What the world needs is someone to blog their take on Rob’s new book, LOVE WINS. So, being the giver that I am, I will meet that need.
Seriously, I eventually stopped reading all the web-clogging artillery flying around over this book.
There is a lot to discuss here, so there will be a part one and a part two (and maybe more). I guess this is as good a time as any to share that I know Rob. We had talked a few times before he really blew up (pre-Nooma videos) and one weekend, he spoke at Journey. We surfed on Saturday and, later in the day, met up with a group of pastors to hang out and discuss. Not to mention that Jason Dennison served with him at Lake Avenue church. I like Rob. I think he’s probably the most interesting preacher in the U.S. All that to say, Journey’s tendency is “pro-Rob.” So, here goes my review.
PART 1, this post could be titled “When Christians Attack”.
Before I get into the book or the issues it raises, I have to unload my utter disappointment over many people’s reaction to the book — BEFORE THEY READ IT! I’m especially saddened by John Piper’s “Farwell Rob Bell” tweet. Those of you that know me well know in how much esteem I hold John Piper. I couldn’t believe how eager people were to attack Rob and to argue against a book they hadn’t seen.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that those of us who would call ourselves “evangelicals” have become the neo-Pharisees. Pharisees were ostensibly about defending the Torah and championing obedience to God’s revelation; however, what they really were doing was vociferously defending their UNDERSTANDING of God’s word, their school of thought. They had a continually narrowing range of acceptable understandings and interpretations of the scriptures. This, as much as anything else, put them on the wrong side of God when He appeared to them in the person of Jesus. In the gospels, Jesus ripped into them (See Matthew 23), accusing them of “straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel.” Most blatantly, they missed commandment #1 and #2 – both of which are about LOVE. (See Matt 22:36-40;Mark 12:28-34)
Honestly, the way in which lot of pastors and bloggers couldn’t wait to tear into Rob was profoundly disturbing. This hostility is particularly true of those who tend to self-identify with Reformed theology. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Reformed theology. I’m sympathetic to it. I have read tons of books by John Piper. I love J.I. Packer (who is not part of this feeding frenzy as far as I know). But let me be clear – disagreeing with this fairly narrow take on the scriptures does not make one a false teacher. There are things in Rob’s book with which one can and maybe should take issue, but if you can’t do it in love, then back away from the keyboard and leave it to someone else.
“How do you know they didn’t rip into Rob ‘in love’?” you may ask. Well for starters, “love is patient…”— it’s the first flippin’ one, for crying out loud!
And speaking of patient, there is something else to be said before I get into a discussion of book’s ideas. Let me state it as a question: what is the job of a writer? What is the job of a speaker, teacher or pastor? Some people seem to think that the role of a pastor is to confirm that their take on the scripture IS the correct one, that they are “right.” There are times to reinforce people’s basic beliefs, but when you examine the way Jesus rolled, you won’t find a whole lot of this reassurance. Have you ever noticed how often he asked Bible experts, “have you not even read . . .” (See Matthew 12:3,5; 19:4; 22:31; Mark 12:10,26; Luke 6:3) The kind of stream in which we swim in has a “back to the text” current. Many of our kinds of churches have the word “BIBLE” right in the name. It follows, then, that we need to keep going back to the scriptures, re-examining the things that we think we know. In fact, lots of the stuff we assume to be absolutely bedrock is really more assumption than text.
When someone looks at something such as “Hell” and says, “Really? Are we sure that the Bible teaches this?” they are doing us a service. Let’s face it. Almost everyone who’s not a Christ-follower will eventually ask us this question and with the presumption that this simply can’t be true. A good teacher helps you to think differently. There is no learning without this. Being blunt, I’m not thrilled with the number of people out there who insist that everyone color inside the lines that they have decided determine who is in and who is out, lines that serve as fences determining your “in-ness” or “out-ness”; whether or not you get the ol “Farewell”.
O.k. I feel better.
Next: some thoughts on the book.