Tuesday, 15 March 2011
I was reading some reviews of "Love Wins" by Rob Bell, and there are some interesting points of views out there on this book. Some like Greg Boyd have said that it is a good book for the questions it raises, challenging orthodox views. While others are a bit more critical of Rob Bell's lack of bible exegetical finesse and the acrobatics that he tries to achieve in arguing for his case. Of the two, I do tend to align myself with the latter.
In many ways, what put me off Velvet Elvis, which I did read a long time ago, was his total inadequacy in intepreting the Bible. He has many ideas, many of them along the lines of postmodern thinkers of our age and he doesn't give any objective answers but gives a multitude of rabbit holes in which we are to search for what he is to believe.
He seems to love broad statements which sound nice, but don't hold a lot of flesh theologically. I read a quote from his new book: “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church has been the insistence that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins.” It's a nice sounding turn of phrase, but what on earth does it mean? Who is he referring to that believed in universalism? Does love winning mean annihilationism?
Perhaps the greatest question on the internet at the moment, is whether Rob Bell is an universalist or not. Justin Taylor's blog and John Piper tweeting the simple word "Farewell" propelled Rob Bell to the frontline of evangelicalism. On this matter, the reality is I don't really care. Universalism has been around since the beginning of time, there have been many a great theologians that I respect which unfortunately hold to this doctrine. William Barclay is one among many, whose bible commentaries have been a great help to me when I was a younger Christian. From Billy Graham, the legendary altar-caller, to Karl Barth, arguably the most influential theologian of modern times (though it is somewhat a softer universalism that he believes in) to George MacDonald saying "God will get you in the end".
Universalism equal with any other perversion of what the Scriptures say, in many ways I am surprised people are suddenly so concerned about doctrine in the church. Moreover, I am equally surprised that John Piper is the one calling out Rob Bell when he keeps other wolves within his fold. My admission is I do quite admire Rob Bell the thinker, if anything. But my issue, which is insurmountably more important is as a theologian, as a Christian even, I cannot stand the thought of his theology being projected onto the masses.
On the blog of Tim Challies he includes some quotes from the book, taken from an advance reading copy of the manuscript, these perhaps give a greater light as to what doctrine Rob Bell is affirming or not:
As soon as the door is opened to Muslims. Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.
Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true.
What Jesus does is declare that he,
and he alone,
is saving everybody.
And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.
People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.
Sometimes people use his name;
other times they don’t.
Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation—grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness—the last thing they are inclined to name it is “Jesus.”
What we see Jesus doing again and again—in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him living like him, and trusting him—is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work.
Does Rob Bell seem in these quotes seem to imply universalism? What do you like and dislike about Rob Bell?