Love, Belief & Rob Bell


Soon after my last entry on Rob Bell I finished his book Love Wins. It is a wonderful read/listen (his express train reading brings the book in at 3'39"!). What an amazing gift of communication he has. His writing is dynamic and gripping, and never fails to engage the mind and emotions. I would have easily listened to this in one sitting if I had the opportunity.

There are so many reviews of this on the web, both positive and negative, and it has been a real eye-opener to see the controversy and furore this has caused, particularly in the American church. Some have even criticised Bell for daring to ask the questions and 'plant doubts' in people's minds. One YouTube reviewer says "When we question God we actually get into a lot of trouble". One of the reasons I love the Psalms is that honest questions are not shrinked from! If we criticise people for even asking questions I dread to think where we will end up!

One train of thought that began as I listened to Bell, was the nature of belief and how we express what we believe. How can we tell what we actually believe? When Bell talks about hell I have to ask myself what I really believe about it. Do I believe that Gandhi will end up there because he wasn't a Christian? What about my friends and family who aren't Christians. Do I believe that they will burn for eternity in a lake of fire? If I do believe that, then why am I not haranguing them day and night to persuade them to accept Christ? The fact that I am not must say something of what I really believe?

Is my belief defined by what I say? If I say "I believe in Jesus" and adhere to this or that creed of beliefs, is that belief? Will that save me? Jesus didn't seem to put those conditions on people he ministered to. He was a lot more free and generous with his forgiveness. The woman who washed his feet with her tears went away forgiven, not because she was 'in' with the right group, indeed she was very much 'out', but because she saw her own need and recognised Jesus had something to give her; she was forgiven! The paralysed man who was let through the roof didn't even ask for forgiveness but Jesus gave it anyway, as well as healing him. How much theology did the thief on the cross have? Probably not much, but he saw his own need and the one who could meet it.

God is running to forgive us and all He is looking for is faith in our hearts, faith that He is the One who loves us and the One who can forgive us. I don't think I am a Universalist, but maybe the struggle to believe in a doctrine where God forgives all in the end, is really a struggle to believe that He is falling over himself to forgive us in the first place.

Comments

Ron Krumpos said…
In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism:

(46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

(59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

(80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote "In God we all meet."
Suz said…
Well, Mike, you are not shrinking from the controversy. The day I read your youtube interview post, I read a post by another friend that was critical of Bell's message.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2011/03/16/effective-tragic/

I have not read the book, nor was I impressed with him in the interview you posted. But, in the youtube posting above, I was intrigued by Bell's wrestling questions and persistent faith in God's goodness.
Suz said…
"God is running to forgive us and all He is looking for is faith in our hearts, faith that He is the One who loves us and the One who can forgive us. I don't know if I am a Universalist or not, but maybe the struggle to believe in a doctrine where God forgives all in the end, is really a struggle to believe that He is falling over himself to forgive us in the first place." -- I really like this.
Pietro said…
"You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."
Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

Luke (7:46-48)