In recent weeks, there has been a firestorm of controversy surrounding the latest publication by pastor Rob Bell. Bell has recently felt led to write a book entitled, Love Wins. His critics have called Bell a “universalist” and the like and have condemned this work. My purposes for this particular blog post are not to explore the particulars to Bell’s theology. For curiosity’s sake, I will tell you this. I have not even read the book, but I suspect that there would be aspects of his writings that I would agree with and others I would not. In his last book, Velvet Elvis, I came to understand some of Bell’s views, and I find him to ask proper questions while giving less than proper solutions. Often times, he presents one side of the coin while only alluding to the other side, creating in others’ minds, those who come unwittingly to the reading, a theological provincialism.
For now, that is enough criticizing Bell. I want to use our reactions as a catalyst for another topic altogether. Before I begin, I do not suggest that everyone who has had something to criticize about Bell’s book has done so unfairly (For example, I find Dr. Timothy Tennet’s blog post to be very gracious.). I merely write this as a reminder, mainly for myself. However misplaced one finds another’s ideas to be, and I use Bell as an example, one should also consider the concerns of the other that led him or her to his or her “ill conceived” ideas. Sometimes it is a deep concern, even a painful concern, which leads to these thoughts. Some people, instead of being attacked, should be heard. They speak from pain or concern, and what is worse than being overrun during times of real concern. I really feel that Bell has a painful concern in that many Christians are too willing to be satisfied with a narrow doctrine of Hell, so much so that they would say, “Well, they [the damned] deserve what they get,” as if some of us do not deserve such. How does that demonstrate love? How is this Christian? Are we not to be a people that promote love and grace? Would we not rather err on the side of grace? Is universalism the answer? No. Does Rob Bell think so? Maybe, I have not read the book. Is his concern legitimate? Most certainly. Do I have an alternative answer at this point? Maybe, but that is not the purpose of this particular post.
We all know the story of Job. Here is a man who has lost everything, and, in the end, all he wants is to be heard, to even submit his grievances before the Almighty. And then comes his comforters. In light of Job’s devastation, they sit silent for seven days. But, then they open their mouths. They tell this man that it is his sins that led him to lose all. But, Job knows, according to the wisdom of his days, that he is innocent. His comforters have good motives, to clear the name of God. But, instead of listening to Job’s case, they just steamroll right over him, and there are many Job’s comforters that are out there today, too quick to speak (even after seven days of silence) and too stubborn to listen. If we are to offer a corrective, might we offer it in love and with consideration of the catalyst for the misplaced idea? Let us consider the pain and concerns of others. And that is pretty much all I want to say on the topic for now.
Bright blessings to you all
Rev. Tab M. Miller