Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Firestorm Behind "Love Wins"

Maybe it's because I live in the Bible belt of the south, but the news of megachurch pastor Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins" is making headlines locally and causing quite a stir in the evangelical world. Check out the big AP article going around here.

The book isn't available yet, so I can't speculate on the full text, but the premise that Bell is promoting (smart move... marketing it early with the controversial) questions whether or not there is a hell, and how is it fair that only Christians go to heaven --- when they are such a small portion of the world's population.

Many Christians are up in arms over Bell's claim. But I have to honestly ask them, "Have you not questioned it too?"

Before we get into it, let me start by saying that I am always worried about putting too much "Jesus talk" into my blog... because I don't want to ostracize those with different beliefs than mine. (And I hope my readers of different faiths/backgrounds know that I not only respect your ability to disagree, but I warmly welcome it. I wish there was more open, honest and respectful dialogue between people of different faiths.) So while it might make me uncomfortable at times, I don't believe in hiding my beliefs either. And I don't think there are enough of us that are willing to stand up and speak on our faith (respectfully) for exactly that reason. We don't like to ruffle feathers. The REAL reason those "coexist" bumper stickers are so popular: because it's easier to pretend that we all believe the same thing than it is to respectfully argue our differences. You will not meet one Muslim who would argue that Allah is the same entity as our God. Why should Christians feel like we need to? I could do a whole other blog post on that, but I'll refrain for now... since this post will likely be long enough, as is.

So back to the book and topic at hand... I think Christians do ourselves a disservice by pretending that we never question what the Bible stays. Let me make it clear - that does NOT mean I don't believe what the Bible says. I don't believe you can pick and choose what parts of the Bible you choose to believe and shy away from the ones that make you uncomfortable. I take the warning in the end of Revelation very, very seriously - we do not add anything to the Bible and we do not take anything away from it. I believe the Bible is divinely inspired and there is no "reworking" what it says to make us more comfortable with its words.

But I'll be the first to tell you, there are things in the Bible that are hard for me to comprehend. I struggle with the same thoughts most of us believers, if they are honest enough to admit it, do (or should). I think we'd be hardpressed to find a honest Christian who can say without reservation that they have no questions about the Bible. That they don't have any things they want cleared up for them when they enter heaven one day. And God doesn't expect us to!!!!! Why we put on this "gameface" for God that we - without reservation - accept what He says is silly to me. He knows our heats. He knows we struggle. He WANTS us to struggle. We're not pushing ourselves spiritually if Christianity comes "easy" to us. There is nothing easy about it. Unfortunately, here in America, Christianity has worked its way into our secular culture. Most people identify themselves as Christian because they have embraced the cultural and moral norms associated with the faith. Again... tangent --- that could be a whole other post again.

The point is, the whole idea that nonbelievers who are wonderful people might not go to heaven BOTHERS me. It should bother all Christians. It's a hard statement.

But here's the great part:

I AM NOT JUDGE.

Neverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr in the Bible does God give any inkling that He wants us to do His job for him. No sir, He is more than capable to decide on the fate of His beloved children allllll by himself. He does not need, nor want, my two cents in the matter. I don't get to judge the fate of others. THANK GOODNESS for that or those people at the Dunkin Donuts in Apex who would ALWAYS be out of decaf coffee when I'd stop in on the way to work would be in troubbbbleeeeee.

The fact is, I'm no biblical scholar - but I have been exposed to God's Word from a young age and have been actively studying it for the past 5+ years. What I've gained from it, is more confidence that in God is the absolute perfect balance of grace and truth. The times I struggle with the truth part of it, I remember God's grace. The times I get too wrapped up in grace (and there is such a thing), I have to remind myself of God's truth. You don't get one without the other. They are gloriously weaved together.

So from what I've experienced through God's word and in my own life - I am okay with admitting that "I don't know" some things. I know what God's word says about them.... and I will never deny His words. But that doesn't give me the right to judge someone else. Only God knows someone's heart. And he rules with grace and truth. And honestly, that is good enough for me.

I just wish more people in the church would feel comfortable enough to do the same. The judgmental attitude we see in the majority of today's churches is NOT biblical. We have every right (and the responsibility) to tell people what the Bible says about things, but we should NEVER be judge and jury on someone's life. And on the other end of the spectrum, I see a scary number of churches that are playing quite liberally with the Word of God. Churches who are afraid to speak the truth, and only want to show God's love and grace ... which is where I see this book going.

With God, you just aren't going to get one without the other.

I know this one is a doozy, so anyone who wants to delve more deeply into this than simply leaving a comment are more than welcome to email me at myprettylittlethoughts at gmail.com.

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