I followed the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix – they are my homies after all – and I have to say I was a little disappointed to hear the official Southern Baptist response to Rob Bell's book. Not because I think its a must read book but because it represents a larger reevaluation of eschatology, in particular a dispensational eschatology that has flavored Baptist life for a long time. I thought they might suggest a good old fashioned Bible Study on the subject. But I was wrong.
Rejecting Rob Bell’s view on hell, Southern Baptists affirmed the historical biblical teaching on hell as an “eternal conscious punishment” in a resolution that was passed on the last day of the denomination’s annual meeting."
This surprises me because I dont think even Rob Bell is sure on what his view on hell actually is. It also suprises me because I was expecting a challenge to read the Bible for ourselves rather than just refer to three paragraph resolution called The Reality of Hell.
Its a nuanced discussion, as I have said, and assuming that every instance of the various words translated as "hell" in the Bible all point to the same reality is at best sloppy and at worst misleading.
Personally, I think the issue of last things, heaven, hell, judgement, the role of Israel, and eschatology in general, is a huge issue right now and there remains a window of time for us to examine the Scriptures afresh. Like Francis Chan says, its too important to get wrong. But that does not mean we will end up in the same place.
If Southern Baptists wish to push deeper on this issue, I suggest starting with Ed Stetzer's well written response to Rob Bell, which does not shy away from reading the book, and go from there. After that, try the Anglicans. Why does nobody want to deal with NT Wright on this subject? Is is because they are scared they will get their butt kicked like Piper?