Rob Bell, Gandhi, and “Love Wins”

If Rob Bell’s opinions about Gandhi (expressed in this video) are correct, then this passage of Scripture is false:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV emphasis added)

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

16 responses to “Rob Bell, Gandhi, and “Love Wins”

  • Rich Overcash

    Aaron, it is ironic that you choose this passage to discredit Rob Bell’s book and his hope that God might just be merciful enough to claim even the likes of Ghandi for his Kingdom. This passage oozes with descriptions of God’s “love,” “mercy,” “kindness” and “grace” (meaning undeserved GIFT). Furthermore, it clearly shows that it is God who takes the intiative and chooses to love us, even though we are dead in sin. (what is sin but, unbelief). It is God who “made” us alive in Christ. It is God who “saves” by his grace. It is God who “raises us up.” And all of this is a Gift, which is NOT of your own doing, certainly not the result of works, so that no one may boast. We are his workmanship. I fail to see where this discredits Bell’s hope that maybe God’s grace, mercy and love, and kindness might just extend to people like Ghandi, or for that matter, to everyone!

  • Aaron Gardner

    Bell’s hope is that Ghandi was good and so had earned a spot in heaven. The passage teaches that it is by faith in Christ that we are saved. Ghandi was overtly not Christian, did not believe in Christ. I pray that he did trust in Christ at the end of his life, however, and was saved before death. However it is very clear from the passage that no matter how “good” a person is, it is not on merit that we are admitted into heaven.

  • Rich Overcash

    Bell’s hope for Ghandi is not that he lived a good life. It is that God’s love is so great that God will “save” him. Aaron, we are NOT saved by our faith! We are saved by God’s GRACE (undeserved GIFT) through faith. And faith itself is a gift, worked in us by the Spirit. If we are saved by our faith, then faith becomes another WORK, our doing, which is exactly what this text guards against. Besides, if it is my faith that saves me, then ultimately I am putting my trust and hope for salvation in myself and my decision, and not in Christ work alone. Then we are still under the Law, for as Paul also said, “If justification were through the Law (what we HAVE to do – my addition) then Christ died to no purpose.” (Gal. 2:21b)

  • Aaron Gardner

    My faith is not in my decision! I did not choose Christ, he chose me. Ephesians makes that crystal clear!

    Faith is not a work, it is a gift from God. We are saved by faith alone, by Christ alone, by grace alone, and for God’s glory alone. God gives us faith by grace; that is what the gospel is all about. Somehow you have a concept that faith is something that we do. Not sure that that is a teaching from Scripture.

    What IS taught is that we must repent and believe. If Ghandi, and others who have lived a virtuous life, have not believed on Christ for their salvation, they will not be saved. Jesus says that he is the only way to God.

    Rich, I charge you to find a passage of Scripture that says that we do not have to believe on Christ to be saved. I also charge you to find a passage of Scripture that teaches that we have a chance, post-mortum, to believe.

  • Rich Overcash

    Aaron, you say, “we must repent and believe.” I assume that your ‘believe’ is the same as ‘faith.’ And if your faith is something you MUST do, then it IS law. Then your ‘salvation’ ultimately depends on you. YOu can’t have it both ways. Faith is simply trust in what God has done in Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to HIMSELF!” (His doing, because we can’t and don’t want to be reconciled! We want to be our own gods and we think we already are.) “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Again, what is sin, but unbelief, untrust.) Yes, faith is necessary if I am to know I am ‘saved'(forgiven) in this life, which is what Jesus is most concerned about. “NOW is the day of salvation.” Obviously, if I don’t trust that Word, that Promise, it is not effective for me, here and now. Belief is NOT just about getting into heaven or avoiding hell. Even the ‘eternal life’ of John is realized eschatology. It is about Today, otherwise, as John sais, you are ‘already’ judged. What God does with anyone in the life to come, is God’s choice. What makes the Good News good is that God’s love is infinite and undconditional. Love is God’s essence. That is why I believe there is hope, a great hope, that God will not lose any of his creation, not because they/we are good but because God is good. Aaron, do you believe that God’s love is unconditional or not?

  • Aaron Gardner

    First of all, the Bible says “repent and believe.” Again, faith is a gift of God and the ability to believe. So, when we “do the work” of believing it is by the power of the faith that has been given to us as a free gift by the grace of God. The phrase above that explains that we are saved by grace through faith is a description of the means by which we come to faith. It is as if you tell someone how to get to the grocery store by a certain street. Grace is not only the street but the vehicle that gets us to faith, without which we could not believe.

    I did not say a word about faith just about getting to heaven. It IS effective for me here and now. That is not what we have been arguing, and if we have I am misinformed. The book of Hebrews talks much about the confidence we have as believers to approach the throne of grace with assurance of our pardon. That is all here and now! That is all about a kingdom that is here, yet to come.

    Yes, God’s love is unconditional toward those he has called to himself, given the gifts of faith and salvation by grace, preserved in the blood of Christ. Again, Hebrews teaches that we have full assurance in this life. Granted it is God’s decision both now and at judgment, but it is a clear teaching of Scripture that there is a hell and that some will be unknown of God and cast into the lake of fire. I don’t get excited about that; my wish is that all would know the infinite grace and love of God. Yet this is not what is taught by the word of God.

    Am I getting to your argument? I still think we must be missing each other somewhere.

  • Rich Overcash

    Aaron,this is the difficulty of reading scripture. “Yes, God’s love is unconditional toward those he has called to himself, given the gifts of faith and salvation by grace, preserved in the blood of Christ.” Gifts of salvation, gifts of faith, gifts of salvation, by (unmerited) grace. So if these are all gifts of God (which I agree they are), doesn’t it make God seem rather arbitrary, and even capricious, that these gifts are only given to a ‘few?’ And if God’s love is truly unconditional, it cannot be ONLY to those whom he has called by all these gifts. Again, scripture is quite clear that God so loved the world. (Kosmos which means the whole entity which opposes God). So Jn. 3:16 can really be rendered, “God so loved this ‘God-Hating’ world that he gave this only Son.” The same may be said for “…Lamb of God who takes AWAY the sin of the world.” Does God only take away the sin of those he has gifted with faith? Our faith doesn’t create God’s love for us. It is already there and is the very reason we can turn to him. Isn’t that the meaning behind the parable of the Prodigal Son (really the Prodigal Father)? Before his wayward son can even arrive home to make his ‘confession,’ the Father is already running toward him with open arms. I believe God’s unconditional love is the starting place, and ending place, for every aspect of our relationship with God and God’s relationship with all his creatures.

  • Aaron Gardner

    “It is already there and is the very reason we can turn to him.” This is an argument for our work, our choice, which is the basis for God’s favor. Sounds like you are arguing against yourself.

    Secondly, the prodigal was not the prodigal neighbor or servant, but he was a “son” before he was a prodigal. The father’s unconditional love was based on the fact that he was first his son.

    Finally, I understand that those passages that you quote above appear to include each and every individual in the world. If that were the case then the Bible is unreliable because it contradicts itself. What do you do with passages that talk about hell, torment, and gnashing teeth? Are those empty threats? Are they just cautionary tales? I cannot see how such passages can be taken as tongue-in-cheek, which is the only way I can think of to explain it away. John MacArthur is doing a series of posts on Bell, at least one of which he describes Bell’s perspective on the Bible. May be helpful in this discussion.

  • Rich Overcash

    Aaron, Your point #3 is exactly why I began my last post by saying that is the difficulty of reading the Bible. It is not an easy collection of witnesses to discern and does seem to contradict itself, at times. But the overall message, is about God’s love and faithfulness to his people. (Not only Israel but his whole creation, the ‘nations.’) This whole discussion began as a reaction to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” He has been accused of being a Univeralist, which isn’t accurate or fair. He is not saying ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. Neither do I hear him saying that ‘all roads lead to Rome.’ If he is a universalist, it is grounded Christologically. I believe there is evidence in Scripture that makes this a legitimate hope. Even the famous passage, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” That can be read as Law, which is exclusionary, OR it can be read as Gospel, that the only reason anyone can come to the Father is because of the salvific work of Christ, done for us and for the world God loves. Yes, I believe in Hell, I just don’t know if anyone is there. The great theologian Barth, called hell, ‘the impossible possibility.’ It is there as a strong reminder of what we all deserve, except for God’s grace. And that is the way it is used in scripture generally. I think Rob Bell actually does a pretty good job explaining this in his book. But, to me, Hell goes along with God’s wrath, which is always penultimate, and only serves the puposes of God’s love.

  • Aaron Gardner

    I am not arguing that the Bible is too hard to understand, only that it takes more than a casual reading.

    “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” is nothing but good news. It is no less good if it is also exclusive, which it is. If Jesus is the only way to God then it is only by having faith in him can we be saved. Simple.

    If no one is in hell then I wonder whose teeth are gnashing 😉

    Thanks for the spirited conversation. Blessings in your journey to find Truth.

  • Rich Overcash

    And to you, Aaron. A blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Easter!

  • Paul Parry

    Aaron, you’re making an assumption that Gandhi, at the time of his death, did not know and believe in Jesus. Only he and Jesus can know whether that is true. Many have quoted his early speeches rejecting Jesus’s divinity, but by that measure we would also say that Apostle Paul is in hell based on his time as a persecutor of Christians. It’s unlikely that Gandhi reached eternal salvation, but no one could possibly know.

    If we announce that people are in hell because of our assumptions about where they lived, how or where they worshiped, what religion they claimed membership in, or even things they said or wrote, we miss the whole point of grace, redemption, and the torn veil which grants access to God to all people in all places. No one comes to the Father except through the Son, but we can’t possibly know all the ways of the Son. We can only (and must) proclaim the way that He has revealed to us.

  • Aaron Gardner

    I actually completely agree with you and with Bell about how inappropriate it is to make that sort of judgement on a person’s soul. What I was responding to was the implication from his statements about Gandhi that emphasized his good deeds, rather than his salvation through faith alone. Good people do not go to heaven, only ones saved by faith in Christ alone, which obviously you agree with.

  • Paul Parry

    Thanks, Aaron. I’m only halfway through the book, but I’ve gotten way past the part he quotes in the video.

    In the video, he asks a lot of questions, but doesn’t answer any of them. All the controversy and charges of heresy were based on assumptions people made about what his answers to those questions might be (that’s the “implication” you mention, but it your assumption). Hopefully people have read the book and realized the answers he gives to those questions are not heretical at all.

    The veil is torn. Grace is available to all people in all places, and Jesus has built a wide, inclusive path to Himself and to the Father. Instead of celebrating that, institutional Christians have spent 2000 years trying to build new veils and new narrow paths that go only through their altars and their coffers. The reaction to Rob Bell’s video confirms for me who is directing people along the wide path and who is forcing them down a narrow one.

  • Aaron Gardner

    Depends on what you mean by “wide” and “inclusive.” Christ himself said that the wide path leads to destruction, but I understand what you mean: Christ’s sacrifice opened the door to the Gentiles.

    It is an assumption and implication from the video, but the book spells it out. Happy reading.

  • Reese

    My only comment to this, is exactly what Jesus said about getting to heaven:
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)

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