Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bell & Ballou -- On Universalism

Today Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, is released.  Rob Bell is the minister of a mega-church in the Grand Rapids area, the Mars Hill Bible Church.  They meet in what was formerly a department store that anchored a mall, which should give you a sense of their size.  So this new book release has been much talked-about, and not only because Rob Bell has been accused of revealing in this book that he is a -- gasp -- Universalist!

As Unitarian Universalists and as religious liberals, we should welcome Rob Bell's book.  It's been a while since the theology of Universalism has been such in the public eye.  And I want to personally say, as a Michigan colleague, that if Rob Bell would like to sit down and talk with Unitarian Universalist ministers and exchange ideas, we'd be happy to do that with him. 

Universalism isn't a new idea, but it's still heretical in conservative Christianity, of course.  Universalists were kicked out of the National Council of Churches, deemed not Christian enough because of the heresy of Universalism.  So it's no surprise to see attacks on Bell for proclaiming it now. 

From what people are saying about the book, it seems that Rob Bell's thinking has followed that Hosea Ballou's when he wrote A Treatise on Atonement; In Which the Finite Nature of Sin Is Argued, Its Cause and Consequences as Such; the Necessity and Nature of Atonement; and its Glorious ConsequencesActually, the titles are even similar in a way (at least in wordiness), although over a century apart. 

Ballou essentially argues that a loving God couldn't condemn any person to eternal Hell:
First, I reason from the nature of divine goodness, in which all pretend to believe, and none dare in a direct sense to deny, that God could not, consistently with himself, create a being that would experience more misery than happiness.
The marketing for Bell's book says:
Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?
Welcome to the heretical faith, Rob Bell.  We're glad to have you here.

1 comment:

Eruonen said...

Hello Rev. Cyn,

I discovered your blog from Phil's Little Blog on the Praire re this subject.

Do you hold a theistic stance as a UU minister? In other words, are you a "Unitarian" with "Universalist" beliefs? If so, how refreshing.
Is your congregation, like most UU churches split along many lines of belief or disbelief? Do you preach a Unitarian theology?