I’ll give you a heads up in advance. This post is longer than normal so if you are skimming for a soundbite you may want to stop here. If you’re still interested, pull up a chair and engage your mind for a few moments.
You may or may not be aware of the American Church Politics that go on from time to time. It’s mostly petty and always damaging. One group or another is quick to tell all of their people why they should boycott some other influential Christian or ministry. The last time I engaged in the drama was when they were boycotting Paul Young’s book The Shack.
This time it’s a new book from Rob Bell called Love Wins. While Rob isn’t new to the conspiracy limelight it does appear he’s outdone himself this time. Check out this promo video for the book (and don’t miss this… it isn’t even out yet).
With today’s technology a good way to get a grasp on the situation is to see what is being said on Twitter. To help you see a glimpse of the gravity of the reactions let me highlight a few tweets for you that caught my attention. Keep in mind that one of the things this particular group doing the attacking has become known for is criticizing books they haven’t read. It was a topic of much discussion regarding The Shack as I referenced earlier.
@Blakob88 “I’m going with #RobBell for Best Drama. #Oscar”
@newellfool “I haven’t seen this many people get so mad about a book they haven’t read since Harry Potter. #robbell”
@BrianMerritt “If I cared about heaven or hell, I might care about the controversy over #robbell. I don’t and neither did Christ.”
@bmcphail “C’mon #RobBell! Don’t you know that God’s love isn’t possibly big enough to save everyone? #sarcasm”
@k_barth “We have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. #robbell”
@almolx “Is a Tweet attack the modern equivalent of stoning. ‘he who is without questions send the 1st tweet’ #robbell”
@greg_boyd “Lots of “stuff” hitting the fan over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book “Love Wins” I read it & loved it! Rob boldly asks all the right questions.”
@LarrySamJ “While I haven’t actually read the book, I have read a tweet of a guy who knows a guy whose boss has read the book. #robbell”
@richjohnson “On #robbell: 1. Read book THEN speak out if you feel you must. 2. Remember he is a brother. 3. Be gracious. 4. Look at fruit – yours & his.”
@JanetOber “Could it be that our beliefs about hell say more about us than about God? #LoveWins #RobBell”
@wearyoptimist “Don’t judge a book by its cover. Unless it’s by Rob Bell, then you can declare him a heretic. #robbell #hipster #ignorance”
And here are a few that look beyond the accusations to the greater conflict at hand:
@JohnPiper “Farewell Rob Bell. http://dsr.gd/fZqmd8”
@jaybakker “looks like @johnpiper comments on Rob Bell have officially nailed down his title as the new Jerry Falwell… #robbell”
@Chad_Estes “If God is for us, only Calvinists can be against us.”
@rzhodgman “Does anyone think that Justin Taylor / John Piper is getting a commission on sales of Rob Bell’s yet to be published book? #robbell”
In the desire for full disclosure, let me state that Rob Bell is probably my favorite preacher. Not that I agree with everything he’s ever said but I’ve learned a lot from him and feel a sense of gratitude for how God has used him. Let me also state that I haven’t read the book. I plan on doing that but I haven’t had a copy to read yet so I’m waiting like everyone else till it comes out.
The concern is that he’s preaching universalism (all roads lead to Heaven). Jesus clearly says in John 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” The problem is that He also talked a few times about this thing called love. And he also ticked off the religious leaders of his day. And He also made it pretty difficult for us to sit in the judgment seat ourselves and determine who is in and who is out. For example, in Matthew 7:1-2 he says “‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'”
But the biggest thing I think we miss about Jesus is that we totally fail to grasp the enormity of grace. Jesus died for us and there is nothing we can ever do to earn it. Even when we become Christians. Especially when we become Christians. Most of us have no idea just how good the “Good News” really is. With this, I believe there is a Hell. Not in the stereotypical understanding but in the notion of a realm void of the Presence of God and all things good. If Rob believes otherwise, I disagree with him. But is someone a heretic who errs on the side of grace and love?
I’m reminded of something Shane Clairborne said in his book The Irresistible Revolution: “The gospel is good news for sick people and is disturbing for those who think theyâ€™ve got it all together.â€ It’s interesting to note who would view Rob’s new book as good news and who is currently VERY disturbed by it.
I’m guessing Rob’s argument has less to do with all people going to Heaven and more to do with less people going to Hell than many Christians may think (or dare I say, want?). If that’s the case, preach on. I’ve said for awhile now that I think there will be a lot of shocked people in Heaven. Shocked because they are there and shocked because of who is around them.