If you haven’t already figured it out by some of my earlier blog entries, I’m a Catholic. Depending on which school of thought you fall in, that usually (but not necessarily) makes me one of the following:
Given these possibilities, my review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived will probably just serve to cement your point of view. In my experience, most people prefer options that reinforce their currently held opinion, regardless of what it is.
When I first ran across this book at the store, my only thought was, “Hey! I didn’t know he’d written another book. Cool!” So I bought it and read it over the course of a couple days. (It’s not a hard book to read, and I could’ve finished it in one sitting, but I was working on another book at the time, which is all too common for me.) I found it well-reasoned, thought provoking, and ultimately, exciting! One of the things I like most about Bell is his willingness to admit that while he might not have all the answers, he’s not afraid to ask the questions.
So imagine my surprise when I posted a brief entry last night mentioning it, and found that there were no less than approximately fifteen thousand separate articles I could’ve used as “Related Articles” that reference this book and the astonishingly strong reactions it’s provoking among some members of the Christian community.
I’ve decided not to reference most of these strong-minded articles. One, because they’re really easy to find on the Internet. Two, because all the ones I’ve read so far completely miss the point of this book, which is, oddly enough, the title.
Because I’m a Catholic, I’m pretty used to being the subject of intense opinion and curiosity. (Maybe it’s because I’m open minded and approachable, and generally come across as an intelligent person with a sense of humor. I don’t know.) There have been people who have asked me, in all honesty and without a hint of sarcasm, why Catholics worship statues. (We don’t.) I know, for a fact, that there are people who believe Catholics worship Satan (we don’t) and are all bound for a justly-deserved hell. (We aren’t. Well, maybe some of us are. But not me. Oops. But not I.) And there are people who believe that if we only accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, we’d finally come to realize that the Protestants are right. (We won’t.) And naturally, there are people who just don’t care about that sort of thing. (I, however, do.)
What’s interesting about most of these reviews is that they seem to completely miss the point of this book. (It really makes me wonder if the writers have actually read Love Wins.) One reviewer basically said that because the book didn’t have copious footnotes and could be read in under two hours, it basically wasn’t worth it, theologically. (Point of reference: the Bible doesn’t actually have any footnotes, and the entire Gospel of John on CD clocks in at only a little more than two hours, and that’s because it’s being read aloud. Hmmm….) Another writer said that if Jesus wasn’t really the only way to get to heaven, and if everyone really does a “get out of jail free” card, then why not live a life of unbridled self-indulgence?
After a thorough reading and re-reading of this book, I can not, for the life of me, see how Bell is saying that what amounts to using people for personal advancement, defrauding the poor, or engaging in wild sexual abandon, is okay with God, and He “lets you in” anyway. What I do see is that Bell’s view of salvation is a lot more expansive than that of a lot of conservative, self-proclaimed Evangelical Christians.
Stay tuned, because I’m nowhere near done with this.