Love wins?

by Richard on February 28, 2011

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

This forthcoming book from Rob Bell is causing quite a stir around the interweb, with all sorts of people falling over themselves to condemn it as heresy before they’ve even had the opportunity to read it in full. It’s very strange how eager Christians are to condemn other people when they reach different conclusions. St Paul’s words in Sunday’s lectionary were very appropriate:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Cor. 4: 3-5

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The fixed pains of hell | Faith, Folk and Charity
03.02.11 at 12:50 am

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Tony Buglass 02.28.11 at 4:03 pm

The early church seemed eager to excommunicate people over such matters as having the wrong tonsure. You’d think we might have learned something since then. Apparently not. Pharisaic Orthodoxy is so much easier to try than Christian love and grace, it appears.

2

PamBG 02.28.11 at 11:29 pm

I think I had my tonsures out when I was a little kid……;-)

3

Paul F. 03.01.11 at 12:20 am

I read the synopsis of this book a week or so ago, and I immediately thought, “Oh shit, a bunch of people are gonna start calling Rob Bell a heretic again.” You have to understand that the evangelical perception of him as “orthodox” is pretty precarious over here in the U.S. right now, and this book will certainly pour fuel on the fire. Kudos, however, to Bell for having the guts to push for universalist hope even with so many watching everything he says and does.

4

Kim 03.01.11 at 9:36 am

Love wins, but it was a photo finish, and charges have just been filed by the FDA (Fundamentalist Doctrine Administration) for divine steroid substance abuse.

5

Bene D 03.01.11 at 1:25 pm

Good on you for catching this one Richard. Whew.

6

Mark Byron 03.02.11 at 12:22 am

From what I been reading, it was the promotional videos for the book, which had Bell leaning in an universalist direction (questioning whether Gandhi got the eternal smoking section et. al.), that got people hot and bothered.

However, a lot of folks who like to stress God’s love and are uncomfortable about God needing to punish the non-believers; that will play well on the grace-centric center-left and not so well on a more traditionalist right. Bell’s been a bit of a theological loose cannon who is dead on most of the time; this might not be one of them.

7

PamBG 03.02.11 at 2:21 am

From what I been reading, it was the promotional videos for the book, which had Bell leaning in an universalist direction (questioning whether Gandhi got the eternal smoking section et. al.), that got people hot and bothered.

Right, so if we can’t be 100% certain that non-Christian person X is in hell, then that means there is no hell, no justice and Christ is not the saviour. We can’t leave that judgment to God. Leaving Gandhi’s personal salvation to God somehow invalidates everything we do believe. Apparently faith in Gandhi’s damnation is equally as important as faith in Jesus’ Messiahship.

8

Richard 03.02.11 at 8:08 am

It does seem very strange to make another’s damnation an article of faith. But maybe I’m missing something.

9

PamBG 03.02.11 at 11:00 am

What you’re missing is called “dualism”. :D

10

Tim 03.02.11 at 4:59 pm

I do not think we should speculate about the salvation of any one individual. What I do think we should hold onto, however, are the facts that (1) Jesus sent his disciples out (to people who already had religions of their own) to make new disciples of all nations, and (2) that the whole New Testament seems to assume that people’s response, or lack of response, to that invitation is a matter of some moment.

11

Richard 03.02.11 at 6:52 pm

I agree, Tim. But it seems to me that the heart of this issue is what exactly that invitation is: a proclamation of life or a threat of death?

12

Paul F. 03.02.11 at 7:40 pm

The conservative Christian blogosphere had an allergic reaction to Bell’s video because whether they’ll openly admit it or not their theology inevitably consigns the vast majority of humanity who’ve lived or are living to eternal conscious torment. We have no idea what the substance of Bell’s argument is, or exactly what he argues in the book as of yet. But jumping to conclusions and declaring people heretics is much more fun that waiting a whole month to examine the evidence.

13

Joseph W 03.04.11 at 11:53 pm

Book looks good, looking forward to reading it.

14

Earl 03.05.11 at 1:11 am

“I do not think we should speculate about the salvation of any one individual. What I do think we should hold onto, however, are the facts that (1) Jesus sent his disciples out (to people who already had religions of their own) to make new disciples of all nations, and (2) that the whole New Testament seems to assume that people’s response, or lack of response, to that invitation is a matter of some moment.” Tim, there are moments when I do not agree with you. This is not one of them. One can want to believe that everyone will be saved. The witness of Scripture is that some will. Jesus command was that we make disciples of all men. He did not appear to be concerned with what might be our opinion in the matter. He stressed time after time the significance of choosing to follow him. It has been said, “All roads lead to Rome.” Not surprisingly, all roads never did lead to Rome. And all religions do not lead to God. Jesus left no doubt on this for he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

15

PamBG 03.05.11 at 1:37 pm

And all religions do not lead to God. Jesus left no doubt on this for he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

Oh, I see. So you believe that Jesus said “Evangelical Christianity is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Evangelical Christianity”?

Nothing actually to do with either Jesus or God then?

16

PamBG 03.05.11 at 1:38 pm

Actually, I apologize for doing Evangelical Christianity a disservice.

Make that “No one comes to the Father except through Conservative Republican civil religion.”

17

Earl 03.05.11 at 5:36 pm

“Oh, I see…” With respect, response was to the op. Reference to Jesus was neither partisan nor provocative. The witness of Scripture is that Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Reservations are required. (John 14:1-6).

18

Kim 03.05.11 at 8:02 pm

Er, cf. Luke 14:24.

19

Earl 03.05.11 at 10:01 pm

“Er, cf. Luke 14:24.” And?

20

Richard 03.05.11 at 10:39 pm

I believe that Kim is reminding you that just as there are texts that support your claim (” The witness of Scripture is that Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Reservations are required.”), there are others which don’t. What the scriptures mean is a matter of interpretation.

But you knew that.

21

PamBG 03.06.11 at 2:03 am

The witness of Scripture is that Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Reservations are required.

But you’re conflating and confusing any number of things here.

Leaving the ultimate salvation of any particular individual to God is not to deny that Jesus is Lord. Unless your religion is actually the religion of hell avoidance instead of Jesus-following.

22

Paul F. 03.06.11 at 2:09 am

Um, the witness of scripture is NO ONE is going to heaven. Not one. Hate to be the bearer of bad news and overturn several hundred years of bad popular theology. Heaven is coming down to us. That’s what the kingdom of God is. It’s what we pray for every time we say the Lord’s prayer.

23

PamBG 03.06.11 at 3:04 am

Paul, I agree. But that could be a separate conversation.

But popular Protestant Christianity of our time basically delivers the message: Hear the Good News! You too can go to heaven unlike those people over there who are going to hell for not being in the Jesus-is-Lord-club. As I said: a dualistic message that something bad has to happen to people who don’t agree with me and if that bad thing doesn’t happen, then there really is no point in being a disciple of Jesus.

24

Tim C 03.16.11 at 3:37 pm

Another tempest in the American fundagelical teapot which does not constitute Christianity today but American Christianity Today. There’s a much larger world out here, people. Is that teapot related to the Tea Party, by the way?

And good on you, Pam BG for stirring the teapot.

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