Love Wins Experience: What About The Flat Tire

In Love Wins Experience by Antwuan Malone30 Comments

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“Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?”  –Love Wins, Rob Bell, p.2

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General Thoughts:

Okay, when I finished reading the first chapter of this book, my head was spinning. With so many questions in this first chapter, it’s hard picking out what to talk about. There’s so. many. questions. Some of them were interesting things to think about, some of them were rhetorical questions based on out-of-context, extreme logic, and some were flat-out bad. But such is the nature of these things.

Needless to say, much of what Rob Bell has to say is worth discussing. So let’s jump in.

If I had to pin it down, this chapter is about Salvation. What does it take to be saved? Bell attacks many of the traditional Christian  ideas by challenging our understanding of God’s love and grace as it relates to our eternity. I must admit, his leading question of whether God will offer an eternal destination based on deeds in our “finite” years on Earth (p. 2) is the first thing that got me truly thinking. When Bell brings this up, he uses “punish” which, I guess, is the first soft spot for me in conversations like this. In fact, “punish” is the key word to this idea. If we fix it, the question is no longer necessary.

In addition to “punish” though, is the recurring idea that we “earn” heaven or hell. Bell doesn’t use “earn” but the implication is there because of the use of “punish.” Is not a punishment simply one getting what they deserve… what they’ve earned? Perhaps this is the point Bell wants to make… that we cannot possibly earn Heaven or Hell. I partially agree with the statement, but not with Bell’s reasoning.

As I read, I notice Bell stayed on the “works vs. grace” them for quite some time. I’ll give my opinions more on this with the quotes down below.He then went into the “Jesuses” which I found completely unworthy of reading or discussing. I’m still trying to figure out his point. A bad Christian does not sully Jesus. It might sully the Church, or the perception of a Christian, but there are several surveys that reveal that society is smart enough to make the distinction. Jesus doesn’t need a new image, the Church does. That said, I agree that we must be careful how we represent God and the Church, and I will say that our misrepresentations in the past have made it much more difficult to reach a society growing in skepticism.

On a conceptual level, Bell is all over the map. On one hand, and at some times, he asks great questions that force us to look hard at traditional understanding of scripture, and on the other he lays out straw men so easily knocked down, they aren’t even worth mentioning. As a pastor, Bell sorely misrepresents the meaning of several scriptures… which is really a shame given his mental abilities. In these occasions, I couldn’t tell which I was more disappointed in: what he was saying, or that he was saying it.

In a couple places I wondered what point he was making. There are times where there seems to be no point. For instance, he mentions that the demons where the only ones not confused about Jesus, but I never really fully understand why he needed to mention that. He goes into how Jesus seems to contradict himself, but doesn’t say what he thinks that means. Maybe he will later. Perhaps the point was simply that, since we are not demons, we cannot be sure about what Jesus said and meant. Jesus seemed to confound those around him, But if that is the case, I’d say that’s a pretty postmodern viewpoint and ask how He is certain of anything in the red letters of the gospels.

In the end, this chapter does what it’s supposed to. Ask questions and get us ready for his answers. I hesitate to take on all of the questions he asked, because I suspect he will give us the opportunity to do so again as we read the book.

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Quick Thoughts on my favorite quotes:

“Is that the message? Is that what life is about?” Going somewhere else? If that’s the gospel, the good news – if what Jesus does is get people somewhere else – then the central message of the Christian faith has very little to do with this life other than getting you what you need for the next one. (Love Wins, p.6)

Having listened to a few interviews, and then reading this, I suspect we are headed down a “Heaven on Earth” road. If I’m right, then we will have much to talk about later. For now, I wondered how this quote stacked up against John 14 where Jesus tells his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” What place? Whatever, or wherever, it is, Jesus certainly makes it sound like it’s somewhere other than here. Further, when Thomas asks how they can know the way to this place (Thomas seems to be thinking about here too), Jesus says “I am the way…” and that no man comes to the Father except through Him. Which of course implies that The Father is in the same place Jesus is prepping his disciples for.

 

“the real issue, the one that can’t be avoided, is whether a person has a “personal relationship. However that happens, whoever told whenever, however it was done, that’s the bottom line: a personal relationship.  If you don’t have that, you will die apart from God and spend eternity in torment in hell” (Love Wins, p.10)

This one is particularly interesting to me because I hold relationship with God as such a fundamental piece to my ideas of Christianity, our purpose, and how we relate to God. Bell goes on to claim that the ideals of relationship with God (at least that exact wording of it) doesn’t show up in scripture. He is correct to say that “personal relationship” is absent as a two-word clause. But the implication of relationship is so spread throughout the entire Bible, it’d be foolish to ignore or disregard it. Click “play” on the player below for my a few examples given in a podcast I did in response to Rob Bell’s interview.  Oh, and by the way, relationship is the why in the salvation equation, not the how.

[ti_audio media=”1022″]

 

“Accepting, confessing, believing – those are things we do. Does that mean, then, that going to heaven is dependent on something I do? How is any of that grace? How is that a gift? How is that good news? (Love Wins, p. 11)

I suspect this will come up often, so I won’t spend a ton of time here. I will say that Grace is a one-way street. That is, grace alone is predicated on the idea of merit, or rather the lack thereof. Grace is unprompted. Grace is undeserving. Grace is unconditional, if the giver of it so chooses to make it so. Grace itself does not require effort by its benefactor, but the minimum requirement of the benefactor is that they receive it. Again, in the podcast above (in my response to Rob’s interview) I offer an explanation. Check it out. Oh, and by the way, I find Jesus requiring many to “do” something to demonstrate their faith. “Go wash your eyes…” he said to the blind man, “come unto me” he calls to the heavy-laden.

 

Is your future in someone else’s hands?  Which raises another question:  Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands? (Love Wins, Page 9)

This is an excellent question and I am really curious about what you guys think about it. I’ll only add that Jesus did in fact tell his disciples to go out to the “utmost parts of the world.” If they hadn’t, well…

“What about people who have never said the prayer and don’t claim to be Christians, but live more Christlike life than some Christians? (Love Wins, Page 6)

This statement worries me. I wondered how Rob defines a “Christlike life?” I am curious because for someone who is not a Christian, it is near impossible. Christ gave his life to the will of God, wherever that took him. Jesus’ “perfection,” for me, is not in the idea that he performed morally for his entire life. Nor is it even in his loving of people and healing of their ailments, even raising some dead. Christ’s perfection lies in his obedience to the Spirit of God that ran through Him. The same Spirit Christians are given when they are “born again.” A Christ-like life is defined by obedience to God’s Spirit, not by philanthropy or morality (though they are often a apart of it). If Bell was thinking like this, I don’t think this statement would have been said. And if Bell is thinking like this, like the primarily life Christ modeled is one of simple morality and philanthropy, then he’s the one that has the “wrong Jesus.”

Tell me what you think about my observations, or bring up your own (Lord knows there was plenty I left out).

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
30 comments
Kass
Kass

Good point. I liked this: “What about people who have never said the prayer and don’t claim to be Christians, but live more Christlike life than some Christians? (Love Wins, Page 6) A Christ-like life is defined by obedience to God’s Spirit, not by philanthropy or morality (though they are often a apart of it). If Bell was thinking like this, I don’t think this statement would have been said. And if Bell is thinking like this, like the primarily life Christ modeled is one of simple morality and philanthropy, then he’s the one that has the “wrong Jesus.”

bmuff
bmuff

I am worried about your comment regarding the last quote from the book, about people who do not claim to be Christians being sometimes more Christ-like than those who do (which, btw, is something I myself have observed, and I am not alone). In your response you seem to redefine what it means to be Christ-like in a way that is more convenient for your own theology. I am deeply troubled that you say that someone could be Christlike and not be more moral or philanthropic, or that the other way around could be true.

sylesa
sylesa

Rob Bell is a false teacher.

Terry Timm
Terry Timm

Antwuan - thanks for your careful reading and reflections of the book - I think you are serving your readers well as you thoughtfully work though the book chapter by chapter. Healthy conversation and dialogue will lead all of us to a deeper faith and stronger commitment to His ways. Terry

cushmanschronicles
cushmanschronicles

It's difficult for me to talk about this chapter without spoiling some of the things Bell gets into later. But suffice it to say, this chapter is most frustrating to me. For one, salvation isn't in anybody's hands except God's and His alone. If He decides that someone who has never known or even heard about Jesus should be admitted into His fold, who am I to say otherwise? Second, I think Bell raises more questions than he could possibly answer in a 198-page book. Merely looking at salvation alone could take up a good 200 pages if discussed at length. Simply put, though, I think it's as you say, Antwuan, it's neither just believing nor just doing good works that'll join us with God: it's God's scandalous grace coming to us and in our reaction to that revelation, we believe and love as He loved us - it's after He comes to us that we're able to develop a genuine faith in Him. Bell does raise an interesting point, though, in asking if hell is eternal punishment or something else. Just the mere concept of having lived for 40, 50, or 60 years and then being punished for thousands of years doesn't seem like a fair and just God to me. So maybe our view of hell is a little flawed in this sense. Finally, I disagree completely with the idea of heaven being the final destination for us. Perhaps it's because I've been reading N.T. Wright's Surprised By Hope, but quite frankly, there is too much in Scripture that talks about a resurrected world after heaven. Who's going to be there with all the faithful followers of God? That's for Him to decide, I think. Even though I know what happens in the ensuing chapters, I will say that this chapter did what it was supposed to do: stir our minds, especially our comfort zones.

@lisa_dawn1
@lisa_dawn1

Finally, as for Christians becoming apethetic to a world where millions are suffering, starving, thirsty, poor, or exploited, because they've been "saved" and feel like they are done now that they got the fire insurance, well, that's not the message Jesus taught. Again, he asks for actions over and over throughout the Bible. And once the Holy Spirit is living in us, doesn't it compel Christian's to want to live a different lifestyle? Doesn't it make you want to live for Him and point others to the joy you've received? A get out of jail free card, then do whatever you like, is not at all what Jesus had in mind when he paid the bail.

@lisa_dawn1
@lisa_dawn1

Using Twitter, I have to seperate this into 2 comments: Bell's question about my future resting in someone else'shands, and someone's else's eternity resting in mine, is a great question. Jesus clearly tells us to go out to the nations to spread the word. He gives us an action to do, as he does over and over in the Bible. Which lead to another thought. Bell asks, What good is grace if we have to do something to get it? (my paraphrase) If anyone gives us a gift, don't you have to "accept" it, or "receive" it? Of course you do, and yes those are verbs. There is an action involved, but not an action that is graded to see if we have "earned" the gift. As far as a "personal relationship" only showing up in the last 100 years or so, Bell is correct. It doesn't appear in the Bible. No where does anyone say (and he spells out different names to make his point) the phrase. But it doesn't have to be spelled out since it is so clearly modeled time after time throughout the Bible.

Ron Krumpos
Ron Krumpos

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."

George
George

Not sure my comments will be very timely, as I finished Love Wins a few days ago, but hee goes: 1) I'm not sure what the "Heaven on Earth" doctrine is, but I got the idea that Bell is rinsing us that our relationship with God starts while we are still on Earth, and isn't delayed until we are in heaven. He describes people who are so future minded that they miss out on the present. I'm guilty of that. At some point Bell gets into the meaning of ETERNAL life and about whether that just means an unending timeline or more. I believe it includes having a limitless capacity for love and joy to flourish. These questions were good for me. I've been unknowingly brainwashed into doctrines of guilt, judgementalism, etc., but Bell's questions helped me recognize that firstly, I actually had the same questions (but was afraid to ask them) and secondly, that it's OK to unlearn/unbelieve some things (especially if they are questionable compared to things we Do know about God) and I don't have to replace that belief with a different one immediately...or even in this life. I'm not smart enough to defend Bell's book or argue with those who debunk it (or parts of it). However, I can tell you that after reading it, I am changed. My faith is growing, andI feel a revival I've been wanting to return in me for years. I'm less afraid of the mean and scary God I've been taught about and finding a new ability to marvel at God's unconditional love. I have many new questions to chew on and I don't feel like a failure for asking them nor for not immediately accepting someone else's answer as definitive (including Bell's). Basically, untaught me more than it taught me. It helped me start to let go of questionable beliefs that I secretly despised and have been hindering me from growing. I'm not embracing universalism or heaven-on-earth now, but I am IN LOVE with my savior and creator once again and enjoying asking these questions and getting to know Him again. I've spoken to a few others who've been having the same unexpected revival. Praise God.

Luke
Luke

Really interesting book so far. here part one of my review please check it out. i don't find the book to be so crazy out there, he's just asking questions and not giving answers, which he does a lot. yes he gives some answers but he leaves so much open. http://lukeaviatorkuhns.tumblr.com/post/407049554...

Dysfunctional Parrot
Dysfunctional Parrot

I kind of have to place Bell in the same boat as Brian McLaren...more concerned with how they think the faith can be molded to appeal to a new generation. I'm not sure even these guys know what they believe and what worries me is that they are proud of that uncertainty while rebuking those who have strong doctrinal convictions. So yeah, I know where Rob is headed. And it ain't orthodox.

@Mjoshua
@Mjoshua

I'm only this far, too! It's cool that we're in the same place! I'm also concerned with a lot of the things you brought up. I was a lot more concerned/frustrated with his approach than I expected to be. So much could be said. I was personally a little hung up on Bells definitive attribution of the book of Hebrews to a woman. How does he know that but the rest of us still aren't sure? Anyway, I'll pick one point you made about the "more Christlike" thing: I think i know what he means. Simply people who are "saved" but live like hell. "I'm a Christian, I live under grace and liberty. God'll forgive me." I used to be guilty of this before I fully surrendered to jesus for the first time and got filled in his Holy Spirit. Since then I actually want to be with Him. This is the Kingdom. This is a present reality here. I get that Bell is headed for that kind of worldview. But I'm kinda hating how He's going about it so far.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Thanks! I think this is a key point and I will probably be blogging about it specifically in the near future.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Thank you. i appreciate your comments. Hope you stay around.

Antwuan
Antwuan

I\'m a fan of N.T. Wright as well. I\'ve had his book \"Justification\" for a while now, and haven\'t gotten to it. In fact there\'s a long list of books I need to get to. I agree that is point of finite lives have infinite effects is worth thinking about. I am familiar with the scriptures that say God will bring about a New Heaven and a New Earth, but this is after what we see now as Earth has been destroyed. I suppose we will dig into this more later in this book, so I will save most of what I have to say until then. Thanks for commenting, man... glad to have you along.

Antwuan
Antwuan

I totally agree. It\'s a lot like marriage. The act of getting married doesn\'t automatically produce you loving your mate. One of the points of marriage is to begin acting on the love you proclaimed to your spouse. With all the \"adulterous\', \"whoring\" and other such words and imagery throughout the Bible, it is clear that relationship factors into what God wants from us. Which, as you said, brings me to the next point. It\'s one thing to get married because you need to be legal to stay in the US... in essence to survive. It\'s quite another to get married for love. Perhaps many so-called Christian relationships are more like the former than the latter.

Antwuan
Antwuan

I love it. Great thoughts. Some ideas I had (not to be combative or anything) (46) Those interesting thoughts. Not the least is the idea of being \"so good that they earn eternal paradise.\" This implies some standard of goodness, and perhaps further, some judge of that goodness against a preconceived notion of what \"good enough\" is. But is in such a position to make that determination? You? Me? both of us? All of us? Perhaps I\'ve detoured and chased the rabbit, but I think it\'s a meaty one. So meaty that it might effect everything else said here. (59) But who says here and now is the ultimate existence. It sounds like Mysticism is in search the entirety of \"The Real\". the whole picture. Is it not foolish to corner in what is ultimate and what isn\'t in that search. I am open to examining and testing traditional understanding and thought. But the answers fit more conclusively than what Bell has presented so far (though I know it\'s only chapter 1). We must only be open the a reconstruction when the case presented passes the same scrutiny the orignial belief was born from. As we read, we\'ll see if Bell\'s case deserves the audience it is getting.

George
George

In reviewing my comments I see that my iPhone autocorrect had it's way with me a couple of times. Sorry. My first observation should have said "...idea tha Bell is RAISING IS that our relationship..." Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Antwuan
Antwuan

That great George! It\'s great to hear that God was able to speak to you though this book. There are many who can\'t see the \"good\" in things they consider evil. I can appreciate that Bell impacted you in such a way that you are free to resume (or maybe begin) your search. I wrote a post a while ago called \"I\'m Afraid of The Church\" (it\'s on here somewhere :) ) but that is my point in that piece... that we can\'t be afraid to ask questions. So while I may seem like I\'m a Bell-basher... I\'m not. We will disagree in some places, but I do embrace the freedom to speak and ask God whatever we like, without fear of judgment and condemnation. BTW... Being IN LOVE with God is what this thing is about. :)

Antwuan
Antwuan

I see you reviewed each chapter as well. Good (I was worried you would let some cat out of the bag). Wolverine is jam, btw!

Antwuan
Antwuan

He definitely does for the first chapter, but I guess that what\' the first chapter is supposed to do. I\'ll check out your write up. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

@DavyG51
@DavyG51

I would find it a great joy to be in a boat with Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, Dan Kimbal, Mike Riddell and anyone else who is prepared to be part of the Conversation associated with following Jesus, than a thousand who shout "orthadoxy" as support of their belief system. One mans orthadoxy is another mans heresy.

Antwuan
Antwuan

I hear you. It\'s a dangerous place to be. I agree that questions and open-mindedness is good. I\'m pretty open to hearing many points of view myself. But there needs to be something solid and foundational. You\'re right, the relishing of different viewpoints is fun to think about sometimes, but we can\'t wear it like a badge of honor, especially when what we may conclude potential detours people from God. It\'s a precarious position for sure.

@DavyG51
@DavyG51

On the writer of hebrews.. Bells attributing this to a "women" is quite a provocative statement and was probably inserted as a mischievious by the side to invoke a response. "How does he know that but the rest of us still aren't sure" being a case in point. __I would suggest that the authorship of hebrews is probably a secondary issue and would only cause a problem if the reader has a particular issue. i.e women in leadership, ministry etc. __Bells writing and communicating style is both brilliant and intelligent, even if I don't agree with what he says or as I am starting to realise, it's more about what he doesn't say.__I would also suggest that more people will take steps toward Jesus through this book and the inspiration it brings to the average follower of Jesus, than any of the the theological nit picking and gnat straining that has been going on for weeks.

Antwuan
Antwuan

Glad to have you reading along. Yeah, I\'m hoping we will progressively go through some more of these as we read. Honestly, a lot of these topics good enough as stand alone conversations. And you\'re probably right about what he meant about Christians. I just don\'t think people that live that way are Christians at all...

Ron Krumpos
Ron Krumpos

My initial 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.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Yeah, isn't that the way (c,s) Lewis and them used to do it...

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Yeah, to one of your points, I will say this. His questions has certainly helped me better understand what I believe. I have not spent this much time discovering what God's grace really means in quite some time. To this end, the book is helpful in that it forces us to dig deeper... which I think is a good thing. Of course, there is the downside.

@DavyG51
@DavyG51

"Of course, there is a downside" I agree! for many who have been unable to gain a firm foundation in their faith, anything that comes along that is a little off centre can cause doubt and confusion. Discipleship is crucial to strong growth and strong brotherhood (I think you would use the word relationships) is essential to allow room for conversation about things that are more obscure or have less of a definitive nature, which covers most of our theology. I favour the terms "open handed issues and closed handed issues" Primary and secodary doctrine. Also I agree with the "digging deeper" part of which has caused me to reread "the great divorce" in 2.5 hrs and still be left with a feeling of wonder and the greatest respect for C.S. The same feeling I have after reading the Narnia chronicles. I Hope that "love wins" will stir the heart of the seeking and that the feeling of wonder about Gods' love will open the door to many finding that eternal life does indeed start from that moment when Gods' relationship with us is restored through Jesus.