I have had numerous people ask what I think of Rob Bell‘s new book, “Love Wins”. That was before the book was even published. I eventually broke down and bought a copy that I have just started reading. So if you are looking for a complete, provocative response to the controversial book, you will have to check back. But in conjunction with reading the book I came across an article on CNN.com and on which I needed to give a quick take.
Leaving aside for now the question of whether his new book is heretical or not, I want to comment on something the article did point out. “He will tell you again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar.” I understand what Bell is trying to say, “I am not a trained specialist in theology or biblical studies so cut me some slack”. Sorry Rob but you are a pastor and preacher, by definition you are something of a theologian and must be something of a biblical scholar. Your job as a preacher/pastor is in part to equip people from the truth of God’s Word. Average people view you as a person who understands the Bible and Theology better than they do. They expect a pastor to have a handle on things like, who God is, how you get to heaven, and what eternity will be like. Each week you speak to them and you are doing theology and biblical scholarship. Writing “A Book About Heaven and Hell, And The Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived”, as your subtitle declares, is shouting loud and clear that this is a book about theology and the Bible.
The simple truth is, we are all theologians. We all have ideas about God and do theology. We all have a picture of God. For some the picture is an empty frame because they don’t believe God exists. But they still have a theology. For others it is a smorgasbord made up of various things they have heard along the way and fits their world view. For some there is a small amount of biblical and theological investigation. The difference for you as a pastor is that people actually look to you as someone who should be better at theology and biblical studies than they are. They expect that you devote some significant part of your life learning and studying in order to give them some guidance in truth.
I don’t know what I am going to think about “Love Wins”. What I hope I find is that Rob Bell lays out what his time in the Word has led him to believe and what his study of theology has convinced him to be true. I may or may not agree with his conclusions and teaching. But at least we will have a foundation to work from, to dialogue over, that foundation will be the Bible and collective wisdom of the great theologians of the church throughout history.