Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rob Bell. How Could You?

Well, I’ve read Rob Bell’s book Love Wins.  Here are some general observations after what was, admittedly,  a pretty quick read.  I’m thinking that I’ll want to go through it again.  I’ve got all kinds of circles, underlines, smiley faces, frowny faces and questions marks throughout the book. 
  
  1. One of my litmus tests for any book,speaker, program or retreat is to asks the question …”Did this help me fall more deeply in love with Jesus?”  Rob Bell’s book did help me fall more deeply in love with Jesus.  More than ever I want to be in relationship with the “visible expression of the invisible God.”
  2. Rob Bell isn’t a universalist although he flirts with ideas that many devout people have been trained to avoid. 
  3. Believers who hold tightly to certain systems and patterns of belief could feel attacked and backed into a corner.  This is not a book for people who aren’t willing to think.
  4. I think this would be a great book study especially with people from a variety of theological perspectives. Since we mostly hang out with people who believe the same things we believe that might prove difficult. J
  5. Rob challenges our assumptions about time. What we see as the end … isn’t …according to his thought process. 
  6. If you believe that Christian thinking stopped shortly after the Resurrection and began again with the Reformation you’ll struggle with reading this book.
  7. If you believe that God only speaks through conservative, evangelical theology you’ll struggle with reading this book.
  8. Rob Bell does believe in hell.
  9. I don’t think his thinking deserves to go unchallenged.  How to do it with dignity and respect is the question though.
  10. He does believe that Jesus is the ‘way, the truth, and the life’.
  11. I think he talks a lot about a Catholic notion of purgatory.
  12. The book is an invitation to live as if heaven starts now.
  13. I don’t believe Rob Bell is a heretic.
  14. This isn’t anything new.  I’ve heard some of the same themes in his speaking and in the Nooma videos.  This is just a smart, new package with a terrific marketing campaign.  My guess is that the Bell kids have college paid for.
  15. If you’re someone who likes to live in a world of ‘theological and biblical tension’ you’ll enjoy this book.  It will be like iron sharpening iron.  
  16. If you’re an ideologue of any conservative stripe you’ll probably hate Love Wins but it will be good for you to engage with the ideas before you throw the book against the wall and dismiss them entirely. 
  17. If you’re a theological liberal Bell's refusal to jump into the shallow end of the universalistic pool might prove to be unsatisfying. 
  18. Rob does provide a satisfying perspective on what I would call a more wholistic view of the Good News.
Final thoughts. I’m adequately trained in theological and biblical areas.  Despite that, there’s so much I don’t understand.  Period. Not just in Love Wins. And so I embrace the mystery of faith as part of the reality of my journey.  I cling to the creeds for they give me a firm foundation for life changing belief.  The Word of God sustains me with both its clarity of thought and in its ambiguity. I believe that in Jesus God reveals the purpose of His plan and I ask for the Lord's grace to live the way of Jesus in today's world.  All that to say ...I'm not afraid of a book that challenges my thinking or system of belief.  Nor should you be. My faith is big enough to be challenged along the way especially by Rob Bell who I believe has a good heart.

Please pray for Rob Bell.  He’s an influential voice.  He’s getting  hammered in many circles instead of being engaged.  Is Rob right in all that he says?  I sense he’s making some educated guesses and perhaps viewing certain things through the lens of his own bias.  Like us all he “sees through a glass darkly”.  I applaud the courage it took to publish this book.  Blessings to him for helping us to think.  May our thinking lead us to engage with the God who is and not the God we’ve created in our own image and likeness.

5 comments:

Michelle Van Loon said...

Thanks for the gracious tone of your observations and questions!

Mike said...

Thanks Michelle.

Mark said...

At least now I know that I'm an idealogue who refuses to think. On the other hand Rob Bell believes in Hell, and Jesus, therefore he is not a heretic. He possesses incredible courage, is a deep thinker, and may embrace a Fuller understanding of Universalism, Purgatory, and the enlightened teachings of Gandhi.

Mike said...

Thought this was an interesting interview with Rob Bell.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/features/25030-is-rob-bell-a-universalist

Mike said...

@ Mark. Do we know each other? Can't tell if you're trying to be tongue in cheek, sarcastic, or confrontational. :)