If you have read this blog for long, or others (why would you read others?) then you will remember the controversy which erupted over ]]’s book, ]]. It actually began due to a tweet by ]] which simply read, ‘Farewell, Rob Bell’. I’ve since read and reviewed Bell’s book and found it lacking of the need to have such a controversy. It was, after all, nothing really new, and in all actuality, more of a pastoral book. Indeed, it was truly a pastoral book because it was Bell telling his congregation to shut up about sending people to hell.
Willimon’s book was published in 2008. I hadn’t heard of it until I read a post by another author who happens to be a former UMC student pastor. But while reading this book, I had to wonder why Willimon wasn’t given the treatment that Bell was…
I would postulate that either it didn’t make it on the radar of Piper et al, or maybe Piper wasn’t really wanting to confront a well-known conservative United Methodist Bishop. Or maybe, Bell is just really easy to pick on because he dresses funny. Whatever it is, I ponder these things when I read statements such as the one on page 14:
The Revealer who delights in revelation desires recipients for the revelation. So a first response to the question, “Who shall be saved?” might be, “Well, who is created? What creatures are so beloved by the Creator that the Creator cannot let them alone? Who is God’s favorite conversation partner? These are the ones God saves.”
That’s not nearly as vague as most of Bell’s book. Considering everything said before and after that statement, about how God doesn’t want to be alone and seeks to be near us, then we are left with only a few legitimate answers to Willimon’s questions.
Willimon, unlike Bell, is a theologian. This is a strength for him, actually. Further, where as Bell is concerned with our own self-imposed hells, Willimon is concerned with God’s salvation. The viewpoint between the two are different. For Bell, it is more about humanity’s actions and choices; for Willimon, it is about God in Christ.
He begins chapter 2 with,
“Who will be saved?” is not as interesting a question as “Who saves?” That which makes Christian salvation counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and strange is the God who saves.
The Bishop is deeply concerned with having God placed in the right order. Salvation is God’s and not ours. It is a gift, not earned. It starts and ends with God. For Bell, I get the feeling that humanity is the center of the universe. In reading so far, there is a sence of some of the Reformed Tradition mixed with self-professed Wesleyanism.
So far, so good.