A FOLLOW UP TO A PERSONAL REVIEW OF LOVE WINS

At church, at certain instances I feel almost unwelcome.

Other times, I feel part of a large, generous family.

A few times the both are in tension.

This is not an altogether bad thing. It causes me to wrestle with things.

Some of these things are things I would rather ignore and keep hidden, but it’s for my best that I struggle with them.

Some things said in church are things I can affirm.

Others I am uncomfortable with and a few I detest.

I wrestle with these last two, no need to battle the first group.

There are certain things I am struggling with right now. This is good.

Difficulty helps me see more clearly, meaningless things fall away.  When ease isn’t there to lull me to sleep, I tend to stay awake, contemplate the big questions, and sense that there is more to life than is usually thought. Comfort is not my friend. I don’t stretch myself when I am comfortable, only in pain and upheaval am I pushed to be more.

There is a reason why I have called my blog Godwrestler, why I consider myself a God wrestler, and why I believe wrestling with God, faith, church and life an important part of my journey. I see a lot of myself in the story of Jacob in Genesis.

There is a reason I have written all this.

My pastor has been leading a class based on Rob Bell’s controversial, wonderful new book Love Wins. This class has caused me to wrestle with this book more so than I would have had this class not been offered. For that, I thank him.

 I have listened to the comments and views that have been offered and given some of my own.

 My main problem is that some were afraid that evangelical theology was being contested by what Bell in Love Wins. That Rob Bell was speaking against evangelicals understanding of the Gospel and he was wrong. In my opinion too many believe that the evangelical view is the sole way of understanding Christianity. It seems to me that for some there is only one way of understanding the Gospel and the moment you veer from the “script” you’re a heretic.

While no one called Bell a heretic in the class, I think there were times that it was implied. It was mentioned that Bell’s book could wreck people’s faith, yet no one seemed concerned that holding too tightly to evangelicalism may offend others.  A rigid holding of evangelicalism may drive honest Jesus followers from the church and could even force them to disavow Christianity.

This is one reason why I resisted from being baptized into the Christian while I have followed Jesus for a number of years.

A while ago, I was in communication online with someone who holds too rigidly to the evangelical paradigm and when I spoke differently, I was called a heretic. This hurt and it pains me to realize that some, none in my church (at least I don’t think so) would consider me a heretic and thus out of relationship with Jesus.  

I do not apologize for being a liberal, or a Christian, or a Liberal Christian and I won’t start now.

Eugene Peterson said, “It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.  I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people.  I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another. I would like people to listen to him. He may not be right. He’s doing something worth doing.”

N.T. Wright offered, I think Rob is saying, “Hey wait a minute! Start reading the Bible differently. God is not a horrible ogre who is just determined to fry as many people as He can forever. God is actually incredibly generous and gracious and wonderful and loving and caring. And if you paint a picture of God which is other than that, then you’re producing a monster and that has long-lasting effects in Christian lives and in the church.”

What I appreciate the most about Love Wins is that it offers differing views on Christianity, says that our religion is big and wide enough to handle the differing viewpoints, and everyone has a choice to make about Jesus and this choice matters. This book and others have helped me to see that being a Christian should matter, should make a difference in our life and others.   

Rob Bell in Love wins writes, “The tomb is empty, a new day is here, a new creation is here, everything has changed, death has been conquered, the old has gone, the new has come. He (Jesus) is the answer, but he is also the question, the hunt, the search, the exploration, the discovery.”  My favorite part of this book, the ending of chapter seven. “Because we all have a bit of her in us, we hand God our piece of paper. And we listen, while we’re told a better story. Because the good news is better than that.”

I love the Bible and see it as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead me into the mystery of God, but isn’t inerrant, but is authoritative to my faith. I believe a Christian isn’t someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture, but someone who follows Jesus Christ.

I want to be the church and not just go to church.

I believe doctrine all too often gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; I believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway. I believe following Jesus is not about believing the right things as much as living the right way; it really bothers me when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us.

I believe that Love Wins.

John Shelby Spong writes, “The call of God is a call to live, to love, to be. We do not confront or encounter this God when we retreat from life into something isolated like religion and designated by the word holy. We find God, rather, when we enter life, when we penetrate through life, when we dare to have the courage to be ourselves with another. So if God is to be found, there must be a commitment to live, to risk, to love, to be outside our self-imposed security shells. When we take this step, the meaning of resurrection begins to dawn.”

If my support of what Rob Bell writes about in Love Wins doesn’t make me a Christian,  then so be it.

If what I wrote here I am not a Christian, then so be it.

I will still love, trust, and follow Jesus.

Amen.

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3 Comments

  1. James Holeman

    I wonder if that is some of the problem with some folks talking about religion. On the one hand I do think there are people put there who’s faith in so “black and white” that a book like “Love Wins” could seriously hurt thier faith. In turn I think Rob Bell us right as well when he argues that there are those who have been hurt by others who try to force their too narrow views on them. If only faith wasn’t a journey and we could just “get it.”

  2. Bill O'Neal

    What if we threw out our statements of faith and created a statement of living?

    • Does it have to be eithier/or… Can we not have both, I think the key thing is not to take the creeds literally, but seriously. To look behind what they are saying and what they are trying to teach. I think the very same can be said for scripture. With this blog I was trying to point out how important it is to wrestle with our assumptions and that asking questions even and esp. the hard questions is an important part of my faith journey. I don’t think we should believe anything just because someone told us to, but because we’ve searched and found the answer for ourselves and sometimes we just have to live the questions. My church’s statement of faith is simple and to the point: Love God, Love people, make disciples.

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