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. Muneef

    99 Names of Allah

    It is not possible to perfectly translate the 99 names of Allah from their original Arabic into English. However, here are some fairly close explanations.

    "He is Allah (God), the Creator, the Originator, The Fashioner, to Him belong the most beautiful names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, do declare His praises and Glory. And He is the Exalted in Might, The Wise. (Quran 59:24)

    "The most beautiful names belong to Allah (God): so call on Him by them;..." (Quran 7:180)

    March 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Luci

      Allah is NOT The G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Allah is NOT the G-D of the Bible. Jesus Christ is the Creator, the I AM, the Holy One of Israel. He is the ONLY G-D. Period. G-d says in the Tanakh, "I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God" ~~ Isaiah 45:5.

      But – that is another topic altogether. 😉

      March 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well dear you can't be so sure at least some thing sent an angel upon Mariam in order to create Jesus ??

      God is the creator of every thing in the universe! So how can you deny him?
      Sorry you are astray from the truth;


      If man did invent religion then believe in God do as God told but leave religion behind...we can not just ignore God because few had made from a religion a source of income?

      Al-Tawba sura 09:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      O ye who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom, (34)...

      March 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  2. airwx

    Must leave for the moment...Peace to all

    March 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Luci

    @Observer – that is not what Scripture says so please do not place words in my mouth. The person who was mentioned was Ghandi – Ghandi heard AND rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Mr. Ghandi will stand before the Throne of Christ having told lies, had evil thoughts, had wicked desires – nothing forgiven – by HIMSELF. "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE goes to the Father except through ME. No one means just that – NO ONE. And by the way, there is no purgatory. "It is appointed to man to die once and after this; Judgment".

    March 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Observer

      "Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE goes to the Father except through ME. No one means just that – NO ONE."

      Okay. So how did anyone make it to heaven before Jesus? Did unchanging God CHANGE the rules?

      March 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  4. Epiphany Received . . .

    Let's see: . . . .God loves everyone? . . .Heaven is available to everyone? . . . Hell is not the proverbial "lake of fire and brimstone" as threatened? . . . Jesus' atoning for our sins and central teachings – "As I have loved you, love one another" AND "If you love me keep my commandments" being the central concepts of Christianity? . . . these are not new concepts! Over 180 years ago, Joseph Smith reiterated these principles and others as core to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ as manifest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. . .Of course he wasn't after the millions of dollars he could get from the sale of a book or the DVDs!

    March 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  5. Andrea

    Am I the only one tired of these people popping up with their "controversial" books about Christianity? God's not the author of confusion. He gave us his Word to read and follow. There's no guessing game or mystery to it. There are a gazillion versions to help you understand what it means. Jesus is all about love and that should be our motto if we are a follower. Love God and love people. Heaven has to be a Christian's only club because Jesus says He's the only way to God. If Rob Bell is giving false hope to people that don't want to live according to God's word, then I guess you could call that being a heretic. Christianity is not open to discussion. God said it in His Word and that makes it final whether we want to believe it or not.

    March 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  6. deliverance

    "And the smoke off their torment rises forever," (Revelation 14:11). If that's not eternal hell I don't know what is.

    March 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Looks like just a bunch of ineffectual verbiage to me, verbiage from a relatively late Christian who went stark raving mad with frustration that the Romans still ruled and essentially NOTHING had happened that Jesus's followers were sure would quickly happen after his death. So the guy goes berserk with vindictive rage and revenge fantasies and has it scribbled down for posterity. But it didn't happen back then when it was actually supposed to, hasn't since and never will.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Magic


      Words from a very old science-fiction / horror / fantasy story.

      H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, etc. kind of stuff...

      March 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • pProf

      JR: the Jews from 70 AD may beg to differ with you.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @pProf The Jews and early Christians who saw the Romans TRIUMPH and total trample Jehovah's supposed stronghold are precisely the people who went nuts with apocalyptic revenge fantasizing. The messianic promise that Jesus and others on the messiah circuit back then held out for others failed dismally in the latter half of the first century, inspiring much madness.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  7. Joshua

    I hope that after listening or reading anything by Bell it will push people to search for themselves!! what the bible really is about.
    I know for me after reading some of his books and listening to nooma videos it has made me dig deeper...

    March 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Andrea

      What's there to dig deeper in? It's all written out in a love letter to His children in His Word. If you have a holy bible.....version of your choice, all you have to do is open the pages and read it. I think people's problem are they don't want to believe it is relevant for today so it leaves them stumbling around in the dark. God would not put us here on this earth without a guidebook.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Andrea "Love letter to his children"???? This sort of mawkishness about an often genuinely nasty book is genuinely disturbing.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  8. Mike

    There's an old joke that says there's a special walled-off area in Heaven that everyone must be VERY quiet around because it's full of Baptists and they think they are the only ones up there and no one wants them to find out otherwise....

    March 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  9. perry fisher

    Bell looks effeminate,i am certain that he is a gay man

    March 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Observer

      So what if he was gay? More Christian hatred?

      March 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I'm confused... Are pedophiles OK but gay men aren't?

      March 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  10. Kara4

    I have followed this line of thinking my entire life, growing up Catholic, leaving the church for a while and returning as a Methodist. The fact is, the denomination does not matter. I love Jesus and he loves me. I also have friends from all different faith backgrounds who are good people and I REFUSE to believe that they will be going anywhere different than where I am going after I die. I trust in God because I know His love. He is the TRUTH, the LIGHT and the WAY.
    The cards in the Baptist churches always did bother me.... "Do you know FOR SURE that when you die, you will go to heaven?" The answer is NO. Only God can know that because he is the only judge. It is time for us to stop leveling judgment upon each other and let go!

    March 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • pProf

      Hmmm, Kara, I guess John failed to consult you when he wrote to the believers that they might know they have eternal life.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  11. Luci

    I WISH I would have known about this event. The man needs to be dealt with biblically. First and foremost – G-D's primary attribute is NOT Love. G-D's primary attribute is HOLINESS. And that is where this heretic falls off the rails of Scripture. He serves up a distorted view of The Almighty. He is not at liberty, nor is anyone else, to suggest or infer that G-D Almighty, the G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is contrary in His nature to that revealed in HIs Word, the Bible. Also, that Bell would state or suggest that Ghandi or ANYone who has not repented of their SIN and placed their faith and trust in the shed blood of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus, is a HERETICAL LIE. Good grief – I'd have loved steaming up his little black glasses with the TRUTH of Scripture. But – – BELL will answer for this. For every soul that he misled and lied to when he 'hit back' he will answer for. Jesus said of folks like him, "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." ~~ Matthew 18:6

    March 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Luci (didn't you used to have a television show???)

      So you WISH you "would have known about this event. The man needs to be dealt with biblically."

      Are you advocating he should be stoned to death? The slightly more recent churches preferred burning at the stake.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Kara4

      Gandhi is in heaven as well as Muhammad. Wake up. Stop hating.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Joshua

      What are you talking about?
      It says all over the bible first and foremost GOD IS LOVE...

      March 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Joshua

      Luci you want to have a scripture battle with a man who knows the bible probably almost as well as the apostles.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Luci

      "PraiseTheLard" LOL!!!... that was so FUNNY – not. And pathetic. Obviously, you did not read what I typed or you're too obtuse to understand it. That part is obvious. What is also obvious is that you're a sinner and happy to be one. Judgment is coming for YOU. Your date of death is one day CLOSER. You WILL stand before Jesus, the Righteous Judge. Every one of your sins in thought, intent, AND deed throughout the time that you knew right from wrong, will be read off to you (even things that you've forgotten) and you will receive Judgment. There will be no mercy then. Today is the day of Salvation. BUT – go ahead. Make tired little quips about TV shows. Your judgment stands waiting for you.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Observer

      So no one made it to heaven until Jesus came along? That sure was a miserable thing to do to Job, especially after he was ruined to let God win a bet.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Luci

      @Joshua – No. The Bible does not say that. I'm quoting Scripture. You're giving your opinion. Neither my NOR your opinion means a thing in this discussion. Rev 3:7 – “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the HOLY ONE, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. | Rev 4:8 – "And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” | Rev 6:10 – "They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

      No where in Scripture is G-D called 'the loving one' or loving G-d. He is HOLY. He calls Himself HOLY. None of His Hebrew names translate to 'love' either. The G-D of the Older Testament is the same G-D of the New. He is HOLY.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Luci

      Of course people were found righteous in their respective generations prior to the birth of Christ but none entered Heaven until Jesus had been crucified; the debt of sin paid, and the Righteousness of G-D upheld. If you read Job as you stated, Job said, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, YET in my flesh I shall see God". Job IS in Heaven but you AREN'T. The issue is you. Your soul. No one in America has any excuse (no matter the crazy, wicked TV "preachers" or mean "christians") or any other excuse for rejecting this. When Americans see a huge injustice done – like Lacy Peterson (killed while pregnant by her husband) – they expected the judge in that case to render a right judgment. As a human, the judge in that case is just as wicked as the rest of us but can you imagine the outrage if he'd have let that woman's murderer off?! So much more so for The Righteous One. He is a King, a Judge – nothing gets by Him. Every sin, every infraction will be paid for – with blood. Now – either it's Jesus' blood or yours but the penalty will be paid. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

      And with that – I'm done.

      March 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Jarad

      @Luci You said "No where in Scripture is G-D called 'the loving one' or loving G-d."

      1 John 4:8 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
      1 John 4:16 says, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."

      Please be careful when teaching scripture. Your previous post said that Rob Bell will be held accountable for not teaching the truth of scripture... the same applies to you.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  12. Sarah

    Oh for goodness sakes – this guy is just telling it like it is. It just takes an open and curious mind to seek out the true knowledge – then people will learn and see what Jesus Christ truly meant through his teachings, along with the many other Teachers who came close to the Ultimate Enlightened stage that Christ was at. Our Universe is all about Love, Forgiveness, Compassion & Empathy.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  13. Cleveland Jim

    ALL points aside, I really want someone to explain to me how atheism is a religion.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • airwx


      I find that many people have come to view atheism as a religion based on the fact that the arguements often being made are as/more repeti-tive than christian apologists. arguements. I know one true atheist, a person who is as sweet, loving and kind as you could imagine. Then I come into this kind of forum and I find the dark underbelly of atheism, often called trolls. There is an "Atheist Bible" (I know its not the same thing but bear with me), which people see and immediately associate with a satanic bible. These things combined bring people to conclude that atheism is a religion

      March 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • John Richardson

      As someone who is not an atheist, but who generally sides with them here, I think it's fair to say that atheists can come across as overly sure of ultimate answers and are therefore more than a little like the religious in that regard. They can be zealous to a fault, just like anyone can be about any belief system or philosophy. They can certainly be blind to not just potential but actual evil perpetrated by other atheists. The tap dancing about the evils of overtly atheistic political philosophies (generally varieties of communism) is pretty discouraging. What we really need is a sort of procedural agnosticism. Even if you think you know the ultimate answers, at least have the decency to act like you aren't really that arrogant.

      On the other hand, you'll see a lot more genuine knowledge of both science and religion from many of the atheists around here than you will from the believers. And when the atheists fling their rhetoric at believers, there is a lot more genuine wit than you'll see from the other side. Those whiny believers who grumble about why atheists seem so "disgruntled" are simply showing that THEIR comprehension skills are so poor that they can't even see that most of the atheists posting here are clearly having a good time. 🙂

      March 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • airwx

      @ John, Well stated. I enjoy the banter, and as a Christian I have found my faith strengthened by the interaction with others of unlike beliefs. And a good joke is always a good joke. We all need to lighten up. If this world gets any crazier we might all find out who's right sooner than we think!

      March 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  14. zandraj

    would people PLEASE let god do his business......and us do ours???????WE act like we get to make his decisions. REALLY!!!

    March 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  15. MZ

    I have read a lot of comments on this website regarding the ignorance, stupidity, and naivety of believers (of any kind, but mostly Christians). Quite frankly, many of you need to take a hard look in the mirror. You are spending you precious time knocking people down because they have a different belief system than you? Or because they think they have an answer? How is that any different that message that you bring to the table? Every comment I have read on these boards is written by a person who believes THEY HAVE THE ANSWERS! To me that sounds every bit as ignorant and naive as anything you accuse Christians of. For all of the knowledge (or lack there of) that people posses, nobody, no matter how cunning you may think you are, has the ability to see into another person's heart and know what truly resides there. Ultimately, what we all need to keep in mind is that we are all either right or we are wrong. As long as a person is comfortable with that there is no reason to attack and mock someone eles' belief. God Bless.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Why are Christians so intellectually insecure?

      March 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Freak in Tongues

      MZ, with your comment, you are making yourself guilty of the very thing you are putting down. Keep your own mirror handy.

      March 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Mischa

      Well, then, MZ, I guess you haven't quite got it yet – You are in the wrong as far as we can tell.
      Unless you have actual proof that you are right, our proof says that you are wrong.
      You would lose in court because you have no proof, no evidence that your god even exists. You say he's everywhere then we are all part of god the same way we're part of the universe. Therefore your religion is still wrong. You can't win unless you prove that you are right.
      But you are wrong.

      March 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  16. Ian

    There's no point getting into dry exegesis in an interview that many untaught will be watching. I would assume that he would get into the scriptural proofs in his books. Certainly, the interviews plus the controversy is good advertising and will get him a lot of book sales. But, that's a good thing if there is any truth to be gained by reading them. I might check them out myself and line them up with scripture as a Berean would. But remember, the Bereans used the Tanach not the New Testament as it was not canonized or distributed until centuries later. Always line up scripture with the Tanach to see if the translation is a true one.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Viva Christo Rey

    I have not read Rob Bell's book. I have seen some of the Nooma videos. From what I have seen, Rob Bell is a good man, and a sincere and devout Christian. He cares for his flock, and truly desires to glorify God. These are good things, necessary things if one is to be Christian.

    An excellent point was brought up about the suffering of so many people, particularly in the 20th century, and even more particularly during the Shoah. This is the question of suffering. However, I would propose to you that the question of moral evil is a far greater question. Physical suffering has many forms and degrees, each worse than the last. Moral evil seems to be an entirely different beast, as it were. The choices that the Nazi's made, the choices the Soviets made, the choices Pol Pot made, the moral evil they perpetrated, seems to be a greater matter.

    I would point out that, in the German translation of the "Our Father", the word for evil at the end of the prayer is properly translated as moral evil, rather than the evil of physical suffering. Food for thought.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  18. Cleveland Jim

    I think it is absolutely hillarious that a christian comes out talking about love and other christians call him a heretic.... this reminds me of a story that I once heard. And can someone please explain to me how you can justify atheism as a religion? Atheism is as much a religion as MLB.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Observer

      If religion is considered to be the set of beliefs that someone has concerning the meaning of life, then atheism and agnosticism can be considered religions.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Enoch

      If you change the definition of religion, then it is a religion.

      Good work.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Mischa

      Observer – atheism and agnosticism are not concerned with nor do they address anything. They are not about "meaning of life" at all.
      At all. Do you hear me Observer? They are not about the meaning of life.
      Atheism is a simple lack of belief in any "god". Agnosticism is a lack of belief also, but with an added element that points out the lack of evidence for either side.
      That's it. Nothing more. They are not philosophical viewpoints. They are the lack of a belief and the lack of evidence.
      You seem to be stuck on making these things into "religions", when they are absolutely NOT religions AT ALL.

      March 20, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  19. SingleDad

    There's nothing new or heretical in Pastor Bell's teachings. As far as new, the writings of several Christian philosophers, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton to name two, reflect a belief that Heaven may not be an exclusive, Christians Only club. As far as heretical, leaders of Christian sects and churches have always made up their own criteria for entry into Heaven and confinement to Hell. In that respect Christianity is no different from any other religion. Just like leaders of secular organizations, one of the routes to status and power is to for the few to develop a set of rules for the many.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  20. evos

    I'm a God Damn Christian!

    March 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Luci

      What part of "you shall not use the name of your G-d in vain" don't you understand?

      "How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." ~~ Hebrews 10:29-31

      In addition to your blasphemy, add the predilection for folks to use "OM-", Christ, and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations of surprise or outrage. It is ALL BLASPHEMY and duly noted.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Kara4

      Oh, I hope that you don't take this too seriously, but God sent Jesus to forgive. And He will do that. Lighten up a little bit.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Luci

      @Kara4 – As for your statement that "G-d sent Jesus to forgive"; that is not true. Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." People are lost and deceived. Anyone who rejects Jesus will stand in judgment alone.

      March 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Freak in Tongues

      C'mon, evos. The rest of us are trying to have serious discussions about belief, which is an important topic for believers and non-believers alike. Mere provocation is contrary to any goal either side is trying to reach. Grow up.

      March 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • God Illusion

      Is Luci short for Lucifer? This guy has some serious issues.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
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About this blog

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