Recently Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, generated a firestorm with his upcoming book and interview. The book is titled Love Wins. In one particular interview Bell seems to dodge every question thrown at him. The overriding question being asked of Bell is, "Is Jesus the only way?"; Bell never answers. Why? It is my belief that Bell does not want to pronounce judgment or suggest that anyone will be condemned to hell. Christian universalism is the belief that all will eventually be saved by Jesus. Is Bell correct, if this is his view, and how are Christians to answer the judgment questions?
Jesus does indeed say that we should not be judgmental in Matthew 7:1. This judgment is a hypocritical judgment where one is solely wanting to tear someone down. It is also clear that as Christians we should not condemn anyone to hell, as this type of judgment is left only to God. However, Later on in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus tells his followers to enter through the narrow gate (vs. 13) and to watch out for false prophets (vs. 15). Both of these verses imply that Christians need to make certain judgments. God expects us to make judgments as James indicates, "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4)." Hell itself is a choice. So, why does Bell not want to say that Jesus is the only way? Again, I suspect Bell wants to create the impression that part of God's nature does not involve judgment.
Being a loving God is just one aspect of God's nature. Being a just God is another aspect of God's nature. Will individuals who rebel against Jesus (sinners) be condemned to hell if they persist in their rebellion? Yes! This is the story from Genesis on, that sin separated all humans from a holy God. The other message, that gives us all hope appears early also (Genesis 3:15), in that redemption can occur through the promised messiah - Jesus. Hell is a reality that the bible describes as many choosing to go to (Matthew 7:13-14).
One of the problems of the "Emergent Movement" is the relativizing of truth. I believe one of the reasons Bell leans this way is because of his belief and many "Emergents" that you should never offend anyone. Jesus claimed to be the exclusive way (John 14:6) and he also stated that the truth of his message would be hated (Mark 13:13). Is Jesus the only way? Absolutely! Will the message of Jesus offend? Yes! Should Christians be offensive in how they present the gospel? Absolutely not!
There is an aspect of Bell and other "Emergents" that all Christians need to follow, and that is being aware of our Christian witness. Unfortunately many Christians come across as too judgmental. Many non-Christians view the Christian community as quick to condemn. This type of attitude only hinders the Christian's ability to dialogue with those who do not know Jesus. Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Too many Christians get involved at one end of the spectrum or the other. In other words, some Christians are all about grace leaving truth by the wayside, while others are on the truth side abandoning God's grace that needs to be extended to all people.
Should Christians judge? It depends on the type of judgment being addressed. All followers of Christ would agree that judgments are required on a daily basis on how to live your life. The real question that Bell and others seem to have problems with is, "Should we throw God's truth out so as not to offend others?"