Pastor Mark Driscoll says he doesn't intend on "attacking any individual" with his blog post Monday on hell. But a section in the blog addressing why a loving God would send people to hell inevitably draws him into the emotionally-charged debate surrounding preacher Rob Bell's new book, which happens to be released tomorrow.
Driscoll, known to be a theological buff, responds to the argument "a loving God would not send billions of people to a horrible hell" in his blog on The Resurgence, a missional theology resource site that he helped found.
In the post, Driscoll, who is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, states that it is important to understand that God doesn't send just anyone to hell, but only those who reject His revelation and choose to suppress the truth that He plainly reveals to them.
"Hell is only for those who persistently reject the real God in favor of false gods," writes the Seattle pastor. "To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, either people will say to God, 'Thy will be done,' or God will say to them, 'Thy will be done.'"
Driscoll also responds to the argument that a loving God would be more tolerant by posing a counterargument that if God was tolerant of everyone then he should also tolerate rapists, pimps, pedophiles, and those who sin against the very people criticizing God as intolerant.
"The idea is completely absurd and unjust," argues Driscoll. "A loving God protects His children from sin and evil by separating them. In this way, God is a father who is tolerant of all who obey Him and are safe for His children. But He is intolerant of those who sin against Him and do evil to His children."
In our society, Driscoll points out, there is also cultural intolerance for those who drink and drive, steal, rape and murder and we separate those people from society.
"To call such actions on God's part intolerant is shameful, because tolerance would denote both approval and support of evil."
Recently, there is an explosion of interest about hell due to the soon-to-released book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (no relations to Driscoll's church) in Grandville, Mich., called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book has drawn much fire from prominent evangelical leaders, with some accusing Bell of heresy.
"Will only a few select people make it to heaven? ... And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?" Bell poses in a promotional video for the book.
"Millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. How could that God ever be good? ... And how could that ever be good news?"
In the video, he states that the good news is that "love wins."
Justin Taylor, vice president of editorial at Crossway, criticizes Bell as appearing to be promoting universalism.
While Pastor Joshua Harris of Gaithersburg, Md., tweeted that Bell was preaching a false gospel.
Respected evangelical pastor John Piper tweeted on Feb. 26, "Farewell Rob Bell."
Driscoll tried to stay away from the fray by not naming names, but he makes a strong case against Bell's alleged universalistic view and the argument that God cannot be loving and send people to hell at the same time.
The Seattle pastor calls on people to look at what Jesus did on the cross and how he suffered for the ungodly sinners and his enemies.
"Or, to say it another way, Jesus suffered and died for mean people. A God who will suffer and die for mean people is not mean," asserts Driscoll. "In fact, such a God alone is altogether loving; to be condemned by a God of perfect love shows how damnable our sin truly is."
In his post, Driscoll also answers the argument that eternal torment in hell is unjust punishment for people who sin only for a few decades. He responds by referring to Daniel 12:2 as well as what Jesus says in the Bible in making the case that hell is unending.
"Today, though, it is becoming popular to hope that sinners will eventually repent and everyone will end up in heaven," writes Driscoll. "This is universal reconciliation, the ancient view of Origen. However, there is not a shred of evidence for post-mortem repentance."
Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived will be released on March 15.