In the spirit of full disclosure, I still have about 20 pages before I finish Rob Bell’s latest book, “Love Wins.” But in an effort to provide a bit of direction for people in my sphere of influence (and perhaps bump up my site stats), I decided to jump into the conversation with some initial thoughts on “Love Wins.”
Full disclosure point #2: I appreciate Rob Bell; he is a master communicator. We have used his Noomas in our community of faith and I have leveraged them in other teaching contexts as well. On top of that, a couple of years ago a friend and I traveled to Grand Rapids to spend a couple of days with Rob and a small group of pastors talking about the ministry of preaching and teaching. It was, as you might imagine, a rich, deep and meaningful conversation.
For those of you still reading, let me state that I haven’t imbibed the “Rob Bell can do no wrong koolaid.” I disagree strongly with Rob on many things and at times, he completely frustrates and irritates me by his mode of operation. But I can honestly say that my faith has been challenged, my leadership enhanced and my understanding of the Scriptures has been enlightened by Rob’s ministry. And for that I am thankful.
In the book’s preface, Rob states his three reasons for writing the book:
- The Jesus Story, (the story about God’s love for every single one of us), has been hijacked by a number of other stories;
- The kind of faith Jesus invites us into doesn’t skirt the big questions, but instead takes us deep into the heart of them;
- The beauty of the historic, orthodox Christian faith is that it is a deep, wide and diverse stream that has been flowing for thousands of years and Rob wants to invite his readers into that river.
First thoughts about Rob’s three purposes:
1. The Jesus Story has been hijacked by stories that do not share a single thread of congruence with the Gospel. Racism, sexism, elitism, political, social and economic agendas – each steer the story away from the Story and I am tired of it. But the sad truth is, my own telling and living of the Story contributes, at times to the hijacking of the Jesus Story.
How will we return to the amazing story of God’s love for every single one of us? I believe that will happen as discerning men and women live deeply into the Jesus Story within the context of communities of faith where we openly and honestly confess our duplicity and seek to live more authentically in light of the Story – not only in our heads, but through our lives. I pray Rob’s book provokes and catalyzes this.
2. Years ago, I viewed my role as pastor as the Bible Answer Man. More and more, I see my role in light of asking significant questions and guiding people toward the discovery of God’s truth. I do possess a level of expertise in Scripture study, theology and church history and this serves as a solid foundation (or to use another image, guard rails) for the questions I raise and the guidance and direction I provide. I want to nurture an environment where questions can be voiced, concerns raised and doubt expressed. I’ll be facilitating some conversation around this book and believe our community will be enriched by these dialogue (interested in joining us? Drop me a comment or email).
Rob is masterful at raising questions (his technique in this book will drive some of you crazy). However, I also believe there is a time and season to formulate some answers, particularly as one who serves as a leading and guiding voice in the Church. Rob leaves way more questions on the table, then answers. I think it is pretty tough for anyone to label Rob a heretic because he doesn’t definitively state much in this book.
3. After reading most of the book, I’m not sure there is a single original thought here. As Mark Gaillo from Christianity Today writes in his review of Love Wins, “Rob is at his usual best here, casting fresh light on biblical truths, engaging readers with the compelling metaphor, turning the arresting phrase, and reminding all that the love of God is more powerful and sweeping than we can imagine.” Totally agree! But here is a big personal critique of the book: while Rob acknowledges that there is nothing in the book that hasn’t been taught, suggested or celebrated in the past, he fails to provide or in many cases even acknowledge the source of his ideas. While he claims he is writing as a pastor and not a theologian, he does all of his readers a huge disservice by not providing a better foundation for people who want to delve deeper into the primary sources of the arguments he presents.
these are my
first thoughts on
I just wanted to see
how it feels to
write like rob writes.)