I just finished reading Rob Bell's book Love Wins. At first glance I thought it would be a post-modern, evangelically emergent take on Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland's superb book If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. And to a certain degree it is. It's written in brief paragraphs, the kind used by pastors when preaching a Sunday sermon, with the appearance of an epic poem. On some days the story of faith is rather like an epic poem. He uses stories from his own life and from folks who worship at the church he pastors. He puts interesting spins on Bible stories and passages we think we know up and down. As USA Today puts it: "One of the nation's rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” Which is a relief, as most evangelicals have been using that pitchfork when speaking of salvation and what's required for it.
But when Rob Bell speaks about hell, when he takes away the abuse but leaves the sting of it and puts it in its place, he says nothing of the hell inflicted on others, the hell that we do not choose but has been chosen for us by those in power. He says nothing about oppression, injustice, and the hell prisons that the powerless have been locked in and struggle to break loose from. Hell on earth may be the consequences we suffer as a result of our own actions, but what of the hell on earth that is suffered as a result of the actions of others? How does an abused woman take responsibility for her own hell? How does she learn to trust the love a father God?
I posted this on Rob Bell's Facebook wall, which I think he doesn't even read, judging by the comments: