“When the Helper comes…”

I know Good Friday (along with Easter) has come and gone, but my mind has been milling over something I picked up from watching Passion of the Christ. Scott, our pastor from Emmaus Life, encouraged us to watch the movie to help get a sense of Good Friday’s significance – to sense the depth of what happened, but, more importantly, why it happened. I’ve seen it several times before and every time its brutality simply makes me squirm.

What has been stuck in my mind since watching the movie has little to do with Jesus’s brutal death. Instead, it is something His death led to; it is something He says in John 14, but is said in a particular way in the movie.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:15-17, 26

In the movie this verse is modified to help speed the movie along (because Jesus can sure be chatty…), but there’s a way in which Jesus says it in the movie that stands out to me. Right before this passage, Jesus is talking about His departure, which quite obviously saddened His disciples. Yet when He talks about the Holy Spirit’s pending arrival, He seems to counter their sadness with overwhelming excitement at the Spirit’s coming. In fact, He was borderline giddy – like a kid on Christmas Eve.

In our Christian subculture, much of our language and literature is devoted to God or to Jesus, which is not a bad thing at all. But the One Whom resides in us, the One Whom Jesus was eager to see, is the Holy Spirit. We pray over and over and over about Jesus’s return, but yet how often do we remember the Helper has already arrived? How often do we take courage in God’s presence through the Spirit?

In Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, he raises this very issue – discussing God as though He were distant. Bell highlights the way in which we describe God’s presence, saying, “It was a God-thing,” or “That’s when God showed up.” Yet if we believe what Jesus says in John 14, that the Spirit will be with us forever, then shouldn’t we believe that God is always with us? Isn’t that the meaning to “Immanuel”? And if that is the case, which I strongly believe it is, then shouldn’t we be a little less worried and a little more confident?

Jesus’s excitement in Passion of the Christ has challenged me. I think Bell puts my challenge beautifully:

“The question, then, the art, the task, the search, the challenge, the invitation is for you and me to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach (essentially the substance of life in a living being; “spirit,” “wind,” “breath,” etc.), present to the depths of each and every moment, seeing God in more and more and more people, places, and events, each and every day,” Pg. 110

Christ was excited about God’s ruach coming into the world, into His church, His creation, for eternity. Such a presence, such a life force, will never leave us – not even at our own biddings:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Easter weekend wasn’t about getting our church fix until Christmas. It wasn’t about having the largest, most extravagant church service in the history of church services. And it wasn’t about buying a whole bunch of candy (that’s what the day after is for). Easter is about the entire event of Jesus’s torture, crucifixion, death, three-day burial, and decisive victory over sin and death by resurrecting from the grave. This is what Paul meant when he said, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” (Romans 8:37, but 8:31-39 for full context).

Easter means that if we love and trust God through His Son Jesus, then we’ve received the promise and seal of the Holy Spirit – forever marking ourselves that we belong to God. God and God alone has the power to give life, which means that even if we die in this world, we will rise in the next, following Jesus’s example. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

God is with us in the exciting moments and the boring, the good and the bad, the rich and the poor. He shares in our joy and in our pain. He weeps with us, laughs with us, cries with us, and rejoices with us. Since His Spirit resides in us, He knows what we think and feel. Therefore there is never not someone who can relate to us; we are never alone. Even if everything we ever had and everyone we knew and loved was all taken away from us, we’d still have God. We’d still have more than enough.

That is why Jesus was excited.

God bless.

How We Talk About God…

Have you ever wondered how you express yourself? More specifically, have you ever wondered how you’ve expressed your beliefs or faith? This thought came to mind while reading Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I know a lot of people have some issues with Rob Bell – his theology, demeanor, hair style, etc. – but that’s a different discussion for another time. A passage I read today discusses something that I’ve often thought about in the past and spent many a journal entry ranting over. It isn’t about what we believe or why we believe, but rather how we express that belief.

“Technical language has limits. It can describe some things very well, but in other situations, like love, it falls flat. It’s inadequate. It fails.” – 85

Bell asks a hypothetical question using a character named Sheila who had recently gotten engaged to a man named Simon. When asked about Simon, she begins to list his height, weight, what kind of car he drives, what his shoe size is, and that he’s also in a Tuesday night bowling league. What’s wrong with this picture, as Bell asks? The manner with which Sheila used to describe her fiancé didn’t really convey the message that he was her fiancé. She didn’t get excited when thinking about him; she simply listed facts. And yet everyone around her was expected to believe, somehow, that Simon was Sheila’s fiancé.

A question that came to mind while reading was, what if someone asked me to tell them about God? Would I, like Sheila, list off a bunch of doctrinal and dogmatic statements that describe how the Trinity works or why the particular denomination I’m a part of has the right view? If, as Bell points out, we claim to love God, shouldn’t our love for Him be evident in how we express Him? Instead of listing off all the Bible verses that describe God as Father, wouldn’t it be better for me to describe how He’s my Father?

Like Bell says, technical language is great for other things like giving a description of a suspect in a crime or trying to find the right part to fix your car. But when it comes to love, there’s a different language we ought to use to best convey that love. A couple posts ago, I talked about sincerity and how we sometimes have to fake it because being a sincere follower of Christ isn’t a part of our natural selves. But if were to utilize love – to embody Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 13 – then perhaps we’d find it much easier to be sincere with each other and with someone who doesn’t know about God.

Describing God by various doctrines and dogmas can be useful. But when someone asks us to describe Him, shouldn’t our first inclination be to describe Him in such a way that conveys our love for Him? In Bell’s example, shouldn’t Sheila’s first description about Simon be something about their love and how they were meant to be? In a Christian sub-culture that has so many denominations with their own various doctrinal statements, it’s so terribly easy to follow along and describe God in that technical language. But I agree with Bell; it falls short. It fails to convey the depth of love that God has for us and that we have for Him.

If you can find the time, take a few moments with God today. Recall what first drew you to Him. Remember the things He has done for you, but, more importantly, why He has done them for you. I think the answer to that will always be the same: because He loves you. God’s love for us is what changes our hearts; not our technical language. Therefore the manner in which we talk about Him ought to convey our true identity.

God bless.

Never Too Late to Risk…

Last night I watched a video by Rob Bell. It was a live-stream thing initially (I, of course, watched the replay) and I’m not exactly sure what to call it. At points it felt like a sermon, but then at other points it felt like a stand-up gig. I think he was supposed to simply say what he was up to nowadays, but he seemed to just talk. About whatever.

Whatever it was, I liked it. I know Rob Bell has been called many mean things in many Christian circles, but I enjoyed what he had to say last night. He talked about how he had transitioned from thing to thing (writing books, starting a church, shooting videos, etc.) and said that his reasoning for moving to L.A. was because the next thing he’s doing is there. I don’t know what that “thing” is, but I do know that I can learn from his example.

What is his example? Feeling called by God to a task and simply obeying that call.

If you don’t know much about Bell, he’s more of an artsy kind of guy – at least he tries to be. He believes that God has called us to create, invent, and imagine. He doesn’t call us to check off where we agree about beliefs and doctrines. God calls us to something beyond.

I’m not too familiar with most of Bell’s books, but I know I agree with him about what God has called us to do. I know that there is something more to my life than careers, student loans, doctrines, dogmas, retirement plans, mortgages, car payments, and insurance policies. I know there are certain tasks we’re meant to accomplish – regardless of whether or not we get paid to do them.

Bell’s words were still rattling around my head as I was reading Matthew 20 today. In the first 16 verses, Jesus gives a parable of laborers in a vineyard and a master of that vineyard who pays their wages. Each worker started at a different hour, but they all received the same wage. What caught my attention while reading this passage was how the master of the vineyard found the laborers before they started working for him.

“And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us,’” – Matthew 20:6-7

According to the ESV footnote, “the eleventh hour” was near the end of the work day. I have to imagine that with as poor as ancient Jews were back then, skipping a day of work might have meant not eating their next meal. Instead of calling it quits after noon had past, these workers were so desperate for wages that they almost waited the entire day. And as it turned out, it wasn’t too late to work.

In light of what Bell had to say last night, I’m led to believe that if there is still breath in our lungs and a beat in our hearts it is not too late to answer God’s call. It isn’t too late to complete the task God has for you.

Quite understandably, we run right into the question of “What is that task”? I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out my own task or what it is God wants me to do. So far, I haven’t gotten much of an answer. I’m starting to think I’m not supposed to receive an answer.

If there was a clear and definite answer – if God called to me from heaven to say, “Jeremy, I want you to write a book,” then there wouldn’t be much uncertainty. And when there isn’t much uncertainty – when things are in our control – are we really alive? Rob Bell said that when he began Mars Hill in Michigan, he always had a small sense of fear about the way things were going, but he also said he felt alive.

“I remember the days when you said you weren’t afraid to die/ I don’t think you’re brave for it/ I just think you’re more afraid of being alive,” – John Mark McMillan, “The Medicine”

Bell’s whole point – if I could narrow it down to one thing – was that if there is not something we’re risking, if we aren’t in some way nervous about what’s going to happen, then we aren’t really alive with our faith.

In Philippians 2:12, Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There is a strong connotation of reverence in this verse – a deep reverence to God. But what if it’s also something like Bell talked about? What if Paul was encouraging the Philippians to risk a little for the sake of God? What if Paul recognized the only way to be truly alive was to surrender every comfort of our own?

As I’ve talked about in previous posts, I have intended to risk a little and throw myself into my passions a little more (reading, writing, and even golf). To be honest, I haven’t really done that yet. I’ve grown accustomed to the cycle of day to day routines, which include TV watching and online browsing. Most of the time, neither of those things has any other purpose except for boredom.

Hearing Rob Bell’s words last night was incredibly encouraging – or rather, re-encouraging. I still don’t know what my task is, but I know what I have now and what I’m passionate about now. I’ll start there, risking a gamble on God, and see what happens. In the mean time, I thought I’d ask you all a question that you might have been avoiding: What aren’t you doing that you once dreamed you’d be doing? Again, I’m not talking about careers and jobs and all that jazz; I’m talking about which passions are you cultivating as your work your full time or part time job? Or, like me, have you hung them all up for a little TV time here and a little Facebook time there?

It’s not too late to give it a try. A Twitter account I follow oftentimes posts a tweet that reads something like this; “Even though you’re running slow and not very far, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”

Give it a shot… especially if you’ve got something to lose.

God bless.

Playing the Game of Life: Thoughts on Heaven and Hell…

Yes, this is about a year late on the Rob Bell issue regarding his book Love Wins, but I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain and realized something that I think Bell either overlooks or simply doesn’t handle well.

If I recall correctly (I don’t have the book in front of me; lent it to a friend), he asks a question of eternal punishment and how it applies to humans who have lived only 50, 60, or 100 years at best: How does one in a mortal state deserve an immortal punishment? Meaning, if I live a rebellious life for 50 years, die, and am sent to an eternal life of punishment – how does that fit into deserving something? Why not be punished for as many years as I had lived? That seems closer and more reasonable to what I deserve, doesn’t it?

It’s a good question, but I think it has some major problems. 1. It casts onto God our human sensibilities regarding what one does and does not deserve. 2. It overlooks the fact that the eternal realm of either heaven or hell function in a nonlinear fashion. As Lewis points out; we think of time as a line, but eternity has no beginning and no end. There aren’t seven days in a week – heck, there aren’t even days.

Eternity simply is.

What does that matter in regards to what one deserves? First of all it disproves the seemingly-flawed logic of suffering for eternity for a life lived in 50, 60, or even 100 short years. Second, it alludes, as Lewis says, to the finality of things. To borrow and yet expand an image Lewis gave; If life is a game then the play clock is ticking and something must be done so that the game is not lost. For once it is lost it can no longer be won.

Of course the image of a game being lost or won kind of breaks down when one considers the possibility of players or teams cheating. But you see my point: Eternity is final. Either you’ve seen God the victor or yourself the loser, but no matter what, you cannot turn a loss into a win or vice versa after the game is over. If you could, then why bother playing the game in the first place? If you could change what you deserve, then why bother trying to live a “good” life (or a “bad” one)?

I think the most important point to Lewis’ chapter on Hell is the very last sentence: “This chapter is not about your wife or son, nor about Nero or Judas Iscariot; it is about you and me,” (131). Do not concern yourself with the hypothetical man suffering eternal punishment for his 50-year long hypothetical life lived. Concern yourself with whether or not you’re seeing God the victor through your life or yourself the loser through your life. And to find out the score, we would be wise to ask the Scorekeeper.

God bless.

Rebuking My Self-Righteous Nature…

We never discussed this at length in class, but there have been several lectures with Dr. Falk wherein the Book of Jonah has come into the discussion. I’ve read the book only a handful of times, but I’m familiar with the basic storyline: Jonah is called to preach to the rebellious city of Nineveh, doesn’t want to, gets swallowed by a fish, pops out three days later, and then preaches to Nineveh and sees them repent at his message. Of course there probably some details I’m leaving out, but what caught my attention today was a mixture of things: Luke 11:29-32 and Dr. Falk’s interpretation of Jonah.

It was during my freshman year, taking his Intro to the Bible class, that I first heard an alternative outlook to Jonah. Up until that point my understanding of the text had been very surface level; Jonah’s three days spent in the belly of a fish was to foreshadow Jesus’ three days spent in the tomb. Nineveh’s repentance was to likewise foreshadow the repentance of the Gentiles (at least, as far as I understood it anyway). What Dr. Falk suggested in one lecture was quite surprising to my surface-level understanding of the text. What he suggested was that Jonah’s book may have functioned more rhetorically than literally. It’s central message? It was telling the people of Israel that if God so chose to forgive such a nation as the Ninevites, then Israel had no option but to be okay with that.

Honestly, Falk’s perspective isn’t necessarily a contrary opinion of Jonah; all of these elements could be there in the text at the same time (i.e. foreshadowing of the 3-days in the grave, repentance of the Gentiles, and – what I got from Falk – rebuke of religious self-righteousness). It just came as a significant difference, though, when the only interpretation I had been exposed to was the foreshadowing of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (the 3-days thing). When I was reading through Luke 11 earlier today, I tried to think of Jesus’ reference to the “sign” not in terms of the 3-days’ thing, but in terms of the rebuke of religious self-righteousness.

Last night I watched a small video clip from one of Mark Driscoll’s latest sermons about heaven and hell. Yes, he and Mars Hill are currently working through the Gospel of Luke verse by verse and it just so happened that the topic became heaven and hell. But clearly – at least indicated from the video clip – this was in response to the Rob Bell drama. In the wake of watching this video clip, I wrote out a blog post. I read a lot of Scripture (specifically dealing with heaven and hell language) and was ready to argumentatively dismantle certain comments on the video. And then I read through Luke 11 in light of Falk’s view. I deleted the 1,500-word post.

Perhaps Jesus isn’t just referring to His death, resurrection, and the repentance of the Gentiles. Perhaps He’s also saying, “Take a lesson from Jonah; his self-righteousness hindered him from having the heart of God.” Whether we’re right about hell being an eternal place of conscious punishment or not is irrelevant; what is relevant is whether or not we’re willing to subject ourselves to God’s sovereignty. If He decides that certain people are righteous even though we don’t think they are, who are we to really say anything different?

Like the ancient Jews reading through the book of Jonah, perhaps we need to be reminded that – especially with the often heated discussion of heaven and hell – it’s God who has sovereignty; not our doctrines, dogmas, and systematic theologies. Christ didn’t die so that we could be Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes all over again; He died to liberate us from that pathetically-religious mindset. He came so that we could truly have abundant life.

God bless.

Love Wins: A Review of Rob Bell’s Book…

Salvation is a hot-button topic in modern-day Christianity. To some, maybe even most, it’s a matter of either being “in” or being “out.” There’s no middle ground. No fence-sitters allowed here. I used to be in this camp. All that mattered to me was that I was saved and it was a command from God to let everybody know that they had better join me or suffer the consequences of hell. Black and white. Cut and dry. That’s how it is.

And then I actually started reading the Bible.

Rob Bell is a controversial pastor – albeit unintentionally. I believe the man believes in what he preaches and what he teaches, so when he says he never meant to be an upstart, I believe him. It isn’t a noble cause to dedicate one’s life to simply stirring the pot, to shake things up a bit. Martin Luther wanted to restore Catholicism, not start Protestantism. He had a noble goal in mind, but the masses reacted in such a way that he had no choice but to separate. With that said, I think we have a similar case when looking at Rob Bell.

His book, Love Wins, is a good book. I have read it. I have spent some time pondering a lot of the things he brings up. Whether he wanted to be a pot-stirrer or not, he’s very good at stirring the mind to engage the text of Scripture. There are passages like Matthew 10:22; 24:13 or Luke 21:19 that talk about enduring to the end in order to be saved. Or how about Matthew 25:31-46 and Jesus talking about allowing the sheep to enter because of the love they showed to people – regardless of whether or not they actually knew Him? All of a sudden the black and white packaging around the message of salvation becomes much more colorful.

No, Rob Bell never once says that everyone’s getting into heaven regardless of what they do in this life. He is not a Universalist, although there may be echoes of this in some regards. After reading his book and understanding some of the issues he raises, though, I’m beginning to wonder if he sometimes sounds universalistic only because there are some echoes of universalism in Scripture? I completely understand that this question makes a lot of people uncomfortable and that isn’t my intention here; I merely ask the question to provoke one’s mind towards God. This is also what I believe to be Bell’s agenda; stir the mind in a way that draws one closer to understanding God.

I am personally not a Universalist. It just doesn’t make sense to me. In all honesty, I think Universalism, if taken to the extreme, leads to complete apathy where we just don’t care about anything we do in this life because no matter what we’re joining God in eternity. That’s not what we have when we come to Christianity. The Christian view is that everyone – including the ones who like to brag about their salvation – is going to be held accountable before God for the lives we lived here. Where Bell’s book goes from this point is into a discussion of what happens after one gives an account to God. Hell? Eternal punishment?

One of the most interesting points he raises in the first chapter is the idea of an eternal hell where people are constantly conscientiously punished. Think about it. You live 50, 60, 70 years apart from Christ and because you never came to accept Him you’re now punished for the equivalent of thousands upon thousands of years? That doesn’t really make much sense to me either. That, as Bell says, doesn’t sound like a just God.

Bell’s main argument is that we choose our own hells. We’re capable of choosing freely, aren’t we? That’s what enables true love, as C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity. So if we’re able to choose freely, then, as Bell argues, we’ll get what we want… but also the baggage that comes with it.

A story in Scripture that he highlights is the rich man who Jesus tells to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man walks away devastated by that commandment because he had many possessions. Now, Bell’s point with this story is that the rich man seems to have continued hardening his heart towards the will of God. He didn’t want to give up what he had; he chose his own hell and will suffer the consequences after he dies, which is another interesting discussion from Bell. He rightly suggests that we ultimately don’t know whether or not we get second chances after we die. Near the end of the book he convincingly argues that we shouldn’t wait to find out the hard way, but you see his point: It’s difficult to say with absolute certainty that we don’t get another chance after this life to repent to God.

What I found lacking with his book, however, is any discussion of the “elect” passages in Scripture. There are plenty: Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:27; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; 11:7; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; and Titus 1:1 just to name a few. All of these passages seem to indicate that there are certain elected individuals who will be with God for eternity. Bell raises the issue towards the beginning, but doesn’t address it directly later on.

Also what I didn’t appreciate from the book was the lacking discussion of resurrection. Perhaps it’s because I’m also reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope, which deals with resurrection directly, but I find it to be a crucial discussion especially when dealing with eschatology (end times theology). As Wright argues, heaven is not the final destination; the resurrected world is.

Looking over his book now, though, I find it impossible for a full discussion on every tributary of eschatology to fit into a 198-page book. Rob Bell is a smart man; much smarter than the kind who would think he wrapped everything up in such a short amount of text. It wasn’t his intention to discuss everything fully, but rather to get the discussion going. Given the chaos that has been stirred in the Christian society, I think he did just that. Only, I think he raised a lot more emotions than discussions.

It would not do Rob Bell any justice for me to close the door on the discussions he raises. What I mean is; if you’re interested, buy or borrow the book, read it for yourself with no one else’s opinion influencing your own (or, as I like to say, with no literary goggles), and then join the discussion. Too often, I think, we over-emphasize loving God with all our hearts, souls, and strengths that we forget to do so with our minds. It’s at this point I turn to C.S. Lewis:

“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself,”Mere Christianity, 78

Religious Drama and Rob Bell…

Religious discussions often frustrate me. It’s not religion in general, nor is it discussions of religion that I have a problem with. Rather, it’s the drama of modern-day debates about beliefs and theologies and doctrines that irritates me. Earlier today I read a blog about Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Justin Taylor, the author of the blog, gives his view of Bell’s beliefs (or how he understands them anyway) and then essentially states where he stands in it all.

That doesn’t bother me.

Bloggers do that all the time.

I’m doing that right now.

But when I hopped onto Twitter and noticed that Rob Bell was trending, I thought I’d take a look as to why. And what I found was very irritating, even appalling. Most people who posted about Rob Bell had cast him off as destined for hell because of his beliefs (as if they had a say in his fate). One post even went so far as to say, “Rob Bell, when you feel the flames of hell tickling at your feet… then you’ll believe.”

Simply disgusting.

There were some who defended Bell and still others merely posting a link to the blog I read and those few tweets helped give a little balance to the whole controversy. And yet it still bugs me that we as followers of Christ feel entitled to cast someone into hell because his beliefs don’t align with the rest of ours. I’m not defending Bell’s theology; that’s a different discussion. But what I absolutely hate is the need to make a huge dramatic scene about someone’s beliefs… especially when they aren’t new.

Rob Bell’s seemingly-Universalist beliefs have been known for a while; he just wasn’t as hard-lined about them as he is now. (I must add that it is not entirely clear if Bell believes in Universalism; see here.) To my understanding of Universalism, it says we’re all going to heaven no matter what we believe. This doesn’t really excite me in any way. If I believe that hedonism is the real path that we should all follow, then by practicing what Christianity regards as sin, I’ll be able to join those Christians in heaven? It does not make any sense. But this is my opinion.

What I am more frustrated with, though, is the whole need for a controversy. Why do we feel the need to draw a line in the sand between those who are “right” and those who are “wrong”? Didn’t Jesus affiliate Himself on a regular basis with those who were “wrong”? Didn’t He say that He came to call sinners to repentance? And yet we say goodbye to Rob Bell and people like him because he has a “sinful” theology. It smells like hypocrisy to me.

According to his video, which the blog also posted, Rob Bell is – in his mind – preaching a loving God. And yet we have the nerve to say he’s going to hell? Whether he is or isn’t a heretic is irrelevant; what is relevant is the fact that the decision of his salvation does not belong to any one of us. We’ll say, “Well, the Bible says that Jesus is the Way,” but the Bible also says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,” (Matt. 7:1-2). Condemn yourself if you want to condemn others.

Rob Bell’s beliefs are part of a discussion. Joining that discussion means keeping our own judgments about those who disagree with us to ourselves. We can state our beliefs, we can explain why we believe them; that’s encouraged in conversation. What isn’t encouraged is casting our judgment onto those who believe something different. That’s what causes a lot of wars. People die in wars. Why should we keep the religious drama going when we want to live?

In regards to the discussion, I must say that I believe Jesus and Jesus alone is the Way to eternal salvation with God. I have believed that from day one, was aggressive about it early on, but now realize that an aggressive gospel such as that of Jesus is a contradiction in terms. Jesus’ gospel is there whether we deny it or embrace it. He doesn’t want us to follow Him because a few preachers screamed at us that we’re going to hell if we don’t; He wants us to follow Him because we want to follow Him. He wants our hearts. He wants us to choose Him.

If there is a stance I’m taking, it’s this: I have made the decision to live my life according to Jesus and His teaching. Whether or not Bell’s theology is right or wrong doesn’t matter to me; that’s Rob Bell’s decision. I should decide whether I agree or disagree with his beliefs, but I cannot determine his eternal placement.  Nobody except Jesus will decide if I’m going to be with Him in heaven (or the resurrected world – see N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope) or cast down to hell. According to the words of Jesus, the same will apply to Bell. But Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Judge (Matthew 25).