Joshunda Sanders, blogging here in Austin for The Statesman, recently mentioned a man I think is worth paying attention to: Rob Bell.

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, is stirring up a lot of controversy. Why? In his new book, Love Wins, he makes the case that certain ideas about heaven, hell, as traditionally taught to Christians, are wrong. And toxic. And I agree.

Here’s a trailer introducing the book:

I’ve only read excerpts so far, but I’m pretty impressed. There are some areas I might quibble with him on, but until I read the whole book, I’m going to hold off on getting into all that. For now, as pastor of New Way Church, I want to encourage you to consider giving Rob Bell a listen. And perhaps a prayer or two, too. Why? Because he seems to be drawing a lot of hate.

He is being accused by some Christian writers of being a heretic because he makes claims that threaten the standard exclusionary view of God and salvation. For instance, he says that you can be “saved” even if you don’t know Jesus by name. He also says that hell is not a punishment at the end of life, but a choice each one of us is making or not making right here, right now, as we live our daily lives.

And I agree.

In fact, in the New Church (the religious movement New Way Church is a part of), the ideas of salvation for those ignorant of Christ and of heaven and hell as choices, rather than arbitrary reward and punishment have been standard doctrine for over two hundred years. So far, though, the New Church has been such a quiet, behind-the-scenes movement that our ideas haven’t attracted a lot of public heat. But Rob Bell is a “megapastor”, so when he speaks, it draws fire–some of it pretty hateful. I admire his courage.

I admire Rob Bell’s courage, and I stand with him, and with other so-called “Emergent” thinkers–Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and others–who say traditional Christianity needs to examine itself and rethink some of its beliefs.

This is part of the meaning behind our church’s name. At New Way Church, we are dedicated to thinking about life, religion, Christianity and the Bible in a new way. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who said he himself is The Way, and who declared, “Behold, I make all things new!”

Mac Frazier, Pastor, New Way Church


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