CHAPTER 2 - Here is the New There
I really enjoyed Bell's parenting idea of teaching your kids in such a way that they don't have to unlearn concepts, information, facts, etc.
Shouldn't that be how it is? Shouldn't that be the goal?
I find that what I grew up hearing and understanding inside the church has dramatically changed now that I have access and information regarding translations, language, and history.
Its frustrating that I find myself continuing to unlearn things because I know full well that all of my pastors growing up have solid backgrounds that have taught them extensive history and language (Greek & Hebrew), yet only taught portions of the stories. I feel as though I've learned only a fraction of what the scriptures have said; and cherry-picking a theology or ideology or denominational stand on any given scripture is manipulation and perversion.
So here's the question that will test this book (in my opinion)...
It's not going to come down to Bell's ideas and questions, rather we must ask if what he presents through scripture, history, and language/translation is accurate?
If it is, its something to be considered, learned, consumed, and re-taught.
If not, then he's propping up a certain idea or stance and working the words to fit his end game.
Thus far, I do not find a single contradictory piece of scripture, definition, or history that speaks to the later. I also see much of the anti-Bell-bloggers attacking concept rather than his evidence. If the evidence stands, what are we arguing about?
Thus far, people may not like what they read because it differs from what they've been told, but to ignore historical and biblical truth is dangerous!
On we go...
Chapter 2 discusses Heaven and the implications surrounding it. It questions the notion that Heaven is elsewhere. That leads us to the question of "who's in and who's out?" It is the subject that divides and often leads to an escapist theology and living; all the while disregarding the here and now (people, earth, etc.)
We find ourselves in this conundrum based on how we define words. (words matter!) "Eternal" comes from the Greek word "Aion" which was always a temporal period, age, era, and intense experience. But unlike the English meaning, it was not meant to mean forever (as we understand it). This obviously comes as a shock to most readers and is excellent fodder for discussion and debate.
This word is used over and over throughout scripture (Isaiah 2, 11, 25; Ezekiel 36; Amos 9; and so on...)
Bell explains it eloquently, that what and how we read "eternal" was NOW, "but rescued, transformed, and renewed" (34)...that in the age to come, "justice and mercy hold hands" (39). That's beautiful!
And if his translation is truthful, then this is at least something to be considered as truth. Why would it mean one thing a few thousand years ago, and something else today?
Then comes Jesus...
The talk is about keeping the commandments; that abiding by the law is the natural outpouring of living as God's image bearers. Jesus recognizes though, that we are sinners and thus this is impossible.
The Cross changed everything. It was a paradox (maybe wrapped in a riddle)...
It covers, it renews, its hopeful, beautiful, and saves; and did so through brutality, death, and disgust.
This seems to be where much of the criticism comes from regarding Bell...that he's dethroning Jesus. I read it as exactly the opposite, that only through Jesus and the Cross, comes salvation (whether you're aware of it or not - that the Cross just might be that big and grace filled).
Finally, with regards to Heaven, Bell discusses that the word is often used as a substitute for God (42). Again, if this is based on truth, then its hard to read the Kingdom of God as not being here on earth (and the age to come). He utilizes the Lord's Prayer as evidence as well as Revelation 21; that God's dwelling place is now and among the people.
He brings forth a great discussion (one I've never heard) in that Jesus spoke of transforming hearts so that we can handle heaven. He poses Rev. 20, 1 Cor. 3, Matt. 20 & 25 as evidence that the flames of heaven prepare us.
*I think there's probably a lot to discuss on this...again, its a fairly new concept to me.
The chapter ends wide open and beautifully and i'll end this post the same way.
There's heaven now, somewhere else.
There's heaven here, sometime else.
And then there's Jesus' invitation to heaven
in this moment,
in this place.
Please feel free to comment, debate, and converse (in a grace-filled manner). That is the point of this blog!
Grace & peace,
p.s. you can scroll down and join in the Chapter 1 discussion too!