"Love Wins" & Baskin-Robbins
Love Wins and Baskin-Robbins
Like you, hell is disturbing to me. Like you, i dont want anyone to go there. Like you, i've been blessed by Rob Bell's ministry over the years. Like you, i like Rob Bell. I like the Nooma series. I like his focus on expanding the kingdom of heaven on earth via practical and holistic means. In regards to the book, there's more i like than not. But, i do not like his recent departure from the historic and biblical view of salvation. Contemplative or not, his ambiguity is potentially misleading.
Like Baskin-Robbins, there are a lot of different flavors within Christianity and everyone has a favorite. Personally, I like that there’s such diversity and liberty on the non-essential elements within Christianity. And yet to be labeled “ice cream” there are a few necessary ingredients. Likewise, to label oneself as a follower of Jesus implies a few necessary ingredients one of which is a biblical view on the doctrine of salvation. It was to Nicodmemus, that Jesus, not once, but twice said. “you must be born again” (John 3:3, 7). When the Philippian jailer asked, “what must I do to be born again?” The answer was “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus and the Apostles were very straightforward with how one is born again. Bell isn’t.
As expected the book lives up to being a quick (198 pgs) but thought-provoking read. You'll find yourself saying, "that's a good point", "That too is a good point". You'll laugh, smirk, and at points you'll probably be convicted; i was. There are both "ouch" and "amen" moments. For the most part i greatly enjoyed it and say Amen to brining heaven to earth. However, I've actually been more perplexed with his interviews than the book itself. "Love Wins", btw, has over 300 questions. Thus we must be careful in distinguishing between the two. I get that he’s being artistic and working his trademark contemplative “Socratic” style, but herein lies the problem with the “we’re all just trying to figure it out together” approach that’s so popular within the emergent church movement. He’s not a kid in youth camp sincerely asking, “What happens to people who don’t accept Jesus as Savior?” Rather he’s a seminary-trained pastor of what’s considered an evangelical mega church. Tens of thousands listen to his podcasts and read his books. Not that we ever stop learning, nor ever fully comprehend all that is God, but shouldn’t a senior pastor have figured out and clearly espouse essential Christian doctrine? Yes, is the correct answer (1 Tim. 3:15).
When it comes to the doctrine of salvation, there’s no wiggle room (cf. John 14:6, Rev. 20:15). In my opinion, "Love Wins" mishandles passages like the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16. Likewise, the difficult passages such as Gen. 19, Mt. 25, Gal. 1, and Rev. 20 are not fully exegeted within their context. By contrast, in Matthew 18:9 you can practically hear the urgency in the intonation of Jesus pleading with his listeners to do whatever it takes to avoid hell. Bell doesn’t. In the end, the Gospel story, as it’s been preached for thousands of years, is a love story. Sure, its been mishandled and abused by various methodologies and messengers. Too many know Christianity by what it stands against rather than what its for. This bathwater, no doubt, needs to be changed but not the baby.
BTW, actually i still like Rob Bell; just disagree with how he's handling not "a", but "The" most important issue facing humanity.
Due to his vagueness, I should also add that, for the record, i'm not quite ready to label him a heretic. I am however, greatly concerned with how (thus far) he's handled himself in interviews regarding universalism (salvation applies to all) and the doctrine of salvation which is the Essential Ingredient to following Jesus-salvation.
As the angel said at that first Christmas, “I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). And so, may you “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).