Luther said that we should read the entire Bible in terms of what drives toward Christ.  Everything has to be interpreted through Christ.  Well, if you do that, you’re going to end up with this religion of grace and forgiveness.  The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees.  But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment.  There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell. // Eugene Peterson

What I’ve been struggling with the most over the past few days has been directly related to my sympathy for Rob Bell, author of Love Wins, and accused hell-bound heretic.  I’m not concerned for his soul or mine.  I’m not wishing he would see the error of his ways.  I’m not concerned that he’s leading me straight into hell.

The incredible thing to me is the reaction from christians. Unequivocally, they allege, he is wrong.  Without question.  We have interpreted the true, clear, literal text of the Bible and by the words of Paul, and the actions of Jesus and the power of Greyskull, he is wrong.

I’ve read the verses that talk about judgement at the end of the world.  I get that Jesus said that He, himself, is the way, the truth, and the life.   I know we’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  I get it, I really do.  But I also read the ones that ask “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or been his counselor?”, the ones that say “As surely as I live, every knee will bow before me.”  I’ve yet to find the ones that say, “Verily, I say unto you, lest ye believe in hellfire as dost I, then ye shall be cast into the flames.”

Many times in the past, I’ve posted here about selfishness and self-centeredness.

I feel like this debate is no different.

It’s offensive to many of us to even think that God would accept someone into heaven that didn’t have to deal with at least some of the same struggles as I do.  If we’re honest, we’re only mildly OK with deathbed confessionals – our religion tells us to be happy because now they’re magically and definitely saved while our minds say why couldn’t I live like him and get in under the wire.  We’re a self-referential people.  Naturally, this is true.  We experience the world as a self.  Everything that we see and hear and touch and know is processed by our self.  When a question comes up we process it by referencing everything else that makes up our self and we come up with an answer.

When an author like Bell comes along and talks about hell in the way that (many of us think, since we haven’t yet read the book) he does, we throw up flags not because we’re against what he’s saying as much as it doesn’t line up with what we have settled in our minds as truth.  This is a psychological reality.  For some, this cognitive dissonance causes deep introspection.  For others, a great exposition as to the reasons the concepts in question are wrong.

We go on the defensive.

Defense, of course, implies that WE HAVE something that is being attacked, something that is of value TO US that is suddenly in danger (for a great discussion on these metaphorical concepts, by the way, read anything by George Lakoff, including this).  There are collections of baggage that come with this and, to be fair, a defensive stance is not always a bad thing.

But it is very much a selfish position.  The unsaid statements are “I am PROTECTING something that I FIND MORE VALUABLE that what is being presented.”

An unselfish response is this:

Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister.  We have different ways of looking at things, but we are all a part of the kingdom of God.  And I don’t think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight.  I think that’s bad family manners.

I’m not against there being some truths…. but I believe there are incredibly few of these.  Every things else is commentary.

One last thing…. while you’re waiting for Love Wins to arrive, maybe you’ll want to listen to this.  It’s a sermon by Rob Bell from September 2006.  It’s about hell and probably will give you a good idea of where he’s going with all this.

Listen Here to Rob Bell’s message about Hell (2006)