After my meta angle, let me change gears and start thinking about Love Wins from a more doctrinal point of view. (And no, the book still won’t be released for a month!)
A Gospel Coalition guy has produced another reaction to the promotional video. Well, Rob Bell is undoubtedly trying to get us questioning our religious assumptions. But when Kevin DeYoung claims, “the force of these sentences is to undermine — nay, to ridicule — the reality of eternal conscious punishment, the wrath of the God, and penal substitutionary atonement”, I just don’t see it. Is this a really just a matter of orthodoxy versus heresy, truth versus error?
The video’s talking points
Here’s a few comments on how I responded to the video.
Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?
- Some of us end up sounding like the JWs: only 144,000 will really make it! Yet we’re told that there will be multitudes in heaven. While I wouldn’t say Gandhi was a Christian, I don’t believe it could ever be my place to state that he is in hell.
The primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus.
- No, I wouldn’t call that primary, or the centre. It’s well worth questioning the Christianities that assume it is.
And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But would kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?
- Good question.
What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.
- Absolutely! And this is the point at which we need to weigh up Love Wins, as this guy is already doing very well. If love wins, what do we mean by ‘love’ and ‘winning’?
There is a range of Christian viewpoints on these matters. I’d probably summarise my own stance as salvation in Christ and agnosticism regarding those who haven’t heard the gospel. This is the view expressed by Alister McGrath in the Counterpoints book, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. It’s not universalism, yet it’s not particularism. Perhaps it’s heading in the direction of inclusivism, but it’s not inclusivism either. Is it the best stance? Well, that’s up for discussion. My point is that we’re talking about a spectrum of understandings rather than a simple, cut and dried dichotomy between truth and heresy.
There’s more to be said about Love Wins, but this is an area for cheerful, fraternal conversation between Christians. After all, we count among our numbers Gregory of Nyssa, John Stott, and CS Lewis, don’t we? Let’s not kill off legitimate talking points just because they don’t suit us.
And what do you think?
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.