Rob Bell in the Hot SeatMarch 14, 2011
Today, Rob Bell sat down in front of an audience to discuss his new book, Love Wins. You can watch the interview here.
One thing is clear. Rob is not a universalist. He doesn’t believe that everyone will be in heaven, but he seems to take the view that those excluded will be excluded by their own choice. He also believes that there will be a lot of surprises about who populates heaven. He makes a good point that this was a frequent theme of Christ’s teaching – that the ones we’d expect to be in heaven will be cast out and the ones we’d least expect will be invited in.
If you’re looking for a really concrete systematic explanation of what heaven and hell are and what it takes to get to either place, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not sure Rob even has a clear idea himself. And he has certainly mastered the political art of answering the question he wished he’d been asked, rather than the question that was asked.
But having watched the video, you’ll definitely come away with a better understanding of what he’s hoping to accomplish. If you don’t have an hour and 12 minutes to spare, skip ahead to the last few minutes of the video, starting at 1 hour 04 minutes. Rob is asked why we need to re-examine our understanding of heaven and hell. His answer had him (and, I must confess, me) welling up with tears.
Rob shares the story of a woman from his church who had been in numerous abusive relationships and had struggled with cutting herself. He uses her story to indict the familiar heaven/hell explanation. You know, the one where God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but if you were to die today, he would have no choice but to send you into eternal torment. Rob remarks that this notion of a God who can change from infinitely loving to infinitely wrathful in a split second, who can turn on you in a moment, has left many people with “really, really toxic, dangerous, psychologically-devastating images of God in their head – images of a God who is not good.” The God behind these conceptions “smells” profoundly unsafe, untrustworthy, unloving.
That’s what Rob is driving at. His message is that God is good. At the end of the day, whatever it looks like, God’s love will win. And that is Good News.