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:
- 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.
- 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".