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.
well if Christ died for our sins (which i believe is the central point of Christianity, no?) then it seems to me it would follow that Hell would be empty as a bar across the street from a Baptist church.
The heretics are the evangelical Christians who use a literal translation of the King James Bible. Wake up and read the history of your book. It was invented by Constantine and codified by the Catholic Church that most of you Fundamentalist Christians vilify. Of course Hindi’s and Muslims will be in heaven with all you other guys.
Religion is a disease of the Mind! Be part of the cure, not the problem!
Help cure the religion disease!
Sorry about all the typos. i didn't proof. 🙂
The whole foundation of Christianity is to believe Jesus it the Son of God and it is He has has died for our sins and therefore redeemed us to stand in the presence of The Father. Jesus shed his blood, His blood was not spilled, but shed on purpose just so that we, His children who believe might have a place in His Kingdom. That's right, His Kingdom, not the Catholic Church's Kingdom, not Bell's Kingdom or any other televangelist, bishop, pastor, minister or preacher's. .And because Jesus is the only one worthy to judge His children, He and only He will do the separating. The bible plainly says that no man shall enter into the Kingdom except he be saved. The only way to be saved is expressed clearly in Romans. The Bible clearly says that in the last days, EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the way, the truth and life, NO man comes to The Father, but by Him.
If Jesus AND His teachings have been removed from any doctrine that is being taught in a supposedly Christian body, everyone there is already in trouble anyway. Jesus spoke of times like this when we will find wolves in sheep's clothing preaching false doctrine. As a Christian, we are to recognize heresy when we hear it. It should bother us in the very core of our souls and we should not even be able to control our need to remove ourselves from it. It will get worse before it gets better. This group of people are not the first and not the last to basically call the word of God lies and even call Jesus a liar. Real Christians already know that there are two things only two that Jesus cannot do, one is lie, two is fail. This group and others like it who teach that there is no hell and all are and will be forgiven will meet their fate for the souls they are corrupting and misleading. They are teaching that there is no responsibility in this walk of life, that they will not be held accountable for there actions while they live. In a few words, they are teaching their congregations to establish their own righteousness, that sin is a matter of opinion, what they themselves decide it is rather than what God has says it is. This in respect causes the person to give themselves deity status, thus they become their own gods. This, needless to say is very, very dangerous territory. This is exactly what Satan wants. He wants us to take Jesus out of the equation. This is exactly what makes him happy and satisfied.
Yes, the Bible has been translated many times over and some context and meaning may have been lost, but some things are plain and clear and written in stone just as the ten commandments and the laws and statutes. I pray for and challenge all of true brothers and sisters in Christ to please recognize what is being thrown at them. Jesus said this would happen, it is just His word being fulfilled. He even says that many of us will fall for these doctrine and go to their sides because next, some will begin to perform miracles and wonders like we have never seen. Please, please study God's word, not the pastor's word, not your word or your friend's. Please know God's word for YOURSELF. Jesus says "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me," because learning of Him is learning the TRUTH.
The only thing worse than a twit that believes in religious fairy tales and myths is a Universalist who believes all that BS right.
Of course they are going to get mad at this guy! Saying there's no Hell will cut into the bottom line which is what churches are really all about anyway. Why go to church and pay my 10% if I'm going to Heaven regardless? Please, there is no god.
I think this guy is trying to make a point to separate himself from the traditional brainwashed bible thumper. Do any of you so called believers have any kind of proof there is a heaven or a hell? I mean come on you may as well believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too. There is overwelming proof that christianity,its rituals, it holidays, and its underlying conception is based on the hijacking of older pagan and monotheistic religions. Its based on ingnorance and arogance. If you believe that a beautiful and wise person such as Mahtna Ghandi is buring in eternal hell and being prodded by a cloven hooved pitchfork carrying monster, you need to be sterilized so you can't contaminate the rest of the world with your ignorance. You are wrong and you will see when you return to the singularity.
I I challenge you too to go to audioverse.org and listen to Peter Gregory or David Asscherick. I doubt you will be willing to take the challenge, but if you do, listen to Pascal's Wager by Asscherick or The Conflict in the Mind by Gregory. You will be blown away by these men...
If people are going to continue arguing over the magical land of make believe, may I suggest cartoons perhaps? The plots usually make more sense and the need for suspension of disbelief is fewer and farther between
You couldnt have said it better brother...
Christianity is a confused mishmash misinterpretation of Judaism, mixed with Mithraic Paganism, using bad, tendentious translations of the Torah. Judaism is in turn a distilled remnant of Egyptian mysticism mixed with Ethical Monotheism.
Christian "certainty" and absolutism are ridiculous, unjustified, and intellectually bankrupt.
I I challenge you to go to audioverse.org and listen to some of the stuff by Peter Gregory or David Asscherick, it will blow your mind.
Jesus never said "Believe in me, and in hell, and you will be saved". Believing in hell whether it exists or not is NOT required for salvation through Jesus Christ. Kinda stupid for people to get their panties all in a bunch about it. Luther, Calvin and a bunch of other people that forged the way to Protestant Christianity were also labeled heretics and false teachers. People are such idiots when it comes to religion. We will never have all the answers. The only thing that matters is the message of Jesus which is LOVE.
@jpdistof I want to go to Thor heaven that dude is H-o-t HOT, I mean have u seen chris hemsworth shirtless?? Its
just inhuman ! LOL
Definition: The dwelling place of Jehovah God and of faithful spirit creatures; a realm invisible to human eyes. The Bible also uses the term “heaven(s)” in a variety of other senses; for example: to represent God himself, his organization of faithful spirit creatures, a position of divine favor, the physical universe apart from the earth, the expanse surrounding planet Earth, human governments under Satan’s domination, and the righteous new heavenly government in which Jesus Christ with his joint heirs are empowered by Jehovah to rule.
Did we all exist in the spirit realm before our birth as humans?
John 8:23: “[Jesus Christ said:] ‘You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.’” (Jesus did come from the spirit realm. But, as Jesus said, other men did not.)
Rom. 9:10-12: “Rebekah conceived twins . . . When they had not yet been born nor had practiced anything good or vile, in order that the purpose of God respecting the choosing might continue dependent, not upon works, but upon the One who calls, it was said to her: ‘The older will be the slave of the younger.’” (Of course, if the twins Jacob and Esau had lived previously in a spirit realm they certainly would have built up a record based on their conduct there, would they not? But they had no such record until after their birth as humans.)
Do all good people go to heaven?
Acts 2:34: “David [whom the Bible refers to as being ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart’] did not ascend to the heavens.”
Matt. 11:11: “Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (So John did not go to heaven when he died.)
Ps. 37:9, 11, 29: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth . . . The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
If Adam had not sinned, would he eventually have gone to heaven?
Gen. 1:26: “God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.’” (So, God’s purpose for Adam was that he be caretaker of the earth and of the animal life there. Nothing is said about his going to heaven.)
Gen. 2:16, 17: “Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.’” (It was not Jehovah’s original purpose for man someday to die. God’s command here quoted shows that he warned against the course that would lead to death. Death was to be punishment for disobedience, not the doorway to a better life in heaven. Obedience would have been rewarded by continued life, eternal life, in the Paradise that God had given to man. See also Isaiah 45:18.)
Must a person go to heaven to have a truly happy future?
Ps. 37:11: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”
Rev. 21:1-4: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.’”
Mic. 4:3, 4: “They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore. And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken
I believe that HELL is to stand before GOD in judgment, God NOT as a Father, but God as the Avenging God of those who reject His sacrifice of His Son, Christ Jesus, for the forgiveness of our trespasses. What is the nature of that judgmentl, we really do not know! I believe that the "lake of fire" is symbolic of suffering . . . from being separated from the presence of God as Father.
Thus, the command of Christ Jesus to us to “love your neighbor as yourself” demands that, through appeal to reasons that leads to faith, we must continue to reach out to non-hristians to bring the truth of the One God’s revelation of Himself in the Trinity if they, like us, were to stand on judgment day before a “God Who is a Father” to us and not one “Who is an Avenging God of Wrath” to those who reject the blood shed, the suffering, and the eventual death of His Only Begotten Son, Christ Jesus, on the cross which is the only Sin Offering acceptable to God the Father, hence to the One Infinite God (Ro 3:22-26).
God didn't create Satan, He created an angel. That angel had free will, just like we do, and wanted to exalt himself above God, which sounds like a few people I know. Heck, it sounds like the former me. That's when Lucifer was cast into hell. Hell is everything God is not: unmerciful, hatred, and there is no peace. Like Satan, we have free will. God is not going to make you love Him. Who wants that kind of love? Loving Him is a choice. This is why there is hell. Many people choose not to accept His free gift.
Well, I believe God is love, and I choose to accept this free gift. That said, I don't think my belief gives me any special pass. I think I am good, and I think the atheist is good. I think you are good. We are all human, we are all trying. No one is better than anyone else. That's what I believe. I wish the fighting would stop and respect for one another would begin. Namaste.
That entire story about Satan being an angel is from John Milton's Paradise Lost and is in no way included in any Christian canon. Read some and preferably think on occasion.
Ps 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Anna, how did you arrive at your viewpoint of God and the condition of mankind?
Only in Christianity can hope, tolerance, and acceptance be critized. For the love of God these conservatives kill any spark of reason. What trash.
What is the ‘fiery Gehenna’ to which Jesus referred?
Reference to Gehenna appears 12 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Five times it is directly associated with fire. Translators have rendered the Greek expression ge′en·nan tou py·ros′ as “hell fire” (KJ, Dy), “fires of hell” (NE), “fiery pit” (AT), and “fires of Gehenna” (NAB).
Historical background: The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) was outside the walls of Jerusalem. For a time it was the site of idolatrous worship, including child sacrifice. In the first century Gehenna was being used as the incinerator for the filth of Jerusalem. Bodies of dead animals were thrown into the valley to be consumed in the fires, to which sulfur, or brimstone, was added to assist the burning. Also bodies of executed criminals, who were considered undeserving of burial in a memorial tomb, were thrown into Gehenna. Thus, at Matthew 5:29, 30, Jesus spoke of the casting of one’s “whole body” into Gehenna. If the body fell into the constantly burning fire it was consumed, but if it landed on a ledge of the deep ravine its putrefying flesh became infested with the ever-present worms, or maggots. (Mark 9:47, 48) Living humans were not pitched into Gehenna; so it was not a place of conscious torment.
At Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned his hearers to “be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” What does it mean? Notice that there is no mention here of torment in the fires of Gehenna; rather, he says to ‘fear him that can destroy in Gehenna.’ By referring to the “soul” separately, Jesus here emphasizes that God can destroy all of a person’s life prospects; thus there is no hope of resurrection for him. So, the references to the ‘fiery Gehenna’ have the same meaning as ‘the lake of fire’ of Revelation 21:8, namely, destruction, “second death.”
What does the Bible say the penalty for sin is?
Rom. 6:23: “The wages sin pays is death.”
After one’s death, is he still subject to further punishment for his sins?
Rom. 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”
Is eternal torment of the wicked compatible with God’s personality?
Jer. 7:31: “They [apostate Judeans] have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.” (If it never came into God’s heart, surely he does not have and use such a thing on a larger scale.)
Illustration: What would you think of a parent who held his child’s hand over a fire to punish the child for wrongdoing? “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Would he do what no right-minded human parent would do? Certainly not!
If death acquits us of sin (meaning payment is complete) why must there be judgement? Hebrews 9:27
Further, if a person's death is full payment for their sin, why then a resurrection unto judgement before the great white throne? Why any reason for a person to be thrown into a lake of fire? Rev 20
How can the smoke of one's torment rise for ever and ever if they have been annihilated? Rev 14
Or again, how can one be tormented day and night for ever and ever? Rev 19 and 20
Or again, how can one have a "place" in the context of inheritance, if they have been annihilated? Rev 21
Concerning Jeremiah and 2 Chronicles: God never commanded that those children be sacrificed in fire, period. But what did God command Abraham to do to Isaac? (Granted, that was only a test; God didn't need Isaac to be sacrificed. And Abraham knew Isaac would come back to life anyway.) And recall that various violations of the Law had burning prescribed as punishment.
In Luke 16, the Greek Hades is used. It would seem that this is prior to the white throne judgement and lake of fire but it's hard to tell, being a parable. Key point however, was the rich man experiencing any discomfort? Seems like that was quite an important point.
I wish I could say that one would cease to experience anything in the lake of fire but it just doesn't fit. It seems that God is trying to pull AND push us toward salvation.
The same old english term "forever and ever" and "eternal" fire were used to describe Sodom and Gomorrah. Those cities are not still burning. So... it goes without saying that the a interpretation of those phrases that suggest infinite burning is not correct.
Jeff, if you mean in Jude 1:7, I see your point. But the author seems to be saying that the way Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, by fire, is the example of what will be an eternal fire of vengeance. Temporal illustrating eternal. And in Revelation such words as "day and night unto the ages of ages" seem to mean without end. I mean, how else could the author have said "not ending" more explicitly?
I want to share with you, not my thinking, but what the Bible says about the subject, I mean the hell, first of all a couple questions:
1.- What it is the popular definition for hell?The word “hell” is found in many Bible translations. In the same verses other translations read “the grave,” “the world of the dead,” and so forth. Other Bibles simply transliterate the original-language words that are sometimes rendered “hell”; that is, they express them with the letters of our alphabet but leave the words untranslated. What are those words? The Hebrew she’ohl′ and its Greek equivalent hai′des, which refer, not to an individual burial place, but to the common grave of dead mankind; also the Greek ge′en·na, which is used as a symbol of eternal destruction. However, both in Christendom and in many non-Christian religions it is taught that hell is a place inhabited by demons and where the wicked, after death, are punished (and some believe that this is with torment).
Does the Bible indicate whether the dead experience pain?
Eccl. 9:5, 10: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol,* the place to which you are going.” (If they are conscious of nothing, they obviously feel no pain.) (*“Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB; “the grave,” KJ, Kx; “hell,” Dy; “the world of the dead,” TEV.)
Ps. 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts* do perish.” (*“Thoughts,” KJ, 145:4 in Dy; “schemes,” JB; “plans,” RS, TEV.)
Does the Bible indicate that the soul survives the death of the body?
Ezek. 18:4: “The soul* that is sinning—it itself will die.” (*“Soul,” KJ, Dy, RS, NE, Kx; “the man,” JB; “the person,” TEV.)
“The concept of ‘soul,’ meaning a purely spiritual, immaterial reality, separate from the ‘body,’ . . . does not exist in the Bible.”—La Parole de Dieu (Paris, 1960), Georges Auzou, professor of Sacred Scripture, Rouen Seminary, France, p. 128.
“Although the Hebrew word nefesh [in the Hebrew Scriptures] is frequently translated as ‘soul,’ it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning. Nefesh . . . is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psyche is often translated as ‘soul’ but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means ‘life,’ or ‘vitality,’ or, at times, ‘the self.’”—The Encyclopedia Americana (1977), Vol. 25, p. 236.
What sort of people go to the Bible hell?
Does the Bible say that the wicked go to hell?
Ps. 9:17, KJ: “The wicked shall be turned into hell,* and all the nations that forget God.” (*“Hell,” 9:18 in Dy; “death,” TEV; “the place of death,” Kx; “Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB, NW.)
Does the Bible also say that upright people go to hell?
Job 14:13, Dy: “[Job prayed:] Who will grant me this, that thou mayst protect me in hell,* and hide me till thy wrath pass, and appoint me a time when thou wilt remember me?” (God himself said that Job was “a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.”—Job 1:8.) (*“The grave,” KJ; “the world of the dead,” TEV; “Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB, NW.)
Acts 2:25-27, KJ: “David speaketh concerning him [Jesus Christ], . . . Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,* neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (The fact that God did not “leave” Jesus in hell implies that Jesus was in hell, or Hades, at least for a time, does it not?) (*“Hell,” Dy; “death,” NE; “the place of death,” Kx; “the world of the dead,” TEV; “Hades,” AS, RS, JB, NW.)
The detractors of this book just made it a #1 bestseller, noone would have heard of this book outside of the christian circle, including myself who is an anti-Thiest. I will now have to buy this book. at the time of this there 33 pages of comments and it was written less than 18 hours ago.
If it makes people think more, all the better.
Ahhh. Preachers have been making up stuff as they go along for hundreds of years. Who is to say whether this guy's made-up stuff is any better or any worse than, say, the pope's made-up stuff. Somebody telling me about heaven or hell is about like somebody telling me what it's like to be a dog or a cat. Nonsense. They don't know, there's no way they could know, and if they say they know, they're lying. Follow the life of Christ, Buddha, Muhammad or whoever strikes you as holy and decent. Pay attention to their good deeds, wisdom, and courage; not some wild story somebody made up about them later.
Its tough sometimes, but you gotta see through them if you want to get there. Very good point.