*Originally posted at Sacred Duty, my Chron.com blog
Just when you thought the impassioned discussion about Rob Bell and his theology “about heaven and hell and the fate of every person who ever lived” was going to fade quietly into the distance, several publishers thought it might be a good idea to get everyone riled up again.
Back in March of this year Christian pastor Rob Bell got the whole Evangelical universe into a general freak-out mode when he released a teaser video and then a few weeks later launched his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Following the teaser video there was a Twitterverse and blogosphere explosion, resulting in a lot of name calling and back-and-forth. Rob Bell went from hip-young-evangelical-pastor to black-rimmed-glasses-wearing-heretic-evangelical-pariah overnight (read more about When All Hell Breaks Loose in the Evangelical Twitterverse). Then the book came out and the reviews started coming in. Conservative neo-Calvinist Evangelical leaders decried the book’s theology and Scriptural interoperation about heaven and hell and made it clear that a) Bell is a universalist and b) that he is WAY off the track of orthodox Evangelical Christianity.
At the time there were plenty of soul-searching and Scripture-exploring Christians, skeptics and de-churched individuals seeking out the truth, reading the book, perusing the blogs and lamenting the whole “he said…no, she said” environment of the (dialogue, discussion, debate) drag-out fight.
As the religious community and the general public got over the initial news, many thought Bell’s Love Wins was going to recede into the background and that the Evangelical climate would calm. They were wrong. Rushing their tomes to press, influential publishers, teachers and authors are reviving the debate and hitting back at Rob Bell for his proposed hell heresy. The editor for HarperOne, the publishing company behind Love Wins, Mickey Maudlin says he is sad to see no less than six different ripostesbeing penned and printed to counter Bell and his newest book. Of those six I know of three prominent pieces: Waterbrook Multnomah Press’ forthrightly titled Hell, Rob Bell and What Happens When People Die, Mark Galli with his God Wins and Evangelical super-pastor Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell.
With all the publishing publicity the blogs, Tweets, book reviews, videos and articles on Rob Bell and his theology of heaven and hell are starting to pop up yet again. If this were not enough to clue me in to the fact that the debate is really just getting started I received three messages just this last week asking for my perspective on Love Wins, Rob Bell and the whole theological debacle. Certainly, with the ongoing discussion, the staying power of Bell’s book on the bestseller list and the release of several new titles on the topic it is clear that the Evangelical community is in for a protracted review of its doctrines of heaven and hell.
So, religious community and Evangelical universe, brace yourselves for another round of “hell-ish” discussion, because here we go again.