God’s Love is not the Whole Story? Rob Bell and the Gospel Coalition

Since I was saved about ten years ago from the false good news of universalism, I am glad to see Deyong’s negative review of Bell’s book. But I can’t help notice the inherent Arminianism of the Gospel Coalition’s brand of evangelicalism.

gc: It reminds me of the T-shirt, “Jesus Loves You. Then Again He Loves Everybody.” There’s no good news in announcing that God loves everyone in the same way just because he wants to. The good news is that in love God sent his Son to live for our lives and die for our deaths”

mark: notice what gospel coalition does not say, will not say about election: that God does not love everybody, that God did not die for everybody. They will only deny that the love doesn’t need Christ’s death. They still retain the old formula retained by Dordt (sufficient for everybody).

What’s with the ambiguity of “just because he wants to”?
1. God loves the elect in a holy way, not just any old way, yes.

2. But does this deny that God loves “just because he wants to”? God loves because He wants to, and His nature requires justice for all those He loves. There is no love apart from Christ and His substitution for the elect. Christ has no love for the non-elect.

I take sides with John Owen against John Calvin on God’s justice, and thus the necessary nature of Christ’s death, but that does not deny the sovereignty of God’s love. God does not love the non-elect. That’s a little different from the Packer nuance, which says “God’s love is not the whole story” when it comes to the non-elect.

But this is something you can’t say, when you are on the same side with Arminians against the universalists.

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6 Comments on “God’s Love is not the Whole Story? Rob Bell and the Gospel Coalition”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    “Bell is not saying what you think he might be saying. He’s not suggesting faith is the instrumental cause used by the Spirit to join us to Christ so we can share in all his benefits. That would be evangelical theology”

    mark: yes, as Mccormack points out, Calvin is conflicted about if the Spirit joins the elect to Christ or if the Father legally joins the elect to Christ. If you want to make common cause with Arminians, then you will need to assume that the work of Christ is conditioned on the work of the Spirit.

    But where does Romans 6 (or I Cor 1) say anything about the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ’s death? The forgiveness earned by Christ’s death is not applied to all the elect when Christ died, but the legal application (declaration) of Christ’s death is God’s legal act in time, and the immediate cause of the effectual calling of the elect by the gospel.

    • David Bishop Says:

      As in justification at faith, versus justification at the cross, or from eternity. I never understood justification at the cross, or from eternity, because I can’t make out how this doesn’t deny the imputation of Adam’s sin, or the effectual calling. If I’m born justified, then why would God need to effect anything else?

  2. markmcculley Says:

    if God is going to save everybody, what is the down-side of being an atheist?

    which is more alike? the Arminian and the atheist, or the universalist and the atheist?

    what’s the difference between being an atheist and being an Arminian?

    what’s the difference between being an atheist and being an universalist?

    are those with false gods atheists?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    grace is NOT found in all of God’s works


    Thomas Aquinas asks whether justice and mercy are found in all of God’s works. He concludes that “in everyone of God’s works justice and mercy are found.” But he also concedes that “some works are associated with justice and some with mercy when the one more forcibly appears than the other. Yet mercy appears even in the damnation of the reprobate, for though not completely relaxed the penalty is sometimes softened, and is lighter than deserved. And justice appears even in the justification of the sinner, when fault is forgiven because of the love which God himself in mercy bestows.”[

    But while both wrath and mercy have their origins in the holy love of God, how do they relate together “where the rubber hits the road”? How does God’s wrath cohere with his love? Paul tells us that while we were still sinners (and therefore under the wrath of God) God showed his love for us in Christ’s death (Rom. 5:8). The juxtaposition of love and wrath is clear. As Stott puts it, God’s wrath is free from personal vindictiveness and “he is sustained simultaneously with undiminished love for the offender.” It is also clear that wrath and mercy conflict and alternate in our experience. One who is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3) encounters the mercy of God and is saved from the coming wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). In this sense, for the converted sinner wrath and mercy are two distinct and non-overlapping experiences. Again, the Old Testament speaks of the mercy of God restraining and limiting his wrath

    A question needs to be asked at this stage. It has been argued that God’s wrath against sinners is matched by his love for them and that these two come together supremely in the cross. But to affirm that God loves the object of his wrath falls short of saying that his wrath toward that person expresses his love for that person. It has indeed been argued that God’s love necessitates his wrath. But this has been argued from his love for righteousness rather than his love for the object of his wrath. Can it be argued that his wrath against a particular sinner is demanded by his love for that particular sinner? In answering that question, we have to distinguish between God’s wrath here and now, where it can lead to repentance, and God’s wrath in the final judgment, where there is no further opportunity for repentance. In the case of living human beings, wrath plays its subsidiary role in God’s dealings with them, as does the law in the Lutheran dialectic of law and gospel


  4. markmcculley Says:

    Keller—God loves everybody, and if anybody ends up in hell, that’s on them. It might not sound so nice, but who can argue with the fairness of what I have to offer.


    I notice what evangelical coalitions carefully do not say and will not say about divine election. They cannot say that God does not love everybody, and they cannot say that Christ did not die for everybody. But we are supposed to be impressed by their stand for the gospel because they affirm that the divine love needs Christ’s death.

    What’s with the studied ambiguity of “just because God wants to”? One, God loves the elect in a holy way, not just any old way, yes. Two, but does the need for legal atonement deny that God loves “just because God wants to”? Must the gospel be reduced to the atonement with God’s sovereignty in election left out? Is election only about God causing some sinners to make the atonement work for them?

    God loves the elect because God always wanted to love the elect, and God’s nature requires justice for all those God love. (I John 4) God loves all those God wants to love. There is no love apart from Christ and no election apart from Christ and that divine love results in Christ’s death as legal substitution for the elect. Christ has no love for the non-elect.

    The Father and the Son do not love the elect because of the Son’s sacrifice. The Son’s death as legal substitute is because the Father loves the Son and in the Son has loved the elect and given the elect to the Son.

    Matthew 11: 25 Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. 27 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father.

    John 10: 26 But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice,

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