Br Dr. Fred Lybrand
Let’s have a discussion.
So, Rob Bell writes a book called “Love Wins” and it is basically all about heaven and hell with a final conclusion that Love wins out; God’s love will ultimately persuade everyone to embrace Him and His heaven. It sounds like universalism, but Bell and others are also denying it. You can call it what you want, but if everyone gets in, then salvation is clearly ‘universal’ (hence the name).
Of course this is unabashedly anti-scriptural (nice interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vg-qgmJ7nzA ), but what is behind his conclusion? Cynically we could speak in terms of fame and fortune as motivating Bell to depart from the historic / biblical Christian faith. I, however, think there is a far more simple way to think about it theologically. Bell has just imposed a hierarchy on the attributes of God. The net result is that Bell has taken grace (he says love, but a loving God must be gracious) to the extreme.
Face it—if God is gracious wouldn’t He save everyone (that’s the idea)? If you are gracious to save one, you are even more gracious to save two. If you are loving enough to save one, you are even more loving to save two. The more the merrier…why not just save all? Rob Bell is simply running one piece of the puzzle to the extreme. This is the kind of logic behind Paul’s accusers in Romans 3:8, that grace was un-boundried.
In Back to Faith (http://www.backtofaith.com) I have an appendix dealing with Antinominism. Basically, I point out that the real antinomians are the universalists. Rob Bell is the end result that Lordshippers and Legalists think our theology leads a person to conclude.
Though I have fought against the legitimacy of that accusation, I’m starting to waver a little. It may be that some of us are flirting with the same deadly trend we see in Rob Bell. I believe some of us are starting to create a hierarchy within the attributes of God to our own demise. If this is new to you, then indulge the thought for a moment. God has a nature (complex of attributes) which includes such things as love, holiness, justice, mercy, omnipotence, etc. These attributes essentially describe God and the way in which He functions as best we can discern from the revelation through His Word. When we understand God’s attributes as perfectly balanced within His person we are fine, but if we begin to elevate one attribute above another, we reshape the very nature of God. Consider how different each of these ‘gods’ would be:
1. A god who is more justice than mercy
2. A god who is more love than justice
3. A god who is more forgiveness than truth
Each one would be different from the other. The other attributes aren’t excluded, but they are subservient. In a similar way, if we make any person of the Trinity ‘more’ and another member ‘less’—then the doctrine of the Trinity collapses.
So, what of us in the Free Grace Movement? What is our danger?
Simply put, many of us have been overly concerned about Reformed Theology, especially as it shows up in the various renditions of DORT. The theory is that if you buy one part of the ‘5 Points’ you must buy them all. Of course, it is the Calvinists who try to insist upon this…and some of us just follow along. Mostly it is a definitional problem and an allegiance to a theology over Scripture. Personally, I am clearly a ‘moderate Calvinist’ (labels being what they are), but I am also Free Grace to the core.
Here’s the deadly trend— we have folks in our Shire who are saying that the Doctrine of Election cannot be true because “What love is that? How could a loving God who can elect whomever He wishes elect some to hell? What love is this?” I believe that there are many assumptions in this argument that don’t match the record or Calvinism; however, the BIG ISSUE is that the love of God is being elevated above His sovereignty (at least). Indeed, I have friends who try to argue that sovereignty isn’t much of an issue because it isn’t mentioned the Bible (counter arguments: see the word *Trinity*). Of course, even the definition of love is warped a bit in the argument as well (a different post should address this).
In any case dear friends, please consider that what is happening is an elevation of one attribute above the others in the very nature of God. God’s nature is complete and balanced unto itself. This is why the Cross makes such sense given the character of God. Justice and love are perfectly balanced in the death of Christ for us.
Rob Bell has elevated one attribute above the rest, and so he is off to sup with universalism.
However, are we much different? Are we elevating one attribute of God above the others? It doesn’t take much math to see how this trend leads us astray. Are our accusers on to something? Are we forcing categories on God to make our own theology work? I find comfort in mystery, not knowing how it all works. I find fear in tampering with the Word of God.
God help us.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Fred R. Lybrand
P.S. Please tell me what you think…let’s have a discussion.