Rob Bell’s Hell

Rob Bell’s Hell March 26, 2013
rob bell's hell cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(click on image to shop OR contact David for original cartoons & prints)

I did this cartoon when Rob Bell first came out with Love Wins. I was amazed by how much press he got, including negative press. I thought of Bell and how much stress and strain that would cause a person.

Then he comes out with another book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, and he gets the same thing all over again. Not surprised. But it is still a fascinating subject for me observing all the activity around this.

Lots of people are talking about it, including Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Deborah Arca of Patheos, Christianity Today, Huffington Post and so many more. His announcement that he was supportive of same-sex marriage has only stirred the waters and attracted more attention.

But from a large bloc of the evangelical wing this seems to be the general consensus:

“Bell has chosen to find his spirituality in a Jesus of his own imagination.” (Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Seminary)

… and, from an evangelical perspective, this is tantamount to idolatry.

What seems to be the deeper concern from such camps is that Bell promotes this idolatry. He’s not just an idolater but an evangelist of it that so many people are listening to.

Which leads to another interesting development. Some people who were vocal about Bell before are being silent about Bell now. Some, like Tony Jones, wonder if this is because they don’t want to draw attention to Bell’s book and increase sales like they did last time. There are lots of interesting political maneuvers at play.

But Bell’s a big boy. He understands that if you enter the public forum you expose yourself to every possible response and reaction out there.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Pat

    Well, he could definitely use our prayers. I can’t imagine what this kind of backlash is like for him and his family. The strongest person can get worn down by the negativity.

  • Pat: Every pioneer needs our prayers, but people like Rob Bell have no illusions that what they are saying will not only stir the waters of religiosity, but dredge up some very deep seated monsters while they’re at it. Like David, Bell made a decision to put on the big boy panties before he ever sat down and started writing. He and his wife counted the cost before he ever left Mars Hill.

    If you look back over church history you see that every new move of God (keep in mind I am not advocating that everything Bell says is from God) will invariably be persecuted by those who refuse to consider that their particular brand of Scripture needs a second, if not third look. And god help people like Bell or David who’s statements really start threatening to slay religious cows. Moooo!

    What Bell is doing and writing is intentional, and effective. The waters are stirring and the monsters are rising. And there will be rib-eye for dinner LOL!

  • When Rob Bell’s book, LOVE WINS, came out suggesting that the doctrine of eternal conscious torture–“hell” was a hold-over pagan myth, the predictable happened. The self-appointed gatekeepers of the evangelical world went crazy. They insisted that he couldn’t possibly be a Christian, called him a heretic, and demanded that their favorite Christian book stores refuse to sell the book. This from the same evangelical Christians who cry “censorship” when the public schools won’t permit the Bible in the classrooms.

    Well, their efforts to ban the book didn’t work and in the end LOVE WINS won. Mant Christians and preachers went around the warnings not to read the book and bought it anyway from or from Barnes & Noble. But all this served to prove again that evangelicals will fight like hell to defend hell — for those other people.

  • What I love about Rob is that he doesn’t engage. He does what Jesus taught – shake the dust of your feet and move on. The God/Jesus he is preaching is the One that desires the reconciliation of all things. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them” according to Paul. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” according to John. That’s the Gospel. It makes many religious people mad, b/c we all want a God who is for us, which means against them. But that’s not the God we get in Jesus – and Bell is preaching that Gospel message. Amen to that!

  • While I’m glad to see Bell take this step forward a few points come to mind …
    1) Why did Rob Bell wait to make this announcment until the week his book was released? He is a marketing genius so I do wonder how much of this is directed toward getting book buzz.
    2) All Rob Bell did was say he supported the right of same sex couples to marry in a civil setting – he never stated if he would perform such a marriage himself or if he would advocate for a shifting of polity and encourage Christian pastors to perform same sex marriages. Along those lines, there’s still nadda re how he feels re LGBT people in leadership (or even women) for that matter.

    3) Perhaps there isn’t the outrage because Bell no longer pastors a church. He’s now a free range theologian so to speak.

  • Carol

    Becky, those of us who believe that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free” would defend the right of religious institutions to refuse to marry same-sex couples as passionately as we defend the right of same-sex couples, as equal citizens, to have their spousal committments recognized by the secular State.

    In our Western culture, where spousal couples freely chose each other rather than have them chosen by parents or others and divorce has become a personal option, the socially stabilizing function of marriage has already been compromised in favor of freedom.

    Those who argue against same-sex marriage on the basis of its potential to diminish the effectiveness of the institution as a solid foundation for social stability have not thought about the price we have already paid for this personal freedom, or the historical reality that most citizens of Western Nations have already chosen to pay it rather than choose the relative social stability/security of tribalistic collectivism.

  • Becky Garrison

    I agree. I’m simply noting that Bell’s position is a start but more clarification from him re how he would respond as a pastor is in order. Many pastors support civil marriages for same sex couples but would not perform the rite themselves.

  • JT

    Has anybody read Rob Bell’s new book? I have and I am now reading it a second time. It’s a great breath of fresh air.

  • Where have you people been all my life? I would hang out with each and every one of you. As for Mr. Bell, I like the guy. Loved “Velvet Elvis”. Loved “Love Wins”. Marginally liked, “Jesus Wants to Save Christians”, not because the content wasn’t intriguing, but because I didn’t think the content was a good match for the title. At the end of the day, I think the dude’s just walkin’. Of course, there’s really no one that I just blindly follow and agree with wholeheartedly–I guess I’m not a very good sheep. I shake my head at the knee-jerk, fear-based hostility of some. Why can’t the guy just have an opinion? Write about it? Do some YouTube videos? I think he’s a breath of fresh air too. I think he asks good questions.

  • thanks Daisy! Nice to meet you 🙂