Tag Archives: lovewins

I read the book. This is my consequent attempt at the shortest book review ever.


Last week during my trip to Boston I finally read it.

I have five things to say about it.

That’s it.


* Don’t say another word about the book, or its author, until you’ve read it.  Don’t watch another interview or another vlog.  People have seriously misrepresented the agenda and content of this book, and thus having others read it for you will seriously skew your opinions. 

*Those who have commented on the book, specifically those who critique it for its lack of scholarship or incomplete references, are not the ones for whom the book was written.   It is a pastoral book.  It is first and foremost written for someone who has left the faith or struggles with faith.  Not for those who have the answers (although he challenges us Christians as well). 

*The book profoundly ministered to me.  It also deeply convicted me

*I do wish he wrestled more with what “judgment” is (and why it’s good) and with free will (and why it is not absolute, and why we at times do not do what we want).   He does reference, but doesn’t always show his work (although you can figure it out yourself if you do your own homework). But it honestly doesn’t bother me that much… It seems fairly clear that he wanted to streamline his arguments and to disencumber the reader as much as possible, and that doesn’t bother me, given his intended audience.  

* Again— READ THE BOOK YOURSELVES.   If you’re concerned about paying money for a potentially-heretical book, then sneak over to Barnes & Noble and read it there— seriously, you can read it in three hours if you want.  I’ll even lend you my copy, if you want.  But don’t read another one of the 87 million reviews/articles about this book.  Read it yourself—and even if you read it with a closed heart, at least you’ll have to wrestle directly with his words in order to disprove him. 


Stop reading this right now. 

Go to Amazon and get your own copy.

(And no, no one’s giving me money to endorse him. )


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in love


Tags: , , ,

Wow… just, wow. Thank you, Brian.

This could have been done via Twitter, but I am so thankful for this post by Brian McLaren today on Red Letter Christians [which I think can possibly be the future platform for furthering a “prog-evangelical” consensus, i.e., a “generous orthodoxy,” that David Fitch and Scot McKnight seem to want. ]that I thought I’d give it a slightly more thorough endorsement (for what it’s worth….)


The post’s primary purpose was to address Al Mohler’s critique of…  you guessed it, the heretic of the hour, our friend Rob.  Which is fitting, considering the number of consecutive weeks McLaren has spent at the top of that hit list.   He does a great job of defending his friend:

*He addresses the difference between either framing Bell as choosing heresy over historic Christian beliefs, vs. someone trying to understand the real “gospel” over what the gospel has been reduced to in the modern West. 

*He addresses the hermeneutical questions in play and explains them in plain language.

*He frames Bell as one trying to reconcile God’s love and justice, as opposed to holding them apart as dual, opposing characteristics of God (God divided against himself?)….in contrast to how Bell is being framed as not taking God’s justice seriously at all.

*And (Thank God) he challenges those who have blatantly accused Rob of placating and of being controversial for the purpose of increasing book sales.  (That’s out of line, imho.)

But on a selfish level, based on what I have said here in recent weeks, and also based upon my own discoveries in recent years as a self-described “post-evangelical” who did not grow up in the mainline church but have since joined myself to it…. I really appreciated this from McLaren (emphasis mine):

From childhood I was taught this liberal-mainline-decline narrative (and its counterpart — the conservative-Evangelical-growth narrative). I’m ashamed to say I never questioned it for years. But the narrative, like all prejudices, turns out to be terribly vulnerable — especially if you actually meet many of the people it purports to describe. Consider these possible rebuttals (some of which are quite popular among mainliners, some not):

  • Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was institutionalism.
  • Perhaps it was an excessive concern among many mainline Protestant leaders to protect their “mainline” status of privilege and power.
  • Perhaps it was complicity with nationalism, a complicity that was exposed as faulty in the 20th Century by two world wars and Vietnam.
  • Perhaps it was liturgical and organizational rigidity.
  • Perhaps the fall of mainline Protestantism had more to do with complacency and a lack of visionary leadership than it did with a willingness to question traditional interpretations of Scripture.
  • Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t dead or even dying: perhaps mainline Protestants have entered a latency period from which a new generation of Christian faith is trying to be born. (And perhaps conservative Protestantism is about to enter that latency period too.)
  • Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t failing at all, any more than the U.S. Postal Service is failing. (It’s actually doing more work than ever, with proportionately fewer resources than ever.) Perhaps it’s just that the times have changed, and First Class mail isn’t what it used to be, and mainline Protestants think they’re in the stamp-and-envelope business instead of the communication business.
  • Perhaps mainline Protestants are in decline primarily because they haven’t been as good marketers as Evangelicals. Perhaps mainliners haven’t “pandered” to customer demands as well as Evangelicals. They haven’t adopted new technologies — first radio, then TV, then the internet — as savvily as Evangelicals have.
  • Perhaps mainline decline is related to higher college attendance rates — rates that, by the way, Evangelicals are now catching up to. Perhaps conservative Christianity will fare no better in holding young adults who get a college education than mainline Protestants were. Perhaps the graphs will end up in the same place, with just a 30- or 40-year lag.
  • Perhaps mainline Protestants started to decline when they became prophetic — agreeing with Dr. King about the institutional evils of segregation and the Vietnam war. Perhaps being prophetic, which involves calling people forward to a better future, is inherently more costly and less popular than being conservative, which involves calling people back to a better past.
  • Perhaps Evangelicals started to grow when they filled in the same role mainline Protestants used to occupy: the civil religion of the United States.
  • Perhaps mainline Protestantism collapsed because of hypocrisy and disconnection from real-life issues, and perhaps Evangelicalism is edging ever-closer to a similar collapse.
  • Perhaps mainline Protestantism was the religion of the American countryside and small town, and it declined as rural and small-town populations declined. And perhaps Evangelicalism is the religion of the American suburbs, and its fate will rise and fall with suburban life.


These reasons (although he admits, as well as I, that only the future will tell us for sure) are precisely why I said what I said last week:  that the mainline church (should we even CALL it that anymore!?) is positioned to be a more desirable and stable future for the American church, and if they can embrace that role, they will outlast institutional Evangelicalism. 

I also appreciate him saying what professors began to show to me back during my Fuller days:  Contrary to how they portray themselves, the conservative evangelical church is actually quite secular/modern:

To more and more of us these days, conservative Evangelical/fundamentalist theology looks and sounds more and more like secular conservatism — economic and political — simply dressed up in religious language. If that’s the case, even if Dr. Mohler is right in every detail of his critique, he’d still be wise to apply the flip side of his warning to his own beloved community.

Yes, many of us are rejecting theologies that seem to dress up secular conservative ideology in “Sunday best.” But that doesn’t mean we want to put secular liberal ideology in robes and collars instead. Of course not. We’re seeking — imperfectly at every turn, no doubt — an incarnational theology, a theology that brings radical good news of great joy for all the people, good news that God loves the world and didn’t send Jesus to condemn it but to save it, good news that God’s wrath is not merely punitive but restorative, good news that the fire of God’s holiness is not bent on eternal torment but always works to purify and refine, good news that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more

Click on the button below to read the entire article: 

Red Letter Christians


Posted by on March 28, 2011 in future, theology


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Rob Bell (final part).

This is a sampling of what you find when you do a Google Image Search for “Love Wins.” 

Seriously, I didn’t expect to be so inspired by the sheer variety of representations of such a simple phrase. 

I just thought I was going to add some pretty pictures to my last (for now) Rob Bell-related post…. but the sheer number of ways “Love Wins” is re-cast, having inspired people to do so?  What can I say?  I’m moved by a Google search. 

It’s not just lip service that Rob Bell pays:  The simple message of “Love Wins” (as contradictory as Peter Rollins might find it) is clearly a compelling one, especially to post-Christians, the “de-churched,” or those jaded to institutional Christianity.  It strikes a nerve. 

rollins tweet love others win


It’s too bad that we have spent so much time… (for me, I have spent four blog posts, now)…. talking about hell and the implications for various Christian ideological/cultural parties… when we could have been discussing the simple appeal of the message—that I believe comes from something deeper than what some are accusing as the modern world’s need to “water down” the Gospel.

It’s the desire to affirm that love is the supreme attribute of God and the primary life-characteristic of the faithful (1 John 4:8, 16; 1 Corinthians 13:13).

It’s a desire to see the power of love in action, even in a world full of violence—a power to which Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, Martin Niemoller, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi and now our brothers and sisters in Egypt, have testified. [At the cross, God Himself testified to that power, in defiance of the Roman juggernaut… and demonstrated how pitifully powerless the worst of human violence was, when it came into contact with His outstanding, out-lasting, out-of-this-world love.]

It’s saying that God wins, to say that love wins. 

For God is Love. 

And God’s desire?  That the world might be reconciled to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).   Our desires line up with God’s, when we long for the earth to be renewed, for heaven to come to earth.

“But wait!”  you might say. 

“Don’t God’s love and God’s justice have to balance each other?”


         It’s called mercy for a reason, after all.  Undeserved.

         And if that were the case, why doesn’t the Bible have balancing passages that say “God is justice?”  Seems like it would, were it an equal component of God’s character to His love.

No, we understand God’s justice through the context of God’s love.   God will hold us accountable for how we have wronged each other; He will make things right again, as the Righteous Judge, and settle accounts between every oppressor and every oppressed. [How He does this, however, is not for us to speculate.]

Earthly parents give consequences for broken rules, but if they lock children in their room forever, that would be considered unadulterated child abuse.  (Never mind if they set that room on fire!) Loving parents enact consequences, but they also forgive relentlessly, time and time again, without limit.  Is the love of parents greater than God’s love? 

This message?  That God’s love will dry up eventually, so get on board while you can?  Doesn’t strike me as good news.

Am I a universalist?  No.  (Course, I don’t think Rob is, either.)

Do I probably agree with Rob?  Don’t know until I read the book; based on interviews and reviews, I’m guessing that I’ll agree with 90% of him, at least. 

I say what I do above about God’s love for the purpose of highlighting the inherently scandalous nature of love, not to take a theological position.  I don’t have the answers. But within the huge range of possibilities of the nuances we highlight regarding our beliefs about heaven and hell, can we at least maybe, at least try, perhaps just once, pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top, let that AMAZING RADICALITY OF GOD’S GRACE AND LOVE, AND THE CONQUERING OF SIN AND DEATH BY A DRAMATIC LOVE-ACT OF GOD HIMSELF, SETTLE INTO OUR HEARTS…. and chew on it for a while? 

Speaking of Egypt— While Evangelical Christianity is wetting its pants over Rob Bell, there’s a WHOLE lot going on in the world.

Stuff that Christians, who claim to serve a GOD OF LOVE, should be VERY concerned about. 

Read this, if you haven’t already, regarding this sad fact.

Rather than spew vitriol, which is a testimony to some other God other than the Crucified One which we follow…

Perhaps we should instead testify to the God of Love.  You can start right now by giving to the Adventure Project.  Then give to the Red Cross for Japan and Libya.  Then learn more, speak out more, get in the ears of your leaders for the sake of the voiceless more, sit with the poor and hurting and get to know their names more, pray more, listen more, and celebrate more. 

That’s what “Love Winning” looks like. 

Christ on Earth.  In You. 

1 Comment

Posted by on March 22, 2011 in justice, love, theology


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Rob Bell (part four).


Evangelicalism’s Doom and the Phoenix that is Mainline Protestantism:  A response (sort-of) to David Fitch and Scot McKnight


{DISCLAIMER:  Post (and especially picture captions) are not for the easily offended.}


Faculty David Fitch

David Fitch and Scot McKnight are both evangelical theologians of the highest caliber, both with better-than-average communication skills in a field that’s not exactly known for its sublime prose. 

Fitch has a new book out, that you can learn all about here.  I’m excited to get a chance to read it soon, and as you can see for yourself on his website, you can get a copy at a 40% discount.  What a guy. Smile 

[See “our conversation” (in a manner of speaking) after the jump.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 21, 2011 in church, emergent, future, RCA, theology


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Rob Bell (part three).


What view of Revelation 20-22 do you take?


This whole Rob Bell debacle seem to be basically about competing Bible interpretations [Again, still waiting on my copy… so all these posts could be completely off-base.] It’s not even about who interprets the Bible more literally than the other… it’s really about a) which verses you pick to be representative of what the vague terminologies about hell actually mean, and b) as I said in yesterday’s post (perhaps a bit too casually), whether or not you take the images of atonement in the Old and New Testaments and try to blend them all into one singular event, or if you are okay with saying that atonement happened in a variety of ways.

The (b) on this list deserves a more thorough explanation—and since atonement is one of my FAVORITE theological subjects [yes, I am a nerd.   And I don’t know nearly as much as I act like I do.  I’m a know-it-all nerd.  God help me. ]  I will have to come back to this later. 

As for (a), allow me to offer one example, from the Book of Revelation.

If there is only one view of hell that’s “biblical,” then I guess the image must be that of Revelation 20:10—> where the devil, and beast and the false prophet are all thrown into a lake of fire and sulphur, and tormented day and night for eternity.  And sharing in that fate, we should include everyone who does not give the hungry food, give the naked clothes, or visit prisoners, because in Matthew 25:46, Jesus says that these will face “eternal punishment…” which must mean “eternal torment,” based on Revelation 20:10. 


REV 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

REV 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

So, we’ll be judged according to what we’ve done… and the cowardly, faithless, etc…. [uh oh…] will be thrown into the fire…. and be killed.  It’s a “second death,” after being raised from the dead in order to be judged…So, they’re NOT eternally tortured, they’re just destroyed.  Okay, got it.

Oh, wait….

REV 21:24 The nations will walk by (the new City of God’s) light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

REV 22:12 "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

How can all the sinners be outside the city gates…. if they were annihilated?… Not being formally “punished,” but not being allowed inside the gates, which still I can’t imagine would be very pleasant…

But these three images can’t all be literally true. 

[But also the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are brought into the city…. in submission to the King of Kings….  so what does that mean?  And out of these passages, only 22:14 mentions anything that could mean “faith in Christ” is what “gets us into” the new city… but even that passage emphasizes “works,” and all the judgment passages seem to emphasize “works” over “faith” quite emphatically!  But that can’t be…. right?  Arrrgh! Smile ]

Look at the words of Jesus (and the meaning of the word “hell”), and you run into similar difficulties. 

The point seems to be…. nothing broken/no one who commits wrongs against God or others will enter the new city, that ALL people will be held to account for their lives, and that Jesus is the Judge.

Beyond this, do we even NEED to know or speculate?  (Or condemn differing opinions?)

Um….. can I at least wear clothes at the Judgment?

(Btw, acc. to Matthew 25, shouldn’t the people on the left panel be handing clothes to the people on the right?  Just thinking out loud, here….)

1 Comment

Posted by on March 20, 2011 in theology


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Rob Bell (part two):


What are the Fullerites saying?


Fuller in Pasadena- a.k.a. “The Mothership.”

I’m certain that these past few weeks, numerous conversations have engulfed the Catalyst and the Garth regarding Bell, the Gospel Coalition, and hair products necessary for the perfect faux-hawk.  But I have to wonder, given the education that I know I received, from a evangelical-yet-ecumenical seminary, if current and former Fuller students (especially those who have been a part of the school since it began consciously shaping its image as a “Post-Evangelical” school, although it would never call itself that) are feeling the same thing I’ve been feeling about fellow alum Bell:  “What’s the big deal?”

[Just to add, Fuller is where I went to seminary, in case you didn’t know.  And I think it’s a good school.  There’s also lots of other great places to get a seminary education…. but because Fuller is so massive—the largest seminary system in the country by far—and because it is an evangelical school and this Rob Bell situation is causing the most ulcers amongst the evangelical crowd, I am very curious as to what Fuller alums are thinking about all of this.]

After all, we’re not experts, but we read Stanley Grenz.  We read Clark Pinnock.  Some of us (inc. myself) had the privilege of studying directly under the late, great Ray Anderson.  We (and so many others) ingested N.T. Wright.  We learned about Barth…. all of them are respected voices in the evangelical community; all of them have nuanced, if not opposing positions, on the idea of hell.  Shucks, I even remember reading Donald Bloesch, thinking “Dude, this guy sounds just like the theology I grew up with” and then finding out that HIS view of hell is of a “sanitarium…” i.e., exactly what people are accusing Bell’s view to be!  Even our esteemed president, Dr. Richard Mouw, who is far from a left-wing apologist, wrote a blot post demonstrating that Bell indeed falls within the evangelical camp.  My colleagues and I didn’t all agree with the varying perspectives out there— but at least we would talk about the issue without throwing stones at each other. 

The rhetorical tone in the evangelical world is becoming more polemical, in large part thanks to some increasingly hostile voices (see previous post).  But at the end of the day, this is really not about competing eschatologies  (ideas about the “end times”)… this is about competing soteriologies (ideas about salvation)… or really, the need for some evangelicals to insist that penal substitution (the idea that Jesus took on the punishment for humanity’s sin) is the only “orthodox” way to look at things.   But there again, I’m thankful for my (admittedly imperfect) Fuller education, in that we learned about Aulen, Pinnock, Joel Green (now a Fuller professor), Eastern voices, and others who demonstrated the full range of atonement metaphors in the Bible—and that we need them all for a complete picture.

[I do wonder if Bell would say that “penal substitution” has become a corrupted doctrine in Western theology… b/c that’s probably what I would say:  “Substitution” is a biblical concept; “penal substitution” is mostly a 17th-century Calvinist concept understood through modern legal imagery.]

In other words… I have to imagine that, at least those who graduated from the largest evangelical institution in the country, who might come down with all kinds of opinions about hell— are looking at this Rob Bell thing, and saying…. “What’s really the big deal?”  We’ve been having this fight for ages!


Posted by on March 19, 2011 in theology


Tags: , , , , , ,

Okay, okay… some Rob Bell-related comments (part one).

Well, on Tuesday I was nearly refusing to post about Rob Bell—mostly out of frustration that Love Wins has created so much, in all likelihood, needless attention. 

Now, only a few days later, I’ve hit my limit of standing idly by.

Especially since, after another period of blog-reading and reflecting (and subsequent fuming), I had no less than five blog post ideas pop into my head. 

And so rather than continue to fight this urge, I now present to you, the reader:  five mini-posts about the now-infamous Rob Bell…. over the course of the next five days. 

Ugh… I mean seriously, doesn’t he just LOOK evil?  With that perfectly placed hair, always wearing glasses…. and those, uh, hands!  Hide the children, already!

mini-post #1: Really, Kevin DeYoung?

[…see me have a mini-aneurism, after the jump.]

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 18, 2011 in love, theology


Tags: , , , , , , ,