As I’ve explained in the previous two posts (here and here), Christian Universalism is deeply seductive to the enquiring mind.

I’m not sure what advice to give to parents out there except to get your children started early on the Bible so that they are well grounded in it by the time they reach secondary school.  After that, it may be too late … for a number of years, anyway.  What I noted from my own experience growing up was that the kids who knew the Bible could refute Christian Universalism — or Universal Reconciliation — straightaway, explaining why.

Just in case you are unsure of its popularity, Sola Sisters has featured a number of posts on Rob Bell’s new Love Wins and the theology behind it.  Both sisters also went through a journey with New Age beliefs and practices before delving into the Bible.

Their ‘”Christian Universalism” The Hot Trend Among Christian Youth?’ is a clear warning (emphases in the original):

And why is this movement sweeping through our youth and children? I think in large part it is because Rob Bell, pastor, writer and creator of the mega-popular NOOMA videos, sowed the seeds for this thinking in his book Velvet Elvis (2005), a blockbuster favorite among Christian youth, when he wrote this:

“Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.” (“Velvet Elvis,” p 146)

Parents, we are now reaping the bitter fruit of this heretical, but seductive, false teaching that has captured our beloved children and turned their hearts and minds away from biblical truth.

“I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29)

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4)

We need to make sure that we are taking seriously our responsibilities as Christian parents.  It is not the responsibility of youth pastors to biblically disciple our children. It is not the responsibility of Christian teachers at private schools. It is our responsibility.

But, this isn’t exactly Unitarian Universalism, although it is quite similar.  The Sola Sisters make this point in another post, ‘Are You in RobBellion?’ (emphases mine throughout):

… what you will find if you read Bell’s new book is that Bell DOES affirm that salvation comes only through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only, in Rob Bell Land, it comes to everyone.

People accuse Bell of being a straight up Universalist. But he’s not. This is Universalism:

Universalism = All paths lead to God, no Jesus necessary.

But this is not what Rob Bell believes. Bell believes in something called Universal Reconciliation. It is also sometimes called Christian Universalism.

Universal Reconciliation = All paths lead to God, BUT Jesus is the “mechanism” (for lack of a better word) that gets everyone in. His death made atonement for ALL people. No repentance necessary. No being born again necessary.

A fine distinction, but an important one for knowing how to contend with his followers. For example, citing Scripture which points to the Cross, Jesus, etc. is not enough. Bell’s followers would agree with you on these points.

That’s a very fine distinction, indeed, and there’s not a lot in it as far as I can see.  However, we are dealing with the postmodern mind which could probably argue the point until the wee small hours.

In debating with Mr Bell’s supporters — they don’t like the word ‘fans’ — you have to deal with comments like this one, no matter how balanced and gentle your correction of error:

tweedpipe: And so the witch-hunt begins, and you will make Christianity seem even more odious and unbelievable. Fortunately your extraordinary pastiche of Jesus’ teaching has nothing to do with Christianity. Unfortunately those outside the church won’t know that.

To which a Sola Sister replies:

Dear tweedpipe, hmmm your comment reminds me of a verse:

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” 1 Samuel 15:23a

So according to this verse, the sinful rebellion Rob Bell has repeatedly displayed is the same as the sin of witchcraft. All right then, here’s my case for Rob Bell’s heresy/rebellion against God’s revealed truth:

– He denies the authority of Scripture

– He questions the Virgin Birth

– He teaches a panentheistic view of “God”

– He is now teaching Christian Universalism, a heretical view of universalism (that has a tasty sprinkling of Christian terminology on top of course)

This is what the Rob Bell media craze is all about.  Mind you, he doubtless has a publicist, possibly courtesy of his publisher, HarperOne, part of the Murdoch empire, if I am not mistaken.  In any event, this is what the Sola Sisters have to say in another post:

Time magazine has designated Rob Bell a “rock star in the church world.” The Church Report Magazine (, ranked Bell #10 on their list of “The 50 Most Influential Christians in America.” Bell’s books and NOOMA videos sell by the thousands. The Chicago Sun Times wrote an article comparing Bell’s influence to that of Billy Graham (“The Next Billy Graham?“).

Heads up, Christian parents: even if you have never heard of Rob Bell before, just ask your kids. Because I can almost guarantee you that even if they haven’t read his books or watched his NOOMA videos, their friends have. And why is this frightening? Because Rob Bell is a big, big, BIG leader in a new movement sweeping through our young people today called Christian Universalism.with leaders like Rob Bell leading the way, many of today’s church-going youth have slowly been seduced into believing this false teaching, usually using Colossians 1:19-20 (out of context, of course) as their “proof-text.” To complicate matters further, the particular “flavor” of Universalism that Rob Bell is dishing up is called “Universal Reconciliation.” Universal Reconciliation is an odd twist on straight up Universalism (“All paths lead to God”), in that it is a belief which is “opposed to ideas such as everlasting torment in Hell, but may also include a period of finite punishment similar to a state of purgatory.”

That said, I shall continue with excerpts from the Revd Kevin De Young’s 21-page review of Bell’s latest book, Love Wins. You can find the following in the second section, ‘Where to Begin?’ (pages 5 – 8 of the PDF):

Love Wins is such a departure from historic Christianity, that there’s no easy way to tackle it. You can’t point to two or three main problems or three or four exegetical missteps. This is a markedly different telling of the gospel from start to finish. To fully engage the material would require not only deconstruction, but a full reconstruction of orthodoxy theology. A book review, however, is not the place to build a systematic theology ...

1. Not Your Grandmother’s Christianity
Perhaps the best place to start is to show that Bell routinely disparages the faith of traditional evangelicalism.

A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (viii) …

Later, Bell allows that traditionalists can believe their story of heaven and hell, but “it isn’t a very good story” (110). Traditional Christians have inferior news to share because in their story so many people end up in hell. “That’s why the Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties” (179). Not only are they bad at parties, traditionalists are bad at art: “An entrance understanding of the gospel rarely creates good art. Or innovation. Or a number of other things. It’s a cheap view of the world because it’s a cheap view of God. It’s a shriveled imagination” (180). So much for finding beauty or delight in Western civilization. I’ll leave it to the art critics and the partygoers to determine if it’s true that, second to blondes, universalists have more fun.

And yet, he believes it’s important to embrace past understanding of the faith, even if people like him were shaped by a certain environment and reared in certain experiences that can be easily deconstructed (e.g., praying the sinner’s prayer) (193–95) … Much of Bell’s polemic fails if there is a core of apostolic teaching that we are called, not just to embrace as part of our journey, but to protect from deviation and defend against false teaching (Acts 20:29–31).

2. Historical Problems
Bell maintains he is not saying anything new. And that’s right. The problem is he makes it sound like his everyone-ends-up-restored-and-reconciled-to-God theology is smack dab in the center of the Christian tradition.

And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19 that there will be a “renewal of all things,” Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will “restore everything,” and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ “God was pleased to. . . .reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (107, ellipsis in original)

It’s important to Bell that he falls within the “deep, wide, diverse stream” of “historic, orthodox Christian faith” (ix-x). Therefore, he argues that “at the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins” (109) …

Universalism (though in a different form than Bell’s and for different reasons) has been present in the church since Origen, but it was never in the center of the tradition … Whatever Origen’s influence on the Cappadocian fathers (and it was considerable), Origen’s views were later refuted by Augustine and … condemned in 543 in a council at Constantinople.

Bell also mentions Jerome, Basil, and Augustine because they claimed many people in their day believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God (107). But listing all the heavyweights who took time to refute the position you are now espousing is not a point in your favor. Most egregiously, Bell calls on Martin Luther in support of post-mortem salvation (106). But as Carl Trueman has pointed out, anyone familiar with Luther’s creedal statements and overall writing, not to mention the actual quotation in question, will quickly see that Luther is not on Bell’s side. Universalism has been around a long time. But so has every other heresy. Arius rejected the full deity of Christ and many people followed him. This hardly makes Arianism part of the wide, diverse stream of Christian orthodoxy. Every point of Christian doctrine has been contested, but some have been deemed heterodox. Universalism, traditionally, was considered one of those points. True, many recent liberal theologians have argued for versions of universalism—and this is where Bell stands, not in the center of the historic Christian tradition.

More from Mr De Young tomorrow