Yesterday I finished Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. I understand how evangelical can be upset with him, but as a Lutheran I don’t feel such judgement. If I could use one word to describe God it would be Gracious. God’s grace is infinite and total and I see it extending beyond this life. Like Bell, I don’t understand how God can condemn someone to eternal, infinite punishment if they never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember conversations I had with fellow students at Fuller Seminary where some thought that the church had the obligation to proclaim the Gospel to keep people from going to hell. They believed that we HAD to preach it or else unbelievers would burn, even those in distant lands.
I do believe in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, but not as some cosmic obligation to keep people from hell. I preach the good news because I am in love with Jesus, the creator of the universe and I am excited to have others experience that liberating love as well. I am a participant in the new creation with Jesus and I am humbled that God can use someone like me to accomplish God’s will.
Rob Bell does a great job of describing the incredible, awesome, overwhelming love of God for us. However I do have qualms with him, such as how he misquotes Martin Luther as if Luther was a closet universalist. Carl Trueman, Departmental Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has written a length blog post on this very subject. See http://www.reformation21.org/articles/easy-virtues-and-cruel-mistresses.php. Then again I disagree with Carl Trueman’s comparison of Love Wins with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. But disagreements are part of a healthy theological conversation.
In an earlier post, I wrote that I have been rereading parts of C. S. Lewis. When I finished Bell’s book, I discovered that he had a section for further reading. His second reference is this: “On hell, see C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.” Later in the acknowledgments he thanks his parents for suggesting that while in high school he read C. S. Lewis. I must agree. I appreciate both writers, but the better IMHO is C. S. Lewis. Next week I will move on to other topics.
What writer or artists has best help you see the magnificent love of God?