Does God Get What God Wants?: Love Wins Ch. 4
I have been reading various reviews of Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and most of the reviews bring up valid criticisms. What frustrates me is the air of intellectual supremacy that these reviewers hold over Bell. They speak to him as though he is a high school student asking questions that aren’t supposed to be asked. They quickly jump to Bible verses that show that Bell is a universalist and in need of salvation himself. Where is the grace and love that we should be offering our fellow believers? It is far too ironic that the title of the book is “Love Wins” and Rob is not feeling any love from those inside the walls of the church.
Is there a way that we can disagree yet show each other the love and grace that Jesus calls us to? I am frustrated because many of the reviewers are pastors and those in spiritual leadership. I know it is hard but there has to be a better way. Can love win within the church? I would recommend Scot McKnight’s ongoing review of Rob’s book as a model for how we can engage in a loving way.
Ok, on to my review of chapter four…
God’s Power and Purposes
Rob begins chapter four by bringing up two parallel claims that the church holds up together. First, we believe that God is all powerful. Second, we believe that God wants all people to be saved. Bell words the big question of this chapter as the following: “So does God get what God wants?” He quotes various verses that tell about how we are each part of the same family and that in the end every knee will bow. He also connects in Jesus’ parables about the lost sheep, the lost son and the lost coin (Luke 15) to show that God doesn’t give up on those who are lost. But then he includes the word “ever” to explain that God doesn’t give up on us ever, even beyond the final judgment. This is where it gets interesting.
Love and Freedom
Part of the reason that God doesn’t get what he wants is because he values our freedom. Pure love demands freedom. We aren’t robots. People can choose to reject God for their lifetime and even past the final judgment day. But what if after hundreds of years someone chooses to seek God? Do we have a choice to follow Christ after death?
God’s Eventual Reconciliation with All People
Bell quotes Colossians 1 and makes the point that through Christ “God was pleased to …reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” He then goes on to quote some of the church fathers who believed that there would be an ultimate reconciliation of all people to God. Bell writes, “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.” He implies that even after the final judgment people might still have a choice whether to choose God’s story or continue to live their own story apart from God. In the end the question for Bell is not “Does God get what God wants?” but “Do we get what we want?” To that Rob says that we do get what we want. We can choose God’s story or we can continue to live our own story.
- Honestly this chapter was hard for me to stomach. I don’t like the “Christian” story that focuses so much on hell and accepting Christ to escape this torment, but yet I do not see evidence from Scripture for an eventual reconciliation of all people to God. I hope and wish that God will do it this way, but when I read Scripture this doesn’t seem to be an option. I felt like some of the verses Bell used were taken out of their context to prove a point.
- Bell writes, “…it’s important that we be honest about the fact that some stories are better than others. Telling a story in which billions of people spend forever somewhere in the universe trapped in a black hole of endless torment and misery with no way out isn’t a very good story.” I agree with Rob here. There have been numerous times that I have felt like this is really what the book is about. Like Rob I don’t like the simplistic “Christian” story that some tell that emphasizes hell and literally scares people into a relationship with Christ. I see this too often in youth ministry and unfortunately it doesn’t result in true life change.
- So my question is this: can we tell God’s story without emphasizing hell so much? Why do some feel like they have to emphasize it so much? How does an emphasis on hell in convincing someone to get saved actually do more harm in the long run? I still haven’t found a place where Jesus used scare tactics to convince someone to follow him.