I read Rob Bell's Wikipedia entry this morning, and therein lies a bit of a tale.
Until Saturday, I was only vaguely aware of Bell, the founder of the phenomenally popular Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as one of the hip, youngish leader of what one might refer to as the New Evangelicals. He had a conservative Christian pedigree--Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary--but he'd also played in a couple of indie rock bands, so he didn't fit into a neat little package. I had no idea, though, whether he was saying anything interesting about the Christian faith, or simply rubbing down the sharp edges of the right-wing credo for broader consumption when his name started to surface in my twitter stream.
It seems that over the weekend Bell released the video below to promote his forthcoming book. And evangelicals--many of whom seemed to be followers of his--began to trash him. The criticism was so widespread and energetic that on a day that revolutions roiled the Middle East, union members packed the state capitol building in Wisconsin, the number one college basketball team in the country was defeated, and the Best Picture buzz was at its height, Bell was suddenly "trending" on twitter.
Bell accomplished this by raising the specter of universalism, the notion that all human beings can be saved, or, perhaps, are already saved. You may recall that Anglican schismatics had their own little fit when Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suggested that accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior was not the only way to "get to heaven" in the words of her interviewer.
At the time I suggested that this was a mainstream Christian view. I still think so. Salvation cannot hinge on intellectual assent because our intellects are both formed and compromised by too many factors beyond our control.
Have a look at the video. What do you think? Updated: Maggie Dawn offers her opinion.