Before I start I would just like to say that I had to do some heart checking before I read this book. I had to forget all the media and press about Rob Bell, and this book. I found that in reading 1 paragraph of the preface that my wife and I got into a “hefty talk” about it. To be fair, I was wrong. I was going at this from a slanted start point where no matter what Rob Bell said, I was going to hate. So, I would just like to say that I am deeply sorry and aware that my heart actions and thoughts toward Rob were not right and he deserves a lot more respect from me.
Reading this book, has been eye-opening to me. I started this book and had a good hour of straight reading and before I knew it I was half way through. Not to brag about my reading skills but to say that Rob is a very engaging writer, and he writes in a way that is very easy to read, and easy to understand. Whilst reading I find myself almost imagining him reading it to me it. So my first observation of this book is that it is very down to earth and very much focused at trying to bring reconciliation to people who have been hurt by religion, preachers, or spiritual leaders in their past (just read the preface and that sums everything beautifully). When ever a pastor tries to bring unity to the family of christ I always appreciate the fight they battle for me.
The frist caution of mine was in the preface aswell. Were it said;
My hope is that this frees you. There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous. At the same time, some issues aren’t as big as people have made them Much blood has been spilled in church splits, heresy trails, and raging debates over issues that are in the end not that essential. Sometimes what we are witnessing is simply a massive exercise in missing the point. Jesus frees us to call things what they are.
Now, I agree with the heart completely! A lot of people will focus on a sign and not Jesus himself. But I feel that this allows vagueness to enter into people’s hearts. Rob was very clear that this book is on Heaven and Hell, so in the context I get it but I do feel he is talking about more than just that, but I just don’t know.
This book is written for the majority of people who find it hard to understand deep theological issues and doctrines (which does make it an easier read). Martin Bashir’s interview with Rob Bell was played up even in the UK. I didn’t feel like it was a completely fair interview but I do think that Martin was asking a key point that is probably my biggest critique of the book.
The book represents Rob’s desire and most pastors as well, to show this modern world that Jesus is relevent. But, he tries to reinvent Christianity in a postmodern view, which in itself is very hard to do but Rob does that great, he captures the heart of a generation were each person is their own sense of reason and God. My problem is reinventing of Christianity. In order to reinvent you have to give a bit a leg room for the scriptures to match, and I just don’t think that, that is right. You have to give up certain parts of scripture in order to believe. Now I tried to list all of the verses but actually found that Kevin Deyoung’s break down of Scripture to be fair and true.
Rob has largely reinvented the view that many Protestants do and have done for a very long time. Their view is that because of God’s love, he saves everyone. This is just not new. So this book to me in a modern slant on an old issues.
I would recommend this book to my friends and people who ask me if it is a good read. Rob asks the questions your friends are asking now. So if your told that it is complete heresy and not to read it I would just say that the world around you is asking the same questions that Rob is. I believe that we do need to figure out the scriptures and to be able to respond to when you get asked these same questions. Telling a new believer that it is all wrong when they feel completely different may not help them in their walk with Christ.
My final remarks on this book are this. In an age where Truth is being redefined, our interpretation of the bible is going to play a vital part. We need to know and understand that what we say we believe. This books helps you see a very strong viewpoint in the world right now, it shows you the heart of people and what they are questioning. I want to thank Rob Bell for doing the grunt work on this and being able to open my eyes to see what the world is thinking. This books seems to be Rob’s attempt at swaying some evangelicals to a New Protestantism. It hasn’t swayed me but it has brought me a deeper burden to know the bible, to understand theology and doctrine and to be able to share my beliefs in a relevent way.