March 1st, 2011
06:00 AM ET
Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Rob Bell, a pastor and author who has achieved rock star status in the Christian world, is preaching a false gospel, his critics say. And some of those critics are Christian rock stars in their own right.
The pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bell has authored a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a firestorm of controversy over the weekend, weeks before it arrives in bookstores.
On Saturday, in a blog post on the popular Christian website The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor blasted Bell's new book, out March 29, for teaching "false doctrine":
Universalism, in its broadest terms, preaches that everyone goes to heaven and that there is no hell. Critics say it represents a break from traditional Christianity, which they say holds that heaven and hell are very real places. In most Christian circles, universalism is a dirty word.
Taylor's post was quickly tweeted by several prominent pastors, including John Piper and Mark Driscoll, connected to the Gospel Coalition, a coalition of theologically conservative evangelical churches, and a full-blown theological controversy was on. By Monday, Taylor's response post had racked up a quarter million hits.
Other bloggers, meanwhile, are calling Bell an outright heretic.
Bell is not the first prominent Christian pastor to be recently accused of wading into theologically troubled waters. Bishop Carlton Pearson, once a mentee of famed Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, has been run out of two churches and branded a heretic for preaching what he says is a gospel of inclusion with broad universalist themes.
Last year, Brian McLaren - a popular Christian author and a former pastor - was accused of breaking with Christian orthodoxy and delving headlong into universalism in his book A New Kind of Christianity.
But it's rare that theological arguments become top ten trending topics on Twitter, as Rob Bell did on Saturday.
“To be honest, it was a pretty rough weekend,” Taylor said in a phone interview. The 34-year-old heads the editorial content for Crossway, a Christian publishing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Taylor he says his blog expresses his personal opinion not the opinion of the coalition.
"We’re talking about the big things here, things that have been historically defined as orthodox, " he said. "I have a high degree of confidence in what God is saying and what we can understand."
Though many things that separate Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, “this isn’t one of them," Taylor said. "We’ve historically agreed on many things, the person of Christ, heaven and hell. This isn’t a peripheral academic debate. What Rob Bell is talking about gets to the heart of Christianity.”
Taylor has not read Bell's forthcoming book in its entirety. His blog post was in response to the description released by Bell publisher HarperOne and a promotional video that features Bell.
"Rob Bell hasn’t sinned against me personally,” Taylor said, which is why he did not go to Bell before making his comments public. Instead, Taylor said, Bell's book represents a clear example of false teaching.
In the promotional video Bell refers to the nonviolent Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, and asks, "Gandhi's in hell? He is?"
"And someone knows this for sure?" Bell continues. "Will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that's the case how do you become one of the few? "
The video follows a trend in Bell's career as a pastor: he has long asked tough theological questions and challenged traditional answers. The short promotional video raises lots of questions without offering definitive answers.
"What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like," Bell says in it. " The good news is that love wins."
Those lines raised eyebrows for Taylor and others. "It is not preaching the gospel as found in the New Testament," Taylor said. "The New Testament is pretty clear if someone preaches a false gospel… that we are to reject that and have nothing to do with them."
For all his hipster leanings - including black rimmed glasses - Bell has a traditional pedigree. He went to Wheaton College, the Harvard of Christian schools, and later graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity.
But the Mars Hill Bible Church, which Bell founded, is not attached to any denomination. Were it attached to one - the Presbyterian or Catholic church, say - his book and video could raise eyebrows in the hierarchy and might lead to a church trial that could result in Bell's expulsion.
"A larger denomination would take his credentials and excommunicate him like they did to me,” Bishop Pearson told CNN.
By Sunday evening, Pearson was getting sent articles about the Bell flap. He said it reminded him of his days as a charismatic leader of a big church in the largest Pentecostal denomination. His questioning of hell from the pulpit led to his ouster.
"What happened to me is happening to Rob Bell," Pearson said. "If you denounce hell, it's like you are denouncing God. You’re going to be called a heretic."
“I thought my people loved me and would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me, but they didn’t,” Pearson said.
Bell's church did not respond to requests for an interview. His Twitter feed has been silent since he posted about writing a piece for CNN's Belief Blog a few weeks ago. His publicist at HarperOne said he would not be doing publicity until his book hits shelves.
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.
Okay, let's say hell is real, and on earth I don't believe in all this hocus pocus and I get sent to hell. Let's say 10,000 years pass and I decide, "You know what? I made a mistake, that Jesus guy was probably the way to go." And I spend the next 10 million years praying and believing Jesus is my saviour. So would those 10 million years be worth more than the 80 years spent on earth as a non-believer?
if you got to heaven sure 10 million years worth it
Personally I don't believe in the "literal" hell that Christianity teaches, but the Hell I do believe in is when a person keeps themself stuck in a loop of "Bad Karma" from negative deeds they commit towards themselves, or others. In other words "You reap what you sew", etc. I believe that this creates an eternal "hell" for someone until they learn the law of "Cause and affect" here on Earth and that your negative actions will reward you with negative actions, as well as positive for positive. People can free themselves from this loop by living a life of love towards all. And hence reap what they sew of the love they spread.
2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
So, the all powerful creator of the universe wants everyone to come to salvation, and he is patient. How is it anyone who believes in the Bible can think that He will not get what He wants?
"If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do." -Angel, via Joss Whedon-
"Oh, Sky Cake." -Patton Oswalt-
The very definition of faith is belief without evidence. Those in this forum stating that they "KNOW" there's a God, or a Jesus, or a Hell, are confused. They can't know. None of us KNOW until we die. You do not get your point across by making reference to the Bible or what the Bible says. By doing so, you are only making points to those who already share your opinion in the authority of the Bible, which many don't. For the atheist like myself, referencing the Bible to support your belief or making point is no more authoritative or influential to me than referencing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. To the nonbeliever, there both just fiction books. As someone who's read both, J.K. Rowling is a much better author.
See this is the thing that blinds a lot of atheists. Some of us HAVE had actual "spirtual experiences" that have empowered our belief in some sort of force that is beyond our world. It may not be the force that is described in the modern religions, but the force is there, and some of us have felt it. That is what drives my belief in a power that is "beyond". What I don't believe in is the "Condemnation": that Christianity, and Islam promote for people who don't follow the religions. From my experience with Spirit, the TRUE God is an immense being of Love like you have never felt before. But that is just my experience. Everyones experience in this world is different. Some are meant to be believers of this force, and some are not. Either way, no one should judge anyone about what they believe. Period.
But you are forgetting, they KNOW. No seiriously, they KNOW. How dare you think they don't KNOW? They say they KNOW after all? How dare you not just take their word at face value! Them saying things means it is true! If you say it, it is true! That is LOGIC! Oh and don't forget, they KNOW.
Religion: The largest joke humanity ever played on itself.
Ah, that was funny. Hats off to J.K. Rowling. The bible has some lovely writing, but as a whole, it's a hot mess.
@ Wayshower No, atheists aren't "blind" to your "spiritual experiences." We just have a scientific understanding on how the human brain works, and we know it is subject to hallucinations, and a whole variety of weaknesses that cause you to think you saw/heard/felt things. Don't ever expect the following phrase to come out of a rational thinker's mouth: "Oh! You saw an angel? Really! Oh man, that totally busts my atheism!" Your ignorance of how your own brain functions doesn't mean everyone else has to believe in your hallucinations.
Wayshower, my personal beliefs are very similar to yours. I would not say, though, that atheists are "blinded." Their views are just as legitimately held and informed. As you say, no one should judge another for their beliefs.
You show exteme arrogance to think that your knowledge of how the brain works is reflected in everyone who claims to have a spiritual experience. This is EXACTLY what I meant by "blind atheist". But I will clarify that when I say "blind" I refer to anyone whether they are an antheist, religous believer, democrat, republican, or whatever you solidify your belief in to "take a side" that "halts" your thinking outside of the box of "possibilities" that other factors besides "what you believe" may verywell be a factor in the discussion at hand. You proved my point.
@Anna. You are kind of right on that as I made that comment too general towards all atheist which was wrong. And as such I will say that I am not perfect, and stand corrected.
No its not that we aren't blind or can't think outside the box.....
its the fact that "we" know more about the brain than most religious people and we know what you're claiming is "outside" the box of reality.
MOST religious people don't have much of an education in science and that leads them to come to irrational conclusions.
When "we" have testable evidence and have an education in science, "we" tend to disregard claims that people make who DON'T know how the brain functions and how it messes up frequently.
Watch the God Helmet on youtube
If you are making a claim that "atheists know more about the brain" then spiritual followers or people who have had spiritual experiences, while not looking at the possibility (because of your disbelief of any type of force beyond the material world) then you are making an "assumption" based on your disbelief, and hence, there is no point of further discussion because your belief halts you from looking further into the other side of the belief. You are being no different than someone whom is a religious fanatic who refuses to look at the science behind some claims of spiritualism.
Wow. My favorite quote from the article is that (Taylor) the guy who is declaring that Rob Bell is a heretic has not even read the book yet. How can he denounce it if he hasn't read it?
"Taylor has not read Bell's forthcoming book in its entirety. His blog post was in response to the description released by Bell publisher HarperOne and a promotional video that features Bell."
Failure, Mr. Taylor.
This theory makes no sense. You cannot claim to believe Christ is the Son of God, died for our sins and rose again if there is no Hell. A punishment paid for what??? God just wants to die for us.... randomly.... no. There is an order about things. Unless you come to HIM you cannot enter the gates of Heaven.... you have to go somewhere else. Love DOES WIN. It won on the cross 2000 years ago. Everyone has a chance to enter Heaven, but you have to TAKE it. Everyone doesn't enter Heaven by default. God's love is too great to allow us to be so complacent with our lives.
YES CHILDREN GO TO HEAVEN BY DEFAULT
"YES CHILDREN GO TO HEAVEN BY DEFAULT"
Until what age? At what age does the child no longer get a free pass? And should there be like a two minute warning, like in basketball? Maybe make it two weeks, two minutes is a pretty short time.
Godless, it's 18 in some states, 21 in others.
True Anna, but what about in other countries? Would it be 15-16 in France, Germany, England, etc?
"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" matt 10v34 or divison how ever you want to word it. expample catholics and
protestants. no one can say really who goes to heaven or hell, mostly because no one has been to heaven or hell then sat down over tea with you and chatted about it and who was there. therefore we have other people's guess'es or theroies no facts so you will just have to die and find out for your self, im gonna die with jesus just in case thats how you really get to heaven and f-hell im not going.
Not true, the Bible is the inspired word of God (meaning it is the Word of Truth, Christ), meaning the concepts carried in the Bible are the path that leads and points to the Truth (Christ). And for those who believe the Truth (Christ), which all that is Truth does come from. Thus it is to those who believe on and through the Truth that will have eternal life. To believe in lies is to believe in nothingness,. That is what a lie is, something that is said to be true but is not, literally nothingness.
“Religion” that is not based in the Truth is a construct of man, but the Truth is not a man-made construct. Truth is truth no matter if man believes it or not. Humans do not create Truth, we just fulfill it’s requirements, and our responsibility in which keeps us in Christ (the Truth) is that we believe and be lead by the Truth. Christ = Truth.
God’s love is unconditional but it does require us to be corrected when we believe things that are not true, God loves who He corrects, no correction then no love. And what is it that corrects, but Truth. God cannot love us if we are in opposition to the Truth, Christ did forgive those who crucified Him but He did not say that they would find eternal life, you are arguing using things that He did not say. God is not in opposition to anyone, those who do not believe the Truth are in opposition to Him, whatever is not true is by default in opposition to God.
God is love, but love has a Standard, and if we do not use His Standard, which is Truth (Christ) then we stand in opposition to Him, not Him to us. God hates no human, but He can only love us if we follow Him (Christ, the Truth). He does not make it difficult, how difficult is it to believe the Truth? Can you make yourself believe what you don’t believe, No. If you believe something that is not true, then what you believe is a lie, and you do not believe the Truth because what you believe stands in opposition to the Truth. So, the only way that you can believe the Truth is to stop believing what is not true and embrace what is true. And your feelings have nothing to do with what is true, they are just feelings and are not for the purpose of judging such things, emotions are human constructs based on the character of the human, not a measurement of Truth.
This is true in that those who do not embrace the Truth have to fear, because they have put themselves in opposition to the Truth (Christ). This is not a safe place to be and all of reality stands against anyone who denies the Truth. Trust in the Truth (Christ) is the only real position to be in, anything else is by default in opposition to God. The only thing that He demands from us is that we accept correction, and embrace the Truth (Christ). God as no secrets that He holds from those who follow Him, if you believe on and in the Truth then automatically there are no secrets, God hides His knowledge in the Truth.
There are no contradictions and paradoxes in God, if you know the Truth then you know Him. All what is (real) is from and through Him, if you are confused about what you believe, then you believe something that is not true, there is a conflict in you that disallows you from believing what is true. Thus if you are confused, you should not speak of things that confuse you as though to assert that you know what you are talking about, rather you should seek the Truth on the basis of what the Bible says, minus your presuppositions. Your list is full of contradictions to scripture.
If you think your life in Christ is hell here right now, then this is an example of your ignorance of the Truth. ”Heart” implies human feelings, that is exactly what we don’t need to judge the Truth. We need Truth to judge the Truth, the standard of Christ. Christ is in us and us in Christ if we embrace the Truth. No mystery here.
Actually the "religious establishment" is you and the people who believe that there is not objective truth, Unitarians are the “establishment”. Conservative Christianity is the minority. You think otherwise because you see yourself as the underdog, the perpetual victim of everything that offends your feelings. That’s alright, you have the right to be offended, but just don’t expect everyone else to cow-tow to your offended feelings. The Bible does not teach a bunch of floating preferences, it uses an objective Truth, Christ.
Yes, we need to wake up to the objective Truth, because those who think that Truth is subjective in nature put themselves in the line of fire with Reality (God). Anyone who opposes the Truth loses. There as to be someone left for to live in eternity, and it will be those who have trusted in the objective Truth of God (Christ).
"Yes, we need to wake up to the objective Truth"
Now THAT his hilarious coming from someone who thinks there are invisible imaginary people in the sky who are going to punish you if you don't follow their rules. Objectivity? You don't even know what that word means. You won't know an objective view of the universe if it jumped up and smacked you in the face. What a joke.
Pascal, I gave my opinion as to what Jesus would think.
I rather like Jesus. I just think that fundamentalists have missed the boat. Just my 2 cents.
How can believers in extremely questionable teachings accuse anyone of false teachings? Belief has continued to back track throughout history as their teachings have been dis-proven.
"I have a high degree of confidence in what God is saying and what we can understand."
It's comments like these that only week minded individuals heed. And there you have it, a flock of misguided humans led by a scripture spewing lunatic. No one could possibly know this.
At least he's able to think for himself and that's more than I can say about any born again fanatic I ever met. Little sheep follow the leader blindly, just like religous fanatics (born again christian, muslim......lot of similarities. By the way, a little known fact, the founders of this country were not Christians.....whoa, now there's a revelation for a lot of you. They were Deists. 'Nuf said......read your history, boys and girls. Very few of us were ever taught the TRUTH about our founding fathers and believe the Washington and Jefferson were Christians.....sorry to break your bubble.
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (excerpts are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in the nations capital) [Source: Merrill . D. Peterson, ed., Jefferson Writings, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), Vol. IV, p. 289. From Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781.]
Considering Jesus Taught on the reality of Hell I'll listen to Him before another human Being.
Where in the bible does it say that Jesus talked about hell. Jews do not believe in hell. Jesus was a jew. Hell was later made up by the catholic church, which really, had nothing to do with Jesus' teachings.
This is the story of 2000 years ago played out in modern times. The current dogma pharisees of the modern church tearing down someone that comes along with a deeper understanding of who God really is. This man Rob Bell is blessed with a talent to help and heal and the pharisees test him with their rules and words.
A VERY good point. Well said.
I have a dictionary full of all the words you will ever need in your life. This book tells you the definitions, the history and how-to's of how to use these words. I love my dictionary. If anyone comes to me with a different dictionary, where the words do not match up with the definitions, I am going to question it's validity and warn others that they probably don't want to be using or listening to that dictionary because it could get them into a lot of trouble.
Universalsim is an old religion of at least several centuries, this is nothing new. The formal verision of Universalsim sort of joined with the Unitarian religion to form Unitarian Universalism. I am an atheist, but I have always like the community affect that religion has on people and in the Unitarian Universalism I found a home where atheists/agnostics, liberal christians, buddhist, pagans, and anyone else who is willing to be in this society would like to join. No central dogma, except for the premis of respecting each other, valuing the diginity of everyone, and respecting the physical and biotic environment around us. Spirituality is a deeply personal thing, so if this doesn't work with you, then hopefully something else will. There is a reason why christianity is all divided as an ealier post stated and that is because the bible contradicts itself, which allow for people to believe in a variety of different beliefs.
Beautifully stated, beautiful Tree.
Unitarian Universalism is an old lie, and the conjuring of ones self, it espouses that there is no objective Truth but just floating preference of each individual. Unitarian Universalism by default eliminates itself from Christ (Truth), because Christ is the Standard, in which when believed in and on leads to Him (Truth). Truth as nothing to do with your feelings. By definition, the very reason why Christianity is so divided is because of such belief systems as Unitarian Universalism, they believe what they want to believe because they reason with themselves as the standard of truth. They separate themselves from Christ, because they refuse to believe that there is only One Truth, which is known by and through Him.
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2Timothy 3:3
Great quote, Linda!
I was thinking of the same scripture as I read this.
Nehemiah 4:8-9 "So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion, but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night." (GNT
I keep reading that people think Christianity is some religion or something. It's not. It's a personal relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. When I say personal I mean it. Your relationship with God is a personal one in which God moves within your heart and mind. It's not something that is taught so much as it is something that is felt. God makes his presense felt if you ask him to. He gave each of us free will and will never override that freedom. However, he is also just which means deeds will not go unpunished.
If God wanted us to go to church, why don't steeples grow on trees?
Do you believe in ghosts that aren't holy? Like haunted houses?
Just curious, how can you believe in Satan, or the heavenly host, and still be monotheistic?
Satan and the heavenly host are created beings. God is the Creator of all these and everything else.
Careful, there you go actually thinking again, asking uncomfortable questions. That always gets one in trouble.
Theism is a word that refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of God. It takes many forms, each identified with a preceding combining form; poly-, heno-, a-, mono-, pan-, etc.
Satan and the heavenly host are not gods, although reading the comments here, I believe Satan is the god of many of you. Notice the small "g".
Please don't now try to dispel monotheism with reference to the Holy Trinity. It's pretty obvious many of those who post here on this subject have a very shallow understanding. Mr. Bell is doing no favors.
I'd get put on my knees in bible school for asking questions like that!
Three words: Freedom of Speech.
It's amazing to me that CNN covers stories like this- as if this was actual news. It's kind of silly.
Well Tim, it's amazing to me that you took the time to post when you have no interest in the subject.
Theology is very important to many people, even atheists.
The more I read nonsense like this, the happier I am that I am an atheist. It is always amusing to see people bicker and argue over whose fairy tale is correct, when not a single one of these people has any proof to back up any of their claims. It's like you have an arena full of emperors in their new clothes, all standing around claiming their garments are the most grand and desperately trying to ignore the fact they are all naked as jaybirds.
Sir, ask God to reveal himself to you. He will if you really want to know. Or are you just to afraid to ask?
I'm a Christian however I find your interpetation outstanding.
Here we go again. Typical christian hypocrisy. If you don't toe the line, you are evil. Apparently these "christians" are under the assumption that they have the ability to judge the souls of others despite biblical teaching.
Christianity is becoming a cult, maybe it already is. You can't ask questions or have any doubts about what the all-to-human church leaders say regardless if it's actually in the bible or not. You can't question or doubt what they decide is the correct meaning of the bible despite the fact that much of what they believe is not explicitly discussed in the bible
They are the real heretics.
You know what the difference is between a religion and a cult? Marketing. That's it. One advertises better than the other, even if both are the same snake oil.