Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rob Bell-Love Wins-Universaist?

Disclaimer: The title of this blog was only to up the possibility of more internet traffic. Shameless, I know.

At the risk of making Rob Bell one of the most talked about things on my blog, I can't let this one go.

(Although, to be fair, I think Stephen Colbert has one more entry devoted to him. Colbert bump!)

He has a new book coming out next month called "Love Wins." Oddly enough, this is probably the least provocative or confusing title of any of his books. But a promo video was released and caused quite an uproar on the interwebs.

What is amazing is if you read some of the stuff people have written about it, it is as if they have already read the book. They haven't. Maybe they have read some of it but not all. But they take issue with some of the things that he says in the video, as if he is spouting some kind of universalist message about everyone getting into heaven and belief in Jesus being unnecessary.

Let me be up front about some stuff. I like Rob Bell. I have read his books. I have seen him speak. I attended a conference he put on. I think he raises some excellent questions and is gifted in the arena of communicating with nuance and grace. Having said that, I most certainly have not agreed with everything he has said. I am not sure he would want me to just accept it all. Read the back cover of Velvet Elvis.

So the point of this whole thing is to look at how we arrive at our conclusions about what he is saying when all we have to go on is this little three minute video. Here it is.

Here are some of my thoughts on the video.

1) I know that Rob is much more of a person who thinks our ultimate destiny is a new heavens and a new earth. God is about redeeming this world and his good creation. Therefore, this book cannot be about who gets into heaven. That is not Rob's take on the story of Scripture.

So right off the bat we know that this is not about heaven and hell as we traditionally think of them. That should clue us in on some other things.

I also know that Rob isn't naive enough to think that there is no justice in the world. Nobody thinks that the evils of this world should go unpunished. I have listened to a lot of his sermons and I know that he is smarter than that. Therefore I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

2) The first questions he asks are about how this certain person knows Ghandi is in hell. It's a valid question. Last I checked, it is not my place to decide who is in and who is out. That is up to God. I don't know where Ghandi is or where his ultimate destiny is. Pretty sure no one else does either.

3) He is addressing one of the biggest questions our culture has about the Bible and God. He is just asking the question. There is nothing wrong with asking a question. I think Jesus likes it when we ask honest questions. And people have questions about how having the majority of people who have ever lived being condemned to hell is actually good news. I have that question.

4) Is it possible that the good news is more good than we can possibly hope or imagine? I hope so. When you read Revelation 21-22 and Isaiah 60-62, that seems like good news. Redemption. Restoration. Renewal.

All I can tell from this video is that Rob is raising some tough questions and wants to deal with them honestly. And my experience with Rob is that you have to listen to the whole thing. He knows how to tell a story and grab your attention.

So how about we all just cool it and read the book when it comes out. Then if he is crazy we can know for sure. I for one am going to go in with an open mind and will try to think critically about what he says. People are jumping way too quickly to conclusions and are passing judgment on a man who has helped thousands of people rediscover the joys of following Jesus.

So why don't we just settle down and get ready for an interesting read. And if we have a problem with it, we can take it up with him rather than shouting into the void of the internet.

IRONY ALERT! I just shouted into the void of the internet.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I am sitting in a room that is remarkably clean. This room is a part of an entire floor of my house that is also remarkably clean. And what may be the most remarkable thing about it is that I am terrible at house cleaning.

I didn't even do it.

Two weeks ago my staff team had a meeting at my house. We finished about an hour early and our director gave a suggestion about what we could do with our extra hour.

"So tomorrow, Ben's girlfriend Andrea is coming to visit and she is going to stay here. And since this is a house where 6 guys live, it might not feel all that 'homie' to her. So I think we could give her a gift and just make the house a little more hostpitable for her."

Everyone seemed to love the idea of spending an hour to clean my house. Everyone except me.

What I heard when our director was making that suggestion was: "Since Ben is a total slob and has no idea how to treat his girlfriend well, we are going to do it for him."

You see, I have lived in this house for 5 years and I have never done any kind of deep clean. I don't even really know how to clean. And if I let all those people clean my house, they would get to see exactly how bad at cleaning I actually was. They would look at the corners and cabinets closets that had never been swept or wiped down.

I was not excited to spend the next hour hearing people comment on how disgusting my house was. And in case you think I am over-reacting, in those five years I lived at the house, I am pretty sure the microwave has NEVER been cleaned.

I felt ashamed and I felt incompetent in front of some of my best friends. I tried to gracefully get out of it. I had to find some way to tell them that they didn't have to do it. But resistance was futile. The idea was already incepted and was taking root and growing.

So I surrendered.

For the next hour, 11 of my friends cleaned the main floor of my house. They swept, scrubbed, dusted, febreezed, vacuumed, uncluttered, and rearranged. They bought flowers and candles. My bathroom was spotless.

But as amazing as it looked and as grateful as Andrea was for it when she saw it, it was something else that really shook me up.

You see, the whole time, no one said anything about how dirty it was. Not a word.

No one commented on how gross the microwave or the stove was.

No one told me I was a slob.

The only thing they did was give me, my housemates and my girlfriend a wonderful gift. And the only thing I could do was receive it.

In short, I encountered grace and it messed me up.

People looked right into the literal mess I had made through my laziness and neglect and ignorance, and did not condemn me for it. They simply offered me a gift.

The reality of the Gospel came flooding into my life in a new way. I was experiencing the Word becoming flesh. I was reminded of how Jesus looks at our sin and disobedience and the mess we have made and offers himself as a gift so it can be made right. And all we can do is receive it and let it change us.

Yes, it was a free gift for me. But it was a gift that I was able to share with people I love. Because of what someone else did, I have something to offer to others.


May you experience the tangible grace of God today. May you be reminded of this amazing gift that has been freely given for you.