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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. snugglebunny

    @ JohnR. You think the exact opposite of the truth so your theory is the one which is demented. How can anyone blame God for blood of unsaved people being on his hands when he has done EVERYTHING he can to save each one of us – by offering his Son. It's not his fault if we reject his gift.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Magic

      snugglebunny,
      "he has done EVERYTHING he can to save each one of us"

      "EVERYTHING" he can? Really? I thought you claim that 'he' is All-Knowing and All-Powerful. Certainly 'he' can do a better job of convincing everyone...

      March 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • pProf

      Snugglebunny: be careful here. The arm of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save. You make God sound impotent, sort of like the grandpa who so much wants his grandson to do the right thing, but he is powerless to make it happen. God has chosen his own, Jesus effectually bore their sins on the cross, and the holy spirit powerfully brings them to faith when it pleases God. Not one sheep for whom Christ died will ever perish. See Romans 8 thru 11, for a full explanation of these precious and important truths.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • JG

      Gift? What sort of gift is it that a supposed all powerful deity cannot do something that we can? Which is forgive without conditions?

      No he is so filled with wrath that he had to unleash it on someone, so he chooses to do so on his own son?

      Wouldn't it have been easier to take an anger management class?

      March 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • snugglebunny

      For God so loved the world that he gave his son....so that
      Whosoever believes in his son will have everlasting life. That's anyone who has it in their hearts to believe. It is a heart thing. If someone wants to be deceived that's their right. God knows who will be open to the truth, and who will refused to be convinced.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Magic

      snugglebunny,
      "God knows who will be open to the truth, and who will refused to be convinced."

      Yep. And, according to your All-Knowing claim, 'he' knew this even before he created them... and made them anyway - ugh!

      March 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      It's sad when your "get out a jail free card" is the torture and drawn-out execution of a man. I find little there to celebrate. I also find the joy with which christians speak of this murder to be creepy.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  2. stubbycat

    The fundamental fact is that the message of Jesus, when understood, and I do mean understood, is spiritual, loving, uplifting, radical, destructive to human codes, restorative, corrective, healing and reveals heaven here and now as perfect spiritual consciousness and the forever banishment of matter and its' hell.. The fundamentalists, lusting to convert the world to their faulty sense of Christ, are quick to condemn others' ideas of a better, healthier, holier view of God and man than their imminent ominous own.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Sancho

    "I never set out to be controversial. I only set out to be rich and famous!"

    March 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  4. Jenny

    It's about time someone steps up to give Christians a new perspective. The Gospel of Thomas=true teachings of Jesus. Both Jesus and Buddha were excellent spiritual teachers. God lives in all of us. "The kingdom of heaven is within." Heaven is not external and can be found right here right now by going inside yourself. The truth you seek is inside you. The physical world is mostly an illusion used to teach us lessons and help evolve our soul. Jesus tried to teach us that our true essence is perfect. The mind is a filter used to create an illusion of faults. Clear the mind, think with the spiritual heart always, and you will know your true self...which is LOVE.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  5. b4bigbang

    @Daniel
    Very good question. You must seek God with your whole heart. This means going off by yourself and asking "are you real? Are you there? Reveal yourself to me". If you ask with a sincere desire to find out, then God will reveal himself to you.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Magic

      b4,

      Sure odd that 'he' 'reveals' himself to some people as absolutely Allah, to some as absolutely Jesus, to some as absolutely Vishnu... don't ask me to name all of the thousands of gods who have 'revealed' themselves absolutely to folks.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Don Camp

      Magic, I hear that idea a lot. But is it true? I am inclined to think not. There have been those who have done as b4 describes, people from cultures and religious traditions that are not Christian, and who have found God to be true and to be far more than the limited and distorted cultural and traditional gods were. God had revealed himself to them. Many Muslims have come to Jesus in just that way. Others have simply waited trusting in what they did find of God in that revelation. Job in the Old Testament may have been such a person. And there have been others. Find and read "Eternity in Their Hearts."

      But the truth is, it is rare. It is rare because cultures and traditions are often a barrier to knowing God. (That includes many cultures and traditions that are Christian based.) They divert the focus from God to religion and distort the picture of the one true God. That is why Paul says in Romans that preaching the good news is vital. How can they believe in one of whom they have not heard?

      March 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  6. squidbillies

    It's about time someone started talking about Christian charitability. Of late too many Christians have turned hard Right Wing and for some reason don't think we should have a national health insurance so that everyone can remain well. After all what are the police and military forces for? For protecting citizens? Whats more protective than health care coverage? What would Jesus do? He would want every human being to be fed clothed and cared for, no matter who or what they are.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • airwx

      I agree with the concept of universal care. I disagree with the current law as it actually will cause the collapse of high quality care. If you want to get good care we must bring the cost in line with reality. It would take us way off topic to go further, but I generally agree.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

      Very interesting point. A number of things he said are socialist by modern standards, like sell all your goods at give it to the poor (I have yet to meet a Christian who has done that, by the way)..

      If Jesus came today and said exactly the same things, the very people who claim him now would be violently against him.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  7. snugglebunny

    This guy is wrong on so many levels, unfortunately for him and all of the people who do not want to make a decision to be a true believer. Jesus Christ is Lord ~ not just an "anything goes" politically correct guy. In fact he's the Son of God. What he said about there being a place of outer darkness and weeping and knashing of teeth wasn't just an idle threat. He tries to get people to wake up out of a state of spiritual complacency yes but it's gotta be his way not man's way. I feel sorry for the people who believe this nonsense. Your blood will be on Rob Bell's hands in the day of judgement. And there WILL be one like it or not.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • JohnR

      If your demented fairy tale proves against all odds to be correct, everyone's blood will be on GOD'S hands and no one else's.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • pProf

      @johnR: Paul deals with your argument in Romans 9-11; recommend you see his answer, which is God's answer.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • snugglebunny

      @ JohnR. You think the exact opposite of the truth so your theory is the one which is demented. How can anyone blame God for blood of unsaved people being on his hands when he has done EVERYTHING he can to save each one of us – by offering his Son. It's not his fault if we reject his gift.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • JG

      How in fact is he the son of god? Are there any verifiable facts at all regarding his heritage? Are you privy to some sort of supernatural paternity test that the majority of the world is not?

      If so please share so we can apply to Hercules, Dyonysus and other alleged offspring of deities.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • pProf

      @jg: rising from the dead is pretty powerful evidence. Paul, transformed from a fire-breathing Christian-killer to a preacher of the gospel is strong evidence that he really did meet the risen Lord on his trip to Damascus. The timid Peter cowering before a maid transformed into a preacher of the gospel willing to die for his belief in the resurrected Lord lends it's support. The doubter Thomas was the typical skeptic, but became convinced of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. And then there arevthose 500 who saw the resurrected Lord, and not to mention the empty tomb which the rulers would have been glad to repudiate if they could have just produced that body!

      March 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • John Richardson

      I am well aware of the stock Christian answer. Don't you guys understand that a lot of us who reject Christianity were raised in churches and many of us are amongst the few who actually PAID ATTENTION and GAVE IT SOME THOUGHT.

      March 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • John Richardson

      If sending Jesus out to preach three years and get killed and then making people sift through centuries old, heavily edited and selected remaining texts of one and just one religious tradition to figure out what god really wants counts as "doing all he can" to save us, god is not only not omnipotent, but inept.

      March 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  8. Professor

    I wonder why the message of sin is not preached. The bible has two central messages to the sinner repent and be converted. To the saint, continue and hope in Jesus.

    The bible clearly says for the wages of sin is death. Then the Bible also says "Come out from among and be ye separate said the Lord and touch not the unclean things and I will receive you". It seems that these mega churches are causing folk to error when they do not preach against sin and sinful living or point people to Jesus. God's has a standard and that standard is holiness. Be ye holy for I am holy said the Lord. We must go back to the bible and leave all this other man made doctrine foolishness alone. The bible is the final authority on spiritual matters, not almanac book, philosophies, not New York best sellers, not even mans own thinking. If a preacher does not point you to Jesus, then he is false point blank.

    The bible says in Galatians 3:1: O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth.

    Folk are bewitched led astray by false teachers, false prophets, and false hearted people.

    Stick with Jesus and you will not error.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Daniel

    Do you really believe that some god create man in his own image ? Maybe Man created god in his own image .
    I'm on a crusade , A crusade of truth . People are scared of the truth , they can't handle the truth .
    Only intelligent responces please.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • airwx

      If you are on a crusade of truth then you must start every post with the following " I don't know but I believe...."

      In seminary it is the basis for starting any discussion.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Tom

      Daniel, please read what I posted to your earlier comment.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  10. Ellen Hunt

    My cousin Fred was out hiking in the Sierras. When he came back he said he talked to the great god Quong. An Quong told him that everybody should give him money, give him their wives when he wants them and in return they would get all the hot-dogs to eat that they want when they die. Oh, and everybody gets an iPod with endless free iTunes. Quong loves you if you accept his commandments. If you don't accept his commandments, Quong says you should be stoned to death, and if you aren't stoned to death, no hot-dogs or iTunes for you when you die.

    I asked to talk to Quong myself, but Fred said Quong only talks to him, because he is the chosen one. Fred's wife says that Quong gave Fred permission to beat her if she disobeys. I still wasn't sure if it was true. But then Fred's wife told me it was. So I'm giving Fred money, just in case you know. I mean, what if Fred is telling he truth? What then?

    March 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • airwx

      Then you will get a lifetime suppy of spaggetti O's. Or are you a whole grain type?

      At least make an attempt at a reasoned post.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • JohnR

      @airwx Ellen's post IS reasoned. It's your own lack of reason that makes you fail to see that.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  11. Brad

    It's interesting how modern Atheists think they can disqualify themselves from a discussion a discussion on belief because of their 'non-belief'. Either you believe it something or you don't know. The problem with the modern Atheist is that they can't own the fact that they believe that god does not exist. If you believe nothing and say, 'I don't know' and call yourselves 'Agnostic'. But don't besmirch true Atheists out there who strongly believe that god does not exist.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Well, you don't really KNOW for a fact that some sort of god doesn't exist... I'll grant you that it's extremely unlikely, but there's always a tiny chance that Yahweh or (insert your favorite Deity) is or was around... It's also possible that we're not really here... everything that you think has happened in your life is nothing but a figment of... (insert your favorite fantasy)... I'd actually place the probability of the latter as being far more likely than the former...

      March 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  12. Truth-teller

    My fiction is fictionier than your fiction, and if it's too fictiony for you, tough noogies? This is a nontroversy.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  13. b4bigbang

    @ mattymatt
    I believe you are correct in your statement re the spaghetti monster. His people are drawn to the religion section.
    The greatest commandment does say however to love God with all our heart soul and mind. God gives our minds understanding of the Scriptures so we won't go astray into evil doctrines, leading to improper forms of worship, etc.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  14. GonzoG

    I find more to like in Rev Bell's philosophy than in most of the supposed Christian theology I was exposed to as a child. As I was raised, someone as spiritual as Ghandi is suffering in Hell even now. Being from a protestant background, the same would go for Mother Theresa, and a good number of 'good people' who happened to be Catholic, or Buddhist, or Moslem, or even belong to the 'wrong' Protestant church are Damned.

    I personally believe that God wants us to BELIEVE. And he wants us to do GOOD to one another, regardless of their beliefs. If you walk your time on Earth acting as Jesus would want you, you also find this is how Mohammed instructed, and the Buddha, and a number of other Prophets, Saints, and Teachers.

    Walk with the Spirit of God in your heart. Do good by your fellow man. Be Charitable and Kindly to others–even those who may not deserve Charity or Kindness.

    You will be Rewarded in this life and the Next.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • airwx

      As a Christian I must agree with your being turned off by judgementism. I know a Budhist who I expect to see at the Pearly Gates...with a reservation for a mansion! Our job is not to judge....period.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • pProf

      @airwx: you are in the unenviable position of claiming to be a Christian but holding to a belief unabashedly in opposition to Jesus. He said that anyone who does not believe in him is under the wrath of God. Unless you can be Buddhist and also believe that Jesus is the eternal and resurrected Son of God, you cannot be a Buddhist and enter the pearly gates as you say.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • airwx

      @pProf....The law is written on every man's heart...and he seems to know it. It's not my job to determine who is on the reservation list, only to open the door for them.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • pProf

      @airwx: Jesus is the door through which one must enter. You cannot open it, but you can and should proclaim it. The law written on his heart serves to condemn him. He cannot obtain heaven by obedience to the law. The good news is that, while perfect obedience to that law is required for entry to heaven, Jesus accomplished that perfect obedience for everyone who believes in him. So, again, if your Buddhist friend believes in Jesus, he will enter heaven, but not otherwise.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Professor

      One has to remember it is not about being a good person or doing good deeds, its about having a relationship with God through Christ, being born again from the practice of sin and living a regenerated life that is pleasing God though Jesus, while taking on holiness being unspotted and free from the practice of willfully sinning. It must go past being a good person for being a good person is not enough. Ones life must line up with the word of God.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Don Camp

      If as a Buddhist, knowing who Jesus is, one rejects him that is to reject God's mercy and love. That is to decide against God in favor of some alternative.

      But Buddhism is not so much religion as a way of living. And that way of living is in most aspects not in opposition to the way of living taught by Jesus. So I think it is possible for a person to be both a believer in God's mercy through Jesus and be a Buddhist.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  15. Daniel

    The bible needs to be outlawed. This brainwashing has been going on for way too long . But lts not call it brainwashing ,lets call it the word of god .

    March 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • airwx

      Dear Daniel....just remember that when you outlaw the bible you open the door to the outlawing of science as well....be very careful what you wish for in that regard. The outlawing of any thought will be the beginning of total brainwashing.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • pProf

      Or, maybe Daniel should be outlawed; he's been brainwashed far too long.

      The scriptures contain much evidence of being the word of God. Men far superior to you or me in intellect have examined it critically and concluded it to be the very word of God...a thorough exercise of the mind indeed, with effects that flow deep into the heart, but far from brainwashing as you call it.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • JohnR

      For every idiot, there's an equal and opposite idiot.

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

      It shouldn't be outlawed, but if those who so passionately and unwaveringly sing the praises of the Bible would have a moment of lucidity and realize that they'd be just as fervently singing the praises of some other silly doctrine if simply born in a non-Christian country, maybe we'd see progress. Religion is arbitrary. It's an accident of birth. It's a license to believe without reasons. Someday we'll care about this world. Someday.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • airwx

      @ Will... Having been raised in a foreign country I disagree.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Daniel

      Do you really believe that some god create man in his own image ? Maybe Man created god in his own image .
      I'm on a crusade , A crusade of truth . People are scared of the truth , they can't handle the truth .
      Only intelligent responces please.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Tom

      Daniel, why do you hate so much? Are you that upset that there are people who believe in God? There is nothing in science that says that God doesn't exist. Why would it be so difficult to believe that God always existed? You have to believe that something always existed, don't you? I mean either matter always existed, energy always existed, or God always existed. Please think about what you are saying. If one believes that energy always existed, then you think he is normal. If one believes that matter always existed, you think he is normal. But you want to outlaw the person who believes God always existed. I pray for you my brother. If for anything, not to hate. I'm sure that most Christians don't hate you.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Magic

      Tom,

      "But you want to outlaw the person who believes God always existed."

      No, but I do have a problem with people who claim to authoritatively speak for this "God", and say all sorts of made-up stuff and claim it is fact. I certainly wouldn't "outlaw" them, just expose their fallacies.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  16. mattymatt

    I've always found christianity is a heart thing and not a head thing. shrug .. I've found that most logical black/white personalities will not accept that, and that's cool with me. I see the "flying spaghetti monster" "magical being in the sky" defense more on the message forums than I ever do in real life though ...

    March 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • JohnR

      Eagerly believing that billions of people will be tortured for all eternity for failing to sign up with the right sect is a "heart thing". That's one sick heart!

      March 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      I do believe that you are correct that Christians do not use their heads much, but their hearts must be quite dark considering all their centuries of torture and oppression and war. What part of your heart does one access to support the killing abortion doctors, or the repression of gays, or the support of torture, or the defense of the coverup of child abuse?

      March 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  17. b4bigbang

    True. We must love God with our mind as well as our heart.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  18. Ian Adkins

    How many angels can fit on the point of a pin? Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. Leave everything else to God.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Polaris

      Let's all link arms and sing Kumbaya too. It's not that cut and dry, unfortuantely.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Ian Adkins

      Yeah, no, I really think it is. I've been reading through the KJV for the quatercentenary. If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. The eye, in this case, is polemics and denominational divisiveness. Kumbaya won't put you on the outs with God, but uncharitableness will.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • pProf

      @Ian: actually we are as Christians commanded to defend the faith, i.e. the doctrines that are taught in the scriptures. At times this requires polemics. We ought not be arrogant or needlessly offensive, but we must often be divisive, particularly so today when the plain teachings of the scripture are under attack from those who claim to be Christians, such as Mr Bell.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dan Collins

      Simply and very well put!

      March 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Don Camp

      I like it. No, that is not all there is. This fundamental statement must be made particular. But we can not add anything to this basic statement. For me that means I cannot exclude people. I understand that people do chose either for God or against God, but I cannot and must not presume to know the heart where those decisions are made. Judgment belongs to God. And God is wise and loving and good.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Magic

      Ian,

      "Leave everything else to God."

      Fine. The problem arises when so many delusional people insist that "God" is talking to them and telling them to do stuff.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • pProf

      @don: God is also wrathful. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Recommend you read Jonathan Edward's sermon, Sinners in the hands of an angry God. And the book of Hebrews.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Don Camp

      @pProf Agreed, though I prefer to describe God as Holy. His wrath is his holiness in respect to sin. (And I have read both Edwards and Hebrews.) We do need to declare his holiness and warn of his wrath. But as to our judgment of others, is that not what the Holy Spirit does, according to Jesus?

      March 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Ian Adkins

      pProf, I'm an Anglican, so I'm unlikely to take theological counsel from a Puritan. But I have no doubt even the most grudging, uncharitable Puritan soul will be reconciled to God. In the meantime, I'll keep on praying and helping little old ladies cross the street. Let your lamp burn brightly, without the basket of divisiveness covering it.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  19. Lineman

    This theology is pretty much what has been taught in Lutheran seminaries for years. It all started when Martin Luther took a good look at the Catholic church and the people in it and discovered that they had strayed a long way from the original teachings of Christ. He started the process of throwing out much of what had crept into the church from the time the Roman emperer Constanine was converted uintil his time. The Lutherans have been doing this ever since. Believe me, the original Chrisianity of Christ is a whole lot different from the traditional teachings most people are familiar with. If all there was to believe were the fundamentalist preachings of most of todays clerics then most everyone would be an athiest.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • pProf

      Most everyone today is either an atheist or an idolater, in the sense that the God they worship is not the God of the Bible, i.e. the true God.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  20. LetUsReason

    Simply stated, if you believe what the Bible teaches then God created the Earth to exist forever (Deut. 4:40, Psalm 37:29, Psalm 78:69, Psalm 104:5, Eccl. 1:4), which begs the question of how to harmonize the two salvations (i.e., heaven and earth) right? The Truth is that Jews and Christians today each have 1/2 of the True Gospel...in other words, Jesus died for 'all' (1 Tim. 2:3-6), so what part of the word 'all' is so difficult to understand exactly?? Sincere believers today will go to heaven and the rest (e.g., nominal Christians, or Jews, heathens, atheists, etc. who today are ignorant of the only name given for salvation; Acts 4:12) will get their opportunity for everlasting salvation later on earth. Paul makes these two salvations explictly clear in his letter to Timothy: "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men (on earth later), especially of believers (in heaven for Christians today), 1 Tim 4:10. Wishing you all well.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Tom

      You see those things you put in parenthesis? Those words aren't in the bible. Good effort though.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Dennis

      Sorry friend, you have misread the scriptures. It is appointed unto men to die once, then comes the judgement. Those who know and are known by Christ enter heaven. Those who do not...eternal damnation (John 3:17). Our hope is found in Christ alone through grace (Eph 2:8). There is NO heaven on earth until after judgement when Christ shall reign. Please look closer.

      D

      March 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.