Love Won or Love Wins: A different take on Rob Bell, his book and Christian dialog

The mainstream media, which means CNN, newspapers and crafted press campaigns have saturated us with the news of the controversial Rob Bell and his new book “Love Wins – A book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived” released March 15. Really, the controversy was more about the statements Bell himself pulled from the book in a video teaser as well as bits from bloggers. Red meat was thrown to those who feel obligated to guard us all from false teaching and heresy. A firestorm brewed and Bell became a NY Times bestselling author as a result.

Fellow bloggers have flocked to either attack the teachings pulled from the book or defend Bell from these attacks. It seems few actually stood up for the teachings in the book, but were offended by the tenor of the conversation. Those attacking focused on “exegetical” issues like Bell’s use of the Greek language. Admittedly, even one supporter of Bell said the book is sometimes “disjointed” and “poorly written” while making a legitimate statement that some detractors did not even read the book. Good points!

Heretic or Not a Heretic?

I asked this question on a post here on RKWeblog. Now, I get to answer. One reader made it clear that “Jesus was a heretic. Martin Luther was a heretic.” That point is well taken. Surely Rob Bell is not a heretic. He is not in the Jesus or Martin Luther revolutionary kind, and also is not literally in the “false teacher” kind as some would claim. With some great thought I personally do not see Bell in his book espouse Universalism, or a “Christian Universalism” that one reviewer/blogger coined. He may leave that question in the air, which is another issue.

Rob Bell is a pastor who has a unique and generous connection to people who are seeking and asking questions. He gets them. He knows their language. He speaks their language. In the book, you get a sense that Bell has deep empathy for this woman who was molested and this Muslim turned off because of witnessing a village in Europe where Christians killed all the Muslims. Bell is a pastor of people who wants to be able to answer these questions. And, seeing that God is love means that Bell wants to justify that character of God to these hurting and Jesus-rejecting people.

Syncretize or Contextualize?

Where I see Bell making a mistake is that he almost syncretizes to these people he cares deeply about—his church members and those damaged by a gospel framed in fear. What is not helpful is the fact that while asking questions is good and a worthy contextualized way we can engage real people today, do we need to bend our faith? No. Does Bell do this. Maybe. Here is how that is might be.

Is it possible that the asking of too many questions about things that have been speculative for over 2,000 years lead us nowhere? Perhaps. So, the method is cool. But, can it detract from more concrete and clear things about the Story of God’s love? It could. And, in this book, I think the most powerful points he makes might be dwarfed from the buzz and bait Bell crafted in all of this.

Bell seems to slip in a jab at people who go to conferences to be more “missional” and “welcoming” then saying that if your God is “loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing, compelling language…will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality.” (location 2099)

Essentially, this appears to ignore the Fall of man and fact that we are already judged and in need of a Savior. So, I am not sure I have heard many teach what he is against here, to be honest. However, the idea of contextualizing a God who will judge who is also loving makes more sense than syncretizing the fact that God is not going to judge those few years of sins since that would be cruel. Is Bell stating we are not responsible for our sins?

Love Won versus Love Wins

I do not think that he is. He appears to be against those that say God is capricious—changing from a loving God to a judging God. Most of us in Evangelical circles know there is a tension in that and believe the Cross resolved that. So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.

The Cross proves that God can be consistently both holy and loving—both just and kind. He banishes us from the Garden, wipes out the world at the Flood, swallows up his own in the wilderness and one day will have to call those who do not know Him to account. His loving kindness—past, present and future—is centered on the Cross. God’s Story of love has always been in history.

For the people of the Old Testament, love wins. For us, love won! We look back to the event of the Cross and what that means for us both this moment and all that follow. I believe Bell makes some of his most powerful points in regards not to the title of the book. What we do now matters. Bell does make this point.

Done. Complete. As Jesus said, “It is finished.”

We are now invited to live a whole new life without guilt or shame or blame or anxiety. We are going to be fine. Of all of the conceptions of the divine, of all of the language Jesus could put on the lips of the God character in this story he tells, that’s what he has the father say.

“You are always with me and everything I have is yours.” (location 2058)

This recounting of the Prodigal Son shows how Bell attempts to teach us about what we have to live now. Bell asks us this: “So is it true that the kind of person you are doesn’t ultimately matter, as long as you’ve said or prayed or believed the right things?” (location 148) Great question!

Too often, many in Evangelical circles look for the ticket to heaven and preach that. We scare people about the afterlife and then get people to sign on the dotted line to get that taken care of. It is a “dip them and drop them” kind of deal. Bell is so right in calling us out on this. This does not feel great, but it makes so much sense to the teachings of Jesus.

I applaud now so much of the heart that Bell has to be sure we live a life of faith without fear of a God who is looking to be after us. This I believe is the central message of the book.

The Dialog About the Book

Now, in a polarized society, we will have debate and sometimes it will not feel so great. I am not afraid of that. Are we being too sensitive? Is it appropriate to question Rob Bell? Here is something that I would like to question Rob Bell about.

He writes a book then sends out teasers with controversial statements. And, no one has the book during his buzz building time and so by the time it is released a surge of news and interest is already in play. Bell is not naive. He is likely one of the most gifted communicators today. I say that he is partly responsible for the firestorm. He is not a victim. He knew the red meat needed to bait certain leaders into rabid behavior. So, he needs to take some blame for the framing of the dialog in the first place. Did he do something wrong in wanting to sell a lot of books and create buzz? Not really. But, he needs to own some of this as a consequence of that.

To those who are rabid, please. Why be naive? Do not take the bait! Have a dialog, not a rant. Some of you have the stature that you could get a coffee with this guy Rob Bell if you were just a bit nicer. Your ideas need to be heard and vetted just like Bell’s ideas. He is influential and you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his. Sad. We need your balance in the Evangelical church. Please, just don’t be so mean about it.

I confess that it was a personal struggle to wrestle with hard things like what this book presents. However, we must. I am thankful for the many private conversations I have had that have shaped me and shape me. My men’s group rocks! Twitter rocks! I am but one voice. And, so are you. Let’s dialog.

I would love to sit with Rob Bell and have coffee, by the way. I am sure it would be a great experience. I applaud him because in all of this I cannot honestly say that about some other people who are prominent in this dialog. I sure hope I can be like Bell in that regard. After all, I love coffee.

Readers, please chime in but challenge civilly.

 

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

162 comments

  1. Great review/thoughts on the situation, Rich. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly haven’t dived much into the conversation surrounding it. I’m seeing a lot of vitriol and not much “slow to anger” – Thanks for being balanced!

  2. Great review/thoughts on the situation, Rich. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly haven’t dived much into the conversation surrounding it. I’m seeing a lot of vitriol and not much “slow to anger” – Thanks for being balanced!

  3. Great review/thoughts on the situation, Rich. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly haven’t dived much into the conversation surrounding it. I’m seeing a lot of vitriol and not much “slow to anger” – Thanks for being balanced!

  4. Great review/thoughts on the situation, Rich. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly haven’t dived much into the conversation surrounding it. I’m seeing a lot of vitriol and not much “slow to anger” – Thanks for being balanced!

  5. Great review/thoughts on the situation, Rich. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly haven’t dived much into the conversation surrounding it. I’m seeing a lot of vitriol and not much “slow to anger” – Thanks for being balanced!

  6. “So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.” How powerful and true this is. Thank you so much for this statement and your great overview of the tensions within our faith that make it mysterious, beautiful, and glorious.

  7. “So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.” How powerful and true this is. Thank you so much for this statement and your great overview of the tensions within our faith that make it mysterious, beautiful, and glorious.

  8. “So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.” How powerful and true this is. Thank you so much for this statement and your great overview of the tensions within our faith that make it mysterious, beautiful, and glorious.

  9. “So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.” How powerful and true this is. Thank you so much for this statement and your great overview of the tensions within our faith that make it mysterious, beautiful, and glorious.

  10. “So, it is not “Love Wins” for us, it is “Love Won.” It is finished.” How powerful and true this is. Thank you so much for this statement and your great overview of the tensions within our faith that make it mysterious, beautiful, and glorious.

  11. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. He might seem to say that, but it’s a question as he points out on several public interviews. Only Jesus saves us. He is not a Universalist as you might assume. But, you prove some of my points by assuming his questions lead there. Rob Bell, are you listening?
      Rich Kirkpatrick
      http://rkweblog.com
      951.239.9619

      1. Here and Now
        My comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

        1. Christians are mystics in this sense. The phrase “mystic union with Christ.” It is a transcendent God in us, but not us. Thanks for your comment. Christianity at its best is the most human of all religions. Christ is fully divine and fully human. So the human meditative and contemplative activities work for us.
          Rich Kirkpatrick
          http://rkweblog.com

        2. Although, interestingly enough, that is a mis-translation. The Kingdom of Heaven is amongst you. Not so much mystical as political…
          😉

          1. Didn’t quite understand the link…
            Quite a stretch isn’t it? Assuming I don’t read Greek?

  12. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:
    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.
    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.
    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.
    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. He might seem to say that, but it’s a question as he points out on several public interviews. Only Jesus saves us. He is not a Universalist as you might assume. But, you prove some of my points by assuming his questions lead there. Rob Bell, are you listening?
      Rich Kirkpatrick
      http://rkweblog.com
      951.239.9619

      1. Here and Now
        My comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.
        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

        1. Christians are mystics in this sense. The phrase “mystic union with Christ.” It is a transcendent God in us, but not us. Thanks for your comment. Christianity at its best is the most human of all religions. Christ is fully divine and fully human. So the human meditative and contemplative activities work for us.
          Rich Kirkpatrick
          http://rkweblog.com

        2. Although, interestingly enough, that is a mis-translation. The Kingdom of Heaven is amongst you. Not so much mystical as political…
          😉

          1. Didn’t quite understand the link…
            Quite a stretch isn’t it? Assuming I don’t read Greek?

  13. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. He might seem to say that, but it’s a question as he points out on several public interviews. Only Jesus saves us. He is not a Universalist as you might assume. But, you prove some of my points by assuming his questions lead there. Rob Bell, are you listening?
      Rich Kirkpatrick
      http://rkweblog.com
      951.239.9619

      1. Here and Now
        My comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

        1. Christians are mystics in this sense. The phrase “mystic union with Christ.” It is a transcendent God in us, but not us. Thanks for your comment. Christianity at its best is the most human of all religions. Christ is fully divine and fully human. So the human meditative and contemplative activities work for us.
          Rich Kirkpatrick
          http://rkweblog.com

        2. Although, interestingly enough, that is a mis-translation. The Kingdom of Heaven is amongst you. Not so much mystical as political…
          😉

          1. Didn’t quite understand the link…
            Quite a stretch isn’t it? Assuming I don’t read Greek?

  14. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. He might seem to say that, but it’s a question as he points out on several public interviews. Only Jesus saves us. He is not a Universalist as you might assume. But, you prove some of my points by assuming his questions lead there. Rob Bell, are you listening?
      Rich Kirkpatrick
      http://rkweblog.com
      951.239.9619

      1. Here and Now
        My comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

        1. Christians are mystics in this sense. The phrase “mystic union with Christ.” It is a transcendent God in us, but not us. Thanks for your comment. Christianity at its best is the most human of all religions. Christ is fully divine and fully human. So the human meditative and contemplative activities work for us.
          Rich Kirkpatrick
          http://rkweblog.com

        2. Although, interestingly enough, that is a mis-translation. The Kingdom of Heaven is amongst you. Not so much mystical as political…
          😉

          1. Didn’t quite understand the link…
            Quite a stretch isn’t it? Assuming I don’t read Greek?

  15. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. He might seem to say that, but it’s a question as he points out on several public interviews. Only Jesus saves us. He is not a Universalist as you might assume. But, you prove some of my points by assuming his questions lead there. Rob Bell, are you listening?
      Rich Kirkpatrick
      http://rkweblog.com
      951.239.9619

      1. Here and Now
        My comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

        1. Christians are mystics in this sense. The phrase “mystic union with Christ.” It is a transcendent God in us, but not us. Thanks for your comment. Christianity at its best is the most human of all religions. Christ is fully divine and fully human. So the human meditative and contemplative activities work for us.
          Rich Kirkpatrick
          http://rkweblog.com

        2. Although, interestingly enough, that is a mis-translation. The Kingdom of Heaven is amongst you. Not so much mystical as political…
          😉

          1. Didn’t quite understand the link…
            Quite a stretch isn’t it? Assuming I don’t read Greek?

  16. Rich, this is a really good post. Personally, I want to read the book, but I don’t want to spend $12 on a book that could potentially annoy me and I don’t like Rob Bell’s marketing scene. That’s what I see this as–a marketing scheme. And a potentially harmful one for people that *just* watch the videos.
    All the controversy surrounding the pre-release of this book surely has driven sales, but at what cost? People are SO divided. I mean, there are people typing about how ignorant non-Rob Bell lovers are and then typing #LoveWins (how is that loving?) and people hatefully dismissing Rob Bell lovers as heretics. Love is not winning on either side of this debate..and for what? To sell a book.

    While it may be brilliant marketing, I am turned off to the book now. I want to read it to see what everyone is talking about and so I can make an informed decision, but I don’t want to put money in this guy’s pockets…does that make sense?

    Besides, I already started a firestorm on my site when I dared to say I didn’t like Jay Bakker’s last book.

    1. Do you really think Bell intended all of this as a marketing ploy? I don’t see what was so problematic with the promo video anyways…
      I certainly don’t know if Gandhi is in hell, do you? Do you think professing Jesus as your Lord necessitates an opinion on the fate of Gandhi? Is it possible that God will send me to hell because I just said I don’t know if Gandhi is in hell? Is Christianity really just another way of defining who is in and who is out?

      I personally think Bell has consistently shown himself to be above the fray. He has never, to my knowledge, attacked anyone. He didn’t force anyone to foam at the mouth, they did that all on their own.

      If you wanna read it, buy it.

      1. You totally took my comment out of context.

  17. Thanks Rich for this thoughtful analysis. I have not read the book yet (don’t really want to pay for it, Bell has likely already made more on this one book than I earn in 20 years), I’m planning to borrow a friend’s copy when he finishes.
    A point of clarity: from statements I’ve heard Bell make, I don’t get the impression that he ever says ‘there is no hell’, rather he offers definitions of ‘hell’ that deviate from popular evangelical views. Additionally and in particular concerning the “loving vs cruel God” question, I don’t think I hear him challenging the EXISTENCE of hell, but rather it’s DURATION. In other words, I don’t know that he’s asking “is it just for God to punish people for a few moments of bad behavior?” but rather ” “is it just for God to punish people FOREVER IN CEASELESS UNSPEAKEABLE TORTURE THAT NEVER ENDS EVER for a few moments of bad behavior?” Is this how he comes across in the book?

    If so (and even if not, I guess) I think it’s a valid question. And I think it’s telling that I’ve heard so few in the evangelical camp attempt to respond to it intelligently – I only hear bullying (‘if you listen to this crap you’re not one of us’), namecalling (‘heretic’ ‘universalist’), and prooftexting that ignores historical context and ambiguous meanings of words translated ‘hell’.

    Rich, I DO appreciate that you seem to have processed Bell’s book carefully and from the heart, and presented your findings here without acrimony. I apologize if my comments on your previous post were less gracious.

    1. Thanks Kyle for reading this and the dialog. 🙂
      You are not alone in feeling and responding to the heat. Frustration
      is warranted, I believe. Yes, some have been very cruel and stupid (on
      both sides I say), but then again some have been simply pointed about
      their views. Like I asked, do you think we are too sensitive
      sometimes? When and how then should we deal with differences of faith–
      especially within our own camp? Should someone like Bell be held
      accountable since he has a huge platform? Is he being judicious with
      that platform himself, or does he share blame for the framing of the
      conversation?

      As far as the burn in torment forever versus duration, I think there
      are more than these two views. I do not ascribe to Bell’s view of a
      duration. I can believe that death is final, there is judgement and
      people then are separated forever by God by whether covered by Jesus
      or not and not see God as cruel. Is not separation from God torment
      enough? What does that look like? None of us really know. The issue
      is not just the few sins we did, but that our race as mankind has
      fallen so at birth we already have an issue as a person with God–our
      heritage with Adam. Jesus is called the second Adam for this reason
      by Paul in the book of Romans. Both sin issues have to be answered.
      And, hell itself can be speculated for another 2,000 years and we go
      no further than today. In the meantime, what can we do with the today
      we know we have? Rob Bell asks that question, too. But, he may have
      dropped the ball a bit in how he framed the conversation.

  18. Thanks Rich for this thoughtful analysis. I have not read the book yet (don’t really want to pay for it, Bell has likely already made more on this one book than I earn in 20 years), I’m planning to borrow a friend’s copy when he finishes.
    A point of clarity: from statements I’ve heard Bell make, I don’t get the impression that he ever says ‘there is no hell’, rather he offers definitions of ‘hell’ that deviate from popular evangelical views. Additionally and in particular concerning the “loving vs cruel God” question, I don’t think I hear him challenging the EXISTENCE of hell, but rather it’s DURATION. In other words, I don’t know that he’s asking “is it just for God to punish people for a few moments of bad behavior?” but rather ” “is it just for God to punish people FOREVER IN CEASELESS UNSPEAKEABLE TORTURE THAT NEVER ENDS EVER for a few moments of bad behavior?” Is this how he comes across in the book?
    If so (and even if not, I guess) I think it’s a valid question. And I think it’s telling that I’ve heard so few in the evangelical camp attempt to respond to it intelligently – I only hear bullying (‘if you listen to this crap you’re not one of us’), namecalling (‘heretic’ ‘universalist’), and prooftexting that ignores historical context and ambiguous meanings of words translated ‘hell’.
    Rich, I DO appreciate that you seem to have processed Bell’s book carefully and from the heart, and presented your findings here without acrimony. I apologize if my comments on your previous post were less gracious.

    1. Thanks Kyle for reading this and the dialog. 🙂
      You are not alone in feeling and responding to the heat. Frustration
      is warranted, I believe. Yes, some have been very cruel and stupid (on
      both sides I say), but then again some have been simply pointed about
      their views. Like I asked, do you think we are too sensitive
      sometimes? When and how then should we deal with differences of faith–
      especially within our own camp? Should someone like Bell be held
      accountable since he has a huge platform? Is he being judicious with
      that platform himself, or does he share blame for the framing of the
      conversation?
      As far as the burn in torment forever versus duration, I think there
      are more than these two views. I do not ascribe to Bell’s view of a
      duration. I can believe that death is final, there is judgement and
      people then are separated forever by God by whether covered by Jesus
      or not and not see God as cruel. Is not separation from God torment
      enough? What does that look like? None of us really know. The issue
      is not just the few sins we did, but that our race as mankind has
      fallen so at birth we already have an issue as a person with God–our
      heritage with Adam. Jesus is called the second Adam for this reason
      by Paul in the book of Romans. Both sin issues have to be answered.
      And, hell itself can be speculated for another 2,000 years and we go
      no further than today. In the meantime, what can we do with the today
      we know we have? Rob Bell asks that question, too. But, he may have
      dropped the ball a bit in how he framed the conversation.

  19. Thanks Rich for this thoughtful analysis. I have not read the book yet (don’t really want to pay for it, Bell has likely already made more on this one book than I earn in 20 years), I’m planning to borrow a friend’s copy when he finishes.
    A point of clarity: from statements I’ve heard Bell make, I don’t get the impression that he ever says ‘there is no hell’, rather he offers definitions of ‘hell’ that deviate from popular evangelical views. Additionally and in particular concerning the “loving vs cruel God” question, I don’t think I hear him challenging the EXISTENCE of hell, but rather it’s DURATION. In other words, I don’t know that he’s asking “is it just for God to punish people for a few moments of bad behavior?” but rather ” “is it just for God to punish people FOREVER IN CEASELESS UNSPEAKEABLE TORTURE THAT NEVER ENDS EVER for a few moments of bad behavior?” Is this how he comes across in the book?

    If so (and even if not, I guess) I think it’s a valid question. And I think it’s telling that I’ve heard so few in the evangelical camp attempt to respond to it intelligently – I only hear bullying (‘if you listen to this crap you’re not one of us’), namecalling (‘heretic’ ‘universalist’), and prooftexting that ignores historical context and ambiguous meanings of words translated ‘hell’.

    Rich, I DO appreciate that you seem to have processed Bell’s book carefully and from the heart, and presented your findings here without acrimony. I apologize if my comments on your previous post were less gracious.

    1. Thanks Kyle for reading this and the dialog. 🙂
      You are not alone in feeling and responding to the heat. Frustration
      is warranted, I believe. Yes, some have been very cruel and stupid (on
      both sides I say), but then again some have been simply pointed about
      their views. Like I asked, do you think we are too sensitive
      sometimes? When and how then should we deal with differences of faith–
      especially within our own camp? Should someone like Bell be held
      accountable since he has a huge platform? Is he being judicious with
      that platform himself, or does he share blame for the framing of the
      conversation?

      As far as the burn in torment forever versus duration, I think there
      are more than these two views. I do not ascribe to Bell’s view of a
      duration. I can believe that death is final, there is judgement and
      people then are separated forever by God by whether covered by Jesus
      or not and not see God as cruel. Is not separation from God torment
      enough? What does that look like? None of us really know. The issue
      is not just the few sins we did, but that our race as mankind has
      fallen so at birth we already have an issue as a person with God–our
      heritage with Adam. Jesus is called the second Adam for this reason
      by Paul in the book of Romans. Both sin issues have to be answered.
      And, hell itself can be speculated for another 2,000 years and we go
      no further than today. In the meantime, what can we do with the today
      we know we have? Rob Bell asks that question, too. But, he may have
      dropped the ball a bit in how he framed the conversation.

  20. Thanks Rich for this thoughtful analysis. I have not read the book yet (don’t really want to pay for it, Bell has likely already made more on this one book than I earn in 20 years), I’m planning to borrow a friend’s copy when he finishes.
    A point of clarity: from statements I’ve heard Bell make, I don’t get the impression that he ever says ‘there is no hell’, rather he offers definitions of ‘hell’ that deviate from popular evangelical views. Additionally and in particular concerning the “loving vs cruel God” question, I don’t think I hear him challenging the EXISTENCE of hell, but rather it’s DURATION. In other words, I don’t know that he’s asking “is it just for God to punish people for a few moments of bad behavior?” but rather ” “is it just for God to punish people FOREVER IN CEASELESS UNSPEAKEABLE TORTURE THAT NEVER ENDS EVER for a few moments of bad behavior?” Is this how he comes across in the book?

    If so (and even if not, I guess) I think it’s a valid question. And I think it’s telling that I’ve heard so few in the evangelical camp attempt to respond to it intelligently – I only hear bullying (‘if you listen to this crap you’re not one of us’), namecalling (‘heretic’ ‘universalist’), and prooftexting that ignores historical context and ambiguous meanings of words translated ‘hell’.

    Rich, I DO appreciate that you seem to have processed Bell’s book carefully and from the heart, and presented your findings here without acrimony. I apologize if my comments on your previous post were less gracious.

    1. Thanks Kyle for reading this and the dialog. 🙂
      You are not alone in feeling and responding to the heat. Frustration
      is warranted, I believe. Yes, some have been very cruel and stupid (on
      both sides I say), but then again some have been simply pointed about
      their views. Like I asked, do you think we are too sensitive
      sometimes? When and how then should we deal with differences of faith–
      especially within our own camp? Should someone like Bell be held
      accountable since he has a huge platform? Is he being judicious with
      that platform himself, or does he share blame for the framing of the
      conversation?

      As far as the burn in torment forever versus duration, I think there
      are more than these two views. I do not ascribe to Bell’s view of a
      duration. I can believe that death is final, there is judgement and
      people then are separated forever by God by whether covered by Jesus
      or not and not see God as cruel. Is not separation from God torment
      enough? What does that look like? None of us really know. The issue
      is not just the few sins we did, but that our race as mankind has
      fallen so at birth we already have an issue as a person with God–our
      heritage with Adam. Jesus is called the second Adam for this reason
      by Paul in the book of Romans. Both sin issues have to be answered.
      And, hell itself can be speculated for another 2,000 years and we go
      no further than today. In the meantime, what can we do with the today
      we know we have? Rob Bell asks that question, too. But, he may have
      dropped the ball a bit in how he framed the conversation.

  21. Thanks Rich for this thoughtful analysis. I have not read the book yet (don’t really want to pay for it, Bell has likely already made more on this one book than I earn in 20 years), I’m planning to borrow a friend’s copy when he finishes.
    A point of clarity: from statements I’ve heard Bell make, I don’t get the impression that he ever says ‘there is no hell’, rather he offers definitions of ‘hell’ that deviate from popular evangelical views. Additionally and in particular concerning the “loving vs cruel God” question, I don’t think I hear him challenging the EXISTENCE of hell, but rather it’s DURATION. In other words, I don’t know that he’s asking “is it just for God to punish people for a few moments of bad behavior?” but rather ” “is it just for God to punish people FOREVER IN CEASELESS UNSPEAKEABLE TORTURE THAT NEVER ENDS EVER for a few moments of bad behavior?” Is this how he comes across in the book?

    If so (and even if not, I guess) I think it’s a valid question. And I think it’s telling that I’ve heard so few in the evangelical camp attempt to respond to it intelligently – I only hear bullying (‘if you listen to this crap you’re not one of us’), namecalling (‘heretic’ ‘universalist’), and prooftexting that ignores historical context and ambiguous meanings of words translated ‘hell’.

    Rich, I DO appreciate that you seem to have processed Bell’s book carefully and from the heart, and presented your findings here without acrimony. I apologize if my comments on your previous post were less gracious.

    1. Thanks Kyle for reading this and the dialog. 🙂
      You are not alone in feeling and responding to the heat. Frustration
      is warranted, I believe. Yes, some have been very cruel and stupid (on
      both sides I say), but then again some have been simply pointed about
      their views. Like I asked, do you think we are too sensitive
      sometimes? When and how then should we deal with differences of faith–
      especially within our own camp? Should someone like Bell be held
      accountable since he has a huge platform? Is he being judicious with
      that platform himself, or does he share blame for the framing of the
      conversation?

      As far as the burn in torment forever versus duration, I think there
      are more than these two views. I do not ascribe to Bell’s view of a
      duration. I can believe that death is final, there is judgement and
      people then are separated forever by God by whether covered by Jesus
      or not and not see God as cruel. Is not separation from God torment
      enough? What does that look like? None of us really know. The issue
      is not just the few sins we did, but that our race as mankind has
      fallen so at birth we already have an issue as a person with God–our
      heritage with Adam. Jesus is called the second Adam for this reason
      by Paul in the book of Romans. Both sin issues have to be answered.
      And, hell itself can be speculated for another 2,000 years and we go
      no further than today. In the meantime, what can we do with the today
      we know we have? Rob Bell asks that question, too. But, he may have
      dropped the ball a bit in how he framed the conversation.

  22. Good post! I have yet toread the book however I sat under Robs teaching for 2 years while at bible college in Grand Rapids, MI and I never heard a heretical sermon out of that guy. He does, however, leave conclusions very open ended and from what I have observed it is quite intentional. He has grown a church of people who have been forced to not take him at his own words but to wrestle through every single thing he teaches from the stage. I personally think it has done our society good to have a few freak out moments about doctrine and apologetics because we can often become complacent in our ”thats just how we’ve always thought” mentality.

    1. Hi Julianna,
      Wrestling is good for his own church. And all church people do not
      wrestle enough through core issues. However, I am not sure this
      instance is as helpful because his suppositions are speculative.

      Rich

      1. Hey Rich,
        I think part of what Bell is saying here is precisely this: it isn’t a core issue! Scripture is speculative on this issue, therefore we should be too!

  23. Good post! I have yet toread the book however I sat under Robs teaching for 2 years while at bible college in Grand Rapids, MI and I never heard a heretical sermon out of that guy. He does, however, leave conclusions very open ended and from what I have observed it is quite intentional. He has grown a church of people who have been forced to not take him at his own words but to wrestle through every single thing he teaches from the stage. I personally think it has done our society good to have a few freak out moments about doctrine and apologetics because we can often become complacent in our ”thats just how we’ve always thought” mentality.

    1. Hi Julianna,
      Wrestling is good for his own church. And all church people do not
      wrestle enough through core issues. However, I am not sure this
      instance is as helpful because his suppositions are speculative.
      Rich

      1. Hey Rich,
        I think part of what Bell is saying here is precisely this: it isn’t a core issue! Scripture is speculative on this issue, therefore we should be too!

  24. Good post! I have yet toread the book however I sat under Robs teaching for 2 years while at bible college in Grand Rapids, MI and I never heard a heretical sermon out of that guy. He does, however, leave conclusions very open ended and from what I have observed it is quite intentional. He has grown a church of people who have been forced to not take him at his own words but to wrestle through every single thing he teaches from the stage. I personally think it has done our society good to have a few freak out moments about doctrine and apologetics because we can often become complacent in our ”thats just how we’ve always thought” mentality.

    1. Hi Julianna,
      Wrestling is good for his own church. And all church people do not
      wrestle enough through core issues. However, I am not sure this
      instance is as helpful because his suppositions are speculative.

      Rich

      1. Hey Rich,
        I think part of what Bell is saying here is precisely this: it isn’t a core issue! Scripture is speculative on this issue, therefore we should be too!

  25. Good post! I have yet toread the book however I sat under Robs teaching for 2 years while at bible college in Grand Rapids, MI and I never heard a heretical sermon out of that guy. He does, however, leave conclusions very open ended and from what I have observed it is quite intentional. He has grown a church of people who have been forced to not take him at his own words but to wrestle through every single thing he teaches from the stage. I personally think it has done our society good to have a few freak out moments about doctrine and apologetics because we can often become complacent in our ”thats just how we’ve always thought” mentality.

    1. Hi Julianna,
      Wrestling is good for his own church. And all church people do not
      wrestle enough through core issues. However, I am not sure this
      instance is as helpful because his suppositions are speculative.

      Rich

      1. Hey Rich,
        I think part of what Bell is saying here is precisely this: it isn’t a core issue! Scripture is speculative on this issue, therefore we should be too!

  26. Good post! I have yet toread the book however I sat under Robs teaching for 2 years while at bible college in Grand Rapids, MI and I never heard a heretical sermon out of that guy. He does, however, leave conclusions very open ended and from what I have observed it is quite intentional. He has grown a church of people who have been forced to not take him at his own words but to wrestle through every single thing he teaches from the stage. I personally think it has done our society good to have a few freak out moments about doctrine and apologetics because we can often become complacent in our ”thats just how we’ve always thought” mentality.

    1. Hi Julianna,
      Wrestling is good for his own church. And all church people do not
      wrestle enough through core issues. However, I am not sure this
      instance is as helpful because his suppositions are speculative.

      Rich

      1. Hey Rich,
        I think part of what Bell is saying here is precisely this: it isn’t a core issue! Scripture is speculative on this issue, therefore we should be too!

  27. I’d like to have coffee with Rob Bell too. Yet, I would be very direct with him and ask him what he’s trying to convey. I wouldn’t expect a direct answer, since he seems to avoid those. Then I’d tell him what many, including myself understand him to be saying:1) Hell may not be eternal
    2) People likely are able to move from hell to heaven (which of course creates the assumption that faith in Christ in this life isn’t very important)
    3) Since God’s primary purpose is the reconciliation of all people to Himself and God is all powerful, then all people will ultimately (probably) be reconciled to Him.
    This is universalism. Not only is it universalism, it is unbiblical and false teaching. It is very serious since the logical result of this teaching is that evangelism and missions isn’t very important since people will get a second chance in the after life. Not only that, but it creates serious inconsistencies with the teaching of Christ and Paul.

    I’m really wondering whether you read the whole book. Especially did you read the chapter Hell and God gets What God Wants?

    1. Jeff, instead of throwing rocks intended to inflame, just make your case…
      If you disagree with Rich’s commentary, say where and why, don’t accuse him of dishonesty and/or laziness…

      As to your take on Bell. I personally feel like those points are not Bell’s main concern. He seemed to be fairly explicitly rejecting the traditional view of hell, but he seemed to be explicitly refusing to replace it with another view. He actually proposed three or four different models of hell (all of which have been proposed prior to “love Wins” by the way). So his point isn’t to say “here is what we should believe” but rather to say, “here is how our current beliefs shape our praxis, our theology, and our witness.” And then to ask if that praxis, theology, and witness is biblical.

      Additionally, he challenges the notion that our traditional view of hell is ‘biblical.’ While I have some concerns about the exegetical methods he uses, I think he does a wonderful job of illuminating how the tradition’s of the Reformer’s and subsequent Fundamentalist’s and then contemporary Evangelical’s have masked the scriptures. He is essentially saying to the Neo-Reformed/Evangelical camp, semper reformandi and sola scriptura…

      We may dispute over his specific arguments, but he is appealing to scripture, and we must acknowledge that if we are to understand him…

      In my opinion Bell’s book is less about Hell and Judgment, and more about the cause and effects of our views about Hell and Judgment…

      1. Amen, good response Steven.
        Could it be Bell “avoids direct answers” because he doesn’t have them? Why do we demand that people take a position when, even after careful search and study, they remain unconvinced of one over another?

        Why do we presume that because someone is a “pastor” or “teacher” that they ought to have definitive answers to all the difficult questions? (and on the other hand, why do we trust anyone who claims to actually possess said answers?)

        Reminds me of a lunch I had once with a religious leader who, in response to my avoidance of joining into his denunciation of another leader he regarded as heretical, exhorted me to “man up” and “call a spade a spade”. In a similar discussion, a brother said “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” Wouldn’t it in fact be dishonest of me to call something a spade when I’m not sure in my heart that it actually is a spade? And something that looks and walks like a duck might in fact be a goose or a teal, or even a wind-up toy.

        1. Hi Kyle,
          I am confused. On one hand you insinuate that I did not read the whole book, and basically call Rob Bell a false teacher. Then, you say to Steve that a person possessing all the answers is not someone you would trust. Then, you tell a story of a leader pressuring you to call a spade a spade.

          I did read the book. I am just wondering if you are asking me to call a spade a spade with Bell? Or, what really you are saying to me?

          Rob Bell never really makes a clear claim. He does however in public deny Universalism.

          What am I missing here?

          RK

    2. Jeff,
      I feel like you still miss the point to some degree.
      In response to some of your questions for Bell from my perspective:

      1) There are actually many who have questioned how eternal hell is. Some would say that when death and Hades are thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see a picture of hell being destroyed and it isn’t eternal. Even if we open the door to the possibility, does it really do anything to undermine the Gospel?
      2) Again, while I may not be in full agreement with Bell, even if he is saying this, I think your idea that it makes faith in Christ in this life unimportant misses Bell’s point the most. You seem to be supporting the idea that the only thing that makes faith in this life important is the hope of eternal life. Bell on the other hand, and rightly so in my opinion, is trying to point out that the Kingdom is accessible to us now and heaven can break through today in many ways. Jesus came that we may have life eternal AND ABUNDANT – John 10:10.
      3) Again, even if he were saying this, which again, I wouldn’t agree with, the idea that it makes missions unimportant encourages the idea that there is no significant benefit to following Jesus today. I have appreciated the point from some that there is a difference between doctrinal universalists and hopeful universalists, those who believe in definitive evidence that all will be saved and those who hope that there will be a universal salvation. I see Rob, at best (or worst) falling in the latter category, which seems much less problematic to me.

      All that being said, I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to as soon as I get through some of my current reading.

      Thanks for a great review Rich!

  28. I’d like to have coffee with Rob Bell too. Yet, I would be very direct with him and ask him what he’s trying to convey. I wouldn’t expect a direct answer, since he seems to avoid those. Then I’d tell him what many, including myself understand him to be saying:1) Hell may not be eternal
    2) People likely are able to move from hell to heaven (which of course creates the assumption that faith in Christ in this life isn’t very important)
    3) Since God’s primary purpose is the reconciliation of all people to Himself and God is all powerful, then all people will ultimately (probably) be reconciled to Him.
    This is universalism. Not only is it universalism, it is unbiblical and false teaching. It is very serious since the logical result of this teaching is that evangelism and missions isn’t very important since people will get a second chance in the after life. Not only that, but it creates serious inconsistencies with the teaching of Christ and Paul.
    I’m really wondering whether you read the whole book. Especially did you read the chapter Hell and God gets What God Wants?

    1. Jeff, instead of throwing rocks intended to inflame, just make your case…
      If you disagree with Rich’s commentary, say where and why, don’t accuse him of dishonesty and/or laziness…
      As to your take on Bell. I personally feel like those points are not Bell’s main concern. He seemed to be fairly explicitly rejecting the traditional view of hell, but he seemed to be explicitly refusing to replace it with another view. He actually proposed three or four different models of hell (all of which have been proposed prior to “love Wins” by the way). So his point isn’t to say “here is what we should believe” but rather to say, “here is how our current beliefs shape our praxis, our theology, and our witness.” And then to ask if that praxis, theology, and witness is biblical.
      Additionally, he challenges the notion that our traditional view of hell is ‘biblical.’ While I have some concerns about the exegetical methods he uses, I think he does a wonderful job of illuminating how the tradition’s of the Reformer’s and subsequent Fundamentalist’s and then contemporary Evangelical’s have masked the scriptures. He is essentially saying to the Neo-Reformed/Evangelical camp, semper reformandi and sola scriptura…
      We may dispute over his specific arguments, but he is appealing to scripture, and we must acknowledge that if we are to understand him…
      In my opinion Bell’s book is less about Hell and Judgment, and more about the cause and effects of our views about Hell and Judgment…

      1. Amen, good response Steven.
        Could it be Bell “avoids direct answers” because he doesn’t have them? Why do we demand that people take a position when, even after careful search and study, they remain unconvinced of one over another?
        Why do we presume that because someone is a “pastor” or “teacher” that they ought to have definitive answers to all the difficult questions? (and on the other hand, why do we trust anyone who claims to actually possess said answers?)
        Reminds me of a lunch I had once with a religious leader who, in response to my avoidance of joining into his denunciation of another leader he regarded as heretical, exhorted me to “man up” and “call a spade a spade”. In a similar discussion, a brother said “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” Wouldn’t it in fact be dishonest of me to call something a spade when I’m not sure in my heart that it actually is a spade? And something that looks and walks like a duck might in fact be a goose or a teal, or even a wind-up toy.

        1. Hi Kyle,
          I am confused. On one hand you insinuate that I did not read the whole book, and basically call Rob Bell a false teacher. Then, you say to Steve that a person possessing all the answers is not someone you would trust. Then, you tell a story of a leader pressuring you to call a spade a spade.
          I did read the book. I am just wondering if you are asking me to call a spade a spade with Bell? Or, what really you are saying to me?
          Rob Bell never really makes a clear claim. He does however in public deny Universalism.
          What am I missing here?
          RK

    2. Jeff,
      I feel like you still miss the point to some degree.
      In response to some of your questions for Bell from my perspective:
      1) There are actually many who have questioned how eternal hell is. Some would say that when death and Hades are thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see a picture of hell being destroyed and it isn’t eternal. Even if we open the door to the possibility, does it really do anything to undermine the Gospel?
      2) Again, while I may not be in full agreement with Bell, even if he is saying this, I think your idea that it makes faith in Christ in this life unimportant misses Bell’s point the most. You seem to be supporting the idea that the only thing that makes faith in this life important is the hope of eternal life. Bell on the other hand, and rightly so in my opinion, is trying to point out that the Kingdom is accessible to us now and heaven can break through today in many ways. Jesus came that we may have life eternal AND ABUNDANT – John 10:10.
      3) Again, even if he were saying this, which again, I wouldn’t agree with, the idea that it makes missions unimportant encourages the idea that there is no significant benefit to following Jesus today. I have appreciated the point from some that there is a difference between doctrinal universalists and hopeful universalists, those who believe in definitive evidence that all will be saved and those who hope that there will be a universal salvation. I see Rob, at best (or worst) falling in the latter category, which seems much less problematic to me.
      All that being said, I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to as soon as I get through some of my current reading.
      Thanks for a great review Rich!

  29. I’d like to have coffee with Rob Bell too. Yet, I would be very direct with him and ask him what he’s trying to convey. I wouldn’t expect a direct answer, since he seems to avoid those. Then I’d tell him what many, including myself understand him to be saying:1) Hell may not be eternal
    2) People likely are able to move from hell to heaven (which of course creates the assumption that faith in Christ in this life isn’t very important)
    3) Since God’s primary purpose is the reconciliation of all people to Himself and God is all powerful, then all people will ultimately (probably) be reconciled to Him.
    This is universalism. Not only is it universalism, it is unbiblical and false teaching. It is very serious since the logical result of this teaching is that evangelism and missions isn’t very important since people will get a second chance in the after life. Not only that, but it creates serious inconsistencies with the teaching of Christ and Paul.

    I’m really wondering whether you read the whole book. Especially did you read the chapter Hell and God gets What God Wants?

    1. Jeff, instead of throwing rocks intended to inflame, just make your case…
      If you disagree with Rich’s commentary, say where and why, don’t accuse him of dishonesty and/or laziness…

      As to your take on Bell. I personally feel like those points are not Bell’s main concern. He seemed to be fairly explicitly rejecting the traditional view of hell, but he seemed to be explicitly refusing to replace it with another view. He actually proposed three or four different models of hell (all of which have been proposed prior to “love Wins” by the way). So his point isn’t to say “here is what we should believe” but rather to say, “here is how our current beliefs shape our praxis, our theology, and our witness.” And then to ask if that praxis, theology, and witness is biblical.

      Additionally, he challenges the notion that our traditional view of hell is ‘biblical.’ While I have some concerns about the exegetical methods he uses, I think he does a wonderful job of illuminating how the tradition’s of the Reformer’s and subsequent Fundamentalist’s and then contemporary Evangelical’s have masked the scriptures. He is essentially saying to the Neo-Reformed/Evangelical camp, semper reformandi and sola scriptura…

      We may dispute over his specific arguments, but he is appealing to scripture, and we must acknowledge that if we are to understand him…

      In my opinion Bell’s book is less about Hell and Judgment, and more about the cause and effects of our views about Hell and Judgment…

      1. Amen, good response Steven.
        Could it be Bell “avoids direct answers” because he doesn’t have them? Why do we demand that people take a position when, even after careful search and study, they remain unconvinced of one over another?

        Why do we presume that because someone is a “pastor” or “teacher” that they ought to have definitive answers to all the difficult questions? (and on the other hand, why do we trust anyone who claims to actually possess said answers?)

        Reminds me of a lunch I had once with a religious leader who, in response to my avoidance of joining into his denunciation of another leader he regarded as heretical, exhorted me to “man up” and “call a spade a spade”. In a similar discussion, a brother said “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” Wouldn’t it in fact be dishonest of me to call something a spade when I’m not sure in my heart that it actually is a spade? And something that looks and walks like a duck might in fact be a goose or a teal, or even a wind-up toy.

        1. Hi Kyle,
          I am confused. On one hand you insinuate that I did not read the whole book, and basically call Rob Bell a false teacher. Then, you say to Steve that a person possessing all the answers is not someone you would trust. Then, you tell a story of a leader pressuring you to call a spade a spade.

          I did read the book. I am just wondering if you are asking me to call a spade a spade with Bell? Or, what really you are saying to me?

          Rob Bell never really makes a clear claim. He does however in public deny Universalism.

          What am I missing here?

          RK

    2. Jeff,
      I feel like you still miss the point to some degree.
      In response to some of your questions for Bell from my perspective:

      1) There are actually many who have questioned how eternal hell is. Some would say that when death and Hades are thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see a picture of hell being destroyed and it isn’t eternal. Even if we open the door to the possibility, does it really do anything to undermine the Gospel?
      2) Again, while I may not be in full agreement with Bell, even if he is saying this, I think your idea that it makes faith in Christ in this life unimportant misses Bell’s point the most. You seem to be supporting the idea that the only thing that makes faith in this life important is the hope of eternal life. Bell on the other hand, and rightly so in my opinion, is trying to point out that the Kingdom is accessible to us now and heaven can break through today in many ways. Jesus came that we may have life eternal AND ABUNDANT – John 10:10.
      3) Again, even if he were saying this, which again, I wouldn’t agree with, the idea that it makes missions unimportant encourages the idea that there is no significant benefit to following Jesus today. I have appreciated the point from some that there is a difference between doctrinal universalists and hopeful universalists, those who believe in definitive evidence that all will be saved and those who hope that there will be a universal salvation. I see Rob, at best (or worst) falling in the latter category, which seems much less problematic to me.

      All that being said, I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to as soon as I get through some of my current reading.

      Thanks for a great review Rich!

  30. I’d like to have coffee with Rob Bell too. Yet, I would be very direct with him and ask him what he’s trying to convey. I wouldn’t expect a direct answer, since he seems to avoid those. Then I’d tell him what many, including myself understand him to be saying:1) Hell may not be eternal
    2) People likely are able to move from hell to heaven (which of course creates the assumption that faith in Christ in this life isn’t very important)
    3) Since God’s primary purpose is the reconciliation of all people to Himself and God is all powerful, then all people will ultimately (probably) be reconciled to Him.
    This is universalism. Not only is it universalism, it is unbiblical and false teaching. It is very serious since the logical result of this teaching is that evangelism and missions isn’t very important since people will get a second chance in the after life. Not only that, but it creates serious inconsistencies with the teaching of Christ and Paul.

    I’m really wondering whether you read the whole book. Especially did you read the chapter Hell and God gets What God Wants?

    1. Jeff, instead of throwing rocks intended to inflame, just make your case…
      If you disagree with Rich’s commentary, say where and why, don’t accuse him of dishonesty and/or laziness…

      As to your take on Bell. I personally feel like those points are not Bell’s main concern. He seemed to be fairly explicitly rejecting the traditional view of hell, but he seemed to be explicitly refusing to replace it with another view. He actually proposed three or four different models of hell (all of which have been proposed prior to “love Wins” by the way). So his point isn’t to say “here is what we should believe” but rather to say, “here is how our current beliefs shape our praxis, our theology, and our witness.” And then to ask if that praxis, theology, and witness is biblical.

      Additionally, he challenges the notion that our traditional view of hell is ‘biblical.’ While I have some concerns about the exegetical methods he uses, I think he does a wonderful job of illuminating how the tradition’s of the Reformer’s and subsequent Fundamentalist’s and then contemporary Evangelical’s have masked the scriptures. He is essentially saying to the Neo-Reformed/Evangelical camp, semper reformandi and sola scriptura…

      We may dispute over his specific arguments, but he is appealing to scripture, and we must acknowledge that if we are to understand him…

      In my opinion Bell’s book is less about Hell and Judgment, and more about the cause and effects of our views about Hell and Judgment…

      1. Amen, good response Steven.
        Could it be Bell “avoids direct answers” because he doesn’t have them? Why do we demand that people take a position when, even after careful search and study, they remain unconvinced of one over another?

        Why do we presume that because someone is a “pastor” or “teacher” that they ought to have definitive answers to all the difficult questions? (and on the other hand, why do we trust anyone who claims to actually possess said answers?)

        Reminds me of a lunch I had once with a religious leader who, in response to my avoidance of joining into his denunciation of another leader he regarded as heretical, exhorted me to “man up” and “call a spade a spade”. In a similar discussion, a brother said “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” Wouldn’t it in fact be dishonest of me to call something a spade when I’m not sure in my heart that it actually is a spade? And something that looks and walks like a duck might in fact be a goose or a teal, or even a wind-up toy.

        1. Hi Kyle,
          I am confused. On one hand you insinuate that I did not read the whole book, and basically call Rob Bell a false teacher. Then, you say to Steve that a person possessing all the answers is not someone you would trust. Then, you tell a story of a leader pressuring you to call a spade a spade.

          I did read the book. I am just wondering if you are asking me to call a spade a spade with Bell? Or, what really you are saying to me?

          Rob Bell never really makes a clear claim. He does however in public deny Universalism.

          What am I missing here?

          RK

    2. Jeff,
      I feel like you still miss the point to some degree.
      In response to some of your questions for Bell from my perspective:

      1) There are actually many who have questioned how eternal hell is. Some would say that when death and Hades are thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see a picture of hell being destroyed and it isn’t eternal. Even if we open the door to the possibility, does it really do anything to undermine the Gospel?
      2) Again, while I may not be in full agreement with Bell, even if he is saying this, I think your idea that it makes faith in Christ in this life unimportant misses Bell’s point the most. You seem to be supporting the idea that the only thing that makes faith in this life important is the hope of eternal life. Bell on the other hand, and rightly so in my opinion, is trying to point out that the Kingdom is accessible to us now and heaven can break through today in many ways. Jesus came that we may have life eternal AND ABUNDANT – John 10:10.
      3) Again, even if he were saying this, which again, I wouldn’t agree with, the idea that it makes missions unimportant encourages the idea that there is no significant benefit to following Jesus today. I have appreciated the point from some that there is a difference between doctrinal universalists and hopeful universalists, those who believe in definitive evidence that all will be saved and those who hope that there will be a universal salvation. I see Rob, at best (or worst) falling in the latter category, which seems much less problematic to me.

      All that being said, I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to as soon as I get through some of my current reading.

      Thanks for a great review Rich!

  31. I’d like to have coffee with Rob Bell too. Yet, I would be very direct with him and ask him what he’s trying to convey. I wouldn’t expect a direct answer, since he seems to avoid those. Then I’d tell him what many, including myself understand him to be saying:1) Hell may not be eternal
    2) People likely are able to move from hell to heaven (which of course creates the assumption that faith in Christ in this life isn’t very important)
    3) Since God’s primary purpose is the reconciliation of all people to Himself and God is all powerful, then all people will ultimately (probably) be reconciled to Him.
    This is universalism. Not only is it universalism, it is unbiblical and false teaching. It is very serious since the logical result of this teaching is that evangelism and missions isn’t very important since people will get a second chance in the after life. Not only that, but it creates serious inconsistencies with the teaching of Christ and Paul.

    I’m really wondering whether you read the whole book. Especially did you read the chapter Hell and God gets What God Wants?

    1. Jeff, instead of throwing rocks intended to inflame, just make your case…
      If you disagree with Rich’s commentary, say where and why, don’t accuse him of dishonesty and/or laziness…

      As to your take on Bell. I personally feel like those points are not Bell’s main concern. He seemed to be fairly explicitly rejecting the traditional view of hell, but he seemed to be explicitly refusing to replace it with another view. He actually proposed three or four different models of hell (all of which have been proposed prior to “love Wins” by the way). So his point isn’t to say “here is what we should believe” but rather to say, “here is how our current beliefs shape our praxis, our theology, and our witness.” And then to ask if that praxis, theology, and witness is biblical.

      Additionally, he challenges the notion that our traditional view of hell is ‘biblical.’ While I have some concerns about the exegetical methods he uses, I think he does a wonderful job of illuminating how the tradition’s of the Reformer’s and subsequent Fundamentalist’s and then contemporary Evangelical’s have masked the scriptures. He is essentially saying to the Neo-Reformed/Evangelical camp, semper reformandi and sola scriptura…

      We may dispute over his specific arguments, but he is appealing to scripture, and we must acknowledge that if we are to understand him…

      In my opinion Bell’s book is less about Hell and Judgment, and more about the cause and effects of our views about Hell and Judgment…

      1. Amen, good response Steven.
        Could it be Bell “avoids direct answers” because he doesn’t have them? Why do we demand that people take a position when, even after careful search and study, they remain unconvinced of one over another?

        Why do we presume that because someone is a “pastor” or “teacher” that they ought to have definitive answers to all the difficult questions? (and on the other hand, why do we trust anyone who claims to actually possess said answers?)

        Reminds me of a lunch I had once with a religious leader who, in response to my avoidance of joining into his denunciation of another leader he regarded as heretical, exhorted me to “man up” and “call a spade a spade”. In a similar discussion, a brother said “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” Wouldn’t it in fact be dishonest of me to call something a spade when I’m not sure in my heart that it actually is a spade? And something that looks and walks like a duck might in fact be a goose or a teal, or even a wind-up toy.

        1. Hi Kyle,
          I am confused. On one hand you insinuate that I did not read the whole book, and basically call Rob Bell a false teacher. Then, you say to Steve that a person possessing all the answers is not someone you would trust. Then, you tell a story of a leader pressuring you to call a spade a spade.

          I did read the book. I am just wondering if you are asking me to call a spade a spade with Bell? Or, what really you are saying to me?

          Rob Bell never really makes a clear claim. He does however in public deny Universalism.

          What am I missing here?

          RK

    2. Jeff,
      I feel like you still miss the point to some degree.
      In response to some of your questions for Bell from my perspective:

      1) There are actually many who have questioned how eternal hell is. Some would say that when death and Hades are thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see a picture of hell being destroyed and it isn’t eternal. Even if we open the door to the possibility, does it really do anything to undermine the Gospel?
      2) Again, while I may not be in full agreement with Bell, even if he is saying this, I think your idea that it makes faith in Christ in this life unimportant misses Bell’s point the most. You seem to be supporting the idea that the only thing that makes faith in this life important is the hope of eternal life. Bell on the other hand, and rightly so in my opinion, is trying to point out that the Kingdom is accessible to us now and heaven can break through today in many ways. Jesus came that we may have life eternal AND ABUNDANT – John 10:10.
      3) Again, even if he were saying this, which again, I wouldn’t agree with, the idea that it makes missions unimportant encourages the idea that there is no significant benefit to following Jesus today. I have appreciated the point from some that there is a difference between doctrinal universalists and hopeful universalists, those who believe in definitive evidence that all will be saved and those who hope that there will be a universal salvation. I see Rob, at best (or worst) falling in the latter category, which seems much less problematic to me.

      All that being said, I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to as soon as I get through some of my current reading.

      Thanks for a great review Rich!

  32. Alright Rich, I admit, I am impressed, I was expecting a diatribe out of you, and you delivered something entirely other.
    I think one thought I would add to your commentary is this:

    Bell is an artist amongst engineers.

    He is painting pictures and they are critiquing him for his lack of stress calibrations in the drawing, but of course, you don’t pencil in stress calibrations in a painting! …but they don’t get what he is doing.

    It is actually one of the things that has attracted me to a few other authors. CS Lewis comes to mind here. (A literary man, whose head was lost in poetry, and who was trained in classical literature, yet is embraced by so many evangelicals for his logic and theological insight.)

    Bell will be misunderstood. It is a given. I think he is okay with that. He doesn’t seem to really respond to it anyway. (I have yet to hear him attack anyone… which seems to be ‘Biblical’ in a way that the Neo-Reformed never seem to discover. I guess that is in the other half of scripture that their paradigm blinds them to…) But he seems much more concerned with an alternative level of discourse. Its like the difference between a married couple who are trying to communicate with each other, and the married couple who are actually communicating with each other about their communication. There is a higher level of discourse there. A discourse about the discourse that helps in so many exponential ways. I see guys like Bell consistently trying to operate at that level, and so many people just don’t get it… It is actually a bit like Jesus in John’s Gospel who is always trying to get people to think on a different plane (ala Nicodemus or the Woman-at-the-Well) but they just don’t get what He is saying…

    After all, it really doesn’t make sense to critique a painting for failing to be blueprints…

    Though, I am still waiting for an explanation of your ‘liberal’ snipe… 😉

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Artistry and engineering are closely related–as one who is a musician I live with tension, but also with physics. So, I think the question can be applied to those wanting just blue prints–the Bible is more literature than it is blue prints. Poetry, story and even music fill the pages of the Bible. So, our faith should surely learn this voice. This blog’s purpose is to be a voice for the “creatives” out there. We know how to think, too, by the way.

      Well, I would say I would be wrong in stating Bell is a “liberal”–he does not reject scripture and ascribe to technical liberal criticisms of it and holds clearly to Jesus as fully God and fully human. So, in that way the word was used incorrectly as a technical term. As an artist, my paint stroke here (versus blue print) was simply to state he is left of most Evangelicals–maybe he goes a bit too far? Maybe.

  33. Alright Rich, I admit, I am impressed, I was expecting a diatribe out of you, and you delivered something entirely other.
    I think one thought I would add to your commentary is this:
    Bell is an artist amongst engineers.
    He is painting pictures and they are critiquing him for his lack of stress calibrations in the drawing, but of course, you don’t pencil in stress calibrations in a painting! …but they don’t get what he is doing.
    It is actually one of the things that has attracted me to a few other authors. CS Lewis comes to mind here. (A literary man, whose head was lost in poetry, and who was trained in classical literature, yet is embraced by so many evangelicals for his logic and theological insight.)
    Bell will be misunderstood. It is a given. I think he is okay with that. He doesn’t seem to really respond to it anyway. (I have yet to hear him attack anyone… which seems to be ‘Biblical’ in a way that the Neo-Reformed never seem to discover. I guess that is in the other half of scripture that their paradigm blinds them to…) But he seems much more concerned with an alternative level of discourse. Its like the difference between a married couple who are trying to communicate with each other, and the married couple who are actually communicating with each other about their communication. There is a higher level of discourse there. A discourse about the discourse that helps in so many exponential ways. I see guys like Bell consistently trying to operate at that level, and so many people just don’t get it… It is actually a bit like Jesus in John’s Gospel who is always trying to get people to think on a different plane (ala Nicodemus or the Woman-at-the-Well) but they just don’t get what He is saying…
    After all, it really doesn’t make sense to critique a painting for failing to be blueprints…
    Though, I am still waiting for an explanation of your ‘liberal’ snipe… 😉

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Artistry and engineering are closely related–as one who is a musician I live with tension, but also with physics. So, I think the question can be applied to those wanting just blue prints–the Bible is more literature than it is blue prints. Poetry, story and even music fill the pages of the Bible. So, our faith should surely learn this voice. This blog’s purpose is to be a voice for the “creatives” out there. We know how to think, too, by the way.
      Well, I would say I would be wrong in stating Bell is a “liberal”–he does not reject scripture and ascribe to technical liberal criticisms of it and holds clearly to Jesus as fully God and fully human. So, in that way the word was used incorrectly as a technical term. As an artist, my paint stroke here (versus blue print) was simply to state he is left of most Evangelicals–maybe he goes a bit too far? Maybe.

  34. Alright Rich, I admit, I am impressed, I was expecting a diatribe out of you, and you delivered something entirely other.
    I think one thought I would add to your commentary is this:

    Bell is an artist amongst engineers.

    He is painting pictures and they are critiquing him for his lack of stress calibrations in the drawing, but of course, you don’t pencil in stress calibrations in a painting! …but they don’t get what he is doing.

    It is actually one of the things that has attracted me to a few other authors. CS Lewis comes to mind here. (A literary man, whose head was lost in poetry, and who was trained in classical literature, yet is embraced by so many evangelicals for his logic and theological insight.)

    Bell will be misunderstood. It is a given. I think he is okay with that. He doesn’t seem to really respond to it anyway. (I have yet to hear him attack anyone… which seems to be ‘Biblical’ in a way that the Neo-Reformed never seem to discover. I guess that is in the other half of scripture that their paradigm blinds them to…) But he seems much more concerned with an alternative level of discourse. Its like the difference between a married couple who are trying to communicate with each other, and the married couple who are actually communicating with each other about their communication. There is a higher level of discourse there. A discourse about the discourse that helps in so many exponential ways. I see guys like Bell consistently trying to operate at that level, and so many people just don’t get it… It is actually a bit like Jesus in John’s Gospel who is always trying to get people to think on a different plane (ala Nicodemus or the Woman-at-the-Well) but they just don’t get what He is saying…

    After all, it really doesn’t make sense to critique a painting for failing to be blueprints…

    Though, I am still waiting for an explanation of your ‘liberal’ snipe… 😉

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Artistry and engineering are closely related–as one who is a musician I live with tension, but also with physics. So, I think the question can be applied to those wanting just blue prints–the Bible is more literature than it is blue prints. Poetry, story and even music fill the pages of the Bible. So, our faith should surely learn this voice. This blog’s purpose is to be a voice for the “creatives” out there. We know how to think, too, by the way.

      Well, I would say I would be wrong in stating Bell is a “liberal”–he does not reject scripture and ascribe to technical liberal criticisms of it and holds clearly to Jesus as fully God and fully human. So, in that way the word was used incorrectly as a technical term. As an artist, my paint stroke here (versus blue print) was simply to state he is left of most Evangelicals–maybe he goes a bit too far? Maybe.

  35. Alright Rich, I admit, I am impressed, I was expecting a diatribe out of you, and you delivered something entirely other.
    I think one thought I would add to your commentary is this:

    Bell is an artist amongst engineers.

    He is painting pictures and they are critiquing him for his lack of stress calibrations in the drawing, but of course, you don’t pencil in stress calibrations in a painting! …but they don’t get what he is doing.

    It is actually one of the things that has attracted me to a few other authors. CS Lewis comes to mind here. (A literary man, whose head was lost in poetry, and who was trained in classical literature, yet is embraced by so many evangelicals for his logic and theological insight.)

    Bell will be misunderstood. It is a given. I think he is okay with that. He doesn’t seem to really respond to it anyway. (I have yet to hear him attack anyone… which seems to be ‘Biblical’ in a way that the Neo-Reformed never seem to discover. I guess that is in the other half of scripture that their paradigm blinds them to…) But he seems much more concerned with an alternative level of discourse. Its like the difference between a married couple who are trying to communicate with each other, and the married couple who are actually communicating with each other about their communication. There is a higher level of discourse there. A discourse about the discourse that helps in so many exponential ways. I see guys like Bell consistently trying to operate at that level, and so many people just don’t get it… It is actually a bit like Jesus in John’s Gospel who is always trying to get people to think on a different plane (ala Nicodemus or the Woman-at-the-Well) but they just don’t get what He is saying…

    After all, it really doesn’t make sense to critique a painting for failing to be blueprints…

    Though, I am still waiting for an explanation of your ‘liberal’ snipe… 😉

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Artistry and engineering are closely related–as one who is a musician I live with tension, but also with physics. So, I think the question can be applied to those wanting just blue prints–the Bible is more literature than it is blue prints. Poetry, story and even music fill the pages of the Bible. So, our faith should surely learn this voice. This blog’s purpose is to be a voice for the “creatives” out there. We know how to think, too, by the way.

      Well, I would say I would be wrong in stating Bell is a “liberal”–he does not reject scripture and ascribe to technical liberal criticisms of it and holds clearly to Jesus as fully God and fully human. So, in that way the word was used incorrectly as a technical term. As an artist, my paint stroke here (versus blue print) was simply to state he is left of most Evangelicals–maybe he goes a bit too far? Maybe.

  36. Alright Rich, I admit, I am impressed, I was expecting a diatribe out of you, and you delivered something entirely other.
    I think one thought I would add to your commentary is this:

    Bell is an artist amongst engineers.

    He is painting pictures and they are critiquing him for his lack of stress calibrations in the drawing, but of course, you don’t pencil in stress calibrations in a painting! …but they don’t get what he is doing.

    It is actually one of the things that has attracted me to a few other authors. CS Lewis comes to mind here. (A literary man, whose head was lost in poetry, and who was trained in classical literature, yet is embraced by so many evangelicals for his logic and theological insight.)

    Bell will be misunderstood. It is a given. I think he is okay with that. He doesn’t seem to really respond to it anyway. (I have yet to hear him attack anyone… which seems to be ‘Biblical’ in a way that the Neo-Reformed never seem to discover. I guess that is in the other half of scripture that their paradigm blinds them to…) But he seems much more concerned with an alternative level of discourse. Its like the difference between a married couple who are trying to communicate with each other, and the married couple who are actually communicating with each other about their communication. There is a higher level of discourse there. A discourse about the discourse that helps in so many exponential ways. I see guys like Bell consistently trying to operate at that level, and so many people just don’t get it… It is actually a bit like Jesus in John’s Gospel who is always trying to get people to think on a different plane (ala Nicodemus or the Woman-at-the-Well) but they just don’t get what He is saying…

    After all, it really doesn’t make sense to critique a painting for failing to be blueprints…

    Though, I am still waiting for an explanation of your ‘liberal’ snipe… 😉

    1. Thanks Steve.
      Artistry and engineering are closely related–as one who is a musician I live with tension, but also with physics. So, I think the question can be applied to those wanting just blue prints–the Bible is more literature than it is blue prints. Poetry, story and even music fill the pages of the Bible. So, our faith should surely learn this voice. This blog’s purpose is to be a voice for the “creatives” out there. We know how to think, too, by the way.

      Well, I would say I would be wrong in stating Bell is a “liberal”–he does not reject scripture and ascribe to technical liberal criticisms of it and holds clearly to Jesus as fully God and fully human. So, in that way the word was used incorrectly as a technical term. As an artist, my paint stroke here (versus blue print) was simply to state he is left of most Evangelicals–maybe he goes a bit too far? Maybe.

  37. Beautiful. I have not gotten too caught up in all the hype, because I know it will die sooner than later and already is. That being said, this is probably the most refreshing post I’ve seen on the topic. I think I’m right with you, but I haven’t read the book. You nailed it: “…you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his.” It’s laughably predictable to see the bashing that’s gone way past concern. Thanks man!

  38. Beautiful. I have not gotten too caught up in all the hype, because I know it will die sooner than later and already is. That being said, this is probably the most refreshing post I’ve seen on the topic. I think I’m right with you, but I haven’t read the book. You nailed it: “…you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his.” It’s laughably predictable to see the bashing that’s gone way past concern. Thanks man!

  39. Beautiful. I have not gotten too caught up in all the hype, because I know it will die sooner than later and already is. That being said, this is probably the most refreshing post I’ve seen on the topic. I think I’m right with you, but I haven’t read the book. You nailed it: “…you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his.” It’s laughably predictable to see the bashing that’s gone way past concern. Thanks man!

  40. Beautiful. I have not gotten too caught up in all the hype, because I know it will die sooner than later and already is. That being said, this is probably the most refreshing post I’ve seen on the topic. I think I’m right with you, but I haven’t read the book. You nailed it: “…you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his.” It’s laughably predictable to see the bashing that’s gone way past concern. Thanks man!

  41. Beautiful. I have not gotten too caught up in all the hype, because I know it will die sooner than later and already is. That being said, this is probably the most refreshing post I’ve seen on the topic. I think I’m right with you, but I haven’t read the book. You nailed it: “…you lose some of your platform by trying to break apart his.” It’s laughably predictable to see the bashing that’s gone way past concern. Thanks man!

  42. Wow Rich. Much to ponder. BTW, I would love to sit down over coffee with Rob Bell as well. Perhaps one day. Let me know if he comes to town. Hope you are doing well.

  43. Wow Rich. Much to ponder. BTW, I would love to sit down over coffee with Rob Bell as well. Perhaps one day. Let me know if he comes to town. Hope you are doing well.

  44. Wow Rich. Much to ponder. BTW, I would love to sit down over coffee with Rob Bell as well. Perhaps one day. Let me know if he comes to town. Hope you are doing well.

  45. Wow Rich. Much to ponder. BTW, I would love to sit down over coffee with Rob Bell as well. Perhaps one day. Let me know if he comes to town. Hope you are doing well.

  46. Wow Rich. Much to ponder. BTW, I would love to sit down over coffee with Rob Bell as well. Perhaps one day. Let me know if he comes to town. Hope you are doing well.

  47. I’ve never believed that God sends us to hell because of things we DID on the earth. I believe we choose hell by who we choose to BE.
    We have probably all dealt with someone on the other side of an argument who is extremely closed-minded. If you haven’t, then perhaps you ARE that person! 🙂

    I always lament the fact that such people cut off the dialogue. Jesus said to argue with such people is to “throw pearls before swine”. When we have the attitude and mindset of such people we forever cut ourselves off from God’s presence and that is the eternal flames, the fire that is not quenched, that Jesus speaks of.

    You asked whether or not we can take the questioning too far (can it lead to nowhere). I believe that it can, but the only way that we can tell which questions lead to nowhere is to first ask them. It is kind of like learning how to hit the target by shooting past it.

    Questions are healthy. Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” The questions break down the dogma. Faith is the embrace of mystery. Anyone who is so certain has no faith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Bell shoots far beyond a target–other than the marketing targets.

      If we put asking questions, theology of any stripe or anything before
      simply following Christ we may be making ourselves worship the idol of
      choice. Free will does not make us gods, it makes us able to choose
      Christ who paved the way and is the way. I am not sure it is too
      complicated. It is about Jesus and following him. It is not about
      splitting hairs and being so Greek-minded that we lose the mystical
      and practical power of the Incarnation. We become potentially people
      who worship uncertainty. Can we be certain there is no certainty?

      It is a paradox because there are some things certain and other things
      that are not. The fault is to focus on the uncertain at the expense of
      following Jesus simply. Example: Jesus certainly told us to feed the
      poor. If we start there, we might find more about Christ than over-
      doing things that are never meant to be answered clearly in the first
      place this side of heaven. Jesus was very practical, I believe. Why do
      we have to demand our argumentation when his work gives us power–not
      ours.

      Just saying. In this sense, these questions by Bell are not always
      healthy. They sell books. Perk our interest. But, do they transform
      us? Do they propel us to follow Christ and love him? Or, are things
      fairly plain enough to understand that God loves us and we need to
      share that love? Let’s ask that question. See, I am asking questions.
      I love the book the Jesus Manifesto–some of us do not want to go
      right or left on stuff. Let’s move forward and make it about Jesus,
      not us and our structures or preferred way of thinking.

      RK

      1. Do you really think that a God who tells us that we please Him only by faith wants us to focus on certainty?
        In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, He could have cut to the chase and said something like, “I’m the Messiah, the source of all your contentment.” Instead, He goes the long way around by acting and speaking enigmatically.

        What did Paul mean when he continuously used the phrase “the mystery of our faith”?

        Factoid: Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them—and he asks 307 questions back.

        http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17907

        1. Hi Greg,
          Focus on the certainty of Jesus. Yes! I guess I am open minded in
          thinking there can be both things certain in the midst of mystery. The
          mystic union with Jesus is one of the greatest certainties we can have
          as believers of the way! God Incarnate is the example of this–a
          spiritual being in a literal, seen body. Focusing on Christ is
          transformational and more helpful than speculation on doctrines that
          are speculative in the first place.

          Faith is being “certain” of things unseen. See, there is a paradox
          there. I am trying to say that we cannot put this in a box either way–
          being certain or uncertain of all things. Clearly, there is a tension.
          That is where we live–faith a sort of certainty in the person of
          Jesus. And, I think this is where the real questions that matter exist.

          Why can we not have certainty in uncertainty? Mystery surely is not
          devoid of fact or reason is it? Is this a way to create one box in
          place of another? Maybe there is no box!

          RK

          1. We CAN have certainty in uncertainty. It is reasoning itself that leads we followers of Christ to mystery.
            And THIS is why we ask questions and speculate on things you say are speculative. Its the only way we can possibly grow.

          2. I found this reference today that I thought even better capstoned my original points:
            http://chronicle.com/article/The-Bible-Is-Dead-Long-Live/127099/

            “To many, especially nonreligious people, faith is seen as absolute certainty despite or without regard to observed facts or evidence. Yet, as anyone trying to live faithfully in this world knows full well, there is no faith without doubt.

            Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. Indeed, in an atheist­ing match, I’d put big odds on the faithful any day. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can. Faith is inherently vulnerable. To live by faith is to live with that vulnerability, that soft belly, exposed.”

  48. I’ve never believed that God sends us to hell because of things we DID on the earth. I believe we choose hell by who we choose to BE.
    We have probably all dealt with someone on the other side of an argument who is extremely closed-minded. If you haven’t, then perhaps you ARE that person! 🙂
    I always lament the fact that such people cut off the dialogue. Jesus said to argue with such people is to “throw pearls before swine”. When we have the attitude and mindset of such people we forever cut ourselves off from God’s presence and that is the eternal flames, the fire that is not quenched, that Jesus speaks of.
    You asked whether or not we can take the questioning too far (can it lead to nowhere). I believe that it can, but the only way that we can tell which questions lead to nowhere is to first ask them. It is kind of like learning how to hit the target by shooting past it.
    Questions are healthy. Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” The questions break down the dogma. Faith is the embrace of mystery. Anyone who is so certain has no faith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Bell shoots far beyond a target–other than the marketing targets.
      If we put asking questions, theology of any stripe or anything before
      simply following Christ we may be making ourselves worship the idol of
      choice. Free will does not make us gods, it makes us able to choose
      Christ who paved the way and is the way. I am not sure it is too
      complicated. It is about Jesus and following him. It is not about
      splitting hairs and being so Greek-minded that we lose the mystical
      and practical power of the Incarnation. We become potentially people
      who worship uncertainty. Can we be certain there is no certainty?
      It is a paradox because there are some things certain and other things
      that are not. The fault is to focus on the uncertain at the expense of
      following Jesus simply. Example: Jesus certainly told us to feed the
      poor. If we start there, we might find more about Christ than over-
      doing things that are never meant to be answered clearly in the first
      place this side of heaven. Jesus was very practical, I believe. Why do
      we have to demand our argumentation when his work gives us power–not
      ours.
      Just saying. In this sense, these questions by Bell are not always
      healthy. They sell books. Perk our interest. But, do they transform
      us? Do they propel us to follow Christ and love him? Or, are things
      fairly plain enough to understand that God loves us and we need to
      share that love? Let’s ask that question. See, I am asking questions.
      I love the book the Jesus Manifesto–some of us do not want to go
      right or left on stuff. Let’s move forward and make it about Jesus,
      not us and our structures or preferred way of thinking.
      RK

      1. Do you really think that a God who tells us that we please Him only by faith wants us to focus on certainty?
        In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, He could have cut to the chase and said something like, “I’m the Messiah, the source of all your contentment.” Instead, He goes the long way around by acting and speaking enigmatically.
        What did Paul mean when he continuously used the phrase “the mystery of our faith”?
        Factoid: Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them—and he asks 307 questions back.
        http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17907

        1. Hi Greg,
          Focus on the certainty of Jesus. Yes! I guess I am open minded in
          thinking there can be both things certain in the midst of mystery. The
          mystic union with Jesus is one of the greatest certainties we can have
          as believers of the way! God Incarnate is the example of this–a
          spiritual being in a literal, seen body. Focusing on Christ is
          transformational and more helpful than speculation on doctrines that
          are speculative in the first place.
          Faith is being “certain” of things unseen. See, there is a paradox
          there. I am trying to say that we cannot put this in a box either way–
          being certain or uncertain of all things. Clearly, there is a tension.
          That is where we live–faith a sort of certainty in the person of
          Jesus. And, I think this is where the real questions that matter exist.
          Why can we not have certainty in uncertainty? Mystery surely is not
          devoid of fact or reason is it? Is this a way to create one box in
          place of another? Maybe there is no box!
          RK

          1. We CAN have certainty in uncertainty. It is reasoning itself that leads we followers of Christ to mystery.
            And THIS is why we ask questions and speculate on things you say are speculative. Its the only way we can possibly grow.

          2. I found this reference today that I thought even better capstoned my original points:
            http://chronicle.com/article/The-Bible-Is-Dead-Long-Live/127099/
            “To many, especially nonreligious people, faith is seen as absolute certainty despite or without regard to observed facts or evidence. Yet, as anyone trying to live faithfully in this world knows full well, there is no faith without doubt.
            Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. Indeed, in an atheist­ing match, I’d put big odds on the faithful any day. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can. Faith is inherently vulnerable. To live by faith is to live with that vulnerability, that soft belly, exposed.”

  49. I’ve never believed that God sends us to hell because of things we DID on the earth. I believe we choose hell by who we choose to BE.
    We have probably all dealt with someone on the other side of an argument who is extremely closed-minded. If you haven’t, then perhaps you ARE that person! 🙂

    I always lament the fact that such people cut off the dialogue. Jesus said to argue with such people is to “throw pearls before swine”. When we have the attitude and mindset of such people we forever cut ourselves off from God’s presence and that is the eternal flames, the fire that is not quenched, that Jesus speaks of.

    You asked whether or not we can take the questioning too far (can it lead to nowhere). I believe that it can, but the only way that we can tell which questions lead to nowhere is to first ask them. It is kind of like learning how to hit the target by shooting past it.

    Questions are healthy. Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” The questions break down the dogma. Faith is the embrace of mystery. Anyone who is so certain has no faith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Bell shoots far beyond a target–other than the marketing targets.

      If we put asking questions, theology of any stripe or anything before
      simply following Christ we may be making ourselves worship the idol of
      choice. Free will does not make us gods, it makes us able to choose
      Christ who paved the way and is the way. I am not sure it is too
      complicated. It is about Jesus and following him. It is not about
      splitting hairs and being so Greek-minded that we lose the mystical
      and practical power of the Incarnation. We become potentially people
      who worship uncertainty. Can we be certain there is no certainty?

      It is a paradox because there are some things certain and other things
      that are not. The fault is to focus on the uncertain at the expense of
      following Jesus simply. Example: Jesus certainly told us to feed the
      poor. If we start there, we might find more about Christ than over-
      doing things that are never meant to be answered clearly in the first
      place this side of heaven. Jesus was very practical, I believe. Why do
      we have to demand our argumentation when his work gives us power–not
      ours.

      Just saying. In this sense, these questions by Bell are not always
      healthy. They sell books. Perk our interest. But, do they transform
      us? Do they propel us to follow Christ and love him? Or, are things
      fairly plain enough to understand that God loves us and we need to
      share that love? Let’s ask that question. See, I am asking questions.
      I love the book the Jesus Manifesto–some of us do not want to go
      right or left on stuff. Let’s move forward and make it about Jesus,
      not us and our structures or preferred way of thinking.

      RK

      1. Do you really think that a God who tells us that we please Him only by faith wants us to focus on certainty?
        In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, He could have cut to the chase and said something like, “I’m the Messiah, the source of all your contentment.” Instead, He goes the long way around by acting and speaking enigmatically.

        What did Paul mean when he continuously used the phrase “the mystery of our faith”?

        Factoid: Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them—and he asks 307 questions back.

        http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17907

        1. Hi Greg,
          Focus on the certainty of Jesus. Yes! I guess I am open minded in
          thinking there can be both things certain in the midst of mystery. The
          mystic union with Jesus is one of the greatest certainties we can have
          as believers of the way! God Incarnate is the example of this–a
          spiritual being in a literal, seen body. Focusing on Christ is
          transformational and more helpful than speculation on doctrines that
          are speculative in the first place.

          Faith is being “certain” of things unseen. See, there is a paradox
          there. I am trying to say that we cannot put this in a box either way–
          being certain or uncertain of all things. Clearly, there is a tension.
          That is where we live–faith a sort of certainty in the person of
          Jesus. And, I think this is where the real questions that matter exist.

          Why can we not have certainty in uncertainty? Mystery surely is not
          devoid of fact or reason is it? Is this a way to create one box in
          place of another? Maybe there is no box!

          RK

          1. We CAN have certainty in uncertainty. It is reasoning itself that leads we followers of Christ to mystery.
            And THIS is why we ask questions and speculate on things you say are speculative. Its the only way we can possibly grow.

          2. I found this reference today that I thought even better capstoned my original points:
            http://chronicle.com/article/The-Bible-Is-Dead-Long-Live/127099/

            “To many, especially nonreligious people, faith is seen as absolute certainty despite or without regard to observed facts or evidence. Yet, as anyone trying to live faithfully in this world knows full well, there is no faith without doubt.

            Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. Indeed, in an atheist­ing match, I’d put big odds on the faithful any day. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can. Faith is inherently vulnerable. To live by faith is to live with that vulnerability, that soft belly, exposed.”

  50. I’ve never believed that God sends us to hell because of things we DID on the earth. I believe we choose hell by who we choose to BE.
    We have probably all dealt with someone on the other side of an argument who is extremely closed-minded. If you haven’t, then perhaps you ARE that person! 🙂

    I always lament the fact that such people cut off the dialogue. Jesus said to argue with such people is to “throw pearls before swine”. When we have the attitude and mindset of such people we forever cut ourselves off from God’s presence and that is the eternal flames, the fire that is not quenched, that Jesus speaks of.

    You asked whether or not we can take the questioning too far (can it lead to nowhere). I believe that it can, but the only way that we can tell which questions lead to nowhere is to first ask them. It is kind of like learning how to hit the target by shooting past it.

    Questions are healthy. Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” The questions break down the dogma. Faith is the embrace of mystery. Anyone who is so certain has no faith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Bell shoots far beyond a target–other than the marketing targets.

      If we put asking questions, theology of any stripe or anything before
      simply following Christ we may be making ourselves worship the idol of
      choice. Free will does not make us gods, it makes us able to choose
      Christ who paved the way and is the way. I am not sure it is too
      complicated. It is about Jesus and following him. It is not about
      splitting hairs and being so Greek-minded that we lose the mystical
      and practical power of the Incarnation. We become potentially people
      who worship uncertainty. Can we be certain there is no certainty?

      It is a paradox because there are some things certain and other things
      that are not. The fault is to focus on the uncertain at the expense of
      following Jesus simply. Example: Jesus certainly told us to feed the
      poor. If we start there, we might find more about Christ than over-
      doing things that are never meant to be answered clearly in the first
      place this side of heaven. Jesus was very practical, I believe. Why do
      we have to demand our argumentation when his work gives us power–not
      ours.

      Just saying. In this sense, these questions by Bell are not always
      healthy. They sell books. Perk our interest. But, do they transform
      us? Do they propel us to follow Christ and love him? Or, are things
      fairly plain enough to understand that God loves us and we need to
      share that love? Let’s ask that question. See, I am asking questions.
      I love the book the Jesus Manifesto–some of us do not want to go
      right or left on stuff. Let’s move forward and make it about Jesus,
      not us and our structures or preferred way of thinking.

      RK

      1. Do you really think that a God who tells us that we please Him only by faith wants us to focus on certainty?
        In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, He could have cut to the chase and said something like, “I’m the Messiah, the source of all your contentment.” Instead, He goes the long way around by acting and speaking enigmatically.

        What did Paul mean when he continuously used the phrase “the mystery of our faith”?

        Factoid: Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them—and he asks 307 questions back.

        http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17907

        1. Hi Greg,
          Focus on the certainty of Jesus. Yes! I guess I am open minded in
          thinking there can be both things certain in the midst of mystery. The
          mystic union with Jesus is one of the greatest certainties we can have
          as believers of the way! God Incarnate is the example of this–a
          spiritual being in a literal, seen body. Focusing on Christ is
          transformational and more helpful than speculation on doctrines that
          are speculative in the first place.

          Faith is being “certain” of things unseen. See, there is a paradox
          there. I am trying to say that we cannot put this in a box either way–
          being certain or uncertain of all things. Clearly, there is a tension.
          That is where we live–faith a sort of certainty in the person of
          Jesus. And, I think this is where the real questions that matter exist.

          Why can we not have certainty in uncertainty? Mystery surely is not
          devoid of fact or reason is it? Is this a way to create one box in
          place of another? Maybe there is no box!

          RK

          1. We CAN have certainty in uncertainty. It is reasoning itself that leads we followers of Christ to mystery.
            And THIS is why we ask questions and speculate on things you say are speculative. Its the only way we can possibly grow.

          2. I found this reference today that I thought even better capstoned my original points:
            http://chronicle.com/article/The-Bible-Is-Dead-Long-Live/127099/

            “To many, especially nonreligious people, faith is seen as absolute certainty despite or without regard to observed facts or evidence. Yet, as anyone trying to live faithfully in this world knows full well, there is no faith without doubt.

            Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. Indeed, in an atheist­ing match, I’d put big odds on the faithful any day. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can. Faith is inherently vulnerable. To live by faith is to live with that vulnerability, that soft belly, exposed.”

  51. I’ve never believed that God sends us to hell because of things we DID on the earth. I believe we choose hell by who we choose to BE.
    We have probably all dealt with someone on the other side of an argument who is extremely closed-minded. If you haven’t, then perhaps you ARE that person! 🙂

    I always lament the fact that such people cut off the dialogue. Jesus said to argue with such people is to “throw pearls before swine”. When we have the attitude and mindset of such people we forever cut ourselves off from God’s presence and that is the eternal flames, the fire that is not quenched, that Jesus speaks of.

    You asked whether or not we can take the questioning too far (can it lead to nowhere). I believe that it can, but the only way that we can tell which questions lead to nowhere is to first ask them. It is kind of like learning how to hit the target by shooting past it.

    Questions are healthy. Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” The questions break down the dogma. Faith is the embrace of mystery. Anyone who is so certain has no faith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Bell shoots far beyond a target–other than the marketing targets.

      If we put asking questions, theology of any stripe or anything before
      simply following Christ we may be making ourselves worship the idol of
      choice. Free will does not make us gods, it makes us able to choose
      Christ who paved the way and is the way. I am not sure it is too
      complicated. It is about Jesus and following him. It is not about
      splitting hairs and being so Greek-minded that we lose the mystical
      and practical power of the Incarnation. We become potentially people
      who worship uncertainty. Can we be certain there is no certainty?

      It is a paradox because there are some things certain and other things
      that are not. The fault is to focus on the uncertain at the expense of
      following Jesus simply. Example: Jesus certainly told us to feed the
      poor. If we start there, we might find more about Christ than over-
      doing things that are never meant to be answered clearly in the first
      place this side of heaven. Jesus was very practical, I believe. Why do
      we have to demand our argumentation when his work gives us power–not
      ours.

      Just saying. In this sense, these questions by Bell are not always
      healthy. They sell books. Perk our interest. But, do they transform
      us? Do they propel us to follow Christ and love him? Or, are things
      fairly plain enough to understand that God loves us and we need to
      share that love? Let’s ask that question. See, I am asking questions.
      I love the book the Jesus Manifesto–some of us do not want to go
      right or left on stuff. Let’s move forward and make it about Jesus,
      not us and our structures or preferred way of thinking.

      RK

      1. Do you really think that a God who tells us that we please Him only by faith wants us to focus on certainty?
        In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman, He could have cut to the chase and said something like, “I’m the Messiah, the source of all your contentment.” Instead, He goes the long way around by acting and speaking enigmatically.

        What did Paul mean when he continuously used the phrase “the mystery of our faith”?

        Factoid: Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them—and he asks 307 questions back.

        http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17907

        1. Hi Greg,
          Focus on the certainty of Jesus. Yes! I guess I am open minded in
          thinking there can be both things certain in the midst of mystery. The
          mystic union with Jesus is one of the greatest certainties we can have
          as believers of the way! God Incarnate is the example of this–a
          spiritual being in a literal, seen body. Focusing on Christ is
          transformational and more helpful than speculation on doctrines that
          are speculative in the first place.

          Faith is being “certain” of things unseen. See, there is a paradox
          there. I am trying to say that we cannot put this in a box either way–
          being certain or uncertain of all things. Clearly, there is a tension.
          That is where we live–faith a sort of certainty in the person of
          Jesus. And, I think this is where the real questions that matter exist.

          Why can we not have certainty in uncertainty? Mystery surely is not
          devoid of fact or reason is it? Is this a way to create one box in
          place of another? Maybe there is no box!

          RK

          1. We CAN have certainty in uncertainty. It is reasoning itself that leads we followers of Christ to mystery.
            And THIS is why we ask questions and speculate on things you say are speculative. Its the only way we can possibly grow.

          2. I found this reference today that I thought even better capstoned my original points:
            http://chronicle.com/article/The-Bible-Is-Dead-Long-Live/127099/

            “To many, especially nonreligious people, faith is seen as absolute certainty despite or without regard to observed facts or evidence. Yet, as anyone trying to live faithfully in this world knows full well, there is no faith without doubt.

            Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. Indeed, in an atheist­ing match, I’d put big odds on the faithful any day. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can. Faith is inherently vulnerable. To live by faith is to live with that vulnerability, that soft belly, exposed.”

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