I just finished reading the most controversial Christian book since Revelation. It was mind blowing, to say the least. A lot of people have said that Rob Bell isn’t saying anything new in the book, but it is new to me. Unlike most Christians (apparently?) I haven’t read every single other book by a Bible scholar on the theology of heaven and hell (see the list below) so yeah, this is pretty disruptive stuff.Now, before everyone clears their throat to rebuke me, Rob Bell, and Satan in one fell swoop, let me say a few things:
1. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with everything in The Gospel According to Rob. To be honest, I haven’t made up my mind about a lot of it. But I am considering it.
2. Rob seems to be a good guy with a good heart and good intentions, so let’s all do ourselves a favor and cut him some slack.
(Woah, I just realized Christians have just as much (if not more) trouble agreeing on things as Congress trying to pass a new budget plan.)
Like my friend Taido said: The internet is really not the place to get into a heavy discussion about this, but I do want to discuss it face-to-face with people I know as I wrestle with things. So here are the things I’m thinking about:
1. Was the afterlife really a non-issue to the writers of the Bible? If so, how should we view it now?
2. What happened when Jesus died on the cross? Did he forgive my sins, whether I like it or not? Or does he only forgive my sins if I ask him to? Or does he only forgive my sins if I “accept” it? Is the work of the cross already done? History? Or is it more current and partially dependent on my response to it?
3. If the work of Jesus’s death on the cross is fully or partially dependent on me doing something specific in response to it, how is that a free gift?
4. Do we think of heaven and hell all wrong? Does Bell make a valid point about heaven and hell being subjective to our attitude and beliefs about ourselves and the story being told about us?
5. Are heaven and hell happening now? Here? In real life, as well as in the future (or the afterlife)?
6. Is it possible that hell is not really “eternal” in the way that we think of it? Could hell be merely temporary punishment with the purpose of correction as God continues to work his perfect will to bring all people back to him?
7. If we don’t need Jesus to get into heaven, do we still “need” him in the same sense of the word like we’ve been saying all along? Or is it less “needing” Jesus and more simply saying “thanks” and steering our lives more towards what he wants for us?
8. Is it possible that things that sound a lot like the gospel could actually be the gospel in disguise? Living and spreading and saving people by another name? Must we say and use the word Jesus? If Jesus is the magic word, what about his real name, Yeshua?
Like I said, I’m working through these things and haven’t yet made up my mind about them. I would love to talk to you about them in person sometime, if you like. However, if your gut response is to shoot me down and tell me I’m fishing in evil waters, dangerously flirting with heresy - I’m honestly not interested in your opinion.
With that, I give you my updated list:
All the books I’ve ever read in my life, in chronological order.
- Superman: Doomsday & Beyond â€“ Louise Simonson
- The Illustrated Man â€“ Ray Bradbury
- The Catcher in the Rye â€“ J.D. Salinger
- Wild at Heart â€“ John Eldredge
- Waking the Dead â€“ John Eldredge
- Dangerous Wonder â€“ Michael Yacconelli
- Messy Spirituality â€“ Michael Yacconelli
- Run Like an Antelope: On The Road With Phish â€“ Sean Gibbon
- The Sun Also Rises â€“ Ernest Hemingway
- Into Thin Air â€“ Jon Krakauer
- Blue Like Jazz â€“ Donald Miller
- Through Painted Deserts â€“ Donald Miller
- Searching For God Knows What â€“ Donald Miller
- Velvet Elvis â€“ Rob Bell
- Rich Dad Poor Dad â€“ Robert Kyosaki
- What Jesus Meant â€“ Gary Wills
- No Shortcuts to the Top â€“ Ed Viesturs
- Into The Wild â€“ Jon Krakauer
- To Own a Dragon â€“ Donald Miller
- No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green â€“ Melody Green
- Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains â€“ Jon Krakauer
- Under The Banner of Heaven â€“ Jon Krakauer
- Three Men in a Boat â€“ Jerome K. Jerome
- Born on a Blue Day â€“ Daniel Tammet
- The Survivors Club â€“ Ben Sherwood
- The Road â€“ Cormac McCarthy
- Bringing Down The House â€“ Ben Mezrich
- Rigged â€“ Ben Mezrich
- Busting Vegas â€“ Ben Mezrich
- The Accidental Billionaires â€“ Ben Mezrich
- Where Men Win Glory - Jon Krakauer
- A Million Miles In A Thousand Years - Donald Miller
- Zeitoun - Dave Eggers
- Love Wins - Rob Bell