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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)