//
you're reading...
Uncategorized

All Shall Be Well

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well                       -Lady Julian of Norwich

So I have to confess, I am more than slightly glad that I didn’t jump on the Love Wins review bandwagon a few months ago. It seemed to be an unhappy trail; filled with vulturous remarks, people who hadn’t read the book, and people who didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about. Don’t get me wrong, Bell’s video (if you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here) was slightly provocative, to say the least. He seemed to question everything that Evangelical Christians have held dear about hell, and managed to do it with brilliant passive-agressivism. The neo-reformists ripped it apart, probably before they even got halfway through the video, simply because Bell is the darling of the emergent church movement. I have to say though, something in me was inspired by it. I remember watching the video at least a few times after hearing about it, and pre ordering the book on my kindle so that I could read it right away. I read it, liked it (for the most part), and then read it again. This isn’t a review, but I have to say… Bell uses some pretty bad exegesis in some sections of the book (if you are staying with the more traditional methods and understandings), but he also has some brilliant thoughts, metaphors, and an uncanny knack for trying to get at the heart of the Christian faith. Honestly, I was mostly reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce as I read… which is a book enjoyed by Christians from all walks of life.

Now I have some questions.

What does the reaction from the Evangelical community show the world about how we treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? That we hate heresy? That we have it all figured out? That we hate people who might hold to views we deem heretical because we have it all figured out? How do we respond when people point out that many of the reformers were deemed heretical at one point or another?

See, I’m sick of the heresy game. Try as we may, the bible isn’t black and white on as many things as we would like it to be. We proof text, counter proof text, and exhort others not to rely on man’s logic; all of these things are really just euphemisms for telling one another, “I’ve got the bible figured out, and you don’t.” There does seem to be a theme in the New Testament that supports a hell existing… but that hell can be populated very differently depending on what section of the bible you quote. If we hold that idea in mind and pair it with the idea that we worship a God who is committed to justice, love, and the restoration of all things,  I think that we can at least come to the conclusion that nothing will be done that isn’t right and true. This doesn’t quite have the same solidity as just regulating swaths of people to eternal torment, though it does seem to be a bit more humble and acknowledging of the the mystery of God’s characteristics. Hell, at least in the sense that evangelicals advertise it, seems to create a bit of cognitive dissonance with the character of God…which makes me think that we need to be a bit more nuanced and careful when we speak about it.

One more question. Why hell? Other things that are considered by many to be biblical (Social justice for widows and orphans, Works as a requirement and sign for faith, Love for Neighbors, Peace with Neighbors)  are routinely challenged in word and deed by evangelicals, yet I see no pushback against those ideas. It is funny to me that sacred cows that pertain to the future seem to take priority over the hurts and injustices of the here-and-now (This is a big topic that is covered in Bell’s book). Are we so sadistic and cruel that we actually want there to be a place where people are eternally tormented? Is that what we want to be known for as Christians? Are we so sadistic and cruel that we want there to be a place where people are eternally tormented and we will want such a thing while doing nothing about the hells that exist right now on earth? 

I grew up for 18 years wanting such a place.

Knowing exactly who was going to that place.

Knowing that I certainly wasn’t going to that place.

Standing by, doing nothing about the hells that existed all around me.

My pride had built a hell and placed all those who weren’t like me in it.

I repent.

I choose to nuance my views on hell as Jesus nuanced his.

I choose to be black and white on justice, as this is in the character of God.

I choose to believe that all shall be well, whatever that means; God will decide.

Grace and peace, friends.

 

(For more information on hell, you may want to read the bible. I’m also told that Francis Chan wrote a decent book on hell as well. You can find it here. Love wins is an excellent book, read it with an open heart and discerning mind. If you are interested in the idea of Universalism (the idea that everyone will be reconciled with God), I would check out MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist. If you would like information on Annihilationism (the idea that God will destroy and not torment those in hell), I hear that The Fire that Consumes makes some good arguments. N.T. Wright also writes a pretty good book about the last things to come in his book, Surprised By Hope. Of course, every Christian should read the beloved classics of Lewis, Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce.  To those that think that I have gone off the deep end (aka became a universalist), I would say that I don’t put a label on my beliefs… I believe what Jesus taught, and that’s more complicated than it first looks. Love wins my friends… let us not forget that God is love.)

Advertisements

About sosnovsken

Student at SPU. Lover of Jesus. Hopeful cynic. Changed by Christ.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “All Shall Be Well

  1. I, too, was reminded of The Great Divorce when I read Love Wins. I’m not sure how much I agree with Rob Bell – I’m going through the New Testament and then reading Love Wins again so I have a firm grip on what both books teach. I definitely think the backlash against it was unwarranted, though. I would love to discuss Love Wins in depth (my mom says she’ll read it but she rarely has time to read), so if you’ve got time when we get back to SPU let’s talk!

    Posted by Sarah Welch (@daisy_eyes) | August 18, 2011, 6:50 am
  2. Q: What does the reaction from the Evangelical community show the world about how we treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? That we hate heresy? That we have it all figured out? That we hate people who might hold to views we deem heretical because we have it all figured out? How do we respond when people point out that many of the reformers were deemed heretical at one point or another?

    A: Well it could be taken pretty much two ways. 1) They love/care so much about the souls of everyone they will call out “untruth” so that no one is lead astray. 2) They are so arrogant and proud they think they are right so they must shoot down any opposition or differential viewpoint.

    Good blog. I personally am done talking about all this stuff. I’ve brought it all to my own conclusion (this wouldn’t be the best place to share it). Good to discuss it though to get people thinking.

    Posted by Aaron Babst | August 18, 2011, 7:00 am
  3. Hell was always the one thing that pushed me farthest away from embracing Christ…
    Fortunately I continued to study and question and question and question… I read the Great Divorce before I picked up Love Wins and felt encouraged and hopeful that I was not alone and that I was not alone in placing my hope and faith in Christ. I do not hold to the traditional hellenestic-esque view of Hell and I don’t believe Christ intended for Christians to use it as an evangelical scare tactic. good post my friend.

    Posted by Shane Crash | August 18, 2011, 7:04 am
    • I remember reading The Great Divorce. I was so gripped by the ideas that Lewis was presenting, that I just couldn’t put it down. It’s a wonder to me that more people don’t see the radical (in a good way) message that Lewis is sharing through his writing.

      Posted by sosnovsken | August 18, 2011, 7:10 am
  4. Sorry, but you lost me on this one.

    Posted by Mark Duhrkoop | August 18, 2011, 7:40 am
  5. “So I have to confess, I am more than slightly glad that I didn’t jump on the Love Wins review bandwagon a few months ago. It seemed to be an unhappy trail; filled with vulturous remarks, people who hadn’t read the book, and people who didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about. Don’t get me wrong, Bell’s video (if you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here) was slightly provocative, to say the least. He seemed to question everything that Evangelical Christians have held dear about hell, and managed to do it with brilliant passive-agressivism. The neo-reformists ripped it apart, probably before they even got halfway through the video, simply because Bell is the darling of the emergent church movement. I have to say though, something in me was inspired by it. I remember watching the video at least a few times after hearing about it, and pre ordering the book on my kindle so that I could read it right away. I read it, liked it (for the most part), and then read it again. This isn’t a review, but I have to say… Bell uses some pretty bad exegesis in some sections of the book (if you are staying with the more traditional methods and understandings), but he also has some brilliant thoughts, metaphors, and an uncanny knack for trying to get at the heart of the Christian faith. Honestly, I was mostly reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce as I read… which is a book enjoyed by Christians from all walks of life.”

    -That video… grr… it was such a tease and really, a publishers perfect ad. It worked. It got people i, they bought the book, *bam* cash. But it ruined the entire dialogue. The book was read with preconceptions already there by everyone and it just killed the entire thing.

    -The book itself… it was poorly written (editing errors, lacked the story aspect his other books have had) and the some of the ways he used scripture was just contortionist style. I was saddened by it: 1. He has written better books in the past and I expected more, 2. The case for what he was arguing for could have been presented in a less controversial and palatable way.

    “Now I have some questions.

    What does the reaction from the Evangelical community show the world about how we treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? That we hate heresy? That we have it all figured out? That we hate people who might hold to views we deem heretical because we have it all figured out? How do we respond when people point out that many of the reformers were deemed heretical at one point or another?”

    -I think the reaction showed how important these issues are. I think hell, what I am going to describe as a position of concrete (firm and made into action) rebellion against God, is an enormous part of Christian theology.

    -I think the reaction showed that there is a disconnect between modern theologians and a post-modern writer/pastor like Rob Bell. Those M.T. tended to read Bell in a firm way, looking for propositional claims, while Bell seemed to be expressing a story, a thought, a question, and most of all an emotional aspiration.

    -I think the reaction showed that the idea of heresy, whatever that means, needs to be reclaimed, nuanced, and formed into something that can actually be used in a respectable manner again. We need that term back. It’s an important term. It’s a demarcation that has to happen, no matter how relative the world around us gets. BUT it has to be made into a razor sharp term. It’s a cutting tool, that separates the fat from the meat, and it has to be extra-sharp, making sure we don’t harm the final product as we cut.

    -I think the reaction shows that Christians care about truth, but still don’t have a grasp on what it means to correct in gentleness. What those responding to Bell did was not wrong in and of itself. How they did, that was wrong. The easy way they threw out the word “heresy”, the fast responses that they had before reading the book, etc. were wrong, but truth-sifting isn’t wrong.

    “See, I’m sick of the heresy game. Try as we may, the bible isn’t black and white on as many things as we would like it to be. We proof text, counter proof text, and exhort others not to rely on man’s logic; all of these things are really just euphemisms for telling one another, “I’ve got the bible figured out, and you don’t.” There does seem to be a theme in the New Testament that supports a hell existing… but that hell can be populated very differently depending on what section of the bible you quote. If we hold that idea in mind and pair it with the idea that we worship a God who is committed to justice, love, and the restoration of all things, I think that we can at least come to the conclusion that nothing will be done that isn’t right and true. This doesn’t quite have the same solidity as just regulating swaths of people to eternal torment, though it does seem to be a bit more humble and acknowledging of the the mystery of God’s characteristics. Hell, at least in the sense that evangelicals advertise it, seems to create a bit of cognitive dissonance with the character of God…which makes me think that we need to be a bit more nuanced and careful when we speak about it.”

    -Agreed, but I would look again at how the above paragraph does the exact same thing you are wary of. It seems to posit a bit of solidity about the position you are opposed to, which may not actually be there. Who in responding to Bell’s book regulated “swaths of people to eternal torment” in a solid way? Everything I have read from that camp in response to Bell has been very upset at the idea of eternal torment, and trying to nuance it and show why they beleive it fits God’s character. They didn’t seem proud of it, but much the opposite of that… seeing what they thought was the truth of God, and thinking “Your logic is above ours, God!”

    “One more question. Why hell? Other things that are considered by many to be biblical (Social justice for widows and orphans, Works as a requirement and sign for faith, Love for Neighbors, Peace with Neighbors) are routinely challenged in word and deed by evangelicals, yet I see no pushback against those ideas. It is funny to me that sacred cows that pertain to the future seem to take priority over the hurts and injustices of the here-and-now (This is a big topic that is covered in Bell’s book). Are we so sadistic and cruel that we actually want there to be a place where people are eternally tormented? Is that what we want to be known for as Christians? Are we so sadistic and cruel that we want there to be a place where people are eternally tormented and we will want such a thing while doing nothing about the hells that exist right now on earth?”

    -I wouldn’t ascribe motives of sadism here. Hell is an idea about the future, but just like any vision of the future it has impact on the present. All of the responses I saw to Bell’s book noted that they were responding seriously because if hell is a place of eternal punishment, that is most definitely something they wanted to be clear on, so they could avoid it, and help others avoid it as much as possible. These responders seem to be missional in their understanding of hell. Thankfully. They realize that God’s mission to the world somehow involves human rebellion and a response to it, and they want to be part of the mission (the good part, of stopping rebellion and hell!).

    -Beyond that hell, what is it and why, has import on God’s character and plan for the the world. This has enormous implications for the present! I think the reponders were rightly trying to assess the position of priority that the Scriptures put on hell and the response God has to rebellion. I don’t think these people were ignoring social justice, works and faith, loving the neighbor, etc. by examining hell, but were seeking a cohesive theology. “How does hell relate to the present?” What implications should its reality have on my everyday words and actions?

    “I grew up for 18 years wanting such a place.

    Knowing exactly who was going to that place.

    Knowing that I certainly wasn’t going to that place.

    Standing by, doing nothing about the hells that existed all around me.

    My pride had built a hell and placed all those who weren’t like me in it.

    I repent.

    I choose to nuance my views on hell as Jesus nuanced his.

    I choose to be black and white on justice, as this is in the character of God.

    I choose to believe that all shall be well, whatever that means; God will decide.

    Grace and peace, friends.”

    -Amen

    (For more information on hell, you may want to read the bible. I’m also told that Francis Chan wrote a decent book on hell as well. You can find it here. Love wins is an excellent book, read it with an open heart and discerning mind. If you are interested in the idea of Universalism (the idea that everyone will be reconciled with God), I would check out MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist. If you would like information on Annihilationism (the idea that God will destroy and not torment those in hell), I hear that The Fire that Consumes makes some good arguments. N.T. Wright also writes a pretty good book about the last things to come in his book, Surprised By Hope. Of course, every Christian should read the beloved classics of Lewis, Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce. To those that think that I have gone off the deep end (aka became a universalist), I would say that I don’t put a label on my beliefs… I believe what Jesus taught, and that’s more complicated than it first looks. Love wins my friends… let us not forget that God is love.)

    -Great resources, way to go.

    Posted by John Lussier | August 18, 2011, 8:05 am
    • Thanks for the engagement John… I agree with a lot of what you said. I love the thought that you put into this; I expected that you would be one of the only ones to catch my reasoning error (concretely describing and putting into a box those that I am frustrated with… when my complaint against them is that they concretely claim to have truth, etc.)

      Posted by sosnovsken | August 18, 2011, 3:07 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: