LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM, there’s no disputing Rob Bell’s growing influence as a spokesperson for a more open Christianity, a Christianity that sees open doors and opportunities in place of the obstacles and obnoxiousness that seems to pervade much of western Christianity. With the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll dismissing and/or condemning Bell as a heretic, you could be forgiven for thinking that he’s come up with something new or that he’s been expressing views that run counter to the gospel when in fact the only crime he’s committed is to challenge the status quo by asking questions and offering hope to the disenfranchised. Bell is no Messiah, of course, but the attitudes displayed towards him by many Christians, conservative evangelicals in particular, do seem to echo the attitudes of the religious leaders towards Jesus way back when, when he dared to suggest that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before they did.
But if it’s the question of whether or not Bell is a universalist that’s vexing you, look no further than his profile page in TIME Magazine’s Top 100:
Bell argues for mystery, not certitude. “In the book, I write about how some have believed that all will be reconciled,” he told TIME, “and while I long for that as I think everybody should long for it, I don’t take a position of certainty because, of course, I don’t know how it all turns out.”
Makes sense to me: Love Wins — that’s the ultimate message of Easter; but whatever the level of Bell’s popularity, there seems to be no hope in hell for that increasingly rare breed, bricks & mortar booksellers, to benefit from sales whilst the likes of Amazon (current offer £8.07) and the Book Depository (current offer £8.06) continue their battle to outdo one another on the price reduction stakes. One can only wonder at what’s going on in the ZonderCollins supply chain to enable such ludicrous discounts — somehow I think it has little to do with an altruistic desire to help spread Bell’s message…
Of particular note:
- Adrian Warnock, author of Raised With Christ, appears to be suffering his own unending torment in a series of posts after debating the book with Bell on Premier Radio: Heaven, Hell and Rob Bell – a Face to Face Debate about Love Wins; see also Peter Kirk’s responses to Warnock.
- Jacques More (Jarom Books: Bible Translation: Does getting it right matter? and So You Think You’re Chosen? Debating Calvinism) has published a response: Love and Truth Wins
- A dedicated blog and twitter stream have been set up to follow the controversy: Hell’s Bell | @hellsbellorg
- And last but not least, Lara Blackwood Pickrel (Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! Young Adults Speak out about Sexuality and Christianity) offers a fascinating sideways look at the debate: Tenants of Belief – Where Do You Live?