What’s the Big Deal?
I just finished reading Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins. I did this because so many people have asked my opinion about it. Love Wins is the first Rob Bell book I have ever completed. His material normally is not challenging or enlightening to me on any level whatsoever. Love Wins was the same. However, people are not asking me if I find the material challenging or enlightening. They are asking me if I agree with it. And I can say, for the most part, yes I do. In fact I don’t see what the big deal is.
There’s something people really need to deal with that they often do not deal with. Christian people often refuse to deal with the fact that, as Bell stated, we shape our God and then our God shapes us. A huge number of Christians will tell you that at their church they just teach the Bible, not the “opinion of man,” as if the Bible and our opinion of it can truly be separated. That’s simply absurd. You pick up the Bible. You read it. You think about it, but you tend to think differently about certain things than I do. You see nuances I may not see, and miss ones I may catch. You read with different eyes, different understandings, and even different needs and a different heart.
This is what it means to say you shape your God. You read into the text the God you need to believe in. I know. I do too. We all do. The question is, who do you need God to be? In order for God to “save” you, bring you peace and joy, and assure you that you are safe in this universe, do you need to know beyond doubt that millions of other people have missed the boat and are burning in hell? If so, that’s the God that appeals to you. The thing that’s important is that we stop this shell-game of insisting that this or that opinion of the Bible and its meaning is completely drawn from the text itself and is therefore the authoritative version and any other opinions or ideas must therefore be not only wrong but heretical.
As far as I’m concerned, the very best thing about Love Wins is the number of questions it asks. If someone simply reads all these questions and then sits with them for a while, I think the truth will make itself clear. They will make Bell’s basic point appear necessary, which I believe it is if we are to really believe God is who we have always said God is.
In the meantime, why is this book controversial? Does Rob Bell ever once make the claim that he knows what happens to people after they die? Nope. Does he ever claim there is no such thing as hell or that no one is going there? Much the opposite. Does he ever claim that anyone other than the risen Christ is working to bring people to the knowledge of God? Never.
Objections and Responses
“But it leans toward universalism.” Definitely — at least compared to the “turn or burn” version of things. And still, leaning toward universalism and being a universalist are very different. “It’s terrible theology.” Well certainly it is for those who reject his ideas. C.S. Lewis would beg to differ. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, defends the book. “It’s heresy.” So you say, but you didn’t even really read the book, apparently — after all, you still think Bell’s a universalist. 🙂 “But millions of people in hell has been the established position of the church for two thousand years.” Yeah. They thought burning people alive was a good idea too. They’ve had a lot of bad ideas. They’ve been wrong a lot. Don’t be offended by that, it’s just facts.
It’s always funny to me how good Protestants will rail on Catholics like crazy for not really getting the whole God thing, but when Protestant B departs from strict orthodoxy, Protestant A will start saying how “the church has always believed…” (which must mean the Catholic Church since they were the only game in town for so long). Personally, I’m not in the least bit anti-Catholic, but the double-standard is funny. Which is it? Do the Catholics always get it or not? I think they’re like me. And like you. And like Rob Bell. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong. Hopefully they continue to pray for the wisdom and humility to know which is which.
I’m sure Rob Bell prays for the same. In the meantime, Love Wins said things that need to be said and I applaud Bell for his courage. Of course Love Wins. Isn’t God love? Doesn’t God win?
Rule for commenting on this post. You must have actually read the book.