Two Books--Reviews: Both Bouquets and Near Brickbats

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Regrettably, it is a mighty snowy afternoon in St. Catharines—and this on the second day of what the calendar calls “spring.” Still, maybe this is better than mighty muggy in July. Besides, because of a few weather-related cancellations, I’ve been able to catch up on recent book reviews. I invite you to read on. 

Over the last month or so Mars Hill pastor Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, March 2011) has garnered much pre-publication attention. A colleague told me that it has been discussed on page one of CNN.com and that it is vying with none other than Justin Bieber for attention.

Since it has now been published, the huge interest continues to grow. I have not purchased or read the book yet, though I have read several reviews. I’m sure quite a number of pastors and more will read (or have) reviews and perhaps the book. It deals with serious, ancient topics: the process, working out of salvation—Limited? Universals? Based on Grace alone? Or human response?—and many more related issues long been debated by serious Christians.

Before you spend the money on Bell’s book, let me recommend Scott Hoezee’s review posted on his blog on The Center for Excellence in Preaching. As well, compare the review by Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor of Christianity Today.  Both of these are long, deeply engaged reviews that show some appreciation, though also ask trenchant questions of Rob Bell in response to the trenchant question Rob Bell poses in Love Wins. Bell’s book has stirred up a lot of discussion, even controversy, references to which you may have already seen while surfing.

Given the choice, I’d read Rob Bell’s book before listening to Justin Bieber, even though he hails from Stratford, less than two hours from here. The plays at the Stratford Festival will have greater staying power than “The Bieb.”

Still, I’m not sure I’m going to buy Bell’s book. That’s because way before the Bieb and the Bell, was Peterson. I have a sabbatical coming up, for which I’ve already started some happily anticipated reading. One book I WILL add to that fairly modest sabbatical list is Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, February, 2011). To whet your appetite for this latest Peterson contribution to pastoral vocational reading, check out Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove’s thoughtful on-line review in Christianity Today.

Well, nuts: it’s still snowing. I'll deal with it. Meanwhile, take the time to read, ponder—and comment—on these late winter offerings from HarperOne. By the way, before the snow covered them, my snowdrops had bloomed and the daffodils and tulips were gamely breaking the soil’s surface. Pretty soon it’ll be dandelion time!

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I did read Love Wins and was saddened and left with many more questions about his pop theology and use of scripture.  I also found it lacking greatly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the whole discussion as well as reading scripture within the framework of the whole bible.  I'm very much on the same page as Scott Hoezee and Mary Vanden Berg also a professor at Calvin Sem.

Mary Vanden Berg has a great response to some pretty strange conclusions about what it means to to be a Christian. I have not read the book or after listening to Mary's description I don't plan on it either.

   Anytime you are dealing with the Gospel and you conclude that their is not sacrifice or signs or that Jesus will know all of us is not preaching the good news. We will be different  from the rest of society.

Ken

Thanks for the post Jim. I have been writing a sustained review of Love wins for anyone intersted. Right now we have covered the preview video, the preface, and the first chapter. The posts can be found on my blog.

http://sjchurch.org/blog/details/rob-bell-love-wins/

http://sjchurch.org/blog/details/part-2-rob-bell-love-wins-the-book/

http://sjchurch.org/blog/details/part-3-rob-bell-love-wins-chapter-1/

 

Todd Murphy

Sacred Journey CRC