Rob Bell’s popularity over the years has come from his ability to touch the itch, so to speak.
His latest book, Love Wins, sparked a firestorm of controversy, drawing some of the biggest names in Evangelical Christianity into the fray. In the book, Bell examines the typical “Sunday school” understanding of salvation and asks the question “Have we missed the point?”
Much has been written about Love Wins, (and of Bell himself), and it is not my intention to add my voice to the mix. I mention it here to highlight the fact that regardless of his answer, Bell asks a pertinent question. The book has been such a lightning rod because while Salvation is such a foundational issue in Christianity, it is also the topic that today’s Christians are probably the most confused about. Bell’s question resonates with many people today.
Throughout the church age, God has used heresy and error in the church as a means of calling his people back to the truth of his Word. His design is for the church to once again mine the riches of the Scriptures for all its worth, and to clearly identify, proclaim, and defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the pages of Holy writ.This pattern applies today; Love Wins has resulted in an impressive effort to clarify the particular doctrines that Bell has subtly called into question.
Insofar as the Church is confused about salvation, I submit to you that the lack of clarity and conviction is primarily a depth issue and not a doctrinal issue; the “Sunday school” understanding of salvation is definitely biblical. Jesus died so sins can be forgiven once and for all, and believing in Jesus will get you to heaven. Despite it’s biblical foundation, it certainly doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain many believers through to their later years. It can become unsettling after a while, so that when a book like “Love Wins” hits the shelves, the re-imagined salvation presented within it’s pages seems quite appealing.
The reason that Sunday school salvation can become unsettling after a while, is primarily because salvation is also so much more thanTo say it another way; Sunday school salvation is a great start and a lousy finish, so to speak. Yet another way to describe it would be that Sunday school salvation is the foundation of a fully furnished. The foundation is absolutely critical, and yet there is so much more to see and enjoy in that house!
I think it is safe to say that there is much more to the subject of salvation than most Christians have yet believed. Indeed we will never fully exhaust the glorious wonders of our salvation; countless millions of saints will labor for an eternity to mine the endless depths of the glories of our redemption. As C.S. Lewis said, it shall be a never ending story in which each chapter is sweeter and more glorious than the last.
Fortunately for us, we can get a head start now. Nuggets of truth lie awaiting extraction by our mental pickaxe, energized and guided by the Holy Spirit. Oh how foolish we are to deny ourselves these riches! Indeed, as the writer of Hebrews penned, ours truly is “so great a salvation!”
I have completed a quick overview of the book of Matthew this afternoon, in which I noted any passages that relate to salvation. Stay posted; I am going to spend the next few blog entries going through them, from the book’s beginning to it’s end. I am really looking forward to it and I hope you’ll join me!