The first line of the article really drew me in this morning:
A Methodist pastor who voiced support for a book questioning the view of hell as a place of eternal damnation is “shocked” by his church’s decision to fire him.
The book is Love Wins by Rob Bell, a pastor and leader of the emergent church movement. Apparently Rob has decided that it is just too harsh to think that God would condemn anyone to hell, or at least that we could know that that would happen. I watched a couple of youtube videos where he was promoting his book. His ability to avoid the direct question made it pretty difficult to know whether he believes anyone actually goes to hell or not. In one particular interview with Martin Bashir on MSNBC he avoids the direct question several times. That avoidance makes me think he probably does take a very unorthodox view of eternity.
And it also raises another question for me. The emergent movement is built in some part on the idea that the establishment church should be challenged, that fundamental truths shouldn’t be blindly accepted, but re-examined. Now if Rob Bell is part of a movement that is so bold, why would he hesitate to take the opportunity to tear down the idea that some may not actually go to heaven? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Of course, the whole idea that your decision about Christ before you die determines your eternal destiny is completely unbiblical. In the interview with Martin Bashir, Bell says that Universalism is a stream of belief within historical Christianity. While it is true that as a matter of history there have been theologians who have held to universalism, that doesn’t make it a stream of orthodoxy. This isn’t a preference for baptism by immersion or sprinkling, or a choice between traditional hymns and gregorian chants.
The worst part of the interview may be his excuse that as a pastor he has permission to not be a theologian or that comforting people demands a watering down of the gospel.
What do you think? Watch the video below and let me know your reaction.
One more thing. Bashir begins the interview with a false dichotomy posed from the tragedy in Japan. He asks basically, “Is God all powerful and uncaring or caring but not all powerful?” This is a false choice. God is both all powerful and completely compassionate. However, the chaos in which we live is our own doing as a result of our sin and the sinfulness of humanity. It isn’t a “paradox” as Bell says, it is a false choice. So, check out the video and let me know what you think.