letting the smoke clear

Right now there is a heated debate, or should I say firestorm going on over Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. There is a lot of heat I’ve seen in recent days, but little light cast on the subject. I’m convinced that too often people have agendas beyond merely trying to discern truth and error. But let’s face it. There are camps that because of their understanding in their theological paradigm are going quite often to disagree at key points. And some of these camps cast off their opponents as either heretical, or condoning heretics and heresy.

I think people have probably jumped the gun on both sides. Rob Bell’s followers and friends want to defend him and see all the good and nothing but good in the book. Rob Bell’s opponents, including some who have seen him as a heretic prior to this book, seem to be out to pounce on anything and everything which they see as heresy which is just about, or actually is everything. Some insist he’s a universalist (or a Christian universalist, which is different), while others who seem equally as learned insist he’s not.

So we need to let the smoke clear if we’re going to see well at all. I for one am not going to be easily moved from where I stand theologically, even on secondary issues. On many issues, I think we simply can’t know. If they enter the realm of speculation, we need to be clear on that, that our view on something is uncertain and speculation on our part. With our reasons given. It seems to me that much of the book at least in a significant way may fall into that category. He seems to be suggesting possibilities, and then saying that we simply cannot know for sure. That it’s enshrouded in mystery, but we do know, he’s saying, that God is love, and love wins. The kind of love that never coerces, so that as one brother was pointing out, he indeed is not a universalist in the classic sense.

I do believe we must major on what is clear and what we do understand from scripture. Would I want to take a chance for either myself or my loved ones, that there is or may be indeed a second chance after death? No! Of course not! Scripture does not indicate that there is, from what I can tell. And as a sister said to me yesterday, about those who have never heard, the Lord may be saying to us, “What is that concerning what you’re to do? Follow me!” I am convinced God is compassionate to such, and will do what is merciful and just in regard to that and everything else.

After some time then I’ll begin to trust that some light can come out. Having read the book myself, I believe it is well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. But I’m not convinced at this point that Rob has done justice to what scripture says, though I think he’s addressed issues and questions which people nowadays are asking, so that some good biblical, theological reflection and conversation can follow.

In all of this, we need to show to the world the difference Jesus makes. Even as we disagree, that we indeed do love one another. We also must demonstrate careful thinking, as well. Together, as we seek to follow Jesus in God’s mission in him to the world.

Let me add that these are general thoughts. I know at least one defender of Rob who I understand is defending him in general, without necessarily agreeing on every point. Of course that is the way theology works. We work together on it.

Another late edition. I was influenced as you can see by this post, by Scot McKnight.