Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rob Bell’s Heaven and Hell

Much has been written already about this controversial book.

Whatever your thoughts/ideas/arguments – the ones that follow are mine and they are based on my reading of the book – all of it.

From what I have read of reviews etc. the main criticism comes from the assumption/assertion that Mr. Bell is a universalist; i.e. that ALL will go to Heaven no matter what your particular religion, belief, creed etc.

I had never heard the term Universalist until I started reading about this book (most of which came before publication.)

So I can’t speak to that issue in a broad or even specific sense but I can speak a little to what I think he says in the book or maybe why he says it the way he does.

Semantics and definitions are important. And it is entirely possible that I missed a boat as big as the Titanic here but …

I think one needs to understand Bell’s definitions of Heaven and Hell first – before weighing in on his supposed premise – that all go to Heaven.

I’ll put this simply and this does leave room for plenty of disagreement with me and/or with him: I don’t think he thinks of Heaven as being just the great over there, place in the sky etc. And I don’t think he considers Hell to be just a place of fire somewhere below. I think he thinks both of these can be/are part of our lives here on this earth too.

You can agree with my interpretation or not. You can agree or not with his definitions. But I think this is at least one place to start rather than jumping onto his “Universalist” premise.

Having read the book cover-to-cover, I’m not sure I agree with the “U” label. Does he have some controversial ideas or positions? No doubt.

But does his book also offer some possible new insights? You bet.

Does he ask thought provoking questions? Definitely.

I won’t try to review the book but will close with one question that is at least worth thinking about (and I hope this is not an “Angels on the head of a pin” argument!):
Luke 23:34 – Jesus on the cross says: “Father forgive them, for they know now what they do.” (italics mine)

Who is “they”? The people who crucified Him? Those who accused Him and allowed/caused Him to be crucified? Those standing around watching it happen? Or does it go further than that? Are any of us, “they”?

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