Some surprises about Rob Bell

In an earlier post I mentioned the predictable negativity of one category of response to Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. But there have been some surprisingly positive responses too – refreshingly open-minded and irenic voices that have argued for giving the book a fair hearing rather than foreclosing upon honest exploration. Doing even this much in many settings requires courage, and I imagine each of these people will get a generous helping of critical response from those who wish they had either stayed silent or sided more with the “to hell with Bell” perspective.
This from Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary. Quotable:

I find their attitude puzzling. Maybe they think that folks like Rob Bell and me go too far in the direction of leniency, but what about folks who go in the other direction? I just received an angry email from someone who pulled a comment out of something I wrote a few years ago in Christianity Today. A prominent evangelical had criticized those of us who have been in a sustained dialogue with Catholics for giving the impression that a person can be saved without having the right theology about justification by faith. My response to that: of course a person can be saved without having the right theology of justification by faith. A straightforward question: Did Mother Teresa go to hell? My guess is that she was a little confused about justification by faith alone. If you think that means she went to hell, I have only one response: shame on you.
Why don’t folks who criticize Rob Bell for wanting to let too many people in also go after people like that who want to keep too many people out? Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess?

Mark Galli, in a largely negative review that resembles in all material aspects Dr. Albert Mohler’s, does strike a positive note or two. Quotable:

…Bell has raised crucial questions that evangelicals have been whispering about for some years. We should thank him for bringing these issues to light, so we can openly examine them afresh today. Is the Bible mostly creative human thinking or the revelation of God’s Word? Has blood atonement become too bloody for modern ears? What does the Cross actually accomplish? Is liberalism the way of the future or just a tempting rabbit trail? How do we talk about the gospel so it is unmistakably good news? And so on.
I happen to believe that the center will hold, that orthodoxy will show again that it has the truer and thicker grasp of the Bible and of life. Still, we would be foolish to ignore the questions Bell has raised, because the ensuing conversation will force us to find fresh ways to talk about all this.

Scot McKnight, who will probably come forward with his more critical comments soon, boldly validates the importance of the issue. Quotable:

My own estimation is that somewhere near 75 percent of my students, many if not most of them nurtured in the church, are more or less universalist. They believe in Jesus and see themselves as Christians but don’t find significant problems in God saving Muslims and Buddhists or anyone else on the basis of how God makes such decisions. The Baylor Study of Religion, if my memory is correct, asked a question or two that reveals that an increasing number of American evangelical Christians think the majority of humans will be saved. That’s the issue, and Rob Bell had the moxie to write a book about it. He’s rattled cages with his promo video, and he will undoubtedly stir the waters in the book….
My contention is this: the approach to this generation is not to denounce their questions, which often enough are rooted in a heightened sensitivity to divine justice and compassion, but to probe their questions from the inside and to probe thoughtful and biblically responsible resolutions. We need to show that their questions about justice and God’s gracious love are not bad questions but good questions that deserve to be explored.

Rob himself has written a beautiful post about the inspiration behind the book – here.