An attention-grabbing article is highlighted on the cover of the April 25, 2011 issue of Time magazine. The article, written by Jon Meacham, pictured at right, is entitled "Is Hell Dead?". It concerns the controversy stirred up by evangelical pastor Rob Bell's suggestion that Christ's work of love and redemption saves everyone from eternal damnation. When St. Paul declared to the Corinthians that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, might it be that the Apostle literally meant "the whole world," which includes of course those who are not professing Christians? Why should heaven belong exclusively to the followers of Jesus anyway? Are there not those from other faiths deserving of the gift of paradise as well? Universalists often mention Mohandas Gandhi and the fourteenth Dalai Lama,Tenzin Gyatso, while making their point.

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the history of Christianity knows that universalism, or the idea that all will be saved, is not a novel one. John Murray, "the father of American universalism," was instrumental in founding the Universalist Church of America in the late eighteenth century. Hannah Whitall Smith, a Christian of the nineteenth century, who was active in both the Temperance and Women's Suffrage movements, was also a devout universalist. Even the most notable church theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, came close to espousing the doctrine when he argued that God elects all humanity to salvation in Christ. "No hell" theology, while not standard Christian teaching, is far from newsworthy.

So why is this notion now exploited on the cover of Time? Is it because an "evangelical" pastor seems inclined to embrace it? Give me a break! There are many shades of evangelicalism. It has never comprised a uniform, monolithic system of theology.  Nobody would dare say, for example, that Brian McLaren and Mark Dever, two prominent evangelical pastors, are on the same doctrinal wave link.

So why the commotion? Why is Time promoting a rather unremarkable story about Pastor Rob Bell? As you reflect upon this question, keep in mind that the media are not in the business of reporting the news so much as they are in manipulating public opinion. The media, including Time, invariably have ulterior motives in their reportage.

My guess is that Time is attempting with Meacham's article to advance the notion of a post-Christian America and a multicultural outlook. Time's editorial staff, I take it, is convinced that readers should genuflect to the goddess of diversity. Thanks in large measure to an uncritical and chaotic American immigration policy, which continues to elevate to citizenship the world's "wretched refuse," and to the philosophy of liberalism, which secularizes America's public culture by stressing "individual rights," the country's population is now comparable to an assembly of quarreling tribes. In order to assuage the conflict between them, the elitists who manipulate opinion want to imbue "the big stupid (American) public" with a few principles: i.e., that truth is relative; that all races, ethnicities, and cultures are equal; and that Christians have no corner on heaven. We can all gulp down the leftist re-invention of America more easily that way. Right?

Before losing much sleep over this article in Time, consider who Jon Meacham is. He possesses the dubious distinction, while editor of Newsweek from 2006 to 2010, of having run the magazine hopelessly into the ground with leftist tripe. One might even say that he pushed it all the way into the "netherworld." If for no other reason than this shocking circumstance, we may believe in a hell, at least of the financial variety. Before the magazine was sold, the record of Meacham's tenure as editor read like this: "Newsweek's negligible operating loss of $3 million in 2007 . . . turned into a bloodbath: the business lost $32 million in 2008 and $39.5 million in 2009. Even after reducing headcount by 33 percent, and slashing the number of issues printed and distributed to readers each week, from 2.6 million to 1.5 million, the 2010 operating loss is still forecast at $20 million." I guess that, if anyone can enlighten us on the subject of consuming infernos, Jon Meacham can.

Yet I find it difficult to interpret the man's journalistic endeavors as much more than those of a self-deluded political propagandist. Is he not the one who wrote that "Obama is essentially a centrist."? His article on hell is no more insightful than his description of Mr. Obama. The article is a veiled and intellectually banal attempt to push a progressive political agenda, for which Americans – at least those who still read and think – have little stomach.

By the way, the doctrine of hell remains orthodox teaching in the church. Jesus continues to be recognized as the Christ, who stated, "No one comes to the Father but by me." Who does or does not belong in hell is a matter that mortals can safely leave to the freedom of God. Would someone please let Mr. Meacham know?

April 28, 2011