God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part.
Unless you do not respond the right way.
Then God will torture you forever.
Those words are from the dust jacket of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
To say the least, the book is provocative. Since it was published a few weeks ago, it has become a huge best seller (number 6 on Amazon as I write this). It has elicited responses from literally thousands of blogs and was featured in a Time magazine cover story. It has been both applauded and condemned by many pastors and theologians. One North Carolina pastor has been fired for saying that he agreed with it.
In his book, he argues that we need to rethink the church’s teaching about Heaven, Hell, and Judgment. He raises the possibility that far more might end up in Heaven than Christians have traditionally thought. He argues that there is hope for those after death who have not explicitly confessed Christ before death.
Bell is no traditional liberal theologian. He is a graduate of two strongly evangelical schools, Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the founding pastor of the 7,000 member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids Michigan. He has produced a series of videos called NOOMA (our adult education class watched one last year).
I’ve read his book. It is thoroughly biblical (always a controversial thing). I agree with his assessment that “Love wins,” but there is more depth to that simple statement than one would imagine. He considers the question, “Does God get what God wants?” and invites readers to move to the question, “Do we get what we want?” He writes, “And the answer to that is a resounding, affirming, sure and positive yes. Yes, we get what we want. God is that loving.” Ah, there’s the rub!
As a biblical preacher, I must preach within the tension between Jesus’ statements in the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). From the first: “He leaves the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and goes looking for the one that got lost until he finds it” From the latter: the foolish virgins wanted to gain entrance to the wedding party but could not, “the door was shut.”
I highly recommend this book for your consideration.
P.S. Anyone who has read The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis will know where Bell is coming from.
©2011 C. David Hess