I give up

Although I’ve been avoiding it for a while now, I suppose the time has finally arrived for me to, reluctantly I must admit, read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. My rebellious nature more often than not refuses to get caught up in the frenzied trends and hot topics of Christian sub-culture. Whenever there is a big what to do about some book, movie, church or Christian leader, I tend to wait until all the blustering is over — then consider the issue objectively while the rest of the crowd moves on to the next new thing.
Unable to isolate myself from all the ecclesiastical chatter, I’ve come to realize this much about the book. Some readers applaud Bell’s writing as an attempt to stir up critical thinking and discussion on the theology of hell. Some welcome and embrace what they believe to be his Universalist position [everyone goes to heaven]. Others condemn him a heretic who denies a clear and particularly important biblical doctrine. Who is right and who is wrong? Is Bell saying what many are accusing him of?
As I prepare to cross the proverbial Rubicon and crack open its pages, two “if” questions loom heavy in my mind.
If…Bell is proposing a Universalist position, why is that? What has he read, uncovered or finally understood about the nature of God, the teaching of Jesus and the Scriptures overall that nearly 2,000 years of Church history and critical exegetical thinking have missed? The matter is not simply about love but also about truth. Love without truth never wins.
If… in spite of what Bell and others may or may not say about it, you and I believe Hell is a reality — how does that reality influence our daily attitudes and actions? Could it be that some who are the strongest proponents of Hell’s reality fail to live as if it is a reality? Is it possible the only time Hell has a practical impact on even the most theologically orthodox and conservative Christians is when its existence gets challenged?
I don’t know exactly what Rob Bell thinks or what he has written but I know how many Christians have responded. Once I’m done reading I can then enter into the dialogue or whatever is left of it. But one way or another, I’m committed to the admonition of the Apostle Paul who said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace.”

4 Responses to “I give up”

  1. July 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I think you have boiled it down to the essentials here. The point about those of us who believe in hell living as functional universalists is something that has been absent from a good bit of what I have read about this issue.

  2. 2 Dorothy
    August 5, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Love to hear your takeaway after completing the book.

  3. 3 Karen
    August 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I’ll also be interested in your takeaway. I haven’t yet read it because although the library has multiple copies, they are always checked out.

    Meanwhile (and while Parkview is doing a series on Greek terms in the Bible), you might find this article relevant as well:


  4. 4 Karen
    November 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Hmm. . . just finished a quick read of Rob Bell’s book (finally it was not checked out of the library). I don’t believe he is a universalist. I find a lot of his understanding of heaven and hell more recognizably Orthodox (as in, classically Christian and biblical) than a lot of the Evangelical and Reformed popularized versions going around. I think he is asking some very good questions. But then I also find the “Christus Victor” understanding of the nature of the Atonement of the patristic period of the Church much more theologically coherent and attractive in the image of God it presents than the popularized version of “Penal Substitution” (arguably a much more recent take on the meaning of Atonement) that is so central in Evangelicalism. I think there is a reason (in our God-given conscience) that a healthy person thrills to the “Superhero comes to the rescue” narrative but is chilled to the bone by the pagan “sacrifice an innocent victim to appease the gods” narrative. I think Bell hits the nail on the head when he warns that the predominant narratives about salvation in many Christian circles make it sound like what we need to be rescued from is God Himself. In the Orthodox Christian understanding, what we really need to be rescued from is our bondage to sin, death and the powers of hell . . . and the good news is Christ has done it!

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re: the random-ness

Husband. Father. Senior Pastor of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Ok...so you've located the place where I put down my random thoughts. The key word here is random: music, sports, art, food, books, news, spiritual musings, weird stories, etc. I'm especially interested in how everyday experiences of life intersect with the ancient stories of Scripture. Thanks for reading.
July 2011
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Thoughts gone by

"No problem can withstand the assault of substantial thinking." Voltaire



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