The second book I am reading for church this summer is Love Wins, the new book by controversial theologian Rob Bell. After hearing all the vitriolic statements made about the book before it was released, the college group at church decided they wanted to read it to see what it really says and I am going along with them as sometime facilitator.
So far the book has mostly succeeded in giving me a headache. The mix of social justice theology coupled with a reshaping of the commonly held views of Heaven and Hell provides a rich field for plowing into one's own beliefs and why exactly one has them.
While I have not completed the entire book, Bell has yet to convince me fully of his arguments, but I tend to agree with him on the idea that Christianity has been too willing to take much belief from literature and tradition without a deep delving into the Bible for the foundations. Bell demands that we look at what scripture says - from the Old Testament through the New Testament with a close look at what Christ had to say about eternal life when he had the opportunity.
The answers Christ gives are not what we as Christians have been taught to give.
Perhaps we need to read the words of Christ for ourselves a little more often.
My Sunday morning Bible Study class has been reading and discussing books from the Apocrypha. Many of our contemporary ideas about eternity originate in that period in Jewish history (though some of the books were actually compiled in post Roman times based on documents from the period of time leading up to Christ's life). I have enjoyed seeing the connections between the "new" theology in those oft rejected books appearing in Bell's work.
I look forward to reading the book through the rest of the summer, though it is somewhat challenging and I can only handle the book in doses of about a chapter a week since I read each chapter at least twice with passages within it four or even five times. I can easily spend hours reading, stopping and thinking about it, then delving into my personal library to see what else I can find to support or refute Bell's ideas.
Love Wins has become a self-imposed graduate school course in theology.
*Another benefit of the book is that I am becoming much more adept at using the notes and highlighting feature of the Kindle - and now that I can tweet from it, watch out.