Would Rob Bell Rob God of Glory?

If there’s no hell, God can’t be trusted because he doesn’t keep his word and therefore doesn’t do justice, and if there’s no justice, mercy has no meaning.

If you don’t understand what I just typed: “if there’s no justice, mercy has no meaning,” keep thinking about it. Look the words “justice” and “mercy” up in a dictionary (click them and read the definitions on dictionary.com).

In addition, if there’s no hell, the Bible’s big story doesn’t make sense.

How does hell glorify God? Glad you asked: let’s take a narrative look at hell.

Here’s the conclusion to the short piece linked above:

“In sum, hell glorifies God because

  • it shows that he keeps his word;
  • it shows his infinite worth, lasting forever;
  • it demonstrates his power to subdue all who rebel against him;
  • it shows how unspeakably merciful he is to those who trust him;
  • it upholds the reality of love by visiting justice against those who reject God, who is love;
  • it vindicates all who suffered to hear or proclaim the truth of God’s word;
  • and it shows the enormity of what Jesus accomplished when he died to save all who would trust him from the hell they deserved. If there were no hell, there would be no need for the cross.”

Here’s the whole thing.

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11 Responses to Would Rob Bell Rob God of Glory?

  1. Sam March 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Good post Dr. Hamilton.

    Just to play devil’s advocate, I believe people like Mr. Bell would respond by saying that everything you’ve said is dependent upon a particular kind of hermeneutic. If you read the Bible this way (they would say), then these conclusions become unavoidable. If you don’t, then they’re not.

    • Jim Hamilton March 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Sounds familiar. Devil’s advocate indeed. “Has God really said? . . .”

      JMH

    • John March 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      I think this response requires the examination of two other ideas. The first is the continual language of God executing vengeance upon his enemies throughout the entire Bible. Quite simply put, there is no responsible way to read the Bible that ignores this fact of the texts. Rejecting Hamilton’s explanation of why hell glorifies God does nothing to address the reality of God’s judgment throughout all of Scripture. The second thing we must examine what the Bible describes God as being, doing, and accomplishing. The title of Bell’s book, Love Wins is already reductionistic, in that it interprets the afterlife through a single aspect of God’s character, subordinating and/or eliminating all of the other things going on in the Bible.

  2. Truth Unites... and Divides March 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    “In sum, hell glorifies God because…

    Ya know, I think most people (and many Christians) would regard that as a counter-intuitive observation.

    My guess is that the natural man’s intuition about Hell is that the existence of Hell or the necessity of God creating Hell highlights or showcases God’s ineffectual love and/or power because there are souls in Hell.

  3. RD March 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Why doesn’t the OT tell us whether Adam went to either heaven or hell
    when he died? Why is Hell not discussed as an idea in the Torah? Why is
    the idea of “original sin” not really spelled out in the OT? Why is YHWH
    depicted with very similar characteristics to other gods of the
    region/time (Egyptian, Canannite, Mesopotamian, etc), i.e. quick to
    anger, manifested in storms and physical catalysms, violent,
    manipulative, etc.?

    I ask not to be controversial but because many Christians are grappling
    with these questions as they dig deeper into the Hebrew scriptures.

    • Jim Hamilton March 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      RD,

      I think you’ll find answers to these questions in my book, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. Have you taken a look at it?

      Jim

  4. RD March 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Jim,

    See my comment to your post about your book….

    Blessings!

  5. John March 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Thanks, Jim! I hope you don’t mind my sharing your thoughts on my blog. I really appreciated your comments.

  6. Mark March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks for this post. Good points.

    The author of God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment tried to talk me into buying this book at ETS. Do you think it’s worth buying? 😉

  7. RD March 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    The longer I live the more I have come to believe that all of humanity is damaged and deficient. Even in our limited, deficient human justice we set different standards for those in society who are mentally handicapped or too immature to understand all the intricate aspects of coexisting in a complex society. God, who is above all in insight and compassion, would surely do no less with his creation.

    Do babies who die without professing Christ as their savior go to eternal punishment?

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