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Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Evangelicals in the 21st Century

First Published JCF Newsletter June 2011

By Gary Alley

In March, a new book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, took the Evangelical world by storm.  Even before Bell’s book, Love Wins, was released, some Evangelical leaders were quick to give their opinions about its theological deficiencies, specifically Bell’s allusions to universalism, or ultimate reconciliation between God and all of humanity.

Bell’s book insists that God’s love cannot be denied, hence the title Love Wins.  While Bell can be vague with his theological specifics, he understands God’s core character as “good” not desiring to watch billions burn in Hell.  Yes, he says, we have free choice in the matter, but eventually, in the afterlife, many, most, or even all of humanity will come around to seeing things God’s way.

Of course, Bell’s short treatise, has spawned very pertinent responses.  While good is one aspect of God’s character, what about the holiness and justice of God that cannot condone sin?  What is the point of missions and sharing our faith if this life is not our sole chance at salvation?  

If anything, Love Wins is a wake up call to the Evangelical community to dive into the Scriptures and understand why we believe what we believe.  Too often, the church crowd can accept what is preached from the pulpit without verifying the source.  We also need to be reminded that Scripture is not always black and white, while our opinions and interpretations unfortunately are.

Obviously, there must be an appropriate response to a teaching that may compromise the Gospel, but the Evangelical community should be mature enough and wise enough to realize the world is watching how we debate and even disagree among ourselves.  One day in the afterlife, we may be surprised to discover that unbelievers were converted to the Gospel not always by what we said but because of the manner in which we treated each other.