Just as Barack Obama wants to change what it means to be America, controversial author Rob Bell wants to change what it means to be Christian. The cover story for the Easter Week edition of Time magazine is about Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. Bell, perhaps the most widely known of a group of young supposedly evangelical writers who emphasize “love” and dismiss the Biblical view of judgment/retribution (referred to in Christian circles as “hell), has prompted discussions throughout the church and, indeed, throughout a wide swath of American culture, about the meaning of Christianity and the basic theological doctrines that comprise Biblical Christianity.
Chris Matthews devoted a segment of his Palm Sunday show to a discussion of the issue with four non-theologian journalists/writers. Matthews asked if Bell’s theories weren’t necessary in light of the decline in church membership enabling ministers to cash in on today’s “you deserve it” attitudes. Andrew Sullivan agreed with Bell and explained, “Hell is simply the refusal to accept the love of God and Heaven is the ability to open your heart to God and let his love in.” Norah O’Donnell, though, thought the concept of hell helped keep us “on the straight and narrow.”
While most commentators freely shared their ignorance of basic Biblical doctrine without any inhibition, the Time magazine cover story (written by Jon Meacham, formerly of Newsweek magazine and a theology student in his undergraduate days) acknowledges from the outset that Bell’s views contradict traditional Christianity. Others are not as aware of what is at stake in Bell’s “soft” rhetoric about “love.”
Bell makes it clear that he thinks everyone has a place in heaven, with the implication that there is no hell. Thus, by implication, he throws out the doctrine of salvation and the necessity for Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. His views, then, dismiss the need for redemption, repentance, the Church, and much of the rest of Christian doctrine. Such views are not “Christian,” nor are they “evangelical.” Those views fall well outside the Christian faith as it is revealed in Scripture and as it has been taught in churches for more than two millennia throughout Christendom.