Neither has anyone else!
But there are many in the Evangelical Christian community who are quite ready to state how wrong Bell is (or is going to be) in his yet-to-be-released book entitled, Love Wins. While I typically don’t write lengthy posts in regards to theological debate, I find this conversation fascinating. I am intrigued by its substance, as well as the manner in which we argue and debate in an online environment.
I first caught wind of the firestorm on Twitter. John Piper, who is described in Wikipedia as an evangelical, Calvinist, Christian preacher and author, currently serving as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, simply wrote “Farewell Rob Bell.” The tweet contained a link to a review on The Gospel Coalition website that takes on the perceived intentions of Bell’s book from the provocative promo video. Here’s the video…
I am one who has a more optimistic view of what this book may accomplish than Piper or those who seek to criticize it already. I kind of view this book release as history repeating itself. This isn’t the first time Bell has been called out for touting less-than-orthodox beliefs. But the consternation from some is probably more heightened because Bell seems to be tackling some of the “big rocks.”
The video is, and I believe very intentionally, provocative. It raises questions, rhetorical ones, that makes the listener have to wrestle with certain issues. The issues I see range from Universalism to Atonement theories to the very existence of Hell. The more orthodox (from fundamental to the classic Reformed) are crying foul…or at least heresy. Their view is that these questions are already answered. We don’t need to reinvestigate. The Scripture (from their viewpoint, interpretation, and tradition) is clear.
My feeling is this – people will like the book or not like the book based on the perspective, doctrinal belief, and theological camp they already live in. For some, to even raise questions about core doctrine is to denounce a whole series of foundational beliefs. I tend to like the questions, if only because these are the very questions that my students are raising. I don’t know if I will agree or not agree with Bell’s assessments. As with EVERYONE else, I haven’t read the book yet. But some aren’t willing to wait to hear him out before throwing him under the bus. But that’s because they’ve thrown him there before.
I think the whole thing is speculation until we read the book. Then let’s talk. I’m not afraid of the questions. At the end of the video, Rob simply walks away. That is a great, artistic move. It will either leave you reflecting or revolting. But it will definitely sell a few more copies.
In my own personal beliefs, I tend to agree with theologian and professor, Scot McKnight when he says, “I believe in hell, but I want to believe in hell the way Jesus does. I also believe in heaven, but I want to believe in heaven the way Jesus does.” The problem is – what Jesus believed about those things is open for interpretation.
I’m willing to go back to the drawing board and take a look at many of our traditional views and try to understand and discuss the options, as long as we can connect them to the Scripture and to our church traditions and to common sense. Some feel that the willingness to even talk about it is grounds for labeling a person as a heretic.
My advice: let’s wait and see. Let’s not be mean to each other. I think it’s ironic that people are so theologically and morally outraged and vocal over a book they haven’t read yet…a book entitled “Love Wins.”
Note: By the way, there are a lot of websites out there that are discussing this thing from a theological viewpoint. My motive in this post is not to try and win an argument. I’ve had a number of people ask me how I feel about this story and I thought it best to write it down in a blog post. I’d love to hear from you about how this discussion is playing out in your neck of the woods.