I wonder, sometimes, if I was too hard on Rob Bell.
In 2011, author and pastor Rob Bell published a book about hell that nearly every Christian I knew had an opinion on, Love Wins. Before the book was even available, people were indignant. The trailer for the book depicts Bell walking through the snowy streets of Granville, Michigan, staring down the camera and floating rhetorical questions: “Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?” For many, these questions were a step too far. “Farewell, Rob Bell,” pastor John Piper famously tweeted in response to the video. When the book was eventually released, the controversy only got more fervent. It was banned at Christian bookstores. By that summer, pastor Francis Chan had published a rebuttal book, Erasing Hell. I vividly remember an MSNBC interview that infuriated me, where — to my fifteen-year-old eyes, at least — Bell seemed unwilling to give straight answers to basic questions. Denny Burke of Boyce College proclaimed in a blog post that Bell had “outed” himself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At the time, I couldn’t have agreed more.
Fast forward a decade, and the questions that Bell was posing have found their way back into the cultural conversation again, in a highly public forum: a recent op-ed for The New York Times. David Bentley Hart is a philosopher and theologian — one of the most well-regarded in the world today — and in his article, he addresses a question similar to Bell’s Gandhi query: Why do some Christians so badly want there to be a hell? When it comes to the existence of eternal damnation, Hart writes, for many believers, something “unutterably precious is at stake… Why?”
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Read more at Why do people believe in Hell?