Sunday, February 27, 2011

Love Wins!

I've not seen the book yet, so I really can't say much about what's inside Rob Bell's new book entitled Love Wins:  A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever lived (Harper One, 2011).   But, apparently, according to all the buzz, especially on Twitter (where he was trending yesterday), the Grand Rapids-area pastor has become a heretic.   Yes, because he believes that God's love wins, then he must be a universalist who doesn't believe in hell.   As I've said, I've not read the book, but likely the critics haven't either.  All we do know is that there is a video and the video, according to the critics, carries a dangerous message.

Now, being that I'm post-evangelical and don't believe in hell either, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed the video and found its message compelling.  In fact, I find it to be a very powerful statement about the good news we have come to know in and through the person of Jesus.  He makes the statement that "the good news is that love wins."  Why should that be controversial? 

So, for now, until I have a chance to read the book, I'll just post the video, let you watch it, and then let you comment. 



LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

31 comments:

Gary said...

If there is no Hell, is that the "good news"?

Jesus said that Hell exists. It is something that is taught in the Bible, and not just in the gospels. I think Jesus has quite a bit more credibility than any heretic, so I'm going to believe him.

Brian said...

If we are going to entertain afterlife scenarios, 'no hell' or 'empty hell' makes the most sense to me.

However, the conservative in me suspects that the Sadducees may have been right: There is no afterlife. (That is, after all, a literal interpretation of the 5 Books of Moses.)

In my heart of hearts, I envision a life-review with Jesus standing by my side. However, that is my intuitive feeling, not reason or tradition. (Still, the heart goes where the heart goes.)

Gary, if there's an afterlife, I'll be sure to look you up.

Gary said...

Brian,

Sorry, but I won't be where you are going. And you won't be looking anybody up; Hell is dark; you won't be able to see your hand in front of your face.

John said...

I love Bell's suggestion that "hellfire and brimstone" Christianity encompasses a theology where we are compelled to turn to Jesus to rescue us from the worst torture and punishment imaginable by the otherwise merciless God who created us and the hell of horrors which awaits all but the very few who by chance find their way to Jesus and who successfully discern and follow the salvific requirements which Jesus taught to his followers!

And only those who merit saving will be saved by Jesus. And one merits saving by choosing to believe the right things and by choosing to do the right things and by refraining from doing the wrong things.

Not a theology of grace but a theology of works, not a god of love but a god of terror, and a truly evil caricature of creation. If this is the image projected by such Christians, it is no wonder so many are turning away from Christianity.

Gary said...

I don't know why, but the video won't play all the way through on my machine. But I think I got the main point, which is that God's love is such that he accepts everyone unconditionally. Nobody is damned. But that belief is contrary to what is taught in Scripture. For example, see John chapter three(King James Version).

Brian said...

Gary - You've changed my mind. Somehow I'd managed to make it to 43 years of age without reading John chapter 3 from the King James Version. I repent.

(In case it is not evident, I'm just having a little fun. No hard feelings intended.)

jj said...

Seeing as hell was a real place (Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom (and other such derivations)) with an apparently ugly history tied to it, one can see how it emerged into some modern (and ancient) images of hell.

I was always taught that sin is separation from God or leads to separation from God. In my opinion, and I have no doubt that some may care to disagree, but if that is true, then the ultimate manifestation of separation from God (the ultimate price of sin) would be a state of nonexistence.

Regardless, it seems to me that Jesus largely refers to Gehenna in the context of the religious elite or the people that are following Him. When He encounters someone who is living in blatant sin (and knows it), His response is never "you're gonna burn." Which I note with a bit of irony that this is still a common response from many "Christians" I encounter. It would be far better to apply that notion to themselves than to those around them. Maybe, just maybe this might serve to strengthen both grace and humility in the Christian, which, like Jesus, ought to flow abundantly from us.

dcsloan said...

The question has always been: Do you worship a God of war and hate or do you have a relationship with a God of love and grace?

The answers are mutually exclusive and oppositional.

Doug Sloan

John said...

Gary,

If your understanding of Christianity is true, then how do we explained it?

How did the people of God move from a God about whom it was said that in abhorrence of the violence in the creation he almost wiped it out, to a God who would do eternal violence to those created souls whose sin is merely the failure to grasp the intricacies of doctrine?

How did we move from a God who gave his people an eternity of rest after a lifetime of trial to a God who takes away the rest and in its place sends all but the chosen few to roast in eternal punishment?

Is this really the New and improved Covenant, nourished in the blood of one who pleaded for the forgiveness of his killers? Is this really a covenant of grace?

How is this better for most? It seems far worse, awful in fact. It would have been far more grace-filled to allow all to rest for eternity.

Gary said...

John,

There's a lot more to it than simply not believing some doctrine, though that is a part of it. People commit a variety of sins, any of which violate God's laws. "For all have sinned," Romans 3:23

I recommend you read John and Romans, King James Version. That should shed some light on it for you, unless you are blinded.

God has not changed. He is the same as he has always been. God is not under obligation to extend grace to anyone. If he was obligated, it wouldn't be grace. God has chosen to give grace to believers, and to unbelievers he gives justice.(see John chapter 3)

Gary said...

John,

People commit many sins, amoung them is not believing what God says.

God is not obligated to extend grace to anyone, so he can extend it to whomever he pleases. According to the Bible, everyone who does not receive grace receives justice. God is not unfair to anyone.

Read John and Romans(King James Version).

Gary said...

John,

I have posted twice in answer to you, but the posts keep disappearing. Is Cornwall removing them?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Gary, your posts got caught in the spam filter. Not sure why.

But my question -- why do you insist on using the King James Version? Do you use it because of the manuscript tradition that underlies it? That is, the textual tradition that was in existence in the 17th century. Or, do you feel that the translation is somehow sacred? Remember it wasn't the first English translation?

I really don't want to get in a debate here, but if you insist that responses make use of the KJV, it would be helpful to understand why you think it is somehow a better translation than modern texts -- whether the translations are made by conservative or liberal scholars.

Gary said...

Bob,

I use the King James Version, and I know what it says. I don't know what versions others might be using, or what those other versions might say. So, to try to make sure my point isn't distorted from what I intended by another version, I recommend the reader use the King James.

John said...

Gary,

I have to point out that just saying "read John and Romans" regardless of whether I read them in their original Elizabethan text or not, does nothing to make your point. I have read them, I have engaged them at length and on many occaisions and in many context. And the conclusions I reach are vary different than tthe ones you reach.

I don't understand how the New Covenant as you construe it is better than the Old. If youu are right I would prefer to rest in eternity under the Old than participate in the lottery offered by tthe new. My chances of coming out on top are not very good (as success cannot be earned) and, from whjhat you say, only a very few lucky numberss are going to be drawn.

If you are saying that we have no choice, that a draconian New Covenant has been imposed on us, by an angry god who is not content to let the dead rest in peace without due punishment, then so be it. But if you are right, I must honestly profess that I don't like it and I cannot respect the god who imposed it upon us. There is no genuine grace in it, only judgment.

But I don't accept your conclusions. I could do as you do, and say read John and read Luke and read Isaiah. From them I draw a very different set of conclusions, about mercy, forgiveness, compassion, about love of neighbor, and above loving one another as God loves us, m,ost especially about God's love for each of us.

So, yeah, back at ya, read John and Luke and Isaiah.

Gary said...

John,

Since God did not consult us before he made his decisions, isn't it obvious that he didn't think it necessary? And, if we don't like what God decided, then I doubt if God will consider that his problem.

Brian said...

http://grammar.3storychurch.com/themes/site_themes/agile_records/images/uploads/Chapter_on_Salvation-rev_2.pdf

I hope the above link works. It takes the reader to an article by Joe Jones. He's a post-liberal theologian in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I did not re-read this today, but I think this is one that puts forth his thoughts on how hell is empty, through the grace of Christ.

Note: I'm not a post-liberal, but I find Joe and Bob to be on similar theological ground. While I come out in a different place, I have tremendous respect for the post-libs. When one steps back and looks across the landscape of Christian theology, the post-libs and revisionists are not very far apart. Gary serves as a reminder of this.

Gary said...

John,

God did not consult us before deciding how He would do things. If we are not happy with His decisions, that would seem to be our problem rather than God's.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Brian,

Thanks for the link to Joe's essay. I think Joe and I are in similar places. Both of us appreciate Moltmann and Barth.

On whether I'm post-lib or not, I've thought a lot about it lately. I am probably more post-evangelical than post-liberal, in that I never was really a liberal. I moved from conservative evangelicalism to progressive evangelicalism and then like many emergents kind of found myself a bit further beyond. But I think that postliberals and postevangelicals tend to find themselves in the same place!!

shane said...

Gary said...
If there is no Hell, is that the "good news"?

Jesus said that Hell exists. It is something that is taught in the Bible, and not just in the gospels. I think Jesus has quite a bit more credibility than any heretic, so I'm going to believe him.

1. Don't you think no hell would be good news? Are you glad there's a hell? Does it please you? Feel right to you? Do you praise God more because he burns the flesh off young girls over and over again for eternity? Does the thought of an old buddhist woman who lived in 8th century china screaming for millions of years seem right and good and just to you?

shane said...

Gary,2. Jesus never said Hell exists. Show me where Jesus actually said "Hell Exists" He never knew the word Hell. He did however reference a place called gehenna. None of the writers of the bible knew the word hell. just like they didnt know the word camel, love, french fries, and coca cola. The word had not yet been invented. The bible writers knew theses words. Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, Gehenna. All 4 of which are all translated into the english word hell. The word hell is derived from the word Kell. Words like Cell, cellar and hell all came from Kell. People used to tell people go to hell. Which didnt mean go to the christain torture chamber it meant go to the cellar, go sit with the potatoes. Today we might go say go jump in the lake. As good students of the bible we need to read the word in our king james and ask what was the original word and what did it mean to those who heard it.
Obviously it didn't mean to the apostles what it now has come to mean to so many. Many people spend so much time and energy scaring the hell out of people by describing in great detail how hot, or cold, or black, or monster filled, or multi leveled etc. But why did not the original disciples ever write in one of the letters the very simple truth. Heres the deal folks God created hell, most people will go there unless they say a prayer or get baptized before they die. Why is it not just spelled out simply in the scriptures. Jesus says you can go to hell for calling your brother a fool. No one takes that literally. David asked God not to abandon his soul in hell (Sheol).
Psalm 16:10 KJV Now David asks God not to leave his soul in hell. Did david not know that everyone who goes to hell deserves to be there and will not get out. Does God make an exception for David and let him out of hell but no one else? Or do we need to re-read and study what is written. And is this verse proof of a literal hell or an example how country preachers and popes who lived in the dark ages made doctrine out of whatever their imaginations lead them to believe

shane said...

Gary,3. you said Jesus has quite a bit more credibility than any heretic. I agree with you. Id even say more than quite a bit more credibility. In fact he is the truth. However he was also a heretic. And aren't we glad he was. He showed us what God was really like, and not what the religious establishment had presented Him as to the people.

#4 i love the imagery you use for hell. You won't be looking anything up. Because hell is dark- i ask you to prove from scripture where it says hell is dark. Or perhaps you will explain to me that the hottest fire is black fire. If hell is literal then there is literal fire and literal fire gives off light. At least in this universe it does. Who knows perhaps God will invent light-less fire just to mess with the hell bound and punish them even more.

4. Read Romans in the KJV and you will see over and over again. That what Adam did Jesus undid. So in Adam all die but in christ all will be made alive.

Read:[Romans 5:18] "As through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."

What Adam Did to all of humanity Jesus undid. Adam Condemned us all Jesus Justified us all. Theres more if you're interested.

"God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men; the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." [1 Timothy 2:4-6].

"All things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them" [2 Corinthians 5:18-19].

"We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, most of all of believers" [1 Timothy 4:10].

"This is the will of Him who sent Jesus that of all that the Father has given the Son He loses nothing." [John 6:39]

"God gave Jesus authority over all mankind that to all whom God has given Him, He may give eternal life" [John 17:2].

"No one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him draws them." [John 6:44]

"No one can come to Christ unless it has been granted him from the Father" [John 6:65].

"Because Jesus was lifted up from the earth, He will draw (helko=drag) all men to Himself."
[John 12:32].

shane said...

Gary,
Doesn't this sound like Good news to you. Do you like movies where the bad guy gets killed at the end or where the bad guy and good guy reconcile at the end?
Do you want all the evil people in the world to be in heaven with you or just the good people?
What about all those cute little hindu and muslim kids living in countries where the government kills christian missionaries. And some of those kids will die without having been lead in the sinners prayer. Do you really think it is just to have them burn for a year. Have you really considered what it is for a human body to catch on fire. Have you contemplated the smell? This is not punishment it is torture. God never ever sanctioned torture in the old testament. When the Israelites were supposed to go kill cannanites and dash the babies on the rock it was so they would die very quickly by having their brains bashed in. God never sanctioned torture. Even we americans who sanction torture of terrorists condition that sanction by saying only for a period of time and only to extract life saving information. We know that torture that extends beyond a confession is cruel and unusual. Are we better people for having such morals? Where did that goodness come from? Think of all the people who on their way to hell have to stop at Jesus' throne and make a confession before they get tortured. Even saddam hussein knows that once a person confesses there is no point to torturing them any longer, you just kill them. And yet we say that God will torture billions of people for trillions of years to punish them. Isn't the whole point of punishment to teach someone a lesson? If it isn't then isn't it just vindictiveness. A father beats his child with a belt for lying and stealing, we feel compelled to stop that man after a few minutes, and yet we praise God when he lights up people who don't even know what they did wrong. How long does it take to learn your lesson while burning.

Ask yourself this question if you're wrong and there is no hell are you gonna feel cheated. Like you worked so hard to live a good life and all these other people got in for free.

John said...

WE Americans don't santiontorture, those americans who did should be prosecuted for perverting and corrupting all that we thought we stood for!

John said...

I was referring to the prosecution of the civilian leaders who gave the unlawful directive and not to the soldiers and those on the ground who were just doing their jobs as best they could.

Gary said...

shane,

I'm satisfied with the existence of hell because God wanted it to exist. Whatever God wants is fine with me.

Some scriptures where Jesus mentioned hell: Matthew 5: 29,30; 10:28; 11:23; Luke 16:19-31.

Hell is currently in the heart of the earth, and it is very dark down there.

You are judging God by your standards, rather than submitting yourself to His standards. If you could understand the arrogance of your beliefs, you might find them as ugly as I do.

John said...

''Hell is currently in the heart of the earth, and it is very dark down there."

Seriouisly?

Brian said...

John - This is not meant in a spirit of debate. I'm just pointing out a differnt angle, which happens to be mine.

I say with no hesitation that "we" do indeed sanction torture. "We" also choose homelessness, militarism, disparity in healthcare, education, and economics....etc.

I say this because I'm using the organism that is the collective humankindas my unit of annalysis rather than the individual human. If I say that I'm not 'we', then I'm viewing this from an individualistic point of view. I'm saying that my thoughts, feelings, and actions are independent of the organism of which I'm a part. I don't think this is accurate.

Of course, this does not mean that we don't make Christlike choices as individuals, because humans are the one parasite on the planet that can actually think and alter their course through the power of intent. This is remarkable. This gives humankind a tremendous responsibility.

In closing, I know that on meat and potatoes issues you and I are on the same page. I'm just sharing that some people (me) have a different way of seeing things. (Basically a systems approach.)

John said...

Brian,

My comment was just meant to extract this issue and put an exclamation point on it. I feel a very deep sense of betrayal by the last administration on this issue. I feel as if they violated all that I hold dear about my country. (But my comment was really is off topic.)

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

I feel the same way John.

Check this out brother.

http://www.amazon.com/Washington-Rules-Americas-Permanent-American/dp/0805091416