Rob Bell 8

Bell’s next chapter is entitled ‘Does God get what God wants?’ The title begs the question, of course: what does God want? As I said before, I take it that the real subject of the book is theology proper. Who is God? What does God want? We begin with statements of faith from church websites, and the apparent disjunction between the claims about who God is – almighty, loving, and full of grace and mercy – with the assertions about the eschatological fate of the lost. Says Bell: I point out these parallel claims: that God is might, powerful, and ‘in control’ and that billions of people will spend forever apart from this God who is their creator, even though it is written in the Bible that ‘God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of...

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Rob Bell, Love Wins 7: hell

Chapter 3 of Bell’s book turns to hell. I have read this chapter several times, and I confess that I am struggling to see how it fits together. I think Bell is aiming at two, widely separated, targets, and so is in danger of missing both. On the one hand, he wants to take on (what he regards as) a traditional doctrine of hell by suggesting that it is not there in the Scriptures; on the other hand he wants to construct an apologetic aimed at those who have already dismissed any account of hell as unpleasantly medieval. The problem is, those who are wedded to their traditionalism might have gone with him on the Biblical exploration, but will find his apologetic to be far too tentative and allusive, whereas those who are in need of hearing the apologetic are...

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Rob Bell: Loves Wins 6: Heaven

Chapter 2 of the book discusses heaven. As various people have pointed out, the approach is very reminiscent of that of my colleague Tom Wright. I think Tom is just right on most of these questions (I’d say that even if I wasn’t with him and Maggie for dinner this evening…), but let’s hear Bell out. He begins by criticising wrong understandings of heaven. Heaven is not ‘somewhere else’ (23-5); we deal with the subject badly if our core question is ‘who gets to go?’ (25-6). ‘Eternal life,’ Bell wants to insist, is not about endless duration, but about a new ‘era,’ a new age to come. He explores this by reference to the prophets, ending with the comment ‘if this sounds like heaven on...

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Rob Bell, Love Wins 5

One more post on chapter 1, looking again at complaints about Bell’s ‘orthodoxy.’ The chapter begins with a story that Bell told in the promotional video, and which has therefore become famous. An art exhibition at church included an exhibit with a quotation from Gandhi; someone attached a post-it note reading ‘Reality check: he’s in hell.’ Bell writes: Really? Gandhi’s in hell? He is? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without any doubt? And his pre-publication detractors once again took him to task. And again, they were badly wrong – in my view, and in the view of (here) virtually the entire Christian tradition. Remember Johann Heidegger from a couple of posts back? He was the Reformed writer who...

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Rob Bell, Love Wins 4

Chapter 1 of the book is entitled ‘What about the flat tire? [sic...]‘ It is an example of the  questioning methodology recommended in the preface: for twenty pages, Bell offers a stream-of-consciousness meander around questions concerning the accounts of how salvation is achieved, and what that says about God. The purpose of the chapter is unstated, and (to me) unclear; is Bell wanting to validate the questions he imagines his readers might come to the book with? Or is he wanting to disturb the reader who believes that she has all this sorted out on the basis of what she has learned of the historic Christian tradition? (Or perhaps both?) The first is a noble purpose: it is a service to your readers (or hearers) to say to them ‘it’s OK,...

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