President Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary is helping us to better understand the full implications of the emerging gospel of Rob Bell. President Mouw defends Bell's gospel with these words: "Did Mother Teresa go to hell? My guess is that she was a little confused about justification by faith alone. If you think that means she went to hell, I have only one response: shame on you." Mouw also writes this regarding the doctrine of justification: "Of course a person can be saved without having the right theology about justification by faith."
An obvious question for Richard Mouw and Rob Bell is this: Did Mother Teresa go to heaven according to your gospel even if she was trusting in her acts of mercy to earn her way into heaven? The President of the world's largest Protestant seminary is wading into this central issue of justification which goes back 500 years to the Reformation itself. It actually goes back 2000 years to the days when the "Judaizers" were preaching their own gospel of confusion as spelled out in the book of Galatians. Rob Bell's gospel of inclusion and Richard Mouw's gospel of confusion are one in the same. Is their message "a different gospel," (Galatians 1:6) or is it "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 1:3) Is it the same gospel that the reformers taught? Much hangs upon their further explanation of their gospel.
These are the words of the Holy Spirit on the issue as given to us by the Apostle Paul: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-9)
In other words, the Judaizer gospel of confusion produced no living relationship with Christ but only spiritual confusion in the hearts of those who followed it. It was a different gospel. It kept those out of heaven who adopted it and never repented of their doctrinal error. If you think that sounds harsh, listen to more truth from the Holy Spirit on the matter:
"Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Galatians 5:2-4)
If Mother Teresa relied upon her religious and charitable efforts to save her soul, then she was attempting to be justified by law. The Holy Spirit made it clear in this passage that this is precisely how a person becomes alienated from Christ. I sure hope Mother Teresa was not relying upon the law to save her soul, but rather upon Christ alone and His death on the cross for her sins. The gospel of inclusion and confusion celebrates the possibility of her being wrong about justification but not missing out on heaven simply because of confused beliefs. To suggest that a professing believer can be confused and wrong about the gospel is extremely dangerous and something we never find the Holy Spirit promoting in God's Word.
The gospel of the New Testament points sinners to trust in Christ alone to be made right with God and escape eternal punishment in hell. The Apostle Paul despised the gospel of confusion that was being introduced by the Judaizers. The Holy Spirit condemned their so-called "gospel" message as being "a different gospel." In regards to Richard Mouw's version of the gospel of confusion, I would echo Ricky Ricardo's famous line to Lucy and say, "Riiiiichard....you got some 'splainin to do!"
Rob Bell's beef isn't merely with hell. Richard Mouw's gospel does more than allow for confusion and wrong theology about justification. Their dilemma is really about trying to define and defend their gospel in light of historic Christianity. We would agree that a Christian who develops Alzheimers does not miss out on heaven because of mental confusion. But what about all of the sincere religious people today who are similar to the Judaizers in what they believe about their works and their justification? Are they truly going to end up in heaven in spite of their doctrinal errors as Rob Bell's gospel seems to teach? Will they go to heaven even if they have never been indwelt by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ alone?
Richard Mouw quotes Billy Graham in attempting to advance his gospel of confusion, but it would be far better for a seminary president to quote the Holy Spirit on the matter by pointing to Scripture. An isolated quote from Billy Graham about "good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people" does not even come close to rising to the level of God's inspired Word. Billy Graham would often begin a sentence with the words, "The Bible says...." For example, the Bible says that "all who rely on observing the law are under a curse." (Galatians 3:10) Is it really loving to suggest that someone who relies on the law for salvation may not actually be under a curse after all? The gospel of inclusion and confusion makes allowances for those who reject Christ while relying upon the law for salvation. This teaching is being promoted as "generous orthodoxy." What if Christians who know better recognize that this "generous orthodoxy" is really nothing more than a different gospel?
President Mouw and some other evangelical leaders were scheduled to meet this month with a Mormon leader to discuss theology. Mormons are known for their teaching that it is "by grace we are saved AFTER all we can do." Most Mormons are confused about the gospel because their leaders are confused about it. Their leaders teach another gospel. Mormon doctrine also teaches another "Jesus"....a mythical "Jesus" who is a created being according to their view. The Holy Spirit does not reside within the heart of one who believes "another gospel." (Galatians 1:6) The Mormons I have met and known are extremely kind....perhaps even as nice as Mother Teresa. Will their confusion about justification by faith keep them out of heaven? According to the Holy Spirit, those who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ. If you try to sugarcoat that reality, you help no one.
The challenge for Rob Bell and for Richard Mouw is apparent. Explain how your gospel relates to "works righteousness" and to the highway to heaven which Jesus described in Matthew 7:13,14. When asked about that "narrow road" to heaven during his recent public interview in New York City, Rob Bell said he interprets those passages to be about devoting yourself to someone as in marriage. Hmmm. Sounds like yet another example of the gospel of confusion breeding even more confusion. I am thankful that the Apostle Paul and the Protestant reformers were not confused about the gospel or about the reality of heaven and hell.
A fitting conclusion to this reflection of inclusion and confusion is this quote from Charles Spurgeon: "Morality will keep you out of jail, but only the blood of Jesus will keep you out of hell." Any way you slice it, that's about as direct as what our Lord teaches us in Matthew 7:13,14. Look at how many people were saved by God's grace through the preaching of Charles Spurgeon. In the end, watering down the gospel brings God's living water to no one. It remains as true today as it has been for 2000 years - if you bypass repentance and justification by grace through faith in Christ and jump straight to doing a bunch of deeds in order to make yourself "righteous" in God's sight, you miss out on a relationship with Christ in this life and for all of eternity. The gospel really isn't a confusing message for those who don't try to improve on it with their own version.