I have had awhile to live with Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins now and am starting to feel comfortable with his message and content. I am a fan of the audio media since I drive a minimum of one hour a day and try to get 30 minutes of exercise in too. Along with some lounging in bed, mellowing out while eating lunch at my desk, I am nearly able to knock off his book in a day. With just a little bit of extra time dedicated specifically to the task and it is a one day deal.
One of the very nice things about Rob’s book on audio is that he narrates the book himself. I have experienced this in a couple of his other books and admit that it makes the experience quite nice. Rob is an engaging speaker and his writing in the book reflects his speaking style. I have read some folks who are rather dismayed about his style in writing, well, I suggest that you try the audio version and you will see why he writes the way he does.
The overall tenor of the book comes across as Rob sharing his view of the nature of God and the implications of that nature in the realm of what happens post-life. He grounds most of his arguments in the bible, though I agree with some other commentators that he sometimes seems to lack precision in his exegesis. I am going to withhold a firm conclusion on that until I have participated in some of the debates on the content.
For the most part, I feel he is making a case for a version of purgatory. Since I was raised in the RCC I am quite familiar with this concept, but apparently there is not widespread familiarity in the protestant circles. Purgatory is not a mechanism for getting a second chance in the after life. It is a mechanism for being purged of our sinful selves so that we will better be able to become one with God in heaven.
Rob also makes a big deal in the book about inclusivism. I certainly would classify myself as an inclusivist in that I don’t believe that someone has to have an overt knowledge of Jesus to be able to end up with God some day. Look at it this way, if Gandhi, the Buddha, and all people who never had the opportunity to know about Jesus in this life are sent to hell, then I don’t think that fairly represents what is said in the bible. Please read this section of the Wikipedia article for a compelling list of citations that make the argument for being an inclusivist.
I am especially fond of Rob Bell’s book because it will bring out the conversation of this important topic in churches around the country and around the world. My Pastor of my last church, Western Hanover Church, refused to allow any topic like this to be discussed in the church and went so far as to kick me out of the church for trying to have a serious conversation about theology. In his words he would say that theology divides people so we will not discuss theology. Now that is an exercise in missing the point. That church is a great example of one of the major points in Rob’s book. The leadership of that church believes that everyone is going to be taken away to another place after they die, and that it is only people who profess to “believing in Jesus” that are going to go to heaven. Therefore they refuse to do anything to help the problems in this world.
So I encourage the community of Western Hanover County to buy this book and discuss it! It is important to the world. Christianity is not about just sitting back and spending 1 hour a week in a church service, it is about helping our fellow man.