Rob Bell’s Love Wins is an introductory book into some really interesting questions about salvation, heaven and hell. He, admittedly, doesn’t present any amazingly novel ideas, but he dusts off some historical doctrines that have been long ignored by the evangelical movement in the western world. While I don’t agree with all the conclusions that Bell has, I love that there are people who are willing to dangerously examine our current pop-Christian doctrinal systems in a historical light. Without any doubt I know that the Bible is trustworthy, reliable and true – yet the work of interpretation must be done continually by every generation to faithfully present the gospel to the world. In Love Wins, Bell nicely presents some interesting doctrines, but I really did wish it was more dangerous. It was edgy, but I didn’t feel like it was risky. All the same, for a book with this much publicity, I’ll post multiple blogs to give my thoughts on the chapters.
The first chapter of Love Wins Bell deals with the requirements for salvation. It’s interesting stuff, lots of stuff that I have already been thinking about for a long time (I had described my religious beliefs as a centering-set, process Salvationist on facebook, but changed it when Heather kept getting questions about it. My new facebook religion: I like Jesus.). One key element that Bell gives is that when people reject Jesus, they are often rejecting a Jesus that isn’t real and true (it’s wonderful postmodernist deconstructionism…and no, that’s not bad). When a person rejects a Jesus that is “antiscience, antigay, standing on the sidewalk with his bullhorn, telling people they’re going to burn forever” (8), they are rejecting a Jesus that is foreign to the Bible. Bell then considers the variety of ways salvation comes to people in the Bible, of which I wish he would have got more into communal salvation, but that’s just a personal interest.
The funniest part of the first chapter is that Bell asks all sorts of questions and points to the variety of confusing verses in regards to salvation, and then abruptly moves on to the next chapter. It’s awesome. He takes traditional evangelical methods of salvation, blows them up and says, aren’t those pretty fireworks?
This is a late post by a full week, but it’s a fun way to review my month, and remember some lessons I learned. So, here’s what I learned in February:
- It’s colder than you think it is.
- Black Eyed Peas are awesome to everyone except people who think folk music is legitimate (which it is only in a socialist system, in capitalism whoever sells the most contributes the most).
- On a similar note, it’s much cheaper to get tickets to unpopular bands than to Taylor Swift. There should be free health care included with her concerts.
- It’s easier to win basketball games when you put the ball through the hoop thingy.
- If you want to go on Jeopardy you have to watch musicals.
- Just because you know one dance doesn’t mean you know all the dances.
- Driving on ice is dangerous…mostly because of the nut jobs who think spinning your wheels is helpful.
- Carry chains, you’ll thank me later.
I got to hear Phyllis Tickle speak at a National Youth Worker Convention a few years ago. It was fascinating to hear a little gray haired women get up on the stage with a little white board and blow my mind with observations about the cyclical nature of historical and Christian development. Tickle – who is just as good a writer as she is a thinker – takes a look at the way that western history has undergone massive shifts about every 500 years, and we are finding ourselves in one of these transitions right now.
While she engages this transition with hope, Tickle also gives wisdom to her warnings of the possible dangers and ways that the church could hurt each other in the midst of a huge transition. There is a ton of emergent/emerging/postmodern junk out there – enough to disappoint anyone who spends money on books , but this one stands above and is worth every cent.
Here’s some quotable material:
- p.27, “During the sixth century, the Apostolic Church, with its presbyters and anchorites, gave way to an organized monasticism as the true keeper and promulgator of the faith. Yet we must remember three things: first, the Apostolic tradition, with its canon, its John Cassians, and its Augustinian theology, even its pursuit of mysticism, did not cease to be. Second, because of the reconfiguration of those treasures into new shapes and vessels and accommodations, the faith they testify to was scattered across a far broader geographic and demographic area than it had previously occupied.”
- p.29, “One does not have to be particularly gifted as a seer these days, however, to perceive the Great Emergence already swirling like balm across the wound…”
- p.45, “…two or three popes evoked the one question that is always present in re-formation: Where now is the authority?”
- p.58, “The imperative for us in the twenty-first century, therefore, is not to fear either of the two coursings, but to fear with all our hearts and minds and souls the pattern of bloodiness that has in the past characterized the separation of innovators and re-traditioners from one another.”
- p.73, “The assertive presence in general conversation of the central question of authority is evidence that a re-formation is in process.”
- p.91, “And the thing to believed in was a God-infused, biblically sanctioned code of conduct that would have made Jonathan Edwards proud. More to the point, as a code of conduct, it was to be believed in as a means of salvation which, as it turns out, is considerably different from believing in G0d-among-us as a means of salvation.”
- p.138, “In the Great Emergence, reacting Christians are the ballast. However unattractive they may seem to be to other of their fellow Christians and however unattractive nonreacting Christians may seem to be to them, the small, outer percentage is the Great Emergence’s ballast; and its function is as necessary and central to the success of this upheaval as is any other part of it.”
- p.158, “He [John Wimber] spoke instead of ‘center-set movement,’ of a Christianity whose basic gatherings would be clear about their vision and be busy about the work of the kingdom while letting people sort themselves out by how close each wanted to get to the center. Such an approach was – and still is – clearly a leap of enormous faith. That is, it assumes that something other than ‘rules’ is holding things together while, at the same time, also preventing the whole construct from skittering off into chaos.”
- p.162, “If in pursuing this line of exegesis, the Great Emergence really does what most of its observers think it will, it will rewrite Christian theology – and thereby North American culture – into something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years.”
My friend Josh lent me this book by Andrew Hodges, who is a psychiatrist and an author. The premise is an imagined conversation between a psychiatrist and Jesus, talking about the various experiences and development that Jesus experienced upon his incarnation and life.
It’s actually a really interesting read. I find it helpful to read about what other people may have thought Jesus was like as a person and how he may have processed the life that he lived. For the most part, people tend to imagine that Jesus was just like them – that he would be angered by similar things and joyful about similar things. When you ask someone point blank what Jesus was like, they tend to reflect on the traits of Jesus that they share. This is why I tend to talk about and admire the strong, passionate, thoughtful, and opinionated aspects of Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever been excited about Jesus being our shepherd, healer or great high preist – I’m too excited about Jesus being our king, savior and lord!
All that to say, Hodges book is good – and a good experience. One warning, it’s 400 pages long. That’s intense. I spent quite a bit of time skimming. It’s probably a book best read in small bits and digested slowly.