Love Wins: Chapter 2 – Here is the New There

What is Heaven? Or better yet, where is Heaven?

Growing up in the Church I was really only exposed to one idea of Heaven. It was a place where we go after we die. Future tense. Somewhere else.

In this chapter Rob explores a different version of the Heaven story. One that speaks to the here and now more than it does the there and someday. That’s a significant shift for many Christians, particularly those who have grown up in the church in America over the past 100 years or so.

What were your impressions of Heaven growing up? Did the idea of “a church service that never ends” make you want to go there? Has thinking of Heaven brought pain when thinking about those you love who may not be there?

We’ll stick with chapter 2 until Friday, March 25th, but you can always revisit previous chapters at any time.

Love Wins: Our Discussion
Introduction/Preface
1 – What About the Flat Tire?
2 – Here is the New There
3 – Hell
4 – Does God Get What God Wants?
5 – Dying to Live
6 – There Are Rocks Everywhere
7 – The Good News is Better Than That
8 – The End is Here

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26 thoughts on “Love Wins: Chapter 2 – Here is the New There

  1. I don’t think Rob “skipped” those verses. He was simply paraphrasing a story.

    Here’s the passage he was referencing with the parts he mentioned/quoted in bold.

    The Rich and the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:16-22 – NIV)

    Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

    “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

    “Which ones?” he inquired.

    Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    I guess my question to you is … Do you bring this up because you feel the commandments Jesus quoted (5 of 10 or 5 of 613 depending) change some aspect of the picture of Heaven Rob is presenting? Or do you feel that if he’s going to talk about a passage of Scripture, he should be quoting it in its entirety, verbatim?

    1. To answer your questions: neither. Also, sorry in advance for this long response.

      I think he intentionally left out a piece of the story that would deal a defeating blow to what he is suggesting.

      This whole chapter is built on a view of heaven which is primarily “here and now” (which I don’t entirely disagree with). So he uses this story to say that Jesus is trying to convey that view of heaven in his interaction with the rich man, which is why he tells him to sell everything. As Rob notes, there is no greed in the age to come. Jesus is trying to help the man experience “aionian” life now.

      Problem is: the five verses Rob skips over (whether he does it intentionally or not is somewhat besides the point) paint a different picture. After the guy goes away sad, the disciples exclaim in disbelief, “Well then who can be saved?”

      And Jesus responds, “What’s impossible with man is possible with God.”

      So, while Bell is right that the answer is in the question, he botches it altogether. The better, and more accurate understanding of the story, comes down to the impossibility of man to do anything and the grace of God.

      The rich man asks, “What must I do…” (that’s the answer found in the question)

      Jesus responds, “All or nothing,” knowing full well the man will choose nothing, because to give all is to be perfect and the man is certainly not that.

      Disciples ask, “Well then who can be saved?”

      Jesus, “It’s impossible for man to give all; to be perfect. But with God, salvation is possible.”

      And if that’s the case, the point Rob is trying to demonstrate here crumbles. As much as heaven DOES begin here and now, our participation in it is limited to the extent that we have received the gift of salvation from God.

      1. I’m still working my way through this chapter, but at this point I’m really not sure that I’ve interpreted anything Bell has said to speak contrary to the importance of receiving the “free gift” of Salvation. As Scott said below, they’re not really mutually exclusive ideas.

        I guess that’s why I’m uncomfortable with terms like “defeating blow,” “more accurate,” etc, in this context.

        1. See my response to Joel. I’m not claiming them as mutually exclusive. I’m saying he butchered the text in order to make a point that cannot be made when considering the full context.

          This simply raises the question of “why?” If what Bell is suggesting is intellectually tenable, why does he need to take verses out of context to make his point?

        1. From reading this whole page and re-reading the chapter and the referenced scripture I’ve come to the conclusion that although he could have and probably for the sake of critical readers (not critical in a bad way, just in the analytical way) addressed those verses. But, I don’t think it at all negates the point he was making.

          I don’t think that Bell needs to “take verses out of context to make his point,” I actually think that there was context for what his points actually were. The verses he didn’t quote, in this chapter, were not items up for debate really, but the parts he quoted were. Should he have skipped them completely? Maybe not. Do adding them back in negate his point? I really don’t think so. Are we going to agree on that? I seriously doubt it! 🙂

  2. Love him or hate him, agree with him or not, it’s just a poor handling of the text and leaves people like me, who approach every claim about God with skepticism (even the ones that are commonly accepted in evangelical Christianity), thinking that he really didn’t do his homework on this or, worse, that he is being intentionally misleading.

    1. Good thoughts. While I like your take on this passage, I disagree that Bell’s is a poor handling of the text. I think it’s a difference in emphasis. If I understand you correctly, you’re focusing on the need for grace in the face of sin, and he’s focusing on the fact that the man really did have One Big Thing that was keeping him from living into the kingdom starting now: his love for wealth. I think you’re both right, and that’s okay because the ideas are not mutually exclusive.

      1. The problem with Bell’s interpretation is not where he placed the emphasis, but that he skipped over the part where Jesus said it was “impossible” for the man to do what Jesus was asking.

        I agree that the God’s grace and our need to live now in light of our future life are not mutually exclusive, that’s not my beef. The problem is that Rob Bell doesn’t touch on God’s grace (which is clear in this passage) and he recommends a particular reading that cannot logically be supported given the full context.

        In other words, Jesus is not trying to help the man to live “aionian” life now.

  3. My interpretation of this chapter was that Heaven is both here and now AND then and there. I think he focused on the here and now because most churches don’t. Being pretty connected to the Jewish side of my faith, that’s not a new concept for me at all.

    I agree that those verses are integral and need to be addressed, but I don’t know how I feel about how you interpret that scripture. I need to study it a bit more. May I ask what translation you’re using?

    Although, my gut reaction is that “limited” is a good way of putting it. I don’t believe that you have to be a Christian to build toward the kingdom of God, but how far you can participate… of course that’s part of my personal questioning anyway.

    1. Those aren’t verbatim from Scripture, so no translation will word it as I have. In general, though, I like ESV.

      The story is found in both Matthew 18 and Luke 19.

        1. Yup! The Jist is fine with me. I was mostly fixated on the part of “It’s impossible for man to give all; to be perfect. But with God, salvation is possible.” because I couldn’t find that in the text, and it intrigued me.

  4. Speaking of building toward the Kingdom of Heaven. I really liked this paragraph, if for no other reason other than it made me feel really good about my church’s participation in 40 Days of Water.

    Around a billion people in the world today do not have access to clean drinking water. People will have access to clean drinking water in the age to come, and so working for clean-water access for all is participating now in the life of the age to come.

  5. Reading this chapter reminded me of a lesson I heard on one of his podcasts a few years back, essentially saying the same thing.

    I really do like the thought of us bringing heaven to earth. At the very least it exposes the complete disregard a lot of christians have for the environment we live it, which is a very self-centered mentality.

    1. Yeah that’s very true. Come to think of it, I do not know of any Christians who are concerned about the environment that do not share Rob Bell’s view, or at least something close to it.

  6. Sorry to be such a stranger on this all of a sudden. The past week or so ended up being much more busy than I had anticipated!

    I’ll get the chapter 3 post up soon. Thanks for your patience!

      1. Actually, I think that would be a common misconception…that Satan tortures people.

        Revelation 20:7-10 shows that Satan will be tormented in hell, as well. He’s not ruler, there, but a fellow prisoner.

  7. I’m coming to the realization that I’m not looking at this book as a stand alone piece, and I’m completely unobjective about it.

    I think that having attended Mars Hill for a couple years I fill in the blanks that I do honestly believe are in this book with other teachings or sermons I’ve heard Rob preach, and I can utterly see when I take that context away why it’s so spotty to so many people.

    The link Brian posted above made me realize that, as the writer of the review pointed out that Rob all but ignores the cross in this book. This was not something that occurred to me at all… but maybe that’s because the first time I ever encountered Rob or Mars Hill was at a service where he had giant crosses on stage, speaking about the centrality and sacredness of the cross, with communion sacraments placed underneath so you literally had to kneel at the foot of the cross to partake…

    but that’s not in the book at all. The writer of the review is absolutely right in that respect. It is an emotive book… but I’m still not convinced that emotive is a bad thing or that the omission was not intentional.

    I don’t know how much I noticed on my first reading how few statements are made about Hell in this book… most of them are questions, and while someone earlier said that just because it doesn’t end with a period doesn’t mean it’s not a statement, I think that they are genuine questions we should not be afraid of asking and researching and agreeing or disagreeing with.

    Whew… random stuff I’ve been mulling over since my first reading.

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