I have a free subscription to Time Magazine (thanks to unused air miles, bargain?). Mine usually comes on Saturday, so as of today I have not seen the new cover for myself. As you have probably heard, Rob Bell’s vision or lack there of, of eternal punishment is all the rage and it is the feature for this week’s Time. In my current edition of Wall Street (yes, also free) it tells me that Mr. Bell’s book is # 3 in non-fiction, the irony of the “non-fiction” label is not lost on me either. That does not mean that it is #3 in all the books on the subject but it is #3 in all books! That is what folks in the publishing world might call a “good day.” No actually, they are probably foaming at the mouth to sign Bell, if they haven’t already, to his next work of non-fiction.
When I watch phenomenons like this I immediately begin to think of the angles that no one is talking about, not even when the great minds get together. Being imbedded into the current culture does not always afford us the opportunity to see the big picture. So here is something to ponder when, say, fifty years from now folks look back at this week’s cover of Time. In 1959, Paul Tillich made the cover of Time and some in evangelicalism blew a gasket. Then again in 1962, Karl Barth made the cover and some began to sell their livestock and move to the mountains. So, yes, Rob Bell’s teaching is damaging and it is error of the first order. However, in the big scheme of things, and I do mean big, it is nothing more than a pimple on history’s tan line. Is there any church, worthy of the NT designation of “church” that is growing and flourishing today because of Barth or Tillich? Are either of these heavy weights a threat to the Lord’s work in the world through His church? So what is the significance of Rob Bell today? If you live in the moment then there is probably nothing bigger, save who gets voted off Dancing with the Stars. However long-term, I don’t see anyone caring fifty years from now, just ask Mr. Tillich.