I finally got around to reading the somewhat controversial book by Rob Bell "Love Wins". The 200 pages flew by in not much more than an afternoon and I kept waiting for the big issues to emerge and by the end thought to myself "so, what was all the fuss about?"
Then again maybe I needed to be a bit more of literalist or fundamentalist to feel the rage that it appears many have. And, having already given a congregation member the book, who also read it in an afternoon, I was not expecting a deep theological exploration of the implications of the incarnation. This means that I didn't feel like pulling it apart theologically because it just wasn't operating on a level that I felt I wanted to do that.
The opening story Bell tells about where some random person thought Ghandi ended up after death brought to mind Ulrich Zwingli's peopling of heaven with all sorts of persons - because God's grace and choosing is not limited and is certianly not reliant on the quality of our response.
I like what Bell does as he asks all the questions that are quite frankly pretty obvious for anyone who has begun to grapple with the stories of the Scriptures and to put them alongside one another. At some points it feels like an activity in proof-texting which demonstrates the uneven ground and message that the scripture can give. And, as he repeats his questions and expands them it does get a little tedious but he gets his point across and I think gives his readers the right to keep asking questions.
I heard in the book Bell's own internal conversation with his American evangelical roots, a critique and a grasping for real hope in the message of Jesus. He sought to balance a vision of the presence of God's promises now with the future realisation of God's promises and to engage readers with how we might participate and respond to the possibility of those promises in our lives.
As Bell says, "What the gospel does is confront our version of our story with God's version of our story."
Overall I found the book a good read, almost enjoyable even, as Bell sought to explicate in simple terms how he understands the good news. It may lack depth for some, or it may confront some with ideas that appear foreign and risky (like the Scripture contradicts itself) but in the end I am glad I read it and I would recommend it, especailly to any lay person who wants to explore some different thinking about their faith.
To finish as Bell does with the note of hope and blessing:
"May you know deep in your bones that love wins."