Tag Archive: universalist

A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.

We’ve all heard that one. Well, you have at least now.

It is King David speaking and you can find the quote in Psalm chapter 14 verse 1.

You can also find it in psalm 53 which I just realised is pretty much the same psalm – strange.

Anyways, that’s not really the point of this post. I was thinking about that line on the bus the other day when I came up with this:

A fool says, “In his heart there is no God.”

The idea that we can look at someone else and judge whether or not God is at work or living in their heart.

It has been said before that many people might be surprised one day not so much by who is not in heaven, but by who is.

[This, of course, excludes the Universalists who will just be surprised if anyone is not there]

The church has for too long focused too much energy on the whole “who is in and who is out” vibe.

And this is nothing new. The disciples were at it in Mark 9:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Whoever is not against us is for us. I’m sure many theologians have had many issues with this one.

And it is at times like these that I am reminded of the two foundational rules of life:

I. There is only one God.

II. It is NOT me. 

Get that one right and you’ll be golden. Because you know what, it is God who is going to take a look at our lives and our commitments and how we spent out time and energy and money one day and He is going to make a call on it.

I am fairly confident that the sole provision for ‘making it’ into heaven one day is not going to be ‘Did you raise your hand and say a prayer at some holiday meeting when you were a child?’ Beyond that, well I’m happy for it to be up to God.

I do think Jesus spoke quite strongly and clearly about it [take a read of Matthew 7 for example] and I think there can be a lot of evidence in play that might suggest that someone is not following [active] God.

But sometimes we just can’t tell. Sometimes the Jesus followers look a little rough around the edges like a fisherman Peter or a tent-maker Paul [you know? the guy who went around killing them]. And we should take absolute joy in the fact that it is going to be God who makes the choice.

We’d be foolish to spend our time judging the unjudgeable surely?

A fool says, “In his heart there is no God.”

What we can do in the meantime is focus on our life, our walk, our talk, the consistency with which we live and follow and bring in the kingdom. [There’s usually a lot of work to be done there]


And then lead others towards Jesus. Point them towards God or else grab their hands and say, “Hey, let’s go check this thing out!” and walk and lead and direct and wrestle and give them opportunity to doubt and disbelieve and question and be angry or incredulous or skeptical.

Just don’t let them not be loved.

just watching the rob bell furore that has swept up has once again brought something to the fore which i think needs comment and some thort by people who claim to be Jesus-followers…

one of the accusations that has been made against rob bell is that he is a universalist which as i understand it is someone who believes that everyone is going to end up in heaven, and by definition no one ends up in hell.

i don’t know if rob bell is a universalist. people have seemed to infer that from the questions he asks in the promo video for his latest book: ‘Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.’ But according to the one article i read, it says, “after all, on page 72 he actually states, “Do I believe in a literal hell? Of course.” [really good article response to the rob bell stuff here]

but that is not my concern. if he believes that then i definitely would take a stand against the belief because i think the Bible is largely clear on that matter and a lot of Jesus’ teaching and parables seem to deal with who will make it and who won’t.

what concerns me is how amped so many christians seem to be to point people towards hell. my friend Ant Martin mentioned to me how many people have responded to the Rob Bell video by making statements like “reality check, Ghandi’s in hell..” i mean, firstly spell his name right, it’s Gandhi… the question Rob Bell asks in his video is, “Gandhi’s in hell? Really? You know that for sure?” and people divebombed him…

as far as i understand it, it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we receive forgiveness of our sins and are made righteous to be able to live eternally with God (which does begin now) – the thief on the cross next to Jesus receives salvation even though he has done nothing in his life to deserve it, but he acknowledges who Jesus is and Jesus welcomes him to paradise. i don’t know if Gandhi turned to Jesus for forgiveness. But i don’t know that he didn’t. What i do know is that Gandhi loved Jesus and wasn’t so fond of His followers who didn’t seem to display the same kind of life that Jesus spoke about and lived. But i don’t know the state of Gandhi’s heart at the time of his death and whether or not he was in relationship with God and so for people to say he is definitely in hell seems like a foolish, immature, arrogant and presumptuous statement to make [unless you have some evidence i don’t]

and as i said it concerns me greatly that people claiming to be Christ followers are almost excited to point out that someone is going to hell – whether it’s Gandhi or homosexuals or abortion clinic owners or Saddam Hussein or Hitler, it doesn’t matter – hell is a place that was designed for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25.41] and it is always a complete tragedy when any person ends up there.

if it is true that Gandhi is headed towards hell, that should break us.

what is the greatest commandment? to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself. Gandhi is my neighbour [Luke 10.25-37] and my attitude to him has to be one of love. and to anyone else, no matter who they are or what they have done.

maybe if we, as Jesus followers, had a better response to people heading towards hell, we would live differently while they are alive, and in our space, and living next door to us, and help direct them towards a Jesus-filled eternity which starts right now – a life that is symbolised by the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control) and by loving God and loving people and looking after those in need.

and be absolutely shattered every single time someone dies without coming into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

[and spending less time involved in random online judgemental railings against what someone might be saying in some book we haven’t and probably aren’t going to read because of what we thort they might have said in their promotional video and book blurb]

years ago a book called ‘Velvet Elvis’ came out by this new kid on the block, rob bell, and everyone was reading it and telling me it was the greatest book ever and blah blah blah… i eventually got hold of it [was going thru my phase of taking my time to rush to trending books] and read it and didn’t particularly dig it all that much – it was ok and there were some moments but it didn’t really grab me…

then i heard Rob Bell was quite closely linked to brian mclaren and i read one of his books and didn’t dig it much at all and heard some stuff about him and his views on hell and some other stuff and really didn’t like what i heard and so kinda wrote him off a bit and included mister bell in that…

but then i saw a Nooma video or two and i got hold of his follow up book ‘Sex God’ which i really did enjoy and especially the chapter on women and submission [which i still hold today is one of the best explanations and understandings of it and my beautiful wife Val who was totally unamped with that bit in the Bible really dug what rob bell had to say and ‘got’ it a lot more] and i watched two of his movie preaches – ‘The Gods aren’t angry’ and ‘Everything is Spiritual’ and really enjoyed those and so gradually i have become a lot more open to rob bell’s stuff and enjoy a lot of what he has to say.

so i woke up this morning to find that he is trending and for all the wrong reasons. he has a new book coming out [note not out yet, so yes people are writing hardcore opinions about a book they for the most part haven’t read!] called ‘Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’ and it comes with a promotional video which you can watch here which seems to be gathering a storm of controversiality and comment from christians the world over [slash americaland]

i haven’t read the book yet [as haven’t most of the people who are making definitive statements on why the book is so evil] but i enjnoyed the video and completely get why it would make people concerned about what Rob might say in the book, but still read the book before making definitive statements. Apparently John Piper’s response was a ‘Farewell Rob Bell’ Tweet with a link to the article, whereas Josh Harris [well-known author of “I kissed reading books before i commented on them goodbye”] also had some words to say [for some reason the link is not working or loading on my computer but try http://www.joshharris.com and see if it works for you]

another quite negative review is by a guy called Justin Taylor (no, not our Justin Taylor) which you can read here

and then finally i found a more positive review from someone who had actually read the book [as a book seller they got an advance copy] and their thorts you can find here.

i think the bottom line is that sometimes being well-meaning is not enuff – i remember a few years ago when a pastor in the eastern cape sent emails to a bunch of people warning them about some local pastors who had read and preached positive stuff about ‘the Shack’ another controversial’ish book that had come out – turns out he had not read it either but was a self-proclaimed expert on its content [which, having read the book and then his email rant i can tell he was completely not except perhaps in the area of missing-the-pointness]

so what is the bottom line? looks like rob bell got some great advertising for his new book and it’s something i will definitely look out for – but the bottom line is a little gem hidden in thessalonians which reminds us to ‘test the spirits. hold on to the good. avoid every kind of evil’ [1 thessalonians 5.21] – whether it’s rob bell or me or your pastor or the book you’re reading or sermon you’re downloading, we are urged to test what it says against the bible and if it holds up, the embrace it and if it doesn’t, then discard it… do the same with this one… but the whole public rob-bashing that is going on [in the name of love, hm] may be just another example of christians publically slating christians while non-christians are sitting back and watching and asking, “so you’re wanting us to join this party?”

go team.

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