The difference between Rob Bell and C. S. Lewis

It is well known that Rob Bell is guilty of teaching several significant doctrinal errors, including that the Bible contains errors (contrary to 2 Tim. 3:16), that all humans are eventually saved (against Jesus' own teaching in Matt. 5:22; 10:28; 23:33; and Mark 9:43), and that Christ was not crushed for our iniquities (contrary to Isaiah 53:5). I just read an article in Relevant Magazine ("6 Heretics Who Should Be Banned From Evangelicalism") that claims to list several Christians who are giants in evangelical circles who taught one or more of those doctrines. I take issue with the article's assessment of Augustine and Martin Luther, and I believe he has wrongly identified William Barclay as an evangelical. However, he has a point about C. S. Lewis, John Stott, and Billy Graham.

John Stott believed the error of annihilationism (that hell is real, but not eternal). Billy Graham believed the error of inclusivism (that some will be saved by Christ's atonement, but without particular knowledge of Christ). C. S. Lewis was also an inclusivist, and rejected penal substitution.

There is a difference, though, between these three and Rob Bell. What's the difference? It's the difference between Error and Heresy. Error is believing or teaching a particular wrong doctrine. Heresy is maintaining and teaching a fundamental belief that strikes against the core teaching of the Bible.

It can be problematic to cite Lewis, Graham, or Stott without footnoting their error on important doctrines. But the whole of their lives and ministries were consistent with the central teaching of the Bible: that God supernaturally reveals himself through the Prophets and ultimately through his Son; that we are all sinful and under God's wrath and curse; that we have no hope apart from God's own intervention in Jesus Christ; that we can know Jesus Christ in the scriptures; and that we have a responsibility to believe and follow Jesus, or else face damnation.

Bell does not teach one particular error. He denies the premise. He teaches that the Bible is categorically the same as every other book. He teaches that Christianity is about something other than salvation from Sin and Hell through Jesus Christ. He argues for a christianity that is essentially non-supernatural, moralistic, and therapeutic.

Lewis, Graham, and Stott believed in errors, but they bowed in gospel faith before a divine Jesus who stepped into the world to identify with them and save them. And they led people to this Jesus. Rob Bell would have us believe in a Jesus who looks an awful lot like Rob Bell.

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