Sunday, January 25, 2015

Love Wins, by Rob Bell

This writer, Rob Bell, came to my attention when I was reading a post by a well-known Pastor and Christian leader and Bible teacher. So I decided to check out this book and sample its controversies for myself. Rob Bell is the Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the book was released, I did not follow the controversy. This book itself is written in poetic style, and Rob Bell poses numerous questions about the meaning of life, the mysteries and apparent paradoxes of Scripture and the realities and questions about man's inhumanity to man, which seems to be what Rob Bell defines as the essence of sin. The first chapter begins with this author's assertion about what add up to our questions about why God deals with us as He does, about why Jesus deals with us as He does and why he, Rob Bell, will make the case for how and why God's love will "win" in the end. This book ends with the author's acknowledgements and closes with a short bibliography.

This book is not an easy one to review. That is not because it is not easy to read. In a literary sense, it is good in its poetic form as that is how it is written. Rob Bell asserts things in his book that are what many want to hear. But if you, like me, read the Scriptures and let them stand on their own (or at least try to), you can see how, at every turn, this author uses human logic to question and even challenge the "hard teachings" in the Bible and calls them into question. Rob Bell attacks tradition. I'm the first one who challenges many of our traditions, seeing how many of them seem to be doing much more harm than good. I think especially of the practice of some of our denominational churches of the process of "confirming youth" and then admitting them as full members of congregations without stressing personal repentance and faith in the lives of these "confirmands." After all, as I read Scripture, we are asked not to log in so many hours of "study credits" and/or "service hours" while our hearts and lives remain unchanged. That, however, is not what Rob Bell objects to in his book. The traditions he objects to are the teachings on a literal Hell, God's justice and His wrath. These are unpleasant, uncomfortable teachings and they do not make anyone feel good. It does not make me feel good or comfortable, to know that God's wrath burns against any person who does not know or trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. It does not make me feel good or comfortable to know that God hates all sin so much that he says that He is "angry with the wicked every day." It certainly does not make me feel good or comfortable to know that there really is a literal Hell ad that the only qualifier for going there is simply not being perfect as God is perfect, meaning that even the nicest, most moral and religious people will end up in Hell just because they are sinners. But we do not get to take out of the Bible those teachings that do not square with our logic, that do not make us feel good or that make us uncomfortable. Rob Bell focuses heavily on the love and forgiveness of God. Indeed, God is Love but God is also Light. That is, He is holy and holiness is His identifying character quality. Rob Bell seems to forget that we are to "Consider the goodness and severity of God together." Focusing on the qualities of God that we like, while ignoring the others, makes our faith idolatry. I have no personal feelings against Rob Bell, and he expresses many of the concerns for social justice that go unaddressed in some of our Christian circles. Rob Bell does not deny Hell, but he reduces it to a mental state. He does talk about sin but he talks about it in terms of our hurting each other, but not our sinning against God. He even seems, at one point, to leave it open for any person to "come to Jesus in his own way" and he suggests that religious intolerance is the worst sin. But Jesus makes it clear that we are to come to Him on His own terms. Anyone is welcome to come, but only on His terms. I could not see how this book answers any questions for those people who want to know more about God and Christ. Instead, it raises them and confuses the reader. And the Bible tells us that God is not the Author of confusion!

I cannot recommend this book to any non-Christian or to any new Christian. This book exudes a cultural Christianity rather than Biblical Christianity. I only recommend it to Pastors so that they will educate themselves about this brand of teaching that some of their members may be following. Pastors need to not only read this book but compare it to the Bible, so that they will have done the due diligence that is needed to warn their flocks about the false teachings contained in this book. False teachings that worm their way into the Church are so dangerous because they are mixed with enough truth to make their errors hard to spot. False teachers never come to us and announce, "Hey! I'm a false teacher!" The Bible tells just that Satan appears to us as an angel of light and so do his servants. So our work is cut out for us, brothers and sisters in Jesus. Being surrounded by false teachings and false teachers is one of the prices, as I see it, that we pay for living in the free, affluent West. If you are reading this and follow Rob Bell, please check his teachings against your Bible. Ask God if you should sit under this man's teachings. If He says no, cut your ties with this man, praying for him and for all those who still follow him.

You can check out Rob Bell's website here.

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