The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Doug Wilson on Bell vs MacDonald (short video)

The problem is, he isn’t telling them what they want to hear. He isn’t itching their ears. So he’s a damnable heretic for it, according to them.

If the truth happens to be good news then our motives are challenged. We’d all better stop preaching the gospel.

As someone whose main complaints about Rob Bell are that he is very unfair to his opposition, which leads him into some ridiculous and downright misleading statements, I do think I ought to say on the other side: most people’s ears, in my experience, are not in the least “itching” to hear that they are contributing to hell right now in this life (even with small sins, and even if they’re formally “Christian”), and that if they don’t shape up they’re going to keep contributing to hell in the next life, too, except that mostly who will be suffering then as a result will be themselves instead of other people. And unless they repent of their sins and submit to Christ, their torment absolutely will not ever end, ever.

Rob is very definitely saying that, whatever else you think he’s saying that people’s ears are itching to hear.

(Also, I agree with dirtboy about you being a decent bloke. :smiley: )

I asked Keith DeRose, Robin & Talbott what they thought of this video.

Hopefully Talbott will reply too, being a GMD expert!

Talbott said he didn’t think Wilson furthered the discussion on Universalism at all and that calling Bell a “zeitgeist sniffer” was condescending, given Bell’s genuine pastoral concern for people. He also reminded me that Bell is concerned by “the pain and suffering that certain theological doctrines, such as that of limited election, have inflicted on millions of people over the years.”

Jason has a good point about itching ears NOT wanting to hear that they are contributing to hell on earth and need to repent. I agree with Bell there and thought he gave a strong presentation on the “hell on earth” concept.

The Heaven chapter bothered me for its emphasis on what I might term “social gospel”, as if we have power to bring heaven to earth by environmental activism. Assumes an awful lot of power and control to bring about so much transformation. . . The idealism amused me as someone from an older generation. Around the time I was annoyed with Bell’s version of “heaven on earth” my husband pointed out that the culprit for the death of the world’s honeybees has been identified as cell phones. We both immediately agreed we’d give up cell phones in a minute without regret for the bees, but we don’t think those of Rob Bell’s generation and younger will go along with it (they would find that more “hell” than heavenly I would guess). Nice to rail against what others are doing that hurts the environment just as long as they don’t have to give up any of their perks. :wink:

I propose we ditch the phrase “scratching itchy ears”. First, speculating on our psychological motivation for believing something gets us no closer to discovering if it’s actually true or false. Second, the accusation cuts both ways. From my point of view, ECT scratches the base human desire to inflict pain on our enemies.

Thank you AllanS.
I couldn’t agree more. It has already been pointed out that people are trying to judge motive. Although it has been pointed out, certain people persist in trying to usurp God’s prerogative by attempting to judge men’s hearts. It may be one way of actually avoiding involving themselves in the real argument of the debate because they know their arguments are so weak, or it may be for other reasons. I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that the only people who are made to look bad are those who persist in this shameful approach.

I think that it is valuable as a warning: not to believe something just to please the self vs. sacrificing self interest for God’s Will…
Let’s not forget this very important warning!

I definitely think it’s valuable as a warning, but I also find myself getting really frustrated 90% of the time it’s used!

I think the problem is that the way that I think it’s a valuable warning is when it’s used this way:

“Just because I like it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.” (There should be other reasons to follow/believe something, other than the fact that it sounds good!)

But the way I often find it being employed is this way:
“Because somebody, somewhere, likes it [and I disagree with it], means IT MUST BE WRONG.” :confused:

Which God are we to sacrifice ourselves to? It must be the God we judge to be good and find worthy of worship. ie. The God who most deeply pleases us; who scratches our deepest itch.

I have to emphasize that Rob also emphatically states, more than once, that when people do this they are contributing to hell in the day of the Lord to come, too.

Rob doesn’t downplay judgment, except in the sense of refusing to consider judgment hopeless. (And refusing to consider the maximum hopelessness of God refusing to even try to save some people from sin, thus not even trying to empower them, much less lead them, into any kind of goodness.)

What I wrote in the previous comment is factually true (about the contents of Love Wins anyway); and since Luke mentions it, Rob says some things about the worst thing in the world being rebellion against God, too. He does so in a way that leaves even people who don’t believe in God without an excuse for ignoring what he’s talking about (as per Rom 2, now that I think of it. :slight_smile: ) Even people who don’t believe in God typically still believe in love to some extent; and they know they ought not to sin against love (so to speak); but Rob closes off any attempt at subjectively escaping that condemnation by connecting love back to the full fundamental reality of God Most High. Love isn’t an abstract standard that someone might or might not choose to follow based on their own choice–Love is the omnipotent and omnipresent personal reality Who is going to authoritatively act in judgment against sin, as well as act to save from sin.

(On the other hand, Rob in LW is admittedly a bit inconsistent about God acting in wrath to punish people, but that isn’t unusual for an Arminian, including one who is a fan of C. S. Lewis. Yet Rob, like any good Arminian, affirms that a punishment for sin is coming, even if he usually focuses in terms of sinners punishing themselves in and through their sin; and occasionally he implies or hints or even mentions that God has something authoritative to do with that punishment.)

I think that we have to be aware of our very human desire to rationalize things in our favor…isn’t Paul the originator of said saying?

Very true. I guess we need to know when we’re reasoning, when we’re rationalizing, and when we’re somewhere in-between. (I officially coin the word Reasonalizing. Wonder if it’ll go viral…)

Tom just gave me permission to post his email response, so long as I posted it in full.

(I posted the video on my blog does that mean I’m promoting it and am one of those who dare confuse it with an informed discussion of Rob Bell and George MacDonald?)

I hope no one confuses Tom Talbott’s Calvinistic straw-man from *The Inescapable Love of God *with a genuine discussion of Calvinism. :mrgreen:

I agree; I don’t think we should get rid of the saying of the itching ears (and yes it was Paul in one of the Tim epistles, 2 Tim if I recall correctly.)

But people abandon sound doctrine to satisfy itching ears for more than one reason. The urge to slander, for example, by applying the itching ear saying to people who aren’t abandoning doctrines and following false teachers in order to satisfy their own lusts. :wink: (Or to teachers who demonstrably aren’t doing what is accused of them.)

The principle is a good one generally speaking, but requires care and accuracy if it is going to be applied particularly.

For example, I don’t recall Luke abandoning sound doctrine in order to satisfy a desire for slander by stating falsehoods about Rob Bell; so the itching ears saying wouldn’t apply to him. :slight_smile:

I for one didn’t notice the strawman, and to be fair to Calvinism I would be grateful if this could be pointed out to me on another thread say. Until it is, I have to say that I regard Tom’s perspective as fair.

Luke, do you see any compelling scriptural arguments for universalism at all?

I’m not sure that’s a fair question; if Luke saw any compelling arguments for one or more kinds of universalism (scriptural arguments or otherwise), he’d already be either a universalist or a positive agnostic on the topic (unable to come down solidly yet on a position with apparently more than one good options.)

Since he solidly isn’t a universalist, his answer would have to be no, wouldn’t it?

What might be a more feasible question to ask is whether he’s able to sympathize with any scriptural arguments for universalism at all (even though for whatever reason he doesn’t find them compelling). For example he can see why people might easily and honestly understand this scripture to testify to God’s scope of intention to save sinners from sin, or that scripture to testify to God’s salvation of at least some sinners from sin post mortem, even though he himself believes mistakes are being made in the interpretation there.

Or alternately, are there scriptural arguments universalists use (for universalistic apologetics) which he finds compelling but not ultimately in favor of universalism? To give perhaps the most pertinent example, when universalists argue (from the scriptures and otherwise) in favor of the persistence of God in saving from sin the sinners God chooses to save, he may agree not only with the immediate conclusion of those arguments but with the validity and accuracy of their approach–but he himself deploys them in Calvinistic Reformed theology! (Since that class of soteriology agrees with Kaths about the original and continuing intentional persistence of God to save, over against Arm denial of original persistence.)