Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spreading Love Wins

Reflecting back on reading Love Wins last week a few things come to mind...
  • Rob Bell wants people to be generous rather than mean-spirited. He can't quite manage it towards his own heritage in fundamentalism but I think the whole let's get Gandhi into heaven is wanting us not to quickly write people off but to believe for an expansive gospel.
  • He wants people to notice that this world is very messed up and there are a lot of people in need of practical help as well as needing to hear the gospel.
  • He wants people to be aware that sometimes we speak of an ugly god who is lurking behind lovely Jesus.
  • He wants people to know that our God is surely generous and welcoming.
  • He wants people to ask questions rather than just believe because someone said so.
And to be honest I support that cause..

Tentatively I think the problem might be this: Bell has a decent diagnosis but appears not to see the Triune God clearly. Or at least, not clearly enough to offer a good way forward. I'm thankful for the journey I'm taking in this - and so I raise my thoughts as one much helped and much in need of help.

He has hundreds of questions for his readers, I have one:
Where is the "spreading love" of the Triune God in his book? 
If Bell built on a Trinitarian foundation surely he'd offer that God to us. It's what Sibbes and his many friends in the history of the church would show us, the spreading goodness of the divine community of love.

I fear that none of Bell's concerns are going to be heard because his way of crowbarring generosity and social justice into his gospel seems only to be possible by selling off the family (doctrinal) silver and annoying all the people he wants to win over.... rather than being able to show that our God is better than we dared to imagine. I'm thankful for the friends helping me in this, softening my edges and warming my heart.

What kind of love wins would I love to see?
A warm and warming vision of the Triune God who is full of love and overflowing with love as Christ comes to us in the gospel. A God of whom we can ask questions, because after all our Christianity is participation in the Triune life.

When Luke gathered his eyewitness testimonies it's no surprise that having recorded the occasion where Mary sat at Jesus feet, while he revealed his Heavenly Father to her, that he next records the day the little children following Jesus asked him (a question!) - how shall we pray? And he invited them into relationship with his Father, through the Holy Spirit - where paragraphs before Luke had recounted Jesus' joy in the Spirit as he spoke with his Father. As for him so for us! We're caught up into the conversation, the love and joy of the Father, Son and Spirit.

As we live in that life we come to know divine love's jealousy - not happy for the Son to be scorned, nor his people. Our God is a God who cares passionately. A God whose love truly wins. We can freely ask questions and know there are answers. Very clearly and specifically and wonderfully, God is love. And we may lead with a vision of the loved and loving Son of the Father, and then love wins.


  1. What a picture! Where did you find that?

    It's as if Rob Bell is a baddie in the latest Jason Statham flick.

    Now to read the post.

  2. Hey Dave,

    Thanks for this.

    The other thing to mention is that Rob's view of the future badly suffers because because of a very deficient eschatology. In the trailer for the book he asks "will only a few select people make it to heaven and will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?" This is a key question not least in helping us make sense of God's character e.g. Is He really a God who is Love (1 John 4:8). Also does He keep his promises to lavish his love to a thousand generations of those who love him/those who fear him (Exodus 20:4-6; Psalms 103:17). Unless we address how such passages comport with the widespread Evangelical perception that not many will end up in glory and loads will end up in hell then some of what Rob Bell asserts will appeal. My solution: only Postmillinealism will save us (said the Postmil!)

    Blessings bro.

    Kip' Chelashaw

  3. One would think the gospel itself is enough cause for optimism... I think there's a plan for a lot of joy at the end of this story.