A Gracious Reading of Rob Bell

The Journey So Far

The controversy rages on over Rob Bell's upcoming new book. No matter what happens now, this controversy has effectively guaranteed that 'everyone who is anyone' will need to read this book. Either to find out what is wrong and bash it, or because someone we generally disagree with also disagrees with the book so it has to be good stuff! Then, because 'everyone' is reading it, people like me will 'have to' read it to. After all, I am a pastor, and if many of my people are reading and being influenced by a book, don't I need to know what is going on as well? 

Or so the reasoning will go... and perhaps I will read it, who knows. In the meantime, none of this will stop me from continuing to join this fray which I probably ought to have stayed out of in the first place. Onwards, Christian... :)

The Latest Salvo

The latest salvo has been fired by DeYoung claiming that not only do we not need to talk with Bell but, more importantly, it is the three minute teaser video which is being critiqued, not the book (since the video is out and the book isn't). Further, the video is already so heretical as to put Bell way beyond the pale.  The video has been uploaded to youtube numerous times.  Try this one for your tantalizing taste of forbidden fruit.  

DeYoung's major point seems to be that Bell is already teaching heresy. Bell, in fact, only asks questions, but DeYoung argues that questions teach. I agree. Questions get us to think, they are said with tone and worded in such a way as to have implications, and they are often leading (even when we don't realize it). However, what questions do not do is answer themselves, especially not with any sort of clarity. Nor do questions delineate a firm position on any given issue, though they may imply certain sympathies, doubts, or leanings in varying degrees of strength. That said, DeYoung and the rest of the critical crowd seem to think that no 'Christian' or 'Orthodox' reading of Rob Bell's video is possible. 

My Thesis - Proviso's Attached

I will now prove them wrong by offering such a reading. But first, some clarifications. Rob Bell's first question, which I will use as foil for this list of provisos, involves Ghandi. If you watched the video already, you know this. At an art show in Bell's church someone put up a moving exhibit about Ghandi (or something like that) but then someone put up a note: "Reality check; he is in hell."  So Bell asks: "Ghandi's in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure? and felt the need to let the rest of us know?" 

1. I am not going to posit the universalist answers to Bell's questions. This is what DeYoung and others are already assuming, so it would be pointless. (e.g. Of course Ghandi is not in hell, no one is). 
2. I am not going to posit the moralist answers to Bell's questions. This too seems to be what some are assuming, and would also be pointless. (e.g. Of course Ghandi is not in hell, he was a good man). 
3. I am not positing answers to Bell's questions which are acceptable to all Christian theologians; no such answers exist. 
4. More to the point, I am not positing strictly reformed, calvinist, answers to these questions.
5. I am only positing answers that fit within the common evangelical historical idea of orthodoxy. (e.g. We don't know if Ghandi is in hell, since we are not God and cannot know his ultimate judgments. Jesus implies many times that some people be surprised by God's judgment. And furthermore, there is no need to push our opinions on this subject since none of us know). 
6. I am not positing my answers to these questions. I am playing devil's advocate and imagining, to the best of my theological ability, how these questions could be answered, or the discussion played out, in an orthodox way manner. 
7. I am not answering in the way Rob Bell will. At least, I don't know if I am or not.  

Source Material
So, here is a transcript of the rest of Bell's talk:

"Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?
Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question [is], “What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But would kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?
This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, why would I ever want to be a part of that? See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.
The good news is that love wins."

A Gracious Reading
Obviously I cannot take these literally one question at a time, as some questions only make sense as a cluster. Instead I will take them in the way I see them fitting together. 
1. "Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?"

- The problem here is that Christians act as if the answer to both of these is a resounding YES. That only a select few make it, as if the rest of us wanted to but weren't chosen. That billions of people burn forever, as if cast there by a vengeful God who has no use for them.  This picture is inaccurate.
- As a side note, I often use this technique in teaching. I ask questions which have a common answer in an uncommon way in order to get students thinking. Not because I fall into the extreme opposite camp, but because it is a good way to shake things up.

2.And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

- This is where we really begin to have problems. It is hard to know when enough is enough, when you have crossed that line into acceptance. Jesus tells us to believe, to repent, to ask for forgiveness. Jesus also tells us that on that day there will be many who say 'Lord, Lord' but will get only the reply 'Away from me, I never knew you.' Have we been looking at it the wrong way? Asking how to get in, when what we really need to know is what is keeping us out? What if God wants us all to be part of the select few, and died to make it happen, but we still try to earn our way in? What if grace is more radical than we know? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the father except through Him. And he is open to all. 

“What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But would kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?

- Clearly God is not like that. God is not who we need to be rescued from, He is our rescuer. He is good, He can be trusted, and the gospel is good news, because what Jesus has done is to rescue us from sin and death. What Jesus has done is paid the price for our sin, not against the Father's will, but directly in line with it. Of course our Sin put us into trouble, and of course God needed to purify us before we could return, but it is God Himself who has made these things possible! God who died so we could be cleansed in his Blood! God, our loving Father, who would not accept His children back in their broken condition, but who instead healed us by His own stripes and wounds. 

What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.The good news is that love wins.

- Yes indeed. What you discover in the bible is a God of grace, love, and mercy. A God of compassion. A Father who has created us and loved us all along. A Father who was not content to leave us slaves, bound for destruction, wallowing in our own filth, and caught in a pit of despair. Instead, what we discover in the bible is the amazing story of Love Himself coming down for us. Becoming man for us, living and dying for us. Paying the price for our transgressions, offering His own life in our place. Rising from the dead in power, defeating all of our enemies, and making a way for us to return home. What you find in the bible is that Love has already won, and you can join in that victory.
- What you discover is that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, the door to hell is locked from the inside.
- Let Love Win

I know that this is not a reading all would agree with, but it certainly seems to me to be evangelically orthodox. What do you think?  


Dana Ouellette said...

this is going to get a bit long. But i'm going to try to be succinct. I can't get into theology. I don't get it. But I do get the text and the language. so lets look at the bible.

Words used for hell

Tartarus – 2 Peter 2:4 (a book which really has no business being included in the biblical canon in my opinion and should be tossed out like all the fake letters [Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus])- Tartarus is a concept from greek mythology where gods, demigods, and titans who were dangerous to the thrown of mount Olympus were banished and punished. It is not hell. Furthermore using this as evidence for god sending people to hell is to misinterpret this passage. It is about a god sending angels to tartarus because they were dangerous. This passage seems to be aluding to 1 Enoch 20 which describes the archangel Uriel who is in charge of Tartarus in which 200 Watchers are held and waiting for judgment. The watchers are of course the fallen angels who came to the earth and had sex with human women giving birth to the Nephilim.

Gehenna – used 12 times only in the synoptic gospels and then in James 3:6 (I’m pretty sure it is used in 2 Esdras 2:9 and 7:26 but I don’t have a greek LXX on me at the moment to confirm). This is a more difficult one to deal with. It seems to be a transliteration of the Aramaic “ge hinnom” (valley of hinnom) into Greek characters. It could be that first century Jews changed the meaning of this place to be a place of eternal torment. It is an actual geographical location where high places to Moloch were created and human sacrifices took place there. Then the Jews (Josiah) declared it unclean. Since it was a valley it seems to have been used as a garbage dump and sewage drainage area after Josiah’s reforms. It could be analogous to an eternal garbage dump. I always assumed Jesus meant that in his new “kingdom of god” those who are not just will replace the poor and beggars digging for scraps in the sewer and the garbage piles. I don’t see hell. I think Christians read hell into this.

Hades – used 10 times in the NT, and quite a few more times in the greek apocrypha (especially sirach for some reason). This concept really needs no introduction. It is the ancient greek underworld. However, it is not an evil place like the Christian hell. It is simply the realm of the dead. Tartarus (see above) is the ancient greek place of punishment hades is just where the dead go. Also this is the word used almost every time to translate Hebrew word sheol by the translators of the Septuagint. Which makes me assume that early greek speaking jews equated the concept of hades with their concept of sheol.

Sheol – used over 60 times in the Hebrew bible. This, like the greek hades, is not a place of punishment but a jewish concept of the place of the dead. No condemnation here, people who are godly and just go to sheol along with everyone else.

It is possible that Christians distinguished between Hebrew/Greek ideas (respectively) of sheol/hades as a place of the dead, and gehenna/tartarus as a place of punishment. But even that is too simplistic. While sheol and hades are equivalents. The valley of hinnom concept as a real place does not relate to tartarus as a place of punishment created for angels who had sex with women. It seems clear that Jesus used strong language in his gehenna speeches as a warning to those who are unjust. But I see no evidence that any of these concepts equate to the modern Christian view of hell.

Dana Ouellette said...

Since there is basically no, or very little evidence for hell, and a lot of talk about hell in christian, especially evangelical circles, i believe it is a concept christians want to believe in. They read it into the text for a reason. This idea must be pleasing to christians. I hope that isn't true. I hope I'm wrong. I think it was read into the text by the catholic church and pushed so heavily to keep people scared and obedient. and modern christians just aren't educated enough in greek and hebrew to really distinguish the words and the traditions behind them (since most christians use crap translations like the NIV and they'd never know the difference between the words). I hope this is true.

But christians continue believing in hell nonetheless. Why? I think they must like it. I can't say for sure. i think it might make them feel special. But either way I must conclude that modern christians want to believe in hell as a place of eternal torture for everyone who doesn't believe exactly what they believe, inspite the bible never ever ever mentioning such a place.

So i agree with some of what bell said in his videos. This is why I don't have many christian friends. If god, or a christian for that matter, believes that I deserve eternal torture and that it would be just for me to be tormented and in pain for all eternity, then I really have nothing to more to say. There is no room for a relationship with either a person or deity who thinks I deserve that. Screw them both. Anyone (or any deity) who thinks that about me is not worthy of my friendship or even of my time (but i'm still friends with a few christians and we avoid the topic and talk about bikes instead normally)

Dave said...

Have you read DeYoung's book? why we are not emergent? If so you would realise that one of the big critiques he has of the emergent movement is this idea that questions don't matter they are just there to help us think. He argues that questions do matter and if you ask a question it is not just asking a question, you have a responsibility to answer. Too often emergent thinkers like Bell just simply wash their hands of all responsibility by saying "hey dude and dudets just asking questions man" or something as equally hip as that.

That is the problem, Bell and his ilk are irresponsible with the gospel. Bells' video teaser is just another irresponsible action by a man who is dangerously close to being a heretic

Moreover, it is nonsensical to criticise someone for taking a stand on a book they have not read. Books, movies, video games, whatever, all issue teasers and publicity. How many times have you gone to the movie theater and just before the movie starts has Jennifer Anniston popped up unto the screen with her latest garbage and you turn to your spouse and say: "that looks awful, won't be going to see that" If the argument holds that on publicity alone we cannot write off a book or a movie then we shouldn't hold opinions! If a publisher issues publicity videos or written publicity material, surely it is only right to critique!

A gracious reading of Rob Bell would be to say, Rob, you’ve gone too far dude, much too far, pull this book before you damage the gospel man, or something like that, in language he might understand. Or maybe ask a question, hey man is stepping outside of 2,000 years of orthodoxy good or will it mash up young minds man?

Dana Ouellette said...

so dave... you believe that no one should ask valid questions about the biblical text or the biblical message?

And do you also believe that the gospel is based on sending the vast majority of the world to hell and questioning that essential core of the gospel will damage it? That's sad.

Since you criticize all who don't answer questions i will answer yours. "is stepping outside of 2,000 years of orthodoxy good or will it mash up young minds man?"

The answer is a resounding and emphatic (never been so sure of anything in my life) definite YES we should step outside of 2,000 years of tradition!!!!!!! What else should be teaching young minds if not to question and think critically.

I'll be totally honest i can't even wrap my head around what you posted. It's as if you are saying that thinking is a dangerous act. I guess I have heard this from evangelical. That sentiment might be the most dangerous and scary to come out of the evangelical movement.

Dana Ouellette said...

The other thing I find troubling is the first line of Dave's post.

I've sometimes heard people argue something like. "Have you read X? If so you would know Y." This comes out of a world view wherein critical thinking is not valued. This is because it suggests a learning model wherein someone just absorbs information or knowledge they read as true without critical thought.

I've never read DeYoung so i can't critique. But I thought I'd mention that from someone in information science, your learning/information model is very troubling. It encourages learning without critical thought.

I don't know about you but when i read something i don't "know" what the author wrote/meant after i read it. I agree with some things and I disagree with other things and I create my own new knowledge based on critical reflections and the battle (for lack of a better term) between the text vs. my own knowledge. I would just like you think metacognitively about the way you learn and obtain knowledge.

Dana Ouellette said...

It's odd that not only do you not allow someone to create their own knowledge after reading DeYoung, you don't even allow for the option that someone might read and flat out disagree.

Just something to think about.

Andrew said...

Wow that's a lot of comments to go through!

Thanks to both Dana and Dave; I will read them and respond, but it will be a few days.

Right now I am headed to Calgary to perform a funeral :(

Dave said...

Dana where to start!!

1. You clearly have misunderstood, so let me be clear. Rob Bell is not a young person in a youth fellowship. He is an ordained minister/elder in the church. The thrust of DeYoung's argument in his book is that Christian leaders should not be so flippant about questions. A Christian leader has the responsibility to answer questions they ask. I am not talking about some kid in a youth fellowship or a senior congregant with valid questions! They should and do ask questions and that is good. But church leaders, such as Bell is, have responsibilities.

2. Your second paragraph in first post might indeed be a sad conclusion, but its not mine, read the Bible! especially Matthew 7:13-14 - Jesus says it. Sad, but true, uncomfortable, but reality.

3. For an expert in "information science" you clearly have trouble reading and writing, your next few posts make little sense to me, but I am not an expert in information or science so maybe you are writing at a level well beyond us mere mortals!

What I would say, is stepping outside of 2,000 years of church history should only be done with care. Indeed to have so little regard for history, as you seem to, is actually anti-Christian! To have regard for history and the purpose and lessons of history is integral to the Christian story and what it means to be inside the Christian community! To say that is not to say thinking is dangerous, nor does it put bounds on thinking, it is to help us work out where our thought comes from and to test its validity.

4. I think you really need a few more classes in "information science" to build up your expertise as it is lacking somewhat!!

Dana Ouellette said...

Hi Dave.

Thanks for your reply. I think we both are mis-understanding eachother. We obviously have very different worldviews and this is often the case when two people with opposing worldviews try to debate. So let me introduce myself.

I am not a christian I'm agnostic/atheist (my conclusions change but basically I ackowledge I can't have any certainty about the existance or non-existance of a diety but I think there probably isn't a god). I a librarian/LIS researcher(currently finishing my library and information science), and a have a B.A. in classics, and a Masters in Biblical Studies. I do not believe in god, and I do not believe in hell. I do believe in, and make a living as a librarian and eduator teaching students critical thinking (and information literacy). I believe critical thinking and questioning everything is the most important virtues than can be taught to the younger generation.

1. I diagree with you, and DeYoung. I believe critical thinking is extremely important for everything. I believe people should be critical and skeptical of everything, and question everything. As a non-theist, I don't believe in proteting any belief. I believe every belief and teaching and tradition should be questioned to help humanity arrive at truth. if that truth is that god is real, or that there is no god, or that the world balances on the back of an infinit tower of turtles, I don't care. I only care about discovering truth.

I truly wish that church leaders, along with everyone else. would adopt an atitude that valued truth instead of protecting a tradition which may or may not be true. I find it dangerous for anyone to adopt a position where they emphasize protecting a tradition over discovering truth. This is one thing i hold against christianity, and most religions. They do not try to study, or allow their followers to study the truth about history or about the biblical text. They try to protect their version of history rather than discover the truth. It's only sad, it's down right dangerous to teach this sort of philosophy.

(continued next post sorry it got long)

Dana Ouellette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana Ouellette said...

sorry dave I wrote a second half to my reply to you and somehow I lost it. I spent about 20 minutes writing a response to your points 2. 3. and 4. And I don't have time to write it out again. Sorry about that. I will finish my reply later.

Dana Ouellette said...

2. Not surprisingly i disagree. I disagree that Matthew 7:13-14 is actually about hell. No term for hell is used. Furthermore i think hell is read into it by later traditions. This is why this 2,000 year of tradition is dangerous. It allows later beliefs to be read into a text that wasn't originally about that. I have the highest regard for the original audience and understanding the text in it's own historical context. And we do try to understand this, not in light of 2,000 years of church tradition, but how the original audience might have understood it, using their worldview, and their language, (see my first post for more on my interpretation of every word for hell in bible).

I believe the concept of hell has been read into this. But furthermore i disagree with your position that just because something is in the bible it is true. This shouldn't surprise you. All of my arguments are against a worldview that accepts truth without question. I find it disturbing that someone would believe something just because it happens to included in a 1900 year old book. I would also add that I even disagree with the conclusion that Jesus said that. I don't think we can historically conclude that Jesus aid something attributed to him. That just isn't good history. Jesus didn't say many or most of the things attribute to him in the many gospels, and this applies to the 4 gospels that happened to be included in the biblical canon. The gospels were written many decades after the death of jesus, and we don't have any manuscripts for over 300 years after Jesus' death. No ancient historian would dare to argue that the historical Cincinnatus actually said everything Livy (writing after his death) attributed to him. That isn't good history. I would argue we shouldn't do the same poor history with the bible.

3. It seems like you change tone here and get a little insulting. But communication over the web is challanging and I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't mean to be antagonistic with your questioning of my ability to read and write. I am genuinely sorry that you didn't understand my point. Basically i was saying that when i read your post it seemed to me to be coming from belief that knowledge is simply absorbed, rather than that new knowledge is obtained not from reading new information, but from critical thinking about new information vs. previous information.

Not surprisingly I fully disagree that stepping outside of 2,000 years of history should only be done with care. Christians, and everyone else who wants to understand the biblical text should forget the 2,000 years of history that came after the writing of the bible, and attempt to understand the text in it's own historical, linguistic, and socio-economic context. I believe truth should always be the goal. Unless i am misinterpreting you, it seems like you are saying that protecting the tradition that may or may not be true is more important than a valid search for truth. I, as a non-theist, have no motivation to try to protect a tradition that may or may not be true. I have the highest regard for history. I have the highest regard for interpreting the biblical text in light of it's own history, but not in light of the 2,000 years that came after it. I don't think that sort of anachronistic interpretation is historically valid.

4. I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but it really seems like you are being unnecessarily insulting here. There isn't any reason to be confrontational. We are simply two guys trying to understand truth who have come to different conclusions. And that's fine. There is nothing wrong with us disagreeing. I think it's easy for misinterpretations online. If we could meet face-to-face for a beer (or coffee if you don't drink beer) i'm sure we could find lots of common ground and get along just fine.

have a great night and thanks for reading.

Andrew said...

I am going to write two responses; one to the issue of Hell (including issues of Christian history, biblical interpretation, etc.), and one to the discussion of Dave's comments Via DeYoung. This is the one about the comments/Deyoung :)

I have not read DeYoung's Book.

I agreed with DeYoung that questions are part of teaching, what I do not agree with is that they automatically teach a clear and certain position. Certainly some questions can do that; like when your wife asks you, with 'that tone' and 'that posture' "Are you sure you want to do that?". However, Bell's questions in the video are not of this sort. Furthermore, Bell has not washed his hands of answering them nor of their effect: he has a book coming out to answer them, it is just not here yet!

You reiterate this point in your second post, and focus in on DeYoung's book. Neither Dana nor I have read this book, nor is it the point of this post. DeYoung's post is. And my comments above still stand; Bell has not abdicated responsiblity but taken it up. In several weeks we will see what he does with it.

Bell may or may not be irresponsible with the gospel, but that has yet to be demonstrated since we can't read his book. The teaser video is only out there to get people to think and question, and while some possible answers to those questions are heretical, that does not mean we shouldn't ask them. Any question you ask can have wrong answers; the solution is never to avoid them. And Bell is bringing up particularly difficult and important questions.

Andrew said...


You mention that we make snap judgements all of the time, with movies and books and such. This is true. However, you ignore a huge difference in critiquing a movie and critiquing a person's faith. When I write off a movie becuase of an actress, or a trailer, or whatever, I am not accusing anyone of being a heretic. I am not doing anything personal at all. Further, while I have my initial opinion of that movie, I am not willing to say (nor would it be proper to say) that 'this movie will be terrible'. Instead, we say 'this movie looks like it will be terrible' or 'i think it will be terrible' or 'i strongly suspect, based on the actors involved, the teaser trailer, and past experience, that this movie will not be worth seeing.' It is fine to say these things of a book too; however, the entire point of DeYoung's article was that Bell has ALREADY crossed the line; not that he 'seems' like he might be about to, but that he already has. This is where DeYoung has gone further than the evidence warrants. He is basing these accusations on the assumption that the only possible answer to the teaser info in the video and book description are heretical. My post proves this is a false assumption. Similarly, this is the distinction you are ignoring in your paragraph.

What you list as a gracious reading is not a reading at all, but a response to a set of assumptions you have made based on a teaser video. Certainly, it sounds like you are attempting a gracious response, but that is not the same thing. Your gracious response is based on an ungracious reading.

Andrew said...

What about Hell....

so much to say here.

First off, I wanted to ask you Dana: Do you object to any concept of hell or merely the more medieval concepts of a kingdom in which demons rule and torture people forever?

For myself, I do not base my belief in hell on the references you mention, though they do act as some kind of minor support. Instead, it seems fairly clear that in Jesus teaching the end is not good for everyone(which I do accept as coming from Jesus, even if indirectly; I would rather not get into a discussion of historical criticism. I understand that you and I come with a different set of assumptions/beliefs, but we are discussing a Christian view of hell for now anyway, and therefore I will be talking from the point of view of someone who accepts scripture).

Jesus talks about eternal life and everlasting destruction, about the last day and about judgement, and he he talks about those who will be accepted and those who will not. This comes out in numerous contexts. And while they certainly have a this-worldly component, I don't think you can deny the eschatological components exist as well. The same is true of Rev (no, I don't read it like the Left Behind series, or anything close, but part of that book is the offering of hope to persecuted Christians by pointing them to a distant future in which there is a new Heaven and Earth, joined and perfected, and it is clear that certain people have no place there).

So there seems to be two possible endings for humanity; Hell has become the name of the bad ending. I no more know what Hell will be like than I do know what resurrected life in communion with God will be like (though I find it interesting, just now, that I consciously choose to avoid using the word 'Heaven' because of the many mistaken connotations which become attached to that word, and I have no such compunction about using the word 'Hell' when in reality there are just as many bad and mistaken connotations to that word as well... definitely something I will have to think about). I just know one will be amazing, with no tears, no sorrow, etc. and the other will be terrible.

Andrew said...

I don't think Christians believe in these things because they like them; even under your set of assumptions, you must be able to accept that most Christians believe in Hell because they have been taught to and have uncritically accepted that view no matter how much they dislike it.

I do think we need to question our history and doctrines, carefully yes, but earnestly and honestly (being a protestant, how could I think otherwise? Considering our history and all...). I very much dislike the knee jerk reaction in many evangelical circles which sends a fist outwards as soon as anything smacks of the wrong questions. We need the freedom to explore and to think, and we need to be part of communities that are gracious enough to walk with us as we do so in support and love, rather than judgment and condemnation.

On that note, I would like to commend and thank you Dana for the patience and grace you have displayed in your responses to Dave. I would also like to rebuke you Dave, as a Christian brother, for your lapse into insult in your last post. It is unneccesary and unchristian.

And before you get defensive about what right I have to rebuke you, know that it is our Christian duty to one another, and I am more than open to recieving it myself, as you can see in this very blog if you would like to: http://thelogo.blogspot.com/2010/08/deserving-rebuke.html

Anonymous said...

The controversy has come to the notice of the mainstream media. From the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/us/05bell.html .

Roger Hui

Dana Ouellette said...

Hi Andrew,

There are two issues: what I believe in or don't believe in, and then what I object to. We'll start with the first since it's the easiest. I do not believe in any form of hell, because I do not believe in any form of god, afterlife, or anything spiritual whatsoever.

I mostly object to the notion of eternal torment. But I also object to most any form of hell or punishment or bad ending for humanity being exactly the way that we are. If there is a god/gods then we are what he/she/it/they created to be. I see no love in the gospel message.

If hell is real then God must be at best an overgrown crybaby who throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way, or more likely a selfish and ego-maniacal dictator who makes gaddafi look like the kindest and most merciful leader in the world. I would not want to serve and certainly not willingly worship any being who believes it just and merciful to condemn people for being the way you created them to be (and that the only way he can possibly forgive humans for being exactly what he created them to be is to send himself to earth to sacrifice himself to himself). I think if hell exists, then God isn't a being I'd worship if he/she/it/they existed.

Finally, I disagree with your interpretation of Jesus' teachings. For reasons you mentioned, we will never see eye to eye. You see the gospels as true and as meaningful to the modern church. Whereas I only look at them as ancient texts created in a particular historical, political, social, economic, and religious setting for that particular setting. Thus I disagree that Jesus believed in a literal heaven or hell. He might have I wouldn't even be so bold to claim to know the mind any one in the modern world (I couldn't even claim to know everything in my wife's mind), so i can't say for certain what Jesus believed or not. But based on my study of the historical context and the text, I think Jesus was more of a political figure than any modern christian wants to admit. I think he literally believed that there would be a literal kingdom of god on the earth that would replace rome and that some people would be left out and others would be included. That's my reading of the text.

Andrew said...

Roger, thanks for passing that on!