The recent media coverage of “Love Wins,” a new book from Rob Bell, has produced a lot of emotion. It is interesting to read and listen to all the pundits pass judgment on the book and on the author. Is Bell a Universalist? He says he’s no, but the book leaves one with the opposite impression. Many pastors and leaders have expressed their own opinions and it’s fueled quite a debate among Evangelicals of all flavors. Time magazine even featured the controversy as its cover story.
I’ve read the book and also a score of blog posts and listened to or watched several interviews. It’s prompted me to refresh my memory of the definition of universalism as well as Christian Particularism. And books like “Love Wins” always help me review and renew why I believe – not just what.
This controversy and media attention has resulted in calls, emails, and text messages with the same general question, “Should I throw out all my Nooma videos?” My answer is, “No, but with this stipulation: Use them cautiously.”
If we screen everything from anyone we have a disagreement with on one point or another, there wouldn’t be much left. Just like any other resource, we must be vigilant when using Rob Bell’s material. And I would recommend that when it is used, we clearly state that we are not endorsing all of his views, especially his suspected universalism.
Twenty years ago, when our children were testing the limits of their parents’ patience, Lois and I would relieve the tension with the line, “Well, when you put two sinners together you get sinnerlings.” We would smile and go on with the work of parenting having reminded ourselves that we, too, tested our parents.
Sometimes we forget that sin is part of our DNA and how desperate our sin is and how much we need a Redeemer! Paul makes it clear in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned –.” It’s not a pleasant thought is it? And it certainly doesn’t seem fair to blame the entire human race for the sin of Adam and Eve. We can claim there is no connection but in so doing we act just like them. We bear the burden of sinfulness both as individuals and as humans. No one had to teach us how to sin; it was part of our nature as much as the color of our eyes or the size of our feet.
This week we humbly observe the death of Jesus Christ. His death is for all but it is also very personal. Admit it: “I have sinned. I do sin. I will sin again.” The Prophet expresses it well: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, and each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Christ died for me. His death is payment for your sin and mine. We are all responsible for His death. Our sin – my sin – caused Jesus to have spikes driven through his hands and feet.
That is a sobering truth.
But on Easter morning we will join with millions of brothers and sisters in Christ to rejoice because “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) We have been liberated from the bondage of sin! We are bought with a terrible price. We have been redeemed!
Jesus, who died for our sin, is now alive. He is risen!