Thursday, March 31, 2011

Love Wins: A Heart's Response, part one

I'm not interested in using my blog as a personal journal. I see personal journals as something that only you and your mother are interested in reading. At the same time, though, there is a first time for us all. "Love Wins" was quite a challenge to my way of thinking, and it has sparked a lot of thoughts. It's scary, dangerous territory, because some of it runs counter to ideas and truth that have been given to me. This is a scenario where I think the stream of conscious approach may be helpful to some.

The problem with me having an opinion about "Love Wins" is that I'm not a Bible scholar. I understand this is shocking to many, but the truth is that I don't know Greek, or even Hebrew. This is distressing because Rob Bell often goes back to the Greek and Hebrew to make his case for why his theology is truly biblical. Well, good for him, but I have no idea how good or accurate or faithful his scholarship is. On the other hand, I have no idea how good or accurate or faithful the scholarship is of the bible scholars that I trust. On one level I have no earthly business evaluating Bell's theology because I'm just not educated enough. As usual, when it comes to matters like these, I will give the disclaimor that all thoughts and conclusions are provisional. I reserve the right to backtrack, revoke, equivocate and renounce anything stated below.

Is it possible to detach yourself from your expectations--the pressures that pull you, the things that tempt you, the doubts that nag--and just respond objectively? Can I speak without hurting people I love, without pissing off at least one group of people who think a certain way? Can I disclose the voices of my heart without affirming them as true or right? Can I express myself just to kind of see what is there, and sort out the business of hard truth from emotion/longing/wondering later? I don't want to believe the wrong things because I don't want to dishonor God, but is that just my holy covering? Is that just a cover story for my raging ego that doesn't want to be wrong? Is that the true motivation, that I be right and all others be damned?

My honest reaction is that I like what Rob Bell has to say. I haven't decided, and probably won't for a long time, if he is more wrong or right on the business of hell, but his perspective is fresh and exciting. The strongest part of the book for me was where he was emphasizing that Evangelicalism is in grave danger of stressing getting your ticket punched for the next life over living this one to the fullest, to the most abundant. Amen. I've been feeling that way for awhile myself, and I am sometimes rescued from it. I often feel like my heart says, "You're saved, now just hunker down, endure life and all of its meaningless banalaties and shuffle off this mortal coil and onto real life." Bell won't let us get away with that. He acknowledges that heaven and hell are places Out There, but they're also Here and Now. They are our choice, right now.
Why am I attracted to his ideas? Is it just that I've been wanting to abandon my conception of God for a long time because it isn't socially acceptable, and so I'm abandoning ship for the first person to come along that even offers a pretense of intellectual feasibility to a more culturally attractive theology?

No, I don't think so. A lot of people, including myself, would accuse me of that, but I don't think that's what it is. There is nuance, here, people. I can not agree with everything that Rob Bell says and still appreciate him saying it. I appreciate what's being called his "biblical imagination." He is right that there is a hell of a lot we don't know. Bell does a brilliant thing and points out that darling of the Reformed, Martin Luther, said himself that if God wanted to save someone after their death, who are we to say God can't do that?

The book is a powerful reminder that all of the Bible is true, but it doesn't contain all truth. There are a lot of things the Bible does not comment on; we have to be ever so careful to not get dogmatic in those areas--one way or the other. We shouldn't assert as truth things that the Bible doesn't define (there is purgatory, etc.), but we have to keep our minds open to the fact that there is so much more to God, his work and character that we have NO IDEA about. Bell reminds us that Jesus is constantly trying to tell us that when we get to the next life we are going to be surprised.

I like the idea of the surprise coming in the next life creating mystery and excitement for this one.

1 comment:

Jessica DesLongchamp said...

I appreciate your comments regarding not being a bible scholar and evaluating Bell's theology without that benefit, I feel similarly. A lot of the questions and thoughts you pose trouble me for that very reason, that I don't feel I'm necessarily able to accurately dissect them, so why bother? Anyway, of all you said I probably agree with your last paragraph the most. So... I dunno where that puts me, but that's what I think. ;P