Within the evangelical protestant blogospheretwitterverse this week, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding Rob Bell's upcoming book Love Wins. I've kept my eye on the debate from a distance, as I have no mind to spit vitriol and Bible verses across the internet. This post will be my only observation.
I love Rob Bell. I respect him, I've paid money to see him speak. I think he's one of the greatest Christian leaders of our day, and he doesn't get enough credit for it. I've also watched the video, edited much like his popular (and brilliant) Nooma series, that discusses the premise of Love Wins. And I think it's great.
Though I have never really respected John Piper (first for his views, second for his spat with NT Wright) this has now given me a third reason not to take him seriously. His comments, as well as the comments of other prominent (and some not so prominent) figures in the evangelical world have caused me great distress. They speak to a contentment with ignorance, to the very blind acceptance and intellectual vacuity that caused me to nearly turn away from the church just over a year ago. Those wounds are still fresh. They still bleed, even as I contemplate a life in ministry to the church.
Rob Bell's intention to examine what heaven and hell really are and how they fit into the concept and assumption of a loving God is an admirable endeavor. He's taking up a deep theological question that has not only occupied the minds of some of history's greatest theologians and exegetes, but also of history's greatest skeptics. To think that we have answered the questions "What does it mean to be saved?" or "What is God like?" in some neat and tidy fashion is ridiculous.
The attitude displayed by those who denounce Bell as anti-Christian don't help anyone. An attitude like this brings to mind a few Copeland lyrics: "No one really wins this time." No one. Christians who only denounce don't answer these sorts of questions because, well, they don't ask them. But questions need to be asked, and they discussion needs to be healthy and civil. Because whether you like it or not, asking "Why can you be such a good person [like Gandhi, the example in the video] and still be damned to hell?" is a valid and pertinent question. Even CS Lewis posed it rather indirectly with his work The Great Divorce.
One has to think systematically; if you say that the only way to get to heaven is by praying a prayer to accept Christ into your heart, then what do you do with the billions throughout time who have not even heard of Christ, God, etc.? What happens to them?
I'm interested to read the book for myself. Because, unlike Justin Taylor's overblown "Rob Bell: Universalist?" post, I want to see what Bell really says. I don't think it will be a universalist claim. Rob Bell is too collected and thoughtful for that.
UPDATE: Here's an article I found on CNN's "belief" blog about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell's new book. The most embarrassing part? Justin Taylor hasn't even read the book. Seriously?