Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Love Wins: Rob Bell on Heaven and Hell

I am very familiar with Rob Bell and his clever and creative books.  I have engaged his Nooma videos in a wide variety of ecclesial settings and ministry forums.  I have tuned into and am a subscriber to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcasts, where he is the teaching pastor.  I read his interviews and have attended one of his "tours," The God's Aren't Angry, at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.  This is not because I have some sort of fanaticism about his method or have been won over by his somewhat iconic Christian status, especially among my generation (I actually find this quite annoying).  Instead, I believe that Rob Bell is able to raise questions, tackle tough issues, and explore the Christian tradition, the Biblical witness, and serious theological discourse in a way that is thoughtful, honest, and deeply concerned about the gospel that is for the whole world. This is not to say that I have always agreed with all of what he has to say.  Thanks be to God that the Christian faith and related discourse is "modest" and dialectic in nature (thanks Karl Barth).  Rather, I do believe that Rob Bell's contributions to the Christian conversation are important, especially as he often uncovers historical teachings of the church that have been overlooked, overshadowed, and forgotten by the dominant voices of (Christian) culture and reflection.  While Bell's newest book, Love Wins, is certainly not ground breaking, it is significant. 

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

The questions raised in this video, along with the soon-to-be released book, have been foci of some of my previous posts.  It has been suggested by some, to include Karl Barth, who has often been pigeonholed as a Christian Universalist, that to teach such doctrine (even if one believes it to be true) is unwise at best, disastrous at worst.  Is that true?  Origen, Moltmann, von Balthasar, and many others (even some writers of Scripture?) beg the question.  This is not to say that any or all of the "conclusions" drawn by the above mentioned are once and for all representative of mine or the content of this blog, although they could be ;)  Instead, I find this to be a very significant conversation and deeply Christian inquiry for the formation of missional church communities and individual interpretations of vocation.  In other words: why Jesus? what is the gospel? why the church?

I hope you join the conversation, not in hostility, but in hope, that the God of the Resurrection can, and maybe will, make all new and right...

Here are some other helpful links:

CNN: Belief Blog

Sojourners Magazine

Christianity Today

Bell's Book Judged Before Read?

Scot McKnight on Rob Bell and Christian Universalism

A Great Post by a Seminary Friend

My Related Blog Posts
Christian Universalism: An In-House Debate

The Hopeful Elect

Thinking, Being, and Validity of Generous Orthodoxy

Jurgen Moltmann and Theology of Hope


  1. Watching this video, I couldn't help but remember how Jesus rebuked Peter for being distracted over John's future, reminding Peter that his only responsibility was to follow Christ (John 21:22).

    We can't save anyone.
    We can't redeem the world.
    We can't make things holy.
    And maybe it's none of our business who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.

    It's certainly comfortable to believe we will all be redeemed, but focusing on the future distracts us from becoming God's message in the flesh. We can only do that through obedience to His will. We either say "Yes" and follow Him, or we turn away. But the result of the decisions made by others is God's business, not ours. Our business is to follow Him.

    Why Jesus? Because I want to be identified with His death.

    Why the gospel? Because his words are real to me.

    Why the church? Because I crave fellowship with God's fellow workers in the gospel of Christ.

  2. great reflections. I agree that the christian faith has sometimes been so distracted by future ponderings (which is all they really are anyway) about the life to come. We get so focused on who is and will be in and who is and will be left out that we forget, as one of my students recently said, the church is for the now.

    However, I think there is soemthing to these ponderings that form us for missional witness and activity in the world. if we believe that not all will be in, and that in order to be in one has to believe particular things, then our life and witness will be focused on convincing and arguing others to an intellectual conviction. If we believe that all are in regardless of belief or behavior, then we will not be very much concerned about how we live nor telling the christian story.

    However, if it is possible that the work of Christ extends unto all in the end AND that are life now counts for something, better said participates in some sort of in breaking of that "end" then not only how we live, but what we say will be shaped in a different way. So here are my suggestions:

    Why Jesus: to be identified with Christ on the cross and Christ of the resurrection for the whole world, to include you and I.

    Why the gospel: the good news that God's yes for the world (i.e. Jesus) trumps our no to God and one anther (i.e. sin)

    Why church: we participate in the good news that in jesus God is putting the whole world to rights...and that begins even now!