Amid the hubbub earlier this year over Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” I had several friends who either read or commented on it (or both). I have not been a follower of Rob Bell (although I have seen one or two of his Nooma videos) and so, despite the fuss, I wasn’t terribly tempted to read it for myself… until Pam, a Facebook friend, challenged me to read it for myself. Up until then, I had limited myself to sharing links to some really well-researched and well-written blogs about it by folks like Ben Witherington and Dr. John Byron (who was my Greek professor in Seminary). I promised Pam that I would read the book but I still didn’t want to buy it so I put my name on a list at the local library and waited. As luck (or the providence of God) would have it, the book came in just as we were preparing to leave for our church’s Youth Annual conference. I attend this conference with our youth, but the youth, and the youth leaders attend the business meetings and I only attend the concerts and listen to the speakers. As a result, I was able to squeeze in enough time to read through the book.
I was going to re-read the book and take notes but if I had, I would be writing a six part post (instead of two) and I would have been late returning the book to the library. Besides, other writers have more ably and more thoroughly dissected it already.
Frankly, the book made me sad.
It made me sad because I really enjoyed reading it. Rob Bell writes the way I talk. He isn’t hung up in sentence structure or having perfect paragraphs but writes in a style that reflects how we speak with one another. I find that style, occasionally, to be refreshing. What’s more Rob Bell writes well, has many really great ideas and asks some very important questions. Problems arise, however because of how Rob Bell proceeds after he has a good idea and after he asks a great question.
Rob Bell seems to want to have things both ways. He says that what Jesus did was done for us, with no exceptions, no confessions, and no believing required (p. 11), and yet he believes that this sort of Christianity should motivate us to do good. Why? If I believed that nothing is required of me in order to go to heaven, if I believed that I am not responsible for carrying the Good News to others (because nothing is required of THEM either), then what motivation do I have to do good or to tell others about the truth that I’ve found?
(continued in Part 2)