Home > Books & Reading, Christianity > Love Wins Analysis: Chapter 5: Dying to Live

Love Wins Analysis: Chapter 5: Dying to Live

[This is part X of a multi-part series on Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.]

Chapter 5 is a heckuva lot easier to summarize:

Jesus died and rose again. As a result of that action, he has forever reconciled us to God the Father.

This is not controversial stuff.

As a result, there’s not much that I need to ponder over or challenge because in this chapter, Bell lays out Jesus’ sacrifice and he does it in a way that is typically Bell-esque: with original analogies and beautiful images. (When Bell says something clearly, it’s like bursting into a magnificent, clear blue sky after having endured dark shadows and lingering gray storm clouds.)

Bell makes an interesting point that I’ve never heard of before (but find interesting): he speaks of John (the Gospel writer) numbering signs all throughout his gospel. In John 11, Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead is the seventh sign of Jesus outlined in the gospel.

Now ask: Is the number seven significant in the Bible?
Does it occur in any other prominent place?

Well, yes, it does. In the poem that begins the Bible. The poem speaks of seven days of creation.

But there’s one more sign in John’s Gospel. In chapter 20 Jesus rises from the dead. Now that’s a sign. The eighth sign in the book of John. Jesus rises from the dead in a garden. Which, of course, takes us back to Genesis, to the first creation in a . . . garden.

I’d never thought of things that way. Reading that blew my mind. Either John was a very clever fiction writer or God is the most amazing storyteller I’ve ever read.

What is John telling us?
It’s the eighth sign, the first day of the new week, the first day of the new creation. The resurrection of Jesus inaugurates a new creation, one free from death, and it is bursting forth in Jesus himself right here in the midst of the first creation.

… John is telling a huge story,
one about God rescuing all of creation.

I love it. John continually points his readers back to Genesis, constantly linking Jesus to God the Father, Creator of all things from the get-go (Jn 1:1) and here it is even in the final chapters of John and I totally missed it. It’s beautiful to see.

As I’m breathless and taken away by this beauty of discovering the symbolism in everything Jesus does, Bell kind of ruins it for me in “wait-a-minute-this-is-a-book-about-heaven-hell-and-the-fate-of-every-person-who-ever-lived-moment.”

How many people, if you were to ask them why they’ve left church, would give an answer something along the lines of, “It’s just so . . . small”?

No one I know really. They’d have tons of other reasons but it wouldn’t be that.

Of course.
A gospel that leaves out its cosmic scope will always feel small.
A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story.
A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the “in-ness” of one group at the expense of the “out-ness” of another group will not be true to the story that includes “all things and people in heaven and on earth.”

And I think to myself, this is not the gospel. No one I know or have ever heard in Biblical Protestantism (ok, and Anabaptism) preaches a message like this. (I’m not sure whether to classify this as a false dichotomy.) The main message of the gospel, which can often be “ye must be born again,” is always Christ and Him crucified.

Why was Christ crucified? To reconcile us to God.
Why do we need to be reconciled to God? That’s a question, or more accurately, a tension we can be free to leave fully intact.

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  1. April 19, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    “A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story.”

    This I have heard. Fundy revivalists often reference the need to avoid hell, perhaps not solely, but at a greater percentage than anything else. Door-to-door witnessing? All about avoiding eternal punishment.

    Certain sects of full gospel denominations, notable Pentacostals preach that the gospel leads us on a path to eventually not sinning.

    “A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the “in-ness” of one group at the expense of the “out-ness” of another group will not be true to the story that includes “all things and people in heaven and on earth.”

    I spent a number of years at church that increasingly grew to preach this. To the extent where the very salvation of those who did not preach predestination or the “Baptist Bride” was blatantly questioned from the pulpit. It got to the point where I just couldn’t stomach the crap line anymore that the only true gospel included predestination teaching (and their version was heavy on the “you don’t even want to be saved, oh sinner.”) and closed communion/Baptist Bride teaching. Seriously. That was a part and parcel with their idea of the gospel. My family had a number of discussions that included Paul’s description of the gospel as a belief in the substitutionary death/burial/resurrection of Christ, and that alone.

    All that other stuff isn’t the gospel at all, but that doesn’t stop some groups from saying that it is.

    P.S. I’m coming back to chapter 4, but I need to ponder for a bit. 😛

    • Kassi
      April 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      I know not much about your background, I see. Pentecostal, eh?

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