Universal Bell

OK! There are a lot of people out there who think they know Rob Bell believes in universal salvation and subsequently is in major error. Perhaps the problem we should really be dealing with is that a lot more people are out there who do not know what that previous sentence means.
Universal salvation is the belief that God will save every person who ever lived. Major error means a teacher or preacher has begun teaching a belief that will lead to his or her own eternal condemndation. Do you now see the strange contradiction here?
March 29 is the magic date when Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” will be available in the stores. Until then I do not know if he is a universalist or not. I suspect after that time I will not care. The simple fact is that I do not care now.
I sometimes think of universal salvation as the same way I hoped everyone would qualify in little league try-outs when I was a kid. I was not being generous. In fact, it was a very selfish wish. If everyone made it, then so would I. Christian doctrine holds that salvation is universally offered. That is to say, every person is called to live in God’s love. The argument among Christian teachers has been over the response each person makes to God’s grace. Universal salvationists have been part of the Christian church since ancient times. They were not always called heretics either.
My own problem with universal salvation (and it may just be my own hang-up) is that I see the need for repentance. Each person must acknowledge and (while relying on grace) change sinful actions to live in God’s love and forgiveness. Perhaps there is a last chance for repentance after death as C.S. Lewis envisions in “The Great Divorce.” Yet, that story, while inclusive in the Wesleyan sense, still shows that some people will reject God’s grace.
The truth remains that no matter how one views salvation in the Christian sense of the term those who respond are saved despite their sin. I am waiting to see if Rob Bell is joinging the ranks of respected Christian writers and believers like Madeline L’Engle, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Philip Gulley, James Mulholland, and John R. W. Stott.

One thought on “Universal Bell

  1. I suspect–and it is quite likely that my suspicion is an artifact of my own cynicism–that many folks reject Universalism out of hand because it erodes their own status as elite, elect, born-again, or what have you.

    On the other hand, though, I also have a problem with the idea of “transactional salvation”; ie “And that’s not all, because there is so much more you can win by simply repeating the creed found on page 42 of your hymnal…tell ’em about it, Jesus!” No, we cannot through works make ourselves worthy of salvation. But I do believe that God at least expects us to try.

    As much fun as it is to debate and philosophize and find proof-texts for this position or that position, in the End we WILL find out who (if any of us) is correct. Of course, when that happens it’ll be too late to modify our doctrine, so here’s hoping that that’s where Grace kicks in. đŸ™‚

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