Will “Love Wins” Change Anything?

Yeah, I’m jumping on the “Theological Firestormageddon 2011” bandwagon. Though it’s not like my opinion matters, I just had to give my thoughts on this whole controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins, which apparently no one who has commented on has actually read. All the hype is based on the couple minutes of his promotional video, including this post.

[If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Love Wins, which I too have not yet read, appears to be  a pop-treatise on why the Christian doctrine of Hell doesn’t make sense. And why that doctrine has turned millions away from the Christian faith. Since the position Bell seems to be taking is nothing new — people are branding him a Universalist, a position that says all will ultimately go to Heaven —  the fact that has everyone’s panties in knots is that this is coming from a well-known (semi-)evangelical pastor.]

Judging from the blogs I’ve seen, no one’s mind has changed on the topic of hell just yet, nor will it. The position Bell is asserting, along with the fact that such a popular Christian is asserting it, is just drawing the battle lines. People are taking their positions under their shields, wrapping their fingers around their sword handles, and preparing to defend their kingdoms at all costs. Some preemptive trebuchet firings have already flung off. And no one is listening to the other side.

Whatever people have thought about hell, they are continuing to think. Bell is trying to change that. Or perhaps he’s just trying to make Christianity more digestible to the unchurched or the jaded. I for one was moved by his first major release, Velvet Elvis. Not “moved” as in my position changed. But emotionally moved in the sense that I no longer felt alone in questioning what Christianity has become.

So the question is if Love Wins will do nothing more than make another heretic. The theological establishment has a way with easily shoving people out of their circle once the Fundamentals have been questioned. It’s been happening for millennia. It has kept the Tradition intact and “pure.” But today, when the masses now have access to the same information that only scholars and bishops had centuries ago, the circle of elites is becoming less and less relevant. They are continuing to push more and more people out of their circle, but what they don’t realize is that their circle is becoming so small, and the rest of the world is becoming so much larger, they are reducing themselves into irrelevance.

The day is already here when The Correct are merely talking amongst themselves. They are talking loudly, for sure, but no one but themselves are listening. The Correct are grumbling to each other, trying to expel heresy at every turn, while the rest of the world moves on. As more and more pastors are branded as heretics, they escape The Box and join the rest of us.

And so while Love Wins is creating a firestorm between CorrectTheologyLand and LiberalTheologyLand, perhaps no one really cares except those who need to reassert themselves as “Right,” on both sides of the issue. (I admit I’ve been guilty of that.) For many of us, the book will probably either give us hope for a more open world, or it will be just another blip on the timeline of the countless religious wars and declarations of heresy.

So there’s a far deeper issue at hand here than the downfall of the doctrine of Hell. It’s the division separating individuals from each other just because of unwillingness to listen to the other.

But for me, I choose hope. Then again, maybe my mind is already made up too, so I’m just playing the game like everyone else, and this whole post is nothing more than a ploy to boost my SEO and build my platform by using all the right keywords.

But maybe there’s another way? Maybe Love really can win, and someday maybe even bridge divides that have existed for ages. Or maybe not. I guess it’s really up to you and me.

5 Responses

  1. Perhaps it’s just cuz … Love – Mercy – and Grace just messes with peoples heads and hearts. – as it should. xo cat

  2. it will sell a lot of books to a certain mindset that I once was a part of … i’m presently too far removed from religious mind gymnastics to do anything but shrug and say … huh? how much energy is being expended on stuff like this rather than having a good conversation about life with your neighbor and sharing a bbq and a brew together …

  3. Meh. It bugs me that the conservatives (eg Piper) are making such mileage out of the doctrine of hell. It’s not a “core” doctrine imho, and denying it doesn’t make one either a universalist or a heretic. Affirming it makes one a believer in a g0d of torture, imho. Which is worse?

    But then I couldn’t really care less any more, churchianity has become so irrelevant to me.

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia 🙂

  4. I suppose I hope that Rob’s book will change those who have disengaged from their spirituality because of the ‘who’s in and who’s out’ theology of Christianity (and other bigtime religious paradigms).

    I love that he creates a stir, just like Jesus did, though I don’t think he particularly writes what he does to cause a stir. The Pharisees had the same type of arguments against Jesus. Whatever. Jesus didn’t spend too much time trying to explain his theology of love to them. I *do* get a bit tense hearing some of the rhetoric though. I hope no harm will come to anyone from either side….and how I wish there weren’t ‘sides’ at all.

    Rob is a brave man, and I respect his ability to intelligently present his view. I think it’s important to realize he’s not really talking to the ‘protectors of the faith’….he’s trying to engage with the disheartened, the outcasts, the ‘other’. I’ll be surprised if he even responds to the critics. He didn’t write the book for them. They aren’t his audience. Jesus, too, didn’t come for the well, but for the broken. I know my broken heart has been bound up by Rob’s teachings on many occasions.

    I have a ‘love wins’ sticker from Mars Hill on my bumper. If I didn’t believe that the entire universe hinged on those two words, life would make no sense at all to me, and I’d see no purpose to living.

    • Excellent points, Cindy. I definitely agree that Rob is not trying to persuade the Protectors, and just trying to help love the hurt and abandoned. It’s sad that the theological world ignites so violently when someone tries to love the ‘wrong’ way.

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