Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love Wins . . . in review

I have a theory: if I get to the place where I am unable to read, listen to, or associate with things or persons that challenge my belief system, then I am in a dangerous place.

Strange place to start a post about a book review, you might think.  That is, unless you've heard about Love Wins already.  When I told some that I was reading this book I got responses like, "you're READING it?" or "Oh, I've heard about that one."  I had heard of Love Wins before I read it.  I first heard about it in a review that made it sound like the biggest piece of heresy in several millennia--which is of course, why I had to read it.  Not because I'm looking for heretical writings, but because I have to see for myself.

So, I set to reading it.  I actually got it as a gift from Nina--my mother-in-law.  Thank you, Nina.  I finished most of it on a plane ride, and the rest of it shortly thereafter.  I LOVED it.  I STILL love it.  The thing I love the most is that Rob Bell is encouraging "open, honest inquiry into the things that matter most."  This unapologetic, question-everything philosophy is present throughout this book.  This is less a book that tells you what to think, and more a book that longs for everyone to think. . . something, and to think it on their own.  I love books like that.

Bell has some interesting perspectives, and as far as I can tell, they are all based on biblical principles.  He simply isn't afraid to ask the tough questions.  He tests his faith and his tradition against what the Bible actually says, and he refuses to use tradition as an explanation of his faith.  This book is somewhat of a description of the fundamentals of christianity through the eyes of Rob Bell.  His perspectives are not as outrageous as I expected based on what I had heard and seen. . . I'm beginning to wonder how many people have formed opinions without having read the book themselves.

In his chapter, Here Is The New There, he talks about the concept of heaven on earth.  He suggests that this heaven, this healing, this new life that Jesus promises can start now.  In his chapter called Hell, he talks about hell on earth and addresses the concept of free will.  He says, "it is vital that we acknowledge that love, grace, and humanity can be rejected.  From the most subtle rolling of the eyes to the most violent degradation of another human, we are terrifyingly free to do as we please."

He also talks about the fact that some people just don't like the words sin and hell, but that there are very real physical situations happening in our world right now that require "words to be that intense, loaded, complex, and offensive, because they need to reflect the realities they describe."  In essence, he doesn't write off the person who doesn't like the stuff they've heard.  He doesn't pretend that the uncomfortable stuff doesn't exist.  He offers a perspective that allows us to admit that there are tough issues and uncomfortable questions, and invites us to discover "the good news" by embracing and engaging.  He invites us to believe in God rather than religious tradition.

This leads me to my second theory: I don't have to believe everything I hear or read.  That's why I feel so free to read this book.  Instead of being afraid of a book that may challenge my belief system, I will instead accept the challenges and set out to clarify for myself whether, in fact, my current system of beliefs needs an amendment.

So, do I agree with Rob Bell?

It doesn't matter.  This book has given me new excitement about discovering my faith, challenging the traditions, and getting into the Bible.

That matters.

Other books I recommend:

Sex God by Rob Bell
Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus