Does God Get What God Wants? More Thoughts on Love Wins

In this post we turn our attention to chapter four of  Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” –  a chapter that raises an important significant question: “does God get what God wants?” Early in the chapter Rob states, “God has a clear purpose, something God is doing in the world, something that has never changed, something that involves everybody, and God’s intention all along has been to communicate this intention clearly” (98). In light of this statement let me begin by asking you three questions:

  • What does God want?
  • How would you describe God’s clear purpose?
  • How has God communicated this purpose throughout the ages?

Rob presents a passionate case for God’s love ultimately winning the day. He asks, “Which is stronger and more powerful, the hardness of the human heart or God’s unrelenting, infinite, expansive love? Thousands through the years have answered that question with the resounding response, “God’s love, of course.” (109)

Let’s cut to the chase here. Rob presents three options as possible answer to the question, “Will all people be saved or will God not get what God wants?

  1. God doesn’t get want God wants because in this life (and that’s all we get), some will choose to reject God’s love and therefore experience the consequence of that decision which is eternal separation from God.
  2. The Post/Sub/Ex-Human Option which declares that over time, through the choices we make, we will become either more human (and reflect more of the image of God) or we will become less human, perhaps even reaching a place where we no longer bear the image of God. We ultimately become post/sub or ex-human. Those familiar with  CS Lewis’, “The Great Divorce” will recognize this theory.
  3. The Second Chance Theory – there are two realities after we die but ultimately there will be some kind of second chance (and in a variation of this theory multiple/eternal second chances) for those who don’t believe in Jesus in this life.

“At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everyone will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most “depraved sinners” will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God” (107).

In regard to this second/multiple chance theory, Rob references Martin Luther who wrote these words in a letter to Hans von Rechenberg about the possibility that people could turn to God after death asking, “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” A belief in God’s ability to do something doesn’t require that God do it that thing.

Again let me open up some space here and pose a couple of questions and invite your response:

  • Which of these options is most compelling to you and why?
  • Does the Christin faith require a particular answer to the question “does God get what God wants” or is the river of Christian thinking broad enough to contain any of these three options?

One aspect of the chapter that caught my attention was Rob’s point that the story the Church has been telling throughout the ages about people being separated from God eternally simply isn’t a very good story. As he says “some stories are better than others.” (110). This is important to me as a communicator and teacher as I desperately want to tell a  good story; in fact, I want to tell the very best story possible and seek to do so with both pastoral sensitivity and a creative approach to communication. I would argue that an incomplete or untrue story is not a very good story either. The bigger question for me is, “are we telling a true story?”And hopefully, true does not have to be incongruous with good.

At the conclusion of the chapter, Rob turns his initial question on its head when he states, “but there is a better question, one we can answer, one that takes all of this speculation about the future, which no one has been to and returned with hard, empirical evidence, and brings it back to one absolute we can depend on in the midst of all of this, which turns out to be another question,  It’s not “does God get what God wants?” but “do we get what we want?” (116)

God says yes,
we can have what we want
because love wins. (119)

Stay connected…

Comments

  1. I read this review online and found myself agreeing with most of it:
    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/files/2011/03/LoveWinsReview.pdf

    I think what Bell said is actually going to make people think there are other ways to heaven besides repentance and acceptance on earth. I’m afraid that Bell’s faulty theology will end up hurting unbelievers as they will find no reason to come to accept Christ during life on earth.

    I think the review I posted above is closest to what I believe. What do you think?

    • Sandy –

      I actually think Love Wins is very Jesus-centric. Rob continually points to God’s love and the work of Jesus throughout the book.

      Near the end of the book, Bell makes this statement: “John remembers Jesus saying, ‘I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). This is as wide and expansive claim as a person can make. What he doesn’t say is how, when or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and restore the world is happening through him.”(154)

      While I certainly disagree with some of the points made in this book, (for example postmortem opportunities to be won over by God’s love) I do think Rob is pretty clear about one thing: if anything happens to anyone in this life and the life to come, it happens because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

      • Simon Huff says:

        “If any man swear by him and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”

        This quote is found in Lewis’ The Last Battle, spoken by Aslan (i.e. God) to a Calormene, who has spent his life in service to the false god, Tash. Here I absolutely agree with Bell: I don’t think the faith is so intellectual or God so pedantic as to demand that one must follow Christ and be intellectually and cognitively aware of that allegiance. Jesus isn’t stuck in the pages of a book: he is actively present in all areas of this world, and I believe there are those who think that they don’t know Him, who perhaps have an imperfect conception of God, but who are followers nonetheless and are saved whether they “know” it or not.

        I think of the line from Corinthians- “Is Christ divided?”
        Christ transcends our own misconceptions about Himself and will justly judge the heart, I think.

        Also, I would say there is a big difference between the idea of a postmortem second chance and God overpowering everyone in the end. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to either, the first is at least consistent with the God of Scripture: merciful, patient, continually wooing his bride the Church; the second (Rob’s idea) just simply isn’t. I’m open to entertaining the idea of second chances (after all, can we comprehend the extent of God’s mercies?), but free will MUST be the deciding factor.

        Finally, you’re absolutely right. All that really matters is “What story is the Truth?” If our motivations for searching are grounded in our own wishful thinking, can it ever be God’s truth- the truth outside ourselves- that we find?

        Thanks for another thoughtful post Terry!

        • Simon,

          Thanks for the timely and appropriate CS Lewis quote. The next chapter of Rob’s book (“There Are Rocks Everywhere”) and my post will tackle this in more depth.

          How do you think the reformed position of “irresistible grace” fits into this dialogue? Can people who are dead in their sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2) actually make any kind of choice for God (be it in this life or postmortem)? Isn’t irresistible grace in a way, having your heart melted or won over by God? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

          • Simon Huff says:

            Well, I’m certainly more Arminian in my eschatological beliefs (my middle name is Wesley, after all). For me, Christianity only makes sense when it has free will as a natural ingredient- it’s how we deal with the problem of pain and evil, and its central to our conception of God and Jesus. Both irresistible grace and Bell’s brand of universalism are on opposite ends of a spectrum in which the overpowering force of God’s “love” and “grace” are the fulcrum, rather than humanity’s freedom to choose a loving God (at least in terms of dealing with this argument. Of course, God’s love is the universal fulcrum, by which we have life and even the chance of salvation in the first place. We are born with the everlasting in us. It’s just up to us to fill in the blank of Everlasting ___).

            But to use a common analogy, it seems that to entertain either of these views is to saw the branch upon which you sit. Because to take both to their natural conclusions, any sort of religion or spirituality or theistic belief in this life becomes irrelevant. Either we’re all saved in the end, or some are saved and some are damned; either way, our eternal lives are meted out in the throne room of Heaven before we ever see a carnal life, let alone the eternal. That doesn’t exactly scream “Love!” to me. Bell attempts to claim that our choices do matter, but when God is playing the eternal game of waiting us out, He’s overpowering weary souls, not respecting decisions made. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

            That isn’t to say that the Spirit isn’t active in attempting to melt hearts and reveal God’s glory to the lost. There’s a false dichotomy afoot in the argument surrounding Ephesians 2, because we can’t be completely dead in our sins and transgressions and make a choice for God. There needs to be some glimpse of the Good that we’re surrendering to. But at the same time, the status of our salvation still rests in our own hands. I read more than just Lewis, I really do, but his description of his meeting with God, of being “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England” hints at this transitory stage from Lost to Found and just how far the Spirit will move us. While both the power of the Spirit and his own reason were the catalysts for conversion, Lewis characterizes it first and foremost as being a choice, and I think it always is. He even goes so far as to say one shouldn’t make the decision to convert unless the faith makes logical sense to them. In this way, it seems comparable to any other decision in life.

            I don’t consider myself an expert on Scripture in any sense- especially when dealing with what Kerouac lovingly described as “Paulian tangles”- but I don’t think you can read the Gospels, consider the words of Christ and his ministry, and just chalk it all up to fate and pre-destination. Jesus was way too pro-active, way too concerned with changing hearts and minds for God, for it to not matter in the end. And as far as stories go, I think “It all will have been real, it all will have mattered” is a much better one, as well.

            [And what’s interesting with hyper Calvinists is that their methodology often betrays their own theology. I have Calvinist friends who, when one of their own falls away from the faith, their reaction is not to rest secure in the knowledge of their fate, but to act!]

    • Sandy – the other thing I would mention here is that we will talk at length about atonement in the next post. This will be very important territory so please stay connected to the conversation…

      • I’ll stay tuned. I didn’t mean to say Bell doesn’t mention Christ, but the fact that people can die not believing and somehow have a “second-chance” after death I believe is un-Biblical

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.