Slap a Calvinist for Christ?

Yes, we are being a bit tongue and cheek with the title and are not advocating violence against those from the reformed tradition, misguided though they may be. But after starting out with some letters from listeners regarding their inner Pharisee and the true meaning of J.O.Y., Brad and Wayne discuss the Internet buzz created by a recent Rob Bell video that mysteriously invokes the possibility of ultimate reconciliation. That set the neo-Calvinists on a warpath, one of whom offered an article in rebuttal to a book that has yet to be released of the eight reasons why believers need to be terrified of hell to live effectively for God today. Brad and Wayne couldn't resist taking a look at his absurd notions to show how one can quote the Bible to completely undermine the message of the Bible. If you need the threat of hell to follow Jesus, it just might be that you do not know Jesus at all.

Podcast Links:
Rob Bell's Love Wins
Kevin DeYoung's To Hell With Hell
Related Podcast from the Archives: Ultimate Reconciliation? To Hell with It
Orphanage Relocation in Kenya


  1. Well, I could rant and rave all day over this one, but I won’t! 🙂 Having come out of a staunchly Calvinistic background of over 20 years, I find your conversation such a breath of fresh air. What disturbs me is that a man like Rob Bell, who like all the rest of us, is working through the reality of the Father’s love, can put forth his thoughts and then get nuked by the religious authorities for being so wrong. I wish his nay-sayers could enter into a more productive dialog instead of immediately reacting with such fury.

    What also disturbs me about “religious authorities” is the narrowness of their view of redemption. They have fined tuned the doctrinal requirements of salvation to the point of true Phariseeism. If the God who created all the universe went to the ultimate degree to come rescue us and invite us into an eternal love relationship with himself, then does it make any sense that he is sitting on the throne making sure we have every jot and tiddle of truth correctly understood before he will accept us as his own dear children. Or is he more like the father of the prodigal, who the moment he saw the son return, immediately ran out to embrace him. He didn’t even know why he was returning, or if he was returning for good. He just knew he had returned and he ran to meet him. I believe when God sees the slightest inclination of our heart returning to him, he is all over it, whether we have mastered the fine points of truth or not.

  2. I have finished reading Love Wins on my Kindle. Admittedly it was a quick read but I found the tone of the book refreshing—full of questions that deserve some consideration beyond a quick dismissal based on pigeon-holing based on dearly held doctrine. Rob Bell is certainly at the other end of the doctrinal spectrum from Mark Driscoll. Yet it was also a frustrating read because the sheer amount of questions left me with a vague sense of anxiety for not knowing what to do next.

    I appreciate so much the conversations between Wayne and Brad because the simplicity of trusting our Father is repeated over and over again. That is the glue that holds my thoughts together.

  3. So what are some things that I know about hell:
    – The temperature is elevated all year around
    – It is somewhat below sea level
    – Some guy that Lazarus knew, whose name was Richard (Rich) Man is there (if
    every word in a parable is literal)
    – get used to magma

    Closer to home and based on a 20th century philosopher’s writing:
    – It’s a season ticket for a one way ride
    – It’s got no stop signs or speed limits and nobody’s gonna slow you down
    – And to top it off, all my friends are gonna be there too (maybe even Ghandi as well)

    So if the heart of the God who gave absolutely everything to rescue us is really more into sacrifice and not mercy, i.e. like Calvin’s god (in very small font), then Kevin DeYoung: “hey momma look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land – I’m on the highway to hell!”

  4. Hey Guys, Great podcast. I listened to this podcast and your archives link to your other related session “Ultimate Reconciliation, to Hell With It” And I love that you did not throw the thought under the proverbial bus. It is sad that Calvinist and Arminians can tolerate each other and call the other brother in the Lord, even though the may consider each other misguided. But they cannot and in many circles will not give the righthand of fellowship to a brother in the Lord who may hold to the thought that maybe Hell is not eternal but rather remedial and corrective. I just don’t get it.

    So I thank you for being well balanced in your discussion of the issue. But I think you guys are at least “hopeful universalists” 😉

    But I have to say that it is because of my journey into the love of Father that I have become open enough to see the possibility of UR. Because of your book “He Love Me” and a fresh understanding of the story of the Prodical Son, I have come to see in a new light the story of the Lost Sheep and our Father’s love.That it is so great that He will not stop looking for us until we are ALL safely home.

    If it should be found out that our God in the end would be able to deal with all unbelievers and the wicked in such a way, that they all, out of their free will and from their heart, would bow their knees and in adoration confess Jesus Christ as Lord for the glory of God the Father— would anybody really object?

    Neither would I

    Grace and peace

  5. for those who think that calvinism equates a proper knowledge of God with servile fear, i am truly sorry. the Bible does tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but this is fear in terms of respect and awe. r.c. sproul’s “the holiness of God” makes this case well. too often, people who know little or nothing of reformed theology (but who think they are well-versed) claim to speak for it, and they do nothing but cause confusion and hurt. again, i am sorry that some of you have encountered people like that. but for every one of those people, there are john pipers, and r.c. sprouls and john macarthurs who speak the truth. THOSE are the people you should be listening to in order to get the facts about reformed theology. wanna slap me? i can take it. but please stilck around afterward long enough to let me explain the truth about the sovereignty of God in salvation.

  6. Hey, how come the word “love” is never even used once in the book of Acts??

  7. I am one of those that Wayne describes as “pretends there is no hell.” I will not here try to convince you of my position. I am just compelled to take exception to the “pretend” part. I arrived at my opinion by looking up every single usage of the Hebrew word “sheol” and the Greek work “hades” in the bible. Every one has the opportunity to conduct the same study if they wish. Although you may not arrive at the same conclusion I did should you choose to undertake this study, I found the scriptural evidence to be very weak for the existence of a place eternal torture for humans. Judgment? probably; Eternal death? possibly. But unending torture – really? I don’t see it. I think the scriptures that seem to support that idea have been twisted in our understanding because of pre-conceived notions. For example – Jesus speaking about Gehenna in the gospels. He says “the worm never dies” he doesn’t say “the people never die.”

    Besides, it’s pretty clear in the scripture that Satan is going to be destroyed. So who’s going to guard the gates of hell once he’s gone?

    Feel free to disagree with me. But I’m not pretending. I spent time and thoughtful consideration to arrive at my opinion.

  8. Your podcasts are refreshingly stimulating. I’ve not read Bell’s new book yet, but I do wonder about how some people insist that hell defines our relationship with Father. And some also use heaven as our escape hatch as long as it meets our expectations. But if we knew who might be in heaven, someone who by our standards does not “deserve” to be there, would we still want to go there? Or are we like the workers who complained because the guys who showed up at the 11th hour got paid the same as those who showed up in the morning? We seemed obsessed with our peripheral vision, rather than keepiing our sights on Father!

  9. I believe in free will. And if I am wrong, it is only because i was predestined to believe in free will.

  10. I loved the book Love Wins, it shows our Father as the love He is in my heart: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

  11. I was thinking about the Rob Bell uproar while walking the dog this morning… The phrase which kept coming to mind and applies to both sides of the discussion/argument was what Christ told the church in Ephesus….

    “You’ve lost your first love.”

  12. I’m not sure Love Wins was written as a “poke” to any one doctrinal position, anymore than The Shack was written with that intent, but any expression of our views are likely to be taken by SOMEONE as hostile, considering our differences in convictions and interpretations all across the vast history of Christianity and the inevitable infighting that results. I’d like to see Romans 14-15 lived out with determination – that we allow people to have their views (even if/when WE think they’re a violation of some clearly stated scripture)… that we neither “have contempt” nor “judge”, from whatever side of the particular argument we find ourselves on. If I remember right, in so many words Paul says God is big enough to work it out within that individual’s walk/mind/soul. (And I’m not sure our lambasting is going to EVER get them there anyway).

  13. In my opinion….

    There’s nothing that Kevin DeYoung’s putting out there that appeals to me. His message drips with manipulation. Rob Bell seems to merely be making a name for himself by pushing the envelope and that doesn’t bother me as long as It creates some civil discussion. I trust Father to help me sort it out.

    Father help me if I ever decide to write a book! 🙂 Where I am in my journey, I’m too eager to find an antidote to “holier than thou” and “be afraid-be very afraid”.

    Still learning…..


  14. Thanks for the podcast. One observation about the situations that made Jesus angry – I think they are quite similar. He was indignant when the disciples kept the children from him, and he was angry about the temple being turned into a “den of robbers”. In both cases, people were being hindered from coming to God. This is what makes him mad. I think this is another example of his love and longing for us, that anger is related to beloved ones being hampered in drawing near. Blessings to you in all you do to keep Abba’s love in front of us.

  15. I’m probably going to regret this some day, but listening (in my car) as you read through Ken’s letter about the “little pharisee in my head” rang a musical bell in my memory. When I got home, this poured out:

    Little Pharisee

    (to the tune of “Tiny Demons” by Todd Rundgren; to hear the music and follow along, go to

    He whispers condemnation in my ear
    He teaches things from scripture that aren’t there
    And he knows where to hide
    And he knows everything that’s inside
    Of my fears
    Little Pharisee, in my head

    He binds a strong chain all around my soul
    He makes me nod “yes” ’cause the preacher said so
    And he won’t ever leave
    Long as God don’t really love me

    And he waits ’til I feel
    Like he’s gone and he jumps out and steals
    My deep peace
    Little Pharisee

    And he knows where to hide
    And he knows everything that’s inside
    Of my fears
    Little Pharisee

    And he won’t ever leave
    Long as God don’t really love me
    Little Pharisee, in my head
    Little Pharisee, in my head
    Little Pharisee, in my head

    [If you want to see the original lyrics, go to

  16. I couldn’t tell if Wayne was dinging on the Calvinists and Rob Bell, or if he was just dinging on the Calvinists. Clarification?

  17. As an earthly dad, I want to have relationship and family community with my Children. I love them and want love and respect in return, but can we view the Lord in the same way, in earthly terms? I say yes, and even more. I believe our heart is wired for god’s love, not wrath. I don’t motivate my children with promising torture or anquish? I love them, why would I?

    Calvin was off in his views and I question if he ever experienced much depth of the love of God. What was his father on earth like? What were his church leaders like? What were his early church experiences? Puritan? Not sure, but they all formed his god view. Then, we get a whole bunch of people to jump onboard his theology because that is what good christians do. They don’t follow Christ, they become Calvanist or Armenian, or what other thing is out there. Then his ideas form another Christian sect and semenaries, and churches and denominations and YIKES!!!

    Still today people follow a pastor like Bell or some theologian—-wrongo amigo. Paul the Apsotle would even tell you, don’t follow me, follow Christ. The system is set up to follow a man. it appeals to our fallen nature. Give us a king!! We need a Pastor, we can’t follow Christ without one!!!–so so sad. Even a greater sadness than Bell’s book.

    Pastor Bells book will fade. Aother ridiculous book from a person the system set up for us to follow. No different from from the bad doctines of Benny Hinn, kenneth Copeland, and a myriad of others.

    other than that–Have a wonderful day in Jesus Christ!!


    Denver Colorado

  18. Not sure why all the anger at Rob Bell here. Let him poke a stick in the Calvinist’s ancient rhetoric and let’s not be afraid to ask some big questions like, “Is Hell what we think it is? Is there even a hell as we think there is?”

    This issue of Bell’s book reminds me much of a book that came out a few years ago by an author with the help of a couple of other guys, that made much noise and poked some serious holes in some serious sacred cows! The dialogue that resulted was wonderful in that we all began asking, wondering and wanting… “Is this really what God is like? Is He really this good and loving? We want to know, because we sure hope He is!”

    PS: just go my copy of “Love Wins.” I think I’m becoming a fine heretic.

  19. I found this address by Alexandre Kalomiros at the 1980 American Orthodox conference linked by someone in the comments to Kevin DeYoung’s blog post:

    Interestingly, I found a lot in it that harmonizes with what I think I have heard Wayne speak and write about God and the purpose of the cross.

    Kalomiros says:

    “But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor. To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor.

    Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God’s vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.”

    Kalomiros goes on to say that because of a western “juridical” view of God, we believe that in order for God to be just, he is necessarily obligated to punish us for our sins. This obligation takes away God’s “freedom” because of His love for us, and the only solution is for Him to kill His own son.

    He says: “Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!”

    He then talks about how we have mis-interpreted God’s justice based on our own human views of justice where fairness is the most important thing. He points out that the Hebrew word for justice, tsedaka, means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation” and is parallel to his compassion and mercy.

    Anyway, I was impressed at how much the views he expressed about our view of God and the cross were like what Wayne has written and spoken about, and wanted to encourage folks to check it out.

  20. Thank you so much for this podcast! I have been listening to your podcast for a few months now and thoroughly enjoy each and every message. My father was a preacher and I was certainly raised with the “fear” to love God because the alternative is an eternity in hell. I take that back because I can’t remember ever being taught to love God. What I remember is being taught to fear Him. Because of this belief I struggle so much with thoughts of my eternity and “what if” I end up in hell. I fear it so much that sometimes it consumes my thoughts. I look at my 1 yr old daughter and immediately understand God’s love for me……amazing, yet I so easily return to the old rhetoric that I am still not good enough for the Father. I am excited that bit by bit, God the Father is chipping away at a wall that I have spent the last 33 years building. It feels so good to begin to believe that I am loved by the Father and that nothing can stop His love for me…..NOTHING!

    I used to believe that you shouldn’t ask questions. It is what it is and I should just believe it. I now believe that in asking the tough questions (i.e. Why, etc), is leading me into a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with the Father as he reveals who He is to me in a way that I never have experienced before.

  21. When a single book that says nothing that hasn’t been said a million times before sets off this much of a blaze, you can be sure the room was full of combustible material before the match was ever struck. I have not read the book, but I have watched a couple of long interviews of Rob’s about the book, so I am not totally uninformed and I didn’t get my information from “interested third parties”.
    While some of Rob’s extrapolations seem to be the pendulum swinging past center and into the unbalance of reaction rather than exegesis, I think Rob will be most frustrated not because he does not “win the argument”, but because I think the whole reason he wrote the book is being missed. Rob starts with a concern that we are missing the essential character of God when we posit it in dogma and not in relationship. His book is not… “Everyone gets to go to Heaven”. The name of the book is, “Love wins”. Rob wants to discuss theology and everyone else is focusing on eschatology. Rob thinks we have miscast God when we make Christianity about who gets to go to heaven and who has to go to hell. Christianity becomes about doctrine and dogma and punishment and reward. It becomes merit based and fear driven. It seems we NEED heaven and hell (the carrot and the stick) to keep the donkey moving, because living loved and loving are not seen as enough (by those who have never experienced them). You can always turn down a present, but you don’t get to turn down a spanking.
    Rob is suggesting, “sin is its own punishment. It is a living hell to live outside the love of the Father. You don’t need a burning lake. Maybe a burning lake is an artistic metaphor for the pain and agony it is to live life without the peace of a reconciled relationship with God.” OK, my point is not to make Rob’s point here, but to clarify the discussion Rob says he wants to start, rather than letting the shite right frame the discussion. I think Rob has some serious exegetical hurdles to handle, but in my opinion, his book has riled the right not because of its eschatology, but because his view of God threatens their entire world and life view. I love his desire to discuss the character of a gracious, loving God and what that can and should mean to all of us, and I am sorry that he is losing that opportunity because one of his extrapolations of that premise goes beyond the bounds of traditional exegesis of scripture. The two are not linked. Rob knows that and that is why he is not dogmatic in his position on heaven and hell. What he is dogmatic about is his view of God. To me it is this view of God that so threatens the right that they are willing to crucify Rob over a doctrinal detail…. which in my opinion, just proves that we HAVE framed most of modern fundamental Christianity in doctrine and dogma and punishment and reward where our ultimate motivator is not a personal loving Father, but a highly impersonal, eternally burning, lake of fire and damnation. Remove that from some people`s theology and they have no more reason to follow God. That is what we NEED to be discussing.

  22. Loved the dialogue, fellas! I wish you guys would quit “lobbing” softballs, and pick a controversial topic every now and then. Geesh! 🙂
    Actually, I just downloaded “Love Wins” to my NOOK yesterday. I’ve read everything by Rob Bell, so I figured, why break the “streak” now, right?
    The one statement that jumped out at me yesterday during you guys’ dialogue was, ….”people consumed with the debate about hell have no idea who Father is”!
    Nuff said! Great statement! Love you guys! Keep slingin’!


  23. Thank God for His love that is always there no matter what we just have to stand still and see it.All I want is to see His love and grace each new day and to be able to love others in the same way/
    Love in Christ Dan

  24. I loved this podcast!! This whole talk just resonated with me!! INDEED why ARE we so afraid of Love?? Listening to the reasons we NEED God’s wrath was so TRUE of how people are reacting to this new book… I for one am glad. I think it’s making some religions show their true colors and overreact and show EXACTLY what their motives are… I recently left my church that I attended for 18 years for EXACTLY these reasons!
    I found Bell’s book to be rather similar to what The Great Divorce by CS Lewis shared… there will be no one in hell who does NOT want to be there! The doors are locked from the inside.
    Thanks for an AMAZING discussion as usual!! Sure love you boys!!

  25. The Reformed stream of systematic theology flows from the divine well-spring of Love conditioned only in the reality of the Love which is given and received freely within the triune God-community. The desire of the Trinity has been and is to expand that relationship to include all Creation.

    Both the Arminian and the Calvinistic streams of Reformed theology have in their details departed from God’s central purpose and have striven to construct 4-point barbed fence around their self-claimed grass-lands. Both represent the flip-side of the same heresy. Both are guilty of claim-jumping.

    Hell is not a future determined by the Living God, but rather the ever present reality of life lived apart from God, which is an exercise of death despite or in spite of the presence of the Word of Life.


  26. Why should I care about hell? Why should I fight and argue about its reality or symbolism? Nothing Kevin DeYoung wrote rings true to me. If God wants me to know and understand how hell is central to living and loving in him, then I am open to it. Otherwise, it is just another doctrine that I have put on the shelf— interesting to look at every once in a while but of no practical use to my journey.

  27. I haven’t real “Love Wins”, but probably will in the near future if my public library gets it, so I can’t comment directly about the contents.

    Wayne starts out the podcast perturbed about Rob bell and his book, but it sounds more like he is irritated about getting so much email, not the actual book or teaching.

    The pre-release video and promo about the book was sensationalist, but that’s understandable. The point about the promo, and the book, seems to be to start a conversation and revisit the topic of our eternal destiny. Recently I was listening to an old Free Believers Network podcast of Wayne being interviewed by Darin Hufford. As they discussed “The Shack”, and the conversations about God’s love that were resulting from that book, it sounded amazingly similar to the situation with “Love Wins”. Hearing Wayne talk about The Shack and the response to it, how God was using that book, it is surprising how pissed off he sounds about “Love Wins”. So the question is–who is Wayne more mad at? Rob Bell? And for writing the book, or the book causing people to fill his Inbox? Or the Calvinists, whose systematic theology tries to keep a stranglehold on God’s love and withold it from the non-elect?

  28. Or maybe Wayne wasn’t mad at all! A little frustrated perhaps that the family was going to spend a few months swimming in this debate-on-hell pool again, but certainly not mad at Rob or DeYoung or people writing my in box (smile)

  29. Sounds like you should read the book. Why condemn a guy for his marketing if your biggest objection is about the neo-calvinist that objects to the book that sound like you may not be opposed to? I liked the book.

  30. i spent many years in a living hell, in bondage to a spirit of fear. Every waking hour I was consumed with fear that someday god was going to get me for messing up, and sinning. I grew up a Calvinist, I grew up in a Pharisaical religion with lots of sin preaching, judgment and Johnny Cash “I Walk the Line” hymns. I was terrified of God. The fear of the Lord was no problem with me. The wrath of God WAS my greatest fear! Despite all attempts, such preaching didn’t scare the hell out of me, it only intensified my fear, self loathing and sense of worthlessness.

    But after of livng so long in my “Christianized” hell, I met the true, risen living Jesus and began a new journey. Many years later, wholeness has been restored and His perfect love has finally cast out all fear! Though I met Him over 30 years ago, it has taken most of those years for me to be detoxed from performance based love and grace religion. God loves you…if or but…

    Finally, I have received his unconditional love and acceptance “Just As I am” and all fear is Gone. There is no longer a fearful expectation of judgment or need to perform like God’s “good little boy.” It may sound corny but in my heart i hear an old Bill Gaither song, “Because He Lives…all fear is gone.”

    Neither side of the “hell” debate will lead others to receiving eternal life. So there’s no hell…so what. Heaven is NOT the absence of Hell…iEternal Life is not the absence of hell…t is the presence of the risen Jesus. It is His presence and his love received that has brought about transformation in my life…not a new theology. It is not our position on Hell or any other “theological” question that will set us free from fear and death. Only receiving Him and knowing Him!.

    When will we turn away from our self-promoting silliness and begin to proclaim the gospel. We still do have GOOD News and it is not there’s no more hell. He is that good news.

  31. Gotta admit, I just read “Love Wins” and it basically re-iterated what you said in the this podcast. Thought it was a great read, although the Calvinist / reformed camp will obviously not like this topic in the book as it talks about both the love of the Father and various historical notions about Hell that people today take as absolute. Thought it was a great read.

  32. Wayne… seriously, don’t read it!! It might make you a little mad or jealous… because YOU already wrote a VERY similar book! I couldn’t believe how much of He Loves Me was in this book!!! It’s saying the same message but Bell just did it in a money making kind of way!! I would recommend He Loves Me to someone WAY OVER the Bell book!! Just sayin! I still think you’re the modern day CS Lewis and I don’t care how much you’re not into compliments!! Thanks you guys!!!!
    PS After posting my thoughts on this book (and some other anti-Calvin type thoughts) I was asked not to teach a bible study at the church I had been going to. I think that people are VERY threatened with Love… as though it’s something evil. I’m thankful that Father keeps leading me in Him! People can HAVE their Calvin… I’ll take the Love of Father ANY DAY!

  33. 1 guy says this and another says that…who can you believe?
    The Bible tells me, there will be false prophets in the last days. Knowing that I read my Bible & seek understanding in prayer. Instead of bickering over who is right or wrong use that time to study the Word for yourself!!!

  34. re Chris Wileman:
    I think it would be awesome if Waynes book is similar. That makes me want to go and read it. Your comment makes me feel like Wayne is prone to jealousy and will get upset about reading a book that is more popular than his about the same subject.
    Just saying, it made me wonder if he has a serious jealousy vice.

    I love LOVE WINS. The reason it is popular, and say, Wayne’s book is maybe not so popular is because Rob Bell has a gift and has grown a “living” mega-church saying things that ruffle the “mainstream” churches feathers. Some real legalistic morons denounced Bell before the book was even published. I would say it was both improper for a man of Piper’s stature to publicly disown Bell for a book Piper had not even read, and it was also evidence that Piper was >looking< for reasons to remove Bell. We know Driscoll is jealous, but I think Piper is, also.
    Now, that being said, his publishers did a great job in hyping the book up…. but misrepresented it.
    The mainstream church wanted to disown him, for no good reason, and their attempt to do so simply lit the fire in making the book more and more popular. Rob Bell has a gift and I am glad he is using it.

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