Archive for category Book Review
Josh has a love for cooking. I have a love for baking. Josh wants to learn more about baking. I want to learn more about cooking. When our worlds collide, it hasn’t usually gone that well for us in the kitchen. Usually someone is asking the other to back off or step out of the kitchen. We did a fundraiser dinner last spring for Mission Year and my sister-in-law was Josh’s assistant. Even when we’ve worked it out where both of us are cooking, it has usually been bumpy. So we have tended to back off and leave the other person alone when they’re cooking or baking unless asked to help.
The cause of many of our issues within the kitchen isn’t our communication but how we each approach the task at hand. Josh is much more willing to wing it, freely adjust recipes, and experiment. On the other hand, I tend to be much more exact in my cooking and baking, relying heavily and following closely what the recipes says. While I prefer to precisely measure out ingredients, Josh is willing to eye it. Our techniques are different. Both work, but it has been hard to recognize that.
Throughout our marriage, this has been an ongoing trend for us. While sometimes we approach issues the same, most of the time we can approach them very differently. Josh is much more free floating and easy going, wanting to get the most out of every situation and experience. He grapples with hard issues relationally and conceptually. In comparison, I tend to be much more goal oriented, with a strong desire to complete all tasks that are started. I would much rather find a solution for a problem than sit and have long discussions about what is going on.
What we struggle the most with is that our roles in marriage seem reverse from what society deems as the “normal” roles. Due to how I function, multiple times I have been told by both males and females that I make them uncomfortable because of my drive, willingness to confront, and tendency to take initiative. In return, Josh has been told that he makes people uncomfortable with his openness, willingness to show and share emotion, and more compassionate personality.
Last month we read a marriage book, Not Your Parents’ Marriage, which focused on the need for partnership within marriage. The call for oneness. The call to move beyond the expectations of marriage that you hold and to recognize the uniqueness that each of you bring. The call to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use those to build each other up.
What struck us most within the book, wasn’t this call for partnership and oneness (we’d heard this before), it was the recognition that our style of marriage wasn’t wrong because it doesn’t fit with society norms. Actually, the couple that wrote the book dedicated an entire chapter to this topic because they fit into similar roles as us. Rightfully so, the title of the chapter is “Affirming the ‘Odd Couple.’”
Traditionally the church has done a fairly good job at teaching the “traditional” roles of marriage, but when you don’t meet those it can definitely make you feel out of place. We attempted to attend a small group of young married couples and stopped going because of this issue. We were the only couple out of the entire group that didn’t fit the “norm”, so we weren’t included in many of the group’s dynamics.
This book opened us up to the notion that there is a place within the church for us, that there is no norm for marriage roles. God didn’t wire us wrong. Instead he wired us exactly how we’re supposed to be. If we were to change to try and fit the norms of society, we would face a lot of inner conflict. God designed us this way for a reason.
We also recognized that multiple areas of conflict within our marriage were based around the issue of us trying to take on the “traditional” roles of marriage that we don’t fit into. So over the past month, we have been very intentional on how we work together in the kitchen, recognizing and appreciating how the other person works. While some experiences have still been bumpy, others have gone much smoother.
At the brink of the Civil Rights Movement, pastor and writer Howard Thurman released the book Jesus and the Disinherited. Prevalent then and now, the book provides a foundation of reasoning for the need for non-violent movements to fight the oppressive systems that exist. Thurman’s book focuses primarily on the disinherited state of African-Americans at that time in the United States, where segregation was the norm, Jim Crow laws existed, and people’s rights were being disregarded.
Using Jesus as the ultimate example, Thurman discusses how to overcome, in a peaceful manner, the frustration and pain that can develop from being oppressed. Jesus life provides endless examples of how to react to oppressive and controlling systems. He himself was part of a minority group within the Roman Empire, a large dominant and controlling group, and not only was he part of the Jewish minority, he also came from a poor upbringing. However through his disinherited state, Jesus found ways to peacefully battle the systems that were in place, emphasizing highly on the peace that can come from within.
Through Jesus, Thurman shows how people can move beyond the common feelings of fear, deception, and hate that can develop when oppressed, and most importantly, he focuses on how people can do it peacefully and within non-violent means. Upon overcoming fear through the development of self-worth and dignity, a person can push forward through the oppressive systems and pursue their dreams because they know they are a child of God. This same person can remove the layers of deception that can develop to fit within the “norm” of society, and they can follow after Christ, pursuing a sincere and honest life where they peacefully speak out against injustice. And through all of this they can move past the feelings of hatred and frustration that have grown deep within from being constantly kicked down and told they aren’t good enough.
Upon removing these feelings, a person can then move unto a state of love and forgiveness, where reconciliation is the goal. They can recognize that all people are their neighbor, meaning they are called to love all people. But Thurman challenges that this is not an easy path to take. By recognizing who has become the oppressors, people must work to remove the label of “enemy” and break down the wall that prevents true and authentic relationships from developing. Both sides must be freed and provided with mutual worth and value. Only then can actual reconciliation occur.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” ~ 1 Peter 1:15-16
In Christianity there is a constant discussion about the calling to be holy, but what does it mean to be holy? How do you live a life that is holy? Is it even possible to truly be holy?
When I first picked up the book The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges I was quite skeptical about what was going to be inside. I am used to hearing the constant discussion that to be holy and live a holy life there is a strict set of rules and guidelines one must follow. And on the other side of the argument I’ve heard that the idea of holiness is complicated, not easily explained, and not really something to worry about.
Depending on what version of the Bible you are using, the word holy appears anywhere from about 550 to 600 times. Between the Old and New Testament, there are multiple versions of the word holy that are used. The general concept is of something, a place, or a person that is set apart and consecrated, or dedicated, to God. They are seen as pure, clean, and without sin.
Bridges presents that we are called to a life of holiness. God himself is holy and we are called to be like God. We are called to live a life free of sin; however, nowhere does God state that we must do it all on our own. God sent his son Christ to bear the burden of death for us; thus, he provided us with a path and a desire to seek this pure and dedicated life. Bridges discusses that not once is there a mention in the Bible about this path being easy, instead it’s going to be difficult, yet God is right there beside us, providing us with the strength to keep moving forward.
While God has taken steps to provide us with a path to pursue holiness, Bridges discusses that it is a two way street and that there are steps we must take to follow this lifestyle. Through the personal discipline of reading and memorizing scripture, daily devotional time, respecting and caring for our body, prayer, and letting go of past harmful habits and thoughts, we can move towards a life of holiness, one that is dedicated to God and is full of his love and grace. Going through the various disciplines that Bridges discusses, my initial reaction was “Oh no, more rules and guidelines to follow”; however, I realized that purpose of these disciplines is to provide a way to battle the daily struggles that can easily pull me away from God and his love.
Through an obedient and dedicated life to God, we opened up to a life full of his love and unending joy. “The daily experience of Christ’s love is linked to our obedience to Him. It is not that His love is conditioned on our obedience. That would be legalism. But our experience of His love is dependent upon our obedience” (150).
So I challenge you to give this book a try and be opened up to an idea of holiness that isn’t legalistic and drudging but instead opens up the idea of love and joy that can be experienced.
Growing up in a white suburban neighborhood, predominantly upper middle class, I can easily say that I grew up in a bubble. I would always hear jokes about it growing up from friends who lived in other areas, and my instant reaction was always to deny the “Upper Arlington bubble” (the name speaks for itself). My family went, and still goes, to a primarily white church located between several predominantly white suburbs. All of my friends growing up were white. I went to Xavier University, and while there was a decent population of people of other races, all of my friends were white. I began working in Cleveland and chose to live in a predominantly white neighborhood, and the majority of my co-workers were white. It all sounds fairly white doesn’t it?
Most of my close interactions with people of color were my co-workers who were African-American, between the group home I worked at in college and the hospital as a RN. Entering Mission Year, I was challenged to think about my interactions with people of other races and what beliefs and opinions I hold, especially since I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood
This really hit me when we read Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum. She challenges the conventional definitions of racism and prejudice, showing that racism is actually a combination of prejudice (a preconceived idea based on limited knowledge) and power. Tatum defines racism as a system of policies and cultural messages that are beneficial to white people and detrimental to people of color and due to this, “white privilege” has developed. The idea being that while white people today are not all to blame for the discrimination present in society they do benefit from the system.
The idea that I as a white person may actually benefit more from society than someone of color shocked me, and actually is still a hard pill for me to swallow. Recognizing that the opportunities I have been provided with in life are related to my race is hard to face. The issue is that these opportunities are due to where my family has come from generations back. Someone who is black just has to look one or two generations back to find a family member that was held back by very blatant racist laws.
Tatum than takes it a step forward challenging that while everyone needs to take an anti-racist stance, white people can make a much more powerful impact by doing so. The challenge with this is that white people have to actually recognize their “white identity” and that they are not the “norm” but actually a culture themselves. And by recognizing this in a positive way people who are white can actually be a huge agent of change in society. Thus, I felt even more pushed to analyze who I am as a white person, the “privileges” I have taken for granted, and the “norms” I have pushed on others.
While still trying to mull over these thoughts, in came Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. Using data collected from 2,500 phone survey’s and 200 personal interviews, they work to show how religion, specifically Evangelicalism, has created more racial divisions and inequalities in society. The issue is that the majority of people that associate themselves with Evangelicalism are white. Going from Tatum to this book felt like another slap in the face since I grew up in a white evangelical home.
Emerson and Smith use the term racism in the same way as Tatum, stating that we live in a racialized society where there is a misuse of power and differing levels of opportunities and life experiences based on ones race. The main issue they faced was that many of the people that they interviewed, mostly white evangelicals, felt that race was no longer an issue in America. Also, many of the people they interviewed used terms such as “I’m color-blind.” What resonated most was that I could identify with some of the comments, and I could clearly see them in the culture I grew up in.
They argue that the main reason white Evangelicals currently do not recognize or are not facing the present race issue in our society are their fundamental beliefs of personal freewill, the idea of the personal relationship with God, and anti-structural individualistic views. All of these were beliefs that were taught to me while growing up. When I went to college (a Jesuit school), I became aware of some of the issues behind these beliefs that are all focused on the individual and what they can do. Are we not a community? Don’t we share a responsibility for one another?
Both books offer that open communication between all parties is necessary to find any type of reconciliation on the race issue. Tatum offers a very individual way of addressing the race issue in our society. Emerson and Smith address that we must move beyond just the individual facing these issues, especially within the evangelical movement; however, they provide no opinion on how to do so.
These books have dramatically changed my view point on some of these issues. And my largest struggle after reading them is finding a way to get others to recognize that racism is still an issue today. I can sit here and recommend that you read these books, which I do; however, that doesn’t answer how we as a society deal with it together. My hope is that this year helps to provide me with some of those answers.
What do the words Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution mean to me? This is a question that I have been mulling over and over for the past several weeks. During our time with Mission Year we are reading a book or two a month, and over the past month we read the book Restoring At Risk Communities edited by John Perkins, the founder of the Christian Community Development Association. Throughout the book these three words are discussed and analyzed over and over again. While we talked about the book at weekly curriculum discussions, it is even more of a challenge to figure out how these topics really relate to my ministry, Josh and my ministry, and our MY:Married Team ministry.
The book focuses on the idea of Christian community development, which is based upon the vision of what true community will look like when God is in complete control. Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution (the 3 R’s) are viewed as the foundation and daily strategies needed for Christian community development.
- Relocation is “the need to live and work among those to whom we are attempting to bring the hope of the gospel” (36). For Biblical foundation check out Matthew 28:18-20 and the Great Commission where Christ commands the disciples to go out into ALL nations.
- Reconciliation is bringing and reuniting people with both God and others. It is simply “reconciling people to God, and reconciling people across the toughest human barriers” (108). In Genesis 3 people broke apart from God by eating the forbidden fruit and Genesis 4 people broke from each other when Cain killed Able, and from that time on there are countless stories in the Bible of God attempting to reconcile people back to him and to each other.
- Redistribution is viewed as a natural result of relocation and reconciliation. It is not the idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, rather it is “putting our lives, our skills, our education, and our resources to work to empower people in a community of need” (23). Take a look at the economic system God presented in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.
All three concepts may be simple to read about, the challenge comes when attempting to take and implement them.
Josh is a Social Worker, and he spent the past several years working with the foster care system in Cleveland to assisting individuals coming out of prisons and re-entering society. Many of the people he would work with lived in the inner city neighborhoods of Cleveland. I spent the past several years working in a hospital in downtown as a RN, where many of the patients came from the surrounding neighborhoods.
The issue we faced was that amongst these opportunities we would always end our days by driving home to our apartment in the suburbs. So the discussion emerged of what it would look like for these people we worked with to transform from clients and patients to being our neighbors, where we would actually be in solidarity with them. The problem was we had no idea how to go about doing this, so Mission Year became a catalyst for Relocation, and it has opened the door of Reconciliation and Redistribution to us.
Reconciliation of God and his people is concept I feel comfortable with, but when I have been honest with myself over the past couple of weeks the reconciliation of us with our neighbors seems daunting and intimidating. Facing the truths of racism in our culture isn’t easy, and being White and moving into a predominately Black neighborhood has challenged me to face the “truths” I thought I knew. I am learning that “reconciliation is profoundly spiritual concept – one that tackles some of our worst human tendencies with some of the best that God has to offer his people” (123).
While still facing the challenges of Reconciliation and what that truly means for me personally, I look at how this affects our culture and the neighborhood we are living in. Through my experiences so far serving at the Lokey Center (Poverty Rights Office) here at Emmaus House, I see the discrepancies in services offered to people in Peoplestown and surrounding neighborhoods versus those living in more affluent parts of town. By talking to our neighbors and leaders in the community, there is an overwhelming desire for more viable opportunities for everyone to access.
Through these moments and conversations, the concept that Redistribution is needed and reliant on Relocation and Reconciliation is much more evident. They open the door for Redistribution to be possible. Without the willingness to relocate and build the bridge between us and our neighbors, there is no possibility of working together to build up the community.
In 1733, Jonathan Edwards, a minister of a church in Northampton, Massachusetts, preached on the obligation of Christians to provide for the poor in his sermon “The Duty of Charity to the Poor.” He had become aware of the growing tension between the rich and poor in his area, and Edwards recognized that the core of the issue was spiritual. While this sermon was written just under 300 years ago, the points he made still resonate in society today. Edwards focuses on the fact that over and over again in the Bible there constant teachings of our need to provide for the poor, and while people may come up with objections and reasons why they cannot provide for others, there really is no excuse.
While he points out that we should feel obliged to provide for others simply because God has told us to, Edwards also uses reason and basic morals. If we as Christians believe we have been created in God’s image so has every other person, and if we feel that we deserve God’s love, doesn’t everyone? “We have all the same nature, like faculties, like dispositions, like desires of good, like needs, like aversion to misery, and are made of one blood.” And at the same time God created us as a family, one unit, a body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, discusses that while we are all unique individuals, God created us to join together in unity, so we share each other’s joys and sufferings.
Edwards provides countless scriptural references to this need to provide for others. Throughout the Bible “there is scarce any duty prescribed in the Word of God, which is so much insisted on as this.” Just check out a few of the passages he provides:
Leviticus 25:35 “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee.”
Proverbs 28:27 “He that giveth to the poor, shall not lack.”
Micah 6:8 “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Acts 20:35 “I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
1 John 3:17-19 “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”
We are reminded over and over again of our duty and the need to provide for others, and Edwards focuses on the point that outside of this duty we also must remember where our success and blessings have come from. God has provided for us, and just this provides enough push and motivation to provide for others. And we may sit here comfortably in our own homes with an abundant supply of food and clothing, “But you little consider what a shifting, changing, uncertain world you live in, and how often it hath so happened, that men have been reduced from the greatest prosperity to the greatest adversity, and how often the children of the rich have been reduced to pinching want.” In a world with a continuing fluctuating economy, many people have felt this bounce from abundance to need. So in these times of abundance we should be providing for people who are in need, who are struggling to make ends meet because we could easily be in their position.
Facing many objections to these teachings, Edwards provide reasoning why saying “giving to the poor does nothing,” “those people are not in dire need,” “that person put them self in that position,” or “I barely have enough to spare” are not enough to not provide for others. What amazes me is that these objections shared almost 300 years ago are the same exact ones that are heard today on why people cannot give. And what is at the core of the reasoning behind proving these objections wrong is the love of Christ. “Christ loved us and showed us great kindness though we were far below him so should we show kindness to those of our fellow men who are far below us. Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him, so should we be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor, freely expecting nothing again.”
Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage, and wisdom moves the world. ~ Ammon Hennacy (Catholic activist, 1893 – 1970)
Recently I read the book Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne, who is one of the founding members of the intentional community The Simple Way, an activist, and speaker. While giving an autobiographical account of how he developed his faith, beliefs, and heart for social justice, Shane provides a challenge to us all on how we live out our faith within a culture that has lost sight of the mission Christ gave us.
Shane grew up in east Tennessee. He graduated with degrees in sociology and youth ministry from Eastern University, in Philadelphia, and he did his final year of academic work for Eastern at Wheaton College in Chicago while interning at Willow Creek Community Church. During his time in Philadelphia, he and fellow classmates formed a coalition to help the homeless. Shane spent a summer volunteering alongside Mother Theresa in Calcutta. After college, Shane and several other friends founded the missional and intentional community The Simple Way, which is located in Philly. He spent 3 weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team in 2003.
In his book Irresistible Revolution, Shane provides a calling to an authentic faith where Christians live in community with one another, where they provide, love, and serve one another. He calls us to a life of missional living, where we choose to live out God’s love to all people. This life requires us ordinary people to make radical decisions to return to the message Christ first taught, to love God and to love all people. Christ called us to a community of love, where all people live in harmony alongside each other. We are called not to serve the poor but to live alongside them, to “laugh, cry, dream, and struggle” with them (p. 128).
“But that doesn’t mean community is easy. For everything in this world tries to pull us away from community, pushes us to choose ourselves over others, to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together. The simple way is not the easy way” (p. 135).
We have a continuous draw to community, but we want it to be on our terms. We must move beyond our selfish intentions and seek to come together in love. The body of Christ must awaken to the calling. “The revolution begins inside each of us, and through little acts of love, it will take over the world. Let us begin to be Christians again. Jesus, give us the courage” (p. 356).
I start this review of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived with several comments/disclaimers. First, I highly recommend that you take the time to read the book for yourself. This blog is simply my review, opinions, and reflections on the book, and I am in no way a professional writer, book reviewer, or theologian. And if you are worried about adding one more thing to your to do list, don’t worry, because the book only took me maybe 5 hours to read, and trust me I’m a slow reader, just ask my husband or other family members. The nice thing is that in all of Rob Bell’s books he writes how he talks, and he is a pretty easy guy to listen to, just take the time and look up some of his Nooma videos on YouTube. Also, while reading the book, I would suggest that you have a Bible at hand so you can look up the passages that Bell references, having a study bible with references is even more helpful.
Second, my review of Bell’s book is combined with comments from a live online streamed interview that he did with Newsweek writer Lisa Miller. I would also suggest you taking the time to watch this video, and I will let you know that it is about 1 hour in length and you need to fast forward about 10 minutes to get to the actual interview. Also, any numbers after quotes or statements are referencing page numbers in Rob Bell’s book. Okay, now onto the review…
For the video: Love Wins Interview
Love Wins by Rob Bell
Over the past several weeks there has been much controversy over Rob Bell’s new book. A lot of this stemmed from a promo video that Harper Collins put out to promote the book. Upon the release of this video, the evangelical blogosphere ignited with comments and questions about Rob Bell being a Universalist. The only problem is that many of these people had yet to read the book or they had only read very select excerpts from the book. Now that the book has been released large quantities of reviews have been posted. I am simply taking this opportunity to share my reflections on this book.
What I must start off with is simply answering the questions that have been posted all over the internet for the past couple of weeks: Does Rob Bell believe in Heaven? Hell? Is he a Universalist? I will try my best to answer these questions based on my understandings of what Rob Bell has written in his book.
First and foremost, Rob Bell book does not introduce anything new, and he even discusses this in his preface (x). He simply is wishing to throw some tough questions into a discussion that has been occurring since the beginning of the Church. No one has all the answers, nor does Rob Bell ever claim to have all the answers. He is just taking the chance to share his opinions based on his reflections of scripture, and isn’t this the purpose of a book. As Christians, my understanding is that the only book that is held as the ultimate truth is The Bible. If anyone were to say that any other book holds the ultimate truth of life many of us would look at them and think “are you feeling okay?”
A primary question in Rob Bell’s book is about Heaven and who are we going to find there. Without any doubt I would say that Bell definitely believes in Heaven. He just simply questions the mainstream thought process of who is in and who is out. Over and over again he states that “Heaven in full of surprises”, and how are we, as humans, able to state that we have all the answers when we lack hard concrete evidence of what Heaven is really like. He continues on to discuss that our culture is too focused on what is to come, on the idea of “escaping” to Heaven, and I would absolutely agree. We spend so much time discussing how great it will be to get to Heaven that we seem to ignore what is going on around us. Throughout Christ’s teachings He continues to call us to a life where we are “growing progressively in generosity, forgiveness, honesty, courage, truth telling, and responsibility.” Where we are learning to taste what Heaven can be like now (51).
Now onto the question of whether or not Bell believes in Hell, and the answer would be yes. He provides a great discussion on the various terms used to describe Hell in both the Old and New Testament. I will not spend the time here discussing these because I will end up quoting almost an entire chapter in the book. What is important to know is that Bell feels that Jesus’ teachings on hell are full of “real experiences and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity” (73). Bell feels that there is Hell because we see it every day when people make continuous destructive choices that separate themselves from God, and that if we have that choice now, he assumes we have that choice to separate ourselves from God in the future.
Now what most people want to know is if Rob Bell is a Universalist. In the general form, Universalism is the idea that all people will be saved, regardless of their religious beliefs. Does Bell believe this? Absolutely not. Christian Universalism is that the idea that all will be saved eventually through Christ, even after death. While Bell does skirt with this issue, he leaves much of the discussion up in the air.
Bell fully believes that Christ was sent here with a purpose to share that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and Christ takes this role seriously. Bell argues that out of this people tend to make Jesus either completely exclusive on who is in and who is out, or they make Him all inclusive, saying “there is only one mountain, but it has many paths” (155). However, Bell suggests another view point, that Christ is both inclusive and exclusive. “This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing saving of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum” (155). People come to Christ in all sorts of ways (158). He spends much of the 1st chapter of the book discussing that there seems to be many ways to Christ.
The heart of the issue is that God is Love and through His love He gives us the freedom to reject him and live a life isolated from Him. Bell discusses that what God truly wants is for everyone to be reconciled with Him; however, does God get what He wants in the end? While Bell does discuss and show scriptural reference of this possibility, he never states that this is what will happen. He actually leaves this point fairly open ended.
The Core Issue
I know that I have grown up in a Christian culture that has taught me to accept what I am taught without asking many questions, and I would bet that I am not the only one that feels this way. How many times in a church debate have you heard “We just don’t talk about that here”? And after so many times of hearing similar comments it has become all too easy to sit back and keep my mouth shut while my mind races around with questions.
If someone has never been told about Christ, how can we sit here and condemn them to Hell? If all someone knows about Christians and our faith is hatred, destruction, and death, and no one has brought them the Good News of God’s love, how can we condemn them to Hell? Or how about the person that practices Islam and has been taught to hate the beliefs of Christianity and they have never been taught the other side of the story? I agree when Rob Bell comments that in these circumstances don’t these people’s lives fall on our hands, the believers who know of God’s endless love, mercy, and grace. Just check out Romans 10:14-15.
But maybe that is the point Rob Bell is trying to make. It is okay to ask the tough questions. Nowhere in his book does he say “I’m right, you’re wrong…I’m in, you’re out.” He is simply says “The Christian faith is big enough, wide enough, and generous enough to handle that vast a range of perspectives” (110). A faith that has been around for over 2000 years can surely handle to discuss these tough questions, but what is most important is that “we don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires” (115).
“Life has never been about just ‘getting in.’ It’s about thriving in God’s good world. It’s stillness, peace, and that feeling of your soul being at rest, while at the same time it’s about asking things, learning things, creating things, and sharing it all with other who are finding the same kind of joy in the same good world” (179).
I leave you with these last thoughts from the book:
“May you experience this vast,
expansive, infinite, indestructible love
that has been yours all along.
May you discover that this love is as wide
as the sky and as small as the cracks in
your heart no one else knows about.
And may you know,
deep in your bones,
that love wins.”
http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/category/universalism/ (this is Scot McKnight’s blog, take the time and look at other posts he has)
Mars Hill (Rob Bell’s Church) Stance –