(thoughts spurred from the Rob Bell frenzy this past week)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard about the controversy being stirred up by “Love Wins,” the forthcoming book by pastor-author Rob Bell. Judging from the promo video, Bell is raising a lot of questions surrounding salvation and (more importantly) what kind of God would allow some into heaven while excluding others.
I don’t want to talk about Rob Bell – too much talk already. I want to talk about questioning.
A thought: Questioning God is usually not the problem – The posture from which I question usually is.
Looking to scripture, there are plenty of examples of those who questioned God. While we’re likely to sympathize with men like David, Job, and Solomon, our most profound takeaway from those men needs to be that questioning God ought to be brought under the heading of loving, childlike submission to His fathership.
David’s lament: “Why have you left me?” (Psalm 22:1) is quickly followed by the confident declaration: “Dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). All in the same Psalm.
Job’s cry: “Why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child?” (Job 2:16) is followed by: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3).
Solomon’s ever-relevant expression: “Meaningless – meaningless – Everything is meaningless” (Ecc.1:2) finds its ultimate resolution in his poignant conclusion: “Now all has been heard; here is the the conclusion of the matter – Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).
Joseph is my son. He’s five. This morning, I said – Joseph, stop pushing your sister. He’s too young to understand the full implications of why – He just needs to do it. In time (assuming that I’m fathering him well), he’ll gradually connect the dots and develop an understanding. God’s a much better father than I am. He longs to lead His children into fuller understanding of who He is and what He’s like. But questioning Him isn’t where that understanding starts – holy fear is the birthplace of our understanding and eventual mission (cf. Prov. 1:7; Isa. 6:1-13).
Here’s my main concern with “Love Wins:” Questioning without submission often exposes latent pride – at least this holds true in my life. What I would love to see is Bell raising an admittedly hard question – on what basis does a loving God send people to Hell? – and then hide behind scripture for his resolution.
Here’s some questions:
– From what posture do I question God?
– When I don’t get the answer I’m looking for, what is my response?
– Why do I get frustrated with God’s revealed word / will?
– What does my frustration reveal about me?
(a hopefully clarifying after-thought): In my experience, questioning God usually comes from one of two places: pride (the rich young ruler from Mark 10:17-25) or genuine seeking (the disreputable woman from John 4). God richly rewards the second kind of questioning and strongly opposes the first kind. If you’re like me – you’ll consistently find yourself more aware of how frighteningly prideful you can be.