Friday, May 13, 2011

Review of Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' Part 1

Better late than never...
I know that this book came out about 7 weeks ago, but I have been occupied with other things and could not get all the way through it until now.
One prefatory remark before I start.  I do not know Rob Bell.  I'm not writing this because of my like or dislike of his personhood, or the size of his church or the labels that have attached to his name.   I'm critiquing his propositions or his ideas not his personality or his ego.  That's an important distinction to make because the Scripture makes it.  We are not to judge the person's soul, that is God's job; but we are to test all things and hold fast to what is true.  Please remember that.  Everybody's ideas are supposed to be held up to the ultimate standard of truth, being the Scriptures, and we shouldn't be afraid of doing that. To say critiquing somebody's ideas is off limits or divisive is to nullify Luke's commendation of the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. (cf. Acts 17:11)
Having said that lets begin.
Preface Millions of us
Everybody has a systematic theology.  Even people who claim that they don't. Everybody has a lens in which they look through the Scripture.  Even Rob Bell.  His shows up, not only on the back of the dust jacket, but also on the first page of his preface.  He says that God loves everybody, everywhere.  It's important to ask what type of love Bell is talking about.  If he's talking about a common grace type of love, the love where God loves his own image in mankind then I totally agree (cf. Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 145:9).  If he means that God loves everybody in the redemptive, children of God type of sense.  I disagree.  Over and again in scripture there is a division between the children of God and the children of the wrath.  
Secondly he attempts to paint Christianity as a exceedingly broad and diverse stream in which these type of disagreements have existed amongst Bible-believing-christians for hundreds of years.  This is ok, according to Bell, because they are not essential issues.  He says on page x

"Much blood had been spilled in church splits, heresy trials, and raging debates over issues that are, in the end, not that essential."
I find this quote unsatisfying because it begs the question.  What are the essentials?  More frustrating than that is the fact that he never answers that question yet this is a foundation piece in his work. 
Just a teaser.  
This book about heaven and hell is more about God's glory and holiness than it is about our eternal destiny.  The cross, our eternal state, and God's character are inextricably linked together in such a way where if you start to pull the string the whole fabric comes apart.  It's not just a "system" that comes apart, it's the very righteousness of God that proves to be wanting.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-26 that God sent Jesus to the cross to absorb his wrath in order to demonstrate his own righteousness.  Four times this phrase is used in these six verses, 'God did this to demonstrate his own righteousness.'  Apparently this idea of God being vindicated in front of the entire universe is fairly important.  But more on that later...

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