Sunday, September 7, 2014

Love Wins – Rob Bell

I don’t read a lot of Christian apologia.  Though I am a Catholic Christian, I don’t enjoy reading about my faith.  I honestly don’t enjoy reading the Bible either – it’s a struggle for me.  My true love in reading is the escape that it provides…so when I read, I want plot and characters and twists and surprises.  I like to think, but I don’t really want to philosophize, if that makes sense.  So my review of this book feels clumsy to me, and for that I apologize.  I’m out of my league in this genre, honestly.

However, this book has been popping up in conversations and my Facebook feed for a while now, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I’m glad I did.  Overall, I loved the point of the book.  Love Wins is a back-to-basics message – not at all revolutionary in terms of my personal beliefs, but a nice affirmation about what I believe to be right in terms of how to live and interact with others.  Life, according to Bell, is not about getting somewhere else (heaven, or whathaveyou), but about loving others (no matter what their faith, politics, sexual orientation, etc.) and living your best life now.  Eternity starts today, says Bell, and the way we live now in terms of the good work we do and the way we treat others indicates our future path. 

Or something like that. 

Bell also makes the excellent point that there’s not one “right way” to everlasting nirvana, and that judgment is not ours but God’s (or whatever force each one of us calls “God” ) and that God/“God” is truly merciful and loving and wants us to be with her/him forever in eternal joy.  God, in other words, is bigger than our belief in Her/Him.  Most satisfyingly, Bell trounces the idea that if we don’t respond to God in the right way, we will be eternally tortured.  Because in what way does “eternal torture” fit with the idea of a loving and perfect God?  Love wins – the title really says it all.

(The book is about 200 pages, and though it is easy reading – most paragraphs being of the 3-sentence variety – the previous paragraphs are in no way the entire message.  That above rambling is just a couple of the points that held the most weight with me.)

From the first, Bell admits that nothing he says is new – but I think that everything in the book bears repeating, especially in the charged and Bible-thumping climate we live in today.  It’s the kind of book that every member of the Westboro Baptist Church needs to read about twenty times in a row, in other words.  People need to be reminded that love is the answer, no matter what the question…and that questioning one’s faith and philosophies is an exercise that is essential.  He reminds Christians that questioning is where understanding and strength are born.

However.  (Of course there’s a however.)  While I agree completely with Bell’s message, I take issue with his rhetoric.  To put it bluntly, his argument commits a logical fallacy.  For those of us who don’t know what this is (confession:  I totally had to look it up), here’s a definition:

A fallacy is an argument that uses poor reasoning.  
An argument can be fallacious whether or not its conclusion is true.

To explain.  Bell’s central argument (or thesis) is advocating for a non-literal interpretation of scripture.  (As a Catholic and an academic, this is not an issue for me.  I read the Bible as a product of history, as a product of many translations, as a work that came into being hundreds of years after the death of Christ.  I read the Bible as a masculine text – written and compiled and read exclusively by men for most of its history.  I read the Bible as a literary work – dependent on the interaction and partnership between writer’s word and reader’s interpretation.  I read the Bible as allegorical, as symbolic.  All that jazz about the world being created in seven days?  Who knows?  Who cares?  Maybe God’s definition of a day was 8,000 years!  And so on. 

So reading the Bible in a non-literal way is obvious, to me.) 

My problem with Love Wins is that the proof and support Bell uses for his thesis is literal Bible quotes.  Bell says we need to read the Bible non-literally, using literal quotes to back up his assertion.

Do you see the issue here? 

So, anyway.  Again, loved the message about love and life and God’s love and all that.  But I wish that Bell could have found more relevant proof for his assertion – proof that would perhaps address a wider audience.

So I wonder, have you read the book?  What did you think?  Which parts were helpful to you?

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