Dwell on Love, Not Hell: Chicago Tribune

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful 

This was published in The Seeker.

In his new book, Love Wins, Evangelical pastor Rob Bell posits that there may be a place in heaven for “every person who ever lived,” and that there may not be a Hell at all. The response of conservative Christians has been ferocious. But upon this fact, I am banking everything.

When word of Love Wins reached the Internet, one conservative Evangelical pastor, John Piper, tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell,” unilaterally attempting to evict Bell from the evangelical community.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Bell’s book is “theologically disastrous.

Any of us should be concerned when a matter of theological importance is played with in a subversive way.” In North Carolina, a young pastor was fired by his church for endorsing the book.

Indeed, Jon Meacham wrote in this week’s Time magazine: “From a traditionalist perspective, though, to take away hell is to leave the church without its most powerful sanction.”

Lord knows that I have heard sermon after sermon about the torment of Hell that is in store for those who do not believe. And it is true that the Qur’an speaks vividly of the torment of Hell, with numerous highly descriptive verses, for those who “reject the truth.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be one of those who will be punished in the torment of Hell. And I believe and fully acknowledge the severity of God’s punishment. Yet, the Qur’an has an enduring principle: “[God] has inscribed upon Himself [the rule of] mercy.” (6:12) In another verse, God says: “O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair from the mercy of God. For God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (39:53).

Upon this fact, I am banking everything. There was a time in my life when I gave fiery sermons about God’s eternal torment in Hell. I will never do so again. I focus all my energies upon the Beauty, Grace, Mercy, and Love of the Lord – and not His torment and punishment. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad was reported to have said:

Indeed, God has one hundred (portions of) mercy; one portion causes compassion between creation. Ninety-nine are reserved for the Day of Judgment.

The ultimate Judge is God Himself. It is He Who will determine the fate of every creation, no matter what people who claim to “speak in His Name” may say. Just because God has prepared a horrific torment that is eternal, it does not obligate Him to apply it. It would not surprise me one bit if He saved all of humanity on Judgment Day, and I believe that we will all be enormously surprised by the Grace of the Lord our God on that Day.

We humans love to mete out God’s punishment, torment, and condemnation upon this person or that. The good news is, the supposed Source of that torment and punishment is much more merciful and beautiful than we give Him credit for. And believe you me, that will be a very, very good thing indeed.


2 thoughts on “Dwell on Love, Not Hell: Chicago Tribune

  1. Thank you, brother Hesham, for this post. I have not read Rob Bell’s book; but I have been keeping up with the controversy about it on another blog site. The author of the site tends to support Rob, but he receives a lot of angry comments.

    I did watch a brief preview clip concerning the book, and a longer video of an interview with Rob. From those two videos, it appears that Rob does not unequivocally assert “universal salvation”, but he holds it as a very good possibility (much like what you have said). He likes to point out that in the vision of the “new Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 and 22, 21:25 says that the gates of the city are never shut – people from outside are always welcome to enter it (even though nothing impure will never enter [verse 27] – repentance is always necessary first).

    I was led (by God, I believe) to embrace “universal reconciliation” after “apostatizing” from orthodox Christianity many years ago. This embracing of ‘universalism’ came about through reading “new age” books, Buddhist and monistic Hindu books (such as Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”), and eventually Christian Universalism literature.

    I started ‘investigating’ Islam a bit more than a year ago (as I’ve previously written to you), and almost immediately ‘fell in love’ with the Qur’an. Admittedly, I was a bit ‘put off’ by the frequent vivid descriptions of the torments awaiting the deniers of the truth, but I was able to accept them metaphorically – as I do with the Biblical descriptions – and accept them within the framework of the idea of punishment with a view toward correction. That is, God’s punishments are not mere angry vengeance, but are intended to correct and rehabilitate the sinner – and God’s intentions cannot fail of ultimate fulfillment! So punishment is not ‘never ending’.

    In light of this, I have been meditating the past couple of days on Sura 13:17,18 – which seems to clearly express (by means of parable) this very idea. “[13:17] [Whenever] He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface; and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum.
    In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to man abides on earth. In this way does God set forth the parables [13:18] of those who have responded to their Sustainer with a goodly response, and of those who did not respond to Him. [As for the latter,] if they possessed all that is on earth, and twice as much, they would surely offer it as ransom [on the Day of Judgment]: a most evil reckoning awaits them, and their goal is hell: and how evil a resting-place!”

    For those who receive God’s guidance, the “scum” in our lives will be exposed and dissipated by His refreshing “water of life”. Those who reject God’s “water of life” guidance, will be like the ore that is purified by fire. The fire will burn off the “scum”, with the result though that the ore will be capable of being shaped into useful utensils. Certainly the purification by fire is “a most evil reckoning” and an “evil resting place”; but it is PURIFYING, not just sadistic vengeance. What a wonderful picture of how God is able to make justice and mercy “kiss each other”!

  2. Pingback: Who Will Be ‘Saved’? « Mystic444's Blog

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