Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Response to Rob Bell's Controversial New Book:



Acts 4:12
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

Rob Bell is a Pastor and author from Grand Rapids, MI.  He's authored and produced numerous books and DVDs.  I, for one, am a huge fan of his Nooma DVD series.  So, what got this Pastor stuck in a controversy that's gone so far as to label him a "heretic" by some Christians?

In his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived:

"Bell raises questions about a central tenet for some evangelicals: that only saved Christians will avoid the fiery depths of hell. Bell argues that many people are turned off by overly harsh ideas of God and urges Christians to focus more on improving conditions on Earth than worrying about the afterlife."

The article from the Detroit Free Press explains it further by saying:

'"On the issue of whether Gandhi is in hell, Bell's conclusions are unclear. But he allows for the idea that non-Christians might be able to embrace Jesus after they die, or that they might have experienced Jesus unknowingly.

But overall, "these are areas of speculation, and when people build doctrines and dogmas on speculation, that's not, as a Christian, our calling. And we can cause untold heartache and destruction when we do that."

And so, Bell says, the focus should be to improve "all the hells on Earth right now, from genocide to rape to abuse to financial scams."'

Needless to say, this perspective has many Christians in a rage...and I don't blame them.  One one hand, I'm feeling a bit similar when I think it through...but on the other hand, there is a part of me that understands what he's trying to say.   There is a part of me that has thought these same thoughts- I just didn't have the guts to say them out loud.

You see, I agree with the great need for LOVE to be the central thing on which our lives our based.  Jesus says it Himself.  The two greatest commandments are based on this concept...love God and love others.  He's right in saying that so many of us are so caught up in the afterlife...that we forget to live life TODAY.  In the here and now.

There is a phrase that says: "Don't be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good"...and that phrase carries a little truth.  It always breaks my heart to see the "side of the road" Christians with their "REPENT OR GO TO HELL" signs...so focused on the afterlife that they are doing more damage then good.  But on the other hand, it's believing in the joy that is to come that should motivate us to live a life of love here and now. 

So at the end of the day here's my conclusion about all of this Rob Bell stuff: It doesn't really matter.

First of all, you and I as Christians should stop being so opinionated, debating every passing thing and having judgments on all things spoken.  Rather...let's focus on our own lives first.  Jesus reminds us to fix our own lives first, before we attempt to speak into the lives of others.   Easier said than done, Jesus.  It's scary getting to the nitty-gritty of who we really are...and so much easier to focus our efforts on others.

Secondly, no matter what our beliefs or speculations- whether or not the "Mahatma Ghandis" are going to end up in heaven or hell...it never hurts us to always assume the worst

What I mean by that is that we should never assume the people we know and love are in a relationship with Jesus.  Whether Mormon, or Buddhist, or none of the above...what will it hurt for us to show the love of Jesus?  What will it hurt for us to share the truth that has changed our lives?  The unknown should always cause us to live more passionately rather than sedate us. 

Love should always breed more love.  And that love, no matter our underlying theology, is what really speaks the loudest.  God's Spirit is powerful and alive...and it will do in hearts what we could never do.  That we have to believe. 

So at the end of the day, no matter what your response to this guy and his thoughts...in all that you say and do...make sure you are loving more today than you did yesterday.  Make sure you are sharing Christ more fervently than ever before.  Make sure you are reflecting Jesus to this lost, hurting, and broken world.  Make sure to love. Love.  Love.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

That, my friends, is the only legitimate response. 




9 comments:

  1. Thanks for this... I had not heard of Rob Bell until this controversy started. Living outside of the US means missing out on a lot of what happens.

    I appreciate reading your insights.

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  2. I totally agree, loving God and loving others should be our goal! We read this at our LG last night and it's what really sticks out to me now... Galatians 5:14 "The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself".

    Good thoughts :)

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  3. ‎"That, my friends, is the only legitimate response."....YES...absolutely.

    One of the things I appreciate about Mr Bell (being the provocateur that he is) is the way he leaves inquiry and response unrestrained, however not vague - leaving the reader or listener to seek deep and question.

    Too often, we take for granted what we hear from a pulpit as absolute or accurate truth. Truth will reveal itself as we seek Him. Jesus said "I am...The Truth". Jesus is The Truth - and as we seek Him, answers will become more clear and understood.

    Truth isn't an idea, He is a person.

    I find myself agreeing more with Mr Bell than not.

    Keep on asking, and you will receive. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

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  4. Alida, glad to help....although my perspective on things is hardly up-to-date...:) But that's okay...better late than never! Thanks for reading!

    Lois, that's an awesome verse...and how perfect to wrap this whole thing up!

    IAm4, yes, Bell really does leave inquiry doesn't he? I do have my opinions...but at the end of the day I've learned that certain opinions are better left unsaid and don't really edify- whether positive or critical.

    You are so right in encouraging us to seek the Truth...as a person, not as a concept. Thank you for that. I really appreciate your thoughts!

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  5. Which Afterlife?

    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."

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  6. Hey Ron, you make some good points....I plan on responding to these thoughts in a follow up post...too much to say for a little comment box:)

    Thank you so much for reading, and be sure to check back by the end of this week for the "Follow Up" Rob Bell post. Thanks :)

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  7. I think many of us try to compartmentalize God. We think that God will only love and save one group of people (ie people of our own faith) and condemn all others to Hell to suffer. Isn't it the same God who created the children who are put into the Christian/ Moslem / Jew / Buddhist / Hindu etc families? Did any child have a choice in the religion of the family he/she is born into? Didn't Jesus say that the time is coming and has come when true worshippers will worship God in Spirit and in truth. I feel that our God of Love will also save those who do not know him fully as yet but yet still try their best to serve Him in the way that they have been taught in their own religions. However for us Christians who know Jesus, we cannot worship at temples etc. for the truth has already been revealed to us

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  8. Theresa, I think you make some good points. It's a hard balance, knowing that we serve a God who loves...but that we live in a life where we have freedom to choose. I believe God gives each individual the opportunity to experience Him in some way. We never really will know how God interacts with others, we only know how He drew us to His side and how he won OUR hearts. But I do believe that God loves everyone in the way He loves me, and He will pursue them like He did me- whether Jew, Muslim, Atheist, or none of the above. I trust in that more than anything else. But what I do know for sure, is that He wants to use me to reach others with His love...that is my goal, because that's the only thing that's in my hands.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and for taking the time to read!

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  9. Ron, I realized I never responded to your post. For me, I can't say I know for sure what will happen to everyone around me in their after life based on their beliefs...but I do know one thing: God's word guarentees eternal life with Him for those who know Him and have a relationship with Him...that's what I count on. The funny thing is, even if there was no such thing as an afterlife, being in relationship with God has drastically changed the quality of my life...and has given me so much fulfillment here on earth. If that was all I got, it would be enough. But I'm thankful that the promise is even bigger than that...and I'm not willing to take the risk of living life in a different way in hopes of still finding myself in heaven when I die.

    The risk reward isn't worth it for me :)

    I do appreciate your thoughts, and that you took the time to read mine. Thank you!

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Love to hear your thoughts...