MacArthur vs Bell: a Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?


I know, I know…I said, no more Rob Bell threads but I must make an exception for our “evangelical pope” John Macarthur who has finally come out on this issue. This is not a “mere” matter of denying hell but about an entirely different gospel being taught. God Bless! :slight_smile:

"In a series of posts this week, we will demonstrate from Rob Bell’s own published works that he has long been hostile to virtually every vital gospel truth; we will consider some of the questions he has raised about what the Bible has to say about hell; and we will compare and contrast what Bell is saying about hell with what Jesus said about it.

Buckle in and get ready to be challenged. These are admittedly some of the hardest truths in the New Testament…


“A Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?”

I’d turn that question around and apply it to JM!

Although I considered having a bonfire with my MacArthur books, I donated them to someone who can read them with a very good filter. Nevertheless, I think JM will go to heaven and I even see a place for his finger wagging in putting people under such a yoke of bondage that they finally go to the Source for answers. His delusions worked that way for me! :smiley:

I don’t disagree with EVERYTHING he preaches, but some of it is just seriously warped! He tears the verses he doesn’t like right out of the Bible. Genesis 1:26-28 for example.


John MacArthur and John Piper being AGAINST Rob Bell actually chalks up some points for Bell from my perspective since I think they are both so far off base when it comes to some of their theology (which makes marriage “hell on earth” for the wives who make the mistake of embracing it! BTDT.)


Well said Gem :laughing: !


Could you elaborate on that Gem? I’m not familiar with John MacArthur, or his theology. Is he one of those “if you divorce and remarry, you’re a filthy adulteress” type of person?

On topic though, from the links provided in the OP I can only sense that this man is yet another canine howling “heretic!” at any moon that will listen. Personally, after reading/listening to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” (the book which caused all of this uproar) I didn’t find anything nearly as objectionable as what is claimed. I definitely saw the “God shall save all mankind” trend and leaning, even perhaps that it outright espoused it in some areas - but nothing to be considered “heresy” over. And as for Rob Bell being a brother, or a wolf - he stated several times that he is a follower of Jesus and had said the sinner’s prayer at a young age and other things. Unless people are insistent on presenting a theology or view that “you’re only saved if I think you’re saved, or if your confession is good enough to my standards” — then I’d say he’s a brother under the sheer fact that Christ is his saviour as well.


Let’s keep this discussion on topic to MacArthur’s comments about Bell. It’s starting to drift.



Agreed. This isn’t the thread (and probably not the forum) to discuss JM’s treatment of women pro or con.


The thread link is much appreciated! (Though hardly necessary to put twice in the same short post. :wink: )

However, speaking as a Protestant, I am almost sure that Protestants protest against the idea of some not-God human being our pope and thus authoritatively pronouncing for us what does and does not count as orthodoxy. So I have to say I am surprised to see the phrase “evangelical pope” being used in an obviously non-ironic fashion by an avowed evangelical Protestant.

(Whereas, Roman Catholic evangelicals actually have a pope already. Who, like his immediate predecessor, is very fond and approving of their mentor Balthasar; whose work on salvation by Christ strongly resembles Bell’s. :wink: I rather expect Pope Benedict to think pretty well of Love Wins, apart from any non-RC portions of course.)

That being said, you have provided a good service in the past, Oxy, by linking to critiques of RB for us to discuss; and I think I can speak for the rest of the admins and mods in inviting you to keep right on doing so. Although it would be better for other readers if you more clearly indicated in your title whose critique you’re linking to, as you’ve occasionally done in the past. (I’ll add a ref to JM in this thread’s title to help out with that.)


For me, the inclination to EU was very much related to the treatment/view of woman in prominent conservative evangelical teaching. Once I realized how far off and destructive was the teaching of trusted “church authority figures” I started to think about other areas I had been misled. I’m not sure it’s unrelated for oxymoron either based on a recent post of his?
(to which I was also tempted to reply. “Women pastors” is an equivalent evil to “stripper poles for Jesus”? :unamused: ) Although, since he’s male (of the ruling gender with exclusive “dominion” per JM), its unlikely to be a watershed issue for him like it was for me.

Notice the company of “Women pastors” in oxymoron’s thinking. This does not surprise me, drinking at JM’s well.

But, Sorry. This is OM’s topic and your forum.
The topic of women being mistreated is irrelevant here.
Back to criticizing Bell.


I would definitely say “A wolf to avoid”. Absolutely no doubt - two completely different gods are being worshiped.


And the series continues:-

Rob Bell: “Evangelical and orthodox to the bone?” Hardly.

"Rob Bell is reminiscent of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17-27. He has a warped view of goodness. He talks as if his own standard of good is the norm, and Bell even suggests that God is not good if He sends people to hell.

Jesus’ reply to the young inquirer (“No one is good except God alone”—v. 18) says God himself alone is the standard of true good, not any creature—certainly not a fallen creature.

The Young Ruler was not saved, nor can any person be who thinks his or her own preferences determine what is truly good. That kind of arrogance reflects a damning egotism…"


That is the crux of the matter and where universalism goes off the rails. They think they are upholding the character and nature of God that is in scripture but infact they are upholding their own presupposition of how they interpret God’s character and nature in scripture.

Calvinism would say, if God allowed only one person in heaven that He would still be loving and good. We wouldn’t like it but we would have no moral footing to say otherwise let alone deeming God to be unfair or even unloving.

Universalism could and would never say that.


That is because Christian Universalism states that God creating literally billions of beings for what ultimately becomes the goal of subjecting them directly or indirectly to ‘never ending, unceasing, exponential, conscious, irremedial, dehumanising, sin-perpetuating, sin-exponentiating, de-glorifying, anti-righteousness, excruciating, perpetually-sustained, physical, emotional, and spiritual pain made poignant by the inclusion of hopelessness; torture’ — a vicious concept that directly defies expressed love by any human standard of which God is supposed to (in positive trend) supra-ascend in height, depth, expanse, and expression. Love being his very infinite nature and being.

ETC presents God as more akin to Nero than to the Christ.


I’m sorry but Calvinism is just repugnant to me. Not because I’m a crazy love child of the sixties (even though I was :open_mouth: ) and am an Arminian in my background (that position never satisfied my questions either). But because of what I read in the Scriptures about our heavenly Father’s true character.

Ponder this next verse carefully.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn. 4:10; 2:2).

The same beloved John who wrote so extensively of God’s marvelous love left us this solemn warning, “Little children, keep yourselves from IDOLS (that is, false gods, or false ideas and representations of the true God)” (I Jn. 5:21). Do we have false ideas about God? I think we do. We say that God is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and then turn around and deny it. We say that God “so loved the world” and that Jesus is “the Saviour of the world” and then turn around and say that only a few will be saved while God sends the vast majority to suffer the excruciating pains of fire and brimstone for all eternity without His feeling any concern for their suffering - without mercy! We say that God is all-powerful, and then turn around and say that God has “provided” salvation for all men, that God is “trying” to save the world, that God is “pleading” with men to repent, but the devil who blinds and possesses men’s souls is so much more powerful than God that he will carry captive into eternal hell countless billions of men, women and children for whom Christ died!

Also, those who claim that they are true to the Bible say that God the Creator and God the Redeemer are the very same God, but they deny it in their attitude toward the question of the salvation of all men. As Dr. Hurley has written, “They have an infinite Creator, but a very little Redeemer. Their Christ is a comparatively helpless and puny Saviour who is going to lose most of those for whom He died. He can pay the price for the sins of the whole world, but the stubborn will of man makes it ineffective. Man’s will is mightier than God’s will. God is infinite to create, powerless to redeem! But either God is all-powerful, or He is not. Either God is all-wise, or He is not. Either God is all-loving, or He is not. Either God’s will is sovereign, or it is not. Either God’s grace is infinite, or it is not. Isn’t it time for the Church of Christ to decide one way or the other, and then make her theology fit her expressed faith?”. Pretty powerful statement, you think!

So how can a loving, all-powerful God let people burn alive forever if he does have the power to stop it? Is that love? It seems strange in light of how the Bible characterizes Love. I’m sure you are familiar with what Paul said about Love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love suffers long and is kind; Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails… (NKJV)

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience- it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive; it is neither anxious to empress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage,. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. (J. B. Phillips Translation)

According to this high standard, does Love keep an infinite, never-ending record of wrong done against itself? How often we resolve that we cannot truly understand the way God loves, and it is better to not even ask these questions. Have you heard that before? Have you said it yourself? Do you understand the way God loves? Then we wonder why the lost person we just witnessed to just goes his own way, bewildered, confused and having been given no satisfying answer from the “Christian”.

It seems pretty clear that if God were to send people to unrelenting torment for not saying the right words or believing the right thing (before they die), then He would not be patient and certainly not kind. He would be keeping a record of us having wronged Him. Love would have failed. He would be disregarding His very own definition of Love. And not to mention His failing to save all men, which was Christ’s very purpose in life.

What was the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection?

To take away the sin of the world: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world . (John 1:29)

God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

Who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the world. (John 6:33)

And if anyone hears my words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47)

The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. (Luke 9:56)

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. (John 12:32)

As you have given Him authority over all flesh , that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. (John 17:2)

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. (John 3:35)

God, Who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things , through Whom also He made the worlds. (Hebrews 1:1,2)

To set the captives free: Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound (Isaiah 61:1)

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

His purpose is very clear: to reconcile all things back to His Father. (Col. 1:15-20)

So let’s put this every concisely, according to Scripture, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, created all things, is Heir of all things, has authority of all things, will have all men to be saved, His grace comes to all men, He takes away the sin of the world , He gives His flesh for the life of the world, reconciles all things, He is the propitiation for the sins of the world , whose gifts are irrevocable of which life is one of the gifts, He was manifested to put away sin, He preached to the spirits in prison and holds the keys to death and hell, who changes not, He is Lord of both the living and the dead, he will destroy all enemies of God, the last one being death, Who made all things alive, Who completes the work the Father gave Him to do, Who restores all things, gave Himself a ransom for all , He takes away the curse and said He came to do the will and work of the Father who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth so that God, the Father may be all in all! I could lengthen this paragraph considerably, but I think the point has been made.

Please contemplate what I am about to say very carefully and prayerfully, understanding that even God’s “chosen” people, the nation of Israel, after 1600 years of tradition couldn’t recognize their very own Messiah because they had swallowed “traditions of men which make the word of God of no effect”. Think about this a minute. Be humble enough to acknowledge that it could be possible after 2,000 years of Church “traditions” (of which there are hundreds that are not found in the Bible), that perhaps you, yourself, may have swallowed some traditions which prevent you from seeing what is plainly right before your eyes. I know I did.

Based upon the scriptures above, if Jesus loses a single sheep, a single soul, will He have accomplished what He was sent to finish?

We Christians have inherited many traditions not founded upon the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. If all of the above are the purpose for Jesus coming to the earth and He loses a single human being, did He not fall short of His purpose?

However, if every person is to be saved (that is nobody is lost forever and no suffering is eternal), then his death on the Cross would be completely fruitful, and triumphant in what it was meant to do. God would dwell in fullness and it would end just like the Scriptures says “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Sorry for the rant, I’m probably off topic and out of line. I’ll stop now.

Grace and peace


URPilgrim, I like your use of Corinthians to help explain love, so that surely in this area we definitely aren’t bringing our own presuppositions to the scripture, but using it’s own definition…

Sadly, the rebuttal I’ve heard to, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world”, is that this simply implies His first coming was to offer salvation, and His second coming will be to deliver judgment to most people who rejected that offer. Although they have to define “world” as “a few people” to make this work, which seems very dubious.

Thanks for pointing out 1 John 3:8, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”, like so many Bible verses, that now makes much more sense! i.e. ECT would appear to be full of the works of the devil :confused:


The series continues and John MacArthur is on his “A” game:-

“I have as much in common with the performance artist, the standup comedian, the screenwriter, as I do with the theologian. I’m in an odd world where I make things and share them with people." --Rob Bell

Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, 130: “I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.”


Interesting blog at GTY… and I’d be the first to say (and I believe I did on another thread) that the last person that I would want as the spokesperson for EU is Rob Bell. That is my biggest fear, that the position of EU is not discussed on the merits of the evidence of scripture and scripture alone (sola scriptura) :unamused: , but rejected simply because that it may be associated with a mystic/poet/theologian emergent teacher. This is a strawman argument and does nothing to further the debate.

Why can’t Piper, MacArthur, Carson and company come to the table and discuss the evidence of Scripture as presented by EU, verse by verse and stop with the shell games?


Maybe you can make a concerted effort to ask them to set forth their exegesis fro the verses in question or have them recommend someone else’s exegesis that they approve of. These leaders seem so hard to get the attention of once they get so famous- why is this?


I think they get really busy and they’re inundated with correspondence and all sorts of people and nutcases trying to get their attention. Bell got attention because he has a big following–he’s “dangerous.” LOL

Anything that threatens the heart of Christianity – apparently that’s eternal hell – is “obviously” heresy, and they automatically dismiss it without a second thought. I used to think that way too, so I’m not going to condemn. :sunglasses:

But I think as the movement continues to grow it will gain more respect.


macarthur makes some solid points and should be seriously listened to.


what do you think his ‘solid points’ are?