Friday, September 2, 2011

Having Read Rob Bell's Love Wins

I am slightly intrigued by the fuss over this book. What has he said which is controversial?

What Rob Bell has written is a wonderful challenge to all Christians, but perhaps especially to fellow evangelicals: believe in a big God with a heart of love beyond our imagining.

Constantly referring to Scripture, Bell draws our attention to the passages which tell is of the love and mercy of God which is available to all, which seeks to save all, which is restless at the thought of anyone being left out of the new heaven and new earth in which all nations will find a new home. Doing this is a great service to God's church which so often, advertantly and inadvertantly is exclusive in ways which reflect our frail humanity rather than (say) the crisis of decision for or against God.

Has Rob Bell written the perfectly comprehensive book on the love of God?

No. I do not think so.

I find him curiously vague, if not vacant around some key questions/(non)answers in respect of God and humanity and the possible relationship between the divine and humans.

(1) We are not told what happens to those who choose not to trust in God. What does happen?

(2)  Consistent with the bigness of God's love, beyond our imagining, Bell writes, "every single one of us is endlessly being invited to trust, accept, believe, embrace, and experience [the indestructible love of God]" (p. 194). If we assume this means that God has set up the world in such a manner that even beyond the grave there are infinite opportunities to respond to the endless invitation to trust the love of God, where is the basis for Bell's confidence in Scripture?

(3) Being alert and alive to the urgency with which various Scriptures, including some parables present us with the challenge to decide for or against God, Bell writes about 'This invitation to trust' that it is 'infinitely urgent' (p. 196). But how can an invitation which is endlessly repeated be also infinitely urgent?

At best Bell's God, according to this book, challenges all conceptions of God which fall short of presenting the fullness of the big, generous love of God. At worst Bell's God is a con-artist who uses Scripture to make us think we have one life in which to choose to trust God when in reality we have many more opportunities and can forever put off the day when we die to self in order to live for God.

I would buy the book and read it for what is great about the book.

I wonder if there will be a sequel in which Bell tackles the hard questions he does not adequately answer?

It could be called Choose Now: It Really Does Matter.


Father Ron Smith said...

It seems to me, Peter, that you are expecting the author, Rob Bell, to spell out for you, all the evidence of God's love at work in the world that overcomes the negativity of our human responses to God. This simply would not be possible. As Scripture tells us, there are no limits to God's Love. Either that is Truth or a terrible lie.

I think your epectation of Rob Bell is a symptom of the desire for the certainty that simply is not available through 'sola scriptura'.
Rob is obviously much more hopeful of God's power to Save, than the typical evangelical response to 'words' from Scripture. His belief is in the Word made flesh in Christ - whose example of vulnerable humanity gives hope to all of us who look to Him for salvation.

"God so Loved the world...."

Janice said...

Maybe he's confusing eternity with endless time. I'm under the impression that, at death, time ends for the person who dies. That is, after death, and however we live on, we don't live on in endless time but in eternity, which is not the same thing at all.

Father Ron Smith said...

I Too, Janice have the feeling that time as we know it will not exist. Eternal Life may be simply the quality of life in union with God.

Jackson Baer said...

Nice review. It's important for Christians to build unity instead of looking for ways to divide. The Bible does not teach eternal punishment and God's love & mercy does endure forever. He will judge fairly, how He sees fit.

Suem said...

If everyone DID ultimately choose to trust God, why would that be a problem? Would it invalidate Christ's work on the cross? And, is so, why?

Also, is this really something we should concern ourselves too much with? Whether everyone will be "saved" from hell is purely theoretical. Overall, I can see that many might simplify Bell's speculations to - "hell is cancelled" and then to "so, we don't need God's grace" and that could be dangerous to human salvation. But, I don't think that is Bell's message!