How R. C. Sproul Jr. got Rob Bell in Hell in 7 easy steps

"The Invention of Hell" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“The Invention of Hell” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

I’m always fascinated by the evangelicals’ reaction to Rob Bell.

I do not know Rob Bell. We’ve never communicated. Even when I announced our marriage on April Fool’s Day in 2013, he never sent me congratulations. But I don’t mind because he’s a busy man and I’m an understanding spouse.

Anselm said “Faith seeks understanding”, and I’m going to assume that this is what Rob Bell is trying to do… understand his faith. He will sometimes get it wrong. He will sometimes get it right. I also think he cares about the church, the welfare of Christians, and even people in general. So I’m guessing he’s writing not for fame or money but because he’s genuinely trying to contribute value to the conversation and improve the life of the church and people. I’m also guessing he’s concerned for human rights and freedoms. Basically, what I’m saying is that I think Rob Bell is a decent man trying to faithfully serve his God in such a way as to make the church and the world a better place.

R.C. Sproul disagrees. When I read this clip of one of his sermons, I didn’t know whether to be amazed or sad, so I chose both. In just 8 minutes Sproul states or suggests Bell is:

  1. not an Evangelical;
  2. not a Christian;
  3. intentionally trying to mislead Christians;
  4. a wolf in sheep clothing;
  5. an object of God’s wrath;
  6. in need of repentance;
  7. going to Hell.

Here’s the killer quote:

”What Rob Bell thinks of gay marriage, I’m not concerned about. What the Bible says about it, that’s the truth. The immovable, unshakeable truth, that will still be here and still be true when Rob Bell’s body is rotting in his grave, and unless he repents, when his soul is just beginning to suffer the wrath of God for all eternity.”

I think Sproul showed his hand a little when he said Bell’s body would be rotting in his grave. A little over the top. Oh ya, he’s a preacher!

Actually, the problem is that Rob Bell doesn’t employ the same hermeneutic as Sproul. Bell’s is inclusive while Sproul’s is exclusive. Bell’s hermeneutic hopes that somehow, even though we can’t understand it yet, we are all connected and united at a deep and invisible level. Sproul emphasizes the apparent separateness and division we think we see between us and in the world, so his hermeneutic demands that all those who don’t subscribe to it are not only wrong but the objects of God’s wrath destined for destruction.

I believe Bell’s world is getting larger while Sproul’s will be getting smaller.

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17 Replies to “How R. C. Sproul Jr. got Rob Bell in Hell in 7 easy steps”

  1. Having read Sproul’s quote of Bell, I think Bell’s comment about Scripture vis-a-vis homosexuality was ill-worded. That said, however, this is indeed a matter of hermeneutics. To my knowledge, Bell has never dogmatically said that God is going to save everyone; he leaves it open to possibility (on the basis of Scripture and the nature of God’s love). And Bell is also suggesting, not without good reason, that we can’t posit Scripture to our pluralistic culture as being authoritative in the matter of homosexuality. It just won’t work. People demand to know (as well they should) WHY the Bible says what it says — and that’s where hermeneutics comes into the picture. Sproul won’t give Bell (or John Stott, for that matter!) an inch. Ummm, where does “we all see through a mirror, dimly” come into the picture? Seems like there should be some room for humility here, especially with regard to judging another person’s salvation.

  2. IMO the major problem with Fundamentalist “Christians” is that the Bible they are reading is a fraud. It is not a translation and unless the original language texts back up the translator’s and/or their employers theology it the meaning of words is completely changed. In the case of passages “translated” in a slant against homosexuality it is not referring any type of consensual relationship and is far more likely referring to ritualistic rape of male child sex slaves as was practiced in pagan religions. This is able is allowed to continue, because instead of being followers of Christ as they claim, but instead are followers of supposed experts and are practice Bibliolaters of a fraudulently represented book.

  3. Great cartoon and post! My ‘hermeneutic’ was flipped when someone asked me flat out, “As a Christian, wouldn’t you HOPE that everyone would go to heaven?” In my shame I said, “Yes” – but it wasn’t true. At the time, I just believed and was indoctrinated to think that some people didn’t deserve to go to heaven because they didn’t accept Jesus.

    That was the turning point – why wouldn’t I want everyone to go to heaven? Looking back, I can’t believe I ever hoped that some wouldn’t be allowed there. Do some people go to hell? Yes, but not because God wants them there – I think it’s more along the lines of what Dallas Willard said: “Hell is just the best that God can do for some people.” Because of the character that they’ve taken on – having to be in the presence of God would be hell for some people!

  4. Re: homosexuality — I think almost 100% of the church, certainly the evangelical church, has it wrong. Paul definitely says in I Cor. 6:9-10, “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God…neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God.” But I don’t think the key issue is the behavior. The key issue, and the key question is, what is the kingdom of God, and what does it mean to inherit it? I’ve come to the conviction that the kingdom is the presence of the King, the life and Spirit of Christ living in and through a person. It’s being filled with and by the Spirit. It’s being a projection of the presence of God as one walks through life. It’s living by his promises and by his power. I don’t believe the “kingdom of God” is heaven. Now, it may be true that one who is immoral, or an idolater, or an adulterer, or a practice homosexual will not experience the fullness of the kingdom of God in their lives, but that’s a far cry from saying they are consigned to hell. And how would, say, a homosexual ever come to a place where they might experience the fullness of Christ in their lives if the evangelical church has pretty much consigned to the status of “unbeliever”? But all of us, not just gays, or adulterers, or the idolatrous, have a problem with what Paul says here. I left out the part about thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, also not being able to inherit the Kingdom of God. Seriously, which one of us comes through unscathed? Even Paul said in Rom. 7 that he was guilty of covetousness, which is pretty close to greed. The way to rectify our condition and spiritual poverty — all of us — is to come into a relation to the grace of God that Paul expresses in Rom. 8. In short, we need to stop focusing so much on homosexuality, and more on the spiritual poverty of everyone who walks according to the power of the flesh, and learn what it means to live in the presence of God, by the power of the Spirit of Christ. As one who’s roots are in the evangelical church, I think evangelicalism has a huge blind spot about this.

  5. As a recovering Calvinist, I used to hang on every word of R.C. Sproul, and others of his persuasion, but no longer. I’ve left him behind. I’ve also had to leave a number of others who were my spiritual leaders in my early Christian life. But I was brought to this place not by any one theologian or school of theology, but by God himself.

    I would say that my background in Reformed theology gave me an appreciation for the reliability of scripture, the sovereign power of God to save, and the irresistible grace of God. A respect for Scripture and what it says led me to take literally what it says when it proclaims that Jesus died for the sins of the world, took upon himself the sins over every person, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and that the redemptive work of Christ is complete. It was my Reformed roots which led me to to understand the broad grace of God. I think the Calvinists understand the implications of Jesus having died for the world, which is why they maintain that he only died for the elect. The elect get in; the others don’t. Consequently, hell is “saved.” But limited atonement is itself a heresy. It is an affront to the completed work of Christ, and of God’s will in providing redemption for the world.

  6. 10 years ago my wife and I found my mother and father dead in their home. My father had left the car running in the garage below their bedroom and both died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It was a horrible sight. It was dead of winter and they had probably been laying in there for at least 5 days. We lived about 70 miles away and hadn’t heard from then for over a week so decided to check things out. That was how we found them. It was declared an accident but we were both pretty sure that my father had probably set it up. They both were very sick. My mother suffered from sever mental illness and was terrified of death. When I read the words “his body rotting in it’s grave” in the article it hit close to home. About a month after we buried them my wife had a dream. In the dream my mother appeared in our bedroom. My wife said that she never looked more peaceful and beautiful. To make a long story short, my wife said that in her dream it was like my mom took to see the hell that my mother had always been so afraid of, and it was nothing but like a large trash dump with old rotting dead bodies in it and my mom said “see that is all the devil gets, a bunch of old rotting bodies.”

  7. You know, everyone is entitled to express their opinions and R.C. Sproul is free to state his. What I find most troubling, especially in this electronic age, is the compulsion many people have to drag anyone who thinks differently than them, out into the streets and attempt to humiliate them in front of thousands, tens of thousands and even millions of people. It’s one thing to point out where you differ with them and explain why, but it’s another to make grand declarations about the location of their eternal destiny as a result of their “heretical” beliefs. I disagree with Sproul on the issue of homosexuality, as well as Rob Bell’s future, and can back my beliefs up with the very same Bible Sproul presumably uses to base his beliefs on. IMO, a person who chooses to make grand proclamations about the eternal doom of another, likely has little theological ground to stand on, which is why they have to use fear, instead of love, to keep people in line.

  8. I know R. C. Been in his home What he said about Rob Bell is so true of R. C.
    When my daughter was in a mental hospital and decrying Christianity. I asked him to visit her. She thought he was cool. I thought he might be able to talk to her.
    She had been on a prolife tour of the deep south where she had been sexually assaulted at 14 by an older teen brought in to a rally by one of the prolifers who did not know this teen.
    R. C. went to see my daughter. He tossed a Bible at her and told her, HER, to get right with God . Until then, there would be no further communication with her. No words of hope or comfort. No love or mercy.
    As for homosexuals, in the early 2000s, one of his best friends was gay. We all accepted him as a charming addition. But his being gay was not discussed.

  9. well ….. Any one who has their own show on Oprah, has to be a pegan and certainly going to hell !!

  10. I do know Rob. He’s kind, generous, incredibly gracious. He also has a deep love and walk with Jesus. Because of that I know he wishes Sproul nothing but the best. I also know he is not distracted by people like him, he’s giving all himself to his family, loved ones, and bringing light, comfort, healing to the people he meets.

  11. While I am uncomfortable with Rob Bell’s celebrity status and association with Oprah, I did find his teachings interesting before he resigned his pastorship. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as evangelical Christianity seems to be the ones to say not to judge, but seems to be the quickest to turn around to judge when he was asking thought provoking questions without making any assertions about the questions.

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