Monday, April 11, 2011

Love Wins - Rob Bell's book about heaven, hell, and everyone in between

Who goes to heaven? Who goes to hell? And who gets to choose?

These are the questions that Rob Bell sets out to answer. To cut to the chase, Bell believes that God chooses everyone going to heaven. He argues that God is interested in a good story. And a god who allows people to live for approximately 72 years and then potentially spend eternity in hell does not make for a good story. For Bell, God allowing everyone to spend eternity with God makes a better story.

And it does. It makes for a good story.

And I agree with Bell on a good percentage of what he says early in the book. In general I believe that traditions and opinions of contemporary believers have strayed quite a bit from early beliefs. It is also interesting what biblical gymnastics are employed to argue for beliefs about the afterlife. Bell challenges the comfy armchair pictures and opinions about heaven and hell that we most commonly run into in today's churches. He draws out the many biblical approaches to heaven and hell. He makes some really solid points that I agree with.

But the darn Arminian within me cannot agree with Rob's final arguments that everyone will be have been redeemed to the point of eternal celebration with God. I can't go there with him. I don't read scripture the same way.

The farther Bell goes with his position, the farther he gets away from discipleship and how I understand faith. Yes, I admit, my disagreement is about how I believe and how I understand scripture. It isn't that he is the great heretic of our time. It isn't that he has violated the fellowship of faith. It is that I don't agree with him.

And it is time to face the truth about our beliefs. Your beliefs are your own. They are either compatible with other people's (living or dead or long dead)or they are incompatible with other peoples's (living or dead or long dead). That, however, does not make your beliefs the rule and standard by which everyone's beliefs are to be judged. I can promise you that your beliefs are just as laughable from God's point of view as mine are.

There is a lot to be said about orthodoxy, though. And I'm sure that someone else has said a lot about it. So I will be brief. Orthodoxy, or the doxy of orthos, with a little "o" (not to be confused with Orthodoxy with a big "O" and really cool beards) is basically the idea of sticking to what is normal or traditional. It means holding to the mainline or what is enduring. There are some ideas that have endured and have been the unifying thoughts of Christian beliefs.

I know that there is a growing contingent of believers who believe that there has been a major revision in history that has excluded alternative beliefs and doctrine.

Yes, history is written by the victors. But the odd thing about the victors who have written Christian history and doctrine is that they write about their own failures and their own mistakes as well as the weaknesses of their opponents. So don't try to argue that the "heresies" of the early church were just sour grapes or ganging up on the little guy. From the beginning of teaching about the kingdom of God, there were acceptable and unacceptable beliefs. There were right and wrong beliefs. There were choices that were affirmed and choices that had to be put away.

Beliefs have to be weighed, not by personal opinion or what makes us comfortable. They need to be weighed by the measuring line of the enduring norm. The ideas that have stood throughout time are what will shape us as a people. And when something that sounds nice or draws more people in because it is easier to chew goes against the enduring norm, then we need to have enough integrity to admit that it is wrong and find our way back to the enduring norm.

Love Wins, in my opinion, crossed the line from the enduring norm and steps into a place where the church does not need to go.
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