Rob Bell: Stirring up Conversation about Heaven and Hell

I’ve been interested in reading the strong and varied reactions around the upcoming release of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  Rob Bell is the founding pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids Michigan and has written a number of books and seems to be known for shaking things up theologically and asking great questions. I got his book “Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile” a number of years ago and was struck by Bell’s raw, honest and fresh way of approaching faith, Christianity and people.

This weekend Bell released the following video.

I watched this after reading a couple of blog posts where authors pointed out the overwhelming response there has been in the last 48 hours or so to the release of this book. It seems that this subject of heaven and hell, and especially who gets to go where (if there even are such places) is one that catches the attention of many. And it seems it’s a topic that brings out strong feelings and opinions. As Bell points out in the video, the question of heaven and hell and who gets in quickly brings up the question of who God is and who and how God loves.

Coming from a Swedenborgian faith background, I’m particularly intrigued to hear these topics and theological claims being discussed in a broader context. The rich theology around the afterlife and the question of “who goes where and why?” that are found in Swedenborg’s writings are so ingrained in me that I appreciate the reminder of the wrestling around this topic and question.  I’m particulars thinking about the concepts that are taught in Swedenborgian theology around the idea that one spends eternity in a place where the core loves they have developed over their lives can be expressed. Those who love people selflessly, who want to help others, who love a Divine Being outside of themselves will hang out with others who have similar loves. Sounds pretty heavenly?

The more universal view of God and specifically of who’s “saved” or who “gets to go to heaven” is one that is a pillar of the Swedenborgian faith tradition and my personal faith.  It is interesting and enlivening to me to hear this type of conversation gaining traction in the broader Christian stage.  I’m looking forward to reading the book. And it also makes me want to pick up Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell again as well.

5 Replies to “Rob Bell: Stirring up Conversation about Heaven and Hell”

  1. I am embarrassed to admit all I know about Swedenborg is vague references in Kingdom Hospital. I have been to Mars Hill and for the most part it seemed like all of the other churches with praise and worship music that I went to with my college friends. It does seem like more and more people are getting the good news that God may not, in fact, be this evil person who wants to mete out infinite punishment/eternal torture for our finite mistakes–that God may actually love all of us.

    I would love to discuss this more with you sometime.

  2. “Jesus rescues you from God” – wow. That is a really powerful way of putting it. It sounds as though Bell has come to the same conclusion as Swedenborg concerning the true message of the Gospel. I’m curious to see how he arrives there. It sounds like a fascinating book.

    Love to you, Anna,

  3. It’s interesting to watch the reaction to Bell, prior to the book’s release even. Now it’s out so we can all read it.

    I think he’s the best famous Christian minister of our generation, Gen X born in the ’60s and ’70s. His videos on forgiveness and other topics are incredible. His video “Rhythm” is the best Christian video I’ve ever seen. He’s clearly a warm, loving, wise, and enlightened Christian leader.

    Clearly, there is a gap between his theology and that of New Church Christians, but we are in the same ballpark with him. He has wrestled with the challenging questions raised by traditional Christian theology.

    79% of Americans believe that people of other faiths can go to Heaven, so on that question Rob Bell and we New Church Christians are both part of a vast super-majority of American Christians.

Leave a Reply