Apologist Bobby Conway tackles a popular writer’s interpretation of Hell in his book Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die. And as he presents the case, the Bible wins. Conway uses a well-accepted and established technique for interpreting scripture: he turns to scripture.
To be fair I’ve not read Bell’s book Love Wins. I’ve heard about it, and heard of all the uproar, and wanted to see what the other voices were saying.
Conway introduces his book with the statement that he is not attacking Rob Bell; rather he is “defending orthodox Christianity.” He tempers that comment with the statement that Bell’s book is a threat because of Bell’s “massive influence as a pastor, author, and personality.” One of the things that I found especially pleasing about this book is that Conway is gracious enough to point out where Bell is on target.
Conway sets out to remind us what God, Jesus, and the Bible say about Hell, and points out where Bell differs. The bad news is that we all deserve hell; the good news is Jesus offers a way to escape that which we deserve. “Salvation is believing in Jesus. There is no formulaic prayer in the Bible”
And we’re reminded that regardless of Bell’s brazen question, about the possibility that God fails, why would we even want to imply that because someone goes to hell that God has failed? A quote from J. I. Packer puts it in perspective: “Hell appears as God's measure of respect for human choice.”
This is a tough debate to moderate. Based on my upbringing, my education, my belief and my faith, what Bell is credited with saying sounds like heresy. Conway, on the other hand puts things in the perspective that I am used to and comfortable with. Given the choices however, I think I’ll stick with my traditional scriptural view.
Love doesn’t win, God wins, Jesus wins and in the process there is a lot of love shown. But the choice is still yours. And as Packer and Conway point out, God respects that element of human choice.