I am a naturally curious person. I like to read books with which I will disagree. I like a good theological or political debate. I like to question authority and push the boundaries of the status quo. I doubt that I'll ever feel like I have arrived. I'm always journeying, always evolving.
This led to profound frustration for me when I pastored established, traditional churches. The denomination of my youth is very settled. They have received the truth once delivered to the saints. There is now no need to question or embark on theological exploration. All we need to do is fill in the blanks of our systematic theology notes and memorize the answers. Who needs questions when you already have the answers?
But I like to ask questions. I need to ask questions.
And sometimes, the questions will get you in as much trouble as the answers ... especially when the best answer you can come up with is “I don’t know.”
One of the questions that helped to give birth to Vintage is this ...
Wouldn't it be just like God in the end to let everyone into heaven?
The twit hit the fan this weekend over the promotion of Rob Bell's upcoming book about heaven and hell, Love Wins. It's a book that asks some big questions about the nature of how humanity will relate to God in the afterlife. Obviously, Rob Bell isn't the first person to ask these questions. And obviously, given what we know about Rob, the answers he postulates will stretch and challenge the traditional theological status quo.
But I'm willing to bet that the twit storm is premature.
Vintage Fellowship gives away copies of Velvet Elvis on our website to people in Northwest Arkansas who are interested in our church. I've lovingly referred to Rob as one of our patron saints. From time to time, we have caught some heat for this. People have said to us that we are promoting a heretic, that in Velvet Elvis, Rob denies the virgin birth of Jesus.
This is one of the common criticisms of Velvet Elvis. And it couldn't be further from the truth.
In Velvet Elvis, Rob doesn't deny the virgin birth; he uses it as an example of doubt, of a legitimate question that people ask and struggle with that shouldn't necessarily preclude them from the love and acceptance of a church community.
But so many of our church communities don't like questions. Why bother with questions when we already have the answers?
So, is there a hell? Will God let everyone in to heaven in the end?
What does Rob Bell believe? I don't know; I haven't read Love Wins yet.
But it does seem to me that the church is not well-served by premature criticism of a book that very few have even read. Are we really putting the best face on the church and guarding the reputation of Jesus by taking to Twitter to denounce one another? Wouldn't it be better if the love of Jesus was trending rather than Rob Bell?
But come on, really, is there a hell? Will God let everyone in to heaven in the end?
What do I believe? I don't know.
Thoughts About Rob Bell, John Piper, and Justin Taylor by Jason Boyett
Rob Bell: Universalist? by Justin Taylor