Souls Chained and Tormented in HellTen days ago I blogged about the uproar of the supposed “heresy” of evangelical pastor Rob Bell. In an interview reported on the CNN Belief blog, however, Bell claims he’s not a “universalist” and therefore is no “heretic” (WebCite cached article):

For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.

All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. …

Bell said he was surprised by the controversy around his book. Critics said he was preaching universalism, a theology that suggests everyone goes to heaven and hell is empty.

“I’m not a universalist. So that’s just not true.” He reiterated that again in the event that evening where he expounded on that idea and said that he didn’t believe God reaches down and sweeps everyone to heaven.

Even if Bell claims not to be a universalist, his book does convey a view of heaven and hell which is certainly not standard evangelical-Christian fare:

Bell said if a believer has their eyes on heaven, they can miss the opportunities to bring people a taste of heaven here on Earth – and they can miss seeing the hell around them.

“Greed, injustice, the sex trade in Far East Asia, we see hell all around us, whenever people reject what is good and human and right and peaceful and all that,” he said.

“I begin with this world right now and the observation that we are free to choose. It’s the nature of love. So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.”

For Bell the here and now is just as important as any possible life to come. “I think it’s very very important to point out … [that] we are speculating about after you die,” he said.

So I’m not sure this will assuage all of Bell’s critics … some are likely to keep screaming that he’s a “heretic.” They’ll just use a different rationale for doing so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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