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I was surprised to read the comments on this meta question1 about Rob Bell. I don't know much about him (except I watched some of the nooma films).

What is the Evangelical Christian problem with him? Why has he even been called, "heretical"?

1 I fully appreciate the irony of the question, in light of the meta question.

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@Caleb: will you be finishing your answer? If not, I will accept one of the others here. –  Wikis Nov 9 '12 at 11:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Rob Bell is identified with a Emergent Church despite not self identify as a member of the emergent movement. However, he tends to advocate many of the ideas of that group. Case in point, Love Wins, which came out last year, was hugely controversial, since it was putting forward a view on the nature of hell which is not held by many evangelical Christians. Many had accused him of being a universalist. Prior to the publication of this book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile, came out, which is many would classify as an extremely liberal gospel interpretation (he uses the gospel to criticize US foreign policy for instance). These types of views are extremely controversial to many evangelical Christians many of whom tend to (justly or not) fall on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

Also he wrote a book called, Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality, which having read it, I can say is not nearly as scandalous as the title suggests. But, the point is, Bell meant to stir put feathers by publishing a Christian book with a title like that, and that tends to be his modus operandi.

Hope that helps.

Update, a little bit more on those that believe Bell to hold to heretical beliefs:

On February 26, 2011, John Piper tweeted "Farewell, Rob Bell" and linked to an article accusing Bell of being a universalist with his new book "Love Wins". The implication was that Bell had strayed so far from the Christian camp as it were, that he no longer considered Bell to be part of the Christian community (that's my personal take on the meaning of the tweet).

The real issue here is not whether or not Bell was enunciating universalism or not (Bell in a sermon the week after publication said "I am not a Universalist" and made the same statement to various members of the press, for what that is worth), but what does it mean to be heretic.

My take is that if you take a look at his main critics, especially Piper and Chan, they tend to fall into the Calvinist camps, that not to say they all do by any means. But I think if you look into the heart of the controversy about Bell, who is an arminian by any measure, it may have more to do with justification than anything else. For Bell, we choose God, for Reformed thinkers, God chooses us. Beyond the specific ways in which each sides is interpreting scripture, each side holds fundamentally opposing theological views.

For more info on Bell critics, see Francis Chan's Erasing Hell, Mark Galli's God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins.

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But what has he actually said or written? I know it is controversial (I read his Wikipedia page) but why? Do I read from your answer that he thinks no one will go to hell? And that he uses the Bible to condemn US foreign policy? Which policies, and how? I'm not reading anything so far that would cause me to label him a heretic. –  Wikis Oct 26 '12 at 4:48
    
Correction: if he really said nobody goes to hell, that is in direct contradiction to Jesus' words and is heresy. But did he say that? –  Wikis Oct 26 '12 at 5:34
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@Wikis: I've read Love Wins, and he doesn't say that. He does say there is a lot of tension in the Bible regarding statement about hell, versus statements about God reconciling all of creation to himself at the end. Bell says he can't find a way to fit those two pieces together, so he ends the book without an answer. –  Bruce Alderman Oct 26 '12 at 5:58
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@BruceAlderman agreed, I read Love Wins as well, and I hope that Wikis did not take my answer to mean the Bell had said that nobody goes to hell, the book affirms, the existence, and danger of hell, however it questions the nature of what hell is (for instance, is hell forever, or only for a time?). –  aceinthehole Oct 26 '12 at 12:33
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Ah.. I'd update your question to include that word heretical, you can be controversial without being heretical. –  aceinthehole Oct 26 '12 at 13:18

This article at Christian Post summarizes the controversy pretty well.

The beginning of the disagreement came when Rob Bell published a book called Love Wins. In it, he espouses a theology of hell which many read as universalism, the idea that God saves everyone, and that hell is not eternal. In response, John Piper simply tweeted "Farewell, Rob Rob Bell."

To compound matters, Bell resigned from the church he started - Mars Hill - to begin a speaking tour. As Rick Warren calls it, doing that created a situation in which there is "full visibility and no accountability." To phrase that far more bluntly, he was basically saying that Bell was neglecting the Gospel and becoming an "attention whore."

In short, many prominent evangelicals find Bell's actions to be inconsistent with an authentic Evangelical witness.

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Does Bell identify as an Evangelical? –  Bruce Alderman Oct 27 '12 at 4:55
    
The church he started was Mars Hill Bible Church. As one who grew up in an evangelical Bible church, I can say that's usually a pretty good clue that someone self identifies as such. –  Affable Geek Oct 27 '12 at 14:09

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