Posted by: ritagone | May 25, 2011

Love Doesn’t Always Win

I seem always to be giving book reports when I write Rita’s Ramblings, perhaps because in my opinion a good book often captures better than almost anything else a point I want to make.

A few weeks ago, before the world was thought to be ending, I talked about Rob Bell’s controversial but ultra-confusing book “Love Wins,” and how I thought upon reading it that no one could actually come away from it with a clear understanding of exactly what his theology is or specifically what he is espousing in terms of doctrine or a belief system, so it’s difficult to stay mad at him because you really truly don’t understand what he’s saying to his readers.  Did he do it on purpose, or is that just the way he thinks and then writes?  I don’t know.  I do know that if you were to put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what he succinctly believes, because he never succinctly articulates his position.

If Rob Bell is the spokesman for the “new theology” of the 21st century, I’m afraid we’re all in big trouble, because no one will really know what he’s saying.  Therefore, the refutations will take on many arguments, many shapes and forms, and everyone will wind up arguing hither and non.  It’s hard to argue and refute someone when you can barely ascertain what they are saying in the first place.

Maybe that’s what he wanted all along.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

In contrast, I’m now reading one of the best written, most lucid, clear, concise books presenting the gospel, the picture of who Jesus is and what his work in terms of salvation and sanctification and what it all means for humanity, a book called “King’s Cross,” written by Pastor Timothy Keller.  I love Timothy Keller, have read all his books from the first one to this current fare.  He gets better and better, if you ask me, more comfortable in his own skin, more able to articulate his arguments and his position theologically and doctrinally, a great storyteller, someone you’d just like to sit in an armchair across from with a roaring fire blazing and converse with over a glass of red wine or a pint or even a diet Coke.  When you read a chapter in Keller’s book, brother (and sister), you know what he intends!  You get it.  You understand.  You may not agree theologically, but you sure don’t miss the point.  He’s like a breath of clear, fresh air compared to Rob Bell.

I thought it was my medication when I was reading “Love Wins.”  I take a few medications, which is not uncommon at my age.  I read the warning labels for side effects.  Sure enough, one of them was “foggy thinking,” although listed on the label in much more medical terminology.  So I assumed that the fault was mine, not Rob Bell’s.  Blame it on the meds.  Give the young man the benefit of the doubt.  This would help to explain why I just couldn’t grasp exactly what he was trying to say, why I would come right up to the edge of his thought and then find myself teetering there, unable to get my head around it.  So I’d read a sentence or a paragraph (when he actually wrote in sentence or paragraph form instead of short phrases), then re-read it, then hope that the third time would be the charm.  But to no avail.  Modern pharmacology may be the culprit, sure enough, said I to myself.

But then I’m taking the same medication as I’m reading Keller’s “King’s Cross,” and I have never understood a theological presentation so clearly.  Why, even a child could understand what Keller is presenting to his readers.  Listen to this: “When the Bible talks about sin it is not just referring to the bad things we do.  It’s not just lying or lust or whatever the case may be – it is ignoring God in the world he has made; it’s rebelling against him by living without reference to him.  It’s saying, ‘I will decide exactly how I live my life.’  And Jesus says that is our main problem.”  Could it be presented to us any clearer?  You can disagree with it or turn away from it, but you can certainly not claim that you don’t understand what Keller is saying here.

I see Keller and Bell as the young vs. the old, the so-called “hip” vs. the tried and true traditional, in some ways.  Bell wants so very much to be hip, cool, trendy, someone particularly young people of the day can identify with and look up to.  And I suppose there is a certain need for that, in terms of the audience he appeals to.  He would never be caught in an awkward phrase or an unsuitable outfit or, God forbid, geeky glass frames.  These things are important to him. Perhaps I’m being judgmental here, taking things on face value, but this is how he appears to me.  Tim Keller, on the other hand, who I’m sure has faults and foibles of his own, certainly can’t claim coolness and style seeking as one of them.  You could plunk him down in the ‘60’s or ‘70’s or even in the ‘40’s and no one would be any the wiser.  He is a man who stands the visible test of time because his messages are concise and clear and not filled with pop vernacular or clichés of current conversation.

Sometimes stretching and reaching for something new is wonderful and exciting and can inject new life into whatever is wilting and stagnating.  But sometimes when clarity is vital, there is such value to being articulate and precise, to letting go of the “cutesy” and embracing just good old-fashioned integrity in your words and sentences.

If you want something to read that will bring you back to the basics of why we came into a relationship with Jesus Christ in the first place, may I recommend Timothy Keller’s “King’s Cross.”  You will absolutely not be disappointed.  And I promise you, no matter what medication you are on, you will “get it.”





  1. Saw this book review of a book that is in response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”. Thought you might be interested. 🙂

    • Jacqui, thanks for passing this along to me. I thought his review of Erasing Hell was spot on! I printed it up and am passing it out to particular friends. Keep your comments and insights coming!! Love, Rita

  2. Link to book review for “Erasing Hell”

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