Rob Bell and Origen

I’m progressing well with the dissertation, over 15 thousand words written. Here’s a paragraph (with footnotes) that I enjoyed writing, and I hope throws a little light on what I think Rob Bell is trying to do.

Bell’s reference to Origen is especially interesting. Origen appears at times to have taught universalism, while at other times he seems to have tended more to particularism, where many but not all would be saved.[1] As many of his writings were lost after he was condemned as a heretic,[2] it is hard to be definite about what exactly Origen taught and how much of it was speculative questioning rather than firm belief. It has been suggested that Origen may have taught differently for different audiences, keeping the question of universal or exclusive salvation open, ‘for a greater effectiveness’ in evangelism.[3] Protraying God as ‘good, kind and just’,[4]  Origen is able to suggest a situation where ‘love conquers all.’[5] Bell, from the same pastoral and apologetic heart also keeps open the question of whether all can be reconciled to God.

Yup, ‘Love conquers all’. Maybe an obscure academic dictionary from 2004 on a third century church father could be the source of Rob Bell’s title!

  1. [1]Norris, ‘Apokatastasis’ in The Westminster Handbook to Origen, 59.
  2. [2]Origen’s condemnation may not have been linked to his universalist teachings. See Norris, ‘Apokatastasis’, 60.
  3. [3]Norris, ‘Apokatastasis’, 61-62.
  4. [4]Lauro, ‘Universalism’ in The Westminster Handbook to Origen, 212.
  5. [5]Norris, ‘Apokatastasis’, 61.
  • If the other 14,000 and a bit words are anything like those I’d be hopeful of a good mark for you. Very concise, well directed, and thought provoking.
    I can’t say I’ve read much of Bell, just a snippet of Velvet Elvis, and I wasn’t too impressed. You make a good point on the fuzziness of his beliefs, although I would have to ask in what ways preaching well defined doctrine would hinder evangelism provided it were true doctrine and presented in a balanced way? (Maybe I’m just being too old school reformed! 😛 )

  • Rather than ‘fuzziness’ I’m using the word ‘nonduality’ and footnoting Richard Rohr! I think in this particular part of Love Wins, Bell is suggesting that God is bigger than theology, that our best theories can only hint at the broadness of the picture represented in Scripture.

  • That choice of words is why you’re doing a dissertation and I’m not! 😀