Christians and Boring Parties: Love Wins Ch. 7
I had a law teacher in high school who would never tell us what he thought about a given subject and it really annoyed me. I just wanted hear what he believed because I respected his opinion. But for whatever reason, he wouldn’t come out and give us his opinion. I guess he was training us to think. In this chapter I really wanted Rob to clearly state his opinion on hell but he dodged a clear answer. I know some hate this, and I do sometimes, but it has actually caused me to think about what I believe about hell. A clear answer would not have helped me wrestle with doubts and ideas about God that don’t seem to line up. This is one of the reasons why I think Rob’s books should be read in community instead of isolation so we can learn and dialogue with each other.
In chapter seven, Bell focuses on the story of the Prodigal Son and what this tells us about God’s story. He remains true to the context of the story until he makes the jump to talking about heaven and hell. This is where I think Rob might be stretching the story a little too much. He says that in Christianity heaven and hell are separated but in this story they are intertwined. He writes, “In this story, heaven and hell are within each other, intertwined, interwoven, bumping up against each other.” Rob seems to be talking about the heaven/hell that is present in our world now, but some could take it the other way. I also did not hear Bell talk about how the prodigal son made the decision to return home. The father’s love did not depend on whether he came home or not, yet the son does return home and the father runs out to meet him. In using this parable, I think it is important that the son realized his error and made the decision to return home.
Bell then confronts questions that some have about the character of God. How could a loving God send people to hell? Rob writes, “God would, in essence, become a fundamentally different being to them in that moment of death, a different being to them forever.” This idea didn’t sit well with me but I don’t have an easy way to explain it. Part of me just doesn’t want to think about it but that isn’t the right path either. How do we explain a loving God sending people to hell?
“So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will ‘get into heaven,’ that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club. The good news is better than that. This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties,” explains Bell. I fundamentally agree with Rob’s assessment here. Following Christ is not just about getting into heaven but joining his unfolding story now. I have seen too many get their “golden ticket” to heaven and then just go back to their normal lives. To use Rob’s phrase, the good news is better than that. I have also seen Christians slave away like Bell mentions trying to earn God’s favor. They are not happy people. I would not want to party with them. The good news is better than that!
The last chapter review is next and I will show you an ironic typo at the end of this book.