In this article, Dan Kimball expresses a concern that I share: that in the firestorm of discussion about heaven and hell and universalism, the need to walk beside people on their journey toward faith is being lost in the fray...
That said, I think the article misses something that Rob Bell probably does bring to the table, which is a desire to focus on what it means to walk with Christ today. In his Rob Bell way, he seems to be trying to point people toward the fact that eternal life with Christ is supposed to make a difference today.
And the reality is that, in my world, having spiritual discussions centered around what will happen when everyone dies is less than worthless. It's just not where people are at. It's so much more relevant to talk about what life with the eternal one looks like now--today.
I think that's ok. There may come a time in a person's faith journey where they have to work through the theological issues of heaven and hell and eternal judgment and the possibility of grace and mercy that astounds and surprises. But I don't think that discussion is essential to the question of what it means to walk with God today.
Walking with God is hard. It's all-consuming. The sacrifice of just following the commands to love God and love your neighbor is a lifetime's worth of challenges. So here on the ground, that's where I'm choosing to spend my time when I have the opportunity for spiritual discussions. And I so wish that the community of Christ-followers would be spending its energy on thinking and praying about how to speak about that in a way that's understandable within today's culture. All of this time, and all of these resources, and I'm walking around here on the ground bumbling through these conversations and relationships hoping that somehow God will be able to work and speak his invitation of life with the eternal one to those around me. I long for the community of Christ-followers to rise up and put its resources and energy into answering those kinds of questions.