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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. EBen

    Hey, this is for im4insanity comment above: would love to trade places with you! I am Jewish and live in a predominantly "Christian" community. My kids had to go listen to " Christian" teachers try to influence my children by all the traditional holiday stuff. Teachers cannot separate themselves from who they are, I understand that. Just saying, would love to trade places. By the way, as a teacher, don't blame the teachers for everything that goes wrong. Come on, get real. You have more influence on your children than the teachers do. Teaching is a job, just like so many other jobs. Everyone wants to make it more than it really is. It's a "calling" everyone on the outside of teaching says. As if it's like being a nun or something. No, teachers have families they must care for, and they work long, hard hours trying to correct what many parents cannot do on their own: teach character.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • HeavenSent

      EBen, what do you live by?

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  2. Read the Bible before spouting off

    The bible is very clear about who gets to heaven."No man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ".The fact that he's suggesting Ghandi was a christian is disturbing.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Observer

      Reading the Bible also shows several places where it sounds like that is the ONLY requirement to get to heaven. Claiming that great deeds are meaningless is certainly not an endorsement for religion.

      What is also really disturbing for religion is the belief that no one who lived before Jesus could have gone to heaven.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • farmboymn

      Cool. So Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, all the white-haired giants and prophets of the Old Testament, didn't make the Team. "Ghandi...no Heaven for YOU! We'll be in good company then.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Eric

      No Gandhi is famous for saying "“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
      He was Hindu so he has reincarnated.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Observer, that's what you get for not reading His truth and listening to others who never read or care about His truth. Everyone born before God gave the law to Moses are pardon for their sins. You need to read and understand the Day of the Lord. Everyone born after God gave Moses the Law are responsible for their sins and need to repent and sin NO more.

      Of course, God knows what's in everyone's heart and He knows if you are faking repentance or not. No one can mock God.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Cindy

      "Moses the Law are responsible for their sins "

      That is what Jesus died for so we are forgiven of our sins through his death. Fear has no place in those that love Jesus. You are so old school and brainwashed by those of the past who only understood fear is a great control.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • 20 Year Veggie

      The bible is just a book. That's all. Should I start a religion based on Green Eggs and Ham??? Yet people see no problem in believing the bible because the stories are OLD. That makes them even more suspect!

      April 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  3. Peter

    Isn't it possible to believe in Christ with your whole heart, but still have questions about some of the details of the afterlife?

    Suppose a 7 year old Muslim girl in North Africa dies of AIDS. You're telling me she is automatically going to Hell because she is not a nominal Christian? Who can possibly believe that, or even want to believe that?

    We do not know who is in Heaven or who is in Hell. The only one person in human history who we can be fairly sure of is the thief on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus himself told this man that he would be with him in Heaven that very day. Apart from this, the Bible does not tell us who will or will not be there.

    You could go to heaven today and meet the most reviled men in history when you arrive. If those men simply accepted Christ, even in their final moments of life, then they would be saved. Alternately, you could go to Hell and run into leaders of the Church who did not possess a true faith.

    So, we really just don't know about these things.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • HeavenSent

      You obviously don't know about the Day of the Lord.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  4. I Wonder

    It's interesting how antagonistic the atheists are towards something they don't believe is true. I have no ill-will or anger towards the idea of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, I just choose not to believe it and that's that. One doesn't need to get angry about it.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  5. marc mccarron

    nitwits debating fairyland.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • HeavenSent

      You were with Him from the beginning. Read the Bible to learn His truth to save your soul.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • marc

      Focus on your own soul instead of wasting your time posting meaningless ramblings of an old women.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  6. AmericanGirl

    My opinion on Rob Bell is that he needs to be careful about his messages. My uncle is a Methodist pastor and we had the Nooma study, and to be honest I fell asleep. He is more of a new age preacher that is geared toward youth, which is good, but he needs to back his messages up with what the Word says. Sounds to me like he is preaching of a God that does not discipline His children, and all these baby christians are being told what they want to hear. If God did not discipline His children then He is not a God of love, but one that says I don't care, if there is no discipline in our life, there would be complete distruction of us and everything around our lives...

    March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Observer

      Discipling our children out of love is FAR different than punishing them with eternity in Hell. Hopefully, you have more love for children than that.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Ryan

      @HotAirAce – There is an accompanying book of stupidity; it's called "The Origin of Species," by Charles Darwin. People, or sheep as you call them, gather to listen to this charade at public schools, colleges, and study halls around Europe and North America spoken by priests called professors ("professing" what they believe), and the heirarchy is racial, as it shows white people being above Asians, them being above Native Americans, Eskimos, and Hispanics, and them being above Africans, and them being above Aborigines.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Mslady74

      @Observer Do you believe that your actions have consequences? Because that is GOD's message. It's really simple. Psalms 1:6 Blessed is the man that walketh not in in the counsel of the ungodly , nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Observer

      @Mslady74,
      Of course actions have consequences. That isn't the issue here. The issue is the SEVERITY of the consequences. As long as you are quoting the Bible, you can quote where God commanded that all unruly children be killed.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • JeffC

      @Mslady74 – I believe that our actions do have consequences...but you're only responsible for them while you're alive. The consequences you are referring to is why many claim to be religious...for fear of eternal damnation and pain. I believe in owning up to my actions, but I don't need the threat of going to Hell to convince me to be a good person.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • HotAirAce

      @Ryan

      It seems that only believers pushing their biblical creationist views subscribe to your assertion that evolution is racist – please see http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html.

      Also, it seems strange to me that non-atheists would declare what books or beliefs atheists hold to, but this behavior fits with believing that you know the one true god and have all the answers, which of course you don't.

      March 20, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Observer, you still don't get it. You send yourself to the eternal flames to be blotted out for eternity. Jesus just obliges you of your choice of free will. Free will given to all humans to love and follow Him (truth) so your soul is spiritually alive on earth as it is in Heaven (eternity) to resides with Him or love and follow satan (lies) and you die spiritually while down on earth as it is in Heaven and you don't live with Him in Eternity. You send yourself to the eternal flames to be blotted out due to your choice.

      Choose wisely. It's never to late to start reading His letter He sent to all of us (the Bible) and to comprehend His spiritual teachings to learn what He wants for us and what He wants from us.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Ryan

    Bear in mind, I also fully admit that evil things have been done in the name of Christianity as well, such as the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Conquistadors. I'm simply pointing out that Atheism isn't the sparkly, shiny wonderfulness some people are trying to make it seem like. It has its' own flawed belief system.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Atheism is not a belief system. There is no accompanying book of stupidity. There is no hierarchy nor are there places for the sheep to gather to listen to charlatans. It begins and ends with "There are no gods!"

      March 19, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • JG

      @JohnR

      Nice ad hominem, demonstrate please

      March 19, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • HeavenSent

      HotAirAce, you keep proving EGO erases God out. Keep it up believing in your own ego ... you keep proving God's existence.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  8. Ryan

    I noticed a lot of Atheists posting that religion is evil and the cause of wars and racism and all that, but I'd like to point out that since the rise of Evolution and Atheism itself, there have been many evil things done in the name of Atheism. To bring out some examples, there were many world leaders who killed millions because they didn't believe in Atheism, including Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse-Tung. Stalin alone killed more than all the Crusades combined. Not exactly shining examples, huh? Also, there are other works done in the name of Evolution – forced abortion in China, for example, as well as school shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech. Atheism is showing to be pretty poor in the run after all.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Observer

      First of all, evolution has nothing to do with forced abortion in China. It's a case of over-population.
      FACT: Hitler was raised as a Catholic and believed in God.
      Let's deal with facts.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • JG

      Ryan you are sorely misinformed. How in the world does one do something "in the name of atheism?" In the name of disbelieving in Gods? That is completely incoherent and idiotic.

      And nice try at rewriting history. Hitler was a Catholic. Read Mein Kampf.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • JohnR

      I agree. That's why the real debate is not between faith vs atheism, but between all imposed beliefs vs secularism.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • doresearch

      And Stalin was a trained clergyman as well. Most of the people killed or imprisoned under Stalin were political opponents, members of the wrong "social class", or simply other nationalities living within the Soviet Union. The religious beliefs of Stalin's many victims played only a minor role. To say that Hitler (a Roman Catholic) and Stalin killed because they themselves were atheists is disingenuous.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • JohnR

      @JG You either have a woefully limited imagination or are simply being dishonest.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • a2rjr

      Don't forget Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood attempt at wiping out the African American population.

      March 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Observer, that's because you've never read Jesus' teachings on abundance. You're a mortal man believing over population. If your parents believed the same thing, you wouldn't even be here sucking up oxygen the way you do.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • David

      sorry observer, you are wrong. Historical fact, Hitler denied Gods existence in his later years, he was a true Darwinist and didn't believe in God. Almost all major tyrannical dictators that killed untold numbers of people were in fact atheist. Mao, Pol Pot (spelling is bad) Stalin, Hitler, all were atheist. I find it funny when atheist claim that the major conflicts in the world that killed millions were caused by religion. The crusades I will give you, they were awful and those "Christians" should be ashamed!! The klan makes me want to puke (Jesus was a Jew morons) but the most destructive individuals in world history were atheist. Not all atheist are bad but neither are all people who believe in God are stupid or sheep.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  9. Leah

    @Daniel ...because a message of love is such a bad thing to follow?

    March 19, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  10. El Kababa

    If one religion is right then the others must be wrong.

    Because no faith appeals to a majority of humans on earth, most humans believe in the wrong religion.

    No matter which faith you choose, odds are you will pick the wrong one. And, most of us do not pick a religion, we just inherit one.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • BILBO BOOMERBOTTOM

      Right on target,and I would say further,if billions of people are wrong,perhaps they all are?

      March 19, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Hint, hint, Jesus said:

      Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  11. TrueReason

    Aezel, by merely trotting out the defensive atheist cliche "Atheism isn't a religion", it might be better to examine atheism in more depth and why so many talk about atheism as "religion".

    Many people see atheism as a "religion" because many atheists seem to hold certain beliefs and worldviews in common, forming united groups, and those groups often have goals to oppose religion (especially Christianity in the US and many European countries).

    Many atheists rightly claim, based on the underlying Greek, that "atheism is merely a lack of belief in God(s)". What many of them fail to recognize is that "lack" doesn't necessarily imply complete absence of belief in God(s), whereas the majority of them seem to BELIEVE the existence of God(s) to be 99% unlikely (though nailing down that actual percentage entails problems unto itself). Because many atheists hold the BELIEF that the existence of God(s) is roughly 99% unlikely, they tend to make the "LEAP OF FAITH" to complete non-existence and hold worldviews that completely exclude God(s).

    With respect to your claim that "psychology defines religious belief as a form of schizophrenia", you couldn't be more incorrect. Many psychologists believe that: "Religion appears to positively correlate with physical health (see Ellison, C. G., & Levin, J. S. (1998). "The religion-health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions.". Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education (Health Education and Behavior.) 25 (6): 700–720.)"

    Further, religious people have moral frameworks that are the result of their belief in God(s). Without a belief in God(s), a "higher power" or an "omniscient judge", one is "free" to act in any imaginable way. Atheists tend to have no shared, overarching moral framework. This, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many of the founding fathers of the US), is a detriment to society.

    Finally, be very careful about acting intelligent solely because you are an atheist and therefore believe that somehow makes you elite among people by make comments like "...makes you appear so stupid...", because it just might come back to reflect on you.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  12. Lisa

    Proverbs 9:7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; Whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse." The word of God is for those who want to receive it. The only reason these people come on this blog is to instigate so we can get all fired up and then they accuse us of being hypocrites. And unfortunately we fall everytime. Let's spend our time talking to people who really want to listen.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • JohnR

      Not at all. Since I am not beholden to what the authors of proverbs happen to have spewed way back in those benighted days, I am not inclined at all to call those Christians who engage in debate hypocrites, at least not with respect to this issue. where they are obviously extreme and utter hypocrites is when they keep harping on the less than 100% perfect certainty of various scientific theories that have been true advances in knowledge even if they aren't the final word, while claiming it is not just okay but virtuous to cling to a bunch of stuff written in ancient texts written, edited and selected for inclusion in the canon by humans as the indisputable word of god. Shame on them.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Mslady74

      LOVE IT!

      March 19, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • farmboymn

      Buddha: Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
      Buddha: The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.

      We can all quote ancient proverbs. That doesn't grant legitimacy.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Lisa, non-believers purposely put you through their circular arguments because they all chase their own tails. Remember what Jesus wrote in Matthew 7:6 when you need a breather. We've done what Jesus asked by spreading His seeds Jesus is the one that waters the seeds. We can't help that some seeds fall on rock or get scorched by the sun. All is written.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      JohnR, read these scriptures:

      Genesis 2:7: "And the Lord God formed man of the DUST OF THE GROUND, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." Surely, you don't take Genesis 2:7 seriously? Do you?

      Psalm 8:8: ". . . whatsoever passeth through the PATHS OF THE SEAS." How did David (the writer of Psalms) know, over 2,000 years ago, there were "paths in the seas"? David probably never even saw an ocean!

      Ecclesiastes 1:7: "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." How did the writer of Ecclesiastes know the water cycle of condensation and evaporation in 1000 B.C.?

      Job 38:19: "Where is THE WAY where light dwelleth?" How come Job didn't say where is THE PLACE where light dwelleth? Because light is always moving. How did Job know something in 1500 B.C. ?

      Ecclesiastes 1:6: "The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again ACCORDING TO HIS CIRCUITS." How did the writer of Ecclesiastes know the wind traveled within circuits? How did he know with their so-called limited knowledge thousands of years ago?

      Leviticus 17:11: For the life of the flesh is in the blood. What Moses wrote in 1490 B.C. written thousands of years ago, by men with such limited knowledge?

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  13. MLW

    Rob Bell is 100% Heresy.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • b-spring

      What is the definition of heresy? According to the catechism which has the official say on heretics, heresy ""Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic (not meaning denomination but "universal") faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." CCC 2089. Now, if we are to debate, as a Catholic I would see that the main problem is the schism of the Protestant traditions from the Catholic Church. I am not debating this point, but I am curious as to how heresy is defined if there is no body to define heresy. I mean, wouldn't it be considered schism? I am confused by this because I want to be closer to my evangelical brothers and sisters. However, knowing that they would label my beliefs as "heresy" makes me very distraught. I'm not trying to ask any questions here about how to "mend" the schism between Protestants and Catholics, but what I am doing is asking the question of how we can "live the age of the Resurrection" together as lovers of Christ and the human family despite our minute philisophical and theological disagreements.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • MrPragmatic

      You make it sound like being a heretic is a bad thing.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • farmboymn

      Heresy? So were Protestants, as considered by the Church. So were Jews. Maybe we can drown this guy Bell–if he lives, he's evil, but if he dies, he has true faith. Or maybe just the Iron Maiden or Rack until he comes around to your peculiar point of view.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      MrPragmatic and farmboymn, you and this guy send yourselves to the eternal flames. Jesus allows you to choose to love and follow His truth and you live spiritually on earth, as it is through eternity (Heaven) with Him or love or the other option is to love and follow satan's lies, and you are spiritually dead (dry bones, wells without water) walking on earth as you will be in Heaven, not to mention going into the eternal flames, poof, no more, no eternity for you and others like you.

      Free will, your choice. Choose wisely. It's never to late to change your ways and start sewing your righteous clothe.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  14. NotEvenClose

    Ah, yes, the latest religious rock star to rise into the spotlight to feed pap to the masses. I love this guy's quote, “What’s interesting to me is what’s true." It may be 'interesting' to him, but truth sure doesn't motivate him to the point he's willing to apply it, or he'd have rejected the contradictions of religion (dressed up as 'mystery') and decided to live his life with what he knows is true, not what he hopes is true. Maybe he's a cynic, violating the boundaries of orthodoxy in places precisely to create controversy to sell books and make money. It may all be part of his (and his publisher's) marketing scheme.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Greg

      The guy has been pastoring for a long time, and right or wrong he's trying to communicate what he thinks is important. I don't think he had dollar signs in his eyes the whole time. Money-grubbing religious leaders exist, but I don't think he's one of them.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Greg, you wrote his problem "he thinks". He never said he "believes". Big difference. It's only when a person humbles themselves, meaning to shelf their egos of what they think they know or don't know of the ways of man, is when Jesus' truth is unveiled. This guy, as so many others, have their egos in tack while reading Jesus' wisdom. Their own ego bucks heads with Jesus' spiritual teachings. That's why Jesus told us to go/be humble so we can read and comprehend His truth. All of His truth. Little 5 years old children comprehend Jesus' teachings more than this guy or others do. That's because little children don't have their egos developed and shaped by the world views yet.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Leslie

      “He never said he "believes"

      believe = to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.

      “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.”

      What he said as quoted in this article would qualify as believing.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Lou Tulga

    As a life-long Chistian and graduate of Wheateon College I have nothing but praise for Rob Bells' latest book. As he states there are serious and profound rumblings within the ranks of church members for a theology that is quite frankly not tied to the fears and marketing efforts of orthodox Christianity for nearly two millennia. Both heaven and hell deserve a better interpretation–one in keeping wit the character of God and the message and actions of Jesus.Right on, Rob Bell!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • b-spring

      That is inherently what orthodoxy preaches. The fact that we do not speculate on "who is in hell" but the fact that hell is there and so is heaven. As a Roman Catholic these ideas are not far-fetched to me. A good solid logic of philosophy would help the evangelicals become more open to the "body of Christ" instead of fragmenting into other sects and denominations. What is funny to me about this conversation is that Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi argued these same points. Obviously, you can tell I am a Catholic, but I find it interesting that this same point that I have in "basic" theology covered is being debated in the Protestant denominations. Prayers and thoughts are with you all as you sort this theological and philisophical debate out. Pax Christi.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Lou, your sin of Pride is blinding you to Jesus' truth. You wasted your money.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Cindy

      Your sin of pride is wasting money by paying for an internet service so you can spread your version of bigotry and hatred.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  16. im4sanity

    I've got no problem with people professing what they believe, or even with people trying to bring others around to their beliefs. I enjoy the exchange of ideas (however outrageous some of them may be). If I'm disinterested in the message, I can simply walk away. What I do have a problem with is people trying to get the laws of this land adjusted to fit their beliefs (e.g, banning gay marriage). Once you decide that it is right for legislation to be based on religious beliefs, you have to accept that the majority could go against you at some point and then you'll have to swallow someone else's religion. My Christian kids go to school in a predominantly Jewish area. For those who favor prayer in public schools, should that prayer be in the Jewish tradition where we live? (Oh, and should all those greedy and incompetent union rat public school teachers be the agents of that theology? [please note sarcasm])

    March 19, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Even the sciences agrees with the truth of Jesus' teachings. Sperm + sperm doesn't = offspring. Egg(s) + egg(s) doesn't = offspring. Only sperm + egg(s), or egg(s) +sperm equals = offspring.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dave

      Actually you are forgetting that cloning = offspring.
      Having a relationship is not all about reproduction, which is why so many marriages are ending in divorce.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  17. nitesky

    Jesus said....no one comes to the Father, but through me. Faith is believing what you cannot see. I chose to believe what Jesus said. If I'm wrong...so be it, my life here has still been full. But........ if it is true. By the way, I hate religion, too. It has kept too many people away from a relationship with Jesus...that's what He wants will each of us, a relationship

    March 19, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • JohnR

      A life in which you tenaciously and tendentiously cling to beliefs you admit you have no evidence for is full? Full of what, exactly? Jospeh Campbell once said that the tragedy of life is not that people die, but that so many never have lived and few things keep people from living more than clinging to "faith" in what people dead for two thousand or so years may (or may in fact not) have said.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Mslady74

      @JohnR what makes you think nitesky's life is not full and that she hasn't lived fully? That is honestly ridiculous to conclude that from the post. In fact she tells you she has lived a full life but instead you disregard her words and draw your own conclusion. Much like you have disregarded GOD's words and drawn your own conclusion. I hope you are right in your beliefs as I am VERY secure in my Christian beliefs.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Hong

      What kinds of relationship? Who is, what is Jesus? What does that mean by "believing" in Jesus? You mean believing in ideas and theories about jesus.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • JohnR

      Nitesky is trotting out the tired old and plainly FALSE argument that there is no cost to slavishly clinging to "faith". No downside, all upside. Wrong on both counts. There's a reason why the epoch during which Christianity ruled the roost was called the Dark Ages. And if you place your faith in the wrong deity, whoops! You go to hell anyway, according to many, many of those sects and religions. As for Nitesky's own life, obviously I can't say for sure, but a life of denying the mind by adhering to one faith out of many w/o any basis for that choice sounds pretty barren to me!

      March 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      nitesky, the only way you can have a relationship with Jesus is to read His letter He sent all of us (the Bible) so you can learn what He wants for us and what He wants from us. Think about reading the Bible this way. If your cell phone rings and you answer or make a call, what if you did that with the Bible opening it's pages and reading it as many times as you answer and make calls on your cell phone. If you don't talk on the telephone, more power to you and you'll have more time to read His truth (the Bible).

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Cindy

      I think if people spent less time posting all the time on this site they would have more time to read the Bible. Just think if you reply to a post, what if you did that with the bible opening its pages instead, reading it as many times as you keep posting. If you actually got of the internet, you would have more time to read His truth.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  18. Arman Sheffey

    I have been to Mars Hill and I enjoyed the experience. I did feel like there were many liberties taken that stary from the conventional thoughts, but I never felt as much internal conflict as I do now. These thoughts truly embrace freedom as Christ died to give us, but I am not sold on them. I guess I should read the book and listen closely. I feel that the idea of mystery in Christianity is valid, but I almost feel like some of those quoted statements by Bell contradict Bible teaching. This makes me at worst, VERY curious about the book. Thanks for the great post!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Arman, good for you. Reading the Bible is the only way you know what Jesus wants for you and what He wants from you. A good preacher on TV that will help you understand the Bible is Pastor Murry and his son (also a Pastor) from Shepherds Chapel. Both teach Jesus' truth book by book, scripture by scripture. You can check out their site at shepherdschapel.com

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Jake

      One of them is the fact that Murray's 1958 minister's license was signed by the late white supremacists Roy Gillaspie and Kenneth Goff, two early ideologues of Christian Identi-ty, a racist theology that's been popular among Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists for several decades. Most Identi-ty adherents believe the Bible is the history of the white race, who are seen as the real "chosen people."
      Gillaspie was the pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ, a seminal Christian Ident-ity operation — headquartered at Gillaspie's Bellflower, Calif., church — with a handful of congregations in California and Arkansas, one of which was led by Murray. (Murray's Church of Jesus Christ in Gravette, Ark., was the precursor to his Shepherd's Chapel, in the same location.) The Intelligence Report has obtained Church of Jesus Christ newsletters dated 1978 that are signed by Murray.
      Goff, for his part, was the founder of the Colorado-based Soldiers of the Cross Training Insti-tute, a school that trained Christian Identi-ty leaders including Dan Gayman, a well-known anti-Semitic leader during the 1980s. In 1958, Goff's pamphlet, "Reds Promote Racial War," claimed the Bible supported racial segregation. A 1969 Soldiers of the Cross newsletter penned by Goff describes black civil rights protesters as seeking "to submerge our culture and religious heritage under a flood of can-ni-ba-lism, vo-o-doo-is-m and beastly jungle s3-xx or-g-ies."
      Arnold Murray is still connected to something called Soldiers of the Cross. According to Arkansas public records, a corporation by that name is doing business as Shepherd's Chapel in Arkansas, and Murray is regi-stered as the corporation's agent. Murray's home, his church property where the TV studio and satellites are located, and several parcels of land in Gravette, Ark., are all listed as the property of Soldiers of the Cross.
      Despite these ties to the rots of the Christian Identi-ty movement, Murray today publicly disavows racism, and his followers include a tiny minority of non-whites. Even so, Murray preaches often about a race of evil people, descended from Cain, borne out of "the Ser-pent Seed" of Eve's s3-xual union with Sa-tan in the Garden of Eden. He calls them the "Ken-ites" and identifies them in his 1979 Shepherd's Bible as people "who slipped in among the Jewish people in Jerusalem and claim to be God's chosen people, when in fact they are of Lu-cifer." He also mentions that "in 1967 … Jerusalem fell to the Kenites during the 6 day war"; the Israelis, in fact, won the Six-Day War. In one sermon, Dennis Murray speaks of "the Kenites, who are responsible for the slaying of Christ." (In most Judeo-Christian traditions, the Kenites are a nomadic clan of Midianites and a tribe into which Moses married.)

      The Serpent Seed is a belief ripped straight from the pages of "seedline" or "two-seed" Christian Identi-ty theology, the hard-line version of the theology that holds that Eve was impregnated by Satan and gave birth to his son, Cain, described as the first Jew. That is, Jews are seen as biologically descended from Satan, and are allegedly hard at work preparing the earth for his rule. Ident-ity adherents also argue that whites, not Jews, are the real Hebrews of the Bible, and that non-whites are sub-human "beasts of the field" created without souls.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Daniel

    Look someone new to follow......line up sheep for the latest fade in cult life.

    free your mind and your ass will follow!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  20. David Donahue

    Two statements:
    CNN may or may not be "hyping" this guy. Either way, it is bringing a lot of discussion, and as a result "eyes" (read consumers) to their site.
    I like the comment about Stephen Hawking, a person who I have done three college papers on. However, as great as he is, (and Einstein, and, and, and...) no one has been able to explain HOW all of this started. No empirical evidence of the "big bang", "evolution", etc...all of which are denoted as THEORIES by the same people who espouse them.
    Makes one wonder if these scientists aren't trying to shill their way in to multiple ways of salvation/end.
    I choose to believe what I choose to believe, based on the "evidence" as I see it. In the end, that's all their is: the EVIDENCE as I see it.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • JohnR

      @David Donahue No empirical evidence of the big bang or evolution? That is simply moronic even by the standards of those who keep harping on the term 'theory', as if theories can't be true, or at least a lot truER than a bunch of neolithic mythology.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • DanE

      Religion is just anther branch of philosophy, an attempt to explain the unknowable universe. Personally, I'm an athiest, but I enjoy reading religious writings as much as any other philosophy. At least the religious writer don't (usually) pretend that their ideas are based in logic like most other philosophers do. As to having other peoples philosophies shoved down our throats, have you ever heard of political correctness or environmentalism?

      March 19, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • NotEvenClose

      Wow – three papers, huh? That almost makes you a theoretical physicist, donchathink? Well, then, let me ask you this, smart guy; why do you think there has to be an answer to how existence ultimately arose? You really ought to check the definition of 'theory' as well, instead of denigrating it with your caps lock key. All you know, all you do, all you believe is "theory", unless you can show us how you've managed to derive absolute empiricism.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Observer

      Since there is no absolute proof either way, God is a THEORY, too.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • MrPragmatic

      "No empirical evidence of the "big bang", "evolution", etc..."
      Are you sure you want to go down this path? Because there is NO evidence at all that some phantom in the sky created anyting either. Science offers us a plausible explanation. Religion offers us a fascinating story.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • JeffC

      I'm not sure what your first statement is saying. CNN is only "hyping" this guy to gain web hits (and advertising dollars)? And you don't agree with his views? You're shooting the messenger.

      As far as your second statement is concerned, the fact that something cannot currently be explained doesn't mean it exists or works a certain way because "God" created it; we just haven't acquired the knowledge yet.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • HeavenSent

      DanE, political correctness goes against Jesus' spiritual teachings. PC is a lie of man (ways of the world). Jesus' spiritual teachings is truth about life and the hereafter.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • LJ

      Actually these types of articles brings us to comment on them, this in turn boosts cnn's ratings, they then can turn around and charge more money for advertising on this site. It's one reason they run commentaries about the conflict about ho-mo-s3x-uality among Christians they can get thousands of hits in a short period of time which ups their ratings. The more you post or click to read more, the more cnn makes.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • dendata

      How arrogant man is to believe that we are what we are by chance...Your ability to use your brain to think is proof of design."In terms of complexity, an individual cell is nothing when compared with a system like the mammalian brain. The human brain consists of about ten thousand million nerve cells. Each nerve cell puts out somewhere in the region of between ten thousand and one hundred thousand connecting fibres by which it makes contact with other nerve cells in the brain. Altogether the total number of connections in the human brain approaches . . . a thousand million million."
      Look around your home. Tables, chairs, desks, beds, pots, pans, plates, and other eating utensils all require a maker, as do walls, floors, and ceilings. Yet, those things are comparatively simple to make. Since simple things require a maker, is it not logical that complex things require an even more intelligent maker?

      April 9, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • What If

      dendata,
      "is it not logical that complex things require an even more intelligent maker?"

      Then who made "God"?

      April 9, 2011 at 4:31 am |
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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.