Thursday, March 10, 2011

Exegeting Rob Bell

As a little kid Rob Bell attended University Baptist Church in East Lansing, Michigan. UBC is adjacent to Michigan State University. Linda and I attended UBC from 1981-1992, when I was the American Baptist Campus Pastor at MSU. When Rob became famous some UBC people told me they taught him in Sunday School. That was then.

Now, right now, this day, this very moment as I type the letter 'm' (for 'moment') Rob is under fire for his book which few have read but many already either love or hate. It's called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. It comes out next week. It's already generating a lot of heat and hate. It's generating some love, too. Love-reviews include:

“It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ . . . Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination--without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, and author of The Message and The Pastor ) [Anyone want to be first in line to stone Eugene Peterson for being "unbiblical?" Not me. I'm now reading his memoir, The Pastor, and being stunned by it page after page. Dallas Willard was not joking when he wrote, if this book: “If you are hoping to be a pastor, or just to understand what that is, get this book and soak in it for at least three full days with no distraction. It may save your life and make you a blessing.”]

“A bold, prophetic and poetic masterpiece. I don’t know any writer who expresses the inexpressible love of God as powerfully and as beautifully as Rob Bell! No one who seriously engages this book will put it down unchanged. A ‘must read’ book!” (Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation )

“In Love Wins, Rob Bell tackles the old heaven-and-hell question and offers a courageous alternative answer. Thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story - from beginning to end.” (Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality )

And it's getting hate-reviews. I know 'hate' is a strong word. Let's use it for now, if only to contrast it with 'love'. Looks like Rob's book is one people will either love or hate, at least within the Christian world. That's not necessarily bad in itself if the book makes some clear statements.If we learn "the fate if every person who ever lived" Rob will enter into a number of "love or hate" relationships.

For hate-reviews google "Rob Bell," click on "news."

Real-Jesus followers will love Rob. Even if they hate what Rob says. The disagreement will always be loving. If love is sacrificial, then expect to see some amazing things happen. Even if Rob was our enemy (I don't think he is) we are still called to love him. It is a mark of the Real Thing when this happens. So, when you see the ad hominem abusives pour out of someone's laptop you can be certain that at least they are not, at that very moment as they think they are being crucified, not Christlike. Even if Rob is being manipulated by the Enemy, we are still to love him. In the very dialogue itself Love Should Win. It will win if all our eyes are on Christ.

What's the controversy? The issue of universalism. Is Rob a unversalist?

Next week a lot of people will be exegeting Rob Bell. I'm already reading so many books I don't know if I'm going to get his. I have read a few of his previous ones. I mostly liked Jesus Wants to Save Christians. I like some of the Nooma dvds he has made.

NOTE: If there are "unsaved Christians" then universalism is false. I know Rob didn't mean it this way. :)

I've also never thought that Love (=God) would not win if there is a hell. Which, as of this moment, I believe there is. See here to enter deeply into the subject.

If I comment further on Love Wins it will be because I have read the book for myself.