There Are Rocks Everywhere – More Thoughts on Love Wins

Chapter Six of Love Wins, “There Are Rocks Everywhere” is perhaps the richest and also the most controversial chapter in the book. One critique I have heard from people is the suggestion that Rob believes there are ways other than Jesus to get to God.  I simply do not see this position in Love Wins; in fact, I find Rob to be extremely Jesus-centric. My simple summary is that if anything good happens, in this life or the life, to anyone, it is all because of Jesus (good Steve Fee song as well). Here are two key statements from this chapter that speak of the primacy of Jesus:

“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)

“…as soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth. Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true. What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone is saving everybody” (155)

Now as thrilled as I am about the centrality of Jesus for Rob, I also recognize that these statements are doubled edged swords. Really Rob, Jesus (and the rest of the New Testament authors) didn’t say anything about how people get to God through him? Did you forget about all the atonement theory stuff from the previous chapter? And did Jesus really say he is saving everyone? What about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it?” Would it be more accurate to declare that Jesus did say he was saving everyone that is actually saved?

The title of this chapter, “There Are Rocks Everywhere” is a reference to the texts in Exodus 17 and 1 Corinthians 10 that speak of the rock by which God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness. Rob uses these texts to delve into the idea of the presence of Jesus in the world. After looking at these texts he concludes:

“According to Paul, Jesus was there. Without anyone using his name. Without anybody saying it was him. Without anybody acknowledging just what – or, more precisely, who – it was. Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question: where else has Christ been present? When else? With who else? How else? Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.” (144)

How is Jesus present in the world? While the belief that God is omnipresent is central to orthodox Christianity, I feel that Rob confuses omnipresence with saving presence. As well, as Scot McKnight points out, Rob confuses typology for ontology.

Questions: What implications does this chapter have for mission and evangelism in the world today? How important is it to help people “name” Jesus? And how do we help people “name” the presence of Jesus that is already in their lives?

Let me make note of one other idea Rob raises in this chapter involving the presence of Jesus. There is a great deal of discussion about Christ being the mystery of God. This is one of the strengths of the chapter as it invites us to consider not only what we an and do know about God’s presence in Christ, but to also live by faith in what we do not yet fully understand and know about God’s presence in Christ.

I love this statement about the church and how people of faith organize themselves around the mystery that is Jesus:

“One of the many things people in a church do, then is name, honor and orient themselves around this mystery. A church is a community of people who enact specific rituals and create specific experiences to keep this word alive in their own hearts, a gathering of believers who help provide language and symbols and experiences for this mystery” (156).

Question: How does your faith community name, honor and orient itself around Jesus? How do you live into not only what is known about Jesus, but also the mystery of Jesus?

Stay connected…

Comments

  1. Simon Huff says:

    Thanks for another great post, Terry.

    I just wanted to share something interesting I found reading Bell’s less recent work ‘Velvet Elvis’ (which, in case you just think I’m a Rob Bell hater or something, I think is really great).
    But I found an interesting quote from Bell that actually contradicts his entire premise for ‘Love Wins’.

    He writes, “Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live.” (page 146).

    Now, juxtapose this against the quote from ‘Love Wins’ that is featured on the back cover for all to see:

    “God loves us. God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely through no merit on our part. Unless you do not respond the right way. Then GOd will torture you forever. In Hell. Huh?”

    I agree, Rob. Huh?

    Either Bell has completely changed his mind about Hell since writing ‘Velvet Elvis’ or he’s simply building a straw man argument as a very easy premise to work against in ‘Love Wins.’ (Of course the quote above isn’t true of God’s love for us; but that doesn’t mean we have to swallow Bell’s theology) If this is the case, he not only gets orthodoxy completely wrong- for I think his quote about our choice making the difference is absolutely spot on, as well as the idea that God doesn’t “send” us to Hell or stop loving us if we so choose- but he also does so in a very disingenuous way, because from the Velvet Elvis quote, we can see that Bell not only gets orthodox eschatology correct, but he even endorses it.

    My ill feelings had actually begun to subside, but now seeing this, I feel more than ever that Bell is 1. simply trying to make the Jesus story more palatable to the postmodern man, and 2. is doing so in a manipulative and disingenuous way.

    Sigh…

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