I started reading "Love Wins" today. I know there has been a lot of conversation on this new book by Rob Bell, and I've even joined in on a number of occasions. In fact, I've noticed a trend within these discussions, whether they're casual conversations with a group of friends, or reviews and blogs that offer their take on the whole thing. That trend is this - it seems that those who have already dismissed Bell as a heretic simply claimed this book, on premise alone, as all the evidence they needed to convince the rest of us; many of these critiques and assessments offered before they'd even read the book.
On the other had, you have those who've read and listened to Bell for years, and have enjoyed his ministry in one way or another. There can be a tendency in that position to dismiss the criticism by virtue of their affinity for Bell.
Then there's me, and those like me, who've enjoyed Bell's other works and have been challenged under his teaching, but aren't sure where to land in the midst of all this. The temptation is to read the reviews and form an opinion based on those, alone. I found myself on the verge of doing just that, wondering if I should pull all the Nooma videos from our small group library and burn my copies of Velvet Elvis and Sex God (a couple of other books by Bell).
Here's where I am right now. Bell has remained a little cryptic in his interviews, and doesn't seem to want to answer the direct questions that would make a lot of us sleep a little better, knowing we have a "LOVE WINS" decal displayed in our office. But maybe he shouldn't have to. Before we can really offer our thoughts and opinions - before we can really join the conversation - we should probably just read the book. If we're not willing to do that, then we need to be very careful not to let the opinions of others, however biased they may be, shape our opinions to a point where we criticize - or even dismiss - the work of another man's ministry.
Here's another thought. I'm not reading the book to justify a position for or against Bell; I'm reading the book to see what it can teach me. If it makes me question some of my beliefs, then great! There's an opportunity for me to grow (and I believe that was Bell's intent all along). But I really have very little interest in spending much time trying to defame another man and his ministry, or exalting it, for that matter. Only in America (and maybe a few other places) do we have the luxury of debating another man's theology. I'm pretty sure Christians in China could care less... I'm guessing they have far more important things to worry about. But then, so should we.