So yesterday (Part 1)http://wp.me/p1oVBU-91 I discussed the first 4 chapters and today I’ll discuss the last couple chapters and then talk about overall critiques of Rob Bell and talk about universalism a little bit.
Chapter 5 “Dying to Live”: This chapter is devoted to discussing Christ’s act of redemption on the cross. Bell’s first mistake is talking about the Old Testament sacrifices as if they’re relate to the pagan’s worship that is around them. He links this discussion with the passage in Hebrews talking about Jesus being the culmination of sacrifices (which he doesn’t give a reference, but it’s in Hebrews 9). Then he intrudes on the context of numerous New Testament passages (Col 1; Rom. 3; 2 Tim 1; Eph 1) about the metaphors they use about Christ’s act on the cross. He does this to set the reader up to his discussion on John saying that when John numbers the signs (or doesn’t at times) in his gospel that the eighth sign (Jesus’ resurrection)
“John is telling a huge story,
one about God rescuing all of creation.”
The only problem I have with these thoughts is that at the end of John, John writes:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” – John 21:25
So if Bell had done his homework (and maybe even read the other Gospels) he wouldn’t have tried to use this secret numbering hocus pocus unless to somehow affirm throughout the rest of this chapter that somehow Paul and John really meant that everyone in the whole world would be alright because of Christ’s sacrifice. I can find it true to say that Jesus died for the sins of the world, allowing them to be able to freely come and ask for forgiveness and receive God’s grace but not that without the confession of sin for people to be justified and made righteous by Christ. Bell opts for the idea of rebirth.
Chapter 6 “There are Rocks Everywhere”: These rocks Bell refers to are symbols of Christ. The biblical place where he gets his idea is from Exodus 17 the story of Moses striking the rock that contains water and then Paul’s interpretation that Christ was the rock (1 Cor. 10). Ok, so it’s not a wrong idea but the way he presents it is:
Paul finds Jesus there,
in that rock,
because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.
Then he goes and says John 14:6 is both exclusive and inclusive in that Jesus is the only way but “the saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum.” And that when the door is open to Muslims and Buddhists that people get uneasy, that the cross is irrelevant. But this isn’t a problem for Bell. Jesus is alone saving everybody. I don’t so much have a problem with the view of inclusivism that if people who have never heard the gospel act in obedience to God’s revelation through nature, dreams, miracles, and other events that point to God and turn away from their false religions that they can be saved, what I do have a problem with is saying that people of other religions are being saved by Jesus too. It’s not that I don’t want them to be saved, it’s the fundamental fact that they are not. Sure, it is very common to hear or read about a Muslim having a vision of Christ and then following Him, but that doesn’t make Him a Muslim anymore by practice, just in culture. Bell says the ordinances of the Church are really celebrated by everyone because they bring us all unity. If that were true wouldn’t that make everyone Christian and a follower of Jesus? It couldn’t be the case if what Bell just wrote is true. Then he ends the chapter saying that sometimes people name the mystery as Jesus and other times they don’t know or wouldn’t think to label this “thing” as Jesus and of course, “Heaven is full of surprises.”
Chapter 7 “The Good News is Better than That”: If chapter 4 was my favorite chapter, this was the most confusing one to me. Bell seems to have a very evangelistic tone and talking about the need to trust Jesus. Then he uses the parable of the prodigal son to say that “Hell is being at the party.” Also the parable is really about “heaven and hell are within each other.” What? Heaven and hell are within each other? So forget the parts of the Bible that talk about eternal separation from God and get ready for an eternity where your Heaven could be someones Hell! At this point I wanted to chuck my e-reader through the window, but I didn’t very thankfully. Then Bell says that a God who would accept some into Heaven and then punish others to Hell is like an abusive Father. Bell finally says something I can appreciate about this chapter is that the Good News is better than just getting a ticket to Heaven, it’s about a relationship with God, a real joy that allows people to be free to be everything that God desires them to be. Although, I resent Bell’s comment that “An entrance understanding of the gospel rarely creates good art.” Ask many of the artists in the early stages of cathedrals being constructed and they would agree that a person must receive Christ in order to get into Heaven(even though Catholics do have some “works” they’ve got to do to keep up).
Chapter 8 “The End is Here”: I don’t even know if I could count this as a chapter, but Bell’s closing remarks basically are don’t give up on your past religious experience in the Christian faith, but don’t make it the culmination of all experiences. Bell pleads for his reader to trust in Jesus today.
Overall, I was very frustrated with the conclusions of this book but not so much the inquiry and as you have seen, I even had some parts of agreement with what Bell wrote. Now the question everyone wants an answer to: Is Rob Bell a universalist? I don’t think so as much as he writes like one because of his last two chapters it seems that he desires for people to trust Christ. Although, I could be wrong and others could be right. I was also frustrated with Bell’s use of Scripture, church history, and one sentence paragraphs! He didn’t provide context very well for Scripture or history. I don’t want to condemn Rob Bell from evangelical circles, actually I would pray that we could welcome him back and that someone (probably not John Piper) would help him be more constructive in his questioning crusades instead of possibly dashing the faith of many recent Christians and upsetting the mass majority of older evangelicals. This book definitely caused division, which I believe Rob Bell should apologize for.
Read Don Miller’s review (you’ll get a good laugh): http://donmilleris.com/2011/04/01/my-review-of-love-wins/