I think that if you’re interested in engaging the discussion of heaven, hell, grace, and free will, then you should definitely read this book. I read it yesterday and had a great talk with my Spring Break girls what we believe about the whole matter. In no way do any of us need to take Rob Bell’s word as gold, because I think that taking any one person’s opinion as our own is inherently wrong. Instead, we should take what Rob is saying as one voice speaking one opinion (which has been said before and will be said again), which one possible explanation to a question we will never know the answer to. There are other opinions out there which are equally valid, based in both scripture and everyday life, that tout very different theological truths that we should also be engaging.
Personally, I felt that Love Wins raised a lot of important questions that no one, including Rob Bell, has the answers to. They are, however, questions that exist within each and every one of us and that we wrestle with in our daily lives and interactions, which makes them even more valid and worth discussing theologically. In no way have I made up my mind about these questions. What I believe today, based on the sum of all my experiences, is that God’s love means the freedom to choose what reality we want, and in that reality we make our own heaven or hell on earth. I do firmly believe in heaven and hell on earth: that we have the power to redeem this world through our words and our actions, as well as the power to make it more like hell each and every day. I believe that God’s love does ‘conquer all’ in the way that it extends to all, but that within God’s love is the choice to reject or accept the salvation given us.
I’ll just give you a short segment of Rob’s book to ponder, coming from the chapter entitled “Does God get what God wants?”:
If we want isolation, despair, and the right to be our own god, God graciously grants us that option. If we insist on using our God-given power and strength to make the world in our image, God allows us that freedom; we have the kind of license to that. If we want nothing to do with light, hope, love, grace, and peace, God respects that desire on our part, and we are given a life free from any of those realities. The more we want nothing to do with all God is, the more distance and space are created. If we want nothing to do with love, we are given a reality free from love.
If, however, we crave light, we’re drawn to truth, we’re desperate for grace, we’ve come to the end of our plots and schemes and we want someone else’s path, God gives us what we want.
If we have this sense that we’ve wandered far from home, and we want to return, God is there, standing in the driveway, arms open, ready to invite us in.
If we thirst for shalom, and we long for the peace that transcends all understanding, God doesn’t just give, they’re poured out on us, lavished, heaped, until we’re overwhelmed. It’s like a feast where the food and wine do not run out.
This, I firmly believe. God will always be standing at the end of the driveway, gazing towards the horizon, watching for the first motion we make towards home, ready to extend wide God’s arms and welcome us home.
If these questions intrigue you, you should take two hours and read this book (really, that’s all it’s gonna take). And read it before you believe everything the media has to say, because not everyone who is tweeting #love wins really knows what they’re talking about, or has even read the book.
Thanks for listening to my theological ramblings. Now it’s back to the sun, surf, and this week’s book, Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett, one of my all time favorite authors.