Beware: Hell Exists; There's No Christianity without Sin, Death and the Resurrection

Article excerpt

Byline: sBy Janice Shaw Crouse, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Just as President Obama wants to change what it means to be American, controversial author Rob Bell wants to change what it means to be Christian. The cover story for the Easter Week edition of Time magazine is about Mr. Bell's book, Love Wins. Mr. Bell, perhaps the most widely known of a group of young, supposedly evangelical writers who emphasize love and dismiss the traditional view of judgment/retribution (referred to in Christian circles as "hell) has prompted nationwide discussions about the very meaning of Christianity.

Chris Matthews devoted a segment of his Palm Sunday show to a discussion of the issue with four non-theologian journalists/writers. Mr. Matthews asked if Mr. Bell's theories weren't necessary in light of the decline in church membership enabling ministers to cash in on today's you deserve it attitudes. Andrew Sullivan agreed with Mr. Bell and explained, Hell is simply the refusal to accept the love of God, and heaven is the ability to open your heart to God and let His love in. Norah O'Donnell, though, thought the concept of hell helped keep us on the straight and narrow.

While most commentators freely shared their ignorance of basic Christian teaching without any inhibition, the Time magazine cover story (written by Jon Meacham, formerly of Newsweek magazine and a theology student in his undergraduate days) acknowledges from the outset that Mr. Bell's views contradict traditional Christianity. Others are not as aware of what is at stake in Mr. Bell's soft rhetoric about love.

Mr. Bell makes it clear that he thinks everyone has a place in heaven, with the implication that there is no hell. Thus, by implication, he throws out the doctrine of salvation and the necessity for Christ's death on the cross for our sins. His views, then, dismiss the need for redemption, repentance, the church and much of the rest of Christian doctrine. Such views are not Christian, nor are they evangelical. Those views fall well outside the Christian faith as it is revealed in Scripture and as it has been taught in churches for more than two millenniums throughout Christendom.

Mr. Bell's new packaging has fooled many readers who do not recognize that his theology follows mainline liberalism and fits in with the cultural emphasis on being nonjudgmental. Mr. Bell and his ilk are all the rage in the media, and they brag about ushering in a new kind of Christianity. But there is nothing new about their views. Mr. Meacham writes in Time, Early in the 20th century, Harry Emerson Fosdick came to represent theological liberalism, arguing against the literal truth of the Bible and the existence of hell. It was time, progressives argued, for the faith to surrender its supernatural claims. …