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Christianity

Rob Bell Heresy Costs Pastor His Job

Image: Rev. Chad Holtz poses for a photo in Durham, N.C. Holtz

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.

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Rob Bell Heresy Costs Pastor His Job

  1. I don’t think there’s any “true” version of Christianity, which is exactly why I think this Chad’s version will catch on.

    Regardless of what the Christian/atheist movement says, there is no “right way” to be a Christian, seeing as the Bible is full of contradictions. Chad isn’t any less of a Christian than the people who canned him.

    They also fail to realize that religion is a reflection of social morals, and will give credit, to religion whenever a believer does something [either good or bad depending on which movement it is] calling that person a “true” Christian and all the other Christians who don’t do that are just pretenders..

    So yeah, I do disagree that this kind of doctirine won’t win, it isn’t new, and as society improves, it will become more and more common.

    Posted by cptpineapple | March 24, 2011, 6:34 pm
  2. I don’t think there’s any “true” version of Christianity, which is exactly why I think this Chad’s version will catch on.

    Then I see you have totally missed the point.

    Regardless of what the Christian/atheist movement says, there is no “right way” to be a Christian, seeing as the Bible is full of contradictions. Chad isn’t any less of a Christian than the people who canned him.

    You may not like this, Alison, but that fact that you’re right about human nature means you’re wrong about this. You’re right that people tend to find religions that suit their own sense of morality, and I’m right that the religion amplifies the moral or immoral effect by the use of groupthink and other peer pressure mechanisms.

    But the whole point of this is that minus the Jesus/Heaven/Hell doctrine, there’s nothing especially interesting or moral about Christianity. Most people don’t really want to practice abstinence til marriage, or avoid alcohol completely, or any of the other more draconian dictates of “traditional Christianity.” So they ignore those things. But what do they stick to? The Jesus/Heaven/Hell doctrine. Because if they don’t, then they don’t have any business calling themselves Christians.

    Now, we can dicker over the eternal part of heaven and hell, or whether they’re literal or figurative. And perhaps parts of Christianity will shift towards a more gentle version of punishment and reward, which I suppose would be nice. But in the end, that’s the defining feature of Christianity. Believe and be rewarded. Disbelieve and be punished. Without that, it’s just some wacky moral dictates that most people don’t like to follow.

    However… and again, this is the gigantic elephant in the room point… if you buy the Jesus/Heaven/Hell thing, then at the very least, you’re more likely to consider the other moral dictates, some of which are pretty nasty. Which is why the Jesus/heaven/hell model is so dangerous. Which is why Christianity is inherently dangerous.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 24, 2011, 7:02 pm
  3. To be ‘fair’ (haha), Islam is also loaded with heaven and hell doctrine — probably a lot more so than Christianity. They just lack the Jesus part.

    But other than that, I agree with your sentiment that the mainstream believer will find it very hard to give up these doctrines, to the point of ousting anyone who tries to rock the boat.

    That’s why it’s so important for us to sustain and maintain our attacks at the foundations of faith itself. A progressive faithist has a hard time convincing fellow faithists that their dogmas should be changed. Precisely because they both depend on faith. Only pointing out the bankruptcy of faith itself can resolve the dilemma.

    Posted by Wonderist | March 24, 2011, 8:23 pm
  4. I’m sorry Hamby, but I just don’t see it.

    You’re right that Christianity and religion preach the benefits of their beliefs, and the consequences of not holding it, but that holds true for virtually any idea or group I can think of.

    But I can’t for the life of me see the Heaven and Hell doctirine as a “must have” for Christianity.

    You say it would be pointless to be a Christian if you don’t hold the heaven and hell belief, but I think it’s pointless to be Christian anyway, so I don’t see the difference. It’s kinda like saying if you don’t believe the universe is 6000 years old, then you have no business being a Christian, and we know how accurate that statement is.

    When I was Christian I was caught up in those whole heaven and hell thing too, so don’t bother with your religious anecdotes,

    However… and again, this is the gigantic elephant in the room point… if you buy the Jesus/Heaven/Hell thing, then at the very least, you’re more likely to consider the other moral dictates, some of which are pretty nasty. Which is why the Jesus/heaven/hell model is so dangerous. Which is why Christianity is inherently dangerous.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see how this heaven/hell is the big exception to religion being an internal creation and that people will accept just to be called a Christian.

    Religion changes shapes, and conforms. I don’t see why it wouldn’t do it in the case of heaven/hell.

    Posted by cptpineapple | March 25, 2011, 1:00 am
  5. I just found this very sharp commentary (link below) on the same situation today. I suspect it has some bearing on your next post as well…
    http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2011/03/religion_and_community.php

    Posted by thephilosophicalprimate | March 26, 2011, 12:00 am
  6. I agree. That is a very sharp commentary. And yes, I think it does have an influence on the second generation effect. The divisive effect of religion surely taps into the “us/them” thinking that so often stifles dialog and reinforces artificial boundaries. And this is surely a barrier to even indifferent Christian children.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 26, 2011, 3:54 pm
  7. People are really blind..
    Based on “The Church View” Satan wins, 2 out of 3 will be his, God will get 1, at best..

    Paul taught Universal Salvation.. This was the major belief for the first 300 years..
    The Bible is clear. In the last days, God will pour his spirit on all flesh. All will see the light, Every Knee will bend! Unbelievers will not goto Heaven!

    THERE WILL NOT BE ANY UNBELIEVERS!!!

    Check what Paul did when God poured his spirit on Paul..

    Posted by Jerry Spoolman | April 19, 2011, 11:19 am
  8. Wow…you’re a colossal jerk. It’s Evangelicals like you that made me leave the church. Your testimony is the tradition of all those crazy pastors who spent their whole lives condemning everybody but themselves.

    Posted by Notabene | April 13, 2012, 4:41 am
  9. Yes, there is a very nice vid on Youtube, “The Salvation of the Whole World According to the Bible”. However, as it says both things in the Bible, how can we really know? It might just be a case of levels and order, and/or a matter of time – a very long time – until God has reconciled all things to Himself if that is what he wants to do.

    I just can’t understand how Christians can believe that a God of mercy, compassion and love would allow people to burn in eternal hellfire. I really do have huge problems with that and I’m not the only one. I do believe there definitely is a hell where one ‘burns’ emotionally with regret and so on, and it is beyond horrible, because I have been there in this world, and one can’t just walk away from it or it wouldn’t be hell. I do believe many people end up in hell but I don’t believe it will be for an eternity for all of them. Actually aren’t so many of us already in a form of hell anyway?

    There are too many possibilities for wrong translations, such as it is that it is ‘in’ eternity – as opposed to this temporal world – that gives it its eternal nature, or that its effect would last from age to age – which is apparently the more correct Greek translation – not ‘for an eternity’. Scripture tells us many times in different ways that the wages of sin is death, not eternal hellfire and ost of the words translated into ‘hell’ were actually incorrectly translated and should have been translated into ‘grave’.

    There might or might not be things wrong with Rob Bell, but there are enough Christians who have something or another wrong with them, whether it is their hidden sinfulness or immorality, beliefs, doctrinal error, money-grabbing, prosperity gospel, too carnal, saying God told them to say something when he didn’t, false prophecy, etc., etc., etc. I have wondered if there isn’t some over the top anger about Rob Bell which is partly based on jealousy as he is quite entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. Isn’t anger with unforgiveness a sin also? Is it righteous anger?

    Posted by Truth in Reality | July 18, 2012, 9:19 am

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