After seeing the Martin Bashir video yesterday and doing some more thinking about what he kept asking and what Rob Bell kept dodging, I thought it worthwhile to comment on a thing or two.
First, as the questions kept pointing out but Bell could never explain: I can say it matters how I live in this life and how I respond to the love of God in this life until I'm blue in the face. But if "love" ultimately wins in the end and we'll all be rightly related to God, it really doesn't matter. If someone can answer this dilemma for me, I'm more than open to hearing the argument.
What I would do, then, is live exactly how I wanted to in this life and then plan on getting "won" by "love" in the end. That way, I can have my cake and eat it too.
Wait a minute, I've heard this before. Oh yeah, the old gnostic heresy from the first century that the Apostle John fought against. Their deal was that matter was evil, spirit was good. So I could do what I wanted to do with my body as long as I "honored God" with my spirit. Same logic. Basically the same teaching. Bad theology. Seems like someone should've read some more history.
But there's more: if I can get it all in the end anyway, what's my incentive to live in the love of God now? Communism failed because it promised people everything in the end while depending on them to produce that everything but with no incentive to do so. It's a social failure.
Why both of those (gnostics and communists) fail is because they fail to reach the level of the heart. If my heart is continually inclined toward myself as evidenced by doing what I want or taking without giving, then I'm just as selfish as I've always been though I may wear different philosophical or theological clothes. There is no heart change. There is no regeneration.
And if this kind of thinking and teaching makes me more selfish today, why wouldn't it make me more selfish 1000 years from now? 1,000,000,000,000 years from now? Why wouldn't I just perpetually wait, pursuing my own ends, because I'll be okay in the end - whenever that end comes? I'd never dislodge me from the throne of my life. Foolishness.
Secondly, if everyone ultimately is won over by God's love, there is no good answer to the question: "Why did Jesus have to die?" Some will posit He did so as an example. Some will say He did so because of the victory that was coming. But those are neither biblical nor particularly helpful in answering the question. So we might as well take Christ off the cross and out of the agony of the Garden. There IS a way that the cup can pass from Him. God's just going to win everyone with His love in the end. Theological fail of cosmic proportions.
The argument was made yesterday on Matthew Paul Turner's blog (www.jesusneedsnewpr.net - I read it a couple of times a week because he's an honest provocateur) that it's a greater grace if God saves more or even all people. I'm not sure about that for a couple of reasons. Grace is great because it saves anybody (quality) not everybody (quantity). And grace that seemingly defies justice reminds me of my mom telling me not to cut off my nose to spite my face. Why would God surrender justice for the sake of mercy and/or grace when He can (and did) accomplish both at the cross? Seems to me that if it does go down like Bell says it does, we all actually lose the chance for justice, which is the grounds of any forgiveness according to the Bible. Again, if someone can help me understand this differently, I'm open to it.
Personally, I've been struggling with how much to say and to whom to say it. I don't think I'm going to bring this up in a sermon. But if you, dear reader, have further dialogue you want to have about this, please feel free to email me: trent at heritage park dot org.