Mark Galli, senior Managing Editor for Christianity Today,
wrote a direct response to Rob Bell's Love Wins (within 4
months) entitled God Wins.
I want to share a few observations regarding God Wins and
also consider some things Galli states in a favorite book
of mine, Jesus Mean and Wild. Specifically I will reveal how
there is a secret hope written on Mark Galli's heart that
the Gospel of a redemption sufficient and efficient for all
God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better
than Love Wins
First, I think we should look at the back cover statement.
In large bold red font it says: "Does a loving God really
send some people to Hell?"
Galli has lost credibility even before we open the book. What
I mean is, he has lost his credibility as a true believer
in eternal conscious torment because he can't even bring himself
to say it on the cover! He appears to betray that his true
heart does not really believe in such a reality.
This is because he uses the word "some." This is
a subtle yet crater-size understatement. He should have said
"most" but his heart just couldn't say it.
He also should have used, "eternal hell." To use
simply the word hell muddies the waters and softens the reality
of eternal conscious torment. And since many Christian universalists
believe there is a "hell" this places this view
in contempt appearing as though Christian Universalism doesn't
represent any type of hell as judgment. But this is not true,
they simply differ on the purpose and duration of hell.
So let me ask you, how would it have come across if on the
cover Galli had written what he was supposed to mean?:
"Does a Loving God really send most people to
eternal conscious torment in hell?"
Those are the cold hard facts that Galli softened and evaded
from the very cover of the book. This shows Galli is not comfortable
with the doctrine as it truly is to be presented.
Second, we ought to challenge Galli's reprimand of what he
considers by Bell "questioning God." But Roger Olsen
said it well:
"I wonder, however, whether Mark is confusing interrogation
of ideas about God with interrogation of God. When I read
Love Wins I did not sense Bell intending to interrogate
God. His questions, I thought, were aimed at traditional
notions about God." Roger Olsen http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/07/a-good-new-book-responding-to-bells-love-wins
The questions Bell had and the questions we have are NOT
pointed at God but rather at the theologians and traditions
This is another reason I believe Galli witnesses to the
reality of ultimate reconciliation of all: he finds himself
using ad hominem arguments to defend the doctrine of eternal
conscious torment. I do not believe he does this intentionally
but if he were to examine his arguments he would have to agree
(for further treatment of his book see link to review below.)
Randy Alcorn uses the same approach in his preface to God
Wins; LOTS of emotion without substance (see footnote below).
Then to cap this section on questioning God Galli uses Jeremiah
17:9 to silence any notion that our hearts might be a gauge
for determining if something was true or just or right:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
sick; who can understand it?"
With all due respect for Mark Galli as a godly evangelical
leader and writer, this could be called "pastoral malpractice."
This verse used to censor any speech that questions the justice
of an eternal hell is flat out misuse of Scripture to suppress
hard questions and keep them from surfacing. Jeremiah
17:9 is speaking of the old nature! If
you continue to read Jeremiah he describes the "new heart"
that God puts in those who repent and believe (Jer. 24:7;
32:39). Our questions are coming from new redeemed hearts
of flesh that God asks us to use "to judge for ourselves
what is right" (Luke 12:57).
Again I do not have reason to think Galli is doing this intentionally.
I believe he is simply stuck in his traditional paradigm of
theology. I only point this out to display how Galli is not
able to face the inconsistencies within his doctrine and thereby
reveal how he undermines his own traditional view of hell.
Finally in relation to a quote by Martin Luther that Rob Bell
was accused of taking out of context in favor of a more hopeful
take on salvation I would direct you to a closing quote given
by Galli in his chapter in God Wins entitled, "The
Victory of a Personal God." He references Dietrich Bonhoeffer
as "one of the most profound and realistic Christian
theologians of the twentieth century." He summarizes
Bonhoeffer's worldview as: "God is in charge; He makes
no mistakes; all that He does is driven by love." The
irony of this placement of Bonhoeffer here at the conclusion
of his book against Love Wins is that Bonhoeffer
held considerably less "evangelical" views than
even Rob Bell and was most probably a universalist! (Just
read Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship)
For an excellent and extensive review of God Wins see Randy
Boswell's "Reformed and Always Reforming": http://randyboswell.com/category/book-reviews/page/4
Jesus Mean and Wild
by Mark Galli
In closing, in light of Galli's own revelation of himself
as someone uncomfortable with his doctrine of eternal conscious
torment and hopeful for something bigger, bolder and more
beautiful I will end with a few quotes from this excellent
book. It ought to be read and re-read as an antidote to the
Church's perennial tendency to domesticate and tame Jesus.
But I want to highlight here how in the midst of serving to
us a more powerful and sovereign Jesus, Galli also continues
to point to and maintain a greater hope in the grace and mercy
This is not a world for shallow people with soft character.
It needs tested, toughened disciples who are prepared, like
their Lord, to descend into hell to redeem the lost...He's
got the whole world on His mind, and He is looking for people
who are keeping that world foremost in their minds as well."
He then quotes Frederica Matthews-Green:
"Jesus didn't come to save us from the penalty for
our sins; He came to save us from our sins -- now, today,
if we will only respond to the challenge and let Him...The
Lord does not love us for our good parts and pass over the
rest. He died for the bad parts and will not rest until
they are put right. We must stop thinking of God as infinitely
indulgent. We must begin to grapple with the scary and exhilarating
truth that He is infinitely holy, and that He wants the
same for us." (pg39)
And again a quote by Galli:
"To be holy means to be set apart for divine purposes.
God wants nothing less than all creation, which is now subject
to decay, futility, and corruption, to become sanctified,
alive, and completely dedicated to His purposes." (pg
In light of Galli's own words that, "He's got the whole
world on His mind" and that, "God wants nothing
less that all creation to become sanctified," how does
that square with the doctrine of eternal conscious torment
where most people will be given up to an eternal cycle of
death, sin and punishment? (And this is from a Calvinist keep
Regarding holiness, fear and "destruction by love":
"But we misconstrue His love -- we may even be attracted
to a mere figment of our imagination -- if we don't also
sense fear. The one who loves us is the Holy One who wishes
to make all unclean things holy. That means the One whom
we cannot stay away from is the same one who is out to destroy
those very habits, sins, notions, addictions, and self-justifications
that we think we can't live without. And there are times
we think Jesus is out to destroy us.
It is a wonderful and fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the real Jesus." (46)
Galli says, "The One who loves us is the Holy One who
wishes to make all unclean things holy." But according
to elsewhere in this book and in God Wins Galli would say
that The Holy One will make some unclean things holy while
consigning the majority of unclean things to a cycle of unholiness
and vileness forever!
"His demands are loving demands -- not only because
they entail love of God and neighbor, but also because to
live as God wants is to live in fulness and joy. To live
any less, is to live a subhuman existence." (pg 144)
Here Galli continues to confirm his understanding that deep
down he believes God sovereignly will get what He wants. It
is incoherent to consider that God will allow most of His
very own image-bearers to live "sub-humanly" forever,
defacing His image and glory eternally.
As we have stated elsewhere we do not believe it is necessary
to read books exclusively defending the universal love and
redemption of God. We need the present (and past) wisdom of
the entire Body of Christ to complete our understanding of
the Gospel. They are all divided into different camps but
you can bring them all together in your heart as you read
and draw from them all -- as one holistic view of the Gospel!
Jesus Mean and Wild is highly recommended for it fills the
gap in the Church for an understanding of what Augustine called
the "severe mercy" of God in the context of His
unfailing love. Galli closes his book with these words:
"Jesus has come to us, the real Jesus -- mean, wild,
and pulsing with an unnerving and irresistible
love." (emphasis mine)
Amen Mark Galli!
Regarding Randy Alcorn's forward to God Wins:
The following is a response to the foreword to God Wins
by best-selling author Randy Alcorn, another writer I have
greatly benefited from. I believe we need to examine his words
and assertions that make up an important part of this book
as his reputation and therefore his endorsement add leverage
to Galli's position. One of the circumstantial evidences in
support of the Restoration of All Things is the theological
conundrum created by the opposing views of God of the Calvinist
and Arminian camps. However, Alcorn makes quite an unbelievably
naive statement when he says:
"Evangelical churches, both Calvinist and Arminian---while
holding divergent positions on baptism, church government,
and eschatology---have consistently held the common belief
that everyone will go to one of two eternal destinations:
heaven or hell."
This statement leaves me dumbfounded really. Does Alcorn
really believe this? If you read any book or visit any blog
or website that is debating the issues between Calvinists
and Arminians you will rarely see them arguing within the
areas mentioned by Randy. The number one debate is over the
character of God. The sharp and often nasty debate is over
whether God decides (predestination) who will be saved or
whether God has set up a world where it is man's free-will
that ultimately determines each person's eternal fate. It
is the debate between "the God who is able to save all
but has sovereignly decided not to" and "the God
who loves all mankind and is willingto save all but is not
able to violate mans free-will".
The Calvinists accuse the Arminians of creating a God who
is impotent and weak while the Arminians accuse the Calvinists
of worshipping an unloving God. They have been known to call
each other heretics and claim the other "maligns God's
character". Check out the current thread going on at
an Amazon discussion board:
Was Randy afraid to honestly lay out the real debate between
the Arminians and the Calvinists? To mention the true debate
would expose the terminal disunity we are experiencing. We
believe that until we reconcile the God who WANTS all to be
saved with the GOD who has THE ABILITY to do it there will
be no real unity.
Randy says, "Love Wins minimizes the doctrines of penal
sacrifice and substitutionary atonement, ascribing them to
primitive cultures." He accuses Bell of chronological
snobbery. Hearkening to the early Church where the penal substitutionary
atonement had not been developed (until the Reformation) is
hardly a chronological snobbery of elevating recent viewpoints.
The atonement has many facets and according to Leon Morris
there is much mystery,
"There are many ways of viewing [the atonement].
We are left in no doubt about its efficacy and its complexity.
View the human spiritual problem as you will, and the cross
meets the need. But the NT does not say how it does so."
Also a good source on the Atonement is McKnight's book,
A Community Called Atonement.
Randy continues, "If the orthodox views on salvation
and damnation are up for grabs, then surely virtually everything
in the Apostle's Creed is also." Neither the Apostle's
creed nor the Nicene Creed mention the concept of an eternal
hell. "Judgment" yes, but not an eternal hell.
On page vi Alcorn states, "When we abandon truths Christians
once died for, will we no longer have truths worth living
for?" I do not believe the early Church died to protect
the doctrine of an eternal hell but rather for their Savior
who was crucified and risen for their forgiveness, redemption
Randy states, "If our sins aren't big enough to warrant
eternal punishment, then perhaps the grace God showed us on
the cross isn't big enough to warrant eternal praise."
The Bible states that "the wages of sin is death."
Death is final and permanent. Evangelical Universalists do
not believe that our sins are less "big" just because
the cross was effectual for all. Why would a hospital that
cured 100% of its patients mean that the disease wasn't that
serious? Death is permanent and serious indeed but God said
Jesus came and defeated the grave. He said that the last enemy
to be destroyed is Death.
I believe that the work of Christ on the cross included all
God's creation and with that conviction comes a worship and
praise that is unquenchable. I see no end in sight of the
worship I experience on a daily basis. The scope of the gospel
is so enormous that I am overwhelmed by God's love, power,
glory, and holiness. I have no problem imagining worshipping
Him forever! He is amazing and glorious!
Randy Alcorn is clearly disturbed by this debate and he makes
dozens of assumptions and accusations in his short forward.
I suggest you lay aside the emotional greeting meeting you
at the door of Galli's book and try and allow an objective
mindset to steer you through the land-mines of emotional reactions,
doubt, and fear while navigating through the chapters.