Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Love Wins - My Thoughts

After exploding the Christian Blog-world, Rob Bell’s newest book came out. I own and have read each of his previous 3 books. They were all good, not life-changing, but good.

I’ve seen most of the Nooma videos.

I want to say that I’m surprised with this latest turn for Rob Bell, but, quite frankly, I feel like President Bartlet when he found out that Toby was the leak.

He said that this sort of thing was “inevitable.”

In Velvet Elvis, Bell said that Christianity was like a trampoline; Jesus is like the mat, and theology is like the springs.

He said, not merely implied, but said that if you removed some springs, that was okay, Christianity would survive.

I think he was right, there are some springs on the trampoline of Christianity that can be removed or moved and Christianity, as a whole will be okay.

But, if you keep removing springs, you end up jumping on the ground, and the trampoline loses its effectiveness.

When discussing the “springs,” Bell mentioned specifically the Virgin Birth as one that could be removed. This was the start down a road that Evangelicals didn’t want to travel down.

Just as Bartlet said to Ziegler, this sort of thing was inevitable.

At some point, Bell, if you keep removing springs, then what you’re promoting will no longer be Christianity.

Now, having read the book, I can say that it’s not nearly as controversial as people thought it would be.

The basic concept is that heaven and hell are realities that you can experience here on Earth. And, if we’re going to be honest, that’s true, sort of.

Because, heaven and hell are realities based on your connection to God. So, in essence, when you’re connected to God, it’s like experiencing heaven on earth. Haven’t you ever been a part of a really great worship service and thought that you must have just experienced something of what heaven’s like?

For Bell, heaven is a great big, socially just, green movement.

Hell, then, is the opposite. It’s consumerist, not environmentally friendly, and void of social justice.

And so, we can agree that given those definitions of heaven and hell, we understand why there’s a possibility of heaven (or hell) on earth.

However, at that point, my support for the thoughts in Love Wins ends.

Bell treats the Holy Scriptures like an essay, written by a college professor. He rips quotations out of their context to say what he wants, and he cuts and pastes the Scripture portions that he does use. (This is the way we’d treat an essay, we’d cut and paste the quotations for our own essay)

In all of the books I’ve read, I’ve never seen someone do that to the Bible. It’s as if he’s saying, “here check out this quote I found in the Bible, but I’m going to remove something from the middle of it.”

We do not do that to the Bible.

That’s one of the most important lessons I learned in college, we use entire Scriptures to teach from, and it’s this insistence that we don’t just yank verses out of their context that helps us to stop from proof-texting and reading into the Bible things that we want it to say as opposed to what it actually says.

Rob Bell focuses on very small portions of Scripture that say what he wants it to say, and then breezes over and past great big chunks of Scripture that would really harm his viewpoint. (This is incredibly evident in Chapter 3, most notably pages 68-69)

His explanation of Lazarus and the Rich Man is extremely shallow and leaves much to be desired.

I suppose we should be grateful to Bell, he’s opened up dialogue. That’s essentially what we want to do. This new movement of Christians (or Christ-Followers), if nothing else, wants to know that we can talk about anything. And, they’re right. We should be able to talk about all parts of Christianity and approach with an open mind. That’s a good thing.

However, we need to guard our theology. We have to.

It wasn’t until page 110 that I really had a problem. Bell implies that Christianity is a story. And he says that the story that people have been telling, that many, many people are destined for eternal, conscious separation from God is not a good story.

You’re right, it’s not a good story. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to point us to the good story. The story that we don’t have to be slaves to our sin.

The story that Christ is bigger than death. He’s bigger than our sin. He’s the mighty conqueror of the grave.

That is the good story.

And the end of that episode of The West Wing seems to play out, Bartlet says to Toby: “When you walk out of here, there'll be people out there, perhaps a great many, who'll think of you as a hero. I just don't for a moment want you thinking I'll be one of them.

To Rob Bell, I was on your team, but I’m not anymore. And there are a great many people who think this book has revolutionized the way Christians should think about heaven and hell and that you must be some sort of enlightened genius to have figured this out.

I’m not one of them.

I’m not angry with Bell and I won’t be protesting at Mars Hill. I’m just moving on, in my own way. And since this is my blog, I decided to post about it here.