"Bold as Love."
As an exegete and Hebrew and Greek scholar, I can say the fuss about this book is very much overblown. It it seems everyone who does not own a Hebrew and Greek concordance is anxious to attack to Rob Bell without even reading his books. Rob Bell believes Jesus is the only way to heaven. He believes there is a hell and people do go to it. He believes God loves everyone and sent Jesus to die for them to save them. He believes Jesus is God and the Bible is the word of God. BUT he believes that people have free will which God does not interfere with. They are free to make choices, including rejecting Jesus and God, committing rape and murder, and that those choices have consequences. AND he believes it's the Christian's job to bring the message of Jesus' love to everyone. He believes the primary way to do this involves a change in our ethical behavior: our job is to love here and now as much as possible regardless of the risks involved and in order to do that we have to remove from our thinking every obstacle to that, and leave the judgment of those who refuse God's love and refuse to love to God. To put it bluntly, we do not get to decide who goes to heaven and hell and who doesn't. Our choices can permanently affect how others see God. This means Rob must force us to question our beliefs in order to get us to see the world as God sees it. While making those statements that intend to force us to ask questions Rob at times appears to be provocative. These statements are the source of the controversy surrounding him, but if you do not follow Rob's reasoning to its goal--the goal I have outlined, you must inevitably take those statements out of context. Do NOT begin to read this read this book unless you are willing to read it all the way through; otherwise you will get a distorted view of Rob's mesage. We are either vehicles of God's saving love to a lost world or we are obstacles to what God wants. Too many of us are obstacles. We believe God will fill heaven with only our church and our denominational sect and everyone else is left out. According to Rob Bell, that's not the kind of God we have. This will be an unpleasant message for many Christians. With the extreme lack of love in the churches, this message, no matter how unpleasant, is actually good news. This is the book's main strength. Contrary to the pre-publication claims of his critics, Rob does not preach a gospel of universalism. As a seminary grad who's studied liberalism for 30 years, I found the liberal bias Rob is always accused of nowhere in this book. Controversial questions, yes, and plenty. Liberal bias, no. I wish that we all were. I have been wishing for many years that someone would wake the church at large up to how cruel and vicious they can be.
This is not to say the book doesn't have flaws. It does. It does not
seem to have been proofread very well; on page 147 Rob says "orbiter"
when the context plainly demands "arbiter." The book clocks in at less than 200 pages, yet at least 50 pages take up simply asking controversial questions. When Rob does start dealing with Biblical and exegetical questions, he handles the Hebrew and the Greek just fine, just exactly as I've seen it in scholarly lexicons, and he explains Biblical passages adequately from the first-century Jewish background. But that's the problem: it's just adequate. Rob barely scratches the surface. The book needs more exegesis and background. You'd expect a lot more Bible and a lot more reasoning aimed at convincing scholars. I have serious doubts that the book will convince anyone to change their position. There needs to be far more Bible and scholarly meat and far less N. T. Wright. Many people will fail to take Rob seriously. Which is sad, because I believe Rob's call for bold love is really the greatest need of the church and the world.