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.