Recently, there has been a curiuos amount of uproar regarding Rob Bell's book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Now, I am fairly familiar with Bell's writing and views. His refreshingly insightful and, I believe, Spirit-inspired teachings should not be so rashly disregarded without any consideration. Sometimes it seems that any re-examining of Scripture without the preconceived notions of certain denominational traditions really incites certain people or groups to anger or even hatred. Did not Jesus do the same thing in his time: re-examining the Truth of Scripture against the notions of his day, much to the chagrin of the Temple leadership? To place judgment on a fellow Believer without really knowing his views, such as through a reading of his books (e.g. Velvet Elvis, Sex God) or listening to his sermons or discussions (e.g. "Everything is Spiritual", "The Gods Aren't Angry", the NOOMA Series) is simply irresponsible and foolish--perhaps even unChrist-like. When addressing something different, many Believers seem quick to judge the source with an "outsider" term (e.g. Universalist, Open Theist, Heathen), but different does not automatically mean wrong. It is disappointing that many Believers do not keep more open minds, as if everything has already been answered and neatly packaged within their doctrines or traditions. Where is the courage and grace to address difficult topics in the community of the Kingdom? Where is the desire for holistic learning?
Consider pastor/author Glen Packiam's recent blog, "Before You Dismiss Rob Bell, Let's Learn Some Terminology". It provides an initial response to some of the controversy, namely through an analysis of differing views on final salvation and judgement. I really appreciate Packiam's wisdom, and believe that he has some very helpful and valid ideas to offer to this conversation. Pastor/author Aaron Stern's recent article, "Rob Bell and Hell: is love winning?" also provides some insights while also suggesting a Biblical response to such an outcry.
For another thought on the subject, which includes the controversial promo video for Bell's book and which defines certain potential sub-categories of universalism, refer to "Universalism and the Doctrine of Rob Bell" by professor/author Scot Mcknight of North Park University. And for a more direct perspective on the issue, take a few moments to view a recent interview between MSNBC's Martin Bashir and Rob Bell. What does it add to the discussion?
Furthermore, or lastly, please read some of Bell's work, including his most recent book, before forming conclusions. The enemy seeks to divide and disrupt the Kingdom of YHWH. We must be mindful of this when addressing disagreement within the Church. We must resist the inclination to direct our attention and energies to a spiritual civil war. Rob Bell and his students are not the enemy. Gregory Boyd and his students are not the enemy. N.T. Wright and his students are not the enemy. John Piper and his students are not the enemy. Who is the true enemy? The enemy of the Kingdom of YHWH is Lucifer. The enemy is the third of Heaven that fell with him. The enemy is what remains of our proud worldly nature. May we be mindful of it. Note that Paul wrote to the early churches about not becoming divided over who followed whom: whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, for example. It is about following Jesus, Paul wrote. All teachings must be weighed against the Word of God: Jesus, the Word since the very beginning.
May we be quick to listen and slow to speak. May we engage the world with love. For without love, all that we are--all that we do--ultimately amounts to nothing. Without love, we would all have nothing.
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.