Monthly Archives: April 2011

Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

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Quit mourning your faith…

I’ve found that where there is a group of Christians who are gathered together to discuss things such as salvation, sanctification, etc… with outsiders to the faith, that there is a tendency to grow very very serious indeed, not just over the subject matter (which is indeed serious), but also in manner, and word, and countenance.  I think that can very easily give outsiders the wrong impression of what it is like to be a Christian.  After all, Christ came so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly.

When there is a group of believers that have become used to singing the old tried and true hymns, but have…grown old with them, oftentimes the singing becomes more of a dirge.  There remains no overflowing of joy or even realization of what the words are actually saying, or their implications of the GOOD NEWS of the gospel.

Why do Christians tend this way, when it is a very very joyous thing to be a Christian?  God is not some cosmic killjoy, nor do we earn extra brownie points the more we walk around with a frown on our faces.  To many outsiders this is a poor witness.  I don’t mean to imply we should be walking around with big silly grins on our faces (if that calls to mind a certain highly popular motivational speaker in the Christian world *cough*Osteen*cough* it is unintentional), however, one of the fruits of the Spirit is Joy.

One problem is that there is a certain fringe segment of the Christian population who has perverted that aspect of the Spirit into some dog and pony show with people laughing and rolling around on the ground/in between the pews.  The joy that scripture speaks of is a calm assured hope and happiness, not some flashy, extremely weird, occurrence.

So, that being said…lighten up people.  If you are a believer, your sins have been forgiven you, you have a whole eternity of joy and peace and fellowship in front of you, Jesus has freed us from the law, we are now enjoying a personal relationship with God Himself.  Smile a little.  There is a time and place for solemnity and also mourning, but there is ALSO a time and place for joy, laughter, hugs, praising with happy, excited voices, jokes, and just flat out enjoying the life that God gives us, not in a worldly way, but in a way full of grace and peace.

Often atheists especially have a dim view of what it must be like being a Christian, well, let me tell you about my life.  I’m surrounded by friends and family who I know will be with me through eternity, I laugh, watch TV, watch movies, lift the occasional glass of alcohol of my choice, eat what I want, listen to what I want, dance, sing, live my life with the assurance that I’m loved by the Creator of the world, not only that, I have a personal relationship with Him that is very fulfilling and life-giving, esp. when I get to work for Him in some capacity here on Earth.  I go hiking, admiring the work of His hands, I make jokes, and use Facebook, I play XBOX, and write science fiction, and on and on and on.

This world is indeed corrupt and flawed, there are rough times and times to mourn and cry…my family and friends, and God Himself are there for that too.  However, God is truly good, and the news of the gospel is truly good…let’s not be so slow to show the relief and joy and happiness that God brings.

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The Moon By Night…

This is the second in a series about Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family books.  If you are new to what I’m doing with her books, please check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This book was also new to me, so it was my first time through it.  It is also a good, but easy read.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Steak with salad, potato salad and marshmallows, scrambled eggs with hashbrowns and coffee of course, spaghetti, pork chops with turnip greens and salad, stew and salad, hash, tuna and veggie salad, fried chicken with potato salad and lettuce salad, and hamburgers.

What did they listen to in this particular story?  The Emperor Concerto, and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, as well as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, also sung a lot, including All Through the Night, Now the Day is Over, I Will Lift Mine Eyes unto the Hills, Tallis’ Canon, and the Eddystone LIght.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? A Connecticut Yankee, Anna Karenina, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict, and The Conquest of Space. The poem “Patterns” by Amy Lowell was also mentioned.  The Diary of Anne Frank played a bit role, but the play was the focus, not the book.

Their furry companions were in the story a bit less, but still there;  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and Prunewhip.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Traveling and camping across country, and lots of people watching.  We also learned that Wallace “Daddy” Austin has a blackbelt in Judo, and were also introduced to Zachary Grey for the first time.  As they traveled they played several games, including one I’d never heard of; the Botticelli word game.  They also did a twist on the alphabet game; going through the alphabet naming a song or poem that begins with the letter; for example A = Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” begins with “Afoot…” and B = “The Blessed Damozel.”  (The only other one mentioned was I = “I Will Lift UP Mine Eyes…”)

Good prayers and quotes included? (BTW, when I can, I try to find the reference and the correct form of the quote,)

“Mark Twain’s” attributed quote, “When I was seventeen I was amazed at how little my father knew about life.  At the age of twenty two, I was amazed how much he had learned in five years.

One that became a theme, “Comparisons are odious” attributed to Donne, Fortescue, AND Marlowe amongst others. lol

One of my favorites from the book:

The Rain is Raining all Around

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

The themes of growing up and also God was strong in this book; the different characters weigh in either directly or indirectly on their own beliefs or thoughts on God.  I think my favorite character in this one was Uncle Douglas…

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Judgmental Hypocrites Annoy Me…

That title is my whole blog post…well, my words anyway.

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall

Proverbs 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud  look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

John 8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom  the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

I’m not immune to any of these; preaching to myself too.

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