A lot of ink has been spilled over the past couple of weeks on Rob Bell and his latest book Love Wins. Some of the most thoughtful discussion has been happening at the web-site www.patheos.com. The evangelical channel at Patheos is edited by Timothy Dalrymple, an important young voice in evangelicalism. We asked Tim to take a quick break from Patheos and write a story about Rob Bell and his book for WORLD. Here's the beginning of that story, and a link to the rest of it at the WORLD website:
With Love Wins, Rob Bell and HarperCollins win. Does Christianity?
By Timothy Dalrymple
(WNS)--A marketing coup: Get a small book on eternal destiny to the top of best-seller lists by sending out heretical-sounding promotional materials that garner condemnation. The winners: Rob Bell, the famously hip 40-year-old founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, and his publisher, the Rupert Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, that dubs Bell “the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation.”
Bell’s book, Love Wins, argues that a good and loving God could not condemn people permanently to hell—and that, because of the orthodox conception of hell, many see the Christian message as “an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies.” The truly good news, he says, is that “love wins.” This message, coming from a pastor dubbed by Time “a singular rock star in the church world,” provoked critiques from Christian leaders including John Piper. One prominent blogger, Justin Taylor, argued that Bell “is moving farther and farther away from anything resembling biblical Christianity.”
After Piper sent a message on Twitter that linked to Taylor’s post and said, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” Taylor’s critique received 250,000 viewings over the next 48 hours. The central theological criticism was that Bell promotes “universalism”—the view that all humankind will ultimately be redeemed—or so dilutes Christian teachings on salvation and the afterlife that what remains is no longer Christian at all. Many secular publications, including The New York Times and CNN, gave Bell’s book favorable publicity.
HarperCollins, which had won the rights to Love Wins with a six-figure advance, flew Bell to New York, where Bell told an interviewer that he was not a universalist, “if by universalist we mean there’s a giant cosmic arm that swoops everybody in at some point, whether you want to be there or not.” Christ alone is the means of redemption, he said, but people of all faiths and those who reject Christ in this life will have...