So far there have been two things that have surprised me about Love Wins. First was the fact that I haven’t heard anyone talk about Bell’s view of heaven that he wrote about in chapter 2. In my opinion, that is Bell’s strongest chapter. The second thing that has surprised me is that I have heard no one discuss Bell’s view of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which is the subject of chapter 5, and His view of how Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (the topic of chapter 6). People have gotten upset over his view of hell, but to be honest, his view of Jesus is what I find most troubling. He does, however, believe that Jesus was God in the flesh.
The best Bell does in chapter 5 is say that on the cross Jesus did something great. He doesn’t really explain what it is Jesus did, but it was great and it changed the universe. But that’s about all he says. He then, in passing, mentions that the resurrection is important, and that’s it. The cross was great and the resurrection was important! How nice. The only reason Bell says Jesus died and rose again was the reconcile the entire world. And apparently, the reason Jesus was crucified was because people were used to sacrifices and to crucifixions. He states nothing about sin and holiness and that fact that Jesus’ death was the only way God could atone for our sins.
Here is about the best thing he says about the cross:
- “What happened on the cross is like…a defendant going free, a relationship being reconciled, something lost being redeemed, a battle being won, a final sacrifice being offered, so that no one ever has to offer another one again, an enemy being loved” (p. 128).
In chapter 6, Bell does state that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him, but then he tries to argue that what that means is not what most evangelical Christians believe it means.
Here is my best attempt at what I think Bell means by Jesus being the way.
It is only through Jesus that people can be drawn to God, but there are many paths through Jesus to God. Jesus is at work in all the world, and to an extent, in all (or at least most) religions. Wherever there is truth, Jesus is there. Wherever people stand up for justice and peace and reconciliation, Jesus is there. However it is people are drawn to God, they are drawn through Jesus Christ, even if they don’t know the name of Christ, or anything about Him. In some cases, people may have such a big misunderstanding about Christ, and the name of Christ can be such a big obstacle to them, that they don’t even mention His name, but if they are drawn to God, it is through Christ, whose name they may not like.
Here are some more quotes:
- “As obvious as it is, then, Jesus is bigger than any one religion” (p. 150).
- “Jesus is supercultural. He is present within all cultures, and yet outside of all cultures. He is for all people, and yet he refuses to be co-opted or owned by any one culture” (p. 151).
- “What [Jesus] doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him” (p. 154).
- “And then there is exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity. This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum…What Jesus does is declare tht he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe” (p. 155).
- “So how does any of this explanation of who Jesus is and what he’s doing connect with heaven, hell, and the fate of every single person who has ever lived? First, we aren’t surprised when people stumble upon this mystery, whenever and however that happens…People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways…Second, none of us have cornered the market on Jesus, and none of us ever will…Third, it is our responsibility to be extremely careful about making negative, decisive, lasting judgments about people’s eternal destinies” (pp. 158-160). (Note: On the surface this quote, and the others, may sound reasonable, but in the context of which they were written in the book, Bell is arguing that people who have never heard of Christ, and people from other religions, are saved through a Christ they do not know, like, or have every heard of.)
At best, chapters 5 and 6 present a weak view of Christology (thedoctrine of Christ) and Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation); and if chapter 2 is worth the price of the book, chapters 5 and 6 deserve a refund.
Only two more chapters to go.