Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy
Rob Bell is under fire for his latest book before it even hits the shelves.
March 1st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Rob Bell, a pastor and author who has achieved rock star status in the Christian world, is preaching a false gospel, his critics say. And some of those critics are Christian rock stars in their own right.

The pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bell has authored a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a firestorm of controversy over the weekend, weeks before it arrives in bookstores.

On Saturday, in a blog post on the popular Christian website The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor blasted Bell's new book, out March 29, for teaching "false doctrine":

I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay [sic] his cards on the table about universalism. It seems that this is not just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.

Universalism, in its broadest terms, preaches that everyone goes to heaven and that there is no hell. Critics say it represents a break from traditional Christianity, which they say holds that heaven and hell are very real places. In most Christian circles, universalism is a dirty word.

Taylor's post was quickly tweeted by several prominent pastors, including John Piper and Mark Driscoll, connected to the Gospel Coalition, a coalition of theologically conservative evangelical churches, and a full-blown theological controversy was on. By Monday, Taylor's response post had racked up a quarter million hits.

Other bloggers, meanwhile, are calling Bell an outright heretic.

Bell is not the first prominent Christian pastor to be recently accused of wading into theologically troubled waters. Bishop Carlton Pearson, once a mentee of famed Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, has been run out of two churches and branded a heretic for preaching what he says is a gospel of inclusion with broad universalist themes.

Last year, Brian McLaren - a popular Christian author and a former pastor - was accused of breaking with Christian orthodoxy and delving headlong into universalism in his book A New Kind of Christianity.

But it's rare that theological arguments become top ten trending topics on Twitter, as Rob Bell did on Saturday.

“To be honest, it was a pretty rough weekend,” Taylor said in a phone interview. The 34-year-old heads the editorial content for Crossway, a Christian publishing company in Wheaton, Illinois.  Taylor he says his blog expresses his personal opinion not the opinion of the coalition.

"We’re talking about the big things here, things that have been historically defined as orthodox, " he said. "I have a high degree of confidence in what God is saying and what we can understand."

Though many things that separate Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, “this isn’t one of them," Taylor said. "We’ve historically agreed on many things, the person of Christ, heaven and hell. This isn’t a peripheral academic debate. What Rob Bell is talking about gets to the heart of Christianity.”

Taylor has not read Bell's forthcoming book in its entirety. His blog post was in response to the description released by Bell publisher HarperOne and a promotional video that features Bell.

"Rob Bell hasn’t sinned against me personally,” Taylor said, which is why he did not go to Bell before making his comments public. Instead, Taylor said, Bell's book represents a clear example of false teaching.

In the promotional video Bell refers to the nonviolent Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, and asks, "Gandhi's in hell? He is?"

"And someone knows this for sure?" Bell continues. "Will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that's the case how do you become one of the few? "

The video follows a trend in Bell's career as a pastor: he has long asked tough theological questions and challenged traditional answers. The short promotional video raises lots of questions without offering definitive answers.

"What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like," Bell says in it. " The good news is that love wins."

Those lines raised eyebrows for Taylor and others. "It is not preaching the gospel as found in the New Testament," Taylor said. "The New Testament is pretty clear if someone preaches a false gospel… that we are to reject that and have nothing to do with them."

For all his hipster leanings - including black rimmed glasses - Bell has a traditional pedigree. He went to Wheaton College, the Harvard of Christian schools, and later graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity.

But the Mars Hill Bible Church, which Bell founded, is not attached to any denomination. Were it attached to one - the Presbyterian or Catholic church, say - his book and video could raise eyebrows in the hierarchy and might lead to a church trial that could result in Bell's expulsion.

"A larger denomination would take his credentials and excommunicate him like they did to me,” Bishop Pearson told CNN.

By Sunday evening, Pearson was getting sent articles about the Bell flap. He said it reminded him of his days as a charismatic leader of a big church in the largest Pentecostal denomination. His questioning of hell from the pulpit led to his ouster.

"What happened to me is happening to Rob Bell," Pearson said. "If you denounce hell, it's like you are denouncing God. You’re going to be called a heretic."

“I thought my people loved me and would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me, but they didn’t,” Pearson said.

Bell's church did not respond to requests for an interview. His Twitter feed has been silent since he posted about writing a piece for CNN's Belief Blog a few weeks ago. His publicist at HarperOne said he would not be doing publicity until his book hits shelves.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Leaders • Michigan • United States

soundoff (2,200 Responses)
  1. Steve Jobs

    The only people who follow the bible 100% are rambling long beards. The rest of us violate or even outright ignore some rule or law in the bible every day. This guy is half right. There is no hell. There isn't any heaven either. But hey, once you are dead, you won't be around to bemoan that fact.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • m


      March 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Jesus

      Every Judge, Prosecutor, and Jury that sends a rapist to prison violates Deut. 22:13-29. Everyone who sees his or her neighbor not keeping the sabbath and declines to stone that neighbor to death violates God's law. The same violation of God's law occurs when you eat a ham sandwich while watching a football game. God is anything you want it to be. It's YOUR creation. Some follow the God creation of a few thousand years ago while others create a new version.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Every Judge, Prosecutor, and Jury that sends a rapist to prison violates Deut. 22:13-29. Everyone who sees his or her neighbor not keeping the sabbath and declines to stone that neighbor to death violates God's law. The same violation of God's law occurs when you eat a ham sandwich while watching a football game. God is anything you want it to be. It's YOUR creation. Some follow the God creation of a few thousand years ago while others create a new version.
      It appears you don't know the difference between the age of the Law (OT) and the age of Grace (NT). It is absolutely nonsensical for an atheist to attempt to give anyone a bible lesson. I said this several days ago and I will say it again (just in case you missed it).

      A Christian getting bible lessons from an atheist is akin to a pregnant woman getting prenatal care from a mortician! IT DON"T WORK!

      March 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Demiurge

      @Steve the real one

      "I have not come to change the law one jot, but to fulfill it"

      So, do tell how that overturns the Commandments of YHWH, especially given there are several Christian sects that opt to follow those Commandments to the best of their ability.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  2. david

    I TOTALLY DISAGREE THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WOULD PUT HIM IN TRIAL......the following link is one of the most well known Catholic Theologians of our day http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-population-of-hell-23

    Id say Bell is CATHOLIC ha

    March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  3. Marc Gagnon

    Enough said:

    March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  4. Servant of G*D

    Behold the christ conscience

    March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  5. JLC

    Anyone who's studied early Christian history (read Elaine Pagels' "The Origin of Satan") is aware that the whole concept of "Hell" was an idea borrowed from a hermit-like Jewish off-shoot as a way to scare folks into converting into Christianity, and to demonize, dehumanize and vilify those who wouldn't.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  6. Neeneko

    Every Christian is a heretic according to some other Christian.. and very very few have any knowledge of what early Christianity looked like (for instance, hell did not get added till MUCH later)

    March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  7. Jerry

    Hell is a pagan based belief. Just because Christedom accepts it does not make it scriptural. Christ spent 3 days in "hell". Explain that.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Not so cut and dry.

      Jerry is wise.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Jesus Christ descended into Hell to release the holy souls who had been resting in Abraham's Bosom and to give them the Good News that the gates to Heaven are now open to them!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • LC


      A lot of Pagans do not believe in hell so it can't be a wide spread pagan belief. You must narrow it to the Pagan religions that believe in hell.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I am a pagan I don't believe in Hell or Heaven.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm guessing that Jerry is referring to the historical meaning of pagan, or Roman Polytheism, not the modern non-Abrahamic non-monotheistic beliefs.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  8. Candy Huckleberry

    Jesus spoke about the end times and said many will come in my name..........Mr. Bell, I don't know what kind a bible you hold, but you are in deep darkness.....Repent!!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Not so cut and dry.

      Bell probably reads/studies the same Bible as you. Question is, what were you taught concerning the Bible and where did those ideas come from? Think.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  9. P

    All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  10. Alex

    There is a way that God has created for a non-Christian to be saved. All must accept Christ, but there is hope for those who die without hearing his Good News. http://www.mormon.org/faq/#Temples|question=/faq/baptism-for-the-dead/

    March 1, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Neeneko

      Non-centual conversion. I have trouble seeing how much lower a faith can go.. then again, it has been a core part of Christianity for a LONG time.. it would not be nearly so popular if so many people were not forced to convert.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • craig

      There was a David Koresh of the 1820's. His name was Joseph Smith. Want a way to bang multiple women and actually make a profit while doing so? Start your own religion and call yourself a prophet.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • jdb223

      Actually, the LDS (Mormon) belief is that conversion is not "non-consensual" (which is what I think you were trying to say, Neeneko). We believe that all people will have an opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether they had that opportunity in this life or not. In this way, someone like Gandhi, who was, by all accounts, as Christ-like as they come, can be saved. A proxy baptism for someone who has passed away does not override that person's free will; it is an invitation for them to accept that baptism and faith in Christ.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  11. ThinkNotBelieve

    The "God Club" will protect its weapons with all the passion of a middle-easter tyrant. Its weapons are fear and the demonization of anyone who questions its absolute authority over the human mind and spirit. I say – let em keep their weapons of Mind destruction and let the rest of us alone.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Anglican

      Not true. The true Christian is to turn the other cheek, and walk the second mile, and to give away his coat. Anything else is not Christianity. Peace.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  12. Elijah

    I totally agree with the Pastor. There is no hell.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Anglican

      Eli. Got some inside knowledge?

      March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  13. guest

    ""Gandhi's in hell? He is?""

    To which I ask... "Hitler is in heaven? He is?"

    March 1, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • LadyRuth

      I love your answer! And the child molester-rapist-murder who never ever repented and die cursing God, Is also in heaven. Yup.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Gene

      We used to assert (in the realm of secular law) that it is preferable that ten guilty men go free rather than that one innocent man suffer punishment.

      Far better – far better – Hitler in heaven, by God's infinite grace, than Anne Frank in hell.

      Of course, this is rank heresy to the choir, but the traditional soteriological doctrine (unending torture for what is, often, simply human error or confusion) is increasing looking, to the unchurched young, the future of the church, as less like good news and more like in-group vengeance.

      Of course, if one truly believed in unending hell, I would prostrate myself before Jesus in abject misery and contrition and naked fear. It's just that, believe me, love would have nothing to do with it.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  14. Law 54

    The word of God, Mohammed or whatever you want to call your deity is still being fought over today. All are words of man, interpreted by man. If God or whatever had anything to do this this world they would of started over a long time ago.
    They are words only.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • William Winner

      To be fair, I don't think Muslims would claim that Mohammad was a deity. To be more precise, they say,

      "There is only one God and Mohammad is his prophet". No claim to Mohammad being a deity there.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  15. Willie12345

    He errors because he knows not the scriptures.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Not so cut and dry.

      ...or he knows them all too well.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Amused

      And others error because they are smug and think that they know the scriptures! ...

      March 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  16. Curt

    Jesus taught more on Hell then he did on Heaven. Both are a reality.

    Acts 4:10 ""let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. "

    March 1, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Not so cut and dry.

      Jesus also taught about a place called "paradise" and "Abraham's bosom" (Luke) Another Q: What the OT teach about heaven and hell? Bible's all over the board on the issue, as was Jesus so it seems (i.e. Hell + Paradise + Abraham's Bosom. Hmmm???) Truly, we would do well to review all the instances where otherworldly places are mentioned and we all might be a bit surprised.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Not so cut and dry.,

      When Jesus Christ descended into Hell it was to release the souls who were resting Abraham’s Bosom…He went to tell them the Good News, that the gates to Heaven are now open!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • stejo

      CathMom – Can you site the scripture where that is stated? or is that something added by the Catholic fathers? Serious question...I know the Bible pretty well, but I don't recognize that anywhere – of course, I'm very much a backslider, so my memory may be faulty. Please let me know if that's a specifically Catholic belief or if it's something from the actual Bible.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      It is from the Apostle’s Creed. I believe you can read about the…..
      Apostle’s Creed in the Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church ….google.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      Actually this would be a better place to read about the bosom of Abraham with Bible verses for support.
      Catholic Encyclopedia- the Bosom of Abraham

      March 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  17. CW

    @ To all Nonbelievers...and Atheist's

    First I want to say that this guy is insa-'ine. I still don't understand how anyone could question the Bible...its as plain as day...there is a Heaven....there is a H-'ell. In the Bible it does preach that there will be false teachers come and we as christians are to reject their beliefs and teachings b/c they are contrary to what the Word of God states. For Mr. Taylor...I agree with you.

    Rob Bell = False Teacher
    Bishop Pearson = False Teacher – that is why the ex-'co-'mmunicated him

    March 1, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • ChristianRobbers

      The only "hell" is one where a cleptotheocracy exists...oh wait that's exactly what we have.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • DAW, NC

      I am sure to you life is so simple, just accept and don't question. I am right because I say so. a sad existence

      March 1, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • JES

      Alice in Wonderland is a real book too . . . seems to me you can elevate a book to a false idol pretty easily . . .

      March 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Osro

      @CW – its really easy, we question the Bible because there is absolutely no reason to believe it is anything other than a work of fiction written by people who's understanding of the world is on par with a modern day fifth graders.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Amused

      Do you really believe that GOD wrote the bible? Have you ever actually read the entire Bible? I don't see how anyone could read all of those conflicting versions of various myths and legends and still believe that a single all-knowing deity actually wrote every word. It is blatantly obvious that different PEOPLE (not gods) wrote the various books with different meanings and agendas. Even the 10 comandments are written from a distinctly human perspective as the first THREE comandments deal exclusively with GOD's jelousy and ego. Why would an all-powerfull all-knowing enlightened being have jelousy or a large ego? Those are distinctly human traits! So, does anyone really KNOW exactly what was meant and intended by each chapter and verse? Certainly not. It is laughably absurd to think so...

      March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • scott

      You write funny. You think funny too. Stop please

      March 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • outhere

      I believe Jesus and the authors of the Bible used the concepts of"heaven" and "hell" (and others) as metaphors.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Davey Jones

    Problems like this arise thanks to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Luther created a system where everyone could make Christianity mean whatever they wanted it to mean, instead of what God intended it to mean. Jesus gave his teachings directly to the disciples and apostles, who gave it to the Fathers of the Church, who passed it down through the centuries.

    You NEED a place to turn for final interpretation of Jesus' teachings. If not, you have people like Bell and Pearson above, who are saying things that they honestly believe to be true, but are false and NOT even helpful to our world. You have people justifying abortion and euthanasia by use of Christianity.

    The Catholic Church is the church Jesus founded. Evidense of this is found in the Bible and in writings of the Church Fathers, those men who were taught directly by the Apostles and Disciples. No, the Church is not perfect, but in terms of dogmas, the Bride of Christ is infallible!

    March 1, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Willie12345

      I don't think Jesus was very fond of child molesters.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • ChristianRobbers

      Never use the terms "evidence" and "bible" in the same sentence. What a crock.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Elizabeth

      "The Catholic Church is the church Jesus founded. Evidense of this is found in the Bible and in writings of the Church Fathers, those men who were taught directly by the Apostles and Disciples. No, the Church is not perfect, but in terms of dogmas, the Bride of Christ is infallible!"

      Evidence of the Church's authority is found in the Bible. Conveniently assembled by? The very same Church. It's also found in writings of people who...belonged to that Church.

      Call me crazy but seems like you've got yourself what we call in the Navy a self-licking ice cream cone.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Lutheran Dave

      Luther restored a focus on scriptural first principles. He definitely did not support a "spin your own" Christianity. The Catholic church had become a corrupt and misguided body. Indulgences. The Papacy. Holy Mother Mary. These are all constructs of the Catholic Church that Protestantism rejects after careful study of God's word. I (obviously) think of Luther as a true Hero of Christianity. A brave soul that fought powerful and entrenched Church authority. By the way, we do not call him Saint Luther. It wouldn't be scriptural.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • mcgehee

      jesus didnt start the catholic church. if anyones to get credit (if you can call it that) is peter. jesus didnt come to earth to start a religion, he came to fix one. think about that .

      March 1, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Ken

      You don't need religion as a "crutch" to know right and wrong. lies are still lies even if they are well intentioned.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • IndyMike

      Tell that to the victims of pedophile priests. The Roman Catholic Church has veered so far from the truth that they think if the pope says it it must be true. The church and the pope were complicit in the Holocost that clamed the lives of 6 million Jews, God's chosen people. And before the attacks start, I am not a Jew in religion or ethnic backround. I am an evangelical believer who thinks that the Catholic Church needs to be unmasked for what it really is a haven for peopphiles and an anti-Semitic cult.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Jewel

      You have it wrong. Jesus today is what the Catholic church created. Christianity today is so far from what Jesus taught that it is heresy for most people to call themselves Christian.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Grondahl

      That's dishonest, Davey. Luther did not create a cafeteria-style faith. He tried to turn the Catholic church BACK to scripture, from which they had strayed, but they weren't keen on losing indulgence income just yet. Catholic masses were usually held in Latin, which held little meaning to the layperson in the 15th and 16th centuries, and Luther had the Bible translated into German, his people's language (with some help, yes).

      You'll have to look harder for your scapegoat.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Thinking7

      You're spot on. Clearly, the Catholic Church is the one who has been here since Christ founded it. All others that have broken from it are subject to false teachings. To the one who brings child molesters into the picture – let me just say that there are bad people in every religion. Yes, that is right. The fact that the Catholic Church is so big will, of course, draw more attention, but if you do some research you will find that there are just as many bad people in other churches proportionally. So, back to the original comment – Yes, we all need to get back to the basics of Christianity. That is the Catholic Church. It has taught us how to understand the Bible so that we don't all go around coming to our own conclusions. Sure, it is good to meditate on what the passages mean and learn to think for ourselves, but if you look to what the Catholic Church teaches, it all makes sense. 20,000+ so called Christian denominations are in the world. I think that is a little nuts if you ask me. Before anyone condemns the Catholic Church for whatever reasons, first go to the doctrine of the Church and read about it. That is how I came to the Church. I researched all major Christian denominations and found this is Christ's Church.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • TIm

      So who has the final word? You? Everyman iterprets God for himself because NO MAN can know god better than any other (unless he's JC) Every preacher interprets, be it the Pope or Pat Robertson. If more preachers were like this Rob Bell buy then maybe we might have an organized Christianity that was alive. And maybe I'd still see my self as a Christian.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • SDFrankie

      Why does an all-powerful God have so much trouble expressing himself unambiguously? And what is his problem with shellfish anyway?

      March 1, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Dan

      Davey Jones–There is absolutely no proof whatsoever in the Bible that the "church" was "given to" the forefathers of the Caholic church. The only writings about this were written hundreds of years later (in the 400's) by those very early Catholic priests to give themselves credibility as "the one, the only TRUE church of christ". Furthermore the teachings of Christ went out to and fro to all parts of the world as it was known back then-it wasn't kept to one particular branch or group of people that later became the Catholic church. This is all pretty darn clear in the many texts of history.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Dave, Massachusetts

      First, God did not create Christianity, people did. Second, Jesus did not start the Catholic Church, he was a Jew until the day he died, people created the Catholic Church (Constatine from Rome I believe). Jesus preached that God wanted us to love one another, care for one another, forgive one another. I believe in Jesus because of what he taught and HIS interpretation of the Tora (the first 5 books of the bible).

      March 1, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Thinking7

      There are people here asking who has the final word. Well, this is exactly why many people have left Christianity altogether. Jesus prayed for us on the Mt. of Olives when the night he was betrayed. He prayed for us – yes us! What did he pray for? He prayed for unity. That one word helped to led me to the Catholic Church. People should question why they are whatever Christian religion they are. Why do we stay in Christian religions that are so far from the truth? The answer is usually because of comfort. We are what we are. We should challenge ourselves to go deep into what the early church taught. If you do some research with an open mind and pray, you will be led to the Catholic Church. Jesus never denies those who seek the truth. All the breaks from our original church has caused so much confusion and led many to leave Christianity altogether. These breaks were a huge sin. Every day, more breaks occur. We are leading ourselves to the path of destruction. Jesus is calling us to come back. He is mercy in the greatest sense of the word. Divine Mercy is the answer.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • CatholicMom


      The Church is perfect…people are sinners. Jesus Christ founded His Church FOR sinners. That is why I am holding fast to the Catholic Church…I need the Sacraments that Jesus Christ inst!tuted to sanctify my soul as I journey this life.

      The Catholic Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth; She is the Bride of Christ, without stain, wrinkle or any such thing.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Tim M

      It would be great if people would research and know what they are writing about here. Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation occured because the Roman Catholic Church was selling "get of Hell free cards" through indulgences. the catholic Church had fallen away from the "true Faith". Look back at the history fo the Church and you will see it be changed and sdjusted to fit the needs of groups of people: i.e. the creation of the Nician Creed.
      Further, Jesus and his followers were Jewish, the Catholic Church, in any form did not exist until well into the 2nd century. All of Jesus' original 12 were long since dead.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Tim

      If the Catholic church has the final say in theology we are all doomed

      March 1, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Davey Jones

      @Lutheran Dave

      The Church never had a "Scripture First" focus. It was always equal parts Scripture and Sacred Tradition. I'll agree Luther didn't advocate a spin your own Christianity, but that is exactly what he ended up creating. Looks at the fruits of his discent: literally thousands of different Christian denominations. A main theme of the New Testament is Unity! Today's jumble of Christian Churches, each with their own separate beliefs could not be what Jesus had in mind. There is only ONE truth. Martin Luther may have indeed been called by God to reform the Catholic Church, but instead he rejected the Church and created his own version of the religion.

      I strongly suggested reading from the works of the Apostolic Fathers of the Church, these men were taught by the Apostles themselves and clearly advocate the Catholic Church!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Danny

      I think Jesus would wash his hands of the catholic church. Jesus came so you didn't need a priest or a stupid pope to talk to god. The catholic church has the whole thing figured out. If we mantain control of their ability to think for themselves and let them believe that god only lives in a catholic church or in the vatican.

      Someone also has to answer for the inquisition and the penances of buying goose feathers that the church lied about as being angel feathers and if you bought one it bought your way into heaven. Screw the catholic church.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Davey Jones


      I'd suggest looking at the works of St Ignatius of Antioch, St Clement of Rome, and St Polycarp of Smyrna. These men wrote their texts between 80 – 110 AD. They were taught directly by the Apostles, and they reinforce Apostolic Succession, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and other key Catholic ideals.

      The fact of the matter is, we were never meant to look at the Bible alone. Sola Scriptura is not a concept even found in the Bible, rather the opposite is true.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Danny

      @ Davey

      I can live within a hundred years of World War II and the family who fought in it but I would be remiss to write a book about it. So the bible is the final authority but I need to read these other guys to know the bible is right? Does that seem like faulty logic to anyone else?

      March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Davey Jones


      I guess in your analogy, I'd respond by saying if you were to write an account of WW2 after talking to a number of people who served in the war, and another person were to write a contradictory account 1600 years later, whose account should scholars look at if they want the most accurate version?

      March 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Scott

      Davey, please explain purgatory to me only using Scripture.

      March 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • cforbin

      "Evidense of this is found in the Bible "'

      Surely you must realize that that statement makes no sense. The bible can't be used to prove the the bible is correct. By that logic, criminal trials should simply be a matter of asking the suspect if they are innocent or guilty. No need for drawn out trials. Woops, did I just use the word "logic" in a theological discussion? Sorry.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • KS Thinker

      Jesus founded the Catholic Church? Man I hope not, for their sake. They haven't gotten anything right. Baptism isn't sprinkling, in the Bible's original language the word means "to submerge under water". There is nothing about having to worship Mary, she was just a mortal person used by God, yet she seems to be the focus in their prayers. Even though Jesus specifically said to pray in His name. And Jesus's church has priest and deacons, (with very direct instructions for them) not popes, bishops, cardinals, nuns...These are all man made positions. The Bible aslo says that It is Gods word, nothing is to be added or taken away. But the Catholic Church decided somewhere along the line to add their own set of books to the Bible and publish it just for them. And the last time I discussed issues with a devout Catholic, they believed that if they sinned, and didn't make it to confession before they died, they would go to hell. There is nothing in God's Word about confessing to a priest.....you only have to confess your sins to God. And once saved, always saved, as long as you were truly saved. And how controlling is the Catholic Church? You have to remember prayers that they wrote for you. Every situation has a certain prayer, recited. Give me a break. Jesus gave us an outline to follow on how to pray, The Lord's Prayer, he didn't give us a book of prayers to remember. Jesus definately did not found the Catholic Church, the body of Christ has no denomination. The church Christ founded in the church of believers. All those who are saved are in His Church, regardless what denomination they claim, or what building they worship in. However, I do believe that the Catholic Church does have a role in God's plans. It will be the church from which the Anti-Christ comes after the rapture, in an effort to calm the nation. Now before you start slamming me for that comment....first study the Anti-Christ and the 7 years that follow the rapture and ask yourself what makes more sense. As for Bell, he is a well meaning, but mislead individual as far as I can tell. Without reading the book and knowing the whole story, I will reserve my thoughts.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • femi

      Er.. History will tell you that the catholic Church was NOT the church He founded and history will also tell you all the atrocities the Catholic church perpetuated for decades in the name of the gospel.

      when we get our facts right, meaningful debate and discussioncan ensue

      March 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Davey Jones

      What you all need to understand is the Bible was never meant to be the only source of authority! CForbin, I'm very sorry for my spelling error. I realize the logical conundrum, but when speaking to Protestants who believe the Bible is the only authority, the point actually does make sense. Scott, again the Bible is not meant to be the whole source of theology here on earth.

      Think about it this way – the Bible was not compiled until almost 400 AD. After Jesus died until 400, you had many different books, gospels, and epistles floating around, and some of them had some bizarre and heretical ideas. How were people to know which were true Words inspired by God and which were not? The Church stepped in to aid in people's understanding, the same Church that Jesus left for that very purpose.

      Asking to prove everything with Scripture is nonsensical. There are hints in Scripture to every Catholic teaching that I'm aware of, but many are not explicitly stated.

      KS Thinker: Catholics never worship Mary. Protestants, namely Martin Luther, decided to remove books that contradicted the way he wanted the religion to function. Isn't it painfully obvious when you look around and see people "choosing a Christianity" to fit their lifestyle that Martin Luther was just doing the same thing? Religion isn't here to validate our lives, it's here to help us conform our lives to God's will.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Che_T

      Your an idiot. Really. The reformation happened because the RCC was so far off the rails it had to be brought back. The entire 'I will build my church on the rock' statement he told Peter he repeated to every believer a few verses later.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Davey Jones

      I've run out of time to defend my statements, but further answers can be found on:

      I'd also point to the book of Dr Scott Hahn called "A Father Who Keeps His Promises" as a good introduction to the concept of Jesus intending to form the Roman Catholic Church.

      March 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      If I may….purgatory is taken from these verses: 1 Cor 3:15….suffer loss, but saved as through fire. Also, Rev 21:27, Mat 5:26, 2Macc 12:44-46, and there are many more. Purgatory, the word, is not in the Bible but neither is Trinity. The Church uses these words to put a name on what the Bible has told us. Also, Purgatory is just ‘on the way’ to Heaven and is not a separate place…but is just the cleansing as gold is purified by fire so must we be pure to enter Heaven…be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
      Also, try to understand that not every bit of Truth is written in the Bible. Jesus Christ has promised the Paraclete to the Apostles and His Church and promised that He would bring them into remembrance of everything He told them and would bring them to the fullness of Truth as we can bear it. The Trinity is just one such fullness of Truth.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Lutheran Dave,

      Indulgences: when there is scandal made by sinful people, yes, it is a good thing to expose it and irradiate it from the Church…but only a fool goes to leave and start his own ecclesical community.

      Martin Luther on the Papacy:
      ……"We concede - as we must - that so much of what they (the Catholic Church) say is true: that the papacy has God's word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scriptures, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?"
      Sermon on the gospel of St. John, chaps. 14 – 16 (1537), in vol. 24 of LUTHER'S WORKS,
      St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1961, 304.

      Martin Luther on Holy Mother Mary:

      The Blessed Virgin Mary...
      "The great thing is none other than that she became the Mother of God; in which process so many and such great gifts were bestowed upon her that no one is able to comprehend them. Thereupon follows all honor, all blessedness, and the fact that in the whole race of men only one person is above all the rest, one to whom no one else is equal. For that reason her dignity is crowded into a single phrase when we call her the Mother of God; no one can say greater things of her or to her, even if he had as many tongues as leaves and blades of grass, as the stars in heaven and sands on the seashore. It must also be meditated in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God."
      – Die Erklarung des Magnificat – 1521.

      The first Protestant loved and honored the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of GOD. Why haven't all of the rest of Protestantism followed his example in honoring her?

      March 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Tim M,
      Why do you believe that Jesus Christ did not keep His promise to guide and guard His Church? Mat 16:18, Jn 14:16, Mt 28:19-20

      March 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Davey Jones


      I've heard people say that Martin Luther helped the German people by translating the Bible from Latin to German. What most people aren't aware is that there were already eight different translations of the Bible in the German language that were approved by the Church. Luther created his own translation so he could put his own emphases into the Word of God.

      March 2, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Demiurge

      @Lutheran Dave: So, how do you reconcile Luther's raging antisemitism that directly influenced Hitler? Luther did pen "On Jews and their Lies" and frequently asserted that the Jews must be prevented from speaking Hebrew, have their synagogues destroyed and their rabbis slain. So, how does that fit into the portrait of a pious, God-loving individual who deserves to be in heaven?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Upperhand

    Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:3-5

    March 1, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  20. Ken

    Rob Bell is on to something. Most dogma in religion is political and man-made. This was meant to control the masses, with bedtime stories and threats of punishments. People seem to need threats to behave. Why can't people be nice to each other without threat of divine justice?

    March 1, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Rachel

      Because ancient leaders used fear, ie hell, to control the masses.

      Heck, I don't even believe people go to heaven when they die.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • BADGUY

      Our local christian radio, EVERYDAY, has one rant or another about some apostate minister teaching "false doctrine"! Idon't know.....it's like listening to people argue over "how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin". No wonder religion is the bane of civilization.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • John

      The reason he is getting so much flack is because he has taken away traditional Christians' justification for hatred and violence. He has held up a mirror and showed them how their beliefs cannot survive a logical discussion. He has shown them the hypocriscy of their version of "god" and their version of "love." But most of all, he has pulled the rug out from under their secret little club that made them feel special.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Atticus15

      I think he is catching so much flak because he has basically said that there is more than one way into heaven. Whereas Christ said I am the way the truth and the life, all that believe in me will be saved. I personally think he is only partially correct, I believe that many roads lead to the mountain, but Christ holds the keys for entry. The choice is, as always, each persons to make.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Since Jesus Christ said that He is the Way….how can there be many roads [ways]? There is only One Truth, One Way, One Life.

      March 1, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Amused

      Ken, I agree completely! It is sad to realize that most followers of the Bible are only motivated by the contrived threat of their own eternal damnation and NOT by an innate desire to help and benefit others. Most people are way too self-centered for such an epiphany!

      March 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Dreamer

      Yes, they do.They need threat of punishment, whether internally (religion) or externally (the law), because human beings are not inclined towards good by nature. External threats don't work half as well as the internal ones, so what's your problem with it? If you lost $10000 cash, would you rather someone be compelled to give it back to you because "they might get caught" and subsequently punished for stealing, or because they think it's intrinsically wrong to steal because God told them so? I'll take the latter.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Dreamer. you forgot the third option: people choosing to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. It seems to happen quite a bit, judging from the articles that are posted in the news when it happens.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.