Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Here is the New There

One thing I am learning about Rob Bell’s book as well as from other reviews I’ve read, it that Bell is striving to be more of a Christian artist than theologian.  That is to say that Bell is painting a picture with words using biblical citations, critical questions, experience, and theology but not necessarily.  Whether that is a good or bad thing is another discussion since all talk about religion and faith is to do theology.

That’s important to know as you read chapter 2 “Here is the New There” which is about heaven.  Those who hold what is now the traditional view on heaven (and salvation) will find this chapter frustrating because Bell is not trying to give full explanations for the claims he is making as he is paints the picture.

In short, the traditional view of heaven (and salvation) borrows from Greek philosophy.  It therefore views the world and all that is physical as something we must escape from.  Christ is the means of this escape.  Therefore those in Christ go to heaven when they die which is a blissful place of mansions and streets paved with gold.  This is a view that not only I no longer hold but has come under greater criticism as many believe it just cannot be sustained in the light of all the biblical evidence when read in it’s historical context.

Another view, which I happen to hold, is the view that heaven is a real place separate from the world at the present but is being reunited with world (actually the world is being redeemed to God).  Thus heaven and earth will one day be joined together which is the picture we are given in Revelation 21.  The new heaven and earth will not be a place where our souls simply fly away too as we often sing about in the popular Christian spiritual/hymn I’ll Fly Away.  Rather the new heaven and earth will be a place of bodily existence which is affirmed in the passages that speak of bodily redemption (cf. Rom 8.23; 1 Cor 15).  It will be an existence of God’s reign, where his will is done and all that is against his will is removed from the picture (cf. Rev 21.8).  This seems to be the view Bell is painting which I have no qualms with.  For a good thorough introduction to this view see N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 2008.

What I really appreciate about this chapter is the way in which Bell weaves kingdom living to the eschatological goal of God’s redemption, where his will is perfectly done in the new heaven and earth.  You see, Jesus called us to participate with him as his disciples in this kingdom life.  Thus by doing God’s will here on earth as it is done in heaven, God brings the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God) into  present history through us.  So Bell writes:

Taking heaven seriously, then, means taking suffering seriously, now.  Not because we’ve bought into the myth that we can create a utopia given enough time, technology, and good voting choices, but because we have great confidence that God has not abandoned human history and is actively at work within it, taking it somewhere (p. 45).

Notice that Bell keeps the work of bringing redemption upon the shoulders of God as it should be.  Redemption is God’s work but it is work that God calls his people to join in through faithful obedience.

As I read this chapter, it did not strike me in any way that Bell was trying to suggest that heaven is something we bring about through our own volition.  Thus is was a bit of a surprise to read one review that accuses him of such a view.  Of course, I have not finished reading this book yet but I do not see such error in this chapter.  By the way…the review I mentioned seems to be a fair, objective, and generous review…yes people can disagree with Bell and do so in a proper way.

For all the dogmatic critics of Bell, I will say that reading this chapter was encouraging and made me want to praise God all the more.  It remains to be seen if that same sentiment will follow me through the rest of the book.

See also:

 

11 responses to “Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Here is the New There

  1. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell says he believes that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to rethink the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    • Ron,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the blog. As for what Rob Bell articulates regarding salvation, I’ll wait to comment until I get to that part of his blog. But I do firmly believe that redemption from sin and evil comes through Jesus Christ alone, namely through his crucifixion and resurrection.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  2. I found this chapter quite compelling. I am still sorting through what I believe and what I may just “want to hear” – but the idea that God is working on transforming the here and now seems so wonderful to me (reading this chapter made me feel more connected to God than I have in a long time). I also find the idea of an “earthy” heaven to be extremely beautiful. I’ve heard of people talk of a heaven where we have no essential personal identity or interpersonal relationships because all that matters is that we are in relationship with God, serving God forever in an abstract realm – and I can’t help but imagine it lacking. (Although, I know that I cannot trust my imagination alone)

    I like Bell’s ideas in this chapter. I am having some trouble reconciling them with real suffering that I see that is not human-caused (the tsunami would have killed many who lived on those shores in Japan regardless of what human institutions were in place) because while it is easy to look at human-caused suffering and say “God has nothing to do with causing this”, it is harder to do that when we look at the physical earth that we claim God created. Which again – I know that natural disasters are a part of what God would eventually fix in the new age. I’m sure many of you are much further along in thinking through these issues than I. How should a Christian respond to accusations that God is furthering suffering through natural disasters, if we claim that God is working to end all suffering here and now – not just in some future abstract realm?

    Thanks! It’s been a pleasure stumbling across your blog. I’m looking forward to reading your posts on the remaining chapters.

  3. The Reader Philip Ben Marston

    I like what you are saying that Bell’s book is presenting. I once contacted a Christian radio station back in the 90s with the very point you made about “I’ll Fly Away.” Yes, it is a synergism. Scriptural and Orthodox. 🙂

    The idea of ‘anamnesis’ as I have been taught it, pertains specifically to the breaking in of the future age into that of the present specifically in the gathered meetings of the Church, and in the Orthodox Tradition, especially in the Divine Liturgy. It is here that the Eighth Day of Eternity is fully manifest in the Present through Eucharist and Doxology. Paradise and Earth are sat down at Table. God is with Us. He is both the Offerer and the Offering.

    That is why women wear headcoverings in worship. The gathering of the Church is a meeting within the Age to Come breaking into the Present. It is the time when there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage breaking into the present order, and for the time of the liturgy, the women iconize themselves in a way that mutes the outward aspects of their being that pertains to this order and not the next. They are for that kairos, manifesting the life of the age to come, an angelic life. That is why it is important to the angels….they know what is going on more than we for they have heavenly vision; while we still see through a glass darkly.

    • Ben,

      As always it is great to have your Eastern perspective on this blog. In fact, from what I gather from some other reviews on this book, hearing an Eastern Orthodox perspective might be helpful. Some of the ideas that Bell is reportedly introducing in the book are, so I’m told, actually beliefs that are out of the mainstream of Western Protestant (especially Evangelical) thought but not so within Eastern Orthodox thought.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  4. Pingback: Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Hell « Kingdom Seeking

  5. This book is full of false teaching. It does not hold the right vi. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuseew at all. Rom 1:20. There is going to be no reason for not coming to christ. There is a hell. Mathew 7:13-14 there a re 2 roads narrow and wide one leads to life one to death if you dont get on the narrow that only leaves one wide.

    • Justin,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment. I’m curious to know whether you’ve read the book or not. I don’t think proof-texting is going to help resolve any matters here (especially since you are clearly misusing the Matt 7.13-14 passage as a proof-text). Bell could return with as many counter proof-texts (and does).

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  6. Pingback: Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Does God Get What He Wants? « Kingdom Seeking

  7. Pingback: Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Dying to Live « Kingdom Seeking

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