Friday, April 29, 2011

Rob Bell's 'Hellology'?

Rob Bell
'Prince of Darkness?'
Photo by Brent Humphreys
(Image from Time)

That rogue evangelical preacher Rob Bell, whom I blogged on some days ago, is apparently getting a lot of attention these days for his quasi-universalist doubts about Hell -- he has now made the cover of Time, as you can see above. A large number of people must be reading his book Love Wins, I guess, if it's featured in that weekly's main article, "Pastor Rob Bell: What if Hell Doesn't Exist?" (Apr. 14, 2011). The writer, Jon Meacham, poses an interesting question:
Is Bell's Christianity -- less judgmental, more fluid, open to questioning the most ancient of assumptions -- on an inexorable rise?
Bell himself wonders about much the same thing:
"I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian," Bell says. "Something new is in the air."
I'm not sure what Bell means by this, for the article doesn't speak explicitly about the point, but Meacham does go on to cite another evangelical who might be onto the answer:
"He's trying to reach a generation that's more comfortable with mystery, with unsolved questions," says [Fuller Theological Seminary president, Richard] Mouw, noting that his own young grandchildren are growing up with Hindu and Muslim friends and classmates. "For me, Hindus and Muslims were the people we sent missionaries off to in places we called 'Arabia,'" Mouw says. "Now that diversity is part of the fabric of daily life. It makes a difference. My generation wanted truth -- these are folks who want authenticity. The whole judgmentalism and harshness is something they want to avoid."
I've noticed that a lot of the music sung in churches these days, even in strict evangelical denominations, is largely 'praise' songs that are doctrinally thin, and evangelicals don't seem to know the Bible as well as they did when I was growing up. Evangelicalism has always been a religion of the heart, but that heart these days seems less tutored.

The untutored heart is perhaps not as committed to some traditional doctrines if these seem 'unfair'.

But I'm just guessing . . .

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At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The untutored heart...."

Since DHR seems to out of pocket these days, I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth.

I will agree there seems to be less "deep dive" learning of the bible these days. However, christianity has its fair share of zealots, such as the preachers from Kansas and Florida, and going back to Jonestown and Karesh(?) in Waco.

I work with Muslims, Hindus, Buddists, and various other religions outside the christian realm. I do not look at them as being "wrong" as my Southern Baptist upbringing taught me. Does this make me less of a christian? I personally do not think so.

Not sure where I am going with this, but those societies which shut out all others seem to be the ones losing ground and converts. I speak of God and Jesus to them, and they relate things about Muhammed, Krisna, or others to me. I pary for them in my way, and I hope they pray for me in their way.

In my line of work, and working with a world wide coporation, we have to be diverse and open to other ideas, cultures, and religions.

Just a personal blurb on the music comment. A lot of churchs have gone to comtemporary music, and I have a hard time seeing a "band" at the front of a church. My wife and I attend First Christian Church in Rogers, are members of the choir as well as deacons, and so far our church has kept to the traditional hymns and gospel songs.

Not sure I said much in my ramblings above. I know I like my religion, and am not compelled to try and make non-christians feel guilty about theirs.


At 9:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jay, your experience fits with what Mouw suggests, that as we gain friends of various religious positions, we tend grow less doctrinally fixed.

Oddly, though, I can imagine this also having the opposite effect . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

""I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian," Bell says. "Something new is in the air.""

I don't know how new it is without some firmer definitions. The English Romantics before the French Revolution probably had a good number of things in common with these people in terms of doctrine. Some of our (American's) founding fathers were not too far away, I'd think.

But, the 20th Century has witnessed the full-flowing of it, but it was predicted a long, long time ago in the book the guy doesn't believe in. It was called the apostasy and was supposed to presage something to come.

It is one thing to talk about people of a faith being too judgmental and another when we're talking about doctrine.

The thing I do like about universalists is - the emasculate all religions. They don't discriminate (too much).

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

My hunch is that, ultimately, what trends like this are hoping to move to is a secular world - free from the baggage of religion altogether - regardless of which it is.

I don't say that is the motivation behind every individual leader of the movement, but I get that feeling about the movement itself.

And it comes in different packages that are more palatable to this or that particular people in this or that area and time.

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I guess that we'll find out if we live a few more years . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:25 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

You could say that my objection is based on my fundamental Christian beliefs, but I'd say it can stand as well without them.

What I don't like about items like this is that it asks people to ignore the very textual and customs on which religions are built. I'll try to keep this short:

A person has every right to say they believe a or the god does not judge, but they really have no place to call themselves a Christian, Jews, or Muslim (or maybe even Buddhist) and say that there is no judgement.

Noone calling themselves a Christian should be able to say that Jesus was not the son of God and God himself. Just as no calling himself a Muslim should be able to say that Jesus was -- because the text and traditions upon which those two religions are built state the exact opposite.

Nor should you be able to call yourself a Buddhist but say their is no such thing as reincarnation.

You can call yourself a spiritualist or something and say you are guided by your own understanding of the totality of your experience (including exposure to the texts and traditions of multiple religions), but you can't really get away with doing that and claiming to be a follower of one particular religion.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Scott, your position sounds reasonable to me. I would only add that this still leaves a lot of leeway as to textual interpretation, so differences of opinion as to what that judgment is can legitimately remain.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:56 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Apparently, the guy has made Time Magazine's cover

Why does it seem to take a guy like this or a crucifix in a jar of pee to make the front page of the press?

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that's the photo on this blog entry.

Why indeed? I guess because these folks are having to compete with other folks burning Qur'ans . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:22 AM, Blogger Scott said...


I kinda missed that this blog post actually mentioned Time...

My brain usually goes to mush on the weekends...

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

When you reach my age, mush is the brain on its good days . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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