What if there’s no HELL?

Well TIME mag hits it on the head with their aptly timed Holy Week (season) issue. It appears the article – written by Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author who studied theology in undergrad – is sympathetically well-written (uncharacteristically so, coming from mainstream media, I might add):

The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. “When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world,” says Mohler, “then you don’t need the church, and you don’t need Christ, and you don’t need the cross. This is the tragedy of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism, and it’s Rob Bell’s tragedy in this book too.”

Mohler comments on his blog:

To his credit, Meacham also understands that Bell’s argument fits comfortably within the context of Protestant Liberalism… “is more at home with this expansive liberal tradition than he is with the old-time believers of Inherit the Wind.”

I don’t quote Mohler often and don’t agree with all he says, but I think he’s making pretty assertive statements here, vis-a-vis Jon Meacham.

Wondering what you think. To reiterate:

then you don’t need the church, and you don’t need Christ, and you don’t need the cross.”

is more at home with this expansive liberal tradition”

(both above in red, in context)

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

6 thoughts on “What if there’s no HELL?

  1. On Love Wins, its clear after reading the book myself that Mohler has not actually read it. If he has, then he is doing a poor job offering a critique.

    On Universalism: this has become the scapegoat for those of us who may not be considered “orthodox”. If we think God is love, we must be Universalist. If we don’t preach Hell, we must be Universalist. If we don’t play by the rules and if we don’t reduce the Gospel to simply a Heaven/Hell issue then we must be Universalist.

    There are obviously folks out there that are actually Universalist and yes I believe that to be an issue. However, this smells of a witch hunt. We have to be willing to dialogue these things and to dismiss them so easily is in my opinion is ignorant and egotistical.

    Ultimately, if don’t engage, it will hurt the Church’s ability to accomplish the mission at hand.

    My two cents…worth slightly less than that.

    1. I don’t know if it’s a scapegoat…
      many folks are uncomfortable with the idea of universalism for good reason… and not just fundys. But if Mohler’s right about one thing, it’s had a shady historical track record, now affiliated with the Unitarian church which few evangelicals take seriously.

      As I’ve said in the past, the problem with universalism (at least organized forms of it) is that it pronounces with finality what should remain a mystery.

      I think it is precisely that mystery, in the end, that keeps the driving edge in mission.

  2. Wayne,

    I’m not convinced that total universalism is or can be true, but I think Mohler is way off base. If the primary purpose of the church, Christ, and the cross is to get people into heaven, then I’m not a Christian, and (more importantly) neither are a lot of other people. To be sure, eschatology is important to me, but mostly because it is the guarantee that one day God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. My final destination and what it looks like is relatively unimportant to me (now), and is certainly not the reason I am a Christian. That’s Pascal’s Wager – a far cry from the faith of the people who responded to Jesus during his life.

    1. Hey Michael – I don’t completely follow (?) although you’re always onto something important – so help me understand.

      Here’s what I wrestle with: Isn’t particularity an important emphasis of the Christian faith, i.e., a particular people, a particular community, hence the church is not so much the designation of the “saved ones in the end” but rather “the called out ones?”

      (who in the end, are God’s agents of reconciliation to all of creation – unless we take the Irenaean view of recapitulation – in which case maybe there is an argument for universalism)

      1. Exactly – the church is the people of God called to be a light to the world, like Israel. They’re not called only for their own sake (to be a divine lifeboat) but for the sake of the world.

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