Rob Bell: gross theological failure like sexual sin (says Tim Challies)

Derek Ouellette —  November 21, 2012

[Editor’s note: I probably could have read Challies more gracefully, so take my address with a grain of salt and read his original post. On a related note, the comments went berserk when Rachel Held Evans got in there.]

I read an article this morning by Tim Challies titled “The Hell-Raiser.” I’m in a state of shock, honestly. I wanted to laugh at what I read, and even now I have to remind myself that Challies is being serious, so I have to tuck this grin away and treat his unbelievable comments as, gulp, believable. He actually said them, and he actually meant them.

Challies writes about an article from The New Yorker that featured Rob Bell and portrays him “as a Christian leader who found himself searching for a more forgiving faith.”

This caused Challies to reflect on Rob Bell and his book (which he doesn’t mention, but it’s implied), “Love Wins,” and to take up the mantle of Jeremiah, to engage in lamentations for those who “destroy their ministries through gross moral failure or gross theological failure.”

Challies is not just implying or insinuating, he actually came right out and compared Rob Bell’s theology to “gross moral failure.” He goes on to claim that Rob Bell apostatized because he “rejects the central doctrines of the faith.”

Just as a

“leader who is caught in a hotel room with the woman who is not his wife, the theologian who is found trolling the Internet trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor, the pastor who is arrested for soliciting the services of a prostitute…”

So also the

“leader who denies the doctrine of the Trinity, the theologian who determines that Jesus Christ could not possibly have been born of a virgin, the pastor [read: Rob Bell] who denies the existence of hell.”

I find myself at a loss for words. To the best of my knowledge Rob Bell does not deny the Trinity, the virgin birth or the existence of hell. I also didn’t know that a denial of hell makes one an apostate.

Tim Challies, shame on you. You, sir, especially with your large platform, will be held accountable for every word typed and read. And in this article, I don’t see much that resembles honest truth or fair evaluation.

Let’s talk about hell, since that seems to be the point that’s burnin your bosoms based on the title of your article. Please show me a single place where Rob Bell denies the existence of hell? See, Challies, those are big words and the accusations are heavy. Back’em up.

By and large evangelicals all agree that hell exists. What they disagree on is the nature of hell. It seems to me that the reason why you’re dancing around Bell like as if your pants have been stuffed with hot coals is because Bell disagrees with you about the nature of hell.

Frankly, I’m holding on to the traditional view of hell by the skin of my teeth. Conditionalism is a very viable and biblically based option.

Would making that move lapse me into apostasy? Or is it accumulative? How many of these doctrines of yours do I need to deny in order to apostatize? Of course I want to stay as far away from apostasy as I can, but since you’ve set yourself up as the apostasy policy, judge, jury and, well if this were the sixteenth century, executioner. I’m just curious to know where and how you draw that line.

Since you’re so confident in drawing that line for Bell, please tell me. Where’s that point?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Mike

    Thanks a lot for this post. I appreciate the fact that digger deeper for the truth is always your first priority and passion; not taking sides. Keep up the faithful work.

  • Craig L. Adams

    Maybe he mentioned Rob Bell to get more web traffic.

    • Craig L. Adams

      SECOND THOUGHT: It’s possible, though, that he read something in the New Yorker article that ticked him off. That wouldn’t be strange. Remember the piece in Time?

      • Derek Ouellette


  • Jose Colucci

    I agree with your Editor’s note.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Fair enough.

  • Dan Martin

    Derek, I’ve come to the conclusion that being labeled a heretic or apostate by the usual fundamentalist Calvinist is a good thing. Challis’ words are unacceptable and you’re right to call him out, but I’d be more worried if a guy like that started supporting you.

    • Derek Ouellette

      That’s an interesting way to look at the situation. Thanks Dan.