Just Another Post About Rob Bell

by Larry Hehn on March 6, 2011

forgivenessDoes the world really need another blog post about Rob Bell?

Probably not.

But hey, it probably didn’t need a flurry of rants about Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code or The Golden Compass either.

I’m amazed at the uproar some things cause among some cranky Christians. I wish I had a dollar for every time I read a heated comment that started with, “I haven’t read the book, but…” or “I haven’t seen the movie, but…”

Rob Bell is the “target-du-jour”.

And it’s all because of a book that nobody has read yet.

Publisher Harper Collins’ promotional page for Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins features a cleverly ambiguous description of the content:

“Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.”

Some have interpreted this to mean that Rob Bell believes that everyone is going to Heaven, but I don’t see it.

As I recently commented on Katdish’s blog:

“Maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t understand why some people are so upset about the contents of that trailer.

It seems to me that what is said in that trailer is simply some questions and concerns that have been brought forth to initiate a discussion. Nowhere in there do I hear any sort of theological declaration. I think some people are way too anxious to fill in the blanks for themselves and to be offended by shadows of their own making.

I think I’ll just wait until I read the book before I decide for myself what I think of its content. And only then will I decide whether or not my opinion needs to be shared. I think we could all benefit from that kind of approach.”

Have you ever judged a book by its cover?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

mo March 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I’m more guilty of doing that with people. As for the book, I’ll definitely way to read it myself.
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Larry Hehn March 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Ooh yeah, I’m guilty of judging people by their cover too, Mo. I’ve learned that the hard way. I think that’s one of the reasons why I feel the need to give things like this the benefit of the doubt. Thanks!

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katdish March 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I think “cleverly ambiguous” is an apt description. I’ll wait and see what the book says, but like I said in my post, I’m not a follower of Rob Bell, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. If his book causes me to get into the Word to either confirm or deny what it presents, how could that possibly be a bad thing?
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Larry Hehn March 6, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Good call, katdish. The Bible trumps all other books, and Jesus is our ultimate role model.

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elaine March 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Until I looked at the trailer, I wasn’t interested in the book at all, but now I am. He says he is going to delve into what the Bible says, which should make it a worthwhile read all by itself. Until then, I must reserve judgment. Hard to argue without really knowing what the basis for his argument is.

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Larry Hehn March 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm

The trailer certainly has done the job of creating a “buzz” for the book. I’m curious to see how all the current speculation winds up comparing to the actual content. Thanks, Elaine!

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Ironic Mom March 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

First, may I say that I’m a huge fan of book trailers. It modernizes one of my passions: reading. Second, although Bell’s thoughts may seem radical to many, a character in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” says this: ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here.’

I’m intrigued with the book, though. He presents it well.

Leanne
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Larry Hehn March 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Yep, I think I would have bought the book anyway, but the trailer has made it even more intriguing.

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Jim F March 7, 2011 at 7:20 am

I have been one who has definitely judged a book by it’s cover. It is hard thing not too but something we should avoid.

As far as Bell is concerned – One thing is that he is tempting people by being provocative and I think that is part of the reason for his silence during the firestorm right now and he has certainly created hype and book sales will soar in the beginning. As far as the content of the book – I will wait till I read it to judge.
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Larry Hehn March 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

Yep, I think there’s a lot of thought behind his silence about the whole thing. I imagine it must be tough for him not to answer his detractors, but it’s probably best to let the anticipation build, then let the book speak for itself.

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dustin March 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

I watched the trailer and thought, “Oh, hmm… that may be an interesting read.” I know Bell’s Nooma videos have served me well in small group settings before. Tossed out some thought-provoking questions and got people to think quite a bit. I guess I’m just in the “lets wait and see” camp.
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Larry Hehn March 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

I’ve enjoyed the Noomas too, Dustin. I especially like when he explains the culture and traditions from Biblical times. It gives me a much better understanding of why certain things were said and done, and gets me thinking more about how they apply to me today.

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Keri March 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I haven’t seen any of the Nooma videos. But, my bff who was in a pastoral position at her church, used them often. She says that the later videos are questionable; the ealier videos were good though. And, I know of others who have big problems with his theology.

I have only read one Bell book and it is “Sex God”. While I didn’t feel he said anything heretical, I didn’t feel that the book answered any of the questions it posed. I think it was a bit of a hook to get you to read it. And, I can’t stand books like that. I’m all about asking the questions to get thoughts going. But, I think if you’re an author (and a very well known pastor no less) doing all this research, you need to take a stand in your book.

In that sense, I’m not sure if I’ll read his latest book. If I somehow get it for free, like at the library or if the publisher sees fit to allow me to review it for my blog, I’ll read it.

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Larry Hehn March 7, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I think it really helps to have a solid foundation in scripture, then be able to read other stuff with a discerning eye. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, Keri!

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Clay Morgan March 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I don’t know much about Rob Bell besides his name to tell you the truth. I’m not surprised there’s a backlash before the book is even out though. Once you see so many mini-controversies like this come and go you become immune to them. I think that’s the tone I sense from you Larry. Maybe I’m wrong. But the publisher knows what they’re doing by presenting it this way as well. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on this book and will probably read it if you tell me you think I should! How’s that for influence?
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Larry Hehn March 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

You got it, Clay. It seems that so often those who cry for a certain book/movie/whatever to be squelched wind up giving it more legs and more publicity than it would ever have received otherwise. This is a classic example.

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Donald Borsch Jr March 7, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Okay, I’m in this now.

My contention with this as-of-yet published book hinges on the release form the publishers. In their words:
“Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.”

Based solely on this, my spirit draws its sword. I do not know Rob Bell personally, and I have attested to this on several occasions. However, I have listened to his teachings. I have read his teachings. I am fully convinced he believes in a completely different Jesus than I do.

Normally I could care less. The World is full of dime-a-dozen people like Rob Bell. But he has influence because of the cult of personality rabid followers of his. This is scary enough.

I will say this:
IF I am wrong about detesting this upcoming book based on the press release, and Rob Bell does not actually argue that God sends no one to Hell or what-not, I shall gladly and willingly repent and apologize publicly.

IF, however, this book shows us all that Rob Bell is a universalist, I will make it a point to attack the spirits deceiving him and his followers. Flesh and blood doesn’t bother me. Principalities do.
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Larry Hehn March 8, 2011 at 10:11 am

No one could ever accuse you of being wishy-washy, Donald. Though I may not always agree with you, I love the passion you bring to every conversation!

I agree that the release steers the reader into controversial and potentially misleading territory with its wording. I can see how it would raise some red flags. And I too am concerned about the “rock star” status that Rob Bell has, and how that too can become unhealthy. (I think Katdish’s post addresses that really well).

Most of all I share your concern that we do not fall victim to false teachings and miss out on what scripture really says.

The big issue for me with this and some Christians’ reaction to other controversial books is the amount of venom that can be spewed by people who have not taken the time to read the book before coming up with an informed opinion. John Piper’s dismissive tweet “Farewell, Rob Bell” put me over the edge.

I’d much rather have our response be along the lines of, “Hey, there’s potential for some bad theology here. Let’s be careful in our approach, and discover for ourselves what scripture really says. Let’s opt for gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25) and seek the truth.”

Even if we discover that Rob Bell has crossed the line with this book, I just know that if I mess up in my theology, I’d be a lot more receptive to correction if someone approached me with love and concern than with torches and pitchforks.

As always, it’s great to hear your perspective, Donald!

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Donald Borsch Jr March 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Larry,

You said:
“I’d much rather have our response be along the lines of, “Hey, there’s potential for some bad theology here. Let’s be careful in our approach, and discover for ourselves what scripture really says. Let’s opt for gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25) and seek the truth.”
—————-

If I may, how many times will you take this stance with someone before you finally realize they are a false teacher and are committed to being a false teacher and have no desire to dialogue with you? I ask this because if I were a false teacher, I would depend on others being open-minded and cushy so I could walk all over them.

I will not suffer anyone preaching a different Gospel than what has been brought to us through Christ Jesus.

Your approach, while admirable, simply isn’t mine. Just sayin’.

Like I said, however, if I am off-base I will apologize openly. That’s about as gentle as I get.

Thanks for the conversation, Larry! I am glad you don’t agree with me on all things. Iron sharpens iron, indeed.
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Larry Hehn March 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Hey Donald,

In response to your question, “How many times will you take this stance with someone before you finally realize they are a false teacher and are committed to being a false teacher and have no desire to dialogue with you?” I can confidently answer “one”.

My approach is not that of submission or turning a blind eye to false teaching. It’s just giving the potential offender a chance to explain themselves, comparing their stance to that of scripture, then engaging in dialogue to determine whether they side with scripture or insist on clinging to false teaching.

I still subscribe to 2 Timothy 2:25-26 : “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

I feel strongly about that because I was once in that trap. Gentle instruction helped get me out. Condemnation didn’t.

But I’m sure there are others out there who need a whack upside the head with a two-by-four to “get it”. That’s where someone like you would come in handy!

I think we have the same heart for truth, just two very different approaches. As you said, iron sharpens iron. Cheers!

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Donald Borsch Jr March 9, 2011 at 12:25 am

Wise you speak Larry, mmmm, wise.

Nice response, by the way. I like the way you think.

I reckon I shall simply walk in two-by-four mindset, and leave the lovin’ to you! 🙂

Iron Donald says, Cheers back at ya!
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Donald Borsch Jr March 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book

Here we go. The first of many reviews of the book. With excerpts. And so it begins.
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seekingpastor March 8, 2011 at 12:44 am

We jump to conclusions far too easily. And get angry far too easily. And become angry far too easily. And it’s terrible.
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Larry Hehn March 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

Matt, you had an amazing post about this whole Rob Bell issue. I think you have the right approach.

For anyone who has not read Matt’s post, click his link above and visit his blog. Be sure to read all the other posts too while you are there. Good stuff!

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Larry Hehn March 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Wow, my head is spinning after reading that review, Donald. I had hoped that the Love Wins book would somehow clarify the muddiness of its promo page and trailer, but that review strongly suggests that it doesn’t. I’m disappointed.

I like the way that review was written. It had a lot of quotes from the manuscript to back it up, rather than just speculation. And I felt it was written objectively and with care. A review like that carries a lot more weight with me than some of the knee-jerk reactions I’ve heard this past week. Thanks for passing that link along!

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Donald Borsch Jr. March 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Larry,

As soon as I found that link, I thought of you, based on the small convo we had been having about Mr. Bell.

On the one hand I am feeling slightly vindicated. On the other hand I am feeling quite sad for Bell. The review linked does give actual words from Bell’s book. Rob Bell is not a Scriptural genius. I smell the feminine spirit all over his words. It stinks of Emergent Church nonsense.

Too bad, really. But…I’ll leave the lovin’ to you, Larry. I’ll be over here waiting to use my “2 x 4” to perhaps knock some sense into this fella and any who would blindly follow him and his teachings. Jokes, Larry…just jokes.
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Tony Alicea March 11, 2011 at 6:39 am

I like the trailer because it asks questions that a lot of us are uncomfortable with. Mostly because we’re not 100% sure. Some people respond by wanting answers, others react in fear and exercise control. Everyone that is bashing Bell is responding in fear. Plain and simple. If you know the Truth, then you know that Truth Wins. Always.
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Larry Hehn March 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

Good call, Tony. As much as we may want to have all the answers (or mistakenly think that we already do), there will always be questions. I often think of the questions I’d like to ask God when I meet him face to face, but then I wonder – will the questions I want to ask now even matter at that point?

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