Love Wins! (part 1.5)- Rob Bell- SALVATION THROUGH THE PREACHING OF “HERETICS”?

A continuation from my post Love Wins (part 1)a discussion of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

I know I said I would post part 2 today, but I had an “Ah ha!” moment (if you don’t know what that is, ask one of my students), so part 2 will have to wait. (I would have much preferred if my “Ah ha!” moment would have come in the morning while I was showering rather than waking me up at 1:30am when I should be sleeping!).

Many people have read and will read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. It is currently #15 in sales on amazon.com and #34 in Canada (just barely above my book, coming in at #581,684 in Canada…my book is very controversial by the way…you should buy it…just joking). If SO MANY people are buying Bell’s book, there is no way that only Christians are buying his book. Bell seems to indicate in his preface (vii & ix) that he hopes his book will appeal to people who are not Christians (or were Christians) in helping to bring them to faith.

I suspect that Bell’s book will indeed help some people come to faith in Jesus Christ. In particular, as I mentioned yesterday, Rob has and excellent chapter where he discusses (to quote myself) “the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death, the various biblical metaphors for the results of Christ’s death (a freed defendant, a relationship reconciled, a battle won, etc.), as well as the vast cosmic significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.” And there is certainly much emphasis on the Gospel in his book.

So I wonder, could God be using Bell’s book (despite its weaknesses) to bring people to faith? And would that be so bad? And this is where the “Ah ha!” moment came in.

For the bulk of the history of Christianity, Nestorianism has been considered a heresy. Even today, most systematic theology textbooks will discuss Nestorianism as one of the key heresies regarding Jesus Christ because it denies the hypostatic union. Nestorius was a bishop of Constantinople in the 400’s. His teachings were condemned by the Church at the council of Ephesus (431) and the council of Chalcedon (451) (and his teachings continue to be condemned by Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Churches). Despite these councils, Nestorianism continued to be present among Persians and Syrians outside of the Roman Empire. These Nestorian Christians had much success in planting churches as far as China.

To provide another brief story, some of the first missionaries among the “Barbarian” tribes of Europe (in the late 400’s and following) believed in Arianism. Arianism had been rejected by the Western and Eastern churches at the first ecumenical council of Nicaea because Arius said that Jesus (although divine) was NOT equal to God the Father.

My observation: God has successfully used heretics for his purposes of spreading the Gospel and bringing people to faith.

Let’s not forget how God has used weak people in the Scripture. Gideon is hailed by the New Testament as a hero of the faith (Heb 11:27) even though he created an idol (heresy!) for the Israelites to worship (Judges 8:27). Peter, a great leader of the early church (Matt 16:18 and Acts 4:8), not only denied Jesus (before the resurrection, Matt 26:74) but he also refused to eat with non-Jewish people (Gal 2:7-13), even after he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

And let’s not forget you and me. God has a history of using the weak and people who are sometimes mistaken. Thank you God for using me, despite my weaknesses. Let me celebrate your work, while correcting my mistakes.

Last time I checked, a person did not have to have every single theological belief correct to become a follower of Jesus Christ and be “born again” (thank God!). So I wonder, could God be using Rob Bell’s book Love Wins (despite its weaknesses) to bring people to faith? And, if God were doing so, would that really be so bad? Wouldn’t it be better to be a believer in Jesus Christ (with some mistaken beliefs), than to have rejected Jesus Christ? Haven’t most new believers had some mistaken beliefs about God? WWJD? 🙂

What do you think?

(Post #2 regarding Love Wins will come tomorrow with the second issue and the practical question….)

P.S. I am not encouraging people to use this book as an evangelical tool. No, no, no.

5 Comments

  1. Hey Andrew,

    Just realised you’ve been blogging today. Interesting couple of reads; I look forward to reading more. About this post, I’m with you that God uses broken people and even broken ideas. I am also not sure that Bell leads us away from the Jesus of the Bible. But, on your broader topic of heresy as a bridge to faith, I wish to add a serious caution. Wrong theology can do a world of harm if it leads people away from an understanding of Jesus as a person of the tri-une God, the way. Your example of Nestorianism, for example. You mentioned that it carried on in Syria and Persia for a long time. It also survived in the Arab World; there was a monastery about 2km from where we live now. There was an Arab Christian community in Mecca. Their priest was a man by the name of Waraqa. His protoge was a man by the name of Mohammed.. do you see where this is going? He taught Mohammed that Jesus was a prophet. He used the Gospel of Matthew. He taught Him of the virgin birth and of the passion of Christ, and that God took Jesus up and spared Him the shame of death on a cross. He also encouraged Mohammed to worship by fasting and spending quiet time in a cave. One day Mohammed a vision.. and the rest is history.. a new religion was birthed, but interestingly, Mohammed (and now millions of Muslims) thought that His revelation was but an extension of the Christian faith. He will be very confused one day when he hears that Jesus is not who Waraqa taught Him he is. We, like Waraqa, must be careful of our legacy of beliefs.

    1. @ David,
      I agree with you on all accounts.

      Your example is definitely interesting! At the same time, bad things can come out of good theology too. I remember using Jose Luis de Miranda as a sermon illustration once (something totally unrelated to the topic above). This fellow was an evangelical pastor (Pentecostal, turned Southern Baptist) turned cult leader who has claimed to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I’m sure other similar examples could be found.

      On the other hand (for both my example and your example), many evangelicals never became cult leaders and many Nestorians never became Muslims.

      Either way, I agree with you when you say, “We, like Waraqa, must be careful of our legacy of beliefs.”

  2. Hi Andrew. Rob Bell does have some interestng things to say. I agree with Dave Webb’s warning against any use of heresy. Ie Bell a Universalist? I will have to read him and commentaries such as from yourselves more before commenting, though I do not agree with him on hell. Heaven, yes, in many way, but the temporariness of hell, no. Nestrorianism and Arianism might be a bit theological terms to use without definition I wonder..a lot of potential readers wont have a clue what these words mean, I wouldnt want anyone to stop reading at that point. Anyway, I have to go finish reading you post…just wanted to let you know I’m taking it all in. God bless

  3. Thanks Andrew for your insights and I am certainly in whole hearted agreement that we should all be grateful that getting 100% on all theological examinations is not a requirement for entrance into heaven.

    Unfortunately, as I see it, the danger in Rob Bell’s teaching is not with the person who accepts Christ through “Love Wins” but rests with the individual who reads it and decides that he doesn’t need to make a decision about Christ because hell is a place you can eventually get out of. From that perspective this is a “most damnable heresy.”

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