Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Love Wins chapter 1

Assuming you're not living under a rock, most Christians are somewhat aware of the "firestorm" that ROB BELL'S new book, LOVE WINS, has stirred in Christian circles on the internet and elsewhere.  Even before the release of the book, many were weighing in because of the provocative TRAILER VIDEO.  Though some were critical of the critics, it is beyond dispute that Bell's video was questionable.

Though my review will pale in significance to many well known reviewers and bloggers, I figured it would be beneficial for me to have some familiarity with these important issues as they relate to Rob Bell.  That is, I have no intention of adding anything to the fire.  Instead, I hope to have the opportunity to provide clarity to those who might feel lost after reading Bell's book.  In addition, I would hope to offer warning and correction to my friends, co-workers, family, etc. who might buy into some of Bell's ideas.

In a way, this review is more for me than anything.  If I can write about it, then it is likely that I will be able to explain it to others.  And if i didn't take the time to read this book, why should others listen to me when I seek to offer correction?

With that said, i'd like to review one chapter at a time.

As I anticipated, Bell offered his fair share of skeptical and provocative questions as they relate to heaven, hell, and salvation.  One can only assume that Bell felt he covered all the bases.  However sincere Bell was in his efforts, I found them to be severely lacking.  Though Bell was only "asking questions," I didn't think he offered anything short of a strawman in his representations of various beliefs.  What's worse is, I never found my view to be questioned or mentioned.  Putting hell aside for a moment, I saw no attempt on Bell's part to even attempt to ask accurate questions concerning Reformed Soteriology.  I don't want to assume too much as Bell might have purposefully avoided this perspective.

I say all this because I felt like Bell's questions could have been far more smart than they were.  If Bell had offered more sophistication and accurate representation in his questions, I would have been far more provoked.  Instead, I read through this chapter thinking, "these questions are easy!"  If I had to guess, Bell's book seemed to be geared towards ones who are not quite as theologically astute as they could be.  Perhaps these are ones that grew up in a back-woods southern baptist church and heard "fire and brimstone" sermons all the time.  Or these could be persons who grew up in a "seeker-sensitive" church where the gospel was reduced to, "believe in Jesus and you'll go to heaven."  Whatever the case, there are many who could easily relate to Bell but I am not one of them.

At this point it is difficult to know where Bell is going in all of this.  After all, he is just "asking questions," even though its obvious that his questions are, in a sense, meant to be objections.  However, as obvious as they are, these questions can only provide impressions though I will be hoping for clear thoughts and little ambiguity as I continue reading.


Mark said...

I have to be honest, Mike, I've read the first few chapters of Love Wins, and while I'm no believer in Reformed theology (more in a minute), I've found some of his writing a bit too rambling and almost sophomoric, especially when contrasted with the brilliant Velvet Elvis.

That being said, I feel a book like this is needed to at least try and present another side of the Good News that's sorely lacking according to my exposure to Reformed theology.

First of all, John Calvin? Seriously? Calvinists? For real?

I can't see any difference between this and Charles Russell and the Rusellites. It's the idolatry of men and their ideologies.

As for "limited atonement", I see little difference between that and atonement only for the 144,000. Really? Jesus' sacrifice isn't enough for everyone, everywhere who ever lived? It's only for the "elect" who God chose before the creation of the world? And those he didn't choose are destined for an eternity of fiery torment? That's the God Calvinists worship?

Election and pre-destination; no more God dishonouring than believing that Jehovah only loves those within the Watchtower Society.

Eternal, conscious torment in a fiery hell? Well, obviously I've never believed that, and while I've tried to get onside with tradition, "orthodox" theology, I find it stand in stark contrast with the God I now know, love and worship.

As my wife said, when relating a time she'd spent in earnest prayer to God to try and understand eternal, conscious torment, "suddenly I saw as clear as day Christ on the cross and the words "it is finished"." If God's wrath was poured out on Christ, did he refill the wrath bucket? Even Jesus said of those who had rejected him, "Father, forgive them."

Enormous, world-changing love!

To me, that sums it up, and I'm glad Bell has written a book that at least challenges the Reformed notion that when Jesus said "hell" he mean't some Greek place of eternal torment and punishment. Gehenna, Valley of Hinnom, all that stuff...

But then I knew that already!

Asides from all of that, I've been stunned over the past 3 weeks by the arrogance, haughtiness, quick-to-jump-on-the-bandwagon-ness of the Reformed crowd as they coo and flutter around the words of Piper, Keller, Deyoung etc.

Piper is the most arrogant man I've encountered in Christianity. I tried to listen to his teachings a year or so ago, but his prideful, Calvinistic haughtiness turned me - and his podcasts -off. I feel all he's peddling is powerless religion. And a prideful, God-choose-me version at that. Along with the likes of Matt Chandler, the Reformed crowd represent nothing more than Bible-worshiping, cult of Christian celebrity, mega-church growing idolaters.

Driscoll has realised that his fortunes lie with the Reformed crowd more than the emergent and has thrown his lot - and his ESV - squarely in with them. The video of him and Joshua Harris questioning Francis Chan on the latter's decision to leave Cornerstone Church is abhorrent. "But what about your church?". Guess what, Mark, it's not his or your church...

Chan and Bell for me, at the moment, are representing a version of Christianity that I see when I read the Gospels and try to peel away the layers of religion that I've personally experienced and continue to see in my local churches;

- God's enormous, bigger than us LOVE
- God's heart for a suffering world
- God's Son, scorned, scourged and punished for everyone


Thanks for the chance to vent.

It was much needed.

Now, where's that cold beer?

The Apologetic Front said...

Mark, hopefully you didn't take me for someone who feels obliged to defend other men in what they have said?

Furthermore, I hope you didn't take me for someone who couldn't care less about theological lingo (i.e. "calvinism, reformed, trinitarianism, etc.").

You are certainly welcome to vent on my blog, but if you don't have anything to say about something I specifically said in this blog post, there is not much for me to answer.

I'll take you up on that cold beer :-)