Earlier this year popular preacher and teacher Rob Bell stirred considerable controversy with a new book called Love Wins. (Just for clarification, I have purchased the book but not yet read it. I believe no one should comment on a book if they have not read it thoroughly and reflected upon it honestly. I intend to read it in the next month.
I have unfortunately or fortunately read an avalanche of comments about the book and its supposed premise. I have noted that very few commentators have actually yet to read Love Wins either, just what other commentators have said about it. To those who have charged Rob with universalism, others have responded with a question, “How does belief in free will (which Rob believes) co-exist with universalism (everyone will come to God)?” One of my Facebook friends wrote in response to some of my questions, “It seemed more a calling out of Calvism that anything.” (He, by the way, had read the book.)
My purpose in all of this is not to comment on Rob’s book. I still have not read it. And because many of his writings and videos have been extremely helpful to me as a biblical Christian, I intend to give him the respect of reading and reflecting upon it with honesty. My intent is to note something far more at issue here.
When it comes to God and our desire to understand His truth, are there no “off limits” questions? This is no small question for those of us engaged in apologetics with persons who have no Christian roots and no biblical reference points in their life experience. More often than not, the very fact that I am willing to say, “There are no off limits questions, just questions for which you do not yet have answer” has been the springboard to genuine dialogue that God used to reconcile people to Him. Actually, the questioning usually begins with, “This is probably a stupid question …” meaning a whole lot of their self-esteem is about to be invested in this investigation of the truth and they want to be sure that their quest will be respected by those who claim to know the Way.
I find it hard to believe that God, Who is Truth in Person, is offended by questions since it is He who embedded in us a hunger for the Truth when He created us in His image. And God does not cease to God simply because we are rebellious in our motives for asking questions. God can handle the Truth because He is Truth. And in the end it is not reason that convicts of our inescapable need for God, it is the Holy Spirit who is more than human answers and theologies and systems.
There are too many Christians that are offended by any questions, except softball ones. Perhaps they are offended because they don’t have all the answers and secretly believe that their salvation is dependent upon being able to pass some kind of biblical intelligence test. That still smells of salvation by works, and for that we have the Apostle Paul’s clear admonition, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (Colossians 2:4) and ” “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2.8-9)
Questions are the way that truth is revealed and appropriated. Asking questions was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching method. God is not someone Who needs protected from the skeptics and defended against the atheists. He is the One who through open hearts grants us new minds which are ultimately what is required to understand the truth and live the truth.
Every time we launch an assault on someone who asks questions we say that Truth is fragile. God, Who moves the mountains and holds the universe in His hands is anything but.