Last night I, along with 1,400 of my closest friends, saw Rob Bell speak at Wayzata Community Church on his new, and always controversial book, Love Wins. And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, there are two things that stick with me. And the purpose of this post is nothing more than sharing these things because I’m excited about them. So first, Rob Bell gets me excited to be a pastor. And while that may sound trivial to some, I assure you it is not. In fact, it’s seldom that I get downright giddy about the fact that I get to be pastor. But, for some reason, when I read his books, listen to his sermons, watch his videos, something inside of me gets excited that I get to do that for a living. So that’s the first thing.
There was another thing that became abundantly clear as I was listening to Bell speak last night. As he was answering questions, an anecdote I heard a few years ago crept in my head and I think it definitely plays into this whole controversy over Love Wins. So here it is. For starters, humans generally have three primary things that they believe about God and creation. 1) God is good. 2) God is in control. 3) Creation is good. When pressed, or when we start to question things, we drop one of the three. And it’s a different one for each person. But the crux of Rob Bell’s new book is that when it comes to Heaven and Hell… God is not in control. He drops the second one. That became clear through reading the book and hearing him speak tonight. Most mainline Protestants would do the same, but like I said, it’s different for everyone.
A lot of people who have a problem with what Bell is saying, refuse to give up that second proposition. And that’s entirely okay, it’s just a fundamentally different worldview. In turn, they choose to give up the third position. They believe that God is all good and that God is in control. But we, as creation, are terrible sinners who aren’t worthy of the glory of God. This is where it gets tricky because the key phrase in that sentence is “as creation”. Mainliners believe that we sin and fall short of the glory of God, but that isn’t how we were created. We were once good and obedient to God, but then we fell. And now we’re not… at least not without the whole cross and resurrection thing, but we’ll talk about that next week.
I just wanted to drop a post and share that. Because I do believe that all of the differences assumed in the Rob Bell controversy can be explained by digging deeper into those three core beliefs. Which one do you drop? When you’re stressed and when things keep piling up and just aren’t going your way, which one are you most willing to part with? It’s an interesting question when put in that context, but I think it speaks volumes about what we bring to the conversation.