In Pastor Rob Bell's 2011 book, Love Wins, he pondered questions that are often considered taboo in traditional Christianity: What if heaven is open to all, rather than a select few? What if hell doesn't exist at all? Though the book became a New York Times bestseller, it also caused controversy among conservative Christians.
Now, Bell sits down with Oprah on "Super Soul Sunday" to discuss his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, in which he explores why some people resist talking about and embracing God.
In the above video, Bell explains why he believes that faith and doubt are not opposites but instead really "excellent dance partners." He says we're all leaping, even if we don't all realize or acknowledge it.
'Everybody's really taking sort of fragments and the shrapnel you have of your experience and you're leaping into this story or this story. 'I'm going to make the leap that what I do matters, that I'm not an accident, that there is some call on my life,'" he says.
He says that people who believe in God aren't the only ones making a leap, though. "I think the people in the modern world with the most sort of, 'This is the rational scientific evidence why there is no God' -- that's just as much a leap."
"So that is what you mean by God being a reality known and felt but difficult to analyze," Oprah says.
Oprah also asks Bell about his description of a "lethal division between the science and the sacred."
"Well, I think it cuts people off from celebrating," Bell explains. "To me, the only kind of faith worth having is faith that can celebrate the good and the true and the beautiful, wherever you find it."
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<strong><big>I've written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, "I would never be a part of that." <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. viii </big></strong>
Why Run The Risk?
<strong><big>If every new baby being born could grow up to not believe the right things and go to hell forever, then prematurely terminating a child's life anytime from conception to twelve years of age would actually be the loving thing to do, guaranteeing that the child ends up in heaven, and not hell, forever. Why run the risk? <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 4</big></strong>
<strong><big>It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing heaven to earth right now, as Jesus taught us to pray: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heave." <br> At the same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die." <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 45</big></strong>
Misconceptions About Heaven
<strong><big>The dominant cultural assumptions and misunderstandings about heaven have been at work for so long, it's almost automatic for many to think of heaven as ethereal, intangible, esoteric, and immaterial. <br> Floaty, dreamy, hazy. Somewhere else. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 56</big></strong>
What It's All About
<strong><big>To say it again, eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God. <br> Eternal life doesn't start when we die; it starts now. It's not about a life that begins at death; it's about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 59</big></strong>
<strong><big>For many in the modern world, the idea of hell is a holdover from primitive, mythic religion that uses fear and punishment to control people for all sorts of devious reasons. And so the logical conclusion is that we've evolved beyond all of that outdated belief, right? <br> I get that. I understand the aversion, and I as well have a hard time believing that somewhere down below the earth's crust is a really crafty figure in red tights holding a three-pointed spear, playing Pink Floyd records backward, and enjoying the hidden messages. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, pp. 69-70 </big></strong>
The Truth About Turn Or Burn
<strong><big>Jesus did not use hell to try and compel "heathens" and "pagans" to believe in God, so they wouldn't burn when they die. He talked about hell to very religious people to warn them about the consequences of straying from their God-given calling and identity to show the world God's love. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 82</big></strong>
Always A Second Chance?
<strong><big>No matter how painful, brutal, oppressive, no matter how far people find themselves from home because of their sin, indifference, and rejection, there's always the assurance that it won't be this way forever. <br> In Lamentations 3, the poet declares: "People are not cast off by the Lord forever, though he brings fried, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love." <br> <br> - Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 86</big></strong>
<strong><big>Is history tragic? Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity in conscious punishment and torment, suffering infinitely for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth? Is our future uncertain, or will God take care of us? Are we safe? Are we secure? Or are we on our own? <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 102</big></strong>
<strong><big>Telling a story in which billions of people spend forever somewhere in the universe trapped in a black hole of endless torment and misery with no way out isn't a very good story. Telling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn't do or say or believe the correct things in a brief window of time called life isn't a very good story. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 110</strong>
<strong><big>Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? <br> Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don't need to resolve them or answer them because we can't, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 115</big></strong>
More Than One Religion
<strong><big>As obvious as it is, then, Jesus is bigger than any one religion. <br> He didn't come to start a new religion, and he continually disrupted whatever conventions or systems or establishments that existed in his day. He will always transcend whatever cages and labels are created to contain and name him, especially the one called "Christianity." <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 150</big></strong>
<strong><big>Jesus is supracultural. He is present within all cultures, and yet outside of all cultures. <br> He is for all people, and yet he refuses to be co-opted or owned by any one culture. <br> That includes any Christian culture. Any denomination. Any church. Any theological system. We can point to him, name him, follow him, discuss him, honor him, and believe in him -- but we cannot claim him to be ours any more than he's anyone else's. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, pp. 151-2</big></strong>
<strong><big>As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn't matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn't matter what you believe, and so forth. <br> Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true. <br> What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 155</big></strong>
<strong><big>Are they referring to a token of tribal membership, a tamed, domesticated Jesus who waves the flag and promotes whatever values they have decided their nation needs to return to? <br> Are they referring to the supposed source of the imperial impulse of their group, which wants to conquer other groups "in the name of Jesus"? <br> Are they referring to the logo or slogan of their political, economic, or military system through which they sanctify their greed and lust for power? <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 156</big></strong>
<strong><big>Millions have been taught that if they don't believe, if they don't accept in the right way, that is, the way the person telling them the gospel does, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell. <br> ... <br> A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who would ensure that they had no escape from an endless future of agony. <br> If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities. If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, pp. 173-4</big></strong>
<strong><big>Does God become somebody totally different the moment you die? <br> That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can't bear it. No one can. <br> And that is the deep secret in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don't love God. They can't, because the God they've been presented with and taught about can't be loved. That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, pp. 174-5</big></strong>
<strong><big>Because if something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 175</strong>
Bouncer At A Club
<strong><big>So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will "get into heaven," that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club. <br> The good news is better than that. <br> This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don't throw very good parties. <br> <br> - Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, pp. 178-9</strong>
Does Jesus Rescue Us From God?
<strong><big>Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God. <br> Let's be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction. God is the rescuer. <br> <br> -Rob Bell, <em>Love Wins</em>, p. 182</strong>