Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Wins

The other day someone told me that as they were reading my latest book they had a problem because they could hear me speaking it as they read. 'So what's the problem?' I asked.

'Could you go a bit faster, I speed-read?'

I guess all those pauses for effect, which I consider appropriate in my preaching, can get in the way for a speed-reader.

Rob Bell is a verbal communicator. Those familiar with his podcasts from Mars Hill Bible Church or the Nooma DVD series will know how he speaks.

He has got round the problem by writing in a spoken style.

Lots of short sentences and white space on a page.

Prose that looks like poetry. And sounds like it sometimes too.

Some paragraphs of but a single word.


Slows you down doesn't it?

Adds gravitas.

Love Wins is about the story we have told about death and judgement. Is talking of an eternal damnation in the fiery flames of hell the best way to get an invite to dinner?

Perhaps not, says Bell, strangling a pigeon for effect.

So he reviews the biblical material about death, judgement and the love of God. And whilst the train doesn't go all the way to universalism if you change you may get there in one more trip. Which upsets some people who like to see a bit of damnation in their evangelism.

In passing he offers a brilliant three page essay on models of the atonement and, if you'll excuse me, nails the myth that substitutionary is the only brand on sale. He looks at the hells on earth which we ought to do something about now rather than waiting for God in heaven. And he unpacks the rich man's attitude problem towards Lazarus even after death.

And in passing there is a definition of church I will certainly use many times in the future.

Love Wins is just a title, not a complete theology. But damned to hell hasn't been working for us recently so a rebranding ain't all bad.

Compulsory reading for all Christian thinkers, I think.


Richard said...

I think Rob Bell is aiming at the wrong target.

I understand his reaction to the very judgemental attitude of most Christians when faced with a God of Love. And I understand his move towards universalism and his current state of confusion over how that is reconciled with various Bible passages.

And that he's left in the same place as lots of us.

The knows that heavily judgemental people draw the line to closely to one side and that universalism draws it too far the other way. What he hasn't spotted is that he's trying (and failing) to find out where the line should be.

The problem with trying to find the line anywhere is that it still places us as judges of salvation.

And that's not our job.

Jesus is very clear in Matthew 6:12 and 7:1. Our job is not to judge. And if we do judge we invite God to use the same criteria to judge us.

Rob Bell's correct in claiming that love wins. He now needs to work out that God alone draws the line of who's in and who's out and it's our job to love everyone.

Marcella said...

"God alone draws the line of who's in and who's out and it's our job to love everyone"


I liked the Nooma DVDs when we used them in my homegroup, and I rather like Rob Bell too. Anyone who annoys so many conservatives in one go gets my vote... Might splash out on the book!

Dennis said...

Excellent read, thoroughly appreciated, with some large challenges. Good for sermon quotes.