Monday, April 4, 2011

Does Love Win?

Question: What's your opinion of Rob Bell's new book, "Love Wins"?

My Response: This book is not for everyone. Some people need a simple and concise theological paradigm to govern their lives. They have no interest in theological discussions and just want to be able to get through their day with a sense of God's blessing. I respect that and I'd encourage those people to leave this book alone. Don't go there if you don't want to deal with the issues Bell raises. It really isn't necessary.

I am convinced that Rob Bell loves stirring the evangelical pot! Many times I've found him to make statements that I object to until I listen as carefully as I can without reading through my biased lenses. The goal of reading is not to wrap the text around my presuppositions but to fully understand what the author is really trying to communicate.

I've been told that Rob Bell says that there is no hell and that everyone will be saved and go to heaven. The book isn't as simplistic as that. Bell asks a number of questions that are fair for discussion and definition. I did not come across anything, other than perhaps through the questions he asks, that articulates his position. Here are some things I did find, though:

Bell suggests that a story of everybody enjoying God's good world is a better one than the story of a black hole of endless torment for those who did not believe the right things. He then says, "Whatever objections a person might have to this story, and there are many, one has to admit that it is fitting, proper, and Christian to long for it" (1378-85 Kindle). I have to agree with that. While I do believe in a literal hell for those who do not have a relationship with Christ, I take no pleasure in that. Is it Christian to take satisfaction in people going to hell, or would you be ok with God devising a means that everyone made it? I will have no disappointment in discovering that people that I didn't think would make it, made it, because I am fully convinced that God is just and will do right. It doesn't seem to me that Bell embraces universalism and he does allow for legitimate objections to his proposition. The book's intention appears to be to force the reader to deal with their attitude about people going to hell and those who might make it in that they didn't think would or should. I personally believe that hell is real while hoping that no one goes there.

"This doesn't diminish God's justice or take less seriously the very real consequences of sin and rebellion, it simply acknowledges with humility the limits of our powers of speculation" (1434-49 Kindle). I have always believed that God hasn't read our theology books! We want to simplify an infinite God and fit Him into our finite understanding. It is simpler and more comfortable to do that than to admit that we might not know everything about everything. Our powers of speculation on eternal matters needs to be limited. It is not my place to put anyone in heaven or hell. That belongs to God, alone.

"If we want hell, if we want heaven, they are ours. That's how love works. It can't be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leaves room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins" (1477-82 Kindle). I think that statement is quite clear. God does not consign those who fail to go to hell. Those who reject His love go to hell of their own choosing. God cannot force people to live right or to accept His provision. Love demands that everyone's choices are respected. Anyone who goes to hell, goes there because they chose it.

Bell further amplifies this concept when dealing with the rich man and Lazarus. When the rich man is found in hell, it does not change the condition of his heart. He still asks for Lazarus to serve him by bringing him water. His heart is the same after judgment as it was before. The point seems to be that even if there were to be another chance after death, people would not change. They will die in the same condition as they lived, even when viewing reality from hell. Love demands that people have that freedom to choose.

"Life has never been about just 'getting in.' It's about thriving in God's good world" (2156-63 Kindle). "This distinction, the one between entrance and enjoyment..." (2178-87 Kindle). Great point! Are we living so we can get into heaven or living to enjoy God here and now. This is not an either/or, but a both/and. To live only focused on doing everything right so I can go to heaven carries with it the risk of missing His loving fellowship today. Christianity is about a journey, not just a destination.

I want to be clear. I believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell. However, this book seems to me to be less about an eschatological heaven and hell and more about eternal life and heaven and hell as it is manifested in this present world.

27 comments:

  1. Stephen J. RoobolApril 4, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    In the process of reading it. HOPE i can get it done today! So far, its a book of honest questions...I will let you know more later!!

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  2. Haven't had a chance to read it yet. Have a feeling it will go on the same shelf as 1994,Book of Mormon and any number of Joel Osteen book

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  3. I wouldn't want any of my people reading Rob Bell. Read Mark Driscoll's "Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions". He has a chapter in there on the Emergent Village Leaders. Every pastor should read this.

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  4. Starts with H and ends with erasy. Once again a book of questions with no real answers.

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  5. Can't wait to read it, find Rob Bell very intriguing

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  6. I've never agreed with Bell's 'theology'. He wants people to feel better about themselves. He quotes scripture out of context and ignores passages that oppose his position. I haven't read Love Wins, but I know Hell is a very real place and our God is righteous.

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  7. Hey Gary, Here's my son's take on it, check it out. I'm gonna read it but after having been prepped on it I'm already biased. It will be challenging reading it obectively. http://www.facebook.com/joshharp/posts/10150217334849289?notif_t=feed_comment

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  8. Vicki Nuzum TwifordApril 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    For a college final we had to write a paper with the title, "To the extent I believe, I cannot learn." (The professor knew I was a Christian. I was really angry at first, until I prayed and got direction about what to write. I opened with "You're right, to the extent which I believe, I cannot learn false doctrine; to the extent I believe I cannot be swayed from the truth!....." I think you get the idea.

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  9. Vicki Nuzum TwifordApril 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    PS - I got an A+ on the final.

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  10. Stephen J. RoobolApril 6, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    FINISHED!! thoughts are many! could not put id down. i agree with 40% of what he was explaining and trying to break the narrow-minded thinking and teaching. He feels that many have put God in a box and it consists of two people: (the in) an...d (the out) the in being those that believe in Jesus while the out are who don't believe in Jesus. He argues that eventually ALL will believe eventually. He does hit several scriptures that first came to my mind and the several scriptures that i needed to read in full context. His idea that "Love Wins" is spot on, But, he takes it to another level or two that God is too loving to let people burn in Hell forever and ever and ever.

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  11. 2 Tim. 4:3. Other than that, if you paid $ for the book...Rob Wins.

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  12. never have even heard of it...of course I read mainly history..what does it pertain to

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  13. Rob Bell stirring the evangelical pot on the issues of heaven and hell.

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  14. I remember a news story of a pastor being terminated for his change of opinion on the matter after reading the book...lately

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  15. Finished the first three chapters. So far I have enjoyed it. I have to take a break and do a research paper. ugh So far he seems to be forcing the reader to take a more reality based view of heaven and hell instead of the mythological concepts that many christians have.

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  16. Next he'll lead some more good folks into a very interesting new reality-based concept of salvation through something other than the analogous blood of Jesus. If it's all a metaphor guys, stop preaching and stop accepting tithes from poor misguided faith-based Believers.

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  17. Rob Bell is more of a poet and an aesthete than an exegete or systematic theologian. His way with words is beautiful, but his handling of Scriptures is selective and often divorced from the original context. The book says more about him than about God. And yes, I have read it.

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  18. I am enjoying reading it. I like the line "Heaven,it turns out,is full of the unexpected"

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  19. Ruthie Edgerly ObergApril 12, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    I came away with the same perspective as Gary C...beautiful but selective is a great way to put it.

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  20. Christy Hayes-HirschyApril 12, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    I am enthused by the number of people who are willing to read a book open minded and learn from it. Haven't read this particular book yet, but I am looking forward to it. If nothing else, his writing challenges us to really research and read the Bible not just assume what our SS teachers or parents told us is the truth.

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  21. You have peaked my curiosity, I think I might check it out

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  22. Terri, it is a bit of a confusing book. It can sound like he doesn't believe in a literal heaven or hell. If you read it, just be careful with it.

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  23. I'm beginning to wonder now, only because I get confused sometimes with other books

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  24. This is more of a book for theological debate. I'd probably leave it alone, if I were you.

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  25. Ruthie Edgerly ObergApril 12, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Terri - if you have read "The Shack" it left me with the same sort of feeling. Nice writing that makes me think but didn't give me a whole lot of meat to chew on. Aesthetics are good but the Scriptures used are very much viewed through Bell's own lens.

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  26. I appreciate this post. After reading the book, I felt similarly to what you posted here, but have read such strong reviews and criticisms against it that I began to wonder if I missed something deeper or was allowing myself to be misguided. I respect your opinion. Thanks for posting!

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  27. I have read Rob Bell several times and I stay away from him now. I know first hand how destructive his books can be in friends who have read them and now question cardinal truths in their walk with Christ. If you are not well grounded in the Bible and know the Word of God his books can scar the tissues of your spiritual growth and make you take gray areas he presents and question or keep in the back of you mind through the rest of you Christian walk if not dealt with correctly. He is destructive and I have seen no good fruit come out of his book in those that have read them I stay away and use my dollars elsewhere to grow my spiritual life.

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