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Rob Bell is Totally a Liberal

In light of Albert Mohler’s recent claim that Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” is nothing but standard liberal Protestant fare, I decided to test this theory by a close reading of the offending monograph. Well, sad to say, Mohler’s claim has borne itself out – and in spades. Allow me to adduce some of the more damning evidence.

Just like Adolf von Harnack, Bell is concerned to portray his position as being within the stream of orthodoxy (x).

In typical Bultmannian fashion, he relies on grammatical-historical exegesis to make his theological points, assuming, for instance, that the religious meaning of certain Greek and Hebrew words can be established by appeal to their historical usage.

With the Jesus Seminar, he assumes that the historical Jesus is accurately reflected in the gospels, including John’s gospel.

Taking a cue from James Dunn, he presupposes that there is thematic continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

He believes in divine judgment (36-7) and affirms both personal and systemic sin (39, 78-9).

No doubt looking to score some points with the elites over at the Society of Biblical Literature, Bell affirms that the Apostle John wrote the fourth gospel, the book of Revelation, and 1 John (48, 109, 111, 132).

In a nod to those lovey-dovey feminists, he insists that the establishment of heaven includes a corresponding “No” of divine judgment (49) in what amounts to a literal and historical “day of the Lord” (47).

With John Dominic Crossan, he affirms that heaven is a real place, not merely a spiritual state or an ethical imperative (42).

He thinks that God’s love can be rejected, perhaps permanently (72, 113).

He believes that Paul wrote Philippians (99, 101), 1 Corinthians (61), and the pastoral epistles (89, 134) – hey, Robbie! 1850’s Tübingen called…they want their radical Pauline scholarship back!

In what I can only assume is a preview of his forthcoming Anchor Bible Commentary, he claims both that Isaiah is the author of deutero-Isaiah (98, 99) and that God spoke “through” him (101).

He believes that the apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter (69).

In a typically emergent maneuver, he affirms that hell is a state which obtains both pre- and post-mortem (79, 104).

Shamelessly applying his radically deconstructive hermeneutic, Bell claims that the first question which must be asked when interpreting John’s Apocalypse is: “How did the first readers…understand it?” (112).

His spineless liberal tendencies lead him to refuse to speculate as to whether or not all people will eventually be saved (115).

With Sallie McFague, he affirms that all the biblical metaphors for atonement are appropriate, including the sacral, forensic, and victorious models (127).

Echoing Schleiermacher’s famous rejection of the Chalcedonian definition, Bell claims that Jesus is “the divine in flesh and blood” (129).

Adding error upon error, Bell not only believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ, but exploits it to make even wackier claims about the goodness of creation (129-37).

Betraying his Kulturprotestantismus, he insists that the incarnation must be retained as an essential Christian belief despite its being regarded as too “mythic,” “premodern,” or “superstitious” for the modern world (146-7).

Following John Hick, he rejects pluralistic universalism, arguing instead that whatever redemption may be found in other religions must be interpreted christologically (155).

And lastly, he affirms that one’s goodness, rightness, or moral standing does not contribute in any way to one’s justification before God (187).

Of course, I could go on. Yet now, having seen the evidence, I ask you, gentle reader: what could possibly lead Bell to make all these claims if not his deep-seated liberal tendencies? Certainly, there is no other theological tradition which could resource such subversive material, right?

I rest my case.

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