Is Hell Dead? This is the title of Jon Meacham’s cover story on Rob Bell, the Grand Rapids mega-church pastor whose controversial book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived has been making waves in evangelical circles because Bell apparently rejects the orthodox Christian doctrine of hell.
I am less interested in the theological tussle associated with Bell’s book than I am in the way this intramural evangelical debate has made it to the cover of a national news magazine.
I am going to guess that most everyday evangelicals have never heard of Rob Bell. Why does he get to shape evangelical theology? I would much rather listen to people like N.T. Wright or Alister McGrath or Rowan Williams or Miroslav Volf or Oliver O’Donovan or Kevin Vanhoozer talk about hell.
What does Bell on the cover of Time tell us about American evangelicalism? Your thoughts are welcome.
I think it is not at all surprising that Bell has more influence than the fine theologians you name. Bell has marketed himself much better than any of them. I think Bell's influence speaks to the historic love affair of American evangelicalism with market capitalism, anti-intellectualism, and charisma. I think I would throw a general disregard for history and tradition in there too.
John you took the words right out of my mouth.
Jamie Boehmer says
Rob Bell is hip and trendy, Evangelicals are embracing everything that is hip and trendy. Most of that crowd won't take the time to dig into what he is saying and just watch his nooma videos
I think of him as a symptom of a larger problem. Most evangelical discussions of Bell seem to almost require a reference to what an amazing “communicator” he is, but what does it say about evangelicalism that someone whose thought and writing is vague, confused, even incoherent, is regarded as an amazing communicator?
Excellent question and comments. Feeling, mood and coolness factor seem to carry so much weight these days. I agree with Russ; after watching Bell's interview with Martin Bashir, I was baffled at how someone so vague and incomprehensible can be considered a great communicator…