by Warren Heckman.
Thousands are all a-Twitter, blogs are bogged, and Facebook is getting an about-face by the pros and cons regarding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Our Twin Cities evening news carried a big story about the forthcoming fight among evangelicals. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a lengthy story on page titled, “Firestorm about Heaven, Hell blazes in Blogosphere.”
Bell has an astronomical following in the internet arena, but that hardly constitutes a measure of orthodoxy. Many groups we call cults have huge numbers in their ranks. Those of us who can rightly be called living dinosaurs, not yet extinct, have seen much of this played out before. Questionable Christian doctrine seems to be cyclical in trying to reinvent itself with heretical, unusual, and controversial interpretations of Scripture and theology. In the early years of my pastoral ministry I faced this teaching and regularly had to put on a black-and-white striped shirt and a silver whistle so I could attempt to referee accelerating anger and arguments between otherwise kind church members. To some degree, it is impossible to change certain people’s minds, especially when their convictions are so deeply entrenched.
A Google search on “universalism” brought up far more links than I had time to pursue, so I quickly decided that there are far more brilliant minds, trained theologians and Scripture expositors than myself to try and refute what I believe is the resurfacing of an old error. I strongly believe in the orthodox/evangelical teachings of our forefathers who gave the biblical teaching of hell as eternal. Yes, we grieve at the thought of anyone going to hell and spending eternity there. But in fact, I think it’s one of the strongest motivations for witness, outreach, and global missions.
Can a universalist go to heaven? That’s not really a shot for me to call. But it seems to me that if someone truly repents of sin, accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and does their best to live a godly life, I will see them walking on the golden streets someday–even though we disagree on this issue. What do you think?
Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.