Spring is my favorite time of the year, and nothing to do with the weather. I live in the deep South (only three hours from the Gulf of Mexico) and truth be told if it wasn't for the Easter Holiday, winter wins hands down. If you have ever lived through 21 consecutive days of 100+ degrees winter is a welcome respite.
However, Easter reigns in the hearts of most Christians as their favorite holiday and rightfully so. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. The fact that a man claimed he was God in the flesh and then backed it up by appearing to many people after he died (including more than 500 in a single incident) is still the most historical electrifying incident to have ever occurred. I am not going to use this opportunity argue the historical evidence of said event (there are many who have done a better job anyway such as Josh McDowell). You may have guessed this by the title and you're wondering what, pray tell, does Osama Bin Laden, Rob Bell and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ have to do with each other? Good question. Glad you asked.
This is where Bin Laden comes into play. I would love to see Rob Bell or anyone for that matter who does not believe in hell please explain how this guy is going to get into Heaven. He murderously, with forethought and malice, planned the execution of nearly three thousand civilians whose major crime was showing up for work. Most of them had probably never even had heard of Osama Bin Laden before that day. He not only took credit for the killings, he bragged about them.
Even with what I call the 'good-ole-boy' methodology of deciding who makes the cut to Heaven he falls way, way, way short. Nowhere near say Hitler or Stalin (and probably the only reason not is his inability to acquire a nuclear weapon) but the gulf between Osama and let's say Mother Theresa is just too wide to be bridged. If you think I'm exaggerating just remember the images of the people jumping out of the Twin Towers to their death so they would not be burned alive. How you can say that a man who was directly responsibly for that atrocity (and many other smaller ones) deserves Heaven and not a bullet to the head is incomprehensible.
Having said that, what people really struggle with, including Pastor Rob Bell, is a judgmental God. The underlying theme in people's inability to see evil, sometimes when it is standing right in front of them (say for instance Western Civilizations tendency to ignore Sharia Law) is the inability to see evil within themselves.
Let me explain.
People misinterpret God's reasoning for sending his only Son, Jesus. Jesus lays it out starkly clear in this parable (Jesus words):
"Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a wine-press in it and built a tower. And he leased it to the vine-dressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the vine-dressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vine-dressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vine-dressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-dressers?" They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vine-dressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." (Matthew 21:33-42)Jesus is telling the Israelis (specifically at this point the religious leaders of that time) that God has come and he is going to take the covenant they to date have enjoyed and will give it to another people who will actually bear fruit (Christians).
Now before you get all comfortable with the fact that you are not an Israelite remember that in the Old Covenant God made a pact with the Abraham and his decedents and nobody else. If you were outside of the Jewish religion you were basically screwed. But that covenant did not work out, people still rebelled so God made a better way; a covenant based on Grace, not the Law.
If your a Christian you may be saying, 'Yea, good thing I wasn't one of this religious Pharisees! Those guys were so bad!". Let's take this parable a step further. When I read that parable for the first time I wasn't thinking of the Pharisees. I was thinking of myself. God created us, gave us this beautiful world with plenty of resources to take care of ourselves and everyone around us and how do we behave? Despicable is a word that comes to mind. We are like the vine-dressers, rejecting God's son and trying to claim the Earth and the Universe as our own. We reject God's ways.
This is why we have trouble accepting the reality of hell because we have trouble accepting the evil in our hearts that denies the loving creator of this Earth and Universe the honor and glory he so richly deserves. We are still trying to kill his Son and steal our existence from God (Atheism, Gnosticism, Socialism, Communism, Neo-Darwinism and all the other 'isms'). God had every right to come to this Earth and destroy the wicked vine-dressers of this Earth.
This is why we point our fingers and wag our tongues at the murders, adulterers, swindlers, Charlie Sheen's and Miley Cyrus' of this world so that we do not have to look at the greater evil that resides in every one of our hearts.
That is the miracle of Easter. That God loves us so much that instead of his righteous judgement he offers a sacrifice none other than his Son to pay our debt and wipe the slate clean. But we must come on his terms, not ours. We must repent (turn away from) and acknowledge that we are the wicked vine-dressers who deserve death and it is then we can receive the life that Jesus offers through Grace.
I do not know Ron Bell's heart; no one does but God. I have a feeling though that what he is struggling with is what everyone struggles with when it comes to the existence of hell. I think it is not the idea of a God that would send people to hell but the idea that they themselves are wicked enough to deserve such a place.
We are and we do.
Nope, I've changed my mind. Winter is my favorite season. Through the busyness of spring and then summer and the madness of fall there comes a time of peace and quite and all of nature and man rests. Yes its cold and yes many things die. But, apologies to Ron Bell and his ilk, there is a helluva spring coming.