I wish I could say that the reason that I haven’t blogged in a whole bunch of time was because I was out doing something super-spiritual. Or that I’ve been in some life-or-death struggle. The truth is that the time I’ve spent on blogging in the past I’ve wasted on the new(ish) Civilization game.
Don’t do it. That thing is more addictive than pringles. Or crack.
Anyway, a slightly more respectable thing I’ve been investing my time on is the new Rob Bell book, Love Wins.
It’s… uhm…. pretty much amazing.
I don’t want to review the book right now. I don’t even want to directly address any of his main thesis. Instead, I’d like to explore something that was a bit of a tangent to his main ideas.
He spelled out something that I’ve been trying to put my finger on and express. What he did was ask the question, “According to the Bible, who is saved?”
And what he found was that there was a lot of different ways that the bible answers that question. For example, Luke 18 implies that the Roman Centurion’s faith puts him in better standing than the whole of Israel. In Luke 23, the man on the cross next to Jesus is promised a seat in heaven apparently because he asked. In Mathew 6, though, we’re told that if we don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive us. A chapter later, the operative issue is doing the will of the father. Three chapters after that, though, we’re told that “those that stand firm will be tested.” And in Luke 19, salvation comes to Zacheus’ house because he’s willing to pay back double of what he cheated others out of.
Bells list continues quite impressively. It can be found on pages 14-18 of the hardcover.
Niether I or Rob Bell are suggesting that the bible is self-contradictory. There is this belief that it’s all about a simple prayer said one time. That belief has a slightly more cosmopolitian sibling. This belief says that believing the contents of that prayer is what it’s all about. (Usually the contents of that pray go something like: Jesus is uniquely the son of God and all humans are sinners who need Jesus sacrifice to be reunited with God.)
It’s not that this belief in either of its forms is wrong. It certainly can be biblically supported. But there’s plenty of other claims which can be equally well justified about how we get to experience new life in Jesus.
My issue is that the traditional view is so narrow and unidismentional. There are so many cases where we feel like we’ve got a monopoly on the truth because we can provide a single verse that implies this. Strangely, we don’t feel obliged to explain other verses which suggest that the picture is wider than our pet understandings.
That is certainly the case here. Belief in Jesus is incredibly important. But I think we start to tread on dangerous ground when we place God in a box by assuming we know what this is definitevely going to look like.