Picking the Winning Horse

First, as a total aside, you have got to read about this bat that lets any scorpion sting it in the face.

God’s creation is marvelous, isn’t it?

A Whole Thesaurus of Bad Manners

I’ve been watching a couple Rob Bell videos tonight. One in particular was an interview conducted by an obnoxious host who either didn’t care about or couldn’t tell the difference between a hard question and a petulant one.

For example, one question was concerning Japan. “Is God all-powerful but not loving, or is he loving but not powerful enough to prevent this disaster.”

Asking once was okay. This was a terrible disaster. Rob Bell gave a somewhat evasive answer; after all, it’s hard to explain why God lets the world be the way the world is.

I’m pretty sure from the rest of the interview that the interviewer thought he was being pointed rather than fatuous when he repeated the question. I thought, there’s two answers to the man’s question:

  1. God is both all-powerful and loving. Disasters cause us to question this, but God is also far greater than we are, and the universe and life are really difficult for humans to understand. There are several speculations we could give for why disasters happen, but they’d just be speculations. The fact is, some things are still mysteries to humans.
  2. God is both all-powerful and loving, but you’re too stupid to understand it.

That might give him a taste for the difference between being straightforward and being querulous.

Anyway, Rob Bell handled it marvelously well.

Is Rob Bell a Universalist?

The real point of the interview was to harass Rob Bell about his new book, Love Wins and to charge him with universalism.

Rob did a good job of—in so many words—saying that he’s raising questions, not necessarily giving answers. This is the impression that he left Greg Boyd, author of The Myth of a Christian Nation and several other books, with as well. Greg apparently knows Rob Bell and wrote a rebuke of all the people who critiqued Bell before they even read the book.

The host, while carefully maintaining a belligerent polemic, pointed out a couple places where Bell’s book, unlike his interview responses, gave some very clear answers, and they really did sound universalist.

What should we do about this?

Picking the Winning Horse

Let’s establish some parameters here that I think we can all agree on.

  1. Jesus is not going to consult Love Wins when he conducts the final judgment.
  2. The only way Love Wins could possibly affect the judgment is by getting some people to see how great our God really is, believe in Jesus, obtain his grace, and thus live a holy life.

The real question for me is not whether Rob Bell is a universalist, but whether he is getting people to see how great our God really is, believe in Jesus, obtain his grace, and thus live a holy life … with "holy" being defined by Jesus.

I can’t answer whether he’s doing that with Love Wins because I haven’t read it. I can, however, answer it in general. For example, his teaching on being covered in the dust of your rabbi is out of this world. It is so good and so inspiring that it just cannot be ignored.

Even if universalism turns out not to be true, “Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi” will get us one step closer to everyone being saved!

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Further, I’m pretty sure that the hard-headed, hell-defending, purposely ignorant and sometimes petulant, fatuous, querulous, and belligerent purveyors of the “believe in this version of the atonement and you’ll be saved even if you’re evil” gospel … I’m pretty sure those folks are turning more people away from God than toward him.

Sorry, but mostly they’re making people who are twice as much disciples of hell as they are.

So, if this is a horse race, and the goal is to bring people to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), then I’m betting on Rob Bell over the fatuous folk.

My Final Judgment on Rob Bell

I don’t really have time to judge Rob Bell, and I highly suspect Jesus wouldn’t pay much attention to my judgment, anyway, except to see how harsh it is so he knows how harshly to judge me.

But I need to have time to judge a couple things so I can determine where to learn from Rob Bell … and where not to. (Kind of like the time I’ve spent learning where to follow and mostly not follow the ignorant—on purpose—and querulant mainstream folks I mentioned above.)

Jesus occasionally accumulated masses of followers. Almost exactly as occasionally, he offended most of them so that they quit following him.

We have to be careful to speak the truth and keep people on the spot. People, in general, are liars and hypocrites. (Yeah, you and me, too, unless you’re making war on that part of you.) The lying and hypocrisy are not always real extensive, but where we don’t have people around us telling us the truth about us (and smiling and loving us at the same time) … well, most of the time we end up hiding some really important problems.

I’ll bet you think I mean internet pornography, drinking, or gambling or something like that.

I don’t. Those are important, too, but you already know about those. No, I mean coldness toward your wife, self-interest, ambition, and worshiping money and comfort by the way you live. I mean no real effort at overcoming the areas where you don’t get along with people, and I mean disinterest in finding out what God wants you to change today.

What does that have to do with Rob Bell?

Chances are, nothing. I happen to be a Christian teacher myself, and I use some of the same methods when I teach, so I’m prone to envying his incredible skill at getting a point across and keeping an audience’s attention. But I have enough of an audience myself to have to warn myself that having an audience doesn’t matter. The truth matters.

My goal has to be to speak the truth, not worry about audience size or audience approval. The real Truth is a being, and he can create his own audience, large or small. When he was on earth it was both, sometimes changing from one to the other quite rapidly. More than once his audience suddenly prepared to kill him!

Rob’s a charmer. Good for him. I’m not ready to follow him in that.

But getting people to be covered in the dust of the Ultimate Rabbi? Now that’s an awesome goal, and Rob Bell will talk you into it.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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2 Responses to Picking the Winning Horse

  1. Jeff Korhorn says:

    I would love to see your response AFTER you read or listen to Rob’s book, because I like your research on church history…something I need to get into more.
    I have hiked with Rob’s crew (Ray VanderLann’s ministry), so I got the terrain & Hebrew angle going for me, but post-bible church fathers, I don’t have.


    • Shammah says:

      I can’t promise I’m ever going to read the book. I may. I have a close friend who’s already read it. Maybe I’ll ask him for more details.

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