Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 6)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Bell opens his chapter, "There are Rocks Everywhere," with some seemingly strange stories of people encountering Jesus in supernatural ways.  Rooms filled with peaceful feelings and white light kind of stuff.  He admits that these sound bizarre, but while he often hears accounts the that seem so unexplainable, he recognizes that many are very real.  In an effort to understand what these strange stories have to do with Jesus, Bells shifts gears and discusses a rock that Moses strikes to get water for his people.  In the provisions of that rock, Paul claims we can see Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4, although Bell only gives the chapter).

In this discussion, an interesting thing has happened in Bells' presentation.  It seems he is shifting away from the radical and shocking approach and slipping into a soft teaching style about Jesus.  It starts on page 144, just past the line that marks the coming of a new section.  There are almost no question marks for four pages!  Bell is starting to make a claim, a proclamation.  He's telling, not asking.  And it is not far from what most Christian preachers and teachers would preach and teach on any given Sunday.  And then on page 150 there's another line, a clear indicator of the end of the section.  What could possibly follow what Bell calls the "Jesus story" (150)?

Within only a two sentences, Bell moves back to what many may see as universalism.  Bell writes, "Within this proper, larger understanding of just what the Jesus story even is, we see that Jesus himself, again and again, demonstrates how seriously he takes his role in saving and rescuing and redeeming not just everything, but everybody" (150-151).  He uses a verse from John 12 that states that all people will be drawn to Jesus and then makes a point to say, "All people, to himself" (151).

But there is, mixed in, some good in this first part of the chapter.  Jesus is for everybody, every culture, every people, as Bell argues.  Clearly Bell wants people to see that they need Jesus.  He has a strong desire for all to find him, now.  But there's also some mixed indications that Rob Bell is not pleased with some of the Church's behavior.  He writes,
"When people use the word 'Jesus,' then, it's important for us to ask who they're talking about.  Are they referring to a token of tribal membership, a tamed, domesticated Jesus who waves the flag and promotes whatever values they have decided their nation needs to return to?  Are they referring to the supposed source of the imperial impulse of their group, which wants to conquer other groups 'in the name of Jesus'? Are they referring to the logo or slogan of their political, economic, or military system through which they sanctify their greed and lust for power?" (156).  
He challenges the 'them' Christians about which he passive-aggressively writes.  And the challenge is not off based, it's just that there are strong hints that Bell is angry at any within Christianity that don't look like him and his flavor.  In this chapter (and others) we can see that Bell loves the lost and wants to see people turn to Jesus, but for those tribes, cultures, families, and individuals that have turned to Christ but still maintain was might be considered an immature understanding of the gospel, Bell offers very little love or compassion.  Instead, throughout the book, these people seem to be on his hit list. He appears unwilling to extent any grace to this group of Christians.  So he draws a contrast, showing this reader how he defines what a church that follows Jesus looks like.  He continues,
"Jesus is both near and intimate and personal, and big and wide and transcendent.  One of the many things people in a church do, then, is name, honor, and orient themselves round this mystery.  A church is a community of people who enact specific rituals and create specific experiences to keep this word alive in their own hearts, a gathering of believers who help provide language and symbols and experiences for this mystery" (156).
With the argument he is presenting, Bell discusses these rituals and continually states that nobody is excluded from the need of Jesus.  The extent of that need however, is unclear considering his chapter on hell (Chapter 3).  Does everybody need Jesus to avoid a longer time in a purgatory-style hell, or is there some other reason?  The question about why everybody needs Jesus goes unanswered in favor of the idea that Jesus is for everybody and he will eventually get them all. 

And then, on page 158, there's another section dividing line.  Following the line, 158 pages into the book, is a question that most the readers are likely asking.  After a 157 pages, Bell has asked how the premise that's printed on the cover of his book relates to Jesus.  He asks, "So how does any of this explanation of who Jesus is and what he's doing connect with heaven, hell, and the fate of every single person who has ever lived?" (158).  But before I continue, I have to wonder what Bell means by "this explanation"? Is he referring to the previous page, section, chapter, or even the previous 157 pages?  And about "what he is doing"? Does this refer to saving everybody or something else?

With the exception of Bell's hint that worship in names other than Jesus could still be worshiping Jesus, Bell provides a pretty explanation of Jesus.  Unfortunately, he doesn't answer the question.  He says nothing about how 'who Jesus is' and 'what he is doing' relates to heaven or hell.  He only focuses on the idea that Jesus is for everybody.   And that's where the chapter ends.

I had very little notes written in the margins and between the sentences. This chapter is one that a Christian can read and say, "Ah, that's nice," without really seeing any glaring differences about what they know and love about Jesus.  Bell seems to be cooling off after the previous few chapters. However, for those who only spend 2 hours a week in Church and nothing more (that's only 4 and a half days communing with God), and maybe for those that spend no time in church, no time reading the Bible, and no time praying but claim to be 'spiritual,' one might feel differently.  And maybe it is this person that Bell had in mind while writing Chapter 6.   

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 7)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.