The book that has pushed the most hot buttons with Christians this year is Pastor Rob Bell’s work Love Wins. It’s not surprising a book that questions the existence of hell and hedges on whether all people go to heaven would make the front cover of Time Magazine.
Crazy Christians Getting in the Way of Jesus
In the initial chapter Bell puts forth the question: When it comes to accepting Jesus, which Jesus do we invite into our lives? The author puts this important question in his own distinct way, “. . . think about the many who know about Christians only from what they’ve seen on television and so assume that Jesus is antiscience, antigay, standing out on the sidewalk with his bullhorn, telling people that they’re going to burn forever” (Love Wins, pg. 8).
I think Bell makes a good point.
Here’s why. I am a NY Yankee fan – the most hated team in baseball, especially by Boston Red Sox fans. And the feelings are mutual. Yet if you were to become a Yankee fan based on what a Red Sox fan claims about the Bronx Bombers, you’d never consider wearing a dark blue baseball cap with a NY insignia on the front.
I’ve known the NY team since the days of Mantle, Berra and Whitey Ford. I can tell you a lot about the great achievements of the team. In addition, I also have a lot of respect for many past Red Sox teams and players.
Let’s face it. You’ll never become a fan of the Yankees by speaking to a fan of the LA Dodgers, Anaheim Angels or Boston Red Sox. Instead, I’d tell you to interview real Yankee fans. Go to a Yankee game at Yankee Stadium. Read the history of the team. Learn about the Yankees from people who love the team and not from people who wear the NY caps to be stylish or pretend they’re Yankees fans immediately after they win the World Series.
I’d tell you the same thing about Jesus. Speak to people who truly know Him and have walked with Him for a good portion of their lives to truly learn about Christ.
God Does His Part in Bringing Us to His Son
Are there whackjobs who follow Christ? Of course. You’re intelligent enough to stay away from the “God hates fags” crowd. Sadly, that’s the kind of common sense Bell doesn’t think his readers possess.
If you watch enough Christian TV, you’ll hear contradictory theological beliefs and observe a Christian culture rooted in the southern United States. That culture has nothing to do with biblical Christianity – the outdated flamboyant leftover clothes from the 50’s, the big cotton candy hair dos, the oddjobs that fall on the floor in convulsions and the cacophony of out-of-control tongues speaking in a church setting. Sorry, but it’s weird . . . even to me as a believer.
Bell assumes people are stupid or just not smart enough to see beyond the whackjobs and truly seek for the biblical Jesus. In light of what I just presented, Bell smartly questions, “What if Christians don’t do their part and tell others about the real Jesus? Is your future in someone else’s hands? What if all you got is the “Jesus of the crazies?”
My answer comes from 1Timothy 2:4 where Paul writes, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
If God wants or desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth about Jesus, the seeking person will come to know the true Christ. I did, even regardless of the crazies, and I saw plenty of them in New York’s Time Square as a young impressionable teen.
I was raised in a Jewish home. My parents did not know who Jesus is and could not give me an inkling of any truth about Jesus other than the fact Jewish people don’t accept Christ as Messiah.
The only exposure I had to Christianity was Roman Catholicism, which is unappealing and somewhat gory to a Jewish person. My apologies to my Catholic friends. I mistakenly thought I’d have to become a celibate priest if I became a Catholic. The figure of a bleeding Jesus hanging on a cross in front of a Roman Catholic church gave me the creeps as a young Jewish boy. Can you blame me?
I’ll never forget the experience of seeing a woman standing in the rain on 42nd street in New York wearing a sandwich sign which read “Repent or Perish”. That was Christianity to me for the first twenty three years of my life. I wanted nothing to do with the religion of Jesus.
Finally in 1969 I heard the good news of Israel’s Messiah from a Southern Baptist pastor who was faithful to share the good news. I thought he was out of his mind telling me Jesus is the Messiah of the Jewish people. Rather than blow him off, I went home and started to read the Bible for myself. No Christian was going to tell me – a Jewish person who was Bar Mitzvahed – about Jesus of Nazareth being Israel’s Messiah.
This is an example of God “desiring all people to be saved.” On one hand, God is using a pastor to tell me about Jesus and on the other hand, I am searching to find the truth about the Bible and God. I wanted to know if Jesus was who He said He was. I was willing to look past the Christian loons I was exposed to all my life in order to seek the real Jesus. Unfortunately,the Christian loons have not gone away, but Jesus remains the same!
God is not so impotent as Bell makes Him out to be that He cannot bring to truth even to someone like me – a Jewish person completely resistant to Christianity.
Christianity Is Not Confused on Whether Salvation is Earned or Not
Another point Bell raises on the salvation issue is whether or not accepting Jesus is a “work” that we do. If so, where is the grace of God in saving a person? How is that a gift? How is that good news? Bell has lost his mind in this section of the book. His juvenile theological mentality is almost insulting to the reader.
What Bell is asking is this, “What is it that really saves you? . . . What you do or what you are? Could it be what you say in a prayer or whether you do the will of God?”
Bell spends page after page asking these kinds of questions, confusing the reader by trying to muddy up the salvation waters. He uses passage after passage to not answer questions but to create confusion. He doesn’t even try to interpret the passages. As a biblical expositor Bell cops out in not even attempting to grapple with meaning of the biblical text.
Here’s an example: I Corthinians 7: 16 states, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” Bells questions whether a person is saved because of who he’s married to (Love Wins, pg. 15).
I Corinthians 7:16 is not that hard to understand. If an unbelieving spouse is married to a Christian, that person has a greater chance of being exposed to the messianic faith. But that doesn’t mean, as Bell implies, that an individual needs to be married to a Christian to be saved.
The Bible touches many situations in life where a person can be exposed to the good news of salvation, but it is not a requirement. It’s a possibility that is created. An opportunity. A set of circumstances God uses to bring us to know Himself.
Pastor Bell foolishly rips verses out of context and takes a superficial approach using these verses to erect his overwhelming wall of unanswered questions. He sets the reader up with doubts and confusion, and leaves people hanging in theological limbo just so Pastor Bell can appear to be different, cool and hip. It isn’t until later in his book that he answers the questions he raises with an even more confusing presentation of his crazy, looney tunes gospel. That’s all folks!