When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.
The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.
Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.
Via Tony Jones, I learned today that Holtz has, apparently "repented" of his view that God will not necessary torture and torment some, perhaps most, of us for all eternity. Here is an excerpt from his statment of "repentance":
I repent of my past denial of hell or that a person could ever be eternally seperated from a holy God. I know now that I had no fear of God. Therefore, I had no knowledge of God (Prov. 1:7). I was a fool with an MDiv. I was wrong.
Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist Church was right to ask me to leave. It was God’s mercy. I am so sorry for the pain I caused them through that entire ordeal last year and I ask their forgiveness. I have wept many tears over the last many months, pleading with God that no one would be lost for my prideful and blind confident assertions (1 Tim. 1:7). Love doesn’t win. God wins. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a holy, living God (Heb. 10.31). I lost sight of this and God, in His mercy, granted me a chance to repent.
The post in its entirety paints a very tragic picture of a man who was confused and tormented as many of us are, and although I'm sure for him there is a deep connection between his personal struggles and both his repudiation of hell and his recantation of that position, the there is no necessary connection between the two.
For the record, here's what he said at the time he was removed from his position:
"I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don't think that means an eternity of torment,
And here's the preview video for Rob Bell's Love Wins which Holtz was supporting:
That position -- that there is judgdment but not eternal torment -- is controversial in some quarters, but it has always struck me as a perfectly cogent and completely Christian position to take. And while I tend to subscribe to the view that one can hope for universal salvation, believe in a God who could offer universal salvation, and pray for the salvation of all, I do not believe that one can declare universal salvation as a matter of fundamental Christian doctrine. Judgement and Grace are interconnected, and the nature of God's judgement may be as mysterious as the nature of God's grace, and we cannot declare on God's behalf in advance what that judgment may be.
Yet Holtz's "repentance" of his willingness to be open to the possibility of universal salvation, irrespective of what follows, and irrespective of the personal demons he may be exorcising in the process of offering this testimony, smacks in a very scary way of the kinds of kinds of confessions and "self-criticisms" that one would be more wont to see in a communist show trial than within the Christian church.