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I am utterly fascinated by how much controversy there is regarding Love Wins by Rob Bell.

 

I am not reading it right now, but I'm curious if anyone here is, and what they think of it. Thanks.

 

Nick, I am not and, given my already undoable book queue, probably will not. But, I would be most interested in your reaction as well as that of others.

 

George

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I am utterly fascinated by how much controversy there is regarding Love Wins by Rob Bell.

 

I am not reading it right now, but I'm curious if anyone here is, and what they think of it. Thanks.

 

Nick,

 

I googled and my interest was certainly tweaked by the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODUvw2McL8g

 

But then, I watched a few other related videos and what I'd like to know is, what the controversy is about this person and what he suggests.

 

He's clearly into the literal interpretation of the bible, but just what is different about his message?

 

Is it....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4p8qxGbpOk

 

or is there some other esoteric connection he's making?

 

Kath

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Removed redundant quoted post ....JM

 

I find the controversy surrounding Bell fascinating. Here is this guy, part of the "emergent church" (which even if I'm applying the term correctly, I still haven't figured out exactly what it means), with his feet squarely put on American evangelical ground. And now he's written a book which is getting him accused of being a heretic and a universalist, and a Methodist pastor just got fired for agreeing with him.

 

I HIGHLY recommend the Slacktivist blog's discussion of the knee-jerk purity tests some evangelicals are applying to Bell (actually, I just highly recommend the Slacktivist blog in general - Fred Clark is awesome).

 

Anyhow, I was basically seeing a ton of smoke, and I was asking if anyone has actually seen the fire, and if they had, could they tell me more about the fire. ...I beat that metaphor up within an inch of its life, but I think I got my point across :blink:

 

EDIT: I don't have time right now, but I will watch those vids tomorrow.

Edited by JosephM
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It is awful about the NC minister losing his job because of this controversy.

 

I might order Love Wins, though I don’t expect it contains any real departure from his earlier work. To me, his book Velvet Elvis was very much in keeping with PC.

 

Kath, I don’t know how you got the idea that Bell is a literalist about the bible – far from it. He says repeatedly the bible is open ended and has to be interpreted, and spends many pages giving examples.

If you want to try one book that would help you understand the PC approach to the bible you might check out Marcus Borg’s Reading the bible again for the first time.

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Rivanna,

 

Thanks for the suggestion. Many of the members of the old Spong forum have read that book and although I had intended to read it, never got around to it. I think I'll get Love Wins as well. Velvet Elvis sounds intriguing.

 

Kath

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I just watched an interview with Rob Bell http://www.premier.tv/?gclid=CK-Ul8Dy7qcCFcnc4Aod2yuXaw and I most definitely will read his book. Maybe all of them. I like what he has to say and his approach to teaching about Jesus. He's humble, educated, and seems to me exactly what I like in a minister.

 

BTW, when I said he seems to take the bible literally, I meant that he does in that his interpretation of what Jesus said and the circumstances he said it under still follows what is written in the bible. So, I guess depending upon in what context the written quotes of Jesus are percieved can change the interpretation. That's how I see it anyway :unsure:

 

I actually am tempted to walk over to blow the dust off my bible as well, (Norm) :D

 

Kath

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I find the controversy surrounding Bell fascinating. Here is this guy, part of the "emergent church" (which even if I'm applying the term correctly, I still haven't figured out exactly what it means), with his feet squarely put on American evangelical ground. And now he's written a book which is getting him accused of being a heretic and a universalist, and a Methodist pastor just got fired for agreeing with him.

The pastor who was fired had written a number of controversial posts on his blog not associated with his church. Gay marriage and other radical ideas. The non-existence of hell was the last straw for the church who fired the young pastor.

 

The wonder of all this, to me, is that this is more evidence that the conservative church is moving beyond its fundamental base. No Hell, evolutionary Christianity, and save the earth type efforts are signs that they won't be stuck in a narrow, fearful attitude towards the world.

 

I don't always like that they are controlling the conversation with issues that are so 20th century :P but there are signs of movement.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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The pastor who was fired had written a number of controversial posts on his blog not associated with his church. Gay marriage and other radical ideas. The non-existence of hell was the last straw for the church who fired the young pastor.

 

The wonder of all this, to me, is that this is more evidence that the conservative church is moving beyond its fundamental base. No Hell, evolutionary Christianity, and save the earth type efforts are signs that they won't be stuck in a narrow, fearful attitude towards the world.

 

I don't always like that they are controlling the conversation with issues that are so 20th century :P but there are signs of movement.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

Yeah, it's neat watching the various factions of a given church, looking at what groups support what political and religious beliefs and why, and how those groups negotiate or conflict with one another. On the flip side, pro-gay rights is sometimes framed in the PC(USA) as an unbiblical agenda being thrust upon laymen by pastors who believe in "liberation theology." (I put it in quotes because the definition seems to be "stuff we don't like")

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I haven't read Rob's book (yet) but enjoyed "Velvet Elvis" and many of his Nooma videos.

 

I "attended church" (Southern Baptist style) with my wife this morning and the pastor, though having not read Rob's book either, was quick to say that Rob, because Rob thinks that love wins in the end, "obviously ignores the teachings of Jesus on the judgment of God." Listening between the lines, my wife's pastor was warning his congregation that Rob was no longer orthodox. And this pastor wondered, aloud and publically of course, just what "God" Rob thought would win in the end. Surely, said the pastor, this wasn't the Father of Jesus Christ. Yes, said the pastor, God is love, but we must never lose sight that God is also holy and that no one can stand to be in God's presence without faith in Jesus' blood to remove/cover their sins. I.e. only conservative Christians will go to heaven.

 

I had to wonder if this pastor ever read the gospels. ;)

 

The same Christians who insist that Jesus was literally God, if they read the gospels, would have to admit that no one spontaneously combusted into flames due to being in Jesus' holy presence. :blink:

 

What Rob Bell is good at, IMO, is (like most of the Emerging Church movement) allowing for us to bring questions to our faith that orthodoxy either will not allow or has insisted were answered hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Why? Because people in the EC and in the PC movements know that faith, such as it is, is characterized by each generation seeking God and meaning within its own context and culture. Answers, or at least claimed answers, almost always anchor us to the past. Questions pull us into the future. And orthodoxy does not like questions. In fact, orthodoxy's goal is to discourage them and to insist that once-and-for-all answers have already been revealed.

 

I certainly don't agree with everything Rob Bell says. But then, I change my mind about things almost weekly. :) What I appreciate about folks like Bell, McLaren, Spong, and Borg is that they have the guts to ask the hard questions. Rob has the...umm...wherewithal...to ask if God really is love and, if so, what would love do? I may or may not agree with Rob's answers. But he dares, as a Christian, to ask questions and to challenge people to explore the character of God.

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On the flip side, pro-gay rights is sometimes framed in the PC(USA) as an unbiblical agenda being thrust upon laymen by pastors who believe in "liberation theology."

 

Nick,

PC(USA) is making progress, I guess.

 

More Light Presbyterians Media Release

 

February 25, 2011

 

Presbyterians Move Toward Acceptance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Ministers

 

For the first time ever, voters in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who favor dropping exclusionary policies against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are in the lead in a nationwide vote. [65-43 as of 3/23] In 2010, the national body approved an amendment that would allow LGBT candidates for ordination to be evaluated on their spiritual call to ministry and their abilities. The amendment then went to the 173 regional presbyteries across the country for a vote on whether or not to ratify the amendment.

The Presbyterian pastors I know said this move in favor of ordaining gays is perhaps possible because so many conservatives have left the church

 

being thrust upon laymen by pastors

Spong talks about this problem with Michael Dowd. A pastor I worked with had similar ideas. Both said that your audience influences what is appropriate. Neither were sacrificing their intellect. My pastor said it succinctly, "Don't stop someone from worshipping." meaning that then is not the time to challenge their beliefs. Might be a time to stretch them but not challenge them. Spong suggested that the time to study how the birth narratives are largely an invention is after Christmas.

 

This is fine and dandy but, at least at my church, worship has been abandoned and the liturgy is on default. Maybe the new pastor will bring an ear for new language, hymns and metaphors. Today's preacher was a sub for interim and didn't know that we almost never use the newer hymnal so the average age of the hymns was 25-30 years instead of 100. :)

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Nick,

PC(USA) is making progress, I guess.

 

Yeah, Amendment A is moving forward nicely. It hasn't officially won yet, but things are looking good, with even more favorable votes since that press release you posted. Sadly, this probably means more than a few churches will be breaking from PC(USA), insistent in their hetero-normative organization. Nevertheless, it is a very good thing.

 

This is fine and dandy but, at least at my church, worship has been abandoned and the liturgy is on default. Maybe the new pastor will bring an ear for new language, hymns and metaphors. Today's preacher was a sub for interim and didn't know that we almost never use the newer hymnal so the average age of the hymns was 25-30 years instead of 100

 

I should never try to think before coffee, but I didn't follow you here. What do you mean that worship has been abandoned in your church? No communion? No prayer? Nobody shows up?

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I'm currently reading "Love Wins" and enjoying it. Having read Spong, Borg and Crossan (to name a few) I can't see much to fault about his interpretation and theology. Not bad for an evangelical. I've not read any of his other books, but bought this one after a friend mentioned it. Good stuff.

 

dd

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I should never try to think before coffee, but I didn't follow you here. What do you mean that worship has been abandoned in your church? No communion? No prayer? Nobody shows up?

Sorry - intentionality is not part of worship planning. Worship is on automatic. No attempt to build the congregation's repertoire of songs it knows how sing - no learned flexibility with a variety of worship order and types that are comfortable - no exploring new language and metaphors. Too often hymns have images that reinforce a substitutionary model of the crucifixion which few members believe in.

 

Dutch

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Sorry - intentionality is not part of worship planning. Worship is on automatic. No attempt to build the congregation's repertoire of songs it knows how sing - no learned flexibility with a variety of worship order and types that are comfortable - no exploring new language and metaphors. Too often hymns have images that reinforce a substitutionary model of the crucifixion which few members believe in.

 

Dutch

 

Ah, gotcha. It is never a good thing when the meaning gets emptied out of things through habit and taken-for-grantedness. Worse when people may have some problems with the forgotten meanings.

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I’ve read most of the new book -- as far as the subject and thesis, there is very little we haven’t read before in Borg, Spong, Crossan, Meyers, McLennan etc. Bell’s style is more engaging and visually poetic, also more evangelical --though without the exclusivism; he builds bridges instead of walls.

One idea that I hadn’t seen expressed this way--

 

“It’s very common to hear talk about heaven framed in terms of who gets in, how to to get in. What we find Jesus teaching is that he’s interested in our hearts being transformed so that we can actually handle heaven. How many of us could handle it, as we are today? How would we each do in a reality that had no capacity for cynicism or slander or worry or pride? Imagine living with no fear. Ever. That would take some getting used to. So would a world where loving your neighbor was the only option. Imagine being a racist sitting down at the great feast and realizing that you’re sitting next to one of those people, the ones you’ve despised for years. Your attitude would simply not survive. The flames of heaven, it turns out, lead us to the surprise of heaven.

 

If we thirst for shalom, and we long for the peace that transcends all understanding, it’s poured out on us, lavished, heaped, like a feast where the food and wine do not run out. To that craving, yearning, longing, desire God says yes. Yes there is water for that thirst, food for that hunger, light for that darkness, relief for that burden. If we want hell, if we want heaven, they are ours. That’s how love works. It can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leaves room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins.”

Edited by rivanna
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  • 3 weeks later...

There is a featured article in this week's TIME magazine about Rob Bell and his book. The TIME correspondent seems to think that Pastor Bell's opinions are new and revolutionary. I found the article interesting, but not particularly worth shouting about. As someone has already pointed out in this thread, Mr. Bell is just joining the "modern" church.

 

Hal

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There is a featured article in this week's TIME magazine about Rob Bell and his book. The TIME correspondent seems to think that Pastor Bell's opinions are new and revolutionary. I found the article interesting, but not particularly worth shouting about. As someone has already pointed out in this thread, Mr. Bell is just joining the "modern" church.

 

Hal

 

It's amazing and frustrating how much the American image of Christianity is a certain type of conservative (politically and otherwise) evangelical Protestantism. The farther you move away from that, the "less Christian" you are in the eyes of much of the US. It's frustrating, to say the least.

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I’ve read most of the new book -- as far as the subject and thesis, there is very little we haven’t read before in Borg, Spong, Crossan, Meyers, McLennan etc. Bell’s style is more engaging and visually poetic, also more evangelical --though without the exclusivism; he builds bridges instead of walls.

One idea that I hadn’t seen expressed this way--

 

“It’s very common to hear talk about heaven framed in terms of who gets in, how to to get in. What we find Jesus teaching is that he’s interested in our hearts being transformed so that we can actually handle heaven. How many of us could handle it, as we are today? How would we each do in a reality that had no capacity for cynicism or slander or worry or pride? Imagine living with no fear. Ever. That would take some getting used to. So would a world where loving your neighbor was the only option. Imagine being a racist sitting down at the great feast and realizing that you’re sitting next to one of those people, the ones you’ve despised for years. Your attitude would simply not survive. The flames of heaven, it turns out, lead us to the surprise of heaven.

 

If we thirst for shalom, and we long for the peace that transcends all understanding, it’s poured out on us, lavished, heaped, like a feast where the food and wine do not run out. To that craving, yearning, longing, desire God says yes. Yes there is water for that thirst, food for that hunger, light for that darkness, relief for that burden. If we want hell, if we want heaven, they are ours. That’s how love works. It can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leaves room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins.”

 

Thanks, Karen, for posting this. It is a gem and makes me see why the book has become so popular (and also so hated). It calls us to be more than we are!

 

Janet

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thanks, Janet.

 

Halin wrote,

 

There is a featured article in this week's TIME magazine about Rob Bell and his book. The TIME correspondent seems to think that Pastor Bell's opinions are new and revolutionary.

 

I haven’t seen the article, but find this conclusion strange in several ways--

 

partly because Bell’s earlier work had already expressed the universal salvation idea in Velvet Elvis (perhaps inclusivism would be a better term—Bell seems uncomfortable with the word universalism)

 

partly because there have been a number of recent books affirming the same view – If Grace is True, by Philip Gulley / Jim Mulholland; others by Carlton Pearson, Eric Stetson, etc

 

and partly because, as Bell points out in Love Wins, universal salvation is not a new concept at all, but dates back to the earliest years of Christianity – to the gospel, to Jesus himself--

 

“And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19, there will be a renewal of all things; Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will restore everything, and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven. In the third century the church father Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, affirmed God’s reconciliation with all people. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa and Eusebius believed this as well. In their day, Jerome claimed that most people -- Basil said the mass of men, and Augustine acknowledged that very many -- believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God.

 

To be clear, again, an untold number of serious disciples of Jesus across hundreds of years have assumed, affirmed, and trusted that no one can resist God’s pursuit forever, because God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest of hearts….At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church, have been a number who insisted that love wins in the end and all will be reconciled to God….At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.”

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There is a featured article in this week's TIME magazine about Rob Bell and his book. The TIME correspondent seems to think that Pastor Bell's opinions are new and revolutionary. I found the article interesting, but not particularly worth shouting about. As someone has already pointed out in this thread, Mr. Bell is just joining the "modern" church.

 

Hal

 

My take precisely. Mr. Bell adds the evangelical coating to run of the mill, liberal, post Vatican II Christianity.

 

The problem for Bell, IMO, is that he still insists on embracing the Bible as something other than a collection of early human writings. Oh sure, he interprets liberally, but insists on calling the Bible the Word of G-d. As a result, he must contort scripture into a hermeneutical pretzel in order to maintain the illusion.

 

Still, I find it encouraging that so many Christians are willing to abandon such orthodoxy as a literal heaven / hell, the virgin birth, the trinity, triumphalism, etc...

 

The best part of his message is his embracing of Universalism (although he curiously shies away from this term). This is what is bringing him the most heat - the idea that unbelieving scum like me can have a place in the Kingdom of G-d.

 

NORM

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The way I see it is that the bible contains both views of universal reconciliation and eternal hellfire. In the Hebrew scriptures, the afterlife is not heaven or hell but Sheol, which literally means the grave and was a place where everybody went to when they died. Although there are passages in the gospels where Jesus speaks of Gehenna rather than hell, there are other passages where both Paul and Jesus predict the end of the world will happen within their lifetimes and how God will cast the sinners into the outer darkness where the worm burns for all eternity.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest billmc

In his interview on "Unbelievable" (link posted above), Bell deals quite effectively, IMO, with this conception of "eternal" and "eternity." He feels, as do I, that we often take our modern notions and overlay them or read them back into these ancient Jewish writings. Concerning "the end of the world," both Bell and Borg say that it is more appropriate to interpret Jesus' teachings as the end of the age (what we would call the Old Covenant) with the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish priesthood. They say that we can easily think of the end of the world because we, in this age, can actually do it with nuclear or environmental misuse (although I would modify it to be the end, not of the planet, but of life as we know it). They say that NT references to the end of the world do not refer to our planet incinerating into solar ashes, but to the end of the Mosaic age. It's, again IMO, a view worth considering, not to save face for Jesus' predictions etc., but because, in many places, the language does seem to work this way.

 

The other related term is what we call "eternity" or "eternal." Because we, as modern, can somewhat imagine infinity, it is fairly easy to think of aeonios (Greek) or olam (Hebrew) as "eternal." But the term, according to many of our best theologians, refers to "age-lasting" or "age-during", hence the root of "eon" within the word. It does not mean a literal "eternal" as having no beginning or no end, as we often say of God. Bell references Job's statement that he was in the belly of the fish for "olam" and asks if Job was there for "eternity"?

 

It is not easy to get at the root meanings of all these ancient Greek and Hebrew terms. Who knows for sure what they meant in their original context? And if we don't know that, how can we know for sure that we are translating them correctly today? Modern translations that tend to break with precritical traditional renderings often come under fire for "changing the Word of God". As noted above, Christianity is a big ship that changes slowly. But people like Bell, Borg, and Company are asking Christians (and non-Christians) to consider what God is really like, a topic that is appropriate for every age. And if the Bible itself shows us anything about God, it is that our concepts of the Sacred change over time and, thankfully, tend to lean more and more toward God as love. As Bell brings out in his interview, the popular notion of Christianity found in both conservative and evangelical flavors, is that God loses. In this notion, there will always be some "place" in the universe full of sin and in rebellion against God. And Bell is asking if this is the best that God's love can do?

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