I just took an hour to watch the Livestream Q&A with Rob Bell that aired last week. I hope you will too. It was incredibly interesting. I've ordered his new book, Love Wins, but it hasn't arrived yet. So this is the closest I've come to hearing Rob Bell talk about what he believes about heaven and hell.
I figure I should give a little bit of background first. I've never been a Rob Bell fan. Not because of his theology--but just because I haven't connected with his style of teaching or writing. I'm not wired as an intellectual or as a theologian, so he often loses me. However, I've been leaning into the discussion about his new book in the past few days mostly because of the volume of the controversy. When I begin to hear certain factions of Christianity paint a fellow-believer with such slanderous words--my "hypocrisy meter" starts to ping off the charts and I can't help but jump in and call for a more balanced debate.
The great thing (as I said a couple of days ago) is that the controversy is driving believers, myself included, to consider questions about heaven and hell and the afterlife. Things that I typically don't think about.
After watching this Q&A, here are a few of my thoughts...
- Bell relies on Scripture. He answers most questions with a verse or passage or illustration from the Bible. I respect that.
- He also answers a fair number of questions with "I think..." At first, that might seem offensive to you. It doesn't matter what we think--it only matters what God's Word says, right? Well, yes and no. Pick any verse or major doctrine in the Bible, and you will find very learned and respected men or women of God giving VERY different interpretations of the same passage. How can the same passage mean two opposite things? That means one theologian is right, and the other is a heretic. I don't think it's that simple. I think we need to give space for the conversation, be slow to label people with opposing views, and realize that if God had meant it to be less of a mystery and more definitive--it would be.
- I think what frustrates people is that Rob Bell won't spend much time answering questions about what heaven or hell is in the future. It seems like he believes that argument is futile. He continues to bring it back to the here and now. Someone asks about heaven, and he quickly answers but then talks for a few minutes about bringing up there down here--heaven here on earth. Someone asks about hell, and he gives a very quick answer, but then talks about rape and abuse and hunger, and wants to focus on how we eliminate hell here on earth.
- I have a slight aversion to people who write books while sitting in a library all day long while they have no connection to real people in the real world. Rob Bell is a pastor, and for that he has my respect. His church is a couple hours from where I serve--and has a great reputation for helping people meet Jesus and grow in their faith.
What additional thoughts do you have after watching the video?