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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. albie

    "HIpster pastor," now there's an oxymoron. I just clicked through to say once again how the world would be such a better place without ALL religions. You can always tell how intelligent someone is by how religious they are.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • ToniaTonia

      Okay, so clearly you are not religious, but do you believe in God? Are you spiritual? Do you believe dimensionally there is more to this world? There is so much science that explores these undeniable possibilities.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      "You can always tell how intelligent someone is by how religious they are."

      Would you be thinking that it would really be in inverse proportion?? I'm not sure... some of the snake-oil salesmen who have been in the religion business throughout the ages had to have quite a bit of cunning...

      March 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  2. b4bigbang

    The presence of God is so great and desirable (once a person has tasted of it), why would anyone give glory to anything else?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      Um, maybe because I don't want to base my life on a lie?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Magic

      A fantasy world is very seductive.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Steve and Magic, you already follow satan who is a lie. If you don't follow Jesus the only alternative is to follow satan.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  3. God Illusion

    Quoting and referencing the bible in an attempt to prove a god, or decide what what he meant or wants, is EXACTLY the same as quoting Marvel Comics in an attempt to prove Superman and define the deeper meanings of his quest. Both are stories written by men.

    C'mon folks – it's time to outgrow myths, folklore and fearful wish-thinking... we're intelligent mammals, nothing more, but nothing less either so let's do something constructive with these short lives instead of wasting time on fantasies.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • DG

      If you want to learn about Superman, you go to Marvel Comics, right? Why doesn't the same go for wanting to learn about God?

      March 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      DG: no-one is claiming that Superman is real... He's as fictional as "God"...

      March 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Illusion, you and others that preach that there is no God get judged first with all the false preachers that lead God's children astray. Know this truth.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  4. DWebb

    I want to go exaclty to the same place where Mahatma Gandhi went after his time on earth. If a person is judged after he/she dies, they will be judged on the basis of the work they have done and how they treated people. God does not have an ego which requires that one has to believe in God. God is not jealous (a very unGodly trait).

    March 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • ToniaTonia

      Amazing.. God told you all this? He hasn't spoken to me personally unfortunately – but He did give us the Bible, and so I read that. He is pretty clear about how we will be judged. And.. what is expects of us. The work and effort to preserve those ancient writings so we can have them today... Unbelievable so many of us "Christians" don't bother with reading the Bible but we "KNOW" who God is and what he is like AND what happens and what is okay and not okay! My 15 year old.. if I gave his a LONG letter with his responsibilities and duties but told him I was going to be gone for a month! I guarantee he'd skim the letter... and make up his own rules saying "mom would understand this" "mom knows my heart and that I mean well" "I am kind to others so all this other crap isn't that big of a deal" ....... get my point?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • DWebb

      Tonia Tonia
      How do you know that God gave us the bible? Did he tell you this?
      The bible was written by men.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • MDK

      Actually, God is jealous, and as the Creator and originator of life, YHWH has a right to be...
      Exodus 34:14
      Rev 4:11

      March 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • ToniaTonia

      I know DWebb that men wrote the Bible. But... the stories and experiences of real people that lived are stories after stories sharing experiences and occurrences that are reiterated by multiple authors from different areas and times. They didn't have facebook or cell phones to collaborate on their stories. The bible historically has relevance and secular science has found evidence of historical truth. I won't waste your time expressing spiritual awareness – as you are seeking tangible truths. I hope you are not closed on your decision to not believe in God.. but further explore. You can find someone "intelligent" and willing to dig with you for evidence. Once you know there is as much a possibility HE is real as the possibility He is not... then consider being a little ant in your little ant hill. Then realize how tiny you are in this existance. Your intelligence will take you so far... just as an ant's intelligence can only take him so far – that little ant couldn't possibly comprehend the SUV driving his tire over their ant "neighborhood" and devastating their community. When I try to use all my intellectual ability to find this ridiculous – I consider my smallness in the the big picture and then I feel ridiculous.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  5. Ben Dover

    It shows uncivilized and backward we are that people still believe in "god", "devil" or heaven/hell for that matter. It's all a fabfrication and made up BS.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Hayabusa

      @Ben Dover
      Ha ha...Nice tag. It is quite ridiculous, isn't it? Organized religion is like organized crime; it preys on peoples' weaknesses, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to get rid of.

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

      Ben, Jesus' truth is about Life and the Hereafter. Read His letter (the Bible) He wrote all of us. Then you will know His truth. Other than that, you can continue to stay lazy and listen to others instead of going to the source (Jesus' truth). You own your sinful nature and you own were your soul ends up. No one saves souls except Jesus.

      Free Will. Choose wisely. Love and follow Jesus (truth) and your soul spiritually lives, now on earth, at it is in Heaven and for eternity with Jesus. Love and follow satan (lies) and you die spiritually while house in human form on earth as you will in Heaven, then you'll go to the eternal flames and be blotted out. No eternity for you. While you are in the eternal flames, a worm made especially for you feeds off of you. Yuk.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  6. ToniaTonia

    So I haven't read any of this man's books, but based on what I've been reading the articles and watching his interviews.. he never seems to quote from the bible. The article even says, "He will tell you he again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar." Well, how can you be a pastor and NOT be an expert in the bible? Isn't that key – otherwise then isn't he just an inspirational speaker who is spreading ...good news... versus "THE good news" IF HE SAYS HE LOVES JESUS... we are directed by him to be in the WORD. We are all so self-indulgent these days and yet call ourselves Christians – so we have to recreate our faith to fit our indulging behaviors and life-style. That is all.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Will

      So we should really follow the word? Well then....

      Exodus 21:20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property."

      March 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • kensgirl

      @ToniaTonia, I couldn't agree with you more. How can a Pastor not be a bible scholar? How can you teach the Word without knowing and studying the Word? Unbelievable...

      March 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • J

      "The article even says, 'He will tell you he again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar.' Well, how can you be a pastor and NOT be an expert in the bible?"
      - The truth of the matter is, MOST pastors aren't bible experts. Some neighborhoods have churches on each block. Others have several churches at the same intersection. Could all those people be experts? Can they all read ancient Hebrew and Greek and understand why the bible's been translated in several ways? No and that would just be the basics to reading the book, not pursuing deeper meanings.

      The truth of the matter is, even if I disagree with some of this pastor's points, he's raising the same questions that many pastors are asking themselves, but are too scared to say in public because then they can't be seen as all-knowing "experts." This guy being unconventional doesn't bother me. What bother's me, as a believer, is how many of us ignore our fears and questions hiding behind convention (and you can't solve this problem by quoting more bible verses in a conventional way)...It seems to me the latter has almost always been more dangerous than the former.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • J

      Sorry, one more thing. I also think there's a big difference between people being "experts" and us wanting/hoping/believing/assuming they are.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • ToniaTonia

      That is the Laws of the Old Testament. Today we have hope because we know that we have Jesus Christ. We no longer live under such laws – but under His laws. We are to allow God's light to shine from us – meaning in reality, our behavior and our actions are to reflect Jesus' love and ways. He was on Earth and His life is our example of Godly lifestyle and how to treat others. When Jesus life was represented by various authors of the New Testament.. the stories were of a loving, non-discriminating, peaceful man. He turned the other cheek. We are told to model his life.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The only way you can know if this guy is teaching Jesus' truth is by reading the Bible yourself to be able to discern what is being said, written. If it isn't Jesus' truth, then it is satan's (way of the world ... man's lie). It's just another hack making money off of Jesus.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  7. cary lacayo

    This is the message of denial and deception that isn't new news to our current time in history. If you believe in what the Bible has to say, then one can go back to the original lie of satan to Eve regarding the denial to obey God and the deception that it took that brought a change of thinking in Adam and Eve to disobey God. Satan's false words were directly contrary to what God had told them to obey regarding the Tree of Life which led to the fall of all mankind.

    Rob Bell is doing the same thing by introducing this new understanding on what the Bible has to say about heaven, hell and salvation to bring forth a change of thought in people. I'm not saying Rob Bell is satanic, but I am saying that the things he has stated in his book and now verbally over the air ways are exactly what satan wants to say to us, to those who will listen... It goes against the truth of the Bible which is the written word of God regarding those major matters of where we will spend eternity and how we get there.

    People need to understand that a day will come when everyone of us will be required to give an answer to why God should allow you to enter into His Kingdom of heaven. Oh and yes there is a hell, it is a place, not a metaphor or an imagined hypothetical location for bad people. It's a place were we are sent because we didn't accept the free gift God gave us in His Son Jesus, who died for our sins and rose from the dead. Hell is a place were love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness and many other things are gone or absent due to God not being there. Alone forever to remember that you had a chance to accept what God gave you in His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Hell is not a place were bad people go due to their bad/wrong choices they made while living here on this earth. There is no such thing as bad people, but rather bad choices we all make. We all sin and the penalty for sin is death or going to hell. I know that doesn't sound nice, loving or fair, but it's the Bible if you choose to believe it. Oh ya and the devil, he wants you to think that it's all not true or it's not fair or loving of God to send us there. God doesn't want any of us to go to hell and He has nothing to do with us going there.

    That's the bad news, but the good news is that God loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to die for our sins while we still sinners. We must believe these facts and accept them as truth then the most important thing is to depend or trust in them. That's the real message, that's what matters when we will all stand before God.

    Mr. Bell will be held accountable for his actions if he doesn't change his direction and decisions he is making in how he is leading and teaching heresy. I hope he realizes his major misunderstanding of what the Bible says, that's my prayer and for those who are following his message and leadership. I have been involved with following a false teacher, so I know by experience how you can be sucked into the vacuum of heresy and or a leader that is flat out wrong in the way he leads people and his own life.

    Mr. Bell talks about love as if it wins, well it did, when Jesus said "It is finished" while on the cross. The finished work Jesus Christ did on that cross is the meaning of love...

    March 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  8. Jon

    "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." (Matt 7:13) Jesus said more people will find the wide path... Rob Bell should read the bible again, regarding what Jesus expects as being one of His disciples. It is simple, and free, but not easy.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jon,

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  9. Bob

    Jesus was a black man.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Felix

      What's your point? He could have been green with purple stripes for all the difference race makes. I hate to break the news to you but.... this piece has nothing to do with race.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • R Harris

      Hi, Bob. Gosh it's good to see you. Just got a call from the 'home'. They're looking for you. Time for your meds.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • LinCA

      Actually, she was a black lesbian in a wheelchair. It says so in my holy book, so it must be true. Anybody who disagrees will burn in hell for all eternity.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  10. George

    Religion is about fear and control. Of course the religious oligarchs resent any idea that would challenge that control, once again proving that god is no more than what men make of him/her.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Thank you for adding Sanity to this discussion.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Mslady74

      "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of GOD: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Corinthians 2:14

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

      @ George
      You hit it on the head. Religion actually makes people more ignorant. Scientific studies have been done which show that the deeper one is involved in religion the lower they score on tests.
      "Only sheep need a shepherd."

      March 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  11. Dan

    It's like a world discussion and battle on whose better and who determines our fate, the Autobots or the Decepticons. Debates and arguments between two sides are not that interesting, when just making things up is a fair basis for a position.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  12. R Harris

    "So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.” Really? Jesus says Lazarus didn't continue to make choices. His eternal fate was fixed. Rob, was Jesus wrong? Luke 16:26

    March 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jonathan

      RHARRIS: You are acting like the event of Christianity actually happened or that they happened exactly and truthfully as written. They did not happen as written, and also the writings are intrepreted many different ways, they are also different Bibles with different translations. The Bible is a forged mess if you are at all educated on the subject. You have a childish and uninformed understanding of Chrisitianity and the concept of god in general.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • R Harris

      You've got to love Christian haters, like Jonathan. So tolerant and understanding of others who agree with them. P.S. Your name calling is embarrassing. Really.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jonathan, Jesus' truth is life and the hereafter. The Bible was scribed by holy men inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is the author.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  13. Brian

    When I pray I ask God to send me to hell because I don't want to run into all these phonies who are going to heaven.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Don't worry Brian, Jesus will do exactly what you want. Except, you go to the eternal flames, have worms eating off your head, then you are blotted out. Poof no more David.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Correction: No more Brian. All you non-believers sound exactly the same. Some education! Not.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Evan

      "Some education! Not." You don't even realize that it's you that has the problem but you won't listen to anyone posting since your so stuck on yourself. Your pain from the last 8 years has ate itself like a worm in your ego, allowing the devil himself to reside. Go read the bible, find Jesus love and get a life.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      LJ cough Evan, so you keep on switching handles from the T-party days LOL. You own your sins. No one else does, no matter how many handles you use. So you hate faithful servants who follow Jesus' truth. Rubs you the wrong way because you don't want to give up your sinful nature. You condemn yourself to the eternal flames.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ethan

      Who is LJ? Are you on some type of medication?

      March 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  14. Always Right

    Great guy. Refreshing Voice. I'm not an evangelical, but I respect what he's doing. Hopefully his influence will be great and lasting.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Felix

      Thank you for your sanity. I could not have said it better myself!

      March 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Heather in SoCal

      What's so new about what he's saying? He almost sounds like he could be a Methodist...

      March 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You are in the generation of end of days. The generation of famine. Never to hear Jesus' truth. This guy is living proof if you pay attention to Him you fry in the eternal flames along with everyone that pays attention to him. Read the Bible for yourself to save your soul. This guy won't/can't do it for you he follows the ways of satan (lies). Only Jesus saves souls. The only way to know what Jesus wants for you and from you is to read His letter He wrote to all of us (the Bible).

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Evan

      If people listen to you they will become brain dead like you are, lost in your own pain, you don't care who you hurt.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  15. Jonathan

    While his book has more of a positive message than traditional Christianity the fact remains that the vast majority of the Christian story is pure fiction made up over the years and decades and continues to be made up. The Bible is a corrupted and forged book....and no one thought of Jesus as the son of God until centuries later when they just decided to do that. The stories surrounding Jesus were taken word for word from Previous myths and stories and used to make Jesus sound supernatural. None of the gospels were written by the purported authors.....the list goes on and one. These are just facts. Our children do not need to be taught lies and a primitive belief system that has damaged so many....that is the greatest sin of all...........and sorry I'm not an atheist.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Jess

      Certainly not many saw him as the Son of God when he was here—that's why he was crucified. Just out of curiosity... where did you get those facts?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Jonathan

      These are common knowledge facts from many different Biblical scholars and historians. The vast majority of Chistians know next to nothing of their relgion and it's origins and how it came to be and manufactured.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Jonathan

      JESS: One fantastic book is: " The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold" and another excellent source is: " Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth " There are many, many other excellent sources. These should be mandatory in every school as far as I'm concerned to help arm our children against these false beleifs being taught as truth.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jonathan, it must be difficult picking yourself off the ground all the time for tripping over that big ego of yours. Just because that propaganda about Jesus is on the Net, doesn't mean it's true. It's all lies. All religions copy God's truth, call the people by different names to twist and distort. Why? Because those that follow satan's (lies) are deceived and they want you to to be deceived too as you fry in the eternal flames. Misery loves company and they want to include you.

      Amen.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Evan

      "Misery loves company and they want to include you." That also includes you Heaven Sent why else are you here and not reading the bible you keep telling one else to do. You are such a hypocrite. Time to look in the mirror and realize those that you continue to criticize actually are reflections of yourself, only you are too blinded by your ego to see it.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Evan, Po, and your numerous handles back to when I first told you that you were blinded by your sins and you own it. I do read the Bible daily. And you? Just because I copy and paste from scriptures means I don't have to type them myself. Scriptures from the Bible are all over the net. I read wiser Christians sites as requested by Jesus. It sharpens our knowledge about Him. You happen to hate Jesus' truth because you are comfortable with your sinful nature. You loose. I don't. You can read any of those sites that irk you so much. They too will tell you Jesus' truth and nothing but His truth. Not like the liars you follow.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Ethan

      "read wiser Christians sites as requested by Jesus.' And you think we are delusional. You can't even beging to prove that Jesus requested this of you. It's all in your mind or should I say ego.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  16. BFOTO

    His point to me seems to be that many of us get caught up in the words of scripture and don't look for, or understand, their deeper meaning. If you are looking only to the words you are missing the lessons to be gained from any religion. The words have been translated and changed many times over history. Most recenly in an effort to make them "more accessible". And the sad reality is that just the opposite has hahppened.

    Religions by their nature try to explain the unexplainable, and things that are beyond our comprehension, in a way the humans can understand. To do that, stories with symbols and metaphores are used and these messages have been lost over time in our modern day quest for a literal translation. This only leads to fundamentalists on one side and atheists on the other, when the real answer is beyond the words.

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

      BFOTO, Jesus' truth is about Life and the hereafter.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  17. Chad

    Rob Bell's truth barely pierces the skin and ultimately will never reach the heart! Jesus's sword of Truth pierces our very hearts and that means a lie will be revealed and that is tough stuff!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  18. Erin

    I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine‑sounding arguments...See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. ~ Colossians 2:4,8

    March 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Ryan

      @Marge – The Origin of Species says it's okay to "keep Aborigines as pets such as one would a monkey or chimp" and "when they misbehave, beat them as you would a dog." Who's supporting slavery now?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • R Harris

      I am disappointed in Rob. In this article he continually measures his teaching against his own standards. "I never...", "I don't think...", "I begin with...", "I think..." I, I, I... Not sure what's going on here. Praying for you brother!

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

      Hit it on the head.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • JohnR

      Ryan, you are either amazing ignorant or a liar.

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

      Ryan,

      You just don't get it, do you? Perhaps you are one of those people who find a kernel or two of truth in an old book and therefore buy into *everything* in it, just because it's easier not to think.

      The answer to *everything* is not that easy (perhaps not even possible). Nobody worships Darwin's every word (after all he was a Christian). They find some basis for fact and then research, explore, investigate, test, verify and try to falsify... then do it some more.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Magic, your the one that doesn't get it. The Bible, Jesus truth about Life and the hereafter is the only truth. God doesn't lie. Man/woman can/will.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Evan

      "Magic, your the one that doesn't get it. " No, you don't which is why you spend so much time here instead of practicing what you are saying. It's time for you to pick up the bible again and focus on your own soul.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  19. Ed

    God so lovED(past tense) the world . Now God tells His us "not to love the world neither the things that are in the world. Jesus said "If any man love the world , the love of the Father is NOT in him" Mr. Bell should direct people to Christ and THE BIBLE not to himself and his musings of what truth is. ( I John 2:15,16). the early church was concerned greatly about sound doctrine and so should we . Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven. God in the person of The LORD Jesus Christ suffered what would be equal to what it would be like to burn on fire forever so that you and I do not have to suffer that real possible fate. God tells us in Col 3 , Not to set your affections on things on earth but on things above where Jesus is. Love one another and tell them the truth of the right and only ONE WAY to make it to Heaven. http://www.carm.org carm.org carm org TheWayOfTheMaster , com The WayOfTheMaster.com

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

      Who cares what the bible says when it says crazy BS like Exodus 21:20 “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

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

      "God in the person of The LORD Jesus Christ suffered what would be equal to what it would be like to burn on fire forever"

      Not even REMOTELY similar. You have a vivid imagination if you equate a few hours to eternity.

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

      "God so loved the world" means tha He loved human beings.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Rachael

      You must have missed 1 John 4:8 – God IS love. So His love for man has not stopped, and that love is not just for the Christian but EVERYONE.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Gary L Wimmer

      People learn more about God and truth when they question everything and look everywhere, not just in the Bible. First, there are numerous different Bibles, there are contradictions in all versions, everyone puts their own biases in their beliefs, and most of all God is infinite, meaning no single book or person (or all books and people) can ever give a complete description of God. Wake up, people. Indeed Jesus is the example of how to live, and Hell is not seeing that Heaven is all that exists. If you’re not living in Heaven now, you simply don’t know God. Behold, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. PERIOD!

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

      To Rachel:

      God DOES love everyone, so he sent his son Jesus to earth as sacrifice for sins. Those who beleive, repent (which means completely changing your life and live like Jesus, not merely cutting out a few sins) and are baptized are forgiven of their sins, and should they live a faithful life, they will be admitted to heaven. God showed his love to the world through the life and death of his son Jesus. But if someone rejects him, they will not enter heaven. God still loves them, but they haven't responded to God's love. God sent Jesus down here to have people change their lives – he went all out, it's up to us to respond to God's love.

      As for the existence of hell, it's so obviously clear from the bible that hell exists that it can't seriously be debated, if you believe in the inspiration of the bible. This is just another story about someone who feels they are morally superior to the clear teachings of the bible (and to God, ultimately) – they want to tell everyone what God is REALLY saying, so we simpletons will understand. And, as usual, they completely miss the boat on a number of important concepts from the bible, which leads them to developing the latest false doctrine.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The Bible was scribed by Holy men divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is the author of the Bible. Reading, comprehending and applying His truth to your thoughts/beliefs, writings and actions is His spiritual truth that He teaches us about His righteousness. If you choose not to read His letter (the Bible) He sent all of us, you choose to do so and your soul won't be saved because you refuse to learn what He wants for us and what He wants from us while housed in human form on earth as it is in Heaven. You choose whether you want to fry into the eternal flames and be blotted out through eternity by loving and following the lies of satan. Satan can't save souls. Not even his own. Only Jesus saves. Jesus obliges what the sinner wants.

      You have 2 choices in the free will that Jesus gave you. Love and follow Him (truth) and live while in this life in human form and then in spiritual form to dwell with Him for eternity, or love and follow satan (lies) who deceives the entire world and goes to the eternal flames, to be blotted out. Poof, no more, no eternity. Nothing. Nadda. Zapped. Fini.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Ethan

      Heaven Sent you are posting like a preacher and an anti Christ. If people want to read the bible they will but you are not qualified as a preacher of God to be telling anyone what to do.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Bob

      @Observer. Christs suffering on the cross was a physical death that took some hours to accomplish. The real torture and horror he experienced was the complete and total separation from God. He cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" He endured the complete and eternal separation that we deserved for our sins. He paid the price we can never pay. No one is forcing you to believe this, it is your own free will to accept or deny. Each of us will stand before God, whether we choose to believe it or not. Personally it is none of my business what you believe. It is not my job to persuade you in one way or another. The only soul that matters to me is mine. Along the way in life, I will reflect the love of Christ to the world. I will never force my belief on anyone. If someone asks me "What is it inside of you that I cant quite define and have yet to experience?" I will simply tell them .... Jesus

      April 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  20. b4bigbang

    Hi Mischa, I pray that God creates a hunger in you for his revelation.

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

      My hunger is for chocolate-chip cookies. I doubt you have the cojones to pray for something more intelligent and relevant.
      Not a single "Christian" have I met that is willing to have enough "faith" to pray for proof of your god.
      It is a conversation-killer, let me tell you. The "put up or shut up" sorts of questions make so-called "Christians" slink away.
      Yet I'll try again, just for kicks.
      Pray that I be given proof, like your "doubting thomas". He got proof, why can't I get some proof too?
      There is no ban against giving proof of your god's existence in the Bible, so why don't you do it? All the "Christians" in the world are without faith? No one's prayers work? Go ahead and let us know by "special angel post" or something. okay?

      March 20, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Read the Book of Genesis to see what God created. Other than that, stay the fool. No one is stopping you but you.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
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About this blog

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