Thursday, March 31, 2011

Love Wins- We are all God's Children?

Ben Witherington gives his review of Rob Bell's book Love Wins. In this section he comments on Rob's opinion that all humans are God's children...

As in previous chapters,  Rob cites a pile of texts, soundbyting them rather than doing contextual exegesis of them,  for the purpose of suggesting that God never ever gives up on anyone.   The problem with this is that many of these OT texts are about God’ s covenant faithfulness to his own chosen people, not to the world in general.   And in regard to the notion that we are ‘all children of God’   the Gospel of John in fact says—- No we are not!   We are all creatures of God, created in God’s image, but we are not all inherently ‘children of God’.  John 1-3 is pretty clear you don’t become a child of God through the decision of your parents, or through mere physical birth, or through the will of a spouse,  you become a child of God by being ‘born again’.  My goodness, even Nicodemus is told he must be born again in order to enter God’s kingdom.
Does God love everyone, the whole world?  Yes he does, as John 3.16 says.  Does that, or being created in God’s image automatically make anyone a child of God—-  no.   There are issues of being part of the people of God.  And here perhaps more than anywhere else is one of the fundamental problems with Rob’s argument—- bad ecclesiology.   As Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 12—- when it comes to being a real child of God “we were all baptized by one Spirit into the one body of Christ (whether Jew or Gentile), and all given the one Spirit from which we all drink.    God has a people, and the lost need to become found and a part of that people.    This is one of the major messages of both the OT and the NT and it involves  covenanting,  it involves a people set apart,  it involves conscious involvement in the people of God, if you don’t die in infancy.
One of the real problems with this chapter (see e.g. p.  102)  is the tendency to talk in binary opposites.   Is God like the woman who seeks the coin, or is God one who will allow you to spend an eternity in Hell?     Is history tragic, or does love win?    In fact, the Bible is complex, and it gives complex answers to these sorts of questions— questions we have debated for two millennia and can’t be resolved with a simply setting up of a ‘you can give me this or you can give me that’  (cue the Kia commercial)  because both can’t be true.   In fact both can be true.   It can be true that a good deal of history is tragic and also true that God’s love wins in millions and millions of cases.

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