Showing posts with label John Piper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Piper. Show all posts

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Review of Love Wins

Every time we pick up a book, whether it is a Bible, a work of theology, or a work of fiction we bring to it our own presuppositions and even prejudices. This is especially true if the work in question as stirred controversy. These presuppositions and prejudices include, but are not limited to culture, education, tradition, expereince, and denominational dogma. My reading of Love Wins and this review contains my own presupposition and prejudices. The controversy surrounding this book has revealed presuppositions and prejudices in the Church. One can call this divide conservative vs. liberal, modern vs. post-modern, evangelical vs. emergent, or whatever you like, but Bell's book has angered many because they see Bell has a traitor, trading one side for the other. In any case, how you feel about Love Wins we depend on which side of the divide you find yourself. If you read Rob Bell's book looking for heresy, you will no doubt find some and if you read the Bible looking for prophetic codes and verses proving that Obama is the Antichrist you will find them as well.

In Love Wins, Bell asks questions. He questions the dualistic dogma of Heaven and Hell and how a loving God fits into the notion of eternal punishment. These questions were not shocking or really all that new to me because these are the same questions I have asked myself, heard in seminary, and read in books by N.T. Wright, Brian McClaren, and C.S. Lewis. For some these questions are a blessing, those who struggle with their own questions will be relieved and empowered that a man in Bell's position also wrestles with the same questions. However, for those whose preaching, teaching, evangelism, missions, basically their entire ecclesiology, is grounded in that dualistic dogma of Heaven and Hell Bell's questions are a threat to their way of doing business. The exploration of Bell's questions and other questions is vital to the future of the Church. If we are not willing to ask and struggle with the big questions of God we will find ourselves irrelevant. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it, does not cut it anymore. An unwavering, unquestioning faith is not really faith.

Bell brings ideas from C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and others and weaves them into a book that is easily digestible and palatable to the average lay person. You do not need an M.Div to appreciate what Bell is doing in Love Wins. Bell's ideas are also as grounded in Scripture and tradition as any "What We Believe" section on a church website and they remind us that perhaps the Bible is not as clear cut on this issue as some claim. Bell explores the idea of Heaven and Hell in the Old and New Testament and challenges conventional evangelistic ideas like "turn or burn", judgment houses, and fire and brimstone preaching that is still popular in some circles.

Bell does not make any definitive statements on univeralism, plurality, and inclusion, but Love Wins infers that people are exposed to Christ in ways other than direct evangelism and that ultimately through Christ people can reconnect to God. Bell leaves the door open to the idea that Muslims, Hindus, and people of other religions meet Christ in their own ways, but he is clear that Jesus Christ and the cross and Resurrection is the catalyst to salvation.

I wanted Bell to go further in his exploration of these questions. Specifically, I wanted to see Bell wrestle with the tough verses, those verses that seem to promote an exclusionuist idea of salvation and seem to make acceptance a prerequisite to salvation. I feel that sometimes Bell skirts the tough issues and tough verses and sticks with those that lend themselves to his assumptions. In a lot of ways, I don't think Bell challenged himself enough and I wonder if he expected the kind of backlash Love Wins has received. If he did, I wanted him to speak to those challenges and perhaps cut them off at the knees.

Ultimately, this book is not the end of the discussion, but the beginning. Rob Bell does not offer this book as a replacement of Church dogma, but he does give voice and legitimacy to that growing section of people who wrestle with those tough questions. It took courage and faith for Bell to write and publish this book. Love Wins will no doubt cost him members at his church and respect amongst evangelicals. It also takes courage and faith to read this book witout a condemning attitude or to condemn Love Wins without reading it in the first place.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Post on Rob Bell

Saturday afternoon I sat down at my computer and surfed over to Twitter to see what as going on in the world. To my surprise Rob Bell was trending along side Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. By now most of you know the story that Justin Taylor wrote a blog post and John Piper sent out a snarky little tweet (Farewell Rob Bell) to his Calvinist horde and boom pow Rob Bell is now a heretic for a book few have read because it does not come out until March 29. Now, there are reactions to those posts and reactions to the reactions and the Christian blogosphere is buzzing. Well I am throwing my 2 cents into the ring with some reactions to this controversy.

1) There are a lot more Christians on Twitter than I first supposed. I never would have imagined Rob Bell trending on Twitter unless he walked into a McDonald's with a sawed off shotgun.

2) There are some people who just love Hell. They love the idea of Hell. The love the idea that there will be people who go to Hell for eternity. The love the idea because it gives them a sense of superiority over others. "Well, you might say this and that now, but you'll sing a different tune in Hell." There are some Christians that love the idea of Hell more than they love God. The idea of God's grace love being offered universally is nauseating to them because Hell is all they have to go on. How can you sell fire insurance if there is no threat of a fire?

3) Christians wonder why the world thinks we are ignorant, reactionaries who condemn books and moves we've never seen (i.e. Twilight series and Harry Potter). Get a clue folks. Before you jump all over the guy, wait a few weeks read the book and then make a judgment call.

4) People, especially conservative Christians, love to proof-text. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard Galatians 1:6-10 quoted I the last two days I would be a rich man. Here's the thing about proof-texting, for every verse you can quote supporting your side, I can quote another to support my side. This can go on ad nauseum.

5) If our goal is to bring people to Christ's love, this is a pretty piss poor way of doing it. I mean "Farewell Rob Bell" what the heck does that mean John Piper? Are you excommunicating him from the Church? Do you really think you hold that kind of power? Are you condemning him to Hell? Do you really think you hold THAT kind of power? If your goal is to perpetuate the stereotype that Christians are willing to condemn things they do not understand or will even take a moment to try and understand then congratulations, you've succeeded.

All this aside, no public relations or marketing firm could pay for this kind of publicity and as the saying goes, "there is no such thing as bad publicity." As for me, I have pre-ordered the book (See what I mean about publicity) and I will read it with an open mind and I (and everyone else in the Christian blogosphere) will write a review. Until then, let's not burn Rob Bell at the stake for something we haven't read yet.