May 16, 2011 1 Comment
So, I recently learned via assorted comments in the facebook status of my evangelical Christian 14-year younger (via my dad’s 2nd marriage) sister that there’s quite a controversy about Hell in the evangelical community. Thus, I was most intrigued to come across this article about a Methodist Pastor in nearby Durham who was recently removed from his position for rejecting the traditional fire-and-brimstone Christian interpretation of Hell. The story also nicely summarized the broader controversy I was vaguely aware of:
When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.
Holtz, the pastor of a rural United Methodist church, wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.
“I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment,” Holtzsaid. “But I can understand why people in my church aren’t ready to leave that behind. It’s something I’m still grappling with myself.”
The debate over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins,” has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.
The Catholic Church I’ve known these many years has never been particularly hell-focused, but I suspect it’s probably no big fan of Bell’s views either. I’ve got to say, I’m quite sympathetic to this view. I think Bell encapsulates it fairly well:
He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: “Reality check: He’s in hell.”
“Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?” Bell asks in the video.
In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.
This also reminds me of a terrific (that adjective almost goes without saying before TAL, but they throw out clunkers like last week to make you appreciate that it’s hard work to be so consistently good) episode of This American Life about a popular Pentecostal Pastor who rejects a belief in Hell and all that entails. Good stuff.