Chapter 2 Here is the New There
One thing that seems very “small” to say but actually is the biggest thing is the center point in Bell’s theology. There are basically two types of theology, a man-centered theology and a God-centered theology. A man-centered theology pushes the concerns of mankind to the front or the most primary position, whereas a God-centered theology has the concerns of God as the ultimate and final reason for anything that God does. The former is Bell’s basic framework while the later is the Biblical one.
We see this on page thirty four where Bell introduces his universalism.
Right... he doesn't say the word. But that entirely misses the point. The Bible doesn't use the word Trinity but that doesn't mean it doesn't teach it. Leading up to the passage that I’m about to quote, Bell reminds of Isaiah and Ezekiel, when they are speaking about the future kingdom, and he says that "Life in the age to come...sounds like heaven on earth." pg. 33. He then goes on to say
"A couple of observations about the prophet's promises regarding life in the age to come. First, they spoke about 'all the nations.' That's everybody. That all those different skin colors , languages, dialects, and accents;...multiethnic, multisensory, multieverything. That's an extraordinarily complex, interconnected, and diverse reality, a reality in which individual identities aren't lost or repressed, but embraced and celebrated. An expansive unity that goes beyond and yet fully embraces staggering levels of diversity."
Did you catch that? “‘All the nations.’ That’s everybody.” What’s happening to those individuals according to Bell? “Individual identities aren’t lost or repressed, but embrace and celebrated” So...everybody gets saved, nobody gets lost. Universalism.
Again, this is man-centered. He starts with the assumption that mankind is basically good and he works the problem from there. This is antithetical to the Scriptures! Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” That’s a rhetorical question. No man can understand how sick and vile the human heart is.
There’s much more that could be said regarding this first point, but if you are a Bible-believing Christian, you know that universalism is a heresy and therefore the idea of it is to be rejected out right.
The last thing I wanted to address from this chapter is the same thing that he touched on his his Nooma video Bullhorn Guy. He says on page sixty-two:
"Jesus invites us, in this life, in this broken, beautiful world, to experience the life of heaven now. He insisted over and over that God's peace, joy, and love are currently available to us, exactly as we are."
I don’t want to criticize this whole statement. There is truth in it. That’s part of the problem in unpacking parts of this book. There are true statements that are mixed with staggering error.
Are God's gifts currently available to us?
Exactly as we are?
God doesn't love us exactly as we are. He's angry with human beings until we are under the covering of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness. What is ungodliness? To be ungodly is to do any act where the glory of God is not the chief reason for doing the act. A few verses later, the very definition of sin is given to us “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks...[they-we] exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man.” Romans 1:21, 23
Did you catch that? Trading a God-centered vision for a man-centered vision. Not honoring God, not giving thanks, not living for his glory is ‘exactly the way we are.’ That is our natural state. God does not love that! He did not create us so that we could ignore his magnificence. God is angry at sinners like you and me because that is exactly what we have done. That’s why he sent Jesus! He loved the world that He created in a very specific way, i.e. His image displayed in mankind, and he provided a way so that we could be restored to worshipping Him.
That’s what this is about. Worship.
We were created to glorify and enjoy him. Not ourselves. But because of our fallen state, all we want to do is honor ourselves and not the Lord of all things.
Christ honored and glorified God the Father perfectly in life.
Christ paid our penalty for not honoring and glorifying God perfectly in death.
He rose three days later to vindicate his righteousness.
All who would, by the grace of God, repent (turn away) of their sins, and fully rely on Christ alone will be saved.
Saved to what?
Saved to a life of honoring and worshipping God as the center of all things. The opposite of ‘exactly the way we are.’