Do You Care Where Rob Bell Goes When He Dies?

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, a very particular rock in evangelical Christianity, you would have heard by now about the controversy that Rob Bell has stirred with his universalist overtures in his latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. As a high-profile, edgy, gi-normo (gigantic and enormous) church pastor from the “epicenter of progressive culture” Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bell has definitely struck a nerve and there are endless comments about how his views have now distanced him from orthodox Christianity. Of course, it really expedites the process when John Piper, another high-profile, not-so-edgy, gi-normo church pastor tweets, “Farewell, Rob Bell” upon viewing a promotional video released in advance of the book. I’m not sure that’s necessary (neither does Doug Pagitt – yet another high-profile ginormo church pastor!) or Minnesota “Nice” (something I’m sure Piper doesn’t get accused of anyway). For more balance, check out Scot McKnight’s blog series on the book.

In the weeks following the uproar, and believe me, there have been hundreds of comments from haters and defenders of Bell and this latest work of his, I’ve been wondering two things.

1. Wouldn’t universalism render the ministry of reconciliation – the incredibly difficult, life-consuming, cross-cultural work that many of us see as integral and indicative of the transformed life – pointless? The question of salvation aside, if Jesus did not have to pour out his life for the sake of others, why should we?

2. One of the fascinating ironies of the book is that the negative response from the Christian majority supports exactly what Rob Bell implies in terms of Christians wanting to quickly determine who is and who isn’t going to heaven. Before we evangelical Christians proved Bell wrong, we proved him right. And here’s what I’m wondering…one of the reasons why I think people of other religions frown on Christians is exactly this type of internal theological discussions that get Christians to throw each other under the bus. This is different from moderate Muslims giving fundamentalist Muslims a cold shoulder. It makes me wonder if we’re so individualistic in the way we view the world, that we don’t realize that we make Team Christian look pretty bad. What do you think?

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come. View all posts by David Park

5 responses to “Do You Care Where Rob Bell Goes When He Dies?

  • eric

    If their a false teacher, we’re told explicity in scripture to call them out…it’s one thing to aggressively call someone out that’s in the christian faith and it’s another to do it if their a flat out false teacher. i think the lashing bell’s received is warranted. we need to protect the gospel. but lets say two christian pastors disagree on an issue, then thats different. then i would say its not necessary to attack.

    • David Park

      I hear you Eric. But here’s what I want to say, this “attack” is very public, which means non-Christians are watching this and it confirms their notions that Christians can’t love one another, much less “the outsider”. Do you see how that could be problematic when we try to evangelize when these images and discussions are so publicized?

  • Dave

    The ministry of reconciliation is about reconciling humanity to God which results in many wrongs being righted including reconciliation on a human level. However, universalism negates the necessity of reconciliation on any level since “love wins” eventually anyway. Words have meaning and truth matters. Truth and falsehood must be exposed.

    • David Park

      Right, I have that same problem with universalism. From Eastern religions in particular, the view of injustices is a product of karma, but Jesus represents something different, no?

      That said, I think I want a hell because I want people like Stalin and Hitler to suffer. But I think of how powerful Grace is when I realized I could have suffered like them, and deserve it.

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