So to the Preface and some first impressions from a quick read of the whole book.
According to Bell, millions of us
…have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in…heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in Hell with no chance for anything better… This is misguided and toxic…
Bell has written this book, he says, in a spirit of open and honest enquiry to enter into a discussion (which is itself divine) and to show us that the historic, orthodox Christian faith is a deep, wide, diverse stream with many opinions. Except presumably the one above, which is “misguided and toxic”
So Rob Bell lays his card on the table from the start.
“In this book,” he appears to me to say, at least from a first reading, “I will set up some caricatures of the Christian which are obviously half-truths, or couched in such as way as to invite disbelief, and then I will invite you to disassociate yourselves from them. In some cases I’ll keep my options open and hold two opinions at once, so that I can defend myself from the worst charges of heterodoxy. I’ll say I’m going to address some big questions, but not actually answer them. I’ll quote some Scripture of course to back it up, but selectively and in some cases out of context, even though that’s what I am suggesting others do. And I’ll imply that if you reject my message you are rejecting Jesus, even though that’s what I am accusing others of myself. Finally I’ll appeal to the human attractiveness and reasonableness of my version of what I will call orthodoxy as the final arbiter so that you will want to accept it, and will appear to be inhuman and callous and denying love itself if you believe anything else.”
That’s my first honest impression… Let’s see if it survives a re-reading chapter by chapter.
And while I am trying to be honest, maybe there is something in me that secretly worries he might be right, and what I have been taught that Scripture teaches is just wrong. Really I shouldn’t worry about that. I should let Scripture speak for itself. But all of it. That’s my bottom line, by the way, in this journey. The truth and utter reliability of the Bible. So with that in mind let’s see where God’s Word and Rob Bell together gets us.