Posted by: ritagone | May 4, 2011

Rob Bell’s Book

Since everybody else is doing it, I thought I would do it too: I’m going to tell you what I thought of Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins.”

In a few words, I didn’t think much of it.

Kind of like The Gospel According to Miss Piggy.

In other words, lightweight, fluffy, silly, and inane.  A toss of the hair, a look in the mirror to see, “Am I cute?  Are people watching me?  Isn’t my writing adorable?”  All of which would have been laughable if it weren’t for the fact that so many people will be led astray by what Bell touts as the gospel truth.

At turns it made me angry, frustrated, sad, nervous.  I liked parts of “Velvet Elvis,” Bell’s previous gospel-lite book, and so I found myself defending him constantly.  I can’t defend him for this one.  Let me state up front that I’m not a theologian, have no degrees other than a fairly useless and decades old Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature (which is why I’m often better at correcting your punctuation than your exegesis), and don’t pretend for one minute to have the biblical knowledge that many reading this right now have earned fairly and squarely.  But I have also been a follower of Jesus for more years than many of those reading this right now have been alive.  And because I was fortunate to become a Christian in a community that held Scripture in high esteem, I have been a reader and student of God’s Word for all of those years following Him, and a teacher of God’s Word.  So I hold precious the warning that teachers need to be held to a very high standard of both behavior and knowledge, I assume in speaking and writing and living.  So although I confess to purposely writing with a lighter tone because I do believe we’re giving Bell way too much focus and attention, I do not take lightly in any way what I am putting down here because of my respect for  and reverence of God’s Word.

But obviously Bell didn’t get that memo.  Because it seems to me that his studies of Scripture must have gotten interrupted somehow.  Or that he’s just pulling our legs something fierce.  For example, he refers early on in the book to “the woman who wrote Hebrews…” Come on, Rob.  Did you think we wouldn’t see that, that you could just slip it in on us?  Or did you think that it was funny?  Would any first year seminary student believe that – given the culture of the 1st century — a woman had written the book of Hebrews?  Of course not.  So we must believe that he was either joking (in which case he shouldn’t give up his day job because he’s really not funny) or trying to see if we readers were paying attention (we were), or he’s just a little bit crazy, in which case he’s kind of eliminated himself as a credible Bible scholar and theologian pretty early on in the book.

In another place in the book, he makes the statement that only once did Jesus use violent language about an afterlife, when He refers to those who cause children to stumble, saying that it would be better for that person to have a millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the sea than to face the wrath of God.  (I’m reconstructing this from memory, since I loaned my copy of the book to a friend who is traveling and wanted to read it but didn’t want to buy her own copy, a phenomenon which I have found to be quite common concerning this particular book, and which I also find to be quite interesting!  I myself didn’t want to pay for the book and got it because I had a gift card to our church’s book store. But I digress…) Now, you and I know that saying something is so doesn’t always make it so.  Because there are other instances where Jesus uses quite violent language to tell His listeners that God is not pleased with them and that something horrible is awaiting them if they do not repent.  Read Matthew 21, Matthew 22, Luke 11, Luke 12, and much of the Apostle Paul’s writings, for example, which Bell just plain skirts around or omits.  But Bell just says it the way he wants it and hopes you’ll believe it.  And he does this constantly throughout the book.

Unfortunately, those who are not familiar with Scripture might just believe it, and so it will be up to others, more mature believers, to point them to those verses Bell has so conveniently forgotten.  I think this will be a book that will be easily refuted from a doctrinal point of view.

What concerns me is that we not become so frustrated with Rob Bell – which I confess it is very easy to do – that we wind up becoming just the kind of harsh critic he discarded hell over in the first place.  We need to point out where his doctrine is wrong – and there’s no lack of those places – and we need to pray for Rob Bell and love him and keep remembering what our task is and what it isn’t.  Think of the book as a test of your grace under fire and perhaps you can face it with a different stance.

The biggest mystery to me and what I’d really like to know more about is how Eugene Peterson (he who wrote “The Message” version of the Bible) came to write an endorsement on the cover of Bell’s book.  Peterson is known to be a solid Bible scholar, a man who knows his Scripture upside down and inside out.  Usually when someone tells the potential purchaser of a book to buy it because it has something great to say, they are putting their stamp of approval on that book and what’s inside.  Andy Crouch and Greg Boyd also wrote endorsements on the jacket of “Love Wins.”  I’d like to know why.

This is as much a confusion to me as anything inside the pages of the book, and that’s saying something!

 

Regards, Rita

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Responses

  1. I hear it doesn’t take a dangerous dive until Chapter 3. Maybe Eugene quit reading about then.


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