Furious commentary has been everywhere for the past couple of weeks over Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Bell’s new publisher, HarperOne even moved the release date up to today (my cynical side thinks it is in order to take advantage of the additional publicity). I’ve read plenty of reviews of this book (positive and negative) written by people who haven’t read it so I though, “What the heck! I’ll throw my two cents in too.”
I read Velvet Elvis a few years ago; It was a thoughtful book. I wrote a paper on it for school too. I read God Wants to Save Christians shortly after that. I read Sex God too (bought it at the Gospel Herald no less).
I didn’t agree with everything that was in any of these books (come to think of it I can’t think of a single book that I agreed with 100%) but my thinking was provoked. I was challenged and encouraged with each of them. Rob Bell is a good writer and I would loan them out to any discerning reader. It’s all because of one of my governing principles when it comes to theological books.
Make a habit of reading books you know you won’t totally agree with.
I think it is vital to the cultivation of a cultured and educated imagination that you read from a variety of perspectives. Your faith and your mind are richer when you read things that challenge your thinking. When you do, one of two things is bound to happen:
- You are either going to learn something you didn’t know (no harm there), or
- You are going learn something that contradicts what you already know and in reconciling and weighing this new information, whether you modify your current understanding or not, you will learn why you believe what you do (also a good outcome).
Three summers ago I decided that after hearing about, “The New Atheists,” numerous times I would read the books that everyone was talking about. I read Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great one right after the other. I disagreed with them sharply and was often so mad I could just throw the books (I refrained because they were from the library) but I was glad I read them.
Dawkins has some good points (and some pretty weak ones too) but the most valuable thing I learned was how trite and juvenile some of the arguments for the existence of God are. I understood something of why Dawkins and Hitchens believe as they do. It was a tremendously enriching experience, and my faith was strengthened and not weakened. I now possess much stronger reasons for the existance of God as a result of reading the best popular atheist writing on the market; but enough about that, on to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.
Bloggers Justin Taylor, Tim Challies, Jonathan Parnell, John Piperand others have reacted strongly to Bell’s position on Hell and what seminary students call soteriology. I will write about my own opinions about hell tomorrow (right here). Other bloggers like Mike Cope and Josh Graves have tweeted replies with equal indignation. I feel torn because I read all these guys and find great encouragement and wisdom in what they all say. I don’t agree with any of them all the time but to have them calling each other names is heartbreaking. Here are two things I am convinced of:
1. God is a righteous and just judge.
We have never been given the prerogative to decide who is going where after this life is over and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we don’t agree how it is going to shake down. God is not asking our permission to be sovereign. Saying Rob Bell is going to Hell because he doesn’t think this other group of people is going to hell is kind of pointless (and a little ironic). The only one who will speak to whether Rob Bell is going to heaven or not is the resurrected Christ. Everyone else can cram it. Which leads me to a more important point:
2. I care far more about what Jesus says about hell and universalism that I do about what Rob Bell says.
I will likely buy Rob Bell’s book (or maybe borrow it from somebody when I actually have time to read it). I will read it, consider it, and weight it against God’s Word and the character of Jesus Christ that I find there. I would encourage the discerning reader to do the same. Then, let’s talk about it.