For several years, Rob Bell, the minister of the Mars Hill Bible Church has been mulling over the idea of hell. In his latest book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell contends that the “traditional” view of hell, in which those who do not believe in Christ are lost, is ill-conceived and needs re-working. Jon Meacham, column writer for TIME magazine, noted that Rob Bell “suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal—meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, ‘every person who ever lived’ could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be” (2011). In essence, Rob Bell is little more than a recent advocate of a modified version of universalism.

The trend to minimize hell in our emotionally-driven, sentimental society is nothing new. Behind this teaching is the idea that love and eternal punishment are incompatible and mutually exclusive. The atheistic community has repeatedly challenged belief in the God of the Bible, due to the alleged moral dilemma presented by a God of love and eternal punishment (Butt, 2010, pp. 217-227).

A critical analysis of the situation brings to light a number of truths. First, it is clear that the Bible teaches that hell is a reality and will be eternal (Matthew 25:46, see Lyons and Butt, 2005a). Second, the concept of hell has been shown to be in perfect harmony with the concepts of morality and justice (Lyons and Butt, 2005b). Third, the erroneous teachings of universalism and the limited duration of hell are nothing new, and advocates of these beliefs will most likely continue to present themselves (see Colley, 2007; Butt, 2004; Miller, 2003).

The apostle Peter explained that one responsibility given to Christians is that they ought always to be ready to give a defense of their beliefs (1 Peter 3:15). One of those beliefs that is continually challenged is the idea of an eternal hell to which those who have not obeyed God will be consigned forever. Let us all be aware of these challenges to the Bible’s teachings and prepare ourselves to respond to them, holding fast to the faithful Word of God.

References

Butt, Kyle (2004), “The Reality of Eternal Hell,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&art2004icle=819.

Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christians Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Colley, Caleb (2007), “Controversy About Hell Continues,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2262.

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005a), “The Eternality of Hell, Part 1,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1474.

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005b), “The Eternality of Hell, Part 2,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1475.

Meacham, Jon (2011), “Is Hell Dead?” TIME, April 14, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2065080,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-mostpopular.

Miller, Dave (2003), “Who Believes in Hell Anymore?” Apologetics Press,https://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1204.

Additional Resources

A Brief Compendium of Bible Truth

by Archibald Alexander

Archibald Alexander’s A Brief Compendium of Bible Truth is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of reprinted material from early faculty members of Princeton. First printed in 1846 and now newly edited, this summary of Christianity’s major doctrines is a pocket theology for “plain, common readers” who do not have the time or opportunity to study larger works of systematic theology, but still want to grow in their spiritual understanding. Reading this book will enable you to better comprehend those biblical truths that matter most for your walk as a believer in today’s world, making you, by God’s grace, a stronger and more godly Christian.

Containing 38 short chapters on everything from the “Being of God” to the “Mediatorial Offices of Christ” to the “Final Judgment,” Alexander’s Compendium is a unique introduction to the core doctrines of the Christian faith. As an early American proponent of “experimental” theology, Alexander had little patience for mere intellectual pursuits. His book is as intensely practical as it is thoughtful. Even after more than 150 years, modern readers would be hard-pressed to find a more accessible, yet thorough, introduction to Christian doctrine than A Brief Compendium of Bible Truth. Excellent for personal and devotional reading, small-group and Sunday school study, and elder and deacon training classes.

“[Archibald Alexander teaches] that Christianity is more than an affirmation of intelllectual propositions; it is also a personal experiential relationship with Jesus Christ.” from the Preface (by James Garretson and Joel Beeke)

About the author: Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) served as the first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and was the founder of the Princeton Theology, which merged Reformed experiential theology as found in the Westminster Standards with Scottish Common Sense Realism.

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