why this is and isn’t personal

Late last week I received my first copies of Christ Alone, and today is the first day that I’m blogging about it. Some of you have asked about Kindle and Nook versions, and I’m told that they will be available on Amazon by the end of the week.

I hope that readers of Christ Alone will recognize that I like and respect Rob Bell. Indeed, I think that taking a month out of my life to write a book in response to his book is the ultimate sign of respect. I have other projects that I was planning to work on, and now that this is done, I am excited to get back to them.

I also hope that Rob doesn’t really believe everything he wrote in Love Wins. I know that at one time he believed differently, and it’s possible that he hasn’t thought through all of the implications of what he is now saying. That would be great, for him and his church, but it wouldn’t change the content of what he has written. Love Wins is communicating a distinct message—a message which is clear enough to most readers—and it’s this message that I strongly oppose.

I think it’s worth putting my disagreement in print for the sake of Jesus and the many people who may now be confused about who Jesus is and what he came to do. I once told Rob that what bothered me most about Brian McLaren’s books is that they didn’t contain enough gospel to keep someone from going to hell. I think the same is true of Love Wins. This book changes the meaning of the gospel, and though I’m sure this was never Rob’s intent, it consequently puts many readers at risk.  

So both Love Wins and Christ Alone are deeply personal. Not personal in regard to the authors—ultimately it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about us—but personal in that real lives and everlasting destinies are at stake. I’ll be blogging about what these issues are, and I invite you to visit the Christ Alone website, read excerpts from the book, purchase it if you’re interested, and most importantly search the Scriptures for yourself. Your everlasting destiny is too important to take mine or Rob’s word for it. I hope that our conversation will motivate you to read what God says about “heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.”


Add yours →

  1. Sheep are stupid. They need to know who the wolves are so that they can run from them. It seems like people want to play nice with Rob Bell when he is, unintentionally or not, serving his father, the devil.

  2. Jessica:

    I think that it’s more helpful to focus on the content of “Love Wins” than to make declarations about Rob personally. Doing so is sufficient to warn the sheep, and it keeps the focus on the main thing. I’ll let God sort out who is and who isn’t his children, but I can speak to the theological content of a book, and how it misleads many. So I think we get to the same place, but without the distractions of personalities.

  3. Brian McLaughlin April 25, 2011 — 4:24 pm


    I ordered both books today (don’t be offended, but I’m reading Bell’s book first) and look forward to both of them. I did read your introduction online and want to thank you for being gracious to Rob as a person created in the image of God. That is often lacking in critiques. I think your intro and Stowell’s comment to CU which began by calling him “our brother in Christ” is the place to begin and then enter into serious disagreement (I’m assuming I’ll disagree…haven’t read it yet but obviously I’m not totally objective)

  4. True, but I thought you brought in his personality with your post.

  5. Hey Mike, I can’t believe you put a book out so quickly! Time to enter the conversation and read the two books. 🙂 Let us know when you’re in Calgary! 🙂

  6. What difference does it make what Rob Bell teaches; and why would you say about Brian Mclaren’s books that “they didn’t contain enough gospel to keep someone from going to hell”? You are a Calvinist who believes in the other extreme from Bell that only those whom God has elected from eternity will be saved and all others from eternity are consigned to hell simply for being conceived and born human. So what gives you the authority to speak and write about Bell except from the vantage point of your own warped theology? And what difference does it make anyway if people believe wrong on some things? it does not change one’s predestined status one way or another. The whole exercise to write another book is silly and a waste of time.

  7. I was just received into the Catholic Church this weekend at the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in downtown Grand Rapids. I still find the balance that is lost in most of protestantism regarding many theological issues. And I think Father Robert Barron articulates this Catholic view well and it is something that seems more in line with what you taught us in our seminary classes Dr. Wittmer. Barron holds that we must speak of Hell to honor the nature of love and the need for man’s free choice while also giving Lewisian presentation of a cautious, but hopeful universalism. Not a hard-line universalism that Origen and now Bell is falling into.
    Dr. Wittmer, I’d encourage you to check out many of Barron’s videos at his ‘wordonfire’ youtube channel. His personality seems similar to yours and I think he is making a lot of sense. And I’ve been reading the Catechism and his reflections seem to match the teaching of the Church quite well.

  8. oops. let me embed the video instead:

  9. I think you will like this vid Wittmer, its a response and exact remake of the book promo by Bell that started all of this! Hope it encourages brother and thank u for the transcript that we used in the video.

  10. I would like to comment. So here is a story of a recent Rob Bell conversation I overheard. Now the exact conversation is of little importance, since the frustration was not so much with the content of what these two gentlemen were saying, but what they were preventing me from doing, reading something of value and worth. Now I’m a seminary graduate and a ferocious reader of theological works, so when I decided to read 4 books during Lent (only 46 days total) on the Paschal Mystery by Hans Urs von Balthazar, Louis Boyer, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and Alan Lewis (over a thousand pages), my time and thoughts were precious to me. One early morning at 6:00AM I woke up and went to breakfast at New Beginnings restaurant, in hope to find a couple of hours before work in which I could continue my way through these books. When I arrived I sat down, ordered food, opened my book and began to read. Ah, heavenly bliss the early morning read! It could have only been better with a pipe and a cool breeze against my face (damn Michigan laws). About 8 minutes later two men sat down in the booth next to mine. The older man quickly gave the younger man a book on the History of the English Bible… my eyes began to gaze upon them. My mind began to become interested in their conversation, if for no other reason than because of the subject matter. And then it happened, the old man speaking to the young man said “So , have you read this new (emphasize “this new book” with your nose and corner of your mouth curled up to get the effect) book by Rob Bell?”

    “DAMN IT!!!” I physically allowed these words to burst out of my mouth. I shouldn’t have… but I did. They didn’t hear me… they kept speaking… I was astonished! They had to of heard me, I was/am loud. Ask anybody, when I get upset my voice rises, even if I am getting upset with myself. I was even more upset that they kept speaking about this topic. It reminded me of a Lutheran pastor friend commenting on the Evangelical Lutheran Church, “The topic of homosexuality is now being debated in my denomination… but 50 years too late.”
    I stood up, grabbed my things, walked past these two men to the other side of the restaurant, sat back down, opened by book and began to read once again. When the waitress asked why I’d moved, I said, “I did not like the inane conversation what was about to take place. Thus concludes my review.

  11. Jacob, it sounds like you have a strong dislike of the Calvinism you describe. Where are you finding your definition of election, and how do you know Wittmer subscribes to it?

  12. Eric, I’ve read your comment but can’t seem to discern the reason for your frustration. Were you upset that they were distracting you from reading (those silly people, what were they thinking having a private conversation when you were trying to read in a public place?!?!), or that they were expressing displeasure in Rob’s book (those silly people, what were they thinking actually having an opinion), or that they didn’t react to your oddly passive-aggressive attempt to stop their private conversation (those silly people, what were they thinking not responding to an adult acting like a spoiled toddler who doesn’t get his way)?

    Should those two people been more tolerate of Rob? If so, shouldn’t you have been more tolerant of them? Or does toleration only go one direction?

  13. Thanks Dr. Wittmer for all of your effort in bringing the Bible back into the discussion. Whether someone is a Calvinist or an Arminian, is not the issue, the issue is being faithful to the text. So, thanks again Dr. Wittmer, for remaining faithful to the Word of God.

  14. Warning the following is what some might call a “polemic”. I am not angry, it’s called a literary device: My review of Rob Bell’s book via a sort of lame Kierkegaardian narrative (now that I think about it, a sort of stream-of-conscientious writing exercise) was supposed to be ambiguous enough to not express so directly my hatred of people who put time into reading such refabricated early 20th century liberalism, rehashed, reprocessed, and regurgitated theological smut for American mainline churches. Christians should be past this drivel. If you don’t like a book, please, don’t say you like what the authors trying to do, or that he’s asking questions relevant to our contemporary society. Just say its stupid. So there you have it, what I really “think and feel”. Maybe next time you should think about what someone writes rather than trying to deconstruct my story or demythologize my story into a thesis so an argument can arise either for or against it. Because after all, everything in life is an argument to which we can argue for or against, right? Of course you are either confused as to why I “missed the entire point of your post” or frustrated that I did not answer your question. Truth is, I did answer your questions before you asked them by expanding the series of questions, rather than narrowing them. I told you your questions where stupid b/c they missed everything I was saying, I suggested other questions are far more impressive since they tried to get at the questions behind the questions. But seeing I’ve reduced your comments to a spoiled toddler as well, congratulations, we are now ready to read this book. Then again, this is a blog, and if Ambrose Bierce were alive today, would enter “Blog” into his “Devil’s Dictionary”. If you really wanna have this conversation face to face over a beer or a cigar or a coffee I am more than happy to. I would enjoy such a time talking theology and misguided hermeneutical interludes. My e-mail address is yellowfanrip1981@yahoo.com and my cell number is 616-848-0312.

  15. Eric, are you on medication, or are you intentionally offering nonsensical ramblings?

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