I want to give a preliminary response to Rob Bell’s discussion of his new book Love Wins. First, I have not read the book yet so my response is chiefly from his interview on livestream. You can check it out here. I am purchasing the book today (because my wife said I could 🙂 ) and will be do another response to the book in full.
My thoughts concerning Bell’s new book are similar to the thoughts I posted on it in a Facebook dialogue when the controversy first came out. Ultimately, I think Bell is reaching out and asking some very good and provocative questions. As I guessed he does not give direct answers, but rather leaves them open for people to think about. He did firmly say that he is not a universalist which I am somewhat glad mainly so he can’t come under any criticism for leaving that open. Bell’s description of a God that forces people into heaven even if they do not want to be there, is I think an accurate statement. If that is what universalism is then it is not a God of love. I was impressed at how he handled many of the questions that were posed to him and ultimately thought he gave some very powerful pastoral answers. In me saying that does not in any way diminish his responses, in some ways they may be better than high academic answers about theodicy, because they are actually grounded in real human suffering and pastoral care. For me Bell is not saying anything new or really that heretical. I count myself as pretty orthodox in many of my beliefs (friends always joke that I am the crazy orthodox one in our group) and I do find anything extremely heretical in Bell’s statement. He flatly denies being a universalist and his other comments are no different from what many others, people like N.T. Wright have said. I do want to highlight a couple of big points that I think we should take note of.
- How we talk about heaven and hell directly impacts how we talk about God.
- Orthodoxy is a wide not narrow. Even the church fathers who are the most notorious for labeling heretics understand that there can be difference of opinion.
- Christian descriptions of the Gospel or Good News are not chiefly about believing a set of propositions or certain dogmatic truths, these are important, but the Christian life is meant to be lived in communion with other people.
These are my first thoughts. More will come soon.
Grace and Peace