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Love Wins

Posted by Moe Monday, June 13, 2011

I've heard around the water cooler that Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived" is a bit controversial, but I honestly didn't care enough to learn why until saw a recent cover of TIME Magazine featuring the story. I thought, "Whoa. Rob Bell is on the cover of TIME?! I gotta see this." So I proceeded to read the article while sitting at my parents-in-law's home at 11:30 at night last weekend (one should note that I can hardly stay awake after 10:30 most days, much less read non-fiction at that hour...needless to say it must have been interesting).

Here's a link to the article, which summarizes the book and the reaction to it, and here's the summary of the book from Amazon.com:

Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"?

Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.

But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?

What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?

Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the "good news" is much, much better than we ever imagined.

Love wins.

And here's what I have to say about it (note that I haven't actually read the book, just the article):

I am so thankful that Mr. Bell publicly shared his insights with the world on this topic, as I have wondered about similar ideas for many years. Over time I have landed on my usual conclusion of "I don't know." But it's not a lazy, apathetic "I don't know", but rather it's a facing of the reality that God is far bigger and more incomprehensible than we even realize, and therefore how could I know? A friend of mine recently referred to this idea as "Christian Agnosticism", which I really latched on to.

I was discussing this with another friend who brought up Jesus' references to Gehenna and the Lazarus parable, and then posed the question, "What do you do with that?". My response is simply that we are not given enough information in Scripture to do anything with that. And the best part is--that's okay! As Christ-followers, we are not required to know everything about every issue that the Church has ever faced. In fact, we would probably be much better at following Jesus if we would do just that - follow Him by loving God and loving our neighbors. I gotta give it to Rob Bell - he nailed it by summing all of this up with the phrase "Love wins".

Contrarily, I was saddened to see that so much of the Evangelical community has come out against both Mr. Bell's ideas and Mr. Bell himself so ferociously. I'm especially saddened to see a teacher who I used to follow closely, John Piper, respond with such judgment and exclusion. To respond with hate to a book about love is just plain ridiculous. Come on, guys.

Finally, I do not intend to start a theological debate here on my blog on this topic, but am very happy to have an open, learning-based conversation on the topic of "Love Wins" as both a book and an idea. I'd also be interested to hear about other literature with a similar orientation if you have thoughts on that.

..."for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
-Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (2:2)


ukweli said...

Hell as understood by the Evangelical community has always been the single hardest point of doctrine for me to accept. I cannot reconcile the concept of a good and just God with infinite punishment for any action in a finite lifetime.