The real question is now whether the church has sufficient biblical conviction to resist this doctrinal seduction. Otherwise, it may well be that Rob Bell’s “massive shift” is the shape of things to come.
The edition of TIME magazine timed for Easter Week features a cover story on the controversy over Rob Bell and his new book, Love Wins. Interestingly, the essay is written by none other than Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former editor of Newsweek –TIME’s historic competitor. Meacham, who studied theology as an undergraduate at the University of the South, helpfully places Rob Bell in the larger context of modern theology, even as he offers a basically sympathetic analysis.
The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises “eternal life” to “whosoever believeth in Him.” Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … and was made man.” In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.
Bell, Meacham writes, “begs to differ” with this “standard Christian view.” He then relates that Rob Bell “suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, ‘every person who ever lived’ could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond.”
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