Predestined to Hate Rob Bell

Weeks before Rob Bell’s newest book was released the claims of heresy started swirling.  People like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Justin Taylor had condemned him while only reading select excerpts or in some cases nothing at all.

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John Piper famously tweeted:  “Farewell, Rob Bell,” apparently insinuating that he was no longer considering him to be a fellow Christian.

And truly, I don’t blame him.  I don’t hold them responsible for this reckless criticism.  How could I?  They were predestined to do it.  It’s not as though they had a choice.  From the beginning of the world, they were fated to do this very thing.  It’s almost as if the words were typed into Twitter on their own.

Love Wins

I just finished reading “Love Wins” for myself yesterday.  And as I read it, I was struck by how orthodox it was.  Having watched the blog and twitter world for the last two weeks I expected to find the reincarnation of Buddha or the Wiccan “Rule of Three” being proclaimed by Rob Bell.

Turns out though, he still believes and follows Jesus.  He believes in His divinity.  And His humanity.  He thinks His sacrifice was the crucial point in human history that reconciled us to God, set us free from sin and defeats evil. He believes He died and came back to life.  He believes only through Christ can we experience true life, healing, salvation and wholeness, and that through him all things hold together.   He believes that what we do on this planet has real consequences, either for good or bad.  He states his belief in the “already-not yet” paradoxical components of heaven and hell.

And he believes in free-will.

Which is actually where I think the real problem lies.

Over and over in the book, Bell asserts that “real love” requires the capacity to deny or reject that love.  Love that is compelled is not truly love.

Much of his theology is based on the rules of this love.  Rules that God himself chooses to play by in order to allow our decisions the reality of significance.  And though he acknowledges our ability to deny it, Bell believes that God will never stop His divine attempts to woo, pursue, and offer us His incredible love.

Rob Bell, author of "Love Wins"

It is the topic of choice then that is on trial for many.  Does Rob Bell believe in hell?  Yes, both in the sense that it exists now and in the age to come.  But he believes God doesn’t SEND people there.  He believes people choose to live in hell now and presumably in the future as well.

What is on trial is not the existence of hell, but the parameters of human freedom and choice.

And by the way, this is not new.  Nor is it universalism.  And I’m sorry to ruin the hype, but it isn’t heresy by a long shot.

This book is controversial because there are many people who do not share the ‘free-will” or “open” view of the human condition.

We live in a time that is currently marked by a significant “resurgence” of the Reformed theology/Calvinists that believe that all things are determined in advance by God.  Or if you prefer to think of it in building terms, that God has a divine blueprint that shows every decision every person will make.  And not only does he know that decision, but that we are in fact created to make that decision.  It isn’t really a “decision” at all, just the appearance of one.

And if you read the reviews closely, I think you’ll find people coming down on this book mostly along those lines:  free-will or determinist.

Heretic! Heretic!

Though the “heretic” rhetoric is flying around more carelessly than radioactivity spewing out of a nuclear meltdown, this isn’t a new battle for these tribes.  This is an age-old disagreement clothed in different garments.

So don’t buy the hype.  Rob Bell isn’t tearing down Christianity or saying that any path you take will lead to eternal life.  He’s not a universalist or a heretic or a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.  He’s just another guy contributing his voice to a long conversation of well intentioned followers of Jesus trying to make sense of the Divine.

And also, don’t be too hard on the Piper/Driscoll/Taylor clan.  It’s not their fault.  They were predestined to dislike Rob Bell.

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Book Review – “EXILES”

Taking a little break from our non-violence series again today, I thought I would share another book with you that I recently finished.   I know that many of you have asked for some resources and helpful books to read regarding what we call “church” and hopefully the books I mention here will be of value to you.

exilesToday’s book is called, “Exiles” by Michael Frost.

This book is definitely one of the best books that I have read all year.  (Okay, so we’re only 6 months through the year, but I do read a lot).

The word, “Missional” is maybe the hottest church-fad word around these days.  In fact, I hear it all the time in staff meetings and among peers.

“What are we doing to be more missional?”

I hear church leaders asking this question all the time, but sometimes I wonder, “Do we even know what that means?”

The danger of “Missional” becoming the pop-church word is that it becomes absorbed into the programmatic paradigm of Western consumer-church.   “Missional” becomes just another in a long line of “cool” programs to get people into our buildings.  But mission is so much more!

If you really want to understand the concept of a “Missional Church” then this is required reading for Class 101.   “Exiles” is the missional handbook for a new generation of Jesus-followers trying to feel their way through a world that is broken and a church that feels irrelevant.

In his own words, the author says his book is written for:

“…those Christians who find themselves falling into the cracks between contemporary secular Western culture and a quaint, old-fashioned church culture of respectability and conservatism.

Michael Frost

Michael Frost

This book is for the many people who wish to be faithful followers of the radical Jesus but no longer find themselves able to fit into the bland, limp, unsavory straitjacket of a church that seems to be yearning to return to the days when ‘everyone’ used to attend church and ‘Christian family values’ reigned.

This book is for those who can’t remain in the safe modes of church and who wish to live expansive, confident Christian lives in this world without having to abandon themselves to the values of contemporary society.  This book is for those Christians who feel themselves ready (or yearning) to jump ship but don’t want to be left adrift in a world where greed, consumerism, laziness, and materialism toss them about endlessly and pointlessly.  Such Christians live with the nagging tension of being at home neither in the world nor in the church as they’ve known it.”

If any of those words describe you or what you have felt in regards to church and life, then I would visit Amazon.com immediately and order this book.

This book is broken down into four sections that deal with the “danger” of being a self-imposed exile in this world.   According to Frost, our primary citizenship and allegiance to the kingdom of God makes us EXILES to the power structures of this world.   Thus, these “self-imposed EXILES” continue their hope and heritage by clinging to their Dangerous Memories, Promises, Criticism and Songs.  Each section has its own unique points of interest and exploration.

Among his best insights is the idea that in trying to create churches with “deep community” we have pursued the wrong goal.   Of course community is good, but community for the sake of community, Frost argues, will ultimately fail.   Real community is formed by a group of people “exiling” themselves from the way of the world and serving in the trenches of mission together.

For Frost, a common mission forges the deepest community.  Authentic and meaningful community is essential, but it is the by-product of our involvement in a mission together.   Mission is the goal; community is what happens during the journey.

page30_4If the future of church is even remotely interesting to you, I cannot recommend this book more highly.   Michael Frost writes with a very direct and honest voice that will bring enlightenment to the casual reader as well as enough research and detail to enthrall the more intense studier.    

This book is a MUST READ!

If I could, I’d hold every American Christian’s eye-lids open to make sure they finished it.  🙂

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars