That list has two things in common:
1.) They were all vehemently criticized by a significant sect of Christendom. Killed. Labeled as heretical; destructive to our "fragile" faith.
2) They undeniably pulled me toward a relationship with our Triune God. Or helped me deepen my relationship and understanding of God and Christianity.
I should end this post right here. In fact if you'd like to stop here, that would probably be fine. This post is 100% true up to this point. You cannot refute how the Holy Spirit has moved in my life. Only God and I know the palpable sense in my soul that I experienced with each of those people or media above.
It's a funny thing. We Christians love to say how much we want to let God "out of the box" that we've put him in. We want to espouse that the Holy Spirit is everywhere. We just don't want to believe He can use something that's outside of what we label as heretical. Here's what I mean:
The Last Temptation of Christ has heretical parts in it. When I saw it I was so clueless on God I didn't know what heresy was. Yet the Gospel portrayed in that heretical movie still captured my heart. Somehow the Holy Spirit grabbed my soul even in spite of bad theology.
There is an internet firestorm blazing around Rob Bell and his universalism*. (*No hell; everyone goes to heaven.) I have no comment on that. I have not read his book (Love Wins) yet. I will. After reading it, I may or may not know definitively whether he's a universalist or not. In the mean time, I will not take any one's word for it.
Just for fun, let's say he is a universalist & this latest book is heretical. The Holy Spirit still used all his prior books to draw me closer to Christ. I would still highly recommend them.
Two things bother me about the Christian firestorm at Rob Bell.
1) Many people have made judgment calls without reading the book. Please stop.
2) The vibe of the criticism doesn't seem very kind. Honestly it feels to me like the way Jews treated Jesus. We seem in a great zealous hurry to nail the sign "King of the Universalists" over his head.
Please understand, I am a huge fan of sound doctrine; my life depends upon it. But right now are we more concerned about what Bell is saying about eternity...than we are about the people in our relational world who don't know Christ?
I mean God didn't give me the charge of policing or labeling Rob Bell. But I do think God's very concerned about the souls in my relational sphere and how He can use me in my neck of the woods.
I mean really--if my focus is Rob Bell--I think Satan's rightfully laughing.
And here's my own personal conviction--how much of my Christian beliefs are off from what God intends? Heck, what about the gap between the sound doctrine I espouse...and the actual choices I make? I can't imagine how many times in a day I miss when it comes to sound doctrine and God-honoring choices. But then again Rob Bell's a bigger fish to fry--now isn't he?
I encourages us to focus on heaven and hell as it pertains to the relationships God has placed us in.
And here's a closing thought: IF Rob Bell is a universalist, that doesn't mean he's not in a relationship with Christ. Zoinks!---we might spend eternity among (gasp) UNIVERSALISTS! ;-)
Love someone today. Pray for Rob. Last I knew he is still a brother in Christ.
Shalom, my friends.