According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Testimonial: Rob Bell is NOT a Universalist (and I actually read “Love Wins”)

Just as a reminder, it has been said in many previous articles on this subject that Rob Bell is not a Universalist because it would be inconsistent with his position of "Libertarian Free Will." Further research on this subject may be found through this blog's sidebars on Calvinism/Arminianism, Love Wins, Rob Bell and Universalism. One may also begin here -

Otherwise Greg Boyd makes some deft nuances to the discussion that quickly followed in the weeks and months ahead after the publication was released and which immediately demanded that I, among many others, set the record straight as to what Emergent Christianity was, and wasn't (as declared by well-meaning Emergents and Evangelics, and some who were not so well-meaning nor truthful).

Many long months later Clark Pinnock's statement, "Scripture is normative, but it always needs to be read afresh and applied in new ways” (CT, January 5, 1979: 23-29; pls refer to - seems as prevalently true today as ever. And I trust that these many-posts-later within this blog have helped to shape the discussion to what Christianity today should feel and smell like. I believe the emergent, moderating positions found in Catholicism and Protestantism have a lot to offer and continue to promote openness in Christian thinking, relevancy of discussion, and constant reformation from our personally besetting dogmas to the living faith found in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, in His love and grace, truth and justice. Thank you for following along on this journey of self-appraisal and renewed discovery.

- R.E. Slater
November 24, 2011
* * * * * * * * * *

Testimonial: Rob Bell is NOT a Universalist
(and I actually read “Love Wins”)

by Greg Boyd
March 4, 2011

On the basis of a publisher’s promotional paragraph and an advertising video in which Rob Bell questions someone’s certainty that Ghandi is in hell, Justin Taylor sounded the web-wide alarm that Rob Bell’s forthcoming book Love Wins espouses universalism (the doctrine that everyone will eventually be saved). Though he too had not yet read the book, John Piper followed up with a puzzling melodramatic tweet bidding Rob Bell “Farewell“. An avalanche of tweets ensued — all (so far as I could discern) by people who had not read Bell’s forthcoming book — to the point that this yet-unpublished book became one of the top ten tweeted topics. (If this was planned by HarperCollins, the publisher of Love Wins, it was brilliant!!!)

Well, I would have blogged on this Twitter madness earlier but someone hacked my website the other day [thank you very much] and we’ve just now got it back up and running. I suspect I have a slight advantage over some who have expressed strong opinions on Love Wins inasmuch as I have actually read the book (I received an advanced copy). There are four brief things I’d like to say about this book vis-a-vis the Twitter madness that’s erupted around it.

First, Rob is first and foremost a poet/artist/dramatist who has a fantastic gift for communicating in ways that inspire creativity and provoke thought. Rob is far more comfortable (and far better at) questioning established beliefs and creatively hinting at possible answers than he is at constructing a logically rigorous case defending a definitive conclusion. I enthusiastically recommend Love Wins because of the way it empowers readers to question old perspectives and consider new ones. Unless a person reads this book with a preset agenda to find whatever they can to further an anti-Rob Bell agenda (which, I guarantee you, is going to happen) readers will not put this book down unchanged. To me, this is one of the main criteria for qualifying a book as “great.”

Second, given Rob’s poetic/artistic/non-dogmatic style, Love Wins cannot be easily filed into pre-established theological categories (viz. “universalism” vs “eternal conscious suffering” vs. “annihilationism,” etc.). I am certain some readers — especially those who position themselves as the final arbiters and guardians of evangelical truth — will try to do this (obviously, they already have!). And, having read Rob’s book, I can almost guarantee you that they will find isolated quotes to justify their labels. As I interpret Rob’s work, however, it would be misguided and unfair to apply any of these labels to him (more on this below).

Third, Taylor’s “review” and the ensuing Twitter madness notwithstanding, Rob’s book really isn’t about the population or duration of heaven or hell.... It’s mainly about the unfathomably beautiful character of God revealed in Jesus Christ and therefore about the unfathomably good nature of the Good News. Putting his formidable communicating skills to full use, Rob paints a New Testament-based portrait of God throughout his book that at times almost brought me to tears. In the course of painting this magnificent portrait of God, Rob brilliantly raises pointed questions about the dominant evangelical view of hell as hopeless conscious suffering as well as about common evangelical views of God’s wrath, the nature of salvation and an assortment of other topics. But these are secondary topics next to Rob’s main focus: namely, the incomprehensible and unlimited love of God expressed on Calvary as Jesus prays with his last breath, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Finally, despite my earlier claim that Love Wins can’t be neatly filed into any preUniversalist. I’m tempted to say — and probably should say —” I’m not sure; read the book for yourself and figure it out.” But far be it from me to shut up when I should, so here’s two thoughts, for what they’re worth.

1) I strongly doubt Rob would describe himself as a “Universalist.” But even if he did, I would recommend Love Wins just as enthusiastically as I already have. Love Wins masterfully raises all the right questions, even if one ends up disagreeing with some of Rob’s conclusions (which, as I said, are at most alluded to rather than dogmatically defended). Not only this, but questions surrounding the nature and duration of hell and the possibility that all will eventually be saved are not questions Christians should be afraid of. What does truth have to fear? (I sometimes wonder if the animosity some express toward Universalists [or toward those some assume are Universalists] is motivated by the fear that the case for Universalism might turn out to be more compelling than they can handle. For several defenses, see the Addendum to this blog).

2) While its clear from Love Wins that Rob believes (as do I ) that God wants all to be saved, it’s also clear Rob believes (as do I) that humans [and, I would add, angels] have free will and that God will never coerce someone to accept his love and be “saved.” Rob doesn’t himself argue this way in his book, but it seems to me that if God will not coerce people into heaven, then hell (which, by the way, Rob does emphatically believe in) cannot have a pre-set, definitive, terminus point. That is, hell is not, at present, finite. Hence, in this sense, hell is, at present, infinite (= not finite). And this holds true even if Rob believes he has warrant to hope everyone will eventually be saved. And for this reason, I would argue that Rob cannot hold to Universalism as a doctrine: he cannot be, in the classic sense of the word, a Universalist.

Then again, I could be wrong…

which is why this is a good conversation worth having…

but not on Twitter…

and not by accusing and labeling and bidding a brother “farewell” before you’ve even read the book!
THAT is madness!

* * * * *  * * * * *

Addendum: As I’ve said, I don’t think it’s accurate to describe Rob’s book as a defense of Universalism, though it expresses a hope for all to be saved. If you’re looking for defenses of Universalism as a doctrine, the best I’ve found are 1) Thomas Talbot, The Inescapable Love of God; 2) Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist; and 3) Jan Bonda, The One Purpose of God (quite academic, but insightful). Just to be fair, if you want a sound defense of Annihilationism, see Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes. And if you want a sound defense of the tradition view of hell as eternal conscious suffering, see R. Peterson, Hell on Trial and (with an interesting twist) C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce.

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