Rob Bell – A Parable of Salvation

Love WinsLast time, we talked about the technical theology stuff. Is Rob Bell a universalist? Having read Love Wins twice now I have put together a short story, a parable if you will, that I think illustrates Rob’s theology on salvation as laid out in his book. I do not know Rob Bell and have no idea if he would agree with this description so please know that this is my own work. Let me know what you think.

John sat quietly in the hard wooden chair and reflected on his life. He had not been a good person. He had done terrible things in his thirty-eight years of life. He had seen worse.

Life in his inner city neighborhood was hard. Hellish. Not that John believed in hell. He had seen the people on the street corners with their signs and yelling at people through bull horns. He had also seen them leave. He had seen them take off their expensive jackets so when they climb into their SUVs they don’t get too warm when the heated seats turn on. One day John approached a man driving through the neighborhood. He shot the man and took his car and his money. One man died so that John could have a little more. This was how things worked where John lived.

Two men entered the room, interrupting John’s thoughts. They looked at the IV line running from his arm and at some equipment. They pushed some buttons and John felt a cold rush in his arm then a warmth taking over his body. His eyelids felt heavy and he nodded off into sleep.

Vaguely aware of blackness all around him John tried to open his eyes but couldn’t – or maybe he could but there was no light. John was aware of emptiness. He extended his arms groping for walls or even a floor but could not feel anything. John felt a complete loneliness envelop him. He felt cold. He felt vulnerable. Then, as if his whole body went numb, he felt nothing.

When he awoke John was not tired but confused. He was laying on cold dirt unaware of how he got there. He looked around and saw trees, a forest all around. Then he saw it in the distance. A city. He saw the warm glow stretching into the sky. Then he realized that he felt the warmth when looking at the city light, but when he looked he also felt shame.

Deciding to wait for morning, John laid back down and tried to doze. Morning never came and it never got any warmer. He didn’t know how long he’d been waiting but it seemed timeless. He saw no moon or stars. He saw nothing to eat but he wasn’t hungry. He walked around the forest but saw no one else, he was utterly alone. It could have been weeks or months but there was no way to keep track of hours or days.

John walked toward the city, his shame growing as he came closer to the open gate. When he thought he could stand no more he was there. He stepped in fearing immediate and whole rejection. A man nearby smiled as he approached. “We’ve been waiting for you, John,” the man spoke.

“You know my name but you can’t know the things I have done. You would not welcome me if you did.”

“Do you not know? Your wrongs have been paid for.”

“But, I was never a Christian.”

“Christ did not die for the sins of people who have said the right things,” the man explained, “he suffered for you because he loves you and he wants to have a relationship with you.” Gesturing outside the gate from where John had just come. “Of course, not everyone is ready to accept that gift. There are people wandering alone in the forest. You’ll never see another out there as it is a place of darkness but you are always welcome here. It is your choice. God will never forsake you.”

Rob Bell is not a universalist, strictly speaking. I think that he is a fairly open Christian inclusivist. Based on Love Wins, no one comes to the father except through Christ does not mean you must be a Christian or a member of a church or even a good person. It means the saving power of Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection is the reason you don’t have to be alone. God loves you so much that he is willing to send his son to die in order that you will be reconciled to him and spend all of eternity in relationship with God in paradise today or when you are open to returning home in humility.

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2 Comments on “Rob Bell – A Parable of Salvation”

  1. Wow! That is an awesome post Jim. Thank you so much, it’s seems to summarize what I’ve been hearing about the book well. It must have taken you forever to write that.

    But, I must admit I’m not much of an inclusivist myself. Did Bell touch on how this would affect the Great Commission? It seems to me that people would be less inclined to share their faith. Why bother if there is a second chance and God will present it to them without any human filter.

  2. emergingjim Says:

    Kale, Rob does talk about it a little but it’s a pretty old position. Imagine that you have a loved one in the hospital and you are grief stricken because you should have loved them more when you had the chance. This is the idea with faith sharing. If you have something that is so great, why would you only share it with someone if they were surly going to die?

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