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Archive for April, 2011

Before I even realized Rob Bell was releasing another book, I saw my Facebook Newsfeed start filling up with anti-Rob Bell sentiments. Heretic. False Teacher. The comments were not nice. He has drastically influenced me spiritually so I was hesitant to jump on any band wagons. I watched the interviews and read a few, as well as several blog posts from “Christian” leaders. It was obvious that a lot of very religious people hated his book, but I wasn’t going to support it or criticize until I read it, so I immediately went to Amazon.com and had it shipped.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve heard that Christian bookstores have pulled all Rob Bell material calling him a heretic. A Methodist pastor in North Carolina was fired for posting on his Facebook that he supported the book. Wuh Wuh What?!?

If you’re reading this blog, but you aren’t familiar with the Rob Bell controversy, here’s the quick summary. He’s an influential pastor, speaker, author, and teacher whose books and DVDs have sold millions and millions of copies. Small groups have been using his Nooma series for teaching for years now. And then he came out with this book called Love Wins: A book about Heaven, Hell and the fate of every person who ever lived. What’s all the fuss about? Among other ideas he talks about in the book, the controversy is mainly over his Biblical interpretation that there is no Hell as it has been taught in the churches for the last couple hundred years.

So, what did I think of it? I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Probably my favorite Rob Bell book so far. This post is meant to explain why.

Reason Number 1: Above all else, it creates wonderful dialogue that the church needs to be having. It’s not okay to go your whole life believing what you’re told by others without asking yourself “Why do I believe what I believe?” Rob Bell introduces another perspective and in my opinion gives ample explanation as to where he derived these Biblical interpretations. Rather than condemn it, we should talk about it. I firmly believe in always being open-minded to new ideas.

Reason Number 2: What I have always, for years now, loved most about Rob Bell’s teaching is that he always goes back to the original texts. I don’t speak or read Hebrew, Aramaic or any other language for that matter. He has studied these words and the culture of the time. He always teaches what the original words meant, both literally and in the contexts of the cultural period in which they were written. As much as I love the teachings in the Bible, I understand that they are the result of translation and no matter how you slice and dice it, it’s not the same, especially two thousand years later. Jesus didn’t speak English and he certainly wasn’t American so it’s vitally important to understand what the writers of the original texts meant when they wrote those words. I’ve been fascinated by Rob’s previous teachings and they have seriously helped me understand even more about the God that I serve. So now, he does the same thing but about Hell. He talks about it in regards to what the words meant that were being used and in their cultural contexts. Why would I appreciate it any less this time around? NOT TO MENTION….there is no literal translation for the word hell? I’m not here to explain anything, read the book if you want to know what he said about it.

Reason Number 3: Rob Bell never de-emphasizes the power or love of God, nor the importance and significance of Jesus walking this earth and his death/resurrection. What he does is offer a different interpretation of hell. Ummm….I’m sorry but you can’t show me anywhere in the Bible that someone is condemned for what they believe will happen in the afterlife? In fact, no one has experienced it and come back! Why all this fuss when I don’t feel God cares what we think is going to happen in the afterlife? In fact, the Word repeatedly tells us that no one knows, can know nor is capable of understanding. Jesus said the greatest commandments were: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Rob never takes away from that.

What Rob does do in this book is put the emphasis on the here and now. Bringing Heaven to earth by loving with the unconditional love of Jesus. People do create their own hells. I have a wonderful friend whose son committed suicide a year and a half ago. He brought hell into the lives of the people he loved and they’ve had to experience it, the same with my friend’s father who took his own life. We see it all around us in this world. The world as it is now needs rescuing.

Rob did not introduce to me anything at all that I haven’t already believed for years. I’ve had many conversations with amazing people about these ideas, long before I knew Rob was planning on writing a book about it.

People are saying that if you say there is no hell then you are completely debunking your faith because then what did Jesus die for if not to rescue souls from eternal condemnation?

Sorry guys, but the more and more I grow in my faith, the more I read the teachings of Jesus and the more the Holy Spirit moves in my life, I see an amazing, loving God and it doesn’t add up. Since I began my journey of faith 13 years ago, I’ve never believed that of the 6 billion people on the planet, an unconditionally, loving God would send 4 billion of them to burn in a fire pit for eternity. I just continued to fall in love with the teachings of Jesus, share it with others, and believe that we serve a just God and the afterlife wasn’t for me to understand.

“So then Sophia, if you say you don’t believe God is going to send billions of people to rot in hell, what the point of Christianity? Why even share the Gospel? Isn’t that the point? That Jesus rescues you from hell?”

I do believe that in the spiritual realm there is a place that is absent of God. I believe that all that is good and all that is beautiful is of God. I believe in the spiritual battle of good vs evil and that evil must come from somewhere. Therefore, if a spiritual place exists that is absent of God, it would be absent of all that is beautiful and all that is good. I believe our souls go to an afterlife. I don’t believe that I, nor anyone living on earth, have the afterlife figured out and it’s not our place to decide who we think is going to experience what kind of afterlife.

Everything Jesus taught was always about the here and now. Loving others. Dieing to yourself. Giving abundantly. He talked about the riches in Heaven, but what he came to do was try and show us the amazing Love of God and how to live that in our own lives. People need rescuing. People are living without hope and need to know someone cares about them. If I really believed what I was taught by people growing up in church then this would be the message: Say this prayer to get your fire insurance so you don’t go to hell. Don’t be influenced by “the world” because it’s evil and bad. Everything is only going to get worse so we’re just waiting it out until we die so we can go to Heaven.

Well, I might as well, just pray those ABC’s and then go lock myself in a closet. It would be safer there.

The world is beautiful. I see beauty in every person that I meet. And because of the love of Jesus I have a message of hope to bring to the world. It’s not about rules. It’s not about a system. It’s not about a single prayer. Modern day Christianity is no different than the pharisees of Jesus’ day, so caught up in their rules they’re missing the bigger message. What does this mean for the great commission? Go tell the world of Jesus? It’s no less significant. People were attracted to Jesus and the early church because of the way they loved other people, accepted everyone no matter their baggage, brought hope into their lives, and sacrificed themselves. We have to show people that there is a better way of living than living for themselves. All around us people are dying inside living in their own hells.

Rob Bell’s book doesn’t say this, but my opinion is that the Hell preached about is a result of the First Great Awakening in the 1700’s. Christians discovered that through fear if you preached about hell it would make people attracted to Jesus. They had to be rescued. Choose Jesus or rot in hell. But Jesus never preached out of fear. People followed him and he attracted the multitudes because he healed people. He loved the unlovable. His final words were about forgiveness. I don’t think he wants us trying to scare people into being Christians.

I don’t have it down pat. I’m not the best “Christian” in the world, and I’m far from living like Jesus did. But I regularly pray for Him to show me how love everyone unconditionally and walk the path he destined for my life. If anything, Rob Bell’s book inspired me even more to realize the weight of the here and now and how to bring God’s love to earth.

As I said, I believe this book opens the door for great dialogue, and I believe everyone should always remain open-minded to new ideas. Therefore, I believe it’s important to share with you a blog written by someone who read the book and strongly disagreed with it. Here is an opposing view point. Here is an interview with Rob about the book. He actually starts talking around the 13:00 minute mark.

***I finished writing this post and was proof reading it when my cell phone rang. I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine who has lived in a hell of a marriage for almost five years. Bawling in tears she called me because today she left him and is sitting by herself in a hotel right now. We prayed. And I’ll continue praying for her. She’s walking in a hell right now that only Jesus can pull her out of.

[Edit: Adding the below a day after posting]

So, couple more links have come my way. Some comments have been posted on my wall and I wanted to share these additional links:

1. Rob Bell comes clean about what he actually believes. (a minute long)

2. Someone other than Rob Bell giving similar interpretations on hell, also with lots of scripture and history. Link here.

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