If you follow many blogs or tweets by Christian writers/theologians, you certainly know about this weekend’s massive eruption of controversy, conversation and conflict over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins.  It isn’t just the book that sparked such controversy, but various people’s reactions and responses that unleashed a torrent of (in some cases) rash judgments and proclamations.

In case you missed the discussion thus far, here’s a quick synopsis:

Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived , is due out at the end of March.  Prior to reading the book, several bloggers issued comments over the weekend about it.  Justin Taylor suggested Bell may in fact be a “Universalist”, and Piper sent a (facetious) farewell to Bell on Twitter.  And once those initial comments were made, everyone else joined in.

To get a handle on the topics at hand, take a look at the promotional preview video for Bell’s book which has caused such an uproar:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20272585]

So, we’re not going to solve this question today or tomorrow.  It’s been bantered about for centuries.  Rob Bell is hardly the first person to raise such questions.  These questions represent the often unspoken queries by Christians and non-Christians alike.  In fact, it was these very types of questions that caused me a crisis of faith as a 22 year old newlywed almost 17 years ago.

As I write this post, I already sense the “heat” being turned up.  Many of you are ready to fire off an email or comment condemning one or the other viewpoint.

But, let’s pause for a just a minute, and review what I see as several very important points.

  • We don’t fully know everything there is to know about God.  God is far bigger than any of our theologies, understandings or practices.  Anytime we try to box God in, or describe Him fully with a simple phrase or ideology, we’re missing something.  God is indescribable and uncontainable, and for that, I’m quite thankful!  I’m thankful that the God I follow and love is bigger than me, bigger than an expert, and bigger than a formula.
  • Asking questions is not  blasphemous and grounds for “dismissal” as a “true Christian”.  The God I believe is not threatened by me asking questions.  In fact, I think He invites us to approach Him with our confusions, lack of clarity and faith frustrations.  Additionally, if we (the ‘big C’ Church) weren’t so threatened by questions or discussions that veer off our pre-determined path of “proper Christianity”, we might more effectively shine the light of Jesus.  These questions are not easy – they aren’t simply answered by the recitation of 1-2 verses.  Haven’t you ever wondered about whether Gandhi is truly in hell?  If you haven’t, I bet a family member, neighbor of friend of yours has.  And to flippantly respond to such deep questions demonstrates, I think, two things.  One, it shows that perhaps you, yourself, are rather insecure in your own faith and threatened by such questions (insecurity is fine…we’re all on our own journeys).  And two, it suggests that you perhaps are more caught up in preserving the ideologies you espouse over and above healthy discussion and growth, and love and concern for the individual posing such questions.
  • As much as we sometimes don’t like to admit it, Scripture is hardly black-and-white about most of our theological debates.  In fact, in order to “argue” one side of a theological or denominational stance, you have to elevate certain Scriptures over and above others.  (And that’s true for “both sides” of those debates…like free will vs pre-destination.)  Two important, yet uncomfortable, words often get overlooked and dismissed because we don’t like them: faith and tension.  Faith and tension really need to be at the center of our spiritual journey.  And sometimes, we just have to take a deep breath, put on our “big boy pants” and humbly admit, “I don’t know!”  Doing so does nothing to weaken our faith and belief in God – it actually bolsters and expands it.  It places us correctly as a mortal human in relation to an awesome, all-powerful God.

So, with all that being said, and in the hopes of a truly healthy discussion, what do you think?  How do  you view heaven and hell?  What are your views based on?