HarperCollins has a hit on its hands. To read some accounts, people will be buying the books just so they can burn them. But the hot topic trending on Twitter is still very much based on hearsay and speculation. Never have so many blogged so much material from so little.
And I’ll be the first to admit great curiosity as to how the item I mysteriously have had in my hands since January 19th actually resembles the finished product.
Let me just say a few things. First of all, I have a very rough copy, but you’ll be glad to know that Bell isn’t one of these writers who types “their” when he means to type “they’re” and just lets the editors catch it. I noticed some stylistic things that I expect will be changed in print, but for the most this was a straight-forward enough manuscript that could almost have been published as I saw it.
Here’s what the innards look like:
Table of Contents
Preface Millions of Us
Chapter 1 What About the Flat Tire?
Chapter 2 Here Is the New There
Chapter 3 Hell
Chapter 4 Does God Get What God Wants?
Chapter 5 Dying to Live
Chapter 6 There Are Rocks Everywhere
Chapter 7 The Good News Is Better Than That
Chapter 8 All at the Same Time (Repent of course)
Chapter 9 28 Years
I list these chapters here only to point out that much of the current excitement centers on the material in chapter one — which appears on the video — and material from chapter three which is the object of greater speculation.
So what about the rest of the book?
Chapter two isn’t all that shocking if you’ve had your dreams about a heaven that’s “up there somewhere” already affected by reading Heaven or 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I heard someone say it this way, “God has too much invested in this real estate to just walk away from it.” Bell also states that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a “when” or a “then” but a “now.”
Chapter four is the one the critics may actually find more disturbing that the one about the nature of hell, which precedes it. It’s about the idea of ‘eternity’ and what happens over a long period of what we call time to those who initially rejected Christ. What happens if and when they finally wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. Reviewers will not obvious parallels to othere religions. I’ll leave that for now.
Chapter five is — to avoid spoilers — a chapter that starts to bring us back into more familiar theological territory, except that now Bell is building on the foundation established in the first four chapters. In other words, he’s already lost some people, perplexed a few others, and he’s about to make amends to those who gracious enough to hang in there thus far by giving them a chapter they can more easily connect with. And just in time for Easter.
Chapter six is an appeal to the idea that people are entering the Kingdom of God who don’t necessarily look like us or talk like us or even find their way to the Kingdom the way we did. In a way, this chapter is a microcosm of all the talk that’s going on this week over Rob’s book. Nicely played.
Chapter seven is rather interesting. What would the full implications of universalism be to those of us who have believed that “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” only to find that everyone is getting in? (My words, not Bell’s.) Hmmm. And what better metaphor for that than “younger brother” juxtaposed with “elder brother” in the story we know as “The Lost Son.”
Chapter eight is partly autobiographical and talks of the need — Bell’s need and in his view, our need — to deconstruct the mystery, the paradoxical nature of Jesus; the nature of God. In many ways it could have served as an introduction to the book, as it invites us to break down our defenses.
Chapter nine is quite short. Enough spoilers already. Though you could say that, in the end…
…This is a really quick tour of some of the rest of the book in the form that I was blessed to receive it. I’ve tried to remain somewhat neutral here, a perspective that is somewhat lacking online where the subject of this book is concerned. The original title of this post, “More On Rob Bell” was left there so the critics had something to work with (!) but no matter what you’re starting place, you’ll have to agree that all the attention has made this necessary reading.
It’s possible that the copy I have will differ enough from the finished product that in such a way that also adds to the pre-release anticipation surrounding its publication. I’m open to that possibility, but I thought it was worth sharing what I’ve been reading while everyone else is dealing in speculation. I probably won’t get a chance like this again!!
Comment moderation: My system will be offline for about 36 hours on the weekend, but I’ll try to get your comments on Saturday night; so you don’t need to post twice. Be patient!!