In Part 1 of our Rob Bell story, we asked the question: Why do people hate Rob Bell?
The next question is: What is Rob Bell saying in Love Wins, published today?
If you’re just joining us, read Part 1 and you’ll learn more about the overall context of this new book: For many evangelicals, this is shocking stuff to read from one of America’s most famous evangelical preachers—but for most mainline Christians, it’s a message they’ve been hearing from writers like Marcus Borg, Greg Garrett, Harvey Cox—and even the Second Vatican Council.
What he’s saying: Highlights of “LOVE WINS” by Rob Bell
ON THE CLAIM THAT CHRISTIANS NEED A “PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP” WITH JESUS:
“The problem is that the phrase ‘personal relationship’ is found nowhere in the Bible. Nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures, nowhere in the New Testament. Jesus never used the phrase. Paul didn’t use it. … So, if that’s it, if that’s the point of it all, if that’s the ticket, the center, the one unavoidable reality, the heart of the Christian faith, why is it that no one used the phrase until the last hundred years or so?”
This opening section of the book also summarizes a long lecture about salvation and the Bible that Rob delivered to a worldwide conference of pastors at Mars Hill a few years ago—making it clear that these issues have been percolating in Rob’s theology for a long time. If you were among the thousands who attended that conference and wanted the text of Rob’s long “salvation talk,” it’s right here in “Love Wins.”
WHY IT’S BAD TO PREACH CHRISTIAN HELLFIRE: “Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way—that is, the way the person telling them the gospel does—and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell. God would, in essence, become a fundamentally different being to them in that moment of death, a different being to them forever. A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who would ensure that they had no escape from an endless future of agony.
“If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities. If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately. If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted, let alone be good. …
“And that is the secret deep in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don’t love God. They can’t, because the God they’ve been presented with and taught about can’t be loved. That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable. …
“If something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality. …
“God is love, and to refuse this love moves us away from it, in the other direction, and that will, by very definition, be an increasingly unloving, hellish reality.”
REMEMBER, today you finally can buy the new Rob Bell book, ‘Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” from Amazon—and evaluate his message for yourself.
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)