Heaven, Hell And The Theology of Rob Bell Diagnosed

Dr. Horton offers his diagnosis of Bell’s universalism.  Simply said, it is a picture of hell through the lens of old school liberalism. I use liberalism not as a pejorative , like so often happens in conservative circles, but to place this theology in the right tradition. It is classic liberal theology. Read the works of classic liberals, Albrecht Ritschl’s The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, Wilhelm Herrmann, Adolf Harnack, and Harry Emerson Fosdick to see Bells’ tradition. Dr. Horton explains this theology:

That basic scheme goes like this: God’s only attribute is love; his holiness, righteousness, and justice have to be adjusted to this central dogma.  Human beings are not deserving of God’s wrath, but only of his encouragement and empowerment to improve.  Jesus Christ is primarily a moral teacher, who invites us to share in his vision of creating “a kingdom of ethical righteousness” (Ritschl’s phrase, basically from Immanuel Kant). Since there is no divine justice to satisfy or wrath to propitiate, the cross cannot be represented as a vicarious substitution of “the Lamb of God” for sinners.  Since there is no objective condemnation, there can be no objective justification.  Since everyone is a child of God, there can be no adoption.  The church is merely the community of volunteers for the kingdom-building enterprise.  Heaven and hell are as subjective as sin and redemption: it all depends on what you make of your life right now. Yale’s H.Richard Niebuhr captured the essence of liberal religion in this fine description: “A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”

Click hear to read Dr. Horton’s diagnoses.

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