Rob Bell’s _Love Wins_ in retrospect

So in my effort to review every chapter of Rob Bell’s _Love Wins_ I only succeeded in blogging about four of the chapters (although I did read the whole book).

This effort of mine took place in the context of a discussion group here in Tyler centered on the book, and on the issues raised by the book.

The discussions of this group of friends has enabled me to hit upon a “simplicity on the far side of complexity,” which, in some ways is what this blog is about in its entirety.

I’m not at all sure if believe in the salvation of _individuals_ at all. (Full disclosure: I’m not sure if I even believe in the _existence_ of individuals!)

What I DO believe in (sometimes this is the only thing I believe in) is THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ. The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

I believe that this community of members of the Body of Christ is the New Humanity, and in that sense, which I think is biblical and ancient (though not modern, not secular, and not “scientific”), I am a “universalist” in the sense that it is this “new human race” that God is saving.

I strongly suspect that this is how St. Paul thought;  I am certain that this is how a great many church fathers (Ireneaus, Origen, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa) thought.

I think that Rob Bell is sort of “groping” toward something like this way of thinking, and this is why, on the whole, I really appreciate (and largely agree with) _Love Wins_.

Now, this is actually a radically different worldview from what most people hear about or think about or consider to be “Christian,” but, really, this is where I am coming from, and I think this is rooted in the tradition.

It is from this perspective that I have trouble at times with concepts such as “heaven” and “hell” in the normal way people speak of such things.

If human beings are actually not “individuals” but rather (as John Zizioulas thinks) members of community (that is, without relational community we literally do not exist … exactly like the persons of the Trinity, which I suppose is my “starting point” for all thought) … then it makes no sense to speak of “going to heaven [or hell] when you die.”

Rather, what makes ALL KINDS of sense is to speak of “new creation,” and “new heavens and new earth,” which is actually what the New Testament (along with NT Wright) does in fact speak of, if only people would actually read it.

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Diognetus: the Jesus Way (in the 2nd century)

Hmm. I really thought that I had put the 2nd century Epistle to Diognetus on my blog a few years ago.

I’m going to read this in my sermon tomorrow as an example of how every particular story will produce a particular life style. This is the life style of the Jesus story. (What is compelling about the Jesus story is not its uniqueness, as Rob Bell argues here, but rather – among other things – the way of life it engenders.)

Christians are not distinguished from other men by country, language, nor by the customs which they observe. They do not inhabit cities of their own, use a particular way of speaking, nor lead a life marked out by any curiosity. The course of conduct they follow has not been devised by the speculation and deliberation of inquisitive men. The do not, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of merely human doctrines.

Instead, they inhabit both Greek and barbarian cities, however things have fallen to each of them. And it is while following the customs of the natives in clothing, food, and the rest of ordinary life that they display to us their wonderful and admittedly striking way of life.

They live in their own countries, but they do so as those who are just passing through. As citizens they participate in everything with others, yet they endure everything as if they were foreigners. Every foreign land is like their homeland to them, and every land of their birth is like a land of strangers.

They marry, like everyone else, and they have children, but they do not destroy their offspring.

They share a common table, but not a common bed.

They exist in the flesh, but they do not live by the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, all the while surpassing the laws by their lives.

They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death and restored to life.

They are poor, yet make many rich. They lack everything, yet they overflow in everything.

They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor they are glorified; they are spoken ill of and yet are justified; they are reviled but bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if raised from the dead. They are assailed by the Jews as barbarians; they are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.

 

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Summer Reading (2011)

Books I intend to to read this summer:

1. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy

2. Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life

3. Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?

4. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age

5. Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

6. Andrew Davison & Alison Milbank, For the Parish

7. Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith & Fiction

8. Susan Howatch, The Wonder Worker

9. Phillip Blond, Red Tory

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Ancient Therapies & Human Suffering

In his Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot writes

In the view of all philosophical schools [Epicureanism, Stoicism, the
Schools of Plato and Aristotle, the Skeptics and the Cynics] mankind’s
principal cause of suffering, disorder, and unconsciousness were the
passions: that is, unregulated desires and exaggerated fears. People are
prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated
by worries. Philosophy thus appears, in the first place, as a
therapeutic of the passions. Each school had its own therapeutic
methods, but all of them linked their therapeutics to a profound
transformation of the individual’s mode of seeing and being. The object
of spiritual exercises is to bring about this transformation. (p 83)

A clear subtext of Hadot’s work is the analogous ways of functioning
between these ancient schools on the one hand, and the church (or
perhaps more specifically, monasteries) on the other.

If these schools were able to provide a measure of therapy to suffering
people through the transformation of their whole persons, how much more
the church, to whom has been given “the Spirit without measure” as
John’s Gospel says.

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