Monday, March 28, 2011

Love Wins. (Chapter 2)

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.

Insert Cross.

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!


Ken Silva said...


Thanks for the Twitter invite.

As a result of his practice of mysticism Rob Bell has been drifting into a postmodern form of progressive Christianity for years now.

I also pointed out two years ago that Bell is leaning toward the heresy of Christian Universalism:

CU sees Jesus as the Savior, it has a real, and for most, eventually it will become empty. Sound familiar.

Ross Christopher said...

Is mysticism bad? Wouldn't it actually be a closer representation of the original faith (less Westernized & structured/systematic)?

Would you mind expanding your final thought out more - i'm a bit unclear your position on CU?

Thanks again man!

Ken Silva said...

"Is mysticism bad? Wouldn't it actually be a closer representation of the original faith (less Westernized & structured/systematic)?"

Yes, it is bad. The reason being, Jesus never taught it nor did His Apostles.

The so-called contemplative tradition doesn't begin until the third century alleged "desert fathers."

"i'm a bit unclear your position on CU?"

It's not my position; I've been in the ministry field of Comparative Religion for 23+ years.

I was simply giving you an overview of some of its doctrine. If you read my article I referenced you'll see that.

Bell even mentions it briefly in his book when he talks about the church father Origin. He held that heretical belief.

Ross Christopher said...

So are we to assume that if Jesus & the apostles don't talk/practice it, it's bad?

If so, I question music in church, multiple-media, suits and ties, capital campaigns, youth groups, handbells, and bibles...because, you know, those were all post-Jesus & apostle practices.

I hope you get my sarcasm (& point)...God is the author of all...perhaps all things mystical too...if not, how big is God?

On the heretic front, Origen was labeled that sure...but so was Jesus, Luther, most of the reformers for that matter. I'd hate to simply throw out any wisdom from anyone labeled with the H word.

Great discussion!


Great discussion!

Ross Christopher said...

Any thoughts specific to Chapter 2? I think this forum will work best chapter by chapter, then an entire critique afterwards.


MrLuke said...

I do love this chapter :)

As one who has studied at a bible college for 3 years and now has my degree in theology I can't say how happy I was to read this chapter in his book! "At last!" I thought, finally someone has explained heaven properly and scripturally in a nice easy to understand way!
I have to admit, when we first learned in NT Theo classes about the reality of heaven like this, it literally was like, boom, *mind blown* as a who new realisation dawns on you and all the amazingness that it entails. Suddenly all the redemptive scriptures makes sense, all the things about creation groaning to be put right - its on about *everything* not just people!
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, it just excites me when knowledge is properly shared - and more so now to people who can just buy a book rather than spend 3 years of their life studying.

As for the words like Kingdom of God/Heaven, I wrote essays and studied for many hours on this very subject to conclude exactly what Bell has. The Gospel writers wrote to specific audiences, some Jews, some Gentiles and so the words changed to reflect the culture of their readers. You want a message to be heard, not offending by using wrong phrases!

While on words too, aion is where we get our english "eon" from (I studied Greek also) - and as I'm sure you know an eon of time may mean a very long time, but it doesn't mean for all time.
I was actually looking into this very issue just before Bell's book was released as I was already questioning our doctrines on hell and its eternity. So I checked out the Greek and discovered the same interesting things as Bell writes about, which has put me in a new situation now in terms of my understanding of "hell" and everything "eternal". I'm still studying these things, but Bell's book has definitely come at the right time and is a lot of help in clarifying and explaining these things, even confirming these things I discovered!
If anything, one thing I've always admired about Rob Bell is that he sure does his homework and makes sure that when he talks about "context" it really is within the context that we should be thinking of the Scriptures.