Dr. Gordon Anderson is president of North Central University where I teach as an adjunct.
I am not opposed to the conversations Rob Bell has generated by his book Love Wins. We need to have these discussions, though I don’t think they are going particularly well. We just have our problems with the concept of hell and wanting to wish it away. (A notion I’m not opposed to myself. But, alas, it is simply a notion on my part.)
First Rob Bell, who hit number 2 on the New York Times list. Now, Francis Chan.
I can’t help it. I have to weigh in on the discussion over Rob Bell’s book. It’s not deep. It’s just a question.
I just celebrated my 23rd wedding anniversary. I truly married UP, as they say. My wife is incredible. We met in college on a missions trip and I can remember so wonderfully the moment I knew I needed to get to know her better. It was a pursuit.
As we finally got to know each other (which only happened because I kept chasing and she finally got tired of running, I’m sure), I learned more about this wonderful lady. Spiritually, she was amazing. A true woman of prayer, heart for missions, and so much more.
In other areas, there were, shall we say, “CHALLENGES.”
The first time she cooked for me it was an experiment. (She does this all the time, but back then I had no idea.) Her wonderful meal was a half acorn squash filled with cracked wheat of some sort. It was an all natural meal. No meat.
Being a college kid, I left that meal and immediately went back to my room to order a Domino’s pizza.
Was this going to be my meal sustenance if I married this gal?
Over time I had to make a decision. I truly grew to love her. I had an idea she was growing to love me. Was this worth the commitment? Natural foods? Not much meat?
Guess what? My love for her and her love for me changed me.
Her love has caused me to willingly think over my life and over the years, as our love has grown, change occurs. It occurs for her and for me.
This doesn’t fully address all that Rob Bell brings up, and I don’t intend to attempt that. But as I think of some of his questions, and as I am reading Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxas (along with meditating on 1 Peter 2), I am struck by this thought: Those who name themselves Christians at least should be exhibiting some change. Why? Because Christ’s love has touched them.
As I contemplate the descriptions of Christ’s radical love for us in 1 Peter 2, there is a responsive action! Peter calls his readers to change. Why? Because the love of Christ has touched you. We don’t change out of misery. We change out of a loving response.
If my love for my wife is truly there, I know I need to grow and develop as a man and a husband for her. It’s not always comfortable, and I don’t always respond well. Yet, if her “love wins,” I make some changes.
If the love of Christ truly wins, change happens. Not all at once. But if the love of Christ truly touches, there will be some movement out of loving gratitude, even if it’s over years of walking with Christ.
What we too often see in our newest version of American Christianity is no change. We seem to want to find ways to acknowledge that I am God’s precious child and he loves me just as I am and he demands nothing more. But we are mistaken in that assessment. It is not his demand. It is supposed to be about our loving response.
Bonhoeffer observed the dilemma in his day. People named the name of God and just lived as they wished. Was this the gospel?
He wrote in a letter to his brother-in-law in 1936 these words:
If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of teh Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament…”
Now, this doesn’t address all the questions of eternity, those who haven’t heard the gospel, etc. I understand that, and I’m not trying to make that attempt. I AM just thinking out loud about true love and how we really WOULD respond if we ARE allowing God’s love to penetrate our lives. Especially as believers.
If love really did win, it truly would be noticeable because there would be a loving response.
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6:27, NLT)
I truly enjoy blogging and exchanging ideas. There are quite a few things I choose not to engage in on this particular blog, though I might give it a swing on Facebook. One reason I may not engage fully is how we tend to get quite nasty in our disagreements. Sometimes we get into areas that really are difficult and navigating those waters gets downright choppy.
Two huge issues come to mind:
1. Rob Bell and the “new universalism” (which isn’t new, but we can call it that, I suppose).
2. The ordaining of homosexuals that was approved by the Presbyterian Church USA this week. (Or, any other issue dealing with homosexuality.)
There are quite simply matters that will not be resolved in this space we call “time.” Not our lifetimes. Not the next generation. We will just keep struggling along.
Yet, we get so disagreeable in our disagreements!
Quite frankly, we like our own positions and anyone who can’t see it our way is just plain nuts! 😉
In this vein, while I do not wish to wade into debates on particular issues, I offer a couple of thoughts:
1. I may not agree with you on your position. To be honest, I may even think you’re wrong. But know this: That takes nothing away from me respecting you.
For instance, I will disagree politically with President Obama 90 plus percent of the time on policy. That does not lessen my respect for him as president.
2. If I treat those who disagree with me in a way that seems to hold contempt, I am wrong. I may be right in my “position,” but that does not give me freedom to hold the other position with contempt.
For instance, I will disagree politically with Republicans AND Democrats on so many issues. Traditionally, I have voted Republican. I have since re-evaluated that position, but that doesn’t readily mean I would vote for a Democrat. That does not mean I need to say, “Anyone voting Democrat just can’t be a Christian,” or something to that effect. Nor do I accept someone saying, “If you vote Republican, how can you call yourself a Christian?”
In our current climate in American Christianity and American democracy, we have the position of “We disagree, and we will be disagreeable doing it.”
I just simply don’t want to be that way. If I choose to act that way, or act in a way that would seem hateful to a position different than mine, how am I different? That is the question posed in Luke 6. Why just be nice to those who agree with you? The rest of the world does that! Big deal! Kingdom living calls for something different. It isn’t easy! But it just may make a difference if we, as believers, decide to give it a shot.
For a fuller explanation of what this is about, go HERE. Basically, I am choosing to say something GOOD about a subject or people when it’s normally easy pickings for criticism. My aim is also to choose “opposites” on a given day. This is a personal project because I can be an “equal opportunity offender.” My goal now is to be an equal opportunity LIKER.
Rob Bell, emergent pastor.
John Piper, Reformed pastor.
Talk about two opposites! When just the clip of a video by Rob Bell promoting his new book Love Wins came out, John Piper tweeted: “Farewell, Rob Bell.” So, here we go.
Rob Bell is passionate about Jesus and compassionate toward people. I have watched several of his Nooma videos and I love his communication style. His heart for God really comes across in these videos.
John Piper is passionate about the glory of God. His book, Desiring God, is a top ten book of mine. The out and out zeal he has for proclaiming the glory of God is contagious.
These are just two things I LIKE about two very opposite men.
Join me in the the great I LIKE campaign!
Following up on his controversial (and hot-selling) book, Love Wins, Rob Bell told Diane Sawyer in a special interview for ABC News that he had a vision two nights ago. He spent 90 minutes in a very dark, hot place. In this vision he saw the flames of hell and realized they are indeed eternal. (In a side note, he can now report Mohandes Ghandi is in hell.)
This follows the stunning news that John Piper has renounced Calvinism and embraced Armininian theology and says boldly, “I choose to do so.”
The news has shaken the emergent theological community, along with the young, reformed and studly Calvinist community. Sales of Mickey Mouse shirts and watches plummeted.
More to come.