Bell’s upcoming book — Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. [Kindle edition | Buy a Kindle] — challenges traditional Christian views of heaven, hell and eternal damnation.
Judging from an advance copy, the 200-page book is unlikely to assuage Mr. Bell’s critics. In an elliptical style, he throws out probing questions about traditional biblical interpretations, mixing real-life stories with scripture.
Much of the book is a sometimes obscure discussion of the meaning of heaven and hell that tears away at the standard ideas. In his version, heaven is something that begins here on earth, in a life of goodness, and hell seems more a condition than an eternal fate — “the very real consequences we experience when we reject all the good and true and beautiful life that God has for us.”
While sliding close to what critics consider the heresy of “universalism” — that all humans will eventually be saved — he never uses the term.
Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, in a blog posting called for all sides to temper their rhetoric and welcome more debate.
“We won’t be able to discern where the Spirit is leading if we don’t listen and respond respectfully to one another,” he wrote.
“God once used a donkey to make his will known,” he added, “so surely he is able to speak through both traditionalists and gadflies.”
Rob Bell is a leader in the Emerging Church movement, a sect of Christianity many of whose followers reject or reinterpret biblical doctrines on the basis of their feelings and emotions rather than sound principles of interpretation.