When Jesus preached love, he got the same reaction from the religious community that Pastor Rob Bell is getting–except Bell is getting a vocal crucifixion from the pious in the evangelical community instead of a literal one. What's the controversy? Bell is preaching that everyone has a chance of going to heaven, which differs from the evangelical message that one must accept Christ into one's heart and believe that He is the Son of God–or go to hell. This is the central, and most accepted premise of Christianity, and Bell is blowing it, well, to hell. His new book Love Wins:A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
Time Magazine reports:
When word of Love Wins reached the Internet, one conservative Evangelical pastor, John Piper, tweeted, "Farewell Rob Bell," unilaterally attempting to evict Bell from the Evangelical community. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Bell's book is "theologically disastrous. Any of us should be concerned when a matter of theological importance is played with in a subversive way." In North Carolina, a young pastor was fired by his church for endorsing the book…Bell's arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. "When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world," says Mohler, "then you don't need the church, and you don't need Christ, and you don't need the cross. This is the tragedy of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism, and it's Rob Bell's tragedy in this book too."
“For a very popular, charismatic, evangelical pastor to come out and call the traditional view of hell as toxic, misguided, and for him to mock the view of his grandmother – which he admits in the book – he has really thrown a grenade at the evangelical count,” said Trevin Wax in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday.
Others such as Scot McKnight, a professor of theology at North Park University in Chicago, said they welcomed the renewed discussion of one of the hardest issues in Christianity — can a loving God really be so wrathful toward people who faltered, or never were exposed to Jesus? In an interview and on his blog, he said that the thunder emanating from the right this week was not representative of American Christians, even evangelicals. According to surveys and his experience with students, Mr. McKnight said, a large majority of evangelical Christians “more or less believe that people of other faiths will go to heaven,” whatever their churches and theologians may argue.
“Rob Bell is tapping into a younger generation that really wants to open up these questions,” he said. “He is also tapping into the fear of the traditionalists — that these differing views of heaven and hell will compromise the Christian message.”