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March 19th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Rob Bell punches back against claims of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

New York (CNN) - For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.

All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. The controversy pushed the book into the third spot on Amazon’s sales ranking, virtually assuring the book a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

On Monday night, dressed in black and sporting his trademark black-rimmed glasses, Bell strolled quietly into the auditorium of the New York Ethical Culture Society. This was his chance to hit back.

“I never set out to be controversial,” Bell told CNN before the event. “I don’t think it’s a goal that God honors. I don’t think it’s a noble goal.

“What’s interesting to me is what’s true. And what’s interesting to me is what’s inspiring. And what’s interesting to me is where’s the life? Where’s the inspiration? That’s what I’m interested in. If that happens to stir things up, that was never my intent, but I’ll accept that.”

Bell said he was surprised by the controversy around his book. Critics said he was preaching universalism, a theology that suggests everyone goes to heaven and hell is empty.

“I’m not a universalist. So that’s just not true.” He reiterated that again in the event that evening where he expounded on that idea and said that he didn’t believe God reaches down and sweeps everyone to heaven.

'Good environment for dialogue'

After a budding career as a rock star was derailed by a freak illness, Bell set his sights on the seminary. Now, at 40, he has risen to become America’s hipster pastor and one of the most influential preachers in the country.

He is quick-witted, non-denominational, and he unabashedly loves Jesus. He preaches to 10,000 people at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the church he founded. His first four books sold nearly a million copies combined, and his short film series, Nooma, has sold more than 2 million DVDs.

He will tell you he again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar.

But for a guy who dresses in black, Bell has made his mark examining the gray areas of Christianity. His questioning of traditional approaches without always giving answers has brought him fans and made his critics gnash their teeth.

“It’s very appealing because he brings lots of facts and lots of information into it and lots of historical context into whatever discussion he has,” said Kristi Berderon, a 25-year-old Bell fan who drove an hour from New Jersey for the event. “He leaves it open-ended. He lets you think and draw your own conclusions for yourself instead of spoon-feeding what he grew up hearing or what he was taught in seminary.”

She and her friend Tommy Hayes are a lot like the others in the crowd tonight: wearing skinny jeans and dark-rimmed glasses - and openly exploring their faith. Berderon’s parents are Southern Baptists; she was home schooled and raised in the church. Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.

Danielle Miller and Maryalice Spencer took a two-hour train ride from Walden, New York, to hear Bell speak. They walked 25 blocks and stood in line in the cold to get in. Miller uses Bell’s short films as a discussion starter in her church. “I think it’s always good to ask those hard questions, and I think that’s what he’s doing, and it creates a good environment for dialogue,” Miller said.

Bell was in New York City to sit down with Newsweek’s Lisa Miller for a conversation on stage and take questions from the 650 audience members and thousands more watching the event streaming live on the Web.

Bell and Miller on stage at the New York Ethical Culture Society auditorium.

Before the crowds arrived, a contemplative Bell settled into a pew to talk with CNN about the book and to answer his critics.

The book began, he said, five years ago. “As a pastor, you interact with so many people [that] some of the same questions keep coming up. And ultimately you keep bumping up against what people really think about God.”

In his church and around the country, he saw what he considered a misrepresentation of the Christian narrative in the Bible.

“At the heart of the Christian story is [the message that] God loves the world and sent his son Jesus to show the world this love. So that’s fundamentally first and foremost the story. God is love and God sent Jesus to show this love.

“In our culture Christians are known for a number of other things. … Rarely do you hear people say, ‘Oh yeah, those are the people who never stop talking about love. Oh a Christian church - that’s where you go if feel beaten down and kicked and someone has their boot on your neck. You go there because it’s a place of healing and a place of love.’

“I’m passionate about calling people back to [Christianity’s] roots,” Bell said.

'Theology of evacuation'

In his new book, Bell challenges the traditional notions of heaven and hell.

“For many people the fundamental story was one of escape - Jesus is how you get out of here. I think for many people in the modern world, the way they heard it was fundamentally, ‘This place is bad, and there is some other place, and Jesus - believe, accept, trust, confess, join, get baptized, whatever sort of language got put on it - Jesus is how you get to some other realm where things are good.’

“So essentially it’s a theology of evacuation. And my understanding is the Bible is first and foremost a story of restoration. It’s a story of renewal.”

“The fundamental story arc of the Bible,” he said “is God is passionate about rescuing this world, restoring it renewing it. So discussions about heaven and hell … for many people are irrelevant and esoteric. … But what happens is, what you believe about heaven and hell deeply shapes how you engage this world now.”

Bell said if a believer has their eyes on heaven, they can miss the opportunities to bring people a taste of heaven here on Earth - and they can miss seeing the hell around them.

“Greed, injustice, the sex trade in Far East Asia, we see hell all around us, whenever people reject what is good and human and right and peaceful and all that,” he said.

“I begin with this world right now and the observation that we are free to choose. It’s the nature of love. So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.”

For Bell the here and now is just as important as any possible life to come. “I think it’s very very important to point out … [that] we are speculating about after you die,” he said.

“In the Jewish context in which [Jesus] lived and moved, you didn’t have that articulated belief system about when you die. It was very rooted in this life - dirt and wine and banquets, family and fishing. [In] his stories, it’s all a very visceral – this world is our home, this world that God loves, that God is redeeming - so that’s the starting point.

“I think for many people they were taught you’re either in or out. But Jesus invites us to a journey that’s a fundamentally different way to think about it, and that frees you up from a lot of things that I think haunt people, bind them up and make them miserable. Then it creates all sorts of space for wonder and awe and mystery and the unexpected,” Bell said.

His perspective does not line up with many of the traditional views about heaven and hell, of separate spaces and places with streets of gold or lakes of fire.

For Christians who see salvation and heaven as crucial elements to their faith, Bell’s message can be abrasive - which in part led to so many people pouncing on his book before it was released.

What stirred many critics was a promotional video in which Bell asks whether Mohandas Gandhi, India’s non-violent leader, was in heaven. Bell’s answer offers a good insight into his view of salvation.

Bell would not be surprised if he saw Gandhi in heaven. “Jesus was very clear. Heaven is full of surprises. That’s central to Jesus teaching.”

Bell insists there is room for mystery in salvation and that Christianity is open to discussion.

“The historical orthodox Christian faith is extremely wide and diverse,” Bell said. “No one has the last word other than God. I am taking part in a discussion that’s been going on for thousands of years. Everyone can play a part in that discussion.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Devil

soundoff (1,308 Responses)
  1. Hooty-hoo

    Methinks Pastor Bell is creating controversy for its own sake. He says what he isn't (a universalist) but he doesn't say what he is.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  2. L. T.

    I'm so angry at Rob Bell. So angry for the people who trust him and are being deceived. So angry at his dismissal of the fact that this Jesus that he claims to love so much, gave His life for something. If everyone goes to Heaven what in the world did God sacrifice His son for? My only question for Rob Bell would be.... how willing would you be to sacrifice one of your children for absolutely no reason what so ever? God gave us a perfect world, and a free will to all those who live in it. He let us partake of our own rebellion over and over again just so we would finally come to understand that no matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect of our own accord. Those 10 simple little rules He gave His people? How long did it take to break every single one? An hour, a day? All He wanted was to save us from ourselves. From the sin that has to separate us from a loving perfect God. Our sin... not His. Our choices, not His choices. When we wake up and see how badly we need a Savior, that is when we chose life with God. The result of that is forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him. All of those who continue on their own prideful way, they just get what God has been keeping from them all along. Hell – eternal life completely void of His existence. If every good and perfect gift comes from God, and you want nothing to do with Him, no matter what a wonderful person everyone seems to think you are.... you get what you asked for. Eternal life without anything good or perfect.... including the Creator of all of it. Don't let Rob Bell sell you a bill of feel good lies.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • sand

      read the farking book.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  3. Sparky

    THERE ARE NO GREY AREAS IN CHRISTIANITY!!!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "THERE ARE NO GREY AREAS IN CHRISTIANITY"

      To be more specific... THERE ARE NO GRAY AREAS IN GOD OF TRUTH. HE DWELLS IN UNAPR'OACHABLE LIGHT, AND HIS TRUTH IS ALL LIGHT, WHICH NO DARKNESS CAN COMPREHEND .
      ALL THINGS ARE MEASURED BY HIS TRUTH, AND HE HAS SET THE STANDARD. THAT'S WHY THE SCRIPTURES DECLARE :
      "LET GOD BE TRUE, AND EVERY MAN A LIER..... ALL THINGS ARE SUBJECTED TO HIM, AND THERE IS NOTHING THATT EXISTS THAT IS NOT SUJBJECTED TO HIM.
      Therefore, if this is the GOd with whom we have to do, and we will answer too, we should not take it upon ourselves to make Him out to be according to our own imagina'tions. This is the sin that da'm'ns the souls of those who vent'ure out into the realm of dark'ness , so they would sati'sfy their own ways and cover sin that's in their hearts.

      March 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • god is BS

      "THERE ARE NO GREY AREAS IN CHRISTIANITY!!!!!"

      So, what happened to Galileo? Does jesus or god beat off? Do you? 🙂

      March 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  4. squirrely

    When I read the stuff above I am embarassed to say I am a CHRIST FOLLOWER (yes the words are all in CAPS...) I'm sure that offended 1/2 of those who have commented above. If you got off your rearends and spent your life serving those in need the world would be a better place in the here and now. Isn't that what we are supposed to do? I'm not an intellectual (not hard to figure out) but I do know that the words of those meaning to follow Jesus Christ are far too many. Zip it and get busy. I'm only saying...

    March 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  5. Martin Weber

    Hell will be real but not eternal. The wages of sin is death—not eternal life in hell. If so, our Savior would have had to suffer eternally.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  6. RightTurnClyde

    This is why Christian churches are failing today. There is no necessity for a Christian to belief there is a hall. (Nicene Creed .. Bible) and yet people who run churches insist upon false doctrine. What was called "organized religion" in a recent NWU study (Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc.) have invented doctrines that are not Christian. Might makes right - they own, so they make the rules. This means many Christians (myself and others) are "unaffiliated." I have never found a Christian "religion" that could avoid false doctrine. Oddly enough there are a number of preachers who are true Christians but no religion seems to make the grade. Maybe that is why there are so many of hem.

    March 24, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Here. Read it. Hell is not mentioned at all.
      I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.
      I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord.
      He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the Virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried.
      He descended to the dead.
      On the third day he rose again.
      He ascended into heaven,
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic Church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

      March 24, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  7. Dave

    Bell's arguments seem to rely on history, tradition, and life experience. He filters the Bible through those filters which is why he errs. He has it backwards. History, tradition, and life experience should be filtered through God's Word. I find it very disturbing that a pastor would make a claim that he is not a theologian or Biblical Scholar. I wonder how many of his followers would hire a carpenter to build their house who was not a contractor or a craftsman? Perhaps that why he asks questions instead of answering them which by the way is intellectually dishonest.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Actually it is intellectually dishonest to attempt to "answer" questions (when you do not know). You and organized religions don't know. Recall Mark 8:15And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. (in short: avoid false doctrine .. authoritative preaching). Jesus told the Apostles to preach the gospel and to baptize (only). There was no commission to invent doctrine. Jesus did not appoint bishops or synods or editors for a bible (and there was no bible). He is God .. did he forget? Did is slip His mind? Who made you the judge of Bell? Who made you the judge of anyone? When you sit in judgment you are engaged in false doctrine (the leaven of the Pharisees). When we make ourselves *judge* we execute witches (false doctrine), invent "Calvinism,"(false doctrine), terrorize doctors and nurses (false doctrine), picket funerals (false doctrine), ostracize (false doctrine), shun, condemn. Recall that Jesus said "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." John 8:7 .. so attend to the pole in your own eye...

      March 25, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  8. Heather

    Having been raised as an Evangelical Missionary and Pastors kid – I am grateful to Rob Bell and others for their approach to Jesus teachings. An authoritarian upbringing such as mine, in my opinion is a form of abuse. As he said he didn't write Love Wins for Everyone, but for those like myself who have left "the fold". I might even dust off the 10 years of dust on my Bible again, if I can get over the pain of a childhood of fear of hell and vengeful God that was shoved down my throat.

    March 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      It took me 25 years to break away from Catholicism. I did not stop believing in Jesus Christ and our redemption .. but the "religion" was inculcated so deeply (purgatory, absolution, Eucharist ....hell). I looked at other religions for many years. Finally I realized (Dr. Gene Scott) that Jesus and the Apostles were not members of churches. In Revelations several churches are admonished for teaching false doctrine (Mark 8:13). False (invented doctrine) has been a *problem* since resurrection. It is still a *problem* today. There was no bible in 90 AD .. does that mean that John and Peter and Matthew were not Christians? Were the people they baptized not Christians? If someone is illiterate and cannot read a bible are they unable to be saved? Well then. ... common sense ..

      March 25, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  9. doutingthomas

    it is common knowledge that December 25 was not the day Christ was born, add the pagan customs, it is seen for what it is an effort by the apostate church to bring in pagan tribes,by adding their customs, all this accomplished was to water down the truth as taught by Jesus, Constantine militarized the church for his own purposes and it has stayed that way, as evidenced by the many centrys of war the churches have been involved in.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Goats love Sheep not vise-versa

    People who actually study the bible and not just read it)realize how pagan traditions have overwhelmed todays theology.
    Rob is actually closer to the early believers mindset than most realize or want to realize, because it attacks their own theology at its core. There are less than a dozen verses regarding punishment for sins in regards to eternal torment...all of them remedial in nature. Hell (english verb meaning to bury) not a noun is not even found in scripture. But it is used day in and day out in church circles. It is like the lie you tell enough times that it eventually becomes truth. Early believers had no concept of this because there was none to be had at the time. It has been basically fabricated out of religion to control the "church" dating back to Constantine's time. Love God or burn in hell? A good father message? Todays message at its core is Jesus needs to save us from His Father? Really? The less you know the more you have to believe. And most people believe what they are told to believe and what seminary taught them to believe. And as for what scripture says about that."Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [Y]e made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites."
    –Jesus Christ
    Matthew 15:3, 6, 7

    March 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • LJ

      @Goat love Sheep.

      There is the debate over Christmas being a pagan holiday especiallly since it's called out in Jeremiah. 2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

      3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

      4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Matthew Klein

    Just taught a 5 part series on the same subject called A Heretics Guide to Immortality you can listen for free or donate to download at http://www.zionsprings.ca

    The orthodox church will not be able to stem the tide of the balanced teaching that is being proliferated by the grace movement. Evangelical church in North America has become old and tired and has forgotten it's truest roots. The message from the Evangelical Enterprise has slowed the passionate heart of a mystical and mysterious gospel to an ABC-123 paint by numbers doctrinal theology. We have exchanged a powerful life giving message of freedom and salvation for all mankind for a Honk-if-You-love-Jesus membership card for the elite Anglo-Saxon flavored get out of hell plastic and pressed neat and tidy Sunday morning dressed up, sit and sing-a-long show.

    It is time for real people with real
    Faith that love a real God demonstrated by a real love for real people to stand up and take the mic away from the overinflated self serving preachers of a self effort 'as long as I'm better then you', live the Law, world is coming to end, theological fatalists who are trying to convince a world that an God who would have bothered to send His only son to die at our hands, hidden agenda is to torture mortal fininte man for an infinite amount of time for sins committed based on predetermined non selection. This of course all Fuled by an unquenchable anger birthed by His plan at creations inception to forknow our sin and then giving us a book that we were designed to not follow not because of an innate desire but but our DNA being that if vassals designed for destruction. This is easily exlplained in the churches to the hungry masses by egnimatic speeches wrapped in paradoxes of double talk dipped in silver tongue sweetness. They say words like perish, destroyed, death and cease actually mean eternal torture and self aware separation. Words like mercy, grace and compassion have opposing meanings inthe relm of God and that what to us seems like behavior that we would attribute to a devil is really the loving acts of God. Let the bible speak for itself an speak what it speaks be aide it's message is both clear and true and let the darkened heart of men who preach the messages if wrath and indignation be exposed as the frauds and decievers that they are, their own mouths revealing the hatred in their own hearts. Jesus said if you say you love God but hate your brother then you are a lier and the love of the father is not in you.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  12. joe

    "Punches Back" ? That did not seem like a 'punch' in any way. Great way to frame a fight that is not happening for one side.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  13. Stephen Gosden

    I'm looking forward to reading the book and forming my own opinion. I loved Rob's video, "Everything is spiritual" so I have high hopes for the book. Strangely it seems to have been released somewhat earlier in Europe than in the US. Maybe the publishers are expecting a less hostile reaction here!

    I'm glad to see that Rob affirms that he is not a universalist (like Brian Mclaren who is similarly criticised and similarly denies it), where did people get that idea, I wonder?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  14. Chad

    The controversy over Bell's latest book seems to be generated by his comments on Gandhi and his suggestion that he wouldn't be surprised to find Gandhi in heaven, or at least he has questions for Christians who would readily consign him to Hell. If you do actually read the Bible, which I have been quite diligent in doing, you will find in Matthew 25: 31-46 a rather surprised group of goats who don't understand why they are going to Hell. You will also find an equally surprised group of sheep who don't understand why they are going to heaven. Quite clearly, Jesus's fable illustrates that there is room to be surprised at what we find after our time in this life ends. Furthermore, to suggest that Gandhi might be in Heaven doesn't take a wild leap of the imagination, let alone an act of heresy. Martin Luther King Jr. said of Gandhi: "“it is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the twentieth century was not a member of the Christian church.” What does it mean to follow Christ? I doubt it is the act of selfish cruelty where a man or woman uses his professed faith to elevate himself in eternal esteem, while damning those he doesn't understand with eternal arrogance. Rob Bell is doing a better job of following Christ and the Bible, at first glance, than the whole lot of his impatient critics. But, in order to draw any real conclusions, I'll still have to wait another seven days for the release of his book.

    March 22, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • Julie

      Reposting this comment

      Julie

      Path matters

      You are a good example of a negative person allowing their negative outlook to shape your religious beliefs. If there were no good in man, why would God give a crap? Are you saying that he doesn't? I understand your belief that you can only reach heaven through your Jesus, but Jesus never harped on man the way you just did. He saw the good in people, that's why he found man worthy to be saved. He just thought man needed guidance on the issue.

      Path... I am not a negative person, but thanks for the ti'tle, I love being labeled becaue I share a thought.
      Jesus said to the man in the bible, who asked, what shall I do good master, to inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
      Jesus replied..Why thou callest me good? No one is good, except the Father.

      I guess he was being negative too?

      March 22, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  15. Pastor Cooper

    I agree with Rob that the Christian Faith is a Journey....full of surprises, awe, mystery, and challenges. If God in Christ is honored, think and let think. If our theology or Journey Faith is never rattled or challenged, we'll never grow in our faith/walk!
    Those who "pre-determine" who has faith, a cake-walk to heaven, or superior authority over others have made their choice. I
    minister daily to people who struggle with living life on earth "hoping" that "today's bread will be enough."

    March 22, 2011 at 4:06 am |
  16. jabarhead

    If you like Rob Bell and his teachings have inspired you (as they have inspired me), please join me in not trying to defend him in these lame blogs, against critics whose minds are already made up, who will never enter into healthy thoughtful debate, who will always think they are right and everyone else is wrong, and whose gross insecurity in the strength of their own beliefs makes them want to destroy everything else that doesn't look or sound the same as they do. Rob Bell doesn't need to be defended, nor his beliefs, nor does God, nor the questions of the Bible. Join me in letting the critics' comments fall on deaf ears.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • Abeille

      well said sir.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Pastor Larry Robinson

      I respectfully submit that you are actually engaged in trying to weaken the heart of Christian apologetics (defense of the faith). We are told in Jude 3 to "contend earnestly for the faith" against false teachers; the word contend in the greek text is epagōnizomai (from Vines=signifies "to contend about a thing, as a combatant" [epi, "upon or about," intensive, agon, "a contest"])

      Secondly, Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-4 "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."

      For us to do otherwise if we believe Rob Bell to be teaching error would be a sin for us.

      March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • jabarhead

      Dear Pastor,

      1. If you want/need to write on blogs against Rob Bell (ugly or nice), that is certainly your right and prerogative. But I still don't think Rob Bell needs defending from you (or anyone). I personally wish everyone who supported Rob Bell would stop defending him against people on these websites who don't desire to listen, but merely spew. Talking to a FINISHED BOOK is no fun, nor is it productive.

      Let's be honest: NO ONE is a finished book.

      2. Let's not just be honest... let's also be rational for a moment. Rob Bell is no more a "false teacher" than you are - or I am. If every single person who ever had a different idea about the Bible than you did (and then shared it with another person) were suddenly deemed a "false teacher," then necessarily everyone on the planet would be a "false teacher" as no two individuals' thoughts, ideas, beliefs about God will EVER be the same. Not even you and another fellow pastor will always see every scripture perfectly the same. You may even disagree QUITE a bit.

      Certainly, no other person shares every single belief with you.

      3. I've always wanted to ask a pastor who thought he/she was "right" this question:

      Is it possible to believe that YOU or any one else has a perfect, flawless understanding of the Bible and its message...? EVERY verse, every single meaning. Is this possible? Is it rational to believe this? And, are YOU that person? Or are there others too? Again, no two people on the planet have EVER agreed on EVERYTHING 100%, so that doesn't really work. I mean, sure, Jesus was one person we can say this about. But how about now? Is there ONE answer to every question in the Bible or can there be more? And, are you the only person with this one answer to ALL the questions?

      4. But, most importantly...

      For the record, please state EXACTLY, EXACTLY what Heaven and Hell will be like. Describe it for the rest of us. And don't just copy a million scriptures onto the page. I want specifics: specific visuals, the specific location, specifics on how it would look, feel, taste, etc. I want to know about the fire and the fluffy clouds and cherubs and devils with little tridents. Tell me what form God is in. His EXACT form. Is he 3-dimensional or are there other dimensions in Heaven? If I am in Heaven, am I always happy or can I choose to be unhappy? After that, tell me what we do in Heaven or Hell. Are there days? Years? Do we eat? Do we have organs? Do we use the restroom? Do we smell?

      Answer these questions and let's see how many people agree with you. Let's see how many people disagree.

      I, for one, am ready to be inspired and educated. By you or Rob Bell or anyone with an inspired explanation of how the universe really IS - here on Earth and beyond.

      Educate me/us. Don't just tell me how Rob Bell is WRONG, please tell me what YOU believe and HOW I can follow it and be INSPIRED.

      Please do that for the rest of us. I'm excited to read your response.

      (And, again, no cop-outs with the copy-and-paste every scripture in the Bible bit, seriously. I have a Bible and references.)

      March 27, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Jabarhead,
      The things you say, (as well as many others on this and other blogs) implies that you don't believe that God is a God of ABSOLUTES, and that all depends on one's own opinion....
      Well, friend, I will not argue or try to convince you of anything, but just say few words to you, just for the record, so that one day, before you near your day of the Great Appointment that's awaiting you, you will remember them, and perhaps God in His mercy will bring those words to your remembrance, and give you time and space to recover yourself (2Timothy 2:25,26)

      * God is holy, His word is true, and no man has right, nor authority to change and/or adjust it according to his preferences or likings.

      * No man has ability to understand the Word of God and divide it rightly on his own. It's interpretation is given ONLY by the Spirit of God who reveals and explains it to those who are humble of heart, and who hunger and thirst for His righteousness, not willing to settle for anything else, but ONLY His truth.
      * There are many traps for those who want to be included in the flock of Jesus Christ, but will not give up their life for His life (life totally given to Him) . THEY ARE THE ONES WHO WILL HEAR THE WRONG SPIRIT,who is ever scheming, being ready and willing TO DECIEVE THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE NOT PURE, BUT TAINTED WITH THE LOVE OF SELF.

      So , those who have their own agenda will make up Christ of their own imagination, but will reject The True Christ of the Holy Scriptures. They will usually avoid , water down, even reject writings of the epistles of New Testament, especialy of St. Paul.
      To reject the epistles of St.Paul, is to reject the fundamentals of New Testament teachings. In them he EXPLAINS the Gospels, and completes what God thru His Holy Spirit wanted His people to know.

      Anyone who rejects the epistles written by Paul, James, John, Peter and Jude CAN MAKE UP God and Lord Jesus Christ as they please. And that's exactly what is happening in today's APOSTATE CHURCH.

      Here is something I wrote in a post earlier...It's so vital and important to see the meaning of those words, so I will include it in this post to you.

      We are told in the Scriptures that in the times prior to the end there will be a great falling away....

      THE MEANING OF GREAT FALLING AWAY:

      "Some of the professed Christians will still hold on to the Name of Jesus, but they will reject the Spirit of Truth. Jesus is THE WORD OF GOD MADE FLESH. SPIIRIT OF TRUTH TES'TI'FIES OF WHO JESUS IS. So , those who reject the Spirit of Truth, but go on as they believed in Jesus Christ, they are making for themselves a FALSE CHRIST. Because Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth are inseparable!
      To praise and worship God and say that one believes in Jesus Christ, but yet denying the Spirit of Truth who is testifying of true Christ, is committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That is the one sin that will never be forgiven.
      BECAUSE: If someone rejects the Spirit of TRUTH, who is the Holy Spirit of God , he/she does not KNOW the REAL Jesus Christ......And with a false Christ NO ONE will EVER be saved."

      I don't think it can be said clearer than that!
      I hope and pray that you and others reading this will consider the things written here, and humble yourself before God, so He will be able to show it to you.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • jabarhead

      Dear PRISM,

      Thank you for chiming in. You didn't address any of the questions or points I laid out in the previous entry, but that is fine... it's not necessary (or a requirement), although it is nice to stay on topic.

      Unfortunately, you misread me. And not by a little. By a mile. And your flawed implication of my beliefs is indicative of the misguided judgment seeped in the "dialogue" on these pages.

      But that is also okay. I am not offended. How could you know you were wrong?

      For the record, I do believe that God is a God of ABSOLUTES. And, thankfully, on the day "of the Great Appointment" that's awaiting me, I will have NOTHING to fear.

      So, while I do believe God is a God of Absolutes, meaning we agree that God is a God of Absolutes, I think I am confused about one item and I hope you will reply with an answer. My question is this: Who on Earth has a perfect understanding of this God of Absolutes (as presented by His Word).

      That is all I ask. Please tell me who has been given this interpretation by the Spirit of God? Are there many? A few? Are you in this in this group? Or, is it just you? Again, remember, no two people ever agree on every passage EXACTLY the same. So, then, by elimination, is there only ONE person on Earth who could ever know God perfectly?

      This question is important. And you seem like an intelligent person, so I know you know why this question is important:

      With the answer, all of us will know who's interpretation to follow. Because it's not about who NOT to follow, it's about WHO to follow. Right? And, if what you say is true, then there must be someone out there with flawless understanding of the scriptures for us to follow. But, if none of us has flawless understanding, then... well... hmm.

      I look forward to your response.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Jesus never debated with pharisees... He cut thru their polished outward, and told them in very descriptive words who they are. I see who YOU are. I don't think I need to spell it out.
      You have the tongue of your father, and his poison is not hidden from the eyes of those who know the God of Truth, and have His Spirit of Truth in them. You can fool the ones who hav NOT His Spirit, and have no discernment, but those who love the TRUTH and the God of truth, will not be unaware.
      You ask of me to tell you....you seek the proof of validity of my words, but just like those who sought the proof of Jesus Christ, He seen what was in them, and told them the words written in Luke11:29-32.
      So your proof will arrive, and overcome you by surprise.
      Jesus did not waste his words at them, and neither will I mine, because I know what you are made out of! !
      Want to know something? Read the Scriptures, in them you will find REAL CHRIST, the One you have replaced with one of you own makings, because the love of Truth was not in your heart.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Jabarhead

      (Is this guy for real?)

      Ummm. Yeah. Just one thing:

      "Jesus never debated with pharisees"...?

      "you seek the proof of validity of my words, but just like those who sought the proof of Jesus Christ"...?

      Um, soooo...... in this situation, are you Jesus...? I just want to be sure I get the characters straight.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  17. Reality

    Heresy or reality? (and reiteration is good for the brain)

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen............................................................

    March 22, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  18. PRISM1234

    We are told in the Scriptures that in the times prior to the end there will be a great falling away....The meaning of great falling away is that some of the professed Christians will still hold on to the Name of Jesus, but they will reject the Spirit of Truth. Jesus is THE WORD OF GOD MADE FLESH. SPIIRIT OF TRUTH TES'TI'FIES OF WHO JESUS IS. So , those who reject the Spirit of Truth, but go on as they believe din Jesus Christ, they are making for themselves a FALSE CHRIST. Because Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth are inseparable!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  19. Dwight L Moody

    He clearly does speak contrary to scripture, what do you call that? Heresy right a bell?

    March 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Micah

      I bet you didn't even read the book. I would go as far to say it sounds like you skipped reading the bible also. Try again with your comment when you more educated. thanks for playing...

      March 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  20. wheres the WORD

    PEOPLE PLEASE READ YOUR BIBLE AND LET GOD DO THE TALKING. After all, HE WROTE IT.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Chad

      Thanks to you, I have a new name for Christians who try to shove their personalized doctrine down people's throats: ALL CAPS CHRISTIANS. On another note, I would prefer to describe the Bible this way: God breathed it, but people were the instruments that embodied the music. Picture Moses as the tuba and God as the musician. And you might check out Rob Bell's presentation on Rhythm, as it does a finer job sustaining this metaphor.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • BOB

      To keep it simple I think Mr Bell tends to complicate things that God has made clear.
      He would better serve the cause of Christ by focusing on the Great Commission Jesus gave us.
      He seems to glory in being grey instead of proclaimming the truth of the gospel and the reason Christ came to earth
      which was to seek and save the lost.
      Being controversial sells books but doesnt do the Kingdom of God very much.
      Thank you

      March 24, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Anne Sigler

      Say, what's wrong with being a Universalist? You're saying what we believe.

      March 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Ryan

      This article makes little sense from headline to finish.
      A heretic is someone who believes something that conflicts with a dogma.
      Non-denominational Christians have no central governing body or dogmas.
      Therefore, it is twice impossible for a non-denominational Christian to be a heretic.

      Secondly, universalism is the HOPE of all Christians.

      March 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • LetoAtreides

      Chad, I don't position myself as the "final word" on what God has to say about our lives and how we should live. The Bible is the final word. If God's will is up to the "freedom" of human beings to determine what it is, then we invite both untruth and chaos to our faith. Mr. Bell states that Jesus came in to the world to show God's love to us. Love was the motivation but that was not the reason. God sent Christ to save us. There is no other way to this salvation except through God's son Jesus Christ. That's a tough message to take and it's a big reason why Jesus was killed. As humans, we are offended by this. We want to be in control...but we're not! We need to give our lives over to Christ and his authority over us. The world doesn't like that obedience. Apparently, neither does Mr. Bell.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
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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.