Parts of the blogosphere have been heating up in the last week or so, concerning the soon-to-be released Love Wins by Pastor Rob Bell. There have been strong comments made (eg. here and here) without the book being read in its entirety.
Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor of Christianity Today has published a helpful critique of this current debate and provides some historical context on biblical scholars holding to annihilationism cf. eternal punishment of those rejecting Christ. He cites Edward Fudge’s The Fire That Consumes as the standard reference on annihilationism. From my own reading when undertaking a MDiv, I agree that Fudge’s case for annihilationism is the best available – however I did not find it exegetically compelling.
Galli has also actually read Bell’s book! He comments:
“I didn’t see universalism [in Love Wins], though there are statements that lean in that direction. [Bell] clearly says that God’s love can be “resisted and rejected and denied and avoided,” and that doing so “is a form of punishment of its own” and “an increasingly unloving hellish reality.”…. I found myself appreciating anew both the power and love of God. But [Bell] is not a careful writer. Some of his arguments are confusing, and he sometimes is more interested in scoring points than in offering a clear alternative.”
Scot McKnight is well worth reading on this debate. He reflects my own thoughts when he states:
“…there are passages that sound univeralistic, that sound like somehow God will reconcile all things in the End, and that if we don’t occasionally sound universalistic we are not being as biblical as God — and as Jesus and Paul. Yes, these passages are not the only ones to consider, but — let this be said — neither are they cushioned or cautioned or cornered off by Jesus and Paul so they don’t give the wrong impression….To talk about wrath apart from this depiction of the grace-consuming God is to put forward a view of God that is not only unbiblical but potentially monstrous. And, to put forward a view of God that is absent of final judgment, yes of wrath, yes of eternal judgment, is to offer a caricature of the Bible’s God. No one should begin to talk about hell without spending fifteen minutes in pausing prayer to consider the horror of it all.”