Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rob Bell in Time

So now Time Magazine gives Rob Bell a cover story. Jon Meacham writes the story concerning Bell's new book Love Wins. Intense controversy has followed the release of Love Wins. Since then Bell has been on the defensive. He has been busily denying that he is a universalist which seems to contradict that which he proclaims in his new book. Even those who are supportive of Bell's project know that he is advancing what can only be understood as a kind of universalism. Meacham writes:
The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises "eternal life" to "whosoever believeth in Him." Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, "for us and for our salvation came down from heaven ... and was made man." In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell. Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book's subtitle puts it, "every person who ever lived" could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be.
But Bell has reassured his church in a recent congregational meeting that he is thoroughly within the tent of historic Christian orthodoxy. But this seems to be at odds with what Bell writes in Love Wins. And Meacham knows this. Bell even stated in an interview by Meacham, "I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian" [emphasis mine]. The vision of Christianity held forth by Rob Bell is clearly not in keeping with what was proclaimed and passed on by Jesus and the apostles. He is indeed advancing a new vision of "what it means to be a Christian." I just wish he would be honest about it.

Commenting on the Time cover story Denny Burk makes an observation that I hope will give Rob Bell (or at least his congregation and readers) a reason to pause:

Every year during Easter season, the news weekly’s like to feature stories that tweak traditional Christian belief (for example, The Gospel of Judas, the tomb of Jesus, etc.). For these publications, Holy Week has become heresy week. I think it says something that Bell’s book has now taken a place next to these kinds of stories.

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