Shifting the sacred: Rob Bell and the postconservative evangelical turn

Critical Research on Religion 7 (1):80-99 (2019)
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Abstract

For sociologist Emile Durkheim, the “sacred” constitutes all those things “set apart and forbidden.” Within Evangelical Christianity, and to a lesser degree Protestantism in general, the sacred has arguably centered on the individual believer and her/his personal relationship with God and scripture. Recently, however, a growing movement within Evangelical Christianity has emphasized the sacred nature of relationships and community, culminating in the mantra “God is love.” This shift has set community above the personal in the hierarchy of sacred Evangelical things, and is reminiscent of earlier progressive forms of Evangelicalism, such as Social Gospel Christianity. Rob Bell, an Evangelical author, pastor, and Oprah Network star, possibly best exemplifies this change and its ramifications, which extend from a postcolonial critique of mission work and evangelism to a move to more inclusive and even Universalist soteriology. Such efforts that have left Bell labeled as a heretic in some Evangelical circles.

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