Love Wins Analysis: Chapter 6: There Are Rocks Everywhere (Part I)
[This is part XI of a multi-part series on Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. Note: Chapter 6 is two parts.]
I really want to push through chapter 6 for fear I’ll dwell here for days on end like I did with chapters 3 and 4 (which were major chapters really), but I do have a few things I want to point out and we’ll see where things take us.
Bell is pretty straightforward in this chapter, and as the title says, Bell indeed talks about rocks. He details the story in Exodus 17 in which the Israelities are thirsty and can’t find water. God tells Moses to strike the rock and the rock produces water. Bell and his readers jump to I Corinthians 10 in which Paul explains to his audience that “those who traveled out of Egypt ‘drank from the spiritual rock that accompanies them, and that rock was Christ.'”
Paul, however, reads another story in the story, insisting that Christ was present in that moment, that Christ was providing the water they needed to survive—that Jesus was giving, quenching, sustaining.
Jesus was, he says, the rock.
According to Paul,
Jesus was there.
Without anybody using his name.
Without anybody saying that it was him.
Without anybody acknowledging just what—or, more precisely, who—it was.
… Paul finds Jesus there,
in that rock,
because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.
From this brief passage, one gets the sense that Bell is making two points here:
- The Israelites were saved in the wilderness by Christ who is the “living water” (John 4:10-15), which Bell really could’ve and, in order to strengthen his argument, should’ve mentioned here. Before the Israelites even knew who was saving them from physical death, the Messiah was already present providing them with the water of life.
- Christ can be present in nearly anything, anywhere; the implication being that the saving work of Christ can be present in almost any form. This starts to get loaded.
Here’s the deleted portion of the previous passage:
Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question:
Where else has Christ been present?
With who else?
This opens up a can of worms, in a way. In Velvet Elvis, Bell is careful to show that Paul finds secular truth in Greek philosophy and poetry and doesn’t hesitate to incorporate it into one of his sermons.
[Paul] is speaking at a place called Mars Hill (which would be a great name for a church) and trying to explain to a group of people who believe in hundreds of thousands of gods that there is really only one God who made everything and everybody. At one point he’s talking about how God made us all, and he says to them, “As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offering.'” (ENDNOTE!: Acts 17:28) He quotes their own poets. And their poets don’t even believe in the God he’s talking about. They were talking about some other god and how we are all the offspring of that god, and Paul takes their statement and makes it about his God. Amazing.
Paul doesn’t just affirm the truth here; he claims it for himself. He doesn’t care who said it or who they were even saying it about. What they said was true, and so he claims it as his own.” (Velvet Elvis, p. 079)
And I’m with Bell with the ability to affirm truth wherever it is because God exhibits truth and truth is an extension of God.
But I tread carefully on the ability to find Jesus’ saving work in anything because God can do anything and use anything He pleases for salvation. But the Bible is clear that God isn’t present in everything so Bell’s questions make me a bit iffy on the ways Christ has been present, can be present, and in what ways he can be present. I won’t make any definitive assertions except to say that while I don’t believe God is present in sin or evil, He can (and often does!) use the outcome for good that can lead to salvation.