Two Faces of God and Rob Bell's "Love Wins"

Rob Bell's "Love Wins" was recommended to me. While looking for the Book in Singapore, encountering 'out of stock', was happy to find it in a friend's book store. She gave the book to me and asked me to write a comment on it. So here is my comment on the book. But before that, I would like to put things in context and talk about the character of God.

God is Both - Love and Just
God is both love and just and hence I use the phrase "The Two Faces of God" to proved the context. There is the face of "LOVE" and there is also the face of "JUST" which requires God to punish the wrong doing and evil. One side is Heaven and the other side is Hell. Both belong to God and God has both. The forms the two extremities of doctrines about God and salvation of man. Within these two extremes, we shall find degrees of love and hell combinations about the salvation of man.

In the past, there are preachers who stress on the punishment, hell and brimstone. If you don't receive Jesus Christ as you savior, you shall be condemned to hell and fire eternally. Repent now while you have the chance. Don't be too late. They believe in scaring people by fear so that they can be saved. It works for some and does not for some others. It is not too popular now. There are people who feels there is a need to revile this aspect of the gospel. Hell is not to be taken or spoken lightly. It is a serious matter.

God cannot ignore the plead and suffering of those who were murdered and abused. God have to punish the evil doers and save the victims. God have to give the victimized something much better in exchange in order to be fair. 

There is continued popularity to stress on the 'Love' side of God. It is more agreeable and appealing. Love is not easy. Talking about it is easy. But doing it is very tough. Nevertheless, love in practice touches the heart, and draw out a willing conversion that last.

Either extreme, love or just, is wrong, because God is both. There is justice in love and love in justice. Love is not about a giving it and spoiling the loved ones. Love is not giving drugs/alcohol to the drug/alcohol  addicts who ask for more. Love is saying no to such requests for continued bad addictions.

Similarly, 'Justice' is not about just punishing the violator but will take into consideration the circumstances and motivation that leads to the violation. While Adam, the first, sinned. The 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ, provided us a 2nd chance back to God (Actually, it is more. Adam is created in the image of God where as Believers are rebirthed by the Holy Spirit as Children of God with the God's kind of Zoe life). I think this is the background doctrine of Rob Bell's Love Wins... Love must provide a 2nd chance and love wins eventually. Page 109 of the book says .. "history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God."

When is Man's 2nd Chance ?
Orthodox doctrine tells us that man is given the chance of salvation by believing in Jesus in this life only. If he misses this he shall end in hell eternally (Heb_9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment).

Hell is Temporary and Postmortem Salvation
Rob Bell believes 'Hell is Temporary'. He spent a number of pages 91-92 to explain the Greek Aion of Kalazo as a period or an age and not eternal. He cited the parable of the Goat and Sheep. However, the Greek word used in the parable was "Aionion" and not "Aion of Kalazo" and Aionion means eternal. It would be great if Rob Bell can cite the Greek version of the Bible that he used. Someone even argue that if Hell is temporary, then the Heaven is also temporary since the same Greek words were used.

Temporary Hell is Not a New Concept - Purgatory?
Bell's concept of a temporary hell is not new. The Catholic has it all along in the concept of "Purgatory". If one has paid the debt of sins in purgatory, he will be set free to go up to heaven.

So Bell believes that even when man missed out the opportunity to receive Christ in his life, he may have a 2nd chance to receive Christ in hell. He will remain in hell until he repent and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior. So, we can say that Rob Bell is not a pure "universalist" which is a believe in the salvation of all men no matter how.

Is Jesus the Only Way? How about those who never heard of Jesus?
I personally believe Jesus Christ is the only way - He is the ONE who paid for our Sins and be Resurrected for our Rebirth. The salvation bought and brought by Jesus transcends time.

But the way salvation is obtained is different from different periods of time (this is known as the Dispensation Doctrine). Very early in the Bible, we have this man Enoch saved before the 1st coming of Jesus. Enoch walked with God and God took him away Gen 5:24. In 2King 2:11 we have Elijah being taken to Heaven without dying. The OT saints like Abraham, Moses, Jacobs etc were all saved into heaven before the coming of Jesus Christ. None of them go through the "sinners prayer" to be saved. Their salvation is based on the certain future crucification of  Jesus for their sins.

In Act 10:22, we have the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, an upright and God fearing man who seek God and had an encounter with Angel who told him to get Peter who would told him how to be saved. The reason to get Peter was more for Peter's sake to show him that God accepted not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well for salvation.

What does this mean? It means that anyone, throughout history, who desire and seek after the true God, God will reveal Himself to them and receive them. In Jesus' birth, we had the wise men (not just 3, 3 is inferred from the 3 gifts. They have a large group of followers and servants with them) who presented gifts and worship Jesus the baby as God. How could they know? Did not God show them? Are they not saved?

The love of God perhaps can be seen in a new light in the way He punished Cain for the murder of Abel. Cain was not sentenced to death like we would expect but Gen 4:11-12 ESV  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.  12  When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." God even gave him a special mark for protection! Is God trying to give time for Cain to repent? But Cain went away from the presence of God. When will Cain repent? We cannot be kinder than God and need to understand the evilness of evil. Some, like the devil, will know not repentance.

What Should We Do in the Meantime?
While some man may seek God. There are many who will not. There is the presence of evil spirits that deceive people through all generations. Even so, we are grateful that God leave enough evidences in the created world for men to discover Him and seek Him.

We cannot leave the salvation of men to chance, to the influence of the evil spirits, but to follow the command of Jesus in Matt 28:19-20, to go to make disciples of all nations. We shall leave the outcome to God and leave all other unknown to God, trusting that God's love and justice will prevail. Even Rob Bell is busily engaging people and telling them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the best review I have seen yet. You are the first one to connect the concept of purgatory. Nice job. Its also clear that you may have actually read the book and most importantly, paid attention to what you read. Keep up the good work. I wish all the other idiots in the blogosphere who have published reviews of Rob's book without ever having read it would follow your example.