I’ve been away for the weekend and been off the internet and I’ve returned to find Rob Bell mired in the middle of an orthodoxy controversy over an upcoming book on love and grace and hell. Here’s his video.
As you can see from the video, mostly Bell is just asking questions.
Justin Taylor decided to deride his views based on the video and some sample chapters that he has been sent. He hasn’t read the whole book but feels it is necessary to declare what he thinks Bell is going to say as heresy.
Stand Firm took a sarcastic ungracious tone in their response, again declaring Bell a false teacher and heretic without having read the book. Neither of these responses seem to me to be very Christian.
For the record, I prefer Scot McKnight’s response:
I’ve not seen anything like [the storm surrounding this]. And, yes, the quickness of social media have made this such a big issue … today … and in a week it will all be gone. Justin Taylor once generated almost 100 comments by quoting a blurb of mine that was on the back of IVP’s book by Tom Wright on Justification.
Justin may be right about what Rob believes, but if he is wrong then he owes Rob Bell a huge apology. I want to wait to see what Rob Bell says, read it for myself, and see what I think of it. Rob is tapping into what I think is the biggest issue facing evangelicalism today, and this fury shows that it just might be that big of an issue.
The publicity approach of HarperOne worked perfectly. They got huge publicity for a book. They intended to provoke — and they did it well. I think it is wiser to wait to see the real thing than to rely on publicity’s provocations. Justin bit, and so did many of his readers.
Words like ‘heresy…’ and ‘false teacher’ are flying around the blogs and the comments.
One thing to think about is this ‘what exactly is heresy?’ and ‘when is a difference of opinion merely a difference of interpretation within Christian orthodxy, or when it is taking us outside of it?’ What do we do when we have a difference of interpretation like that? Do we need to shout until everyone thinks we’re right?
Is universalism heresy – When I originally wrote this post I would have said ‘yes’ as it is very clear from scripture that not everyone is saved. However I would now say that although I think universalism is wrong, it is not heresy, as it is a belief that all are saved through the work of Jesus. Pluralism on the other hand, is as there is no reliance on the work of Jesus. Any means will do.
Is annihilation heresy? I would argue no as scripture can and has been read either way. I vary from day to day on which interpretation of hell i think is right. One thing I don’t vary on is that hell is real. (Ultimately, if you get the judgment of God in its right and huge perspective, i don’t think it matters)
Christianity Today have summarised the debate.
UPDATE: If you’ve read the above you may have worked out what I was trying to day. Jason Boyatt has said it much better.