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3.21.2011

And Fit Us For Heaven...



A  Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell.


He told CNN the other day that he wasn’t a universalist. He was quibbling.


He probably meant that he believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to Eternal Life, which makes him a Christian. He also believes that Jesus will grant/has granted eternal life to all who want it, now or at any time in the ages to come, without conditions, and that all eventually will. That makes him a Christian Universalist. Quibbler. Fortunately there is no quibbling in his new book.  No hairs are split, no pin-angels counted. It is a straight forward, compelling exposition of a generous, optimistic, realistic, sane view of God and God’s people.


It is not going to convince anyone who is already opposed to it.  If you like the idea of eternal conscious torment, it won’t do. If you like the door to Grace being slammed shut with your last breath, don’t bother. If you need Jesus to save you from His pissed off Father who happens to be His alter ego, then don’t waste your money on this book.


What this book will do is embolden many who have already rejected those ideas but have not had the nerve to say so. And it will open doors and windows to others who “Like your Jesus but can’t stand Christians, thank you very much.” 


This message and this messenger have the potential to divide the evangelicals from the fundamentalists. It may be a tipping point.


If you can’t tell an evangelical from a fundamentalist you might want to read this book. He is the first, he is not the latter. He continually makes room for people who see it differently from him. He acknowledges all the other metaphors even when he has a favorite. He knows what a metaphor is. My favorite sentence in the book is, speaking of the book of Revelation,    “... it’s important that we don’t get too hung up on details and specific images because it’s possible to treat something so literally that it becomes less true in the process.” (pg 114)


If you have never met an evangelical Christian that you liked, and don’t intend to start liking them now, move along. He’s accessible and likable and he probably will not win you over.

If you liked his videos, you will love the book. If the videos annoyed you with their slick hipsterness, you can read the book without seeing the glasses and hearing the background music. If you are a font geek or a book design geek, you may want to have someone read it to you. Serious academics may not be impressed - I wouldn’t know.


Don’t really wanna give you the Cliff Notes, I want you to read it, but

  • ·       His Jesus is divine
  • ·       His eschatology is realizing
  • ·       Here and now is more important than the sweet by and by
  • ·       The purpose of being good in this life is goodness
  • ·       Heaven is a restoration
  •           Hell is an optional way station that is not about punishment
  • ·       Good Friday and Easter morning matter
  • ·       He doesn’t mollycoddle or ignore the reality of sin
  • ·       He’s done his Bible homework
  • ·       He reads his Bible like T. Vail Palmer reads his Bible
  •  

    But my personal favorite thing about his book is something that he ignores. 
     
    With intention - I believe.


    He is an evangelical preacher talking about Life and Death and Heaven and Hell and he never once even alludes to any “End Times.”  He completely ignores John Darby and all his made-up dispensationalist nonsense. He talks about getting people clean water, not preparing for a rapture. He talks about the hell of sex-trafficking not when a great tribulation will happen. It’s like he doesn’t even care. Hallelujah. If he doesn’t care then maybe his multitudes of church goers won’t care. Maybe the younger generation of evangelicals will stop caring. Maybe they will fund clean water not Christian Zionist schemes. Maybe if they stop expecting Armageddons they won’t make one. Maybe they will see that the only Antichrists are the oppressors of the poor. Maybe we can leave the end of the world malarkey to Harold Camping and Fred Phelps and the other loonies and haters. Where it belongs.


    Bell’s view of God is supernatural and optimistic. His view of humanity is realistic and optimistic.

    I like it.

    All of it.


    .




    Comments:
    THANK YOU!
     
    Thanks for the review. I'll have to pick myself up a copy :). Yes, there are many of us who know Christ and are satisfied with nothing less. To God be the glory! Though the persecution, frankly, is scary.
     
    wow! thank you for this!
     
    Great post... love it!
     
    Thank you so much. I'm a fan of Rob Bell even though I may not agree with all of his beliefs. He still takes God out of the bubble that church has put him in.
     
    God as other than an angry pipsqueak appeals to me a lot. God as large and in charge of the universe entire is properly awesome.
     
    Thank you, Peggy! This is always the best stop for sanity and a good laugh on the internet.
    Rosemary
     
    Excellent review. I love it, just as I loved the book.

    Your post reminded me of something I heard someone say about fundamentalists and evangelicals. Fundmamentalists gave us prohibition. Evangelicals gave us AA.

    peace
     
    Peggy,

    One thing I've always wanted to ask an evangelical Christian Quaker:

    When I first started attending meeting in Portland, I went straight for a book that would, I thought, tell me whether I belonged there or not. I was looknig for a credal statement. What I found was Twenty-first Century Penn, a translation of William Penn's 17th century English into slightly more accessible prose for today's reader. In one of the tracts therein (I forget which, unfortunately), Penn lays it out like so:
    1. God is just.
    2. No just God would create human beings for whom salvation was impossible.
    3. There were people who lived and died before Jesus' birth, ministry, and death; there were people who lived and died in places where the gospel was not readily available until missionaries carried the word there. There have been, in effect, millions of human beings who have lived and died without being able to choose whether or not to believe in Christ as their savior.

    What I'm wondering is, as both a Friend and an evangelical Christian, how do you reconcile the above with the idea that, as you say here, "Jesus will grant/has granted eternal life to all who want it"? I don't mean to seem contentious; I'm not arguing that the two can't be reconciled. But I'm curious how you see the tension between these ideas playing out, or if you see a tension at all.

    Blessings,

    -Ethan R. Friend
     
    @practicingresurrection:

    It's also not often recognized, but AA meeting structures also drew a lot from the Quaker model of speaking one's own truth.
     
    @Ethan Friend - if you check back in here. I would love to answer you question. But in the comments section does not seem the most efficient. Can you find me on FB, or email me at peggysengerparsons@gmail.com and I'll try. At first brush, I honestly do not seem a problem between my words and Penns words. I think we would agree.
    p
     
    In 2003, Phil Gulley and James Mulholland, two Quaker pastors, published If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. I really loved it. They expressed things that I had been thinking for quite a long time.
    http://www.amazon.com/If-Grace-True-Every-Person/dp/006251704X

    Whether or not Gulley and Mulholland are evangelical, I'm not sure. They are Christian in their outlook, although very universalist.
     
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