Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rob Bell's book, Love Wins

I received Rob Bell's book in the mail yesterday, and finished it this morning. After hearing some of the harsh critiques suggesting heresy and universalism, I am puzzled. I'm wondering if the critics and I read the same book.

If there is anything Rob claims, it's that the Bible offers the story of the God who pursues the whole world, and whose desires are the full redemption of all creation. I resonated deeply with most of the book (I should probably read it again, given my eagerness the first time through). I didn't hear a declaration of universalism, but I did hear about God being more generous than most of us have considered.

I think I'd like to offer two words of caution to my brothers and sisters who see this differently (after they have, of course, actually read the book):

The first relates to honesty. Critique if you must (that can be healthy and constructive), but do so with integrity. Make sure that you are offering an assessment of something actually written, and be civil in your engagement. After all, like the rest of us humans, you could be mistaken in your views. None of us wants to bear false witness.

The second is about something that has a significant biblical precedent. When Jesus spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, and those generally classified as "sinners," he was soundly condemned by his own religious community. They were angry about the possibility of a God so generously described through parables like the Lost Son, and therefore sought to silence Jesus permanently for his heresy. We need to be careful lest we cast our lot with their kind.

Upon finishing Rob's book, it occurred to me that it really wasn't for the people who are critiquing it. It's really more for those who have stood on the perimeter of faith, fearful of stepping in because of their fear that God despises them. It's for those who gave up hope that they could ever be favored by God because of their past and even their present. It's a book for those who can't imagine a God so full of love that he would pursue the broken and the lost with fervor. I know people like this, and I will give them this book. I think Rob knows people like this as well, because he is a real pastor.

Read this book.


Ron Krumpos said...

In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell says he believes 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 rethink 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."

Brian White said...

Great entry Mike. I wouldn't expect anything less.

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