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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. Visionary

    Regarding Bell's discussion about Hell in particular – getting back to basics. Quite likely Christian corrupted the nordic "heathen" ideas of "Hel" into making it a very bad place to go.....and those non-conforming folks (to Christianity) would be destined to the place because they are sinners, etc.
    If european-descended people realize that there existed robust religion/spiritual practices prior to bloody by the sword conversion to christianity, they might find a very, comfortable, logical place to be. Christianity,at least for those in Europe, has no cultural basis or connection. The Abrahamic faiths are based on myths/legends etc from the near east.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Visionary, the sword of Jesus is His truth. You send yourself to the eternal flames. Jesus just obliges what you or anyone wants. You don't want to read His truth on how to save yourself. You send your soul to be blotted out.

      So much for you believing in the babble nonsense of men who follow satan's lies to deceive the entire world. Satan doesn't want to fry alone, he wants to take as many of God's children with him. Everything you posted is a lie to twist and contort Jesus' truth and you bought right into it.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  2. b4bigbang

    @illuminatti
    Allow me to attempt an explanation of "breath of God". It's a Biblical concept, Jesus taught on it. It come from a Greek word 'pneuma' (sp?) which is where we get our words, 'pneumatic', etc. In the bible, the breath of God refers to the Spirit of God which 'inspires' the prophet or bible writer.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Mischa

      well there's another useless piece of nonsense I'll never bother to remember.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Mischa, keep sinning and don't read the Bible to save your sole to learn what Jesus wants for you and what He wants from you ... and you send yourself to the eternal flames, blotted out for eternity. Your choice. Free will. You are doing this to yourself, Jesus just obliges you, as well as everyone.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Catherine

      Because a person doesn't believe what someone wrote they are sinning? How does that work? So if you don't believe what I just wrote, you are a sinner, repent now!

      March 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  3. Terri Geis

    Being a Christ Follower means accepting the Hard Sayings of Jesus. I am sorry you can listen to pastors and priests etc but you need to think of what you are hearing from them...

    March 19, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Magic

      Terri,

      "the Hard Sayings of Jesus."

      And what might those be? The words of 5 first century evangelists who *said* what he said? For someone who is claimed to be an omniscient "God", he left very poor evidence, which he surely would have known would be disputed.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Magic, do you always buy into the nonsense of men? They can't save your soul or theirs. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Poof, you are on to the eternal flames with Lucifer if you don't learn and comprehend the Truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior that made all.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Catherine

      You are wasting your time posting since for it to have meaning those that you are trying to reach have to believe first they have a soul. Since they don't why do you continue to waste your time, unless you like reading your continued posts.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  4. RV1982

    Interesting. I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran and also have attended United Methodist Church for several years. Bell is not saying anying different than what I have heard preached for over 50 years. I rarily hear hell discussed in sermons...the key theme is always love, forgiveness and God's grace. With regard to heaven, I have always been taught that it is the place of God in which humans cannot begin to comprehend. To me, hell is a place absent of God and reserved for those who reject God's grace. Both heaven and hell have nothing to do with your actions here on earth other than choosing or not choosing love and forgiveness and thus embracing God's grace through Jesus Christ. What exactly is it that is controversial about Bell? I read nothing that hints of heresy. I'm thinking maybe agnostics (and some Christians) misunderstand Christianity. Why else would the media and other nonbelievers suggest Christians are hypocrites when they sin?

    March 19, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • HeavenSent

      RV1982, have you ever read the Bible on your own? Or, do you just listen to what someone preaches when you attend church? Big difference of reading His truth for yourself. Jesus' love is just one aspect of who He is.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  5. Conrad Sundol

    If Bell is a heretic than I'm Gandhi. He tries to make sense about this life and speculates on what happens after this life. That's all anyone can do if they're honestly seeking truth and wisdom.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • HeavenSent

      So Conrad what you are saying is you are too lazy to read the Bible on your own. That's why these rock star preachers make so much money selling you their bill of goods and not ALL of Jesus' truth. You are blinded by the sin of Pride just as that character is. A 5 year old child can read and comprehend Jesus' truth because they haven't had their ego built up by the ways of the world yet. Children are humble and Jesus told us to be like children for a reason and that reason is to rid yourself of your ego.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      So much for the cancel reply. I was thinking what was under my shoe. I meant to write soul.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  6. AmericanGirl

    @ Observer, to punish people about heaven and hell is wrong, and is mans idea of control. To discipline and direct in the ways of love, like a parent would there own child is the kind of discipline I was talking about. You have to have some form of rules and guidlines to follow, as a Christian these rules should always line up with Christ. Not man or religion. Religion comes from man not God! It is pure evil. Jesus said "Come Follow Me" He did not chase you down the street and beg or threaten you to follow Him! He came into this world and was born homeless. Not in a cushy, posh palace! He hung out with the worst of the sorts of that time. He angered "The religious authorities" ...

    @ Lisa ~~~~ Amen!!!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      AmericanGirl, you prove that you've never read His truth (the Bible). Listening to other non-believers won't save yours or their souls. The Bible was scribed by holy men, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is the author of the Bible (His Story about Life and the Hereafter).

      You have a choice. Believe in and follow nonsense and you fry your own soul. Love and follow Jesus' truth as written in His letter (the Bible) He sent all of us to learn what He wants for us and what He wants from us and you're spirit will live, now on earth as it is in Heaven and you spend eternity with Him. Keep following satan (lies) and he'll promises you anything so you can go to the eternal flames with him, blotted out for eternity. Hey, satan doesn't want to fry alone. It takes courage to follow Jesus (truth), it's easy to follow satan (lies). The question you should ask, do you have courage to follow Jesus' truth or are you going to stay a coward and be blinded by your sin(s) and follow satan who deceives the whole world.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  7. God Bless the Illuminati

    Why do people keeping quoting the Bible as proof of the existence of a god? You can read the Bible cover to cover – as I've now done twice – and there is not a single passage that proves the existence of a god. My fundamentalist friends keep reminding me that the Bible is the "breath of god." I'm not even sure what that means but they certainly like to use that term even though they can't explain it. If you take a reasoned approach to the Bible, you will understand that it is a collection written by mortal persons (men, only, I suspect) replete with all the interpretations and biases that mortal men possess. I love the Bible for it's literary value for it is no doubt one of the world's greatest collections of folklore. But "divinely inspired by god"? C'mon, this is 2011. I think we're more evolved and enlightened than that.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      So you "think we're more evolved and enlightened than that."

      Think again... Unlike genius, ignorance has no limitation... (to paraphrase Einstein...)

      March 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Ryan

      God Bless the Illuminati – I hope to shed a little light on the questions you're asking. First off, the Bible is quoted as being the proof that God exists much in the same way that a painting or article of music is proof that an artist such as Leonardo da Vinci or Ludwig von Beethoven existed. We can't see them face to face, but we can see and hear their works. Your friends keep saying the Bible is the "Breath of God," or as is more common, the "Word of God," and you say it was written down by men, which is right. The Bible was written down by men taking dictation from God, to put it in more understandable language. God told them what He did, much like a painter or composer tells and interviewing reporter how and why he created what he did. Just because the reporter tells it to other people doesn't mean it's his work now, not the artists, does it?
      Bear in mind, Evolution was also penned by a man long dead, so if you can't trust the Bible, can you trust The Origin of Species? It's been changed many times (as I pointed out in earlier posts, the original version was very racist) in just a couple hundred years, yet is still accepted as fact, even though it's never been proven.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Colin

      Ryan, name me one thing that the "god" of the Judeo-Christian tradition created that I can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste that I cannot counter claim to have been created by Zeus, Ra, or Odin?

      Also, as has been pointed out in dozens of other posts you are completely wrong about everything you claim to know about Charles Darwin.

      Leonardo, Beethoven, and Darwin all existed and there are a great many works that we can attribute to them. The people who authored "The Bible" all existed but not a single claim in it can be considered anything other than fantasy.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God said He'd give those with no eyes to see, nor ears to hear who refuse to humble themselves.

      You folks prove that truth of His.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Evan

      Do you even know the definition of humble because obviously not as you reply to all the posts here.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  8. karen

    I believe people will be dissussing, disagreeing, patronizing, dismissing, and criticizing religious theories and beliefs until the only moment that matters and that is the moment we become the most solitary and individual we can ever be in a lifetime–when we take the last breath. We do what we do, to be the best we can be-hopefully wthout judgement or hate towards any human.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  9. Mike

    I would love to have Dr. John MacArthur or some other respected, well-established, long-term Bible teacher and pastor of our day get a chance at posing questions before Rob in public to see how he holds up. This CNN interview is a joke. Rob's "church" is just down the road from me and I would never go to it. From my initial familiarity with him, all I can do is pray for his congregation to leave and find a Bible-based church that without espousing "personal philosophy". Denying or changing the words of Jesus and what He said is very dangerous for a pastor conveying to thousands locally to him, and now to people all over the world in his books, etc. All I can do is pray for Rob and to have him return back to the upbringing of his parents and the teachings of the colleges he attended. As many people are already aware, some of the doctrines he teaches would land him out on the street if he were in any way associated with any respected national denominations in this land of ours.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  10. Carl

    For those of you calling yourselves Christians who then show hatred toward atheists or those who don't believe how you understand your religion......look to your hearts, my friends. News flash: Jesus did not come to this world to start a new exclusive club. The best way to spread the Good News is by your actions, not your words.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • ldb316

      "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"

      March 19, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  11. Reality

    Heresy or reality?

    The Apostles' Creed 20110: (updated based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years- see section 1 for some typical references used by said scholars)

    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 19, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • justsome

      Or the Christian ideals of sacrificial love, freedom of conscience, grace and redemption as well as humanities universal hunger for beauty and wonder came from the heart of our Creator.

      April 2, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  12. Sweedie

    My problem is this whole blog. I thought CNN was supposed to deliver news, not 15th century propaganda folklores. Honestly CNN, last week you had this 'opinion' about the bible and how it's supposedly condemns gays. Why even give people like that a voice? Oh, I get it... it stirs up controversy which stirs up revenue for you. Way to put your greed before the people.

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

      Sweedie – I hate to break it to you, but I've read excerpt from The Origin of Species and seen the sketches that Charles Darwin drew. He and his followers clearly placed colored people below white people and women below men in the original and later texts. Why do you think it was socially acceptable to have slaves as long as they weren't white people in many societies in the late 1700s through the mid 1800s? What you've been reading is updated, more politically correct texts, but not what Darwin really meant.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • JohnR

      Ryan, Origin of Species didn't appear till 1859, at which point slavery was illegal almost everywhere in the west and was about to become so in the US in a few years. To claim that that truly brilliant book (and I recommend reading the WHOLE book) somehow was the justification for slavery is simply idiotic, even defamatory. There was, however, a book that many pro-slavery hold outs did cite as justification – the Bible.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Shirokazesan

      Ryan, honestly, reread the original post from the author and you'll be just amazed at how there's not a mention of Charles Darwin or The Origin of the Species in it! But since you do apparently have an ax to grind, it might interest you to know that science has built upon its foundations since the 17th century, making that entire rant about apparent racial inferiority in Darwin's sketches a rather moot point. On top of that, if you're looking to discredit evolution or anything related to modern science, you should know that avoiding the actual topic by bringing up a fact that does nothing to challenge the merits of the argument itself will not win you converts. Go back to the factory where you were mass-produced, and inform your creator of this unfortunate design flaw.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Colin

      Ryan, Darwin's book "On The Origin of Species" came out in 1859. The slave trade in England was abolished in 1807, Darwin was born in 1809, and slavery in England itself was abolished in 1833. Slavery had nothing to do with Darwin's work. In fact, Darwin was strongly against slavery, against "ranking the so-called races of man as distinct species", and against ill-treatment of native people.

      I think what you are trying to smear Darwin is "Eugenics," something that was half inspired by his work and not widely known under that name until after his death. Ryan, you need help.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      Ryan, people of the 1700's did not think slavery was OK because of evolutionary theory. They did it because it made money and they could justify it Biblically. The Bible never condemns slavery, but rather sets out market rules for how the jews should conduct the slave trade. And the New Testament tells slaves to obey their masters. Do you not read your own book?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Observer

      @Ryan,
      Do you support slavery since the Bible did?
      Please do some research in the future before commenting.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  13. Alex

    Most of the people criticizing him for not being "orthodox" are probably themselves "unorthodox" since they reject the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church, the original communion of churches. Orthodoxy is older than Roman Catholicism which split from Orthodoxy and changed the Creed unilaterally. (Nuff said.) So, to call this guy unorthodox when you're not in line with the teachings of original Orthodoxy yourself is a little bit silly. It's refreshing to see a western Christian accept Mystery in theology. However, being afraid to be called "Christian" is quite strange since it was in Antioch that the name started, as the book of Acts states.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  14. doresearch

    "I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I'm big on that. If I can see something, I don't know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply because they don't agree with us Sun worship is fairly simple. There's no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don't have a special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun, it never tells me I'm unworthy. Doesn't tell me I'm a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn't said an unkind word. Treats me fine. So, I worship the sun. But, I don't pray to the sun. Know why? I wouldn't presume on our friendship. It's not polite."

    [ GEORGE CARLIN]

    March 19, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  15. Read the Bible before spouting off

    No mention of scripture in the article or video.Does this guy preach scripture or preach the lukewarm chicken soup for the soul stuff?Anyone know?

    March 19, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • ben

      Reading the bible with an open mind is the best way to create an atheist. "oh, yeah, talking snakes, a worldwide flood with no evidence, casting demons into pigs, makes perfect sense!"

      March 19, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • AmericanGirl

      HaHaHaHa!!!!!! Amen, that's how I feel about his teaching! Didn't Jesus say, "Many will come in my name in the last days, and many will be deceived, even the elect, falling away to doctrines of demons".... He is a smoooooooooooooooooth talker that satisfies those itchy ears, LOL...

      March 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Big D

      @ben, don't forget dragons, unicorns and giants. Plants can live without light. God making the sun stand still so the Jews have more daylight so they can keep killing. One man and woman can jump start population with just themselves, then everyone would be a product of incest and have the same DNA. Knowing what we know in modern day science, why anyone still beloved in these fairy tales.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Tim

      In his church services, he does preach the Bible. (It is a Bible Church after all). In fact, he usually digs really deep into the scriptures.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Ben, which flood are you referring to? Noah's flood was regional not global. God even said that he would never destroy humanity again by flood. Then you need to open your eyes when reading about how God destroyed the 1st earth age. Noah's flood was in the 2nd earth age (the one we currently live in). As to snakes, I know many who walk on 2 legs and talk out of both sides of their mouth spewing nothing but lies.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Evan

      "s to snakes, I know many who walk on 2 legs and talk out of both sides of their mouth spewing nothing but lies."

      It takes one to know one.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  16. Dennis

    The problem I have is this: How can a person call themselves a Christian and then not follow Christs teaching. No, I am not saying that Christians are perfect. I know I foul things up. But Christ says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." If Mohandes Ghandi is in heaven it is because somewhere along the line he learned that Jesus is the way. He never said that he did publicly. So if Ghandi is present in heaven it would be a surprise.

    I think the key is that if you choose to live your life apart from God here on earth, God will honor that decision when you die.

    In regards to who God choses, He chose everybody. Everybody seems to know John 3:16, "For God so loved the World, that He sent His only begotten Son. Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." God loved/loves the whole world. The question for each individual is whether we choose to love, honor, and obey God and accept the gift of Salvation.

    One important thing to include is this: As a Christian, I am told not to judge people, but I am called to judge whether something is of God or not. If there is not difference between being a Christian and not being a Christian, then why would anybody want to be a Christian. As a Christian, I have to treat people as if they have been chosen but they may not know it yet. If love is good enough for God, it's more than good enough for me. Christians should remember that they were saved by grace and mercy was granted.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Good Bless the Illuminati

      I think you may be drinking the Kool-Aid, Dennis. I respect and admire what you say about true Christians not judging. But haven't you found (like I have) that the more a person subscribes to fundamentalist Xian beliefs, the more judgmental they are? After all, have you ever had a lengthy philosophical conversation with a Mormon or a Baptist or a Catholic? The judgments start in the first few sentences. Again, most "Christians" build their beliefs upon a foundation of hypocrisy.

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

      Dennis,
      "But Christ says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

      That is what John (or one/ones writing under that name) *said* that he said.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Observer

      @Magic,

      So Moses and EVERYONE else who lived before Jesus went to hell? Or did God use a completely different set of rules then?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tim

      I think Rob Bell is a Christian and that he follows what Christ said. I think you need to listen more carefully to what he is saying. The point about Gandhi, is not that non-Christians are going to heaven, but that we are not the judge of who gets into heaven or not. Gandhi, at one point, did say he liked Christ and his teaching, but he didn't like His followers (mostly because of events that happened to him in churches. He was kicked out of a "white" church for being Indian, once). So, he had exposure to the teachings of Christ and it is very possible he is there. I think when we get to heaven, we will be surprised as to who is there and who isn't.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Magic

      Observer,

      I'm on your side of the debate. My point was that some first century guy named John, or other guys writing under that name, wrote what some guy named Jesus supposedly said.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Magic, you prove to me "ashes to ashes, dust to dust".

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  17. Dan

    Rob Bell's teaching is nothing new. The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons don't accept hell either.

    Jesus taught that Heaven and hell are real places. He also said that only a few would find their way to Heaven. I choose to believe what Jesus said. He is the ONLY way to the Father in Heaven. Peace.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Magic

      Dan,
      "I choose to believe what Jesus said."

      Actually, you choose to believe what 5 first century evangelists *said* that he said.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Tim

      Interestingly, I think Rob Bell would agree with you. "Judge not, lest you be judged"

      March 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  18. william k. fitzwater

    The question of heaven & hell are central pillars of the Christian faith. He has a point that yes hell can exist on Earth but it is miniscule in comparison of hell. The Bible states that hell is a place of destruction a place of darkness wailing gnashing of teeth. It is separation of God to be out side his presence forever. As a Christian our role is to be positive role models for our community. To try in live a life that is best we can . Not perfect but as godly as we can . Then to have faith we are saved by faith we are redeemed, .
    It is a person's choice to reject or accept Christ. A act of faith.
    Now for my last part . Because I love Science I also have to make my last comment on science. As far as evolution goes. This is where I take a turn . We exist in a physical world. a world with physical law . there is ample evidence to show how are planet formed how it evolved . there is getting to be more evidence of other planets solar systems. All these things do not contravene the Bible . It goes to expansion no matter what that god crated it all.
    I get made fun of because my leanings but both theories can be right because both things help explain this world . One from spiritual realm the other in ways of facts & what exists.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Ceri

      @wkf: Re. Your first paragraph – I suspect you haven't even read Rob Bell's book. He examines what the bible says about Hell quite carefully.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Darren

      there is no such thing as heaven or hell. There is no god.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • AmericanGirl

      @ WKF, I to LOVE science! All of it!!! What frustrates me as a Christian people tend to look at me funny, like It's wrong to like it and be Christian! Makes me so mad! When I study the stars and the planets and our earth, it just reaffirms my belief in God, and how amazing He really is! For those that want a good deep study, check out; The Truth Project

      March 19, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  19. Ryan

    Observer
    Hitler may have been raised Catholic, but he converted to Atheism at a young age (I think it was in the Army during World War I, but I'm not 100% sure). Just because he was raised Catholic doesn't mean he always was. If you were raised Christian, does that mean you always will be? Hitler killed the Jews, Polish, and many others in his death camps because he believed they were a lower form of life based on Evolutionary theory, which by the way, is also racist, as it places women below men, and colored people below white people on the evolutionary ladder (the darker your skin, the lower form of life you are according to Darwin). Hitler thought they were unfit to live and should be killed off to promote Evolutionary advancements based on natural selection. Get your facts straight.

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

      You know nothing of history so please stop pretending like you do.

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

      Ehm... Darwin never said any of those things. What you're thinking of is Social Darwinism which is completely different from Darwin and his Theory of Evolution, and actually has nothing to do with Darwin himself. It's this social theory developed by people to suppress minorities, basing it on no facts whatsoever.

      Don't tell other people to get their facts straight when you need to do the same.

      And stop trying to stain the theory of evolution like that, you sound like Glenn Beck.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • ben

      Hitler was always a catholic, never an atheist. You're a liar. As a matter of fact the catholic church and the pope celebrated Hitler's B-day with him till the very end. "I am, and always have been, a loyal catholic" –Hitler, Mein Kampf

      March 19, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Big D

      Trust me atheists do not going around looking for religious artifacts because they think that the religious relics would give them super powers. Like Hitler did when he sent archelogists all over the world looking for anything from the bible, like the 10 commandments. That is someone who lives in the fantasy world. You were lied to about Hitler and you don't convert to being an atheist, 1 day you realize Santa isn't real, the easter bunny isn't real and Jesus isn't real. Yes I'm willing to bet on it.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Get the Facts

      Ryan – did you make up that "information" about Hitler on the fly as you were writing? I hope you were joking. Saying that Hitler was an atheist gives moral, rational atheists a bad name. No, Hitler was a "good Christian" right up to the time he blew his head off.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Lee S

      Funny how when people try and say atheists are evil and use the same two people as examples every time. Of the billions of people who have ever lived all you can conjure is Hitler and Stalin, maybe Pol Pot. The first two men co existed and events caused by them were terrible. How many people of faith can you name that have committed atrocities, even in the name of their faith? I cant even start.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Visionary

      First of all, as others correctly pointed out, Hitler was not an atheist. Second his views of social dawinism, or whatever you call it, were accepted thoughts AND practices in other countries like the US, Canada, UK, England, etc. There are many books published by english-speaking authors in the early 1900's discussing the theory and application of eugenics.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Alex Trane

      Ryan you are a retard. Evolution does not place white people on top. Turn off Fox news and read a book.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Religious sects

      Ryan.. no one "converts" to atheism, atheists just don't believe in religion. It seems some people just can't comprehend NOT following something and just living life as it comes. And that stuff about Darwin, c'mon at least try to read up and know what you're saying, when you don't it just confirms you're not interested in the truth.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • JohnR

      Cite for the attribution to Darwin, please.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Daniel

      Ben,
      Hitler was a politician. He knew the implications of saying he was a Catholic. Did he actually follow Catholicism's tenets? not at all.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      What does your nonsense have anything to do with the article? You obviously know nothing about evolution. You blame it for putting women 'below' men? I think your god already did that, a fact that fundamentalists like to harp on to this day. Paul said it is an abomination for a woman to speak in church; that if she has any questions she should keep her mouth shut and ask her husband when they get home; and that women should have no spiritual 'authority' over a man. The fundies love that, while the Happy Clapper feel-good Christians try to squirm away from it. It's pretty funny to watch.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • ldb316

      Mein Kampff was written before Hitler even came to be the Chancellor of Germany, so obviously before WWII & the atrocities he committed against the human race. So quoting Mein Kampff as proof that Hitler 'always' was a Catholic doesn't stand up. Hitler was obviously NOT a 'good Christian' regardless of what he considered himself to be.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • farmboymn

      So much bald-faced lying in so short a paragraph. Just curious, if Hitler accepted Christ as his savior in the moments before he shot himself, does he go to heaven?

      March 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God created ALL the races on the 6th day (Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.) and Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Who is anyone to argue with God.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Dave

      You forgot God created gays too! Go Christian Gays!

      March 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  20. Ceri

    Wonderfully thought out and honest book. No problem with what Rob Bell says at all, and, as he writes, he's not proposing anything new.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:07 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.