Sunday, March 20, 2011

bell's hell

I'm looking forward to gaining some further insight into what Rob Bell thinks of heaven and hell, but for now what intrigues me is the "hell" around the launch of his latest offering. No, I havn't read the book - but I probably will.

If you're not aware of the "controversy" surrounding Bell's new book "Love Wins", then you obviously havn't been on facebook, twitter, or youtube for the last week or so (an offence worthy of some congratulatory praise).

I like Kevin DeYoung's review of the book - particularly in that he takes Bell to task on some sourcing and historical accuracy. Amongst other things, I think he does a nice job on the need for a writer to take responsibility for what he or she is saying - if a work is seeking to shape people's understanding of theology, then the author needs to own that. As much as I enjoy wrestling with material from guys like Bell and MacLaren - disclaimers and presumptions of how opponents will respond to their gear has become tiresome.

There are two questions, though, that keep bouncing around in my mind as I follow the lengthy comment threads and newsfeeds:
  1. Why are so many so needy to so quickly find a label for someone who dares ask the same question that millions of people are asking everyday about the character of God? Is it possible that the term "heretic" or "universalist" becomes a convenient security blanket adequately covering our own discomfort with a literal hell? Maybe if we openly engaged with the questions Bell has raised we might be better equipped ourselves to speak hope into the horrible reality of a forever-separation from our Creator... rather than giving off the never-ending vibe of judgmentalism to a generation who are frankly jacked off with it.
  2. Do we know why we get so upset with the existence of a literal hell being brought into question? If our level of emotion rises because we genuinely recognise that true justice requires ultimate and undeniable consequence, then maybe that's justifiable ... but sometimes I wonder whether we over-compensate our disgust in an attempt to reassure ourselves that we're "in".
So, my hope is that the hell Bell has managed to find himself in (or orchestrate?) at the moment will not just help him sell lots of books (well, I kind of hope that), but also provide a great space for me to answer my two questions.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Every year God gives me a word that helps me understand a theme for ministry. This year the word is 'exposure'... And I've been learning a lot in the last week through this word.

I began by thinking that the meaning of exposure was that my ministry would gain further exposure in different arenas...this might be true, but it's not the entire picture.

Here's what God has showed me in the last week:

1. HE is exposing ME to the work  He is doing.
... Last week I walked into a room full of parents and students celebrating the student's graduation of VETAMORPHUS as I was going to run part of immerse with some of them, and God revealed that exposure wasn't just about my ministry being seen, but me seeing what God's doing.

2. Exposure means that the WEAK parts will be seen too.
... I shared some of my thinking on Story-formed discipleship with a bunch of Baptist youth pastors on Thursday. And they fielded some great questions... Questions that exposed the weaker and half-baked parts of my thinking - and I came out hopeful that some of what I shared was helpful, but also feeling a bit battered from being "exposed".

Both of these lessons have been exceptionally humbling and helpful.