So i finally got my hands on Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book and started into it last night. First chapter was an exhausting litany of questions and doubts towards Jesus & Christianity. Really the chapter was 99% questions, not sure how Bell pulled it off and remained coherent. He really just went on and on and it got tiring, sort of like when my daughter asks the same question over and over and over and over and over…at the end I feel tired. Not that her’s was a bad question, it just made me tired….same with Bell’s first chapter.
He made a good point with the chapter, but my only beef is he seems to draw a moral parallel in his questions by placing a woman’s having doubts about God because her father raped her reciting the Lord’s prayer in the same breath as the annoyance of evangelical Christians who use Heaven/Hell as a tool and calculated strategy to share the Gospel. I understand doubts/questions/etc come in a thousand ways, but disdain for evangelism can’t even come close to the disgusting example Bell chose to use of a woman’s abuse at the hands of her evil father. But his point was there are tons of questions that should be addressed by Christians, questions that are hard and should not just be ignored. I agree 100%. It is just tiring to read all the quesitons at once.
In chapter two Bell addresses heaven and his main example is the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 13. Well this morning as our whole family is sick and so we downloaded the most recent podcast from Mark Driscoll (the other Mars Hill) and guess what he was preaching on….the Rich Young Ruler. BATTLE OF THE MARS HILLS IN MY MIND TODAY! 🙂
Bell used the story of the Rich Young Ruler to say that Jesus was charging us to give up things to establish heaven on earth now. Because according to Bell, Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler is an example of “why Jesus doesn’t tell people ‘how to go to heaven’. It wasn’t what Jesus came to do.” (p.30)
Driscoll uses the same story to challenge his congregation (and my family this morning) about idols we have in our life that we are placing so high that if Jesus was standing before us and told us to give them up, we would go away sad because we are so attached to them.
I know Bell’s book is about Heaven and Hell. But I sure liked Driscolls sermon better than Bell’s chapter. I think I am bothered by Bell’s underlying motivation of rebellion against “church” and what it is and isn’t….his effort to be contrary to the Christian culture doesn’t resonate with me. So when he constantly mentions his distain for Christian culture he looses me….it is like being contrary trumps seeking what scripture actually says sometimes. That is not entirely the case and probably isn’t fair to Bell, but it is just the feeling I get. So when Driscoll preaches about the Rich Young Ruler and challenges me about idols and drives home what Jesus was actually intending to say it resonates with me. As opposed to stretching a parallel message about heaven like Bell did.
Bell does make a point about eternity that I love dearly and live my life by. “eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in connection to God. Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now.” (p.59) Amen. However, Bell lumps this truth about our eternity into an expose on heaven and earth becoming one. Bell implies that the purpose of living for Jesus now is to make earth become heaven. I don’t believe that is accurate motivation for living as a follower of Jesus. I want my light to shine before men that they may see my good works and glorify my Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16). My purpose is not establishing heaven on earth….it is that people would come to know God. Bell uses the phrase “when heaven and earth become one” about five times throughout the chapter…it is a concept dear to him.
I understand Bell’s frustration with portrayals of heaven. I agree…streets of gold, mansions, lots of food, all fine and good. But to me there is no other description needed than to think of being in the presence of God for all of eternity. Bell closes his chapter saying “So how do I answer questions about heaven? how would I summarize all that Jesus teaches? There’s heaven now, somewhere else. there’s heaven here, sometime else. And there’s Jesus’ invitation to heaven here and now, in this moment, in this place.” (p.62)
His quote is clever and cute and leaves things floating, but Heaven is an issue for people because something static does happen…we die. Where do we go is what people ask? I know eternity starts now but when I die I will enter into God’s presence where everything is complete and nothing else maters. It has nothing to do with making earth heaven….the purpose of God’s kingdom coming and His will being done on earth is to call people to His name….not to make earth and heaven one.
I do agree with Bell on this, which I think he was trying to communicate. We should live our lives right now for Christ’s purposes…not waiting around complaining and loathing our time here on earth while our eyes are set on some distant place of glory. God is doing great things now. We should be part of them.
I am only on Chapter 2, and then next chapter is on Hell….which apparently contains the “controversy”. I just started the book but had time to jot down some thoughts. Hopefully I will get another chance when I get through the book.
God is good. Eternity starts now. I am living my life for Jesus now. Amen. Eternity in the presence of God awaits me.
Like to read a followup Chachachingo?