Recently someone posted a challenge on facebook, inviting Christians to compare scripture with Rob Bell’s spin. I am a Christian, and while I’m not part of any inquisition board, this could be fun.
The post is as follows:
Christians, crack your bible open and compare what Jesus says about hell to Rob Bell’s latest spin. Matthew 25:31-46 would be an excellent place to begin. If we ever needed discernment, if Christians (especially those of us privileged to preach and teach in His name) ever needed to know God’s word, we desperately need it these days.
For a summary of the video, Bell tells the story of an anonymous statement that “Gandhi is in hell” and asks about the validity of the statement. He further questions the validity of a gospel based on Christians drawing clear conclusions about who is in heaven and hell.
For a summary of the challenge, I am to evaluate Bell’s questions in regard to the story of the sheep and the goats, as told in Matthew 25.
In this story, those who are rewarded are rewarded based on their acts of social justice (what they did for the poor, the foreigner, and the prisoner.) Those who were condemned were condemned to punishment based on their failure to be agents of justice to the marginalized. This passage is silent in terms of faith in Jesus Christ, or even a generic God. Using only the criteria given in this passage: If Gandhi, a favorite social justice hero is damned, I have no hope for salvation.
For me, the big question in terms of orthodoxy is his question: “Can I know and announce the damnation of Gandhi?” Are we ignorant, or are we given the criteria to judge. According to Scripture, who has the right to judge a person’s eternal destiny?
John 5:22 tells us “The Father does not judge anyone, but has given all judgment to the Son”. If we name someone’s personal destiny, are we not standing in the role of Jesus? Are we not stepping way out of line when we consign someone to hell? Several passages speak of God knowing our hearts — I on the other hand cannot see the heart of Rob Bell, or Gandhi, or of any one. I read scripture in a way that tells me that I do not know the limits of God’s saving grace. Who will burn in hell? I have no right to say, but I believe in a merciful God who wants salvation for all of humanity. (2 Peter 3:9)
For me there is gospel in this: We do not see the heart, thus we do not have the ability to make judgment. I recognize that God has the right and the ability to judge, and I think it would be presumptuous to second guess God’s choices.