Love Wins: Blogging Doesn't
I have not read Love Wins. In fact, I know very little about Rob Bell, and probably shouldn't write about him but hey; it's a blog. The 2 people reading this can feel free to excoriate me. I’ve been inundated with links to articles about the book and though I like the title, I am already tired of the "buzz" so I'll ignore it for now and mention some of my observations about all the critiques that have come my way:
They are primarily exegetical
The articles I’ve read so far assume some exegetical starting points that are the very thing Bell seems to dispute, at least implicitly, but they don't engage the interpretive differences. Of course I don’t know if Bell examines the differences, either, but the reviews generally ignore this discussion and just quote verses. It's funny because people have noted he is "selective" with the scripture he uses, but with their equally limited exegesis, they commit the same error they accuse Bell of sometimes. They appeal to a common mode of exegesis that isn't shared by Bell and assume a generally evangelical hermeneutic as a starting point. But what worldview will be more obvious to Bell’s readers?
The arguments don't engage much theologically
Look, I just restated #1! There isn't much theological engagement with his book. The critiques I've read are just as predictable as Bell's point: "bad exegesis on Bell's part leads to bad (read non-reform) theology." The offended theology is an assumed reform evangelicalism. That's also a reflection of the articles I've seen. I'd love to see some different takes: send 'em in!
Interesting side note: while covenantal theology is a particular theology, its popular discussion progresses largely on exegetical grounds without really discussing its hermeneutic. At least in these discussions.
Bell isn't open
I've read now in a couple of places comments that Bell's book leaves no room for engagement or acceptance of the other side: it's polarizing. These comments come from critiques that point out where Bell is wrong without commenting on where he's right. log.eye.speck. Sadly, it just confirms Bell's point in many ways and continues the standoff. We need more "rethinking-the-meaning-of-evangelism-in-a-post-colonial-world" articles in the mainstream Christian media, not "you are wrong because you don’t fit into my world exegesis." heh.
The critics rarely examine the idea that we need threats and consequences. Of course we need a fiery furnace. We just assume it is necessary for our behavior. Is it? Does psychological research have a positive role to play in our interpretive assumptions? Don't call this selling out to liberalism - that's too easy. There are real questions to examine about what assumptions the original authors held we should accept and not. File under "Is slavery/polygamy/food law biblical". I’d like to see a more thorough consideration of fear motivation in theology.
Immanence v. transcendence
There's an immanence vs. transcendence undercard in what I’ve read. 'Lot of talk about disobedience being an affront to God as the primary issue;, not so much sin against people being an affront to God. Are the two equal? Is the difference discernible? The positions read like Ps.51 battling Matthew 25.
I don't know what Bell thinks, nor, to be honest, do I care too much: I'm still stuck in CD I. 5 for the time being. So far most of the posts and essays I've read about Bell's new book were largely predictable given the subject. There isn't a whole lot of actual engagement, just repainting of the dividing lines. But even if Bell himself is guilty of this, it would be nice to see more consideration of the subject in a positive light instead of simple denials. Maybe that's too nice in the face of damned heresy. Huzzah to the blogosphere though for continuing the conversation. On a related note, I end up close to where Barth landed, if only because I lack the insight to figure this one out. I am certainly not a universalist, but I hope and expect God's grace to be much bigger than I imagine.
I minister in an Asian American church. I have had people come up to me and explain that they are the first generation of Christian in their family, and ask if God would really send the previous 3000 years of their family to hell because they never heard about Jesus. Would he simply send millions to hell because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, not of their choosing? It is a real question, one we must be sensitive to as we emerge from the easy privilege of western European Christianity.
----And no, I’m not emergent :P