Friday, April 1, 2011

Rob Bell, Libya and Militant Evangelism

This post is an anomaly. I rarely touch controversial issues in public. I rarely write so strongly about issues which reveal my own hypocrisy and unbelief, but current events have converged to provoke my heart.

In the last month or so the web has been flooded with articles, accusations and defenses of Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. Within those articles, accusations and defenses are a large number of primary questions aimed at Bell and his book, namely, "Does Rob Bell believe in Hell?," "Is Rob Bell a universalist?," and "What does Love Wins really say?" I have no ability or desire to answer those questions, and I have not read Bell's book. For answers to those questions I would recommend, actually reading Love Wins, and reading competent reviews on both sides of the debate over Bell's book. The debate over Bell's book and the debate over universalism are not the same because a primary issue is actually pinning Bell to universalism. Bell remains difficult to pin down on most of the controversy he raises. Some attribute this to Bell's insidiousness and some to Bell's valuable ability to provoke debate. I would recommend two reviews: a competent negative review from Tim Challies, and a competent positive review from Derek Ouellette.

Regardless of how one feels about Rob Bell, he has provoked a valuable debate within Christendom, but a debate which we are mostly wasting. The question, "Does Rob Bell believe in Hell?" surrounded by developed apologetics and a newfound flurry of biblical defenses of Hell, God's judgment and the damnation of unbelievers should provoke the soul-searching question "Do I believe in Hell?" Do we believe in what the Bible says? Are our actions consistent with a theology that confirms the position that potentially billions of sinners are plunging into an eternity where they will be judged before a living God and face eternity in His presence or eternity in His wrath? My own Christian life was profoundly changed because I realized within a year or two after my salvation that in all actuality and practice I did not believe in Hell. It was a concept to which I would readily give mental assent, but the concept had little reality in my heart. I "believed" that countless people were marching into a reality separated from the love of God, but it made no impact on my life. It did not affect the way I lived, the way I acted. I did not obey Christ's call that comes with that reality. I did not obey because I did not hear the Word with faith. I did not believe. Hell was a foreign, far-away concept. It did not strike me that those I bumped shoulders with every day may spend an eternity wishing for death but never finding it, screaming in agony for a single drop of water Luke 16:24.

A belief in Hell comes with a responsibility. Hell provokes a reaction within the believer. The reality of multiplied millions plunging into the second death Revelation 20:14 should provoke a response of intense activity. Almost all things would become secondary to reaching the world with the knowledge of the only Savior. When I realized this I wept and repented over my own unbelief and began to pray regularly that God would make Hell a reality to my heart. I added Jonathan Edwards prayer to my own prayers "Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs." As God answers this prayer I become more and more frantic to reach the lost, to preach the gospel, to fulfill my calling and see the world reached with the gospel. People are dying. People are entering judgment and we may be the only chance those around us have to hear the gospel in a personal way. My life still betrays only the beginning of a belief in this truth: a shallow belief in Hell is a shallow belief in the value of the gospel.

The war in Libya has claimed one thousand lives and if the civil war continues to expand into an international conflict thousands more will enter eternity unprepared to face the judge of the living and the dead. I live with international peacemaker Daniel Buttry and spent hours discussing the pacifist's response to the war in Libya, pushing past the many intellectual reasons that war was wrong both militarily and ethically to the proper moral response. Regardless of your belief in pacifism or just war, what is the moral Christian response to thousands of people dying in a foreign country without the gospel? If we believe in just war do we sit back and let God's justice condemn the victims on either side to eternal damnation? If we believe in pacifism do we sit still while Gaddafi brutally eradicates his own people? How should the church respond in the light of Hell's reality and the escalating conflict that may result in thousands upon thousands of deaths? These questions demand more than an intellectual answer or an argument for or against war. They demand a passionate answer that details the Church's obedience to Christ and His burden for the lost.

The answer is a militant evangelism: a burning zeal for the lost that goes past fear and embraces a theology of martyrdom. It requires a drive to go beyond the boundaries of foreign countries, foreign situations, hard conditions and the ultimate price to evangelize those who are the nearest to death. The U.S. sent an estimated forty people into eternity with air attacks. What will become of their souls? The Church must face the reality of Hell and respond with a zeal that allows those called to reach the lost to enter warzones willing to give their lives in passive resistance if need be in order to stand with those who face death and share the life-giving gospel. Warzone missions, militant missions should be our response. We should consider it gain to give our lives for the gospel: to give ourselves to reach the lost. Where others are evacuated we should redouble our efforts and activity to reach those who may not have tomorrow. Jesus commands us to go, to grab those who are perishing, to snatch them from the fire. Proverbs 24:11, Jude 23, Mark 16:15.

War may be the most neglected mission-field. But it may be the most urgent mission field. The Bible calls for spiritual militancy. It calls us to lay down our lives for Christ. He laid down His life for the lost. Will we allow Him to use our life like He did? Will we do our utmost to glorify Him with the reward of His suffering?

God help us. Help us find reality. Help us find a true response to the reality of Hell. Help us find the courage to face death in order to bring the gospel. Help us find the courage to face the death of our pride, insecurity and self-consciousness to bring the gospel to those around us. Help us reach the lost and dying.

For God so loved the world. . .

Do We Really Believe What We Say We Believe? by K.P. Yohannan


  1. Well said -- we should live consistent with our belief in the necessity of salvation