There has been much chatter about Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins," so I thought it fitting to address the issue from a different angle than most. Many have done a great job already in addressing Bell's wrongheaded notion's about; heaven, hell and universalism. My contention in this post isn't that all Arminian's are as heretical as Bell, as the title of this post might suggest. But that in the issue of God's love as Bell sees it, he simply being a faithful Arminian.
Theology matters. One only has to look at the lunacy that is the Methodist denomination to see the inconsistency that Arminian theology produces. One of the things that divides Calvinists and Arminians is the issue of the love of God. The Reformed recognize God's general love for His creation. Though there is an important distinction that bears clarification, the love that God has for His children is a special love, a love that is not given to all (1 John 3:1). The most popular concept of God's love today is an Arminian one. It is a love that is spread out to everyone universally, equally, without distinction. This view of God's love is severely inadequate and non-Biblical, for it robs God of His ability to show a particular love to those whom He has foreknown (Romans 8:29). The imbalance of this type of thinking, shows that most people have an emotional theology of the love of God, rather than a biblical one. A love that trumps His holiness, wrath, and justice isn't love at all. Combine this idea of God's love and the Pelagian idea of the will of man and you get the essential ingredients for universalism. But Bell's notion of God's love seems to cross boundaries that some Arminians aren't "willing" to cross. If "Love Wins" and everyone will be saved, then it seems that God's love has now trumped free will! I mean, what about those who don't want to be saved? Though in a weird way Bell still makes room for freewill by essentially saying hell is what you make it. Emergents aren't known for their consistency, but what about those Arminians who don't follow the heaven and hell of Bell?
The connection between Arminian theology and universalism, not to mention open-theism, is glaringly obvious. In Arminian theology, God's love could never impinge on the freedom of man. Bell simply takes the standard Arminian definition of God's love to it's logical end, if we can even call it logical. If you take a non-differentiating, general view of God's love, then what stops you from taking the wide path to universalism? It is this view of God's love that causes people to scoff at the idea of God predestining some to salvation and not others. The usual response to predestining grace is, "God is love He wouldn't do that." It is precisely this wrong view of God's love that underlies the thinking that leads to universalism. If you scoff at predestining grace, then why not scoff at the idea that only some will be saved? On this view of love, could not the argument be made that it is not loving that only some will have their sins forgiven? That is exactly the shaky platform on which Bell stands. Even Bell sees the inconsistency of God's general love not actually saving. His reasoning goes like this, "if God loves everyone equally, then why isn't everyone equally saved?" On what basis can your non-universalist Arminian object to this way of thinking, especially since they virtually hold to the same view of God's love. What is missing here is God's differentiating love and how that connects to His wrath and justice. He has an equal desire to demonstrate His love as well as His wrath. "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." (Romans 9:22-23)
God's love is differentiated in the scriptures, just look at Jacob and Esau (Romans 9:13). If this love is not differentiated, then the next step is, well, Rob Bell, when it comes to universalism. God's love and mercy are best seen in light of his wrath and justice. God has defined His own attributes and He has revealed them in scripture. The natural fallen human tendency is to let our emotions take hold of our interpretation of God's word. In light of this, how much more do we need our emotion's to be filtered through scripture. It should not be the other way around.