Posted by: Ed | April 7, 2011

WHAT ABOUT ROB? Love Wins part 2

Now for some thoughts about Love Wins. Before we get into it, allow me a qualifier. This is not a comprehensive review of the book. It’s not a point-by-point critique. There are a lot of things you might want to get into, but here are a few that I thought were worth getting into.

I’ll start with my favorite thing about Rob’s book: he’s asking brutally hard questions about the most difficult part of Christianity to swallow and—now here’s the kicker—he is asking them in the way that people outside of the church are actually asking them. You know those conversations in which the guy at the gym, your coworker or your buddy at Starbucks says, “You mean to tell me….” That’s what Rob is doing. He’s going after BIG GAME. He’s huntin’ Elephant! And he clearly has no interest in simply towing the company line.

Okay then!

The problem is that when you tackle a deep, mysterious, and difficult subject like this, it seems you either have to write a long-long-long book and/or you have to write a book with a great deal of precision and clarity (kind like a theology text book); or you have to write a devotional book that doesn’t stir the waters. It’s hard to write a “Rob Bell-Book” that takes on the things that Rob has taken on in Love Wins.

That being said, Rob raises- and addresses- some great questions. For one, Most notably, he deconstructs mainstream Christianity’s understanding of heaven and hell; you can hear echoes of Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy when Rob rightly insists that heaven is not some place out in the galaxy somewhere and that hell is not an underground lava-filled torture chamber. Rob’s treatment of the ge-henna is masterful (I did a message a few years back talking about hell that unpacked this term) and helpful if perhaps too brief.

I also like the way that Rob takes us away from “in and out” thinking. I believe this to be one of the ironic undercurrents of the Gospels. Jesus constantly surprised (and scandalized) people by including the un-includable and by questioning the place of the presumptive insiders.

Matt. 8:11 “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;

Rob also takes apart our “pray the prayer and you’re in” theology. For many of us this is sacred. It’s how I became a Christ follower in High School. But at the risk of being “farewelled,” let me point out that this theology is nowhere found in the Bible. And for the more reformed among you, it’s not in the writings of the reformers either – show me where Calvin, Luther et al thought this. It is a distinctly American evangelical way to describe believing in Jesus, and it seems to have originated with Charles Finny (a decidedly unCalvinistic type).

Some Stuff I Didn’t Like

I wanted to like this book. I’ve liked every one of Rob’s books so far (I’ve read three). “So did you?” The short answer to the question is “Yes… sort of.”

Rob wants to show how love wins (duh!) He wants to champion’s God’s grace and overcoming love. In doing so however, he seems to make the same missteps of the ideas he deconstructs. I hate to use this word, but the book seemed, in a word, REDUCTIONISTIC. There were lots and lots of notes on my Kindle version that begin with “yeah, but…” Rob has explicitly denied being a “universalist” (one who believes that everyone eventually ends up ‘in heaven’ regardless of their connection to Christ). But I honestly don’t see where else he is going. Again, this is a “ROB BELL-BOOK” – those of you who have read Rob’s books know what I mean. I wasn’t expecting Scot McKnight or John Piper. Nonetheless, having read the book, I’m not sure what Rob concludes about the whole issue of Eternal Destiny. If you’ve read C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce (if you haven’t, go do so… NOW! Seriously, NOW!), you will recognize a few themes that have influenced Rob. But it’s like Rob takes them one step farther.

I would also like to have Rob discuss in greater detail the particularity of Christ, the gospel and atonement. He teases us a little, but he doesn’t work this out enough, at least to my satisfaction. I’m sure a lot of Rob’s critics will conclude that he is dangerously inclusivistic (I mean this in the theological sense). But I’m not sure where Rob actually lands. This is true in several places and is my general frustration with Love Wins.

Finally, let me touch on one specific contention I had with LW. Rob talks about the various ways in which the cross and salvation are described in the New Testament, i.e. redemption, reconciliation, atonement, Christus Victor, etc. He goes on to say…

“It’s like this…”
“It’s like that…”

The point, then isn’t to narrow it to one particular metaphor, image, explanation or mechanism. Toe elevate one over the other to insist that there is a “correct” or right” one is to miss the brilliant, creative work these first Christians were doing when they used these images and metaphors.

Hmmm. No me gusta the “M” word.
The authoritative dictionary that came with my Mac says a metaphor is.
Noun;
a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable

The problem is that none of these are metaphors. They were realities. For example:

• Blood was shed
• Christ was a sacrifice
• We were reconciled to God
• Evil was defeated

Yes, they explained these in ways that connected with first century worldview and culture. But they were explaining very real things. Now, understanding those realities, getting a fresh look at them, I’m all over that, but it’s not like we are free to dismiss these as metaphors, drop the ones we deem currently irrelevant. I agree that the gospel is bigger than an explanation of the “penal substitution” theory of the atonement. But the whole “these things are symbols and metaphors” deal has been tried and found wanting.

Here are a few quick thoughts to conclude – they are more my thoughts than reflections on Rob’s book:
√ We NEED to ask these questions. We need a good answer to the questions that start with “you mean to tell me that…”
√ This is a dark and mysterious area. The Bible is full of pictorial language when it talks about heaven, hell, and our lives after death. The odds are that many of our ideas are off. God is speaking about things that are outside our experience, so let’s give each other a little room here. There is an old story of a pastor who had in his notes “point 3 is weak, yell like hell!” I wonder how much of the foment is really about our uncertainty and how uncomfortable we are with it.
√ There is no escaping TENSION when you read the Bible. Yes, love wins. So does righteousness. Holiness wins. Yes,
√ There are a variety of views on heaven and hell that span the entire history of the church. One of the greatest preachers, writers and thinkers in our particular stream of faith, the great John Stott recently announced that he believes in annihilationism. Let’s not “farewell” someone over this. (Annihilationism, simply put, is the view that those in hell will after a finite amount of time be totally consumed and cease to exist (i.e. be annihilated) as opposed to consciously existing and presumably suffering forever).
√ Heaven and hell are both present and future realities. However you understand it, make sure you talk about heaven as something you really want and hell as something you really, really, really don’t want. Symbolic terms like “lakes of fire” may not be strictly speaking “literal” but they are depicting something that is horrific. Could it be that our problem is that we don’t see the value of life with God as so great that life WITHOUT Him seems absolutely ghastly?
√ There is much that we don’t know about the Judgment that is to come. But we do know God! We do know how He has been with us. We know what the Scripture reveals about Him. One of my fall back passages is Psalm 98:8-9
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
9 Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.
There is indeed a lot we don’t know about God’s judgment; but this we do know. IT WILL BE FAIR! No one will be saying, “Wow, that guy got HOSED!”
√ Knowing God and His character, experiencing Him as we have frees us from an “either/or”, “this or that” mentality. We are free to say, “I’m not sure”. It’s o.k. to say, “I don’t know how that fits in with a loving God.” There are points we can say, “I’m not sure what to make of that passage.” Let me humbly suggest that this is a better approach than pretending that we have it all figured out or our system of interpretation, or our theology explains it all. Let’s embrace with gusto the shocking, outrageous, risky, sacrificial love of God. Let us learn to “rejoice in His judgments.” (Psalm 97:8)
√ Can I end by issuing two scriptural pleas? From the interactions that I’ve had with my unchrurched friends, I think it’s safe to say we’ve taken a black eye. Blame whomever you would like. That’s not my point here. But here are my two pleas:
1. James 1:19 But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.
In case you are tempted to retort, “yes, but God’s cause is at stake” keep reading. “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” It just doesn’t.
2. Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? How much different would we look if we were known as people who did justice (mishpat) and loved kindness (chesed) and walked humbly with our God, lost in the marvel that He loves us, and we love Him and can in His name love our neighbor!

What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I havn’t finished the book yet, so i don’t really have an opinion on it either way but i love how balanced yours is. You show the things you like and the things you disagree with, but what i love most s that even though you disagree your not quick to right off Rob Bell & the things you do like. I also love that you are willing to own up to the fact that the prayer of accepting God is a cultural or a religious (as in the human made part of religion) act not a biblical based one. i grew up in the catholic church where we are baptized and then take confirmation and now being part of the non denom i struggle when people talk about that pivotal moment of accpeting christ into their heart becuase for me it always just was, i took my confirmation because he was always in my heart and i always wanted him to be. i never had this single moment where i prayed a specific prayer & it always gets to me when people say that i or even my children HAVE TO to be christians. Anyway thanks for your thoughts, i think they are honest, Truthfull, and well rounded!

  2. So when are we going to get to read the first Ed Noble book?

  3. Ed, you are the most knowledgeable and smart surfer dude I know! Ok, I don’t know a lot of surfer dudes, but still. :) thanks for sharing

  4. Sarah – that explains why I am the most knowledgeable… the guys I surf with be pretty smart. :-)

  5. I completely agree with you regarding the metaphors. The cross, the blood, the reconciliation are real. Metaphors are used to explain or amplify our understanding of something abstract. These ideas may be difficult to get your head around (particularly the reconciliation), but they are not abstractions. A real God-man was nailed to a real cross who shed real blood.

    I wonder, though, if there is no “prayer that gets you in”, then what does? It can’t be that we’re all in or else why did Christ have to die? At some point there has to be SOMETHING that separates the “included” from the “un-included” (not the un-includable, which is a human label, not a divine one). Is it simply an verbal acceptance of Christ? A verbal admittance of his divinity, sonship, death, and resurrection? It may not be a “prayer” per se, but Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” So maybe it’s semantics to say it’s not a prayer, but words must be involved, it seems, not simply a heart belief.

  6. Tara – hmmm. “Words must be involved.” I’m not sure that’s the case. And if so what words? I remember when I first gave my life to Christ. Every service I went to when the guy gave the invitation and led in the prayer there were different words – I thought I’d missed something :-). The thief on the cross just said “remember me”. The gentiles in Acts 10 didn’t say anything – holy spirit fell, they spoke in tongues and Peter baptized them. The jailer in Acts 16 just believed. Chuck Colson prayed the Lords prayer when he became a Christian. John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed. It’s also possible to accept him as Lord with your words and not be saved – not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord… Matt 7:21.

  7. Really interesting and informative stuff Ed! Thanks!

    I have been wrestling a little with the idea that the book appeals to those “outside” the church, since they are the ones so often asking the tough questions. Funny, but as long as I have been a Christ follower, I have struggled with the “you mean to tell me..” questions too. I have never arrived at the place of certainty that so many of my faithful friends have inhabited for so long. I guess that’s why I have always been attracted to the Rob Bell’s of the world. Because, though I have had my backside in the seat of a church for most of my adult life, many of those questions still roll around in my head and heart. I have been in many Christian circles in which when I raised a question, or challenged an assumption, with, “how do you know”? or “really?” I felt the immediate heat of judgment and even..shock. As if asking, was tantamount to heresy itself.

    So thank you for wading into the rough water. Thank you for being the kind of leader who doesn’t condemn, correct, minimize or dismiss the big questions. And I hope we all keep our hearts open to what the questions are really about…who is God and how can I know Him?

  8. I’m with Greg. When I said the other day, “this is the best post you’ve written in a long time,” I didn’t mean to imply that any others were bad. But you are at best when you let it rip and when you lead us into deep and not still waters. In this you shine as one of God’s lights so please keep writing as I think its part of God’s call for you.

    I’m reading so many books for school, I don’t own Rob’s yet. If you’re game to lend it for a week, I promise I’ll return it ASAP. However, I want to respond to a few of your points.

    C.S. Lewis wrote some great non-fiction but “The Great Divorce” and some of his other powerful works are in the form of fiction/fantasy. In the creative, we can use metaphor and narrative to actually reveal truth and touch on that which is most mysterious. Personally, I’m leaning towards using the non-fiction genre to write about God for the very reasons you allude to in “why it is hard to write a ‘Rob Bell-Book’ that takes on the things” he does.

    When I first met you and was trying to decide whether to be baptized again in public as an adult, I really needed to know JCC’s theology. I remember asking you if this meant I had to take on the belief that all people who weren’t Christians were going to hell because this wasn’t my take on things. I had Jewish and Muslim friends who I knew were living God inspired lives but who happened to be raised in different faiths and in different parts of the world. I loved your response. And I got baptized as a result of it. (And you know how I feel about the Valley of Hinnom sermon. It had particular relevance in light of my mother’s suicide and is something I continually come back to. Likewise, it will be a focal point (is a focal point) in my own writing).

    As for the tension in the Bible, this is why I am completely SMITTEN with the book. I don’t want to follow a God who spells it all out for me like a child being spoon fed. If I’m as smart as God, well then I’m not interested. That would be like dating someone you could walk all over. I want a God who CHALLENGES me and keeps me on my toes, allowing me to grow yet who profoundly and deeply loves me. That is the mystery who is our Maker.

    As I study OT, one thing I’m coming to realize is that as Christians, we don’t look at the OT and NT enough as a narrative that builds upon and complements each other. Often we negate the OT, claiming the God of the OT is harsh and punishing where the God of the NT is loving and forgiving. Or we focus too much on the OT’s laws and prophesies without realizing that God ultimately loves and forgives in the OT too. Or we look at the NT too lightly without realizing Christ as an embodiment and fulfillment of the OT but in ways the Israelites didn’t anticipate. (This is too long of a topic to write with any weight or merit on a blog and at 6:00 am in the morning). But I see lack of accepting just how complex God’s story with us is as part of the problem when we get into black and white thinking and the behavioral consequences of over-simplification.

    The kingdom is breaking in but we are still in a fallen world.

    Finally, you referenced a few scriptures that touched me. I remember you lecturing (sermonizing) on James when I was new to JCC. I LOVED his metaphors of the tongue being fire and the imagery of the bridle (bits in the horses mouth) and udder of the ship. Thank you for introducing me to the Word. How I love it. And so ironic, just last night I translated the story of the Centurion from Matthew. I had found it so interesting that in Matt. 8:11, the words for east and west also imply rising and setting and that the verb to recline implies being at the table eating so there is no word for table in the passage. I never would have studied Greek if you hadn’t mentioned it from the pulpit. Thank you. You have changed my life in ways you don’t even know.

  9. I meant to say “leaning towards the fiction genre….” Once you post these things, you can’t go back and edit. Geez. I need to proof read and/or drink more coffee in the morning. There are typos and wrong word choices galore in here.

  10. I agree with what Tara is saying. Scripture clearly states that something is to be spoken as a part of this acceptance process. It also holds Christians accountable to share that message so that the truth of salvation can be heard.

    Romans 10:8-10 — 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    Romans 10:13 & 14 — 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

    As seen here, it’s not so much about the words that are spoken, but about the sincerity of those words.

  11. I think it’s good to speak, to confess, to acknowledge. I’m with you there. But, I don’t think that “scripture clearly states that something is to be spoken as a part of the acceptance process.”
    There are just too many place in the scripture that don’t say ANYTHING about certain words, or any words that need to be spoken.
    Here’s one place
    John 6:35 ¶ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst…
    Here’s another
    John 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
    Here’s yet another by the same author
    Acts 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
    Acts 16:31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    If “praying a prayer is a requirement for the “acceptance process” (which itself is not in the New Testament), if you have to repeat some words and be sincere (again, our words not the Bible’s) then you would see that over and over. You simply don’t.
    Paul’s point in Romans is about the dependability of God and the availability of salvation. “Just cry out and call on the name of the Lord” he’s saying (quoting an Old T phrase).
    I know for many of us, myself included, “praying the prayer” has marked the beginning of our journey with God. I still invite people to do it every weekend at Journey. But let’s be real clear not to confuse how we have come to explain what it means to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” with what it actually means. That’s how we get off base.
    Hope this helps clarify things, at least my perspective on things.
    Ed

    • Hi Ed,

      I am wondering if you and/or everyone else think that accepting or beleiving in Jesus secures entry into heaven. Even demons believe. James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons beleive that – and shudder.”

      The question behind the question of heaven and hell seems to be how does a person get into heaven? According to Matthew 7:14 “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

      It is clear to me that there must be four things that take place in order to get to heaven. First, there must be a confession of sin, an admission that we have contradicted God’s law, and we are not worthy of going to heaven on our own. All of us have failed to reach God’s standard. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

      The second is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the one and only true savior. Only through him will we have relationship with God. John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

      Third, we should repent by turning away from our sins and toward God. Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”

      Fourth, we should surrender everything to God and follow him. Luke 9:23 ‘”Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”‘

      This seems pretty simple to me, and I am not sure why there seems to be so much confusion about this.

  12. Ed-
    I just love reading your stuff. I can almost hear your voice as I read it.

    I appreciate how you noted that what some call metaphors are in fact realities:
    • Blood was shed
    • Christ was a sacrifice
    • We were reconciled to God
    • Evil was defeated

    I couldn’t agree more with you as you wrote: “Could it be that our problem is that we don’t see the value of life with God as so great that life WITHOUT Him seems absolutely ghastly?” That is the genius of grace (& mercy)!

    But you also said:
    “terms like “lakes of fire” may not be strictly speaking “literal” but they are depicting something that is horrific.”

    Throughout the Gospels, I read Christ’s references to Hell as literal fact, not metaphor. Are you too saying that Christ’s mention of Hell are symbolic?

    • Hi David,

      I have heard that Jesus talked about hell more than heaven. He was one of the first fire and brimstone teachers!

  13. Wow, loving the discussion.
    Starting with David – Christ describes life without God and judgment on a life without God in several different terms. He never uses the phrase “lake of Fire” that’s in Revelation. When Christ talks about the destiny of those who refuse the life that He is offering there are several different terms – gehenna is literally a value that runs through Jerusalem (our hotel was on the other side of it last time I was in Jerusalem -so I kept amusing myself saying “we are going to hell and back”). It’s where they burned trash. If you are a Simpson’s lover think of the Springfield Tire Fire. He talks about outer darkness, not being at the feast, being cast out. So “no” Jesus doesn’t talk about a literal lake of fire. There may be one. That’s not what I’m saying here. Afterlife is a fact. Judgment is a sure thing. Our current choices effecting our destiny, that’s a fact. But the question is “literal”.
    I don’t believe it is true that “Jesus talked more about hell than about heaven.” Jesus was obsessed with the Kingdom of “the heavens” – the kingdom of God all around us. He offered entrance to that eternal kind of life now.
    Hope this helps.
    Ed

  14. Now a quick reply to Jess.
    I don’t disagree with anything you said. But remember we need to go back to the text of the Bible itself. There isn’t a 1-2-3-4 formula anywhere. The Gospel is that the Kingdom of God is available NOW for anyone regardless of how bad or good they’ve been.
    Here’s what Mark says Jesus was preaching:
    Mark 1:14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, 2bpreaching the gospel of God,
    Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
    Notice how it’s not exactly like what we would normally outline.
    As I shared in another comment, in Acts 16 all Paul says to one guy asking how to be saved is to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” In another place (Acts 10) Peter is preaching away and people get saved, the Holy Spirit falls and they get baptized. As far as we know they never said anything.
    Here’s the point: coming to Christ is not only or primarily a transaction. Words like faith, turning to, coming to, abiding – are relational words. It’s not acknowledging a set of facts.
    Ed

  15. First I want to say thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your willingness to engage in this discussion. I agree that there are not “specific words”, but those verses are calling us to claim our fait, and what better way to claim something than by speaking out?

    Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.

    That being said, many people consciously choose to reject Christ, which is my issue with Rob Bell and his view on hell and salvation.

    1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

    Mathew 7:13&14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    On a side note, I think it’s unreasonable to compare those who spoke out against Rob Bell to pharisees. Some of these Christians express a true concern for lost people and their eternal destiny. The pharisees, on the other hand, were hypocrites and full of pride. They studied the scriptures, but didn’t know God or recognize His Son, and did not exhibit love. This simply is not the same, unless a person’s definition of love is to be permissive and accepting of anything and everything, which again is not scriptural.

    You said: “How do you know they didn’t rip into Rob ‘in love’?” you may ask. Well for starters, “love is patient…”— it’s the first flippin’ one, for crying out loud!”

    Well, certainly there are many examples of Jesus rebuking people publicly, and harshly at that. Rebuking someone does not signify a lack of patience, as there is still an opportunity to respond. Christians are called to stand up boldly against false teaching.

    1 Timothy 4:1-2, 6 “1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.”

    I hope that was all coherent…it’s late and past my bedtime. :)

  16. Ed,

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary on the book.

    My one comment is that I don’t see the issue with his use of the word “metaphor.” Even this article in Christianity Today on the subject of Christus Victor states “With these clarifications, biblical substitutionary atonement in all its nuances (the Bible frames it in subtly different ways: as sacrifice, propitiation, and payment) remains the dominant metaphor for atonement in Scripture.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/aprilweb-only/christusvicarious.html

    The Latin root suggests the term means “a transfer” or “a carrying over” which I think is a good way to describe the supernatural achievement of a physical reality.

  17. Thanks for your perspective Ed. It’s making me think about what I undertand (in my little mind) about God, the Word, all the things that make up my Christianity. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be within His plan. That’s a good thing.

  18. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book, as promised, Ed :)

    I haven’t read the book, other than excerpts, but from what many have said who have, including you, I don’t think it would clarify things any further for me. Rob seems to delight in “asking hard questions” but frankly doesn’t seem to take nearly as much care (if any) with offering answers – and therefore, HOPE, to those who may be asking sincere questions.

    If you, a student of the Word, a “professional” for lack of a better term, read his book and can come away saying, “I’m not sure what Rob concludes about the whole issue of Eternal Destiny,” what does that do for the impressionable or new believers who have their faith “deconstructed” by authors and teachers like Bell? Again, I agree with you in that, “We need a good answer to the questions …” The problem is they certainly aren’t being given by Bell — not to mention that the solid things that we do know from Scripture, God’s Word, are being obscured and doubted by those who hold influence over so many.

  19. Thanks for calling me a “professional” :-)

  20. Nice post Ed, handled very well and objectively. I always wonder about a guy like Bell in regards to his faith and the courage it takes to step out of line on such a big topic if he truly loves Jesus, which I suspect he does. As a ‘reformed guy’ I can’t get with many of his ideas and as a simpleton I can’t keep up with the post modern lingo anyway… One place where it pains my heart is in the area of unity. The church being the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the branches, the sheep etc and so on… I look forward to the day when all things are made right! All I know for sure is that I’m a dirtbag, Jesus is awesome and I get to wear his clothes when it matters most! To quote Wind In His Hair from Dances With Wolves…..”Good trade.”

    Hope your well brother and we get to surf together soon. ~g

  21. Thanks for this, Ed. :) Appreciate your thoughtful response – and your critical reading. I haven’t chosen to engage in the arguments and firestorm stirring around this book, but I appreciate the polemic-free way you entered the discussion. God bless you!

  22. Ed,

    Thanks for your review. I found it interesting and insightful. I think it was fair and I agree with some of the points you have highlighted. I also appreciate your irenic approach to the subject considering what is at stake here. I’m not a a very big Rob Bell fan, as you can tell from my previous post, but I do try to gleen something redemptive from those I disagree with, especially when builds my faith and conviction in the Word. I’m sure you know, but for others who have posted who don’t know, regarding your comment about John Stott, annihilationism is “heterodox” and within the accepted teachings of the historic orthodox tradition. Whereas “universalism” is considered by many as heresy and inclusivism is also very suspect. I know you are a “4-pointer”, and I appreciate your kindness towards us “Modernly Reformed-types”. By the way, I think Michael Horton has a great podcast interview from a gentlemen who reviewed Rob’s book that you may find helpful from his Whitehorse Inn website.

    But, like you mentioned, although Rob may not plainly state that he is not a universalist, I would agree with you that based on the video and moreover based on the content of his book, it really does not leave one with any other impression other than that he is a universalist with perhaps inclusivistic tendancies.

    On another note, thanks for setting the record straight regarding your take on what has been known as “easy believism”. I think many people really need to consider, study and allow the Holy Spirit really break through in order for one to make that most important decision in life with regards to understanding and believing the Gospel. I appreciate the fact that you make it simple and easy for common folk understand. The problem is that many prematurely jump in without really knowing what they are committing themselves to, and unfortunately end up like the ones who fell away that are mentioned in the Gospels. Keep preaching and teaching the word in order to build up the disciples Ed! Train us and disciple us so we too can go out and proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth in accordance with the Great Commision.

    en Kristos

    William

  23. W – thanks the comment.
    Yes, I can tell you are not a Rob fan and I appreciate your frustration with the book. I had some frustrations with it as well. Some of them were a matter of writing style.
    I do hope that lots of people read this book. The point of a gospel (good news) is that it is preached to those who are outside. I think wrestling with Rob and these ideas – even disagreeing will help us engage the people we are called to talk to in a more authentic and effective way.
    Shalom l’cha
    Ed

  24. Where to start? I’m late to this thread, but I am saddened by it–ALL of it. I am most saddened Ed that “you hope lots of people read this book”. why? why do you want people to read a book that points AWAY from Truth? That alone is false teaching. Contrary to your comments that we should be “loving” toward Rob Bell, the apostle Paul tells us no such thing. In fact, Paul exhorts us to “flee from such things” (1 Tim 6:11) preceded by vv. 3-5 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, THOSE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST…he is conceited and understands nothing, but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes…& constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth”. Those “sound words” that Jesus spoke about hell (and Jesus spoke about hell more than any other subject) are in in Matthew 10:28: Jesus said “do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul & body in hell”. Hebrews 10:32 says “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Furthermore, Paul tells Timothy in I Tim 1, to “instruct certain men NOT to teach strange doctrines” and in 2 Tim 2:23 Paul says to “refuse foolish and ignorant speculations knowing that they produce quarrels”. Why, then Ed, are you defending Rob Bell rather than fleeing his destructive doctrines? Why are you not exposing Rob Bell’s false doctrines? Jesus never lied about hell, and He certainly never shied away from the truth. Jesus desired that we would not perish (John 3:16) but rather be “saved thru Him” (John 3:17). Saved from what? Hell is real, and if people do NOT know the whole truth, then we have deceived them and ourselves and therefore, we have NOT been loving. Jesus said “those who love me keep my commandments”, which includes not taking “His name in vain” (Exodus 20:6, 7). False teaching is the same as taking His Holy name in vain, and that is not love. Love NEVER wins when it is lying.


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