Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More From Love Wins

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (Rob Bell) 

Rob's approach involves an investigation of what the Hebrew scriptures say about where history is going.  This must be taken into consideration in addition to the explicit passages in the New Testament regarding hell, it seems to me.  The first snippet here is a passage he builds on which is famous and inspiring and which has been used and cited in peacemaking and efforts to convert war technology to peaceful uses.

Direct quotes from his book are in dark blue italics.

The prophet Isaiah said that in that new day “the nations will stream to” Jerusalem, and God will “settle disputes for many peoples”; people will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (chap. 2).
But that is not all.  There is a continuing optimistic theme expressed by the Hebrew prophets.

Isaiah said that everybody will walk “in the light of the LORD” and “they will neither harm nor destroy” in that day. The earth, Isaiah said, will be “filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (chap. 11). He described “a feast of rich food for all peoples” because God will “destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations, he will swallow up death forever.” God “will wipe away the tears from all faces”; and “remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth” (chap. 25). The prophet Ezekiel said that people will be given grain and fruit and crops and new hearts and new spirits (chap. 36). The prophet Amos promised that everything will be repaired and restored and rebuilt and “new wine will drip from the mountains” (chap. 9). Life in the age to come. If this sounds like heaven on earth, that’s because it is. Literally.
First, they spoke about “all the nations.” That’s everybody. That’s all those different skin colors, languages, dialects, and accents; all those kinds of food and music; all those customs, habits, patterns, clothing, traditions, and ways of celebrating— multiethnic, multisensory, multieverything.

That’s an extraordinarily complex, interconnected, and diverse reality, a reality in which individual identities aren’t lost or repressed, but embraced and celebrated. An expansive unity that goes beyond and yet fully embraces staggering levels of diversity.

So, overall, there is a definite optimism for the end of history on the part of the Hebrew prophets in these places.  And Rob places an encouraging interpretation on them.  There are a few places in the Hebrew scriptures that might be interpreted as supporting the traditional concept of Hell, but they are not so explicit nor obvious without traditional assumptions.  (Exception:  One reference in Daniel which I think was written very late.)

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