Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Love Wins: my review

Having now read through 'Love Wins' four times from cover to cover, I finally feel equipped to offer a few thoughts on it. So here is my review of 'a book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived.'

Firstly, it strikes me that many people are reading 'Love Wins' for the purpose of discovering what Rob Bell believes. They need to categorise him. Does he fit? Does he support or oppose them? Should he be accepted? Or discarded?

The trouble with that approach is that 'Love Wins' is a very tricky book to box.
Simply because the book is an exploration of possibilities.

Does Rob Bell think that every person will EVENTUALLY end up choosing paradise?
He raises it, explores it and affirms it as a POSSIBILITY.
Does Rob Bell think that some people will suffer apart from this paradise?
He raises it, explores it and affirms it as a POSSIBILITY.

In his own words,
'Will everybody be saved,
or will some perish from God forever because of their choices?
Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don't need to resolve them or answer them because we can't, and so we simply respect them, creating space from the freedom that love requires.'
(pg. 115)

'Love Wins' is to be recommended for this very reason: it opens you up to the possibilities. It does not tell you what to believe but instead helps you identify what views you currently hold, and then assists you in weighing up whether these views needs altering. Rob writes in the preface, 'If this book does nothing more than open you up to the ancient, ongoing discussion surrounding the resurrected Jesus in all its vibrant, diverse, messy, multi-voiced complexity - well, I'd be thrilled.' (pg xi)

What Rob Bell does get across, however,
with absolute certainty,
is that views on life after death
should not be held with absolute certainty.
Many, many people in our culture baulk at the very mention of Christianity because the Christian voice that they have heard most of all, spoken with greatest volume, is a negative, scathing, unswerving, judgemental voice. It's a voice unwilling to enter into debate because you are wrong and they are right. It's black and white.

I'm sure there are other fallibilities of the book, but this, for me, is the utmost reason why criticism of the book can be expected: it does attempt to shake walls that do not want to be shaken.

What I think Rob Bell successfully shows in 'Love Wins' is that the topic of life after death is anything but black and white. It is a topic which, for obvious reasons, is rife with speculation and uncertainty.
And we should handle it as such.
But that does not mean that we should ignore the topic.
Or treat it as unimportant.
It is extremely important.
The possibilities need to be explored and considered by all.
Because, to quote Rob, 'how we think about heaven directly affects what we do with our days and energies now.' (pg 44) In other words, our beliefs, hopes, dreams and expectations for the future will all shape our approach to the present.

Because beyond all the questions, tensions and speculations, 'Love Wins' does offer a clear and concrete rallying cry. 'Love Wins' is a call for all of us to love this world more.
Here.
Now.
It explains why we should be living lives which bring heaven to earth. Here. Now.
Lives which confront hell. Here. Now.
Suffering.
Abuse.
Poverty.
Injustice.
Lives which spread heaven. Here. Now.
Peace.
Joy.
Equality.
Beauty.
Love.
All dancing across the earth.

And any book that does that, in my opinion, should be commended.

1 comment:

Ron Krumpos said...

Which Afterlife?

In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism:

(46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

(59) True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

(80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote "In God we all meet."