I really enjoyed Love Wins. Did I agree with everything? No. Did it make me think? Yes. And that, I think, was Rob Bell’s goal.
The aftermath of Rob Bell’s Love Wins has left a wake of blogs, articles, and books soon-to-be published. Most of these writings attack Bell’s theological views on heaven and hell.
Some of them rightly question him on his treatment of scripture (The most glaring transgression in my mind is the misapplication of OT reconciliation/restoration passages to say that ALL people/nations will be restored to right relationship with God. When the context of these passages most clearly fall in line with God’s eternal plan for the people of God- now those in Jesus [cf. Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:14, 28-29]). Others rip him apart and attack a view that would probably seem foreign even to Bell.
I’m upset and saddened by those who fall into this second category- mostly because of their misrepresentation of Bell’s views. I’ll admit, nailing down Bell’s thoughts on heaven and hell is a little like nailing Jello to the wall. There are few places in the book where you can get a concrete glimpse into where he lands. However, a fair treatment of Bell must be upheld regardless (And if you haven’t read his book, you can’t talk). Here is the litmus test: if Rob Bell were to read what you said he believes, would he agree? Sadly, with many of these articles I don’t think he would.
So what am I adding to this discussion? In this blog, I will steer clear of conjecture and thoughts on Bell’s theological convictions on heaven and hell and speak towards his method and platform. While so much is being written about Rob Bell, I’d rather talk about my last visit to the chiropractor.
My neck was really tweaked. I looked sideways at my chiropractor with a half smile. He turned me around and quickly yanked my neck well beyond what was natural and normal (Is this even safe?!). I was immediately back to balanced. In order to re-align your neck, a chiropractor will extend your neck far past the natural range in order to get you back to center. If the chiropractor simply rotated my neck to normal, it would have quickly returned to jacked up. The over-extension forced my neck to rest normal once again.
This experience sheds light on what I believe Rob Bell is attempting to do with our thinking on heaven and hell. In his intentional line of questioning, he’s taking us well beyond what we’re comfortable with in order to bring us back to what he believes to be a more balanced position.
There are two ways to change someone’s thinking. One, you can plead and tell them where they ought to be and hope they change their thinking more towards your view. Or two, you can get them thinking so far beyond their current position that they move closer to the view you actually want them to hold than they would have with method one.
If ever you want $40,000 (I don’t know when this would apply), you’re more likely to get the full $40K if you ask for $80,000. In the stretching and questioning of Love Wins, Bell is more likely to get drastic results in changed thinking on heaven and hell. However, this leads to a very important question…
Is it right for Bell to use this method in his bestseller?
While I respect Rob Bell, appreciate his heart, admire what he’s trying to do, and am grateful for some/many of his observations in his book (Especially his thoughts against an unhealthy divorce of heaven in the earthly realm and more towards a marriage/recognition of heaven in the earthly realm [read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis or Jesus in the gospels.. ie- Matthew 6:10])- I believe his careless chiropractic method is reckless in his chosen medium.
Maybe his book is completely appropriate and effective for those in his church, the people he knows, and for his culture; but the same values don’t transfer when printed for mass media. The things Bell brings up would be great for a classroom setting or for shepherding someone through issues when you can walk with a person week in and week out as they wrestle through the questions. But when he tosses a grenade out to the general public without follow-up and instructions and says, “Here, fiddle around with it… you’ll figure it out” -it crosses over to the realm of carelessness.
And that’s what he’s done. Bell has introduced many ideas to be wrestled through without a guardian. Who will shepherd those going through his New York Times bestseller? Frankly, it shocks me that the chosen platform for this method comes from a man that plays the role of pastor. Isn’t careful shepherding and follow up the very thing that scripture calls church leadership to do (Titus 1:9)? What sorts of views and heresy will the masses form about Christianity with the platform Bell used?
Fortunately, neither the gates of Hell nor even Rob Bell can crush Jesus’ church (Matthew 16:18). But it doesn’t mean that a teacher like Rob Bell can be as careless as he wants (James 3:1).