Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love Wins: Where Heaven, Earth, and Hell Meet

It's easy to be critical of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins. He creates strawman arguments by caricaturing fundamentalist Christians. He has poor, often misleading, exegesis of Scripture. He is far better at deconstruction than reconstruction. But there is much of value here.

What I appreciate most about Bell's book is his insistence that heaven and hell are not merely places that are somewhere else. Heaven and hell are among us, breaking into our reality in the glorious and the obscene, in the great and small events of life on earth. I think this is right.

C.S. Lewis, and later Tim Keller, made the point that there is something inside each one of us that, if left unchecked, will become hell. If you've not read Lewis's masterpiece The Great Divorce, what are you waiting for? In it, Lewis profoundly presents this hell-from-within, sin left unchecked and overindulged, and its tragic consequences. Heaven and hell are trajectories of our lives here on earth. Those who trust Jesus and seek to love and obey him while in the body will get what they want--Christ himself!--in the life to come. Those who reject Jesus and seek to indulge their wicked desires while in the body will also get what they want--life solely on their terms--in the life to come. (Never mind that that sort of life is what Jesus would call "death".)

Bell gets it right when he says, "For Jesus, heaven is more real than what we experience now. This is true for the future, when earth and heaven become one, but also for today." Eternal life starts in this life, when you trust Jesus, swearing allegiance to him as your King. Eternal life is not for somewhere else, it is for here, and then it will be for there when there and here become one. (Oh yeah, that's right, I just Rob Belled you.)

On the other hand, hell is also here. It is the natural consequence of fallen humanity. People throw out phrases like "hell on earth" for a reason--it's true. A doctor once told me that heroin is Satan; she was right, heroin is Satan. Sex trafficking is hell. Abortion is hell. Domestic abuse is hell. Slavery is hell. All of these are hell because they are the manifestation of extreme evil on earth.

But here's the thing. Hell is inside of you. Your evil desires. Your lusts. Your pride. Your rage. The idols you worship. All the great evil of which you are capable.
Hell.
Inside.
You. (Oh man, I just Rob Belled you again! BAM!)

But there's good news here, too. By faith in Christ, heaven, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is also within you. Heaven is inside you. The Holy Spirit is at the core of your being. Destroying your idols. Changing your desires. Growing your character. Humbling you.
Heaven.
God.
Inside you. (I can't believe you just let me Rob Bell you for a third time.)

This is the tension of who we are. In our sinful nature, we are bringers of hell-on-earth. In the power of the Holy Spirit and through faith in Christ, we are bringers of heaven-on-earth, heralds of the new King, Jesus Christ. Heaven and hell are within you. In your body. On this earth.
You.
Here.
Where heaven, earth, and hell meet. (pwned! I Rob Belled you four times in this post. Four!)

4 comments:

The Sasquatch said...

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rachelspiegel said...

good stuff, andy.
good
stuff.

Corey said...

It's a good thing I stopped reading after the fifth paragraph. Who knows how many more times I could have been Rob Belled by you. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... well... we won't be fooled again.

stjohnsprayer said...

i agree with your comment about bell's poor exegesis. it is. i even wondered if he wrote the book. i've heard he preach before, many times and always seemed to have a decent understanding and command of scripture. but did the publisher change his references or did he just through them in assuming no one would actually read the bible. or just be okay with taking his new book as the new scripture? see the references in chapter 1 and 2. i didn't realize Paul was on the road to Damascus in Acts 22.

rob is able to develop his own theology not based on scripture. kudos rob.

Did you know that the original Greek word for light is "photas?" The hearers in Jesus' day would have known the "Light" came into the world, in the same way a digital camera takes picture after picture, immediately seen. So Jesus wants us to have things immediately and is pleased to offer us better and faster cell phones and computers. After all, everything is measured by the speed of light. (You just got Rob Belled).