I am about half way through Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins. I don’t hate it.
I don’t think, in the end, I am going to love it either.
What I know is this, Rob Bell has fed my soul for many years and I am not about to toss him out of my little circle of orthodoxy because he wonders about heaven and hell and doesn’t think God would torture people for all eternity.
I guess the reason I have some latitude here is I am not entirely sure about heaven and hell myself.
I know the arguments. I’ve made them. I am just not sure I believe them any more.
I don’t think the current, evangelical view of hell fits the character of a God who would die for the world. It doesn’t fit any more than the Old Testament genocidal conquest narratives fit.
I almost lost my faith over the conquest narratives. I contemplated them and my faith began to unravel. I wondered how the same God who offered Himself as a sacrifice on behalf of humanity could tell His people to kill everyone who was not like them. It just didn’t compute.
My faith was saved (clever play on words, eh?) when I preached through 1 John. I came to 4:16 which says, “We have come to know and believed the love which God has for us….” We have come to know Love. Love–the One who came and died for us. Love–the One who would rather die than let us be ignorant of His love for us. I figured if God loved me that much, I could trust Him in the Old Testament. I just trusted that whatever was going on in the Old Testament was beyond my understanding.
I think the same thing about hell. If hell is like modern evangelicals think it is, and everyone who does not become a Christian in this life burns for all of eternity in horrible, conscious misery, then I will trust God knows what He is doing.
BUT, if, somehow, God’s love ultimately redeems all things, and all things include all people, then I will celebrate. I will cheer the prodigal who returns. And should love win, I will even celebrate the older brother when he joins the party.
Rob Bell said in a recent interview, “Let us not make our speculations into dogma.” I will not. I will let love rule the day with Pastor Bell and I will trust love rules the day with God.
So, Rob, if you ever read this, thanks for your teachings–including this one. Thanks for believing in a God who loves more than I do. Thanks for reminding me He does.