Isn’t it fun watching things play out the way you knew they would happen? Some poor sap had enough human compassion to take Rob Bell’s fuzzy-wuzzy version of Christianity seriously, and he got canned. It wasn’t like Chad Holtz rejected the entire Christian model, either:
“I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment,” Holtz said. “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.”
Really heretical stuff, don’t you think? Maybe God isn’t so cruel as to punish people for eternity for a single wrong decision.
It’s stories like this that show the true colors of the average Christian. When it comes right down to it, they will fire their pastor rather than give even an inch on the doctrine of hate and punishment. Honest, heartfelt questions are NOT acceptable, no matter what the brochures might say.
For many traditional Christians, though, Bell’s new book sounds a lot like the old theological position of universalism — a heresy for many churches, teaching that everyone, regardless of religious belief, will ultimately be saved by God. And that, they argue, dangerously misleads people about the reality of the Christian faith.
This is the real kicker. It’s why “True Christianity™ will probably never accept less than the doctrine of eternal punishment/reward. Outside of the doctrine of Jesus, heaven, and hell, Christianity looks just like any other religion. Many pastors highlight this one point of dogma, using it to “prove” that Christianity is different, and that it is better. But that’s all the difference there is.
Every major religion teaches us that basic human morals are good — fairness, love, respect, the golden rule, etc. And when we separate all the nasty stuff out of the Bible, we can find a smattering of decent morality there, too. But there’s nothing revolutionary. The traditional Christians are right. Without the doctrine of Jesus, heaven, and hell, there’s no compelling reason to be a Christian. Might as well be a universalist. Or a Buddhist. Or an atheist.
So kudos to another pastor for being willing to question the central doctrine of Christianity. But don’t go expecting this to be the next religious wave. The traditionalists are right. This doctrine is the ultimate threat to Christianity, and it will not win the day in the end.