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Filtering by Tag: Rob Bell

Are We Due for a Split in Christianity?

Ian David Philpot

Ian David Philpot, ccPublishing's Web Editor, has been reading about a possible division in the Christian faith and shares his thoughts. Jimmy Spencer, a friend of mine and of Relief, wrote a note on Facebook recently that got picked up on a blog. It was titled The Coming Evangelical Split? Feel free to click on the title to read it, but for those of you who prefer a summation, here you go: Jimmy believes that Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, is either starting or bringing to light a split between hardcore conservative evangelicals and progressive evangelicals. Jimmy doesn't know if it's good or bad, but he know's it's coming, and it is, in large, thanks to the Rob Bell controversy.

When I read that, I didn't want to believe it at first. Religion feels so global to me. And do people in other countries really care about what some guy in Grand Rapids, MI, is saying about whether Ghandi is in heaven or hell? Would that really cause all of us to pick a side and split?

But Jimmy's a smart guy. If he's sure it's coming, then why I am trying to think he's not right.

Later, I saw Evangelicalism Won't Split, It's Erroding--a response to Jimmy. (I'd sum up, but you can get the basics from the title.) Then I read about a pastor in North Carolina who lost his job after writing something on Facebook in support of Love Wins. No joke.

Historically, the Christian church goes through something big about every 500 years. In Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence, she points out events of the past that show a pattern. Going back from present day, there's the Protestant Reformation in 1517 (thanks to Martin Luther, some paper, and a nail), the Great Schism in 1054 (when the Greek Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church excommunicated each other), the fall of the Roman Empire in the late sixth century which greatly affected the Roman Catholic Church (aka (basically) the only church back then), and the apostles work in the first century. So there's a decent pattern there. And Tickle believes that we're on the edge of the Great Emergence--a change in the church that will link religion and culture in a way that changes Christianity. (I don't know if I believe it, but she does.)

So, my guess is that Jimmy is predicting that we are nearing, what I will call, the Great Contest--where either love wins or conservative evangelicalism wins, depending on which side you're on.

I, personally, think Jimmy's right. I think we're close to something. I just don't know if it'll be something we notice, or if it will be something that takes a decade to settle before we realize that we're not as close in doctrine with as many denominations as we thought.

Do you think we're nearing a split in Christianity and/or Evangelicalism? Can Christianity stand to take another split or is it too close to obliteration (or marginalization) as it is?

Jimmy Spencer started Love Without Agenda, a nonprofit organization with a simple yet compelling message: to encourage people to change the world--and themselves--one act of love at a time. Check out where you can download a free copy of Jimmy's new book, Love Without Agenda: My Journey Out of Consumer Christianity.

Love Wins: Unless God Decides You're Evil

Travis Griffith

Travis Griffith discusses the implications of Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins. Will it define a new Christianity or destroy those who believe him?

To an outsider, the Christian religion can look awfully intimidating.

Between the constant threats of judgment and the, forgive me in advance here, fanciful stories that dot the Christian landscape, it's really no surprise to hear that modern Christianity is struggling a bit.

Seriously, why would a non-Christian voluntarily join a religion where he or she risks eternal damnation in hell come Judgement Day?  Oh, right. They'd do it for the reward of a blissful eternal life in heaven sitting next to the great Mr. Christ.

Well what if damnation was removed from the equation, along with the requirement to devote life to Jesus? Or even know his name?

Whoa. That'll get some attention!

And it has, in the form of a new book from megachurch pastor Rob Bell called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne).

Followers of the Christian faith have no doubt heard of him. I have to admit the first I heard his name was earlier this week while reading a newspaper article while on an airplane coming home from a particularly sinful weekend in San Diego. The article laid out a couple of Bell's claims:

  • God gives humans the choice to either live with him or without him.
  • Death doesn't cut off the ability to repent and there is no infinite torment for things humans did in their finite lifetimes.
  • Jesus makes salvation possible, even for those who have never even heard his name.

There are plenty of folks in the Christian world writing Bell off as a heretic and false teacher of Jesus, which of course they have every right to believe.

From the perspective of those in a situation like mine, though, Bell's vision is an incredibly refreshing, loving and accepting message that will appeal to legions of lost young people searching for some kind of spirituality.

In the trailer for his book (which you can watch here), Bell discusses a moment when a church-member said "Gandhi is in hell." That is exactly the kind of close-minded statement  that turns people off to Christianity. Gandhi, the "Great Soul" himself, is as likely to be in hell as Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a believer in the Universe and a fierce proponent of the power of love and acceptance of all humans, I believe Bell's message could be an interpretation of Christianity the world can embrace in the future: a world where everyone can go to heaven and hell simply doesn't exist.

What do you think: is Rob Bell about to become irrelevant or will his message resonate with a new generation of Christians?


Travis Griffith, Relief's Blog Manager, is a former atheist now exploring what a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, was published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. Travis works from his home in Spokane, WA as a professional writer.