|Photo Credit: Eric Wilcox|
"The Final Judgment"
"Why do you pass Judgment
on your brother?
on your brother?
Or you, why do you despise
For we will all stand before
the judgment seat of God"
the judgment seat of God"
(Romans 14:10; ESV)
Augustine has been quoted to have said, "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." Is the discussion of Heaven and Hell an essential to the Christian faith? I suppose that all depends on who you talk to. Personally I'm a little less concerned with all eschatology (end time stuff) and a little more concerned with a proper Christian walk today. Whatever tomorrow does or doesn't hold, I rest knowing that we have a Heavenly Father who has it all sovereignly and perfectly in control. I have peace in that.
“Inquisitions, persecutions, trials, book burnings, blacklisting – when religious people become violent, it is because they have been shaped by their God, who is violent. We see this destructive shaping alive and well in the toxic, venomous nature of certain debates in the Internet. For some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don’t articulate matters of faith as they do.” (Rob Bell, “Love Wins,” p.183)
Ever since it was released, there has been no shortage of noise on Rob Bell’s controversial new book, “Love Wins.” In my way of thinking, simply jumping in on the bandwagon without actually reading the book for myself would be a huge mistake.
So now I’ve also read it cover to cover. There were a couple times I just about didn’t bother continuing as, like my son also said, I thought of throwing it. However I didn’t throw it. It was, after all, a borrowed book. However, there was another reason that I didn’t throw the book, and that was because I thought it best to finish trying to hear what the author was saying. I guess I just wanted to try and hear his heart in this book, regardless whether I agreed or didn’t agree.
Though Rob Bell doesn’t actually come out and say so, in reading this book one gets the idea that he is a Universalist. Universalism basically says that in the end, all people will be restored to God, regardless whether or not they have personally responded to Jesus. Taken to its logical conclusion, all people regardless of what they believe or don’t believe, regardless of what religious views they hold or don’t hold, regardless of how good or evil they may be – all will be with you and me in glory one day. In such a view there can be no literal Hell because we will all be one giant family in Heaven. Adolf Hitler will be sitting at the same table as Billy Graham, Osama Bin Laden will sing in the same choir with the Apostle Paul, Emperor Nero will be drinking tea and playing cards with Mother Theresa in the courtyard of the Pearly Gates, and the pedophile and his child victim will one day find themselves together again in that big playground in the sky. It doesn’t matter what you and I believe, because in the end, life is one giant funnel depositing all humanity in the same place.
For me, that is the one main negative issue that I see in this book. I do believe in a literal Hell and I do believe that it is a “loving” God who has so ordained it. Rob Bell often appeals to the love of God as justification for disproving the existence of Hell. I think that the love of God actually requires a literal Hell. How so? In keeping with Bell’s style of asking questions, let me now also ask a question. Would it be “loving” of God towards His children to allow all the unrepentant evil people who ever lived to sit in glory with the godly children? I think not! Besides that, there are a host of other Scriptures that Bell does not mention (or conveniently omits) that the church has historically understood to refer to the damnation and eternal punishment of the unrepentant sinner. In this regard, if I’ve understood him correctly, Rob Bell and I are polar opposites. Then again, maybe I’ve misunderstood him. Maybe my own doctrine is somewhat flawed in this area. It could be. There have certainly been other areas in which my faith walk has been revised in recent years.
However, in my way of thinking, “Love Wins” isn’t necessarily all negative either. There were also many parts of the book that I enjoyed and even agreed with. It has certainly challenged my thinking. Being somewhat controversial myself, as well as believing that much of what we hold as orthodoxy today is simply a culmination of years and years of traditions and religious indoctrination, I do enjoy a good read that forces one to think outside of the religious box. In that vein, I would recommend it to those who wish to be stretched out of their comfort zones. However, if such a stretching does not get you excited, then perhaps it’s best that you do not read this book, as you will then most likely also just want to throw it.
Yes, love does win, but love also includes a final judgment. In my way of thinking, the Bible is quite clear about that too. Still, I won’t argue that point with anyone. I prefer to simply learn to walk in love and relationships with whomever Heavenly Father chooses to bring across my path. Love is the trump card.
“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.” (Romans 14:22; ESV)