Love Wins 4: Epic God Fail?

The fourth chapter of Love Wins proposes that if God wants to be with all people.  This is what God wants.  And if God doesn’t get what God wants then God fails.  This implies, if God fails he obviously isn’t who he says he is and thus, is either a liar or ceases to be God.  For me, the logic is all skewed.  Failure to get what you want is not failure, even if you are God.  For Bell, God has to be great enough to achieve what God sets out to do and God has set out to be with people.  For me, God is great enough to achieve what God sets out to do and God has set out to glorify himself.

Bell’s argument appears on page 108, “Could God say to someone truly humbled, broken, and desperate for reconciliation, ‘Sorry, too late’?  Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door, apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in, only to hear God say through the keyhole: ‘Door’s locked.  Sorry.  If you had been here earlier, I could have done something.  But now, it’s too late.”

The reason I think this falls apart is because of God’s holiness and grace.  The Bible is pretty clear that there is a current reality and another, coming, reality, often called the new heaven and the new earth.  In this new reality those who are ‘with’ God will exist ‘with’ him and those who are ‘apart’ from God will exist ‘apart’ from him.  In each case the environment in which they exist is reflective of the choices made as far as their ‘with’ or ‘apart’ relationship with God.  Now, to be separated from God would not cause someone to be repentant and to go to the door of heaven and start knocking.  Call me a Calvinist if you must, but to be separated from God is to be separated from the grace and mercy of God, without which what could be the motivation for repentance?  Pain?  Suffering?  I have a hard time imagining that because people who are in pain and suffering currently would be flocking to God.  I would even say that the Bible teaches it is the kindness of the Lord which leads us to repentance.

So, while Bell’s proposal that you get another chance in the afterlife and eventually everyone will choose heaven is interesting, I don’t feel like he gives adequate motivation for people who are in hell to choose heaven.

This, of course, is a terrible thing to say, that people who are in hell won’t even want heaven.  However, it makes sense.  The hellness of hell can totally make people not even want to escape it.  This is why we compare addictions to hell – the people who are addicted often don’t even want to escape from it…even though it is destroying them.

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5 thoughts on “Love Wins 4: Epic God Fail?

  1. “I would even say that the Bible teaches it is the kindness of the Lord which leads us to repentance.”

    Correct. Paul tells the church in Rome this.
    Follow up question: does God cease being Kind when someones finite and temporary life ceases to exist in this reality?
    You ask “what could be the motivation for repentance” for those who continue to choose to be apart from God in the next reality. If God ceases being Kind in those moments (i.e. you get 71 years of my kindness… or 32, or 20, or 12, or whatever…), but after that, His Kindness is withheld, then maybe you have a point. But, if we leave open for discussion the possibility that God remains Kind always, because it is His nature and he can’t NOT be Kind, then it could be that in the next reality, when things are made much more clear than they were in this reality, that people actually DO respond to the Kindness of God and are lead to repentance. #justathought

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  2. So, God set out to glorify himself and to do that he has made it so people will be separated from him for all of eternity?what? how is that glorifying to God? For human beings, billions of them, to be apart from God forever is somehow showing God’s true nature(glorifying)? Hmmmm, interesting.

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  3. this is where i really wonder about this stuff. What i wonder is, can God’s kindness extend into hell? One the one hand it’s an easy yes. But on the other hand, if god’s kindness can extend into hell, does it cease to be hell.

    In some sense I feel like having hope for a person apart from god just isn’t hell – which is why “hell on earth” isn’t actual hell. So then if god’s kindness extends into hell, then hell is still a place full of hope? And does this make hell a happy place? That seems silly, but I’m not sure where this all leads.

    This is the stuff that I am trying to still work out.

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  4. and… for Kelly (who i don’t think i know),

    I wonder how to compare the eternal destiny of billions of humans with the nature of God. If God is immeasurably, immensely, hugely holy and loving and all of that – then people and their destiny have got to pale in comparison.

    I don’t like that billions of people may be spending forever apart from God in hell, but I do think it is well within God’s rights to do what he pleases with his creation.

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  5. It is a fascinating question, whether there will be yet more opportunities for reconciliation by the God who introduces himself to Moses in this way: The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.

    As for myself, after reading the Bible a few times and studying a little church history, I’m planning to hang out in the “perhaps” camp. First, because God always seems full of surprises; and second, because whenever Christians try to stake out a claim in an area they barely understand, they always end up looking foolish.

    For example, Eve was warned that if she ate the fruit she would die…and she did, but not right away. And even then, God had a plan for reconciliation through Jesus…a plan of which she was not given even the faintest inkling. Of course, immense suffering was experiencing in the meantime by many humans.

    Thus it’s not, imho, unbiblical to wonder whether there might be more to the story than we know about. In fact, I think it would be radically unbiblical to assume that we know God’s end game when all through human history he’s clearly revealed only a bit of his plan at a time.

    On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that things go in another direction entirely. Perhaps hell, in one place described as a place of darkness and gnashing of teeth, is somehow bound up in the battle between light and darkness, and the people who are separated from God join the darkness. Is this universe’s fascinating and barely understood composition of light (aka matter) vs dark matter (aka something that we only know is there because of its effect on the universe) merely a physical representation of spiritual realities?

    That’s just one of many wild ideas. All I’m saying is, I have a feeling that when we cross over there are going to be “and now…for the rest of the story” moments. Likely several of them. I don’t know if people get a second (or gazllionth, depending on how you count it) chance or not. But I’ve heard…nothing is impossible with God.

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