with disaster relief in the United States are (1) The Salvation Army, (2) The Red Cross, and (3) The Southern Baptist Convention (Dr. Danny Forshee).
Rob uses no system of theology while interpreting the Bible. His hermeneutics are so broad and vague that almost any concept will filter through them. This helps to explain why he equates the Millennial Reign of Christ with the New Heaven and Earth in the Eternal Age. He makes bold assertions with no citations to document them. One example of this is: “At the front edge of science string theorists who are now telling us that they can show the existence of at least eleven dimensions, if we count time as the fourth dimension, that’s seven dimensions beyond what we now know.” (p.59-60) There is no citation. In fact, he does not have one in the entire book. He tries to be philosophical but fails. (Example: Concerning salvation he teaches: “It’s not what you believe, but who you are that matters” (p. 13-15). The truth is, you are who you are because of what you believe.
It will become redundant if I continue. I summarize by saying of Rob Bell’s book: His logic is lacking; his conclusions are convoluted; his reasoning is reckless.
God is Love, and in the end Love wins and Rob Bell loses. I could phrase the preceding sentence in the same way that Rob Bell would: Is it possible that God is Love, and in the end Love wins and Rob Bell loses?
Now, I am heading toward Cracker Barrel, where experience tells me, I will enjoy a superb meal and get my money’s worth.