Rob Bell and Love

I am about half way through Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.  I don’t hate it.

This makes me ill.

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.

About shepherd

I am a pastor at a local church.
This entry was posted in Theology. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed
  • Google

15 Responses to Rob Bell and Love

  1. vernon says:

    kinda like purgatory?

  2. Josey says:

    Would purgatory have such a negative connotation if it weren’t tied to Catholicism?

    • shepherd says:

      I think the problem with purgatory is that it has no scriptural basis. The idea that we would suffer enough to get out or that our loved ones who are still in mortal bodies can somehow spring us loose is a little odd and not consistent with scripture.

  3. Eklund says:

    If God’s love redeems all things in the end, Jesus’ going to the cross is unnecessary and nonsensical. Our striving to live a holy life, pleasing to the Lord, wouldn’t really matter if we’d be with Him no matter what we did. Sin would have no consequence. Anything would be OK. I have never heard these ideas before. We’ve been ultra/conservative, fundy types for many years and I just don’t understand these things. Seriously, if we’re all going to be with Jesus in the end, what was the point of going to the cross?

    • shepherd says:

      Good questions. I don’t know the answer. I’ll post a video Rob did which was a great interview. It doesn’t answer everything, but it sure can get your mind working. :) Like fiber for your brain.

  4. vernon says:

    I forgot about that part I was thinking of the temporary part of purgatory but yah scripture is pretty clear that it is your decision that leads to relationship not someone elses. Of course I am not sure that scripture supports the idea that hell will be temporary but I am certain that God does not torture people for eternity. If we are in hell it is of our own choosing as much as salvation. God does not force hell upon us anymore than he forces salvation.

  5. chas says:

    I had a couple of bad moments during the clip. First let me say that I have been familiar with Bell’s ministry for several years and I am somewhat predisposed to respect him if not to be entirely in accord with his views. Having said that, I think the way the book was promoted, the purposefully generated buzz about universalism- buzz which Bell participated in promoting and which he seems to have encouraged, was as cynical as anything I’ve seen this side of Miley Cyrus and Disney. With that in mind, I found that his disclaimer that he doesn’t deliberately cultivate controversy caused me to cringe.

    Another problem for me was his evasion of every question regarding the existence and nature of hell. My theory here is simple: if you don’t know the answer to the question just say so and move on. Ad libing stuff about hell being on earth makes it all about us and that is a problem.

    My real problem with Bell is that in his world, God must be either an all-loving Father (apparently more concerned with our comfort than His glory) or a vengeful monster. Bell then attacks the straw-man monster with gusto. The difficulty is that Bell does not really address the ultimate purpose of God, which I believe is the demonstration of His divine nature in all it’s unfathomable glory. It really is all about Him. We are benefactors of His mercy and love but it is ultimately for His glory. Our fulfillment, our peace, our ultimate comfort rests in serving His purposes. That is why we are fulfilled in caring for and nurturing His creatures and His creation AND in worshiping His majestic being.

  6. shepherd says:

    I thought the part where he tells us that God gives us what we want was a little much.

    He makes me think and I like that.

  7. vernon says:

    his idea that we are inherently good is a little pie in the sky too. I know he has met a lot of people but until he can explain to me how an adult can molest a gradeschooler and 1. say it was her fault and then 2. deny it ever happened after he told me the same thing that she had just told me with zero prompting, I can not believe that people are really good deep down inside.v

  8. vernon says:

    sound a tad bitter? yep. never goes away. ever. She had a flashback last week. made me want to kill him all over again. Make me less of a person? don’t care

    • shepherd says:

      No, defending the defenseless is one of those things God loves.

      Because some are evil does not mean everyone is. I think there is a spark of the image of god in all of us. It is pretty dim in some.

      • vernon says:

        in the same sense I believe there is good in some but not all. I can’t believe that underneath it all Hitler was just misunderstood. Or Mussolini was great guy because the trains ran on time.

        • shepherd says:

          Hitler and other evil men (people) are still made in the image of God. They have thoroughly broken the image, but the image is still there.

          That is genesis not bell.

  9. vernon says:

    in spite of it all we use Nooma videos at yg and the kids enjoy them and learn from them

  10. vernon says:

    oops I thought you said goodness of God not Image my bad. This is what happend when I write emotionally charged instead of rationally thinking! yes we are all made in the image of God

Leave a Reply to shepherd Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>